Eudaemonia

Indigenous Wisdom, with Dr. Anita Sanchez

June 03, 2020 Kim Forrester Season 6 Episode 7
Eudaemonia
Indigenous Wisdom, with Dr. Anita Sanchez
Chapters
Eudaemonia
Indigenous Wisdom, with Dr. Anita Sanchez
Jun 03, 2020 Season 6 Episode 7
Kim Forrester

Dr. Anita Sanchez is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the international bestselling book, The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times

On this episode of Eudaemonia, Kim and Anita take a deep dive into the power of indigenous wisdom, and discuss how these ancient concepts and practices can help us live happier, healthier and more harmoniously. 

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Anita Sanchez is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the international bestselling book, The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times

On this episode of Eudaemonia, Kim and Anita take a deep dive into the power of indigenous wisdom, and discuss how these ancient concepts and practices can help us live happier, healthier and more harmoniously. 

Kim Forrester :

Of all the languages on the planet, there is only one that can accurately describe the ambiguity and inconsistency of modern quantum mechanics, and that is the ancient language of the Hopi nation of North America. I'm Kim Forrester. You're listening to the Eudaemonia podcast and, today, we're going to explore why indigenous wisdom may be the key we're searching for to unlock a happy and healthy, modern life.

Intro :

Welcome to Eudaemonia, the podcast that is all about flourishing. Plug in, relax and get ready for the goodness as we explore the traits and practices that can help you thrive in life ... with your host, Kim Forrester.

Kim Forrester :

Dr. Anita Sanchez is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the international best selling book, The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous wisdom for modern times. Born of Aztec and Mexican-American heritage, Anita bridges indigenous teachings with the latest science to inspire and equip women and men to enjoy meaningful, empowered lives and careers. It's my absolute honour to be chatting with Anita, today, to take a deep dive into the power of indigenous wisdom, and to learn how these ancient concepts and practices can help us live happier, healthier, and more harmoniously. Anita Sanchez, it is such an honour to have you here with me on the Eudaemonia podcast. Thank you so much for choosing to be a part of the show. How are you today?

Anita Sanchez :

I'm doing very well. It's quite beautiful where I'm at. The sun has just risen and I'm just really looking forward to speaking to you and your listeners.

Kim Forrester :

I want to start with your doctoral dissertation. When you wrote your dissertation you were, shall we say, 'forcefully encouraged' to remove any relevance to indigenous knowledge, because it wasn't regarded as being scientific enough for the dissertation. You explain that ancient teachings actually arose through thousands of years of observation, just like science has in any part of the world. What would you most like people to understand about indigenous knowledge, Anita, and how it relates to our modern understanding of science?

Anita Sanchez :

I think the first thing that I'd want people to understand is that we all ultimately are indigenous. That is to say, we are all made up of the Earth, all the elements, and of the stars. And many have forgotten what that connection is to the land and as a people, where they came from. But there are some of us, who we now call 'indigenous' of various nations and tribes around the world, who have not forgotten that connection. So that original knowledge came from, and continues on today, from a direct understanding that we are connected to everything; that we are, indeed, relatives to each other. And, even today, what science requires is an inquiry about what is, what is one observing, and to really be in touch with that. And so I have to say, I'm kind of smiling right now. Because I'm working with lots of scientists, and they understand the knowledge - they are able to discover that - but they aren't able yet, and I say yet, and they are not able yet to actually hear what the Earth is saying, hear what the plants are saying, and understand the communication. They're getting closer to it, some of the scientists. So, I also want to say that what you described was a very painful thing. It felt a little bit like 'choose which arm you want and cut it off', in terms of not naming Black Elk, Chief Sitting Bull and a number of elders that I see as quite visionary. My doctoral degree was in organisation development and I was studying visionary leadership behaviour. However, I do believe that those professors - this was back in 1988, 1987 - they were doing what they thought was best for me to get through. And I'm really delighted, as I have helped other people - indigenous people and people of colour, women and men - to get their degrees, that this is no longer happening or it's not happening as much. I'm not hearing of it. Rather, people are beginning to acknowledge that wisdom, the original knowledge of indigenous people. People who have kept 'whole' whole areas of the world; the most biodiverse places in the world. This is the knowledge that life itself is asking us for, to reconnect to, and to live in right relationship with ourselves and the Earth and all beings.

Kim Forrester :

It seems that what we have done in our forgetting - those of us who, through the aeons, have forgotten wisdom - is that we've placed a lot of emphasis on knowledge. And knowledge and wisdom are two completely different concepts, aren't they? And I'm really excited to know that our modern science, or what we would term to be 'knowledge', is actually leading us down a path that is more and more looking like it draws us back towards indigenous wisdom. And we're going to touch on a couple of concepts later on in the interview. But I'm celebrating the fact that you're hearing less and less that indigenous knowledge and understanding is being shunned in academic circles. And I truly believe that might be because we are beginning to understand that the wisdom that has been captured in these stories, in these knowings, and in these teachings has been resonating with the truth all along. Has that being your experience?

Anita Sanchez :

Absolutely. I'm smiling from ear to ear. Reading in the last couple of years, the United Nations in their most recent state of our biodiversity around the world, in there, they speak of indigenous people who have kept ... who know how to live in healthy relationship with the Earth, the water, the animals, these various places. So they don't consume too much. They know how reciprocity ... you know, being able to be in flow with that. So they've been able to preserve it. For example, the Amazon, the lungs of our Earth. These indigenous people - you know, dozens of tribes along the Amazon - have kept that Amazon in such healthy shape, so that it's providing some 20% of our oxygen. But, however, with the illegal mining and burning of the forest, you know, it's becoming very, very difficult. So what science is acknowledging is that, this understanding - the literally how to work the earth, how to be with the forest, how to live, how much to eat, not eat - all these different things to keep the waters clean and air pure so that the life is thriving, is happening. So I'm just so delighted about this; that scientists are understanding what we always knew.Including, I want to go from Earth to just how we even think. Growing up, my uncle and my grandmother and my mom used to say, 'Be careful of what you say, be careful of even what you think. Because once you do that, and it's put out, you can't take it back." Now you can think new thoughts, and speak new words but what they were saying is what we now know in some of the science. For example, in heartmath, that in a eight to 14 foot radius, we are impacting each other's heart rate variability. What we say what we do does have a physical impact. And so what it says to us is that, we are really these marvellous, amazing, sacred beings that have lots of power, lots of love. And we have to direct that and use it in a way so that we're all life giving, rather than taking away from the sacredness of this Hoop of Life.

Kim Forrester :

Let's talk about perhaps the most fundamental concept of all: the Great Mystery, as it's known, or qi or mauri, as it is in New Zealand. It is this universal spirit force. What do the ancients have to teach us about the Great Mystery? And what changes can we facilitate in our lives, here in our modern world, Anita, by becoming more open to the unexplained and the unexplainable?

Anita Sanchez :

Yes, we have developed, by mainstream societies around the world, have developed this concept of being an individual. And that is true, but the individual is also part of the whole. Part of the whole Hoop of Life. But it has gotten so out of balance that we think that we're alone; that we suffer from such things as depression and anxiety, and suicide rates going up all over the world. And so I think when we start our day, end our day, and as many times during the day, even for a few seconds, just giving gratitude. And that gratitude for the fact that I'm breathing, the fact that I can walk, the fact that I can express love and kindness to someone else. Gratitude that tree, that's taking the carbon and transforming it into oxygen. So we have this relationship. And that, I believe, is very, very important. So the practice of gratitude. Growing up, since I was little, my mother, my grandmother, you know, they always gave gratitude to everything from the start of the morning when we drink our first glass of water. And knowing that, as that water was going in me giving me life, that already 55% to 80% of my own body is water. And so why would I do damage and not give gratitude, and keep clean the water and clean myself? I think that's part of it; is this illusion of separate that somehow my little ecosystem here, or your little ecosystem, or your listeners ecosystem, is separate from the larger ecosystem of the whole Earth. Of the planet, and all the beings on it. And when we can shift that - that's a big one - we can shift that, it's not about knowing every single thing. Go ahead, as scientists do, they're exploring it all and I'm a scientist myself. However, understanding - as scientists are understanding today - we may never understand all of this. For, especially science, separates out the spiritual. Human beings, if we continue to separate out the spiritual, then we will not be living in the wholeness of who we are. I'm not saying take away the physical. But to be a whole human being is to be good medicine, which is to bring into alignment the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. And in doing that, of course, we are embracing the Great Mystery, because we don't understand all of that, nor will we. But we can still give gratitude that that Great Mystery, that it is supporting us. And when you come from that Kim, as I think you do, even if by standards of wealth and success, there isn't all these things that you have - this illusion of being wealthy - but there is an incredible spiritual wealth, emotional wealth, mental wealth, and I will say, even physical. Because understanding, it's not about more and more and more, it's about enough. And in that embracing of the Great Mystery which some call Allah, God, universe, energy, many different languages for that, not only do the ancients from long ago speak of this in the different traditions but, today, the people who are still living in that understanding are holding that - and I believe it is actually expanding at this time; that we are in realignment.

Kim Forrester :

So much to unpack from your answer there, Anita. First of all, if I may personally say that, it's quite some time since I let go of the need to know and understand everything. And for me that has been a liberation, because it allows me simply to experience everything. I don't necessarily need to understand. And if there's one thing I could offer my listeners now, it's an appreciation of how fascinating life can be, how liberating, and how joyful it can be, when you simply allow life to bring you its experiences without you necessarily having to understand or intellectualise everything. The other thing you touched on there, though, was the sense of interconnectedness. And this is something you wrote about in your book and it is one of the concepts that I just adore - science, only in the last 50 to 80 years has actually started to understand in terms of interconnectedness and quantum entanglement. So, can you just run by briefly again what the Hoop of Life is and why it's really important for us to understand that particular principle?

Anita Sanchez :

Yes, the Hoop of Life is really the principle, the understanding, that oneness, that we are all interconnected. And I think we're all experiencing at this time; that this small little virus, this little bug, is impacting all of us all over the world. No one could have predicted that the whole world would be stopped in a pause because of this. And yet, it tells us - as it has been true, always, but this little bug has hit us in such a way that we're having to really pay attention - is that, you know, what happens in halfway around the world in planting, kind of, caring for the Earth, or using terrible toxic insecticides, that can impact halfway around the world. Because the winds will carry that. We can understand now that what happens in terms of deforesting land impacts halfway around the world. What is happening is, through science, is they are, as you said it, particularly in the last 50 to 80 years, beginning to understand more and more - even at the micro level. The Earth will be fine. What we're in now, it's the two leggeds - the human beings - deciding whether we are going to be in this relationship with this oneness; understanding our interconnection. I don't believe that the Hoop of Life, the Great Mystery, had all this unfolding for us not to be able to do a shift. And so conversations like we're having and others are having all over the world is to help us remember. Remember that Hoop of Life; that we are one and that that's such beauty and power. My elder used to teach us, growing up, he would put his arms up and make this big circle. And then he moved the circle in front of him like, like a big hug and said, "Now, this is what it means to be a whole human being, is to understand that we're part of one Hoop of Life. And that people, Earth and Spirit are all connected. And that, when we do good, when we do kindness, when do we do care for people or the Earth or spirit, we're doing good, we're doing care, for the others. There is a reason for each of us to be here. And part of that is to remember the joy of what it is to be in harmony with ourselves and with other beings.

Kim Forrester :

You are speaking there of right relations, a theme that comes up constantly throughout your book. And I think, for me, particularly when it comes to having right relations with nature, this is something that is very personal to me. I love for people to understand that we don't go into nature. Right? We talk about that interconnectedness. We have forgotten that we are nature. You actually went into the Amazon, correct, and spent time with a particular indigenous peoples there who truly understand that, when they are in the forest, they are an integral part of the forest. Can you explain more about that concept?

Anita Sanchez :

Oh, thank you for asking that. It's quite beautiful. So yes, since 2008, I have been going to the Amazon; the sacred headwaters. And in the sacred headwaters, I spend time, I take people in and we spend time with two tribes - the Achuar and the Sakura people. And what is clear every time we go in, that within very little time, sometimes a few hours, maybe it takes a whole day, that different journeyers will say - through translation that's happening because these indigenous people are speaking their languages - they go, 'There's something really different. These people, from little children to the elders, talk about the rain forest not as being living in the rain forest, not as being with the rain forest, but as being part of the rain forest. And I think yes, exactly what you're talking about. What would it be like? What would it be if we behaved knowing that we are part of the Earth? Rather than separate from it, or living on it, or taking from it, but rather than being part of it. Because every single one of those elements are inside of us. Even how, many of them will build their houses, in that they'll do a small clearing for very ... they live in small groups so as to not cause great destruction. But even when they'll build, they'll walk for miles to get a tree here and a tree there. And yet all the trees are right there. And they go, 'No, no, no, because we know these trees to be strong, is us being strong.' And so they take very consciously and care always of the whole ecosystem that they are a part of, not separate from.

Kim Forrester :

Just beautiful. Their sense of self extends beyond their own physical body, beyond their family, beyond their tribe or their community. Their sense of self is the Earth herself. And I wonder how we would all live, if we could just grasp that simple concept there.

Anita Sanchez :

Absolutely.

Kim Forrester :

In your book, you describe the four sacred gifts that were brought to us all by some pan-indigenous leaders in the last decade. And the third sacred gift is the power of healing. I found this to be particularly beautiful, because you explain how each of us has the power to heal by listening with what you call the softest part of the ear. Can you explain to my listeners, what you mean by that and share how just listening and holding space can be one of the most profound ways we can be there for each other?

Anita Sanchez :

Yes, I agree. I think listening could be maybe one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves and others. And when I talk about - and as you shared - from various indigenous elders who I have talked with since I was little about listening with the softest part of your ear. And now I've added, with your expanding heart. But let's stay with the softest part of your ear. What that is, is that, again, the understanding that we're more than what we just see here; our different senses. And when we listen with the softest part of the ear, what we are doing is extending to the other being - and even to ourselves, if we listen to ourselves - what is really wanting to be acknowledged, heard, held space for. And when we do that, then we're able to see what is in alignment and what is out of alignment. So what I think is listening, is the first step to loving oneself and to giving love to others. It's an unconditional kind of love. So when we listen with the softest part of your ear, we're really erasing, sort of in our mind, the stuff that we're kind of caught up in our own stuff. And we're really erasing that and allowing space to say, 'You know, this other needs within myself, or some other being, is asking me to be present. To truly be present. To understand whatever it is that it, or the person, has to share is as important, if not more important, at this moment than my needs to sound off, to talk, to fill the space, to run away from what is wanting to rise - either within myself or from someone else.' And so it takes a level of - first of all - being quiet, stopping the talking and settling in. So to listen with the softest part is to say, 'I love you. I love you, and I'm here for you. Holding the space in grace, for you to be heard.' And if we could actually do that for each other, instead of just being 'Me, me, me' it would be important. And if we could do that, Kim, just for ourselves, then we would be able to get in touch with all those things that are out of alignment. Which I believe this time is allowing us. If we're not running away with busyness, and having that stopped, of just the pattern of doing, doing, doing, that we actually can stop and listen to 'What is in alignment in me and what is out of alignment?' And to answer that question for ourselves, is really a powerful loving gift to ourselves and to all those we impact.

Kim Forrester :

It strikes me, though, that that is also perhaps what is required when it comes to our right relation with Mother Earth, and with nature, and with the animals. Are we listening to the Earth, and the forest, and our animal brothers and sisters with the softest part of our ear? Are we listening to what we're being told? Once we learn to do it for each other and ourselves, do you feel that it could be powerful for us to listen to the Earth in the same way?

Anita Sanchez :

Absolutely. In growing up, I had kind of both a beautiful, powerful, wonderful experience with my family and elders but I also had this dark secret, which is being abused for some nine years as a child. And it was listening, not only to those elders, but it was being with the trees, and being with the grass and the flowers that actually got me to understand that what I was experiencing, there was something greater. Even as a small child, I already had some of that understanding. I think the levels of suicide that is rising everywhere, if we could help extend to each other the listening. And when we're not trusting of two legs - other human beings - we are part of nature, we are part of the Earth. And so we can always go ... that's why when we go outside, or just see a bird, or look at a tree, or lean against it, there's this 'ahhh'. Because what we are experiencing at this other level is the oneness. And Kim, we get to hold that space now, because we're all seeing how, in us really paying attention, by slowing down and by sheltering in the various ways we're doing around the world, we're seeing the ocean becoming cleaner. We're seeing more birds again. We're seeing, we're being able to ... I'm in Colorado, and I'm outside of Denver, in the mountains. I can see the buildings in Denver. I used to be able to only see those a few days during the year because the smog and things. So we're seeing, you know, animals. I have bears coming through my yard again, and things. It's really quite beautiful. And we need to listen. Listen - what is it saying? Not that we're going to always stay sheltered in. But what is it telling us? And then act from the softest part of our ear, and listening to that so it really anchors in. And then move in action from our heart to see that, whatever the new way of being, that we are giving attention to what gives life - and that means the Earth itself and all of its creatures.

Kim Forrester :

I want to stay in this concept of listening and then acting from our heart. You touched just before on how we can listen to our own bodies as well. That's something that you write about in the book. And I also want to share the story, if you don't mind, about the two eagles that were with you during the writing of your dissertation. Because I wonder if there is power in us learning to understand how the Great Mystery speaks to us and how we can learn to listen through noticing the signs and the signals? You know, we all understand that concept of 'show me a sign'. Is there power if we could learn to pay more attention to, and actually accept, the signs when they're placed on our path?

Anita Sanchez :

Absolutely. Those signs are happening to all of us. I don't believe it's just some of us. Some people say, 'Well, you're indigenous people. Because you stayed so connected, you see those signs. We don't get them.' That's not true. The signs are happening all the time. So the story you're talking about, I'm glad to share. It was in the 80s and it took me a long time - nine years - to do my doctoral dissertation. I was working full time and putting my husband through school, too. I have no complaints, no regrets. However, when I got to the last part where I did all the classwork, I put together my proposal, and I painted everything on my house to avoid writing my dissertation. And I finally ran out. And I remember going out onto my deck and screaming at God - screaming at the Great Mystery - saying, 'Why do I have to do this? I don't want to write this thing. You know, I've already been doing good things in the world. I'm serving people. I'm serving the Earth' and, you know, 'argghhh', all this kind of whiny screaming. You know, but it was real. I was getting out all that was there. And so, in my screaming, I said to God - all the while thinking my mother and grandmother would just be horrified by what I was doing. But anyway, I screamed, I said, 'Okay, if you want me to write this darn thing, then you have to give me a sign.' And so I went inside. My upstairs is full of windows, and this eagle flew by. So I said, 'Okay, all right. So every morning I have to go to the bathroom at five in the morning. So then I'll come out here in the deck and if an eagle flies by, then I'll go downstairs and write for three hours.' Now, eagles do fly around here, but you don't see him on a regular base. You don't see him daily and sometimes even weekly. For the next three months, every morning I woke up, five o'clock, went outside and a darn eagle would fly by. So I'd go downstairs and write for three hours. And what was really incredible, Kim, is that I'd go upstairs to eat breakfast after the three hours - at eight in the morning - and sure enough, on some of the days, another eagle would fly by. And sometimes it would be two. And I'd go back downstairs and write for three hours. So I truly believe that there was a reason for me to continue; to complete this. And I do understand that those eagles were assigned, were supporting me - as is the whole Earth supporting each of us if we will accept that support, and follow. Sometimes it looks really difficult and hard. Like, 'You want me to do what?' And now what I understand is that we actually create suffering when we don't follow our hearts; when we don't listen. When we don't allow those signs to guide us to where and who we're supposed to be - contributing to ourselves, and to others, and the Earth itself.

Kim Forrester :

Absolutely. And that comes from listening, paying attention and just an expanded awareness of what is happening in your surroundings. I guess people might call that living more consciously.

Anita Sanchez :

Absolutely, living more consciously. And although there are times when it feels overwhelming - and I'm sure it does for some of your listeners - is that's when you sit still and you give yourself the listening and the self love, the compassion, the space and grace to understand, again, that we're not alone. We might get lonely and feel overwhelmed, but we're never alone. We're part of this one Hoop of Life; this interconnected, beautiful, abundant ... everything we have, here, to be sufficient is right before us and inside of us.

Kim Forrester :

Beautiful. Anita, my final question - and this is one that I ask every guest on the Eudaemonia podcast. I wonder if you can offer my listeners a simple morning reminder? So this may be a practice, a mantra, perhaps an affirmation, something that can help them connect with the power of indigenous wisdom - connect with the power of their own ancestors - each day.

Anita Sanchez :

Yes. I start my day in gratitude and the first gratitude goes to the land that I'm on. So I live in a place where the Ute nation, the Arapaho, and the Cheyenne people were the first peoples here. So every morning, I give gratitude to the first peoples of the land that I'm on; for the care they gave to it, that it is now of service to me and understanding that they are not gone. They are still here. So wishing them well. So I think, for every one of us, we can start with giving gratitude to the land that we're on, to the first peoples that were there - we can discover who those are. And then, from there, I just continue with a gratitude. It takes me ... some days, it takes me a full 30 minutes, as I'm walking as well. But other days, I only have like maybe three to five minutes, but I just list in my mind all the things and bring them that I love and care about, that I'm grateful for, and just have my heart keep expanding. I've been doing lots of meditations with people where I've allowed, they just keep bringing everything into your heart. And people are saying, you know, 'My heart is really huge. Sometimes it feels like I'm bringing in the whole planet. I didn't know I could do that.' And I think that practice in itself - acknowledging the land, the first peoples of that land - and then bringing all of that that you care and love, both known and unknown, into your heart, allows you to move forward in mind, body and spirit in a way that you're able to be in healthy relationship with yourself and others. And take on the good things; the things we want to not miss. The joy. But also to be able to ride the waves with compassion and wisdom of the hardships that also are here.

Kim Forrester :

Anita, through your work, your writings, your books, your teachings, you bring indigenous wisdom - you bring the rememberings - to those of us who have forgotten. For anyone who would like to learn more about you or to get a hold of your book, The Four Sacred Gifts, where can people find you?

Anita Sanchez :

Yes, they can go to www.foursacredgifts.com. And there you can read more about the book, The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous wisdom for modern time. You can also download for free, the song that was created sung by indigenous and non indigenous people. That's called In Right Relations. And there you can find ... you can buy my book through Amazon, and lots of independent stores. And it's in ebook, audio, as well as hardback and softback. And I just want to say to everyone, you are not your circumstances. That means that you can embrace all of who you are. And so I ask you, as I asked myself every day, 'Am I being good medicine; bringing into alignment the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical within myself, and then extending that and supporting that in others?' www.foursacredgifts.com.

Kim Forrester :

Anita, it has just been a delight to connect with you, quite literally from the other side of the world. Thank you for choosing to be a part of the Eudaemonia podcast.

Anita Sanchez :

You're welcome. Thank you.

Kim Forrester :

It was Crazy Horse, the celebrated Lakota warrior who said, 'I salute the lights within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that centre within you, and I am that place within me, we shall be one.' You've been listening to season six of the Eudaemonia podcast. I'll see you back here in late July for season seven. But in the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about how to live a truly flourishing life, please subscribe and check out www.eudaemoniapod.com for more inspiring episodes. I'm Kim Forrester. Until next time, be well. Be kind to yourself, and stay attuned to the wisdom of our ancestors. Transcribed by https://otter.ai