Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz
We have been given so much by our Haudenosaunee instructors at the Indigenous Waldorf Week. It would be impossible to calculate the amount of content, history, language and perspective we have received listening to their stories, teachings and reflections.
Many of my colleagues have remarked how grateful they are to hear so much Mohawk speech and song. Many talk of how they are deeply inspired and touched by the materials they have seen, and want very much to know more about Indigenous people in their own communities.
The Gesture of Gratitude
Many people feel that the greatest force permeating this week is one of gratitude, of thanks. The gesture that has been brought to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers asks us to consider the notion of gratitude from a refreshed, and powerful perspective. From the very beginning of our week, we were immersed in a Mohawk way of thanks, of gratitude.
On the very first day, listening to the Thanksgiving Address in Mohawk language, with only pictures to orient our thinking, we were challenged to determine the significance of all we had heard and seen. As non-speaker, it was evident to me that what we had witnessed was important, and profound, but my first interpretation was not one of gratitude; I assumed that what I had seen and heard was a telling of the creation of the universe.
Recognizing a Need that has been Dormant
It was only after hearing the interpretation and translation from Amy Bomberry, Chandra Maracel and Sean Thompson that I understood the significance of what I had just heard, and perhaps more important, recognized a need in myself that is dormant. The need to have gratitude, the need to revere.
We were taught, for example, that students at Everlasting Tree are given the Thanksgiving Address throughout their entire schooling life. First they are shown, then they are taught, and then they make it their own. The idea of teaching, on a daily basis, the action of gratitude is such a powerful and profound notion.
The gesture that has been brought to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers asks us to consider the notion of gratitude from a refreshed, and powerful perspective.
The Waldorf Connection
This idea is one that is not foreign to Waldorf education. It is one that Waldorf education is absolutely in connection to. Consider, for example, one of the most used verses in Waldorf schools, “The sun with loving light,” which reminds us that, “in sunlight shining clear I revere.” Revere, to “to regard with respect tinged with awe.” To be aware. To venerate. We later say that from the sun, we receive “light and strength” and in return, we offer “love and thanks.”
What is different, and I argue, of supreme importance in the learning we have received this week comes from the depth and breadth of gratitude offered, and the constant reminder it engenders in us. The exercise of engaging in thanks, with “one mind” towards so many things, from the winds to the sun, moon and stars, from the insects to the water and fish, we are implored to remember all of the things around us that require our respect and reverence.
If this is offered every day as a deliberate practice, I wonder how the treatment of each of these beings would change. As Chandra pointed out to us on the second day, our actions can become destructive when we do not live with this gratitude in mind. To have gratitude towards all things would no doubt cause us to treat things in a very different way, and with a very different feeling.
Our second and third days of engaging with the Thanksgiving Address, we were challenged to think more deeply about the importance of relationship implied within it. Not only did we think about the gratitude we had for each element, being or creature, we then thought about how these beings all interconnected and impacted each other in a web of reality and relationship.
Seeing the Connections between Beings
Much like the web we built with Amy on the first day, our engagement with the Thanksgiving Address challenged us to see the connections between all of these beings, and perhaps, as important, to envision the connections we could not see. To ask ourselves “what do all of these things need from each other, and what do they need from us?” This gratitude calls on us to revere what we see, and what we don’t see.
To give gratitude to the people around us, but to equally give gratitude to the ancestors who came long before us, and to those to come. We may give gratitude to the plants that nourish us, but do we remember to thank the insects that work diligently to help make fruits and vegetables a viable food for us?
Our engagement with the Thanksgiving Address challenged us to see the connections between all of these beings, and perhaps, as important, to envision the connections we could not see
What all of this has challenged in me, and others I have heard, is the degree to which I offer gratitude to all things. As I sit here writing, drinking my iced coffee, it occurred to me that I did not stop to consider the water that went into making this, the coffee beans that grew on a plant, the person who made this for me to nourish myself and enjoy.
The idea of a daily action of gratitude, and a method for offering gratitude to all that is, is one that many have said will become central to their daily practice. I for one am deeply humbled and grateful to have received this learning, that I am approach the world with more gratitude, awareness and consciousness.