A friend in Australia asked me about what I believed. This was a question that was posited to me by my psychologist about ten years ago also. So just to put it out there, I thought I would give my view on religion and spirituality. Mind you, these are my views and they may not agree with your own. I firmly believe in the Hindu teaching, “There are many paths up the mountain. The only one not getting up the mountain, is the one who is running around and around it telling everyone else they are on the wrong path.” So let me start at the beginning.
I was raised in an area that has many Christian churches but not much else. Growing up, I was raised Catholic as that was the religion of my parents, though neither practised unless you called having seven kids and propagating the faith, being good Catholics. I went to church every Sunday, usually at my grandmother’s, so went to Sacred Heart and listened to my godfather and his sweet tenor voice. I would have been thought of as a good Catholic boy. Some even had visions of me being the one to become a priest. Yet, I always was bothered by some of the things said in the church, especially the Nicene Creed which went up my spine for some reason. As I got older, I made my confirmation and at times even my brothers and sisters would call my Father Ed. Yet, somehow I felt the church was not my home. Oh, I had read the bible through a couple of times and understood a lot of it, but there was a lot of contradiction between what Jesus was teaching and what I heard from the pulpit each week. Somehow, I didn’t feel it in my heart.
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)
That was the crux of it though, the dogma of the Catholic Church did not agree with my own reason or even made sense. Yet, I continued on. I did a stint in the Air Force and outside of talking to God and finding the only place I felt good was in the woods, my spiritual life took a rest. Though upon leaving the Air Force and returning home, I would still be called Father Ed by some. I eventually caved, and became a Youth Minister. Kind of like dipping your toe in the water before taking a plunge. It was a good time and I loved working with the kids. I remember one who was taking passages from the bible and berating his fellow students in his confirmation class. I turned to him and told him that what he was saying was not what was meant and that he was taking it out of context. I then recited the whole passage by memory. The nun watching this exchange came up to me afterwards and said that she was glad someone finally put him in his place. Not what I meant, but by this time I had heard a lot of people taking bits and pieces from the bible and twisting them for their own ends.
Now my room at the center was the old sacristy for the chapel on property. So it was kind of detached from the rest of the building and I was alone in this big empty room. They had built a bathroom in there so I wouldn’t have to go back to the main building just to use the john in the middle of the night, so it was my own little world. It gave me a sanctuary that I could just talk to God. Ever try it? Just talk like you would your best friend? Most importantly, shut up. How many of us just keep jabbering on and then walk away and say he doesn’t listen. We don’t give him time to answer. One of the things that I was still having trouble with was the whole idea of Catholicism. I kept asking why was I there? I didn’t belong. I was told that I was a holy person. I have been many times. This is why others call me Father. They see that holiness in me and because I was Catholic equated it to being a priest. Yet, this was not my path. As I found out later, there was a purpose for me being there at that particular time, but still, I had to run.
I felt that I had to prove to God that I was not a holy person, so I got into an ill advised affair with a married woman. There God, see, I told you. It didn’t last long and she was empowered to leave her husband and move away. I spiralled down into deep depression. I would not leave my room or shower, or anything. Yet, one day, I decided to go for a walk in the woods. We had acres of woodland behind our house so I could just get lost if I wanted and no one would be around. As I walked, I was shaking my head.
What do you want from me God? Why are you doing this to me?
I am not doing this to you. All I have ever asked is that you be yourself and open your heart and show the way.
But I don’t believe in the Catholic Church. I am not going to make a good priest.
Who asked you to be a priest? All I asked is that you open your heart to others. By showing your light, you will light up others.
So you don’t want me to be a priest?
Do you want to?
Then, why would you even consider it? You are a special person. You have all ready touched many people and helped them on their journey. That is all you have to do. You can walk whatever path you choose, just keep your heart open.
Well, I went back home, took a shower, shaved, and had something to eat. I had a lot to think about.
Well, time passed and I had gone through one marriage. We still loved each other, but her mother did not like me much any more since I had told her no once. We kept in touch through the years. I found myself back at my mother’s and foundering. I was never much for dating but a cousin introduced me to a friend of theirs. She was very Catholic. She seemed to like me and quite frankly, Catholicism was the only religion I knew at the point, so I accepted that part. It lasted nine years and I had a breakdown, so I was seeing a psychologist to help put the pieces back together.
Eventually, we managed to get the pieces together, but it begged the question, who was I? We started to investigate many aspects of myself. Finally came the big question, what do you believe spiritually?
Well, everyone thinks I should have been a priest. Maybe all of this was because I ran away from that. I refused my calling, so I am being punished.
She shook her head. I didn’t ask what everyone else thought. I asked what YOU believed.
Hmmm, no one ever really asked me that. I went on to tell her that I was most comfortable in the woods. It was there that God and I had the greatest conversations. I would spend hours there. Everything was like family. I would sit in this glade with the sun filtering through the trees and just watch the birds and rabbits and squirrels going on about their business. Every now and then, one would stop and look at me. Once I swear a squirrel waved. Maybe I am not as cured as you think. You know, I kind of think that it is like the Force from Star Wars. In some way we are all connected. Every tree, shrub, squirrel, rabbit, bird, deer, and human are all tied together somehow. Remember, that scene when Obi Wan sat weakened as they were on the Millenium Falcon. Luke asked what was wrong. Obi Wan said he felt as if millions of lives were just ended. That is what I believe, something like that.
She then went on to tell me that Karl Jung, the protege of Sigmund Freud believed something very similar and was trying to prove it. George Lucas had studied Jung and used that as the basis for the Force. So my thoughts weren’t quite so far-fetched. Search your feelings, Ed.
She then told me that I should start looking at other paths and see if maybe there is one that is more close to my own spirituality. So began an amazing journey of discovery.
Having Celtic roots, I decided to start with the Druids. I read up on the Druid spiritual ways, but let me tell you, some of those names are just too hard to pronounce. Though, I think I have the Tuatha De Danann down. It was fascinating to learn, but not close enough to how I felt. I then learned about shamans, curanderos, laika, and other indigenous healers around the world. I was starting to see something in these that I could believe in. I started to learn about Native American people in the Americas before Europeans overran them. I found something in their way of life, in their culture that agreed with me. The problem is that because of so many charlatans, hucksters, and frauds, many Native American tribes are wary of inviting anyone into their inner circle. So for the early part of my investigation, I had to rely purely on books. On this you had to be careful because you didn’t really know the writers background, so they could just be leading you on.
I had joined a group on Tribe.net that dealt with shamans. A Cree friend Way of the Spirit, invited me to join her group, Native American Prayer and Wisdom. It was a great group from which I learned a great many things. I was also invited at this time to join some groups on Yahoo, Native American Family, Native American Circle, amongst others. I started really learning quite a lot. I also took the things I had taught myself and gave back. Eventually, Way of the Spirit decided to leave Tribe.net and asked if I would take over her group. So for the next six years or so, I dedicated myself to learning and teaching. I would often post things I found on Yahoo and shared things that I was being taught.
I wondered if this was my path because it felt more at home than I had ever been in the church. I had to drop my kids off one Christmas Eve morning and had time to kill before going to my in-laws for lunch. I decided to go out and spend some time at the reservation. Getting there I found the gate was closed, so I went down Bell Rock Road to the water hole and sat there and said my prayers and gave an offering of tobacco as I had been taught. I closed my eyes and laid back across the granite boulder there.
You will come to be known as White Wolf. This is your path. Continue to learn the healing ways for you were once a great healer. You will be again, when the time comes.
Creator? How will I know what to do? I have no teacher. I only learn what my friends share with me. How can I learn to heal others?
You are thinking in narrow ways. There are more ways to heal than using herbs or prayers. Look back over your life. You have always been a healer. You have always brought comfort to others and helped them through difficult times, by your words. Words are powerful medicine. They can raise a person up, or dash them down. Your words bring healing to others. Remember when you were a youth minister? Did you not bring healing to others there. You did not feel you belonged, but you were where you needed to be. Know that you are never alone and that I am always here to help you.
I wish I could believe all this. I feel like damaged goods at times, especially after my breakdown.
Do you recall what you learned about shamans. They often journeyed within and were torn down or apart by their spirit guides. Then they were made anew. You did this in real life. You were stripped of all those things that clouded your mind and kept you from seeing your true path. There will be a time in the future when all that you are learning will come back to you and you will know why you have had to endure the things you have gone through. Just know that your words are powerful. Even the most casual word may have a positive affect on someone’s life.
I wish I could believe it all. I really do.
I will give you a sign. Today you will receive a drum with a wolf on it. This will be my sign to you. Seeing this, know that even the strangest thing that is asked of you, has purpose. Now go, it is getting late and people will start worrying about you.
Wado Creator. I give thanks to you.
I headed out to my in-laws with this whole “dream” in the back of my head. The food was great, everyone was laughing and having a good time. The time came for gifts. They were passed around, and as usual, wrappings were thrown at my sister-in-law Cheryl. I sure do miss her. Then a gift was passed to me. I opened and saw the face staring back and me and almost broke down right there. There was the wolf drum. I think my reaction caught my mother-in-law off guard. She thought I didn’t like it. How could I tell her what I had just gone through?
Later, after relating this to a Cherokee friend, she said that the name was most fitting for me as she had been watching me. She said that in Cherokee mythology, the wolf was seen as a pathfinder and teacher. She said that I have been doing that in the groups, showing people the way and teaching. She said that I lived up to my name and gave me my Tsalagi name, Unega Waya, White Wolf.
Well, my journey continued on for many years after that. I have continued to learn and grow and give back as I could. I have kept my heart open and welcome most everyone to my circle. One day, I may come to understand this path I have been led on. I do not regret taking that first step. I have experienced a great many things. When asked to go to New Mexico and perform a ceremony it became a mission. A mission of love for all people and a prayer of unity. I was led to create a symbol of that unity. The sacred turtle. On its back is the representation of the four races, red, yellow, black, and white, with the center section of the shell being the coming together of all. It is my prayer that we can somehow make it through all that we are going through. That the blinders of separation will be removed and that we will see beyond doubt what the Lakota have always said, Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related.
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.