Most of my life I have sought a relationship with God, Great Spirit, whatever you would like to call the Big Kahuna in the sky. Oftentimes, this yearning will manifest into paths of service which I used to embrace wholeheartedly. that is, until a few years ago when I encountered my own version of the Dark Night of the Soul, that spiritual pitfall of doubt and faithlessness which happens to the best of us.
For the past few years I wanted to put my religion on the table and forget about it for a while. I wanted nothing to do with it. Any previous commitments to my spiritual path became a struggle, some sort of obstacle to the day rather than nourishment for the soul.
And then, just as I didn't want it anymore, my teacher/mentor, don Daniel Baxley, decided it was time to retire and hand over his healing practice/community leadership to Autumn and I. I didn't want to admit it was happening. For those who were around, you may have noticed I had been aloof in 2016 during ceremonial events: halfway there, halfway elsewhere. I didn't want to lose my Padre, my Maestro, and his constant support. How in the world could I live up to that? How could I fill the shoes of one of the greatest men I ever known?
Maestro Daniel Baxley and I (if you look closely, I am crying inside)
And then, in September, I was gifted a great responsibility: a chanupa (sacred pipe) of the Lakota lineage was handed to me to carry its prayers. Again, I didn't want it, but how can one say no to such an honor? The more I seemed to deny wanting anything more to do with God and the "spiritual stuff," the more it all kept landing in my lap.
When Autumn and I were in Peru, we were literally on the sacred apu of Machu Picchu the day of the U.S. election results. Deeply affected by the transition happening back home, we were both struck by the stark contrast of being in a place that (more than anywhere else we had been) resembled Heaven on Earth.
We prayed deeply. For our children. For the people. For ourselves. For Pachamama.
And, as we walked down that mountain the spirit of the Inca warrior walked down with us. We knew that the days of sitting on the sidelines and praying (even with the best of intent) was over. It was time to begin putting our prayers into action, in a very real, tangible way.
Autumn and I praying at Machu Picchu
For the past few months since returning from Peru we have been brainstorming options daily. We have researched courses of action, walked in protests, set up action meetings, attended legislative sessions, and more. I have even toyed with the idea (and may still be considering) a run for some sort of political office. But, all of that didn't quite seem right just yet.
So, finally, an opportunity landed in my lap last night; I was invited by Director Kara Hawkins of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (GKCIC) to one of their executive meetings. Much to my surprise (and chagrin) she had taken the liberty to go ahead and nominate me as Alternate Director of American Indian Spirituality on the Council. I didn't want or ask for such a responsibility. I just wanted to see what GKIC was up to and maybe volunteer a little of my time here and there.
But, as the meeting commenced and I sat in circle with members of almost any faith imaginable (Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Sufi, Pagan, Catholic, Protestant, and more) something began to bubble up inside of me that I haven't felt in a long, long time:
I watched as diverse citizens from various religious paths were coming together, in pure unity, to implement incredible programs and initiatives that were making a legitimate difference in the community! Bound by their love for both their own faith and humanity at large, the Interfaith Council are highly engaged in responding to our current political and social crisis in a ways which will beget results. And there I was, one of them, a seat at the table.
For the first time since Machu Picchu, I felt like the Inca warrior had risen. The warrior had found their place. I now know where I can execute my service to my community.
I am not of American Indian lineage, but I do ascribe to American Indian spiritual beliefs, both in philosophy and practice. I am sanctioned teacher in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, as taught by don Oscar Miro-Quesada and don Daniel Baxley. I am a chanupa carrier in the Lakota Tradition, as taught by Red Earth, Chief Phil Crazy Bull, Lee Stumbling Deer, and others who wish to not be named at this time. I will take this knowledge and interact with residents of the American Indian communities of the Greater Kansas City area. In all humility, I will do my best to represent the spiritual faith of the American Indian and put those tenets in service to the greater whole of humanity. I will leverage my skills as a project manager, a writer, a teacher, and community leader to serve the people, and thus Mother Earth herself.
It is easy to know what one wants out of their spiritual walk. Sometimes, it is another thing entirely to find a path of service in which your talents and skills can be utilized to their fullest potential. In this dire time of upheaval, it would behoove everyone to discover what it is you can bring to the table. What is it that feeds you? But, more importantly, what is it that you can do which will in turn feed others?