Being an elder, I find myself watching the lives and dramas of the younger people around me. Somehow, as the years have accrued, I have become less engaged in life’s apparent crises. Not that I don’t get sucked in, I certainly do, but the overall effect has changed. Sometimes I miss the intensity and passion of young adulthood. (I don’t miss the meanness and competition that sometimes accompanies youth though.)
My teachers encouraged me to be fully engaged in life while keeping enough distance from drama to notice the underlying play of the sacred. They hoped I would notice that the events of our lives teach us about the Holy, about the Creator and creation. Of course, physical pain and mental anguish are formidable barriers to many forms of learning. How, we wonder, might suffering be holy? Yet the elders have taught that it is. (For instance, when we cry for a vision or for the suffering of others, the spirits may notice.)
Some young people seem to grasp this early, and to use their intuition that the dramas of life are also teachings, to stay on the Good Red Road. These young women and men seem to grasp that a great stream of teachings lies just below the surface of things, and that life stories and paths, even when they seem the most mundane, are sacred.
Often these stories that we hold as personal, are interwoven with the past. For instance, the child who is uncertain she wishes to be in this world may be influenced by distant ancestors, whose own ambivalence about the world, perhaps driven by experiences of violence, may induce them to call the child back into the spirit world.
Of course, we each have our own stories, unique to us, and influenced by the developmental tasks and challenges we face. Without mistakes, we do not learn. Still, we may often benefit from the aid of our friends, families, and elders. Sometimes, we need the assistance of a therapist. When there is unhelpful influence from the spirit world, we may need the aid of a healer who might consult with, and even negotiate with, the ancestors and other spirit beings.
Even though we may be challenged to do so, we may remember that spirit runs powerfully under the ground of our lives, and that our fates are interwoven with many generations of others. Dramas arise and fall from the experience of being. Sometimes, these are the dramas inherent in the unfurling of human knowing and growth. Sometimes their roots run much deeper. Always they point to our connection with the Holy.