We live in a time of accelerating change. Technology, transportation, buying and selling of goods and services, and information sharing are all occurring faster than ever before in human history. Human activities and communication now follow global patterns rather than happening in smaller, community-based or city-based groups, as occurred in past centuries. Many of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data available and the number of tasks that need to be completed in our everyday lives.
At a special shaman event following the 2015 Pachamama Alliance Luncheon, Pachamama Alliance co-founder John Perkins said:
“We are living on the Earth, and we are destroying it. A shift in consciousness is the only way forward. Pachamama (Mother Earth) is speaking to us and telling us that we have to change.”
A great transformation is critically necessary, and Indigenous wisdom tells us that it is already starting to happen.
A Path In the Darkness
We are entering a new era, a time in which the Earth will move from a phase of darkness and disillusionment toward a blossoming new awareness focused on light, love, and creativity. Incan, Mayan, and other Indigenous legends indicate that we are living in the time we have been waiting for over hundreds or even thousands of years.
In his book The Time of the Black Jaguar, Indigenous spiritual leader Arkan Lushwala tells us that human beings naturally go through cycles which stretch across millennia. There are three phases to each cycle: Creation, Conservation, and Renewal. Right now, he says, we have entered a time of Renewal, a short and intense period in which we will break from the darkness of Conservation and purify life on Earth. Arkan explains that because the social pillars and belief systems of the past are broken, but new pillars are not yet built, Renewal can be a confusing and often a painful time. But it occurs to remake us so that our hearts can be open to see and support the unfolding of a brand new, as-yet-unknown world of Creation. Once we make the transformation to this new world, we will be surrounded by magic and creativity, and the possibilities for humankind will be endless.
Indigenous Principles of Transformation
Many principles of Indigenous wisdom are centered around transformation. Here are a few key examples.
1. The healing power of plants.
Many Indigenous cultures view plants as the doorways to the healing nature of Mother Earth. There is an ancient belief throughout many different cultures in South America that posits that for every possible human ailment, there exists a plant (or combination of plants) to heal it.
An Indigenous shaman might combine two plants that naturally occur hundreds of miles away from each other, and utilize them to create a stunningly precise and effective treatment. Without any chemical or biological training, many Indigenous people often know the exact ratios of each plant to use in order to create a cure for a disease that chemists and biologists have puzzled over for decades. Many Indigenous peoples often say that the plants communicate with them and guide them in how to utilize their healing powers, and recent scientific studies have found that plants do in fact communicate in various different ways. The transformational power of plants for healing purposes is an important aspect of many Indigenous cultures and one that continues to amaze conventional scientists.
2. Sacred rituals.
Since the beginning of time, people have used rituals and ceremonies to connect with Mother Earth and with the higher powers of the universe. These rituals have great transformational power. For example, the Achuar who live in the Amazon practice a daily dream sharing ritual. The messages received from the spirits or higher powers during rituals and ceremonies can provide guidance to the people, or the ritual itself may provide a benefit to both the people and the natural world. Many Indigenous cultures believe that it is critically important for humans to have dancing, singing, and praying rituals in order to raise the energy and health of the planet Earth, particularly during this time of environmental destruction.
3. Shapeshifting: the ability to change from one form into another.
Many Indigenous cultures around the world believe that humans can change form. A shaman may shapeshift into a jaguar, a killer whale, or a wolf. These types of transformations speak of the interconnectedness among all life forms, and also give testament to the ability of the shaman to become a part of nature, and to take on the form of an animal which holds great power for the wellbeing of the community.
4. Ancient stories and myths.
The traditional stories of Indigenous people have been passed down through the generations. Often, the elders of the community are revered as the keepers of these stories and holders of great wisdom. As the stores are retold over and over again, they are imbued with the pervasive belief systems, everyday practices, and the community’s day-to-day life. As such, these stories hold great power.
Changing the Dream of the Modern World
In many ways, we can see the shift already occurring. There is a growing trend toward turning away from our widely-accepted cultural norms of materialism and frantic schedules. Instead, many people are choosing to get reduce their belongings, simplify their lives, adopt new spiritual practices, and re-focus on what is truly most fulfilling, such as spending more time with family or retreating into nature.
How does Indigenous wisdom relate to our challenges in today's world? What can we learn from Indigenous cultures, and how can we more wisely seek our own transformation?
Here are just a few suggestions:
- Go within. The transformation of our planet must begin within each individual. There is deep wisdom in your own soul and in the physical cells of your body. Try meditation or guided visualization in order to connect with your deeper purpose in life, heal wounds from your past, and find out how you might be called to transform the world using your own innate talents and skills.
- Spend time in nature. Often the most profound moments in our lives occur when we step away from technology, welcome silence, and open our hearts to what the universe wants to reveal to us. A long walk in the woods or quiet contemplation in a park or garden may be all it takes to provide that moment of insight that can transform our lives. Human beings were born from the Earth, the same as all other living creatures. When we transcend the illusions of separation and fear, we can operate on a higher level and achieve limitless possibilities.
- Explore new ways of thinking and living. Consider a minimalist lifestyle, which reduces your consumption of energy and resources, helping to create a healthier planet. Begin composting and set a zero waste goal for your household. This is a powerful choice that can lead to deeper growth and insights as you explore new options for how you can live your best life. Change to a plant-based diet, and grow your own food if possible. Look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Learn more about indigenous principles such as Buen Vivir, in which the good of the community is placed above that of the individual, and nature cannot be owned, but instead should be honored and protected.