“Only free people can come together; sovereignty is something we can only give ourselves. The key to sovereignty is sharing. Everyone in time will become a healer because that’s the only way we can move. You have to heal yourself first and love all that you see. This requires humility; this needs to be learned in the head. Live what you feel–that requires reverence. Humility and reverence make up the heart. With self-discipline, we know we are all connected and learn there are no separations.”
-Hawaiian Kahuna Hale Makua
We are living in a time when connecting with elder medicine is essential if we are going to be able to navigate the challenges of our time: continuing wars, genocide, global warming, economic collapse, and violence of all kinds. Wise elders are a living resource; they have much life experience and they have learned how to wade through life’s ups and downs in a way that looks easeful and even graceful. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with elders from many different traditions and backgrounds. I’ve had the chance to study how they talk, what actions they take, how they treat people, and what values are contained in their world views. What follows is a bit of what I’ve learned.
Wise elders are masters of timing. They don’t rush and they don’t tarry either. They don’t always give you an answer right away. They know that life is complex and that different circumstances require nuanced responses. Wise elders listen with their whole selves and really take in what the other person is saying. They listen for connection and greater understanding instead of from a place of trying to be right or prove their point. They’ve learned that the quality of one’s relationships is the most important thing about living. Relationships extend to all living and sentient beings: the plants, the animals, the mineral world, and ancestors in the spirit world, for example. Wise elders know that we are part of the extensive matrix of life that we cannot possibly comprehend in its entirety. They know that every action an individual takes has an impact on that web of life and so elders seek to be conscious of the effect of their words and actions. Wise elders take care of themselves because they know that the only thing they have one hundred percent control over is how they treat themselves on the inside and on the outside. The ability to truly love “everything we see” starts with the relationship we have with ourselves.
In the tradition I study, we offer community members turning 60 an opportunity to have an elder honouring ceremony. The elder can always decline, however, most accept because they want to share their life’s knowledge and skills with future generations. They know that giving back is part of the elder way. At forty-three, I am an elder-in-training with training wheels on. I won’t have my elder honouring ceremony for quite some time yet. However, I’ve already started to tap into the energy of my inner wise one. When I am in a situation that I am not sure how to move through, I call on my inner elder–the elder I will be–to guide and inform me. When I am about to go into a tough conversation that I know I have to have and want to make sure happens in a good way, I call on my inner elder. In this way, she is teaching me how to use my energy, my words, and my actions more judiciously while still keeping me connected to the essence of who I am. Often, I hear things coming out of my mouth or see myself taking actions my younger self would never have dared to speak or carry out. I feel a lot braver when I can see out of the benevolent elder eyes of my inner wise one. I can see the long view and I don’t get so caught up in trivial things. I am also less likely to keep bumping my head up against things I have no control over. Instead, I see where I can indeed make positive impact and put my energy there. I skirt obstacles when I can and face the ones I can’t move around. I’ve learned that that is how life works: presenting challenges and gifts. Life doesn’t do this to punish us but to sharpen the quality of our characters.
This shamanic strategy is available to anyone at any age. I know there were times in my childhood when I acted in a way that was “wise beyond my years.” Although I didn’t consciously know it at that time, my inner elder was moving through me without a lot of effort. Kids, of course, tend to be a lot more open to expressing different aspects of their psyche than adults are. However, any of us can hold the intent to play with connecting with this inner aspect that is always there to see how we can move with more ease and grace in our lives before our chronological elder years. Perhaps if more people did, we would come to a place of inner sovereignty earlier in our individual life cycles and come up with creative solutions to the world’s problems.
About the Author:
Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.
Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:
“The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”
“Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”
For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com