Receiving Ancient Wisdom
Last weekend I was blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to attend a life changing healing retreat in northern New South Wales which was facilitated by two of the most gifted and respected aboriginal elders this great land has to offer. These beautiful and inspiring people, both healers and keepers of the ancient wisdom of their respective sacred lineages, were Grandmother Jenny Thompson and Uncle Bob Randall, and here is a brief bio for each of them:
Grandmother Jenny is a Wakka-Kabi woman from Southern QLD, and is a cultural and spiritual healer and story teller. She is the co-founder of the Gin-Murun-Gari, she is also co-owner of the Junjarina Centre for Inspired Living at Tingalpa in Brisbane along with her many other roles as a respected family counsellor and therapist.
Jenny is also an ordained Deacon of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane and holds degrees in Community Welfare and Health Science (Mental Health). Jenny has her own counselling and therapy practice where she works mainly with children and adolescents. Jenny is a spiritual healer and a medical intuitive and uses these methods in her practice.
Uncle Bob Randall is a Yankunytjatjara Elder, tjilpi (teaching uncle) and a traditional owner of Uluru. Bob is one of the Stolen Generation and was taken from his family at the age of seven and placed in a missionary institution in Arnham Land, thousands of kilometres from his people and home country.
Throughout his life, Bob has worked as a teacher and leader for Aboriginal land rights, education, community development and cultural awareness. In the early ’70s, Bob’s song “Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away)” became an anthem for the Aboriginal people. He is the author of two books: his autobiography Songman and a children’s book, Tracker Tjginji. He is now most widely known as the subject and co-producer of the documentary film, Kanyini.
There are so many stories I could share with you about my experience of this amazing weekend, much of which is personal to me and my own inner journey. But I feel I can best serve this experience by sharing some of the deepest and most impactful learning that I received which can hopefully go on to have an impact for you as the reader, and for the world as a whole.
I would have to begin with briefly sharing the principles of Kanyini that Uncle Bob teaches and which he shares at greater depth in the documentary which you can find here.
The word Kanyini can best be translated in English as the relationship between responsibility and unconditional and unlimited love for all of creation. And it is expressed through four interconnected and interrelated paths:
Tjukurrpa – Creation stories, belief system, lore
Kurunpa – Spirit, Soul, Psyche
Walytja – Family, Kinship
Ngura – Land, Home, mother earth
For me one of the most beautiful aspects of Kanyini and aboriginal life is the relationship to Walytja, to family. Family is much more than just our bloodline. It not only includes the wider human community, our extended family, but it also includes all living things; the trees, rocks, insects, birds, reptiles, all aspects of the natural landscape of your Ngura, your home, and as such we are all responsible for ALL of our family.
The teachings of Kanyini lead me to reflect on the crippling sense of disconnection that I have felt and which I believe sits at the core of the western rational industrial world. In pursuit of land, power, wealth and the stuff of “comfort”, it seems we have severed our connection to the natural and eternally abundant source of life and love.
While this grieves me greatly for the lives and opportunities lost in this pursuit, I also hold hope in my heart that more and more people are also finding this realisation in themselves and adjusting their choices and impact on the world and each other. I believe this simple yet all encompassing relationship to life holds the answers for the problems of this world, and that if our lives and actions were aligned with such considerations we could heal as a planet and a people.
The second most impactful learning I received from this weekend was the realisation of how little I know of aboriginal people, culture and spirituality, despite believing I was fairly aware.
Like most people on a spiritual path, I’m sure you can relate, much of my seeking has been predominantly focussed on the eastern traditions, on Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism and even Christian mysticism.
In more recent years I felt the need to bring my transcendent experiences back down to earth and as such have sought out and incorporated some of the shamanic traditions in my personal practice and my work. This focus has definitely helped re-stoke the ever present love and respect for our earth mother and all her inhabitants as well as providing a strong and grounding foundation for my spiritual growth.
Even so, my seeking of shamanic wisdom has been focussed on the North and South American traditions, while all the time, beneath my feet and all around me I have been ignorantly surrounded by the rich, deep and colourful sacred traditions of the oldest culture on the planet.
I can see a few reasons for why this might be:
- Much of the old stories, songs and traditions have been lost due to the devastating effects of the colonisation and loss of the elders and wisdom keepers.
- The Americas have had an extra 2 to 3 hundred years to heal from their own colonisation and, whilst much suffering and inequality is still present, there has been some progress of integration and the traditions have had some re-emergence.
- What traditions have been retained and restored have been closely guarded and protected from the dilution, misuse and bastardisation by white fellas, and rightly so!
- And what is very clear to me is that the aboriginal people are an immensely humble people. They will share if asked with respect but they will not try to force or persuade their beliefs on to others.
And this brings me onto the third and most impactful learning I received from this weekend: Humility!
Here I was being invited to sit at the feet of two highly respected elders and receive the sharing of their wisdom, healing, stories & songs. Stories as old as time. Stories that shook you to the core, of deep suffering and trauma, stories that made you cry and many that made you laugh from the belly. All shared freely with gleaming smiles, sparkling eyes and with the deepest, warmest, love and compassion from heart to heart.
And all the while, as I sat and received it all, as the transmission landed over and through me, as I responded with my own symphony of emotions, the plain and simple truth added weight to the experience. The truth that it was and still very much is MY people who, through our arrogance and ignorance, have and continue to ignore, deny, suppress and systematically wipe out the oldest and most beautiful culture on this planet.
And yet here I was receiving their love anyway. If that is not an example to live by I don’t know what is!
To conclude this piece I want to suggest some simple ways we can all play our part to work towards the healing, reconciliation, recognition and inclusion of the aboriginal people:
In one word, Learn!
- Find out who your local people are.
- Learn about their lives, traditions, history and their current plight.
- Seek out, reach out and talk to the elders in your community.
- Ask them what you can do to help their cause and then do it.
- Watch great informative documentaries like Bob Randall’s Kanyini and John Pilger’s Utopia.
- Listen, learn and act.
Love and blessings to you all, my family.