Voices from the Ancestors and Beyond: Chicanx/Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices
edited Lara Medina and Martha R. Gonzales
University of Arizona Press
Involvement in Indigenous Circles
Between 1985-2000 I served as a volunteer spiritual advisor for the Native American Religious Society at the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Norco, California.
The women that I served had all been in and out of correction institutions for the majority of their lives. Many women were struggling addicts and had been homeless “living on the streets.” They were survivors of abuse from fathers, relatives, and husbands, suffered the loss of their children to other family members or social services, and rarely received visits in prison because their families had abandoned them.
A sense of sadness and loneliness permeated their lives which was only amplified by the fact that there is no privacy in prison with several women sharing a single room and no locks or doors on bathroom stalls. These women had very few places they could go to be alone in silence to meditate on their lives, find answers, or build self-esteem. A common prayer by the women was to find peace.
I visited CRC monthly for over fifteen years becoming “sisters” with the women in my care. On my visits we gathered in sweat lodge to sing songs, share prayers, stories, and blessings. Before we entered the lodge we would sit in meditation to release negative memories, thoughts, and feelings. In this way, when we entered the lodge the women could focus on their prayers and accept the blessings of the sacred four directions, Mother Earth, Father Sky, and Great Spirit.
“The Beauty of the Flower” meditation allowed each woman to close her eyes and find a private place to visualize and release haunting, negative experiences and relationships. The women and I would sit on ground with burning sage, cedar, tobacco, and copal in the center of our circle along with eagle feathers and our drum and rattles. After the meditation women would cry in relief and happiness and enter the sweat lodge cleansed of harmful emotion and memory.
Guidelines for Ritual
A Meditation Exercise for Releasing taught to me by a Seneca Oneida Elder
This is a beautiful and simple meditation that will help you to release tension and stress surrounding personal situations and relationships. Begin by sitting comfortably in a quiet location with your legs folded and arms resting gently on your knees. Close your eyes gently and breathe slowly into your nose and out your mouth four times. Remain calm. Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful flower in your mind’s eye. Continue breathing. See the flower large and fragrant. Place the object of your concern or the individual of your concern in the center of the flower. Imagine them resting quietly in the beauty of the petals. Continue to breathe. Count to three and explode the flower. Watch the petals fly all around you with beautiful streaming colors. In your mind’s eye imagine the situation or the individual walking away to your right. See them smiling and enjoying their walk. Wish them well and send them peace. Take all the lessons that you’ve learned from the situation or individual and place them in a beautiful box. You don’t need to understand all the lessons now. Trust that you will understand them as you learn and grow. Repeat the exercise three times and end the meditation with a prayer of gratitude. I wish to thank my elders for teaching me this beautiful meditation. It has helped me to find balance and harmony in my life.