As a child, I remember my parents working very hard, to the point that I would joke that "I don’t think my mom sleeps." When I woke up in the morning, she was already awake. And when I went to sleep at night, she was still awake, always doing something.
They sacrificed very much so that we could get an education and live a “better life”. We also learned from general society that in order to be successful, you had to go to school and get your education. My family had a lot of respect for and faith in this western education and supported it in order to prepare us for life. The underlying messages that we were taught by society were that smart kids, or smart people in general, go to school, get a degree and thus become successful.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that society was also indirectly sending the message that my parents, who didn’t have that formal education, were less smart and less successful. And although my parents and family reinforced the importance going to school, what they might not have realized was the importance of the lessons that they taught us. These lessons that came from our indigenous roots, our culture and our ancestors were equally, if not more, important not only to my life success but my overall health, happiness and well-being. In Spanish, we call these type of teachings La Educación or the development of your character. And in the Nahuatl language, it’s referred to as the Huehuetlatolli, or the teachings of the ancestors.
Our grandmothers understood that all knowledge was interconnected and pertained to maintaining balance and harmony with all your relations; from the plants, to the animals, to the sun, to the moon, the universe and all our human relations. In essence, getting a formal, western education only mattered if it could enhance your ability to be in balance and in harmony with all these relations, including the love and care of yourself, your family and community. So, it’s important to for us to consider these two forms of learning in how we live our lives, and what we pass on to subsequent generations.
In order to maintain balance and harmony in our lives and that of our children, through this present climate of much anxiety, fear and disconnectedness, we need to re-root ourselves in these values – values of dignity, respect, trust and love for oneself and for all people, especially those in need of our advocacy and prayers of healing.
Peace in the world happens one piece at a time. And each of us has our own piece to contribute. One prayer and one action at a time. Let us all do our part.
I was recently blessed with a new grandson, Greyson Antonio Tello. What a joy it is to welcome this new little life into our family. My grandma would say each child that comes into the world is a blessing. In essence, we had many blessings in our family. More importantly though, my grandma was sharing that everyone that came into the world was sacred in their own way. It didn’t matter what the circumstances of the family were, when the child was born, or whether the child was “planned” for. In indigenous cultures, all children and, in fact, all people are seen as sacred.
This is so important, and it is actually one of the first rooted teachings for a child when they come into the world. It can, and often does, impact how a person sees themselves throughout their lives. Whether a newborn child is welcomed and seen as a blessing or burden can have a dramatic impact on whether or not that child’s spirit is able to fully connect and trust their family, and others. For this reason...
I extend blessings to you and all your relations, and give thanks for another day of life and opportunity. Grandfather sun greeted us this morning with his light to remind us of the light we carry within us, and our responsibility to shine that light on others. We also recognize that the sun will set and grandmother moon will call us to go into the lessons of the darkness, to allow our bodies to rest.
Yes, life is about night and day, and beginnings and endings, that are all part of the circle of life.
Our challenge is...
I just returned from the Sons and Brothers camp, which is a week-long camp for over 100 youth from across California. I was one of the elders as part of the Healing Generations Team, which attempts to provide a positive, interactive, rites-of-passage experience for youth of color.
It was at this camp, last year, that we were drumming to provide some dance music, in an attempt to get the youth up, moving, and interacting together. They seemed reluctant to get involved. So in hopes of encouraging them to get up and move, I decided to get up myself. Growing up in Compton and South Central Los Angeles, music, singing and dancing were significant parts of our lives; and I still love them.
But as I was grooving and feeling the music, maybe a little bit too much, I decided to make some James Brown type moves when all of a sudden, I hear a “snap” and feel like someone kicked me from behind. And just like that…
Greetings and blessings to all of you who have chosen to join me as we share, reflect, and explore the teachings and lessons of our journey through life. It is my intent with these reflections to offer a space for us to contemplate the many lessons that come to us through our ancestral teachings as we integrate them with the challenges in our day-to-day lives.
For many of you, this will be a continuation of the teachings that you have heard me share as part of a presentation, training or online video. For others, this may be your first time hearing from me. Nevertheless, I really appreciate you choosing to participate as I expand on the many teachings, and deeper reflections of those teachings, of learning to live life with value and joy.
With that in mind, this blog will focus on three major areas: