In my late teens, our congregational youth pastor organized a series of floor hockey games with Native inmates at a nearby minimum security prison. The experience of getting our names police-checked, our selves searched each time we went to the prison, and the steel gates clanging locked behind each of us as we walked single file through the hallway was both exciting and scary for me. I loved playing sports and playing floor hockey on a Sunday morning with a group of Native men was about the best church I could have imagined. The second part of the morning involved our youth group being invited to participate in their Native ceremony – in circle – in which I was also excited to participate. Circle had always made sense to me, even though I had little exposure to its power at the time.
After the fun, the laughter, the competition and the thrill of jostling about with hockey sticks and balls, we gathered into circle and prepared for the smudging. Although I didn’t understand the language of prayers to Great Spirit, I felt the presence of Mystery and Divine Love as I always do in the invocation of that which is Sacred – prison or no prison!
An Elder led the prayers, the smudging, drummed and smoked the sacred pipe in which we all got to participate. I remember feeling how wonderful this ceremony felt. I am now very grateful for what our youth pastor was encouraging and had worked so hard to make happen. He wanted us to experience the culture and the spirituality of those who walked upon this land connected to Creator in very different ways than we were practising. I appreciated that there was no attempt on our part to change or bring any of our spiritual ceremony to them. As Ghandi states: “Like the bee gathering honey from different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of different scriptures and sees only the good in religions.” We were there to be blessed by their ceremony and rituals for invoking the presence and power of Great Spirit.
I look back at this experience with great awe at how it has shaped my understanding of who we are as human beings. Never in that circle was I fearful of any of these inmates. Never in that circle did I think that I was superior to them, nor them to me. I didn’t see anyone as more or less than anyone else. Our dignity was equal. We were all equi-distant to the centre. Each of us – no exceptions!
Our stories were also equal in value and no story was excluded. The circle I realized, had the power to contain all our stories, regardless of who told it. I was deeply moved and relieved that in this Circle, all our names for the Divine were equal and with their own dignity. No name, no tradition, no doctrine was more or less than another. I am so grateful for these memories and the wisdom shared with me in these circles in the prison.
This month we will explore the guidelines and facets to Circle within our ongoing conversation of deepening our happiness in life. What if we lived our life in the ways of Circle? What peace would it build into our relationships? What new skills of listening and communicating would change the way we show up to relationships and even to conflict?
If you would like an incredible experience of Circle and Ceremony where we explore and welcome the Divine Feminine within each of us, please join our Peace Circle series beginning September 10th, during which you will experience the power of dignity and Great Spirit to restore wholeness, inclusion and connection in your life. Ask me for more information!