It has been much too long since I took the time to steadily read a book. And by steadily I mean each and every evening before falling asleep, reading 2 or 3 chapters, quietly savoring the words on each page. For Christmas last year I received Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, and reading it has truly been a kind of escape; yet an escape not in the sense of leaving something behind, but paradoxically, an escape from the illusions of our every day way of thinking and living. It has amazingly enriched my everyday life by giving me a clearer focus and ammunition towards a stronger, even more determined practice.
Recently I led a two-day workshop at the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Center Society. It’s hard to choose the words to express everything that happened during those 2 days. I do believe, however that joy and hope for a bright future are words that summarize the workshop most succinctly. And I would very much like to share a comment from one of the participants at the workshop that indeed ties together a lot of what was experienced, including the joy and hope.
“Yesterday I attended the workshop given by Alex Pereklita. It was the most useful and enlightening seminar I have attended. I have been to many seminars seeking relief from the pain and suffering caused by Residential School; a heaviness in my heart and a darkness in my soul, that I could not get rid of…. The seminar helped me get rid of many issues i.e. shame, guilt, sorrow, sadness anger, pain, deepest despair and depression. It not altogether resolved all of my issues but the seminar has enabled me to live in peace with my issues…. no longer struggle with…what is….The seminar has released me from my straight jacket….has set me free….Has helped me rise above the issues and to gather some flowers of happiness and joy for me.” Queenie an Ojibway Elder
We as human beings must understand that we are all one. All the pain in this world is shared, although it may not always seem like it is shared equally, and we may not even be aware of the pain at times. Yet I can assure you that it does exist for all human beings, and facing and accepting the pain of all beings is one of the first steps that help overcome this pain and suffering.
Another critical part along the path to a bright future is community, culture, compassion. And as human beings, we should not think that it is only up to individual communities to worry about losing their culture.
When a culture and way of life is lost, it is a loss for all of humanity, because these are what give us joy and hope, these are what help ground us, and ultimately help ease the pain and suffering that accompany us along our path. Without these, we can say we are like a ship without sails.
We all have a long walk to freedom.
Through practice, practice, and more practice. We all need to practice to be better human beings, more compassionate, more loving more caring. We all need to practice to accept ourselves completely, all the positive and all the negative, together. Only then can we stand on our 2 feet and make an honest choice about what direction to go in. Only then can we be more and more determined to work towards making this world a better place for all.
And when all human beings are living equally, respecting each others cultures and traditions, treating all life as spirit and not material, then we will all have true freedom.