How do we heal ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in – all at once? How has our society created rifts within us (and between us) that get in the way of fulfilling relationships? With indigenous wisdom that has been handed down over thousands of years, today’s guest will help you heal the splits in your life and develop deeper integrity. Her name is Sherri Mitchell, and she is the author of “Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change”. A member of the Penobscot Nation, Sherri has also been actively involved with indigenous rights and environmental justice for more than 25 years. Instead of turning a blind eye to the ways that our cultural legacy gets in the way of connection and healing, today we will walk together down a practical path of truth, healing, and spirit.
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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I like to bring in all kinds of ways to help us heal and grow and to take on the issues that impact us most, both in our lives, just as humans on this planet and particularly in our closest relationships with our partners. And, I’m often looking for new or different ways or in this case of what we’re going to talk about today, ways that have been with us as humans for thousands of years. And there’s something powerful in that. There’s something powerful in the wisdom that’s come down through generations and generations of connection to spirit, connection to life, connection to love, connection to wisdom. And within us being able to heal the ways that we ourselves have been brought into a culture that asks us to do one thing, like, for instance, fall in love and marry someone and and be happy with them for the rest of our days. But in the end, doesn’t offer a lot in the ways of really how to do that successfully. And in fact, it could be that at the very root of how we learn to exist in this world. There are some core elements that are getting in our way. So. For today’s conversation, I have a very special guest who I found out about through Peter Levine in a conversation one day, when I was asking him about whose work does he find or did he find to be really powerful. And that might be a great guest for the show. And as luck would have it, the person that he suggested lives right here in the same state where I live in Maine. And she is the author of the recent book “Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit Based Change.” Her name is Sherri Mitchell and she is a member of the Penobscot tribe here in Maine. And she is also a distinguished lawyer and humanitarian and has been working for years in the fields of international human rights. And she has several projects that are helping to heal the world at large and in the process to heal the relationships that we experience with each other and all of the divisions that are happening in the world right now and within ourselves, as well.
Neil Sattin: So if you want to get a transcript of today’s episode, then you can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-sacred. Or as always, you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. And those instructions for downloading the transcript are fairly simple. You know, enter your name and email address. Today, we’re going to tap into a deeper set of instructions. A deeper set of instructions that are here to help us thrive and change the way that we live.
Neil Sattin: So, Sherri Mitchell, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.
Sherri Mitchell: Thank you for having me, Neil.
Neil Sattin: I’m wondering if we could start with that sense of kind of where we are right now. That was something that really struck me in reading your book. Right off the bat, this description of how the experience that we’re born into kind of sets us up for division from each other. I’m wondering if we can start there with this sense of the ways that that Western society is perpetuating a sense of division that is alienating us from each other and from ways of actually healing as a society.
Sherri Mitchell: I think it’s more than just contemporary society. This is something that has been conditioned into us, embedded into our thinking for millennia, that we have at least two millennia of real belief in separation and this idea that difference is dangerous and that oneness means homogenization. And so, when we’re coming together and we’re approaching one another, there’s this inbred fear that we carry with us into those encounters. And the discomfort that we’re feeling is something that we’ve also been taught not to experience, not to be able to be at peace with our discomfort. Any type of discomfort or pain, we’re conditioned to deflect it, suppress it, project it, medicate it, avoided it all costs. And so that prevents us from really sinking into the discomfort that naturally arises when we come together because of this conditioning and prevents us from moving through the masks and the walls that have been created for us by others and handed down to us as this epigenetic inheritance within our DNA and our blood memory. And in order to be able to really address that and override it, we have to really become intimate with it. And that requires us to overcome a great deal of conditioning and ingrained thinking about how we view ourselves in the larger context of life. And so, you know,it’s not a simple task of just realizing that the idea that difference is dangerous is inherently wrong. The idea that oneness and sameness are not equal. It’s it’s not just overcoming those ideas. It’s overcoming impulses that arise within our limbic system that make us feel that we are in danger. That there’s some threat to our lives being posed to us when we’re facing this discomfort. And so we have to be able to work through all of those things and have a greater understanding of those things so that we can move forward into a path of healing that legitimately gets us to the place where that healing can occur.
Sherri Mitchell: You know, one of the things that I have been quoted as saying is that we can’t demand anything of others or even of ourselves, if we’re unwilling to create the world in which that thing that we’re asking for can be made available to us. And so it’s really about creating a world where that healing can actually take place. In that world that we have to create is one that is filled with understanding and awareness of where we’ve been and how we got here.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and yeah. There’s so much to unpack in what you were just saying. So I’m just kind to like sitting there in the in the midst of all that and feeling the power of, yeah, just how ingrained some of these responses are and also how they’re not things that you would necessarily notice because they’re just kind of what arise from, well, it almost feels naturally. But I say that and at the same time, I know that the experience, for instance, of children is is very different. So even a child who’s carrying the lineage of trauma, let’s say, through their genes, in their DNA. You know, for me, when I think about my legacy, there’s this legacy of worry that that seems to have come from my forbearers. And I’m doing my part to heal that worry and learn to trust life. But the children, at least the young children that I know, they seem to get it in a different way. The interconnectedness that we that we actually are a part of. So somewhere along the way, the learning happens or the learning meets the legacy.
Sherri Mitchell: Right.
Neil Sattin: And we have to unravel that somehow.
Sherri Mitchell: Mm hmm. Yeah. I have a story from when my son was small. He’s a grown man now. And when he was three years old, getting ready to go to a community gathering and I was putting his native regalia on him, you know, and I had mine on and we were getting ready to go out the door. And I asked him, “Do you want to see herself?” And he excitedly said he wanted to see himself. And he was, you know, three years old at the time. We didn’t have cable in the house. I was very, very careful about what I allowed him to ingest in that way. And we lived in a tribal community. So he was growing up in a very strong native family, surrounded by native people. At that time, and when he looked at himself in the mirror, he started to cry.
Sherri Mitchell: And I asked him what’s wrong, and he said, “I don’t want to be in Indian, and they always kill the Indians.”
Neil Sattin: Wow.
Sherri Mitchell: At three years old. Wow. And it broke my heart. And my mind is reeling. Where did he get this idea? We’re not watching John Wayne in our living room. You know, there he’s certainly not surrounded by an ideology that I could pinpoint in any way that would give him this idea that he was a target because of his identity. And yet at three years old, he had somehow absorbed this idea and was able to articulate it back to me. This understanding that indigenous people are targeted for death. And you know that that was the point in time for me where I really started to look into more deeply the ways that we form ideas, the ways that we formulate our sense of safety in the world, how we develop our sense of belonging. And probably 15 years later, I ended up working for the civil rights division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office as an educator. And one of the stories that came forward during one of these sessions was of two women, one of whom was at the playground with her, her child and her child, was two or three years old the time. And a mother who was a little person, whose child was also a little person, came walking up to the swim swing set and her child became inconsolable. She was terrified of them. And the mother was horrified. She kept trying to make it OK, make it OK. And she could tell that the other mother was feeling really uncomfortable and that it was hurtful for her. And she was horrified to think, where would my child get this idea that these other human beings, who look different than than we do, might be dangerous to her? And there was there was no immediate explanation for that belief that this child was acting out of.
Sherri Mitchell: Then there was another mother who was a black woman who said that when her child started daycare, they had had a similar reaction to another black child who had darker skin than that they did. And so somehow this child saw the darker skinned black child as being a danger to them. And so we have this this belief within us because our… for all of our cleverness, and there’s air quotes around this advancement, we still haven’t, you know, been able to deal with the part of our primitive brain that recognizes differences as danger. We’re still responding to some of these challenges that come before us in the world. Certainly where we’re dealing with a higher level of stress than perhaps we have and in a very, very long time. Certainly not throughout history, because we’ve had much more stressful times in our past. But as a species anyway. But we we’re dealing with a degree of stress, where we’re getting stressful impulses presented to us throughout the day, time and time and time again, trauma across the globe, playing out on our screens in real time before our eyes. And we don’t have the mechanisms within our brain to be able to distinguish the difference between, you know, some of those things and being confronted with a saber tooth tiger.
Neil Sattin: Right.
Sherri Mitchell: Because we’re still in that place. And so, you know, we have to start to purposely evolve our consciousness purposely work with these impulses, because people just say, “I don’t know, I just have a feeling in my gut that that this, you know, that this person isn’t trustworthy.” And I remember that there was a lot of talk about that going on when Obama was running for president. And politics aside, what I think of Obama, what anybody else thinks of Obama, you know, isn’t part of the discussion. But it was interesting to me to see that there were a lot of people who couldn’t point to any one thing they didn’t like about him. They just said there’s just something about him that makes me feel that I can’t trust him or makes me feel unsafe. And when I when I posed the question, do you think it could be that he’s a black man? They immediately scoffed at that idea. But we have had this history of leaders that look a specific way, you know, these middle to elderly, white men who have become the image of acceptability for leadership. And then when people start coming along, that challenge, that image, we experience some of this cognitive dissonance where we can’t we can’t reconcile what we’re seeing, the difference in what we’re seeing with what we’ve learned to be identified with as safe.
Sherri Mitchell: And so we’re being confronted rapidfire right now with all kinds of things that don’t meet the imagery that we have been taught to believe is the safe norm. We’re experiencing that in regard to gender fluidity, for instance. We’re experiencing that with a real change in the fabric of what leadership looks like, with the most diverse Congress being elected in the history of the country. Right. You know, there’s there are all kinds of all kinds of things that are cropping up. And the backlash against that is deepening some of the trenches within our minds that are related to this embedded thinking.
Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. And I mean, I’m also reflecting on relationships where the way that they tend to unfold, you fall in love and falling in love, whatever differences you notice in a person, we tend to find them charming or kind of gloss over them, and the initial phase of of relationship is about finding all the ways that you’re the same. And then the reckoning starts to happen when you realize how different you are and where so many people are unequipped to navigate this terrain of, wow, you are different, and that feels dangerous to me the way that really different for me. And so it can happen in those really intimate interpersonal spaces as well as on the political or global scale like you’re describing. And for me, it makes me wonder like, well, go ahead. Yeah.
Sherri Mitchell: Well, I was just going to say it can be as simple as a difference between how we wash the dishes, right?
Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. Yeah. I mean you hear the stories all the time of like, you know, that’s not how the dishes go in the dishwasher. You know, if you have a dishwasher, I don’t have one. But yeah, it’s hilarious. But those things aren’t so hilarious when you’re trapped in the middle of it and you feel like a life with the person who’s in front of you is going to be one where you where you are truly in danger. And so you’re responding from that place. So whether it’s in your home or we’re walking down the street, it gets me really curious about now that we’ve identified that there is something deep within us that recoils in some way from what we perceive as a division between us and another. What do you know about how to how to bridge that gap in a way that that brings that brings connection back?
Sherri Mitchell: I think that the first step, as it is with so many things, is just acknowledging that there is a problem with our thinking and realizing that we don’t have to follow the dictates of all of the voices in our heads. One of the one of the things that came to my attention years ago, was this realization that I had this belief that things should be done a certain way. And one of the most common phrases in my family was, why are you doing it like that? And you know, and if you couldn’t explain why you were doing it the way that you were doing it, then you were discredited.
Sherri Mitchell: And so, it became this this kind of this defensive mechanism that developed within me towards defending my way of doing things that caused problems in the relationship that I was in, because it hadn’t occurred to me that other ways might be equally as valid and that they did not pose a threat to my identity or sense of value and worth in the world. And so learning to recognize that we have these ways of being that actually inhibit us from sharing intimacy with those that we want to be close to, even when we have a strong desire to be in close, intimate relationship with someone. All of these different ideas, I call them masks are preventing us from actually seeing the face of our beloved. And so the first the first part of that process is, is recognizing that we have these masks that are impeding our ability to see clearly the world that we know exists beyond our illusion. And so if we can first start to recognize that there are obstacles in our way that are preventing us from seeing clearly and begin to explore and examine them, not in a way that punishes, not in a way that pokes and prods, not in a way that tries to fix or resolve, but just in a way that allows us to understand more fully the processes by which we come to our conclusions. Then we can begin the process. Step two of engaging, those beliefs and ideas and applying our critical thinking and applying our core values. What do we really want to bring forward into our relationship with this person? Do we want to be able to give them full acceptance? Well, if we do? Then we need to really be fully accepting of ourselves first. How can we sit with and engage these processes that are rising up within us that are going to make us very uncomfortable? And just be there in the presence of those thoughts and ideas without having to respond to them? How can we be with our discomfort without having to immediately try to fix it or apply some balm to it? Projected outward, once we can learn that there is a safe place for us to be, with all of the things that make up who we are, then we can begin to make space for sitting with someone else in that same space. That true level of deep acceptance. And once we get to that place, how we load the dishwasher or whether we have a dishwasher becomes irrelevant. Right? We are able to see something much deeper in them because we understand the complexity within ourselves and that these automatic responses aren’t a reflection of who we are. They’re a reflection of how we’ve been taught to behave. And there’s a very big distinction there between the two. And so, you know, we really have to engage this process of getting to know ourselves more deeply. And driving down the road, I can see something on the side of the road and a thought will automatically pop into my head. And I can attribute that thought to specific relative. Right? And I can say, OK, thank you, Uncle so-and-so, thanks for sharing. I’m gonna choose to see this differently in this moment. That’s a process that we all have to go through and it requires us to be willing to show up in the moment that we’re in with an awareness and to have a really heavy pause. You know, that’s one of the challenges I think for us is that, there’s so much rapidity, there’s so much lack of time given to our our responses these days that it becomes a challenge. One of the things that I write about in the book is this concept of Indian time.
Neil Sattin: Right. So fascinating to me. Yeah.
Sherri Mitchell:Yeah. That’s become kind of this cliche for being late, right? Oh, I’m running on Indian time and I used that excuse one time when I was in my in my early 20s and my grandfather sat me down and said, “How you’re using this term is a misrepresentation of its true meaning. That what Indian time really is about is about taking the time to sit with something, you know, sit in circles, see it from all sides, really understand it before you make a decision. It’s about making the time and taking the time to make a good decision and to make an informed decision.” We don’t do that with ourselves. We don’t take the time or make the time to sit down and to understand ourselves fully and to understand the moment that we’re in fully and to recognize the different voices that are coming in that might be informing us at that time, and then critically thinking about which information do I want to bring forward. We don’t give ourselves that pause for that moment to to be able to do that. And so, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have wanted to sit with and learn from different indigenous elders that I’m connected to, and one of the first things that I explained to them is that there is absolutely no need to fill the silence with chatter, there’s no need to fill the space with something that you can just let that space remain empty, and be patient for what will rise up, because there is a longer pause ratio for a lot of these indigenous elders than there is in the common way that we speak. And our tendency is that as soon as the other person stops talking, we have to fill that space with something. So as soon as the question is posed, we have to automatically give a response. If we can give ourselves a longer pause ratio between the inquiry and the answer, we can begin to give ourselves space, to really start consciously greeting the moment that we’re in and, you know, that’s a challenge for us because of the speed at which society is moving right now.
Neil Sattin: Right. You’re, for one thing, making me super self-conscious about not just jumping in with another question in this moment. But I was reflecting, too, on how even in podcast and and you have a podcast, right? “Love and Revolution Radio,” are you still doing that?
Sherri Mitchell: We’re not still doing that. We stopped a little over a year ago. We took a pause. My co-host was was going through a challenging health crisis. And then we were both, you know, really, really super busy. And we’re trying to figure out a way that we could continue to do it. So it’s on pause for now. We may pick it back up down the road, but for now, it’s we’re on sabbatical.
Neil Sattin: Got it. OK. Are our older episodes available for people to listen to?
Sherri Mitchell: Oh, yeah. There are hundreds of episodes in the archives that people can listen to.
Neil Sattin: Great. And the reason I brought it up was I was thinking about how the trend in podcast editing is to edit out all of the spaces. I think it’s to maybe help people consume more content more quickly. And I like the first time my editor did that to one of my conversations, I was like. “Umm. It doesn’t sound right.” And so to me, that preserving that space is super important. But to really put it in perspective. I’m wondering if you could share your a little bit of your story around, because this is the part that really was fascinating to me was this sense of things can sometimes take a long time. And you mention the dreams that you kept having and not knowing if it was a sign of something that you were supposed to do in this lifetime or if you were simply meant to hold the story and that and pass it onto the next generation. And as I was reading that, I was just thinking about how different that is from I think the the more conventional perspective, which is kind of like I need to do something now, like it’s up to me to effect change in this world or it’s up to me to whatever it is, versus like, no, this could be I could just be a steward of this idea for someone else to carry when the time is right.
Sherri Mitchell: Yeah. So the story you’re talking about relates to one of our prophecies. And I had been having a dream since I was a small child so I was about four years old, this recurring dream about being in this place where runners were sent out in every direction through this mound space and these underground tunnels and and people from all over the world came and, a seed was brought up at the end by the elders that I was asked to go and retrieve. And that seed was the seed of the origins of our relationship. And so when I started in my 20s, when I started telling the elders about that dream, you know, I had been having that dream at that point in time for close to 20 years. And they said, well, that dream is connected to the prophecy of the reopening of the eastern doorway. The eastern doorway is where creation sits. And those things that are created under that eastern doorway then grow and move to the west, which is the gateway through which life leaves this earth. And so the relationships that were formed here under this eastern doorway, this spiritual gateway between the indigenous peoples and the newcomers, was forged in blood. And so that seed was damaged and it was toxic. And the dream was a reflection of that. In that, you know, there was a time that was going to come when we would have to come back under that eastern doorway to heal that seed of that relationship that had begun and to make new sacred contracts with one another, new sacred agreements with one another as human beings to live in a different way, in relationship to one another, and then to also live in in a different way, in relationship to the rest of life. So, I had that dream, as you said, for 43 years before anything ever came of it. And I had talked to the elders about it, and they had confirmed that this is what this was connected to. And I brought it up again, you know, five years, 10 years and, I asked, when are we going to hold the ceremony that this prophecy talks about, because we’ve got some real problems going on here in the world that need to be addressed in relation to how we’re relating to one another, how we’re engaging one another, and the elders in the way that they do just said, “Oh well, they’ll let us know when it’s time.” And so that went on for a long period of time. And then one of the clan mothers from my territory pulled me aside one day after ceremony and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about this dream.” And she said, “Sometimes she said it’s not for us to act on.” She said, maybe you’re just meant to be the keeper of that story. And what I want you to do is when you go out and do that, because I was working with indigenous spiritual elders from all over the world at that point, she said, “What I want you to do is every time you go to be with these spiritual elders in their territories, whenever you’re in a ceremony with them, I want you to tell them that story. And keep that story alive and make sure that you’re telling it to our young people, too, so that they can keep passing that story on.” And so that’s what I did and I did that for. A long period of time, and then in 2016, I got a phone call from one of the elders from the South that I had been working with for more than 20 years, and he said to me, “That dream that you told us about came up in our ceremony this past weekend. And I think that there’s there’s something coming up in connection to that. So you might want to talk to your people.” Right after that, I got another call from another elder from the West who said the same thing. Who said, “We would do the ceremony this past weekend. And that dream that you told us about when you’re here came up in that ceremony with a couple of people. And I think you need to tell your people about that.” And then I got a call from another grandmother who was in the North who said, “I had a dream last night that you were telling me again that story about your dream.” And, then I told her about the other two calls that I had received. And she said, “Yeah, it’s time to sit down with your people and talk about that.” So I called my clan mothers and some of the hereditary chiefs from our region, the spiritual leaders. And we got together and talked about it and they said, “Yeah, we’ve been getting signs as well that now it’s time.”.
Sherri Mitchell: So, you know, 43 years after I started having that dream I got this instruction from my elders, because I asked them, “Well, when are you going to do the ceremony?” And they laughed at me and they said, “No, you’re going to do the ceremony and we’re going to support you. And what you’re gonna do is you’re going to invite all the elders, the indigenous spiritual elders that you’ve worked with over the past 20 years, 25 years, to come and support you and to be here with us for this gathering.” So that’s what that’s what happened. And they came, and we had people from six continents that came to share in this ceremony with us. And it’s a 21 year ceremony that goes to all of the directions. And, the fourth year for the ceremony is gonna be this coming summer here in our territory. And before it travels to the south. And so it’s grown every single year where people from all over the world are coming to sit with us in ceremony to heal their relationships with one another as human beings and to heal their relationship with Mother Earth and the rest of creation. And it’s just become this incredibly beautiful thing to witness. I feel like I’m just standing in the doorway of it and and watching it unfold. It has a life of its own. And so, that’s an example of just being patient with the information that’s coming in, that there may not be an immediacy to the response to it. It may be that the story is building and being created within you. And so, that’s why the last chapter of the book talks about what does it mean for us to be living in a time of prophecy? What are our roles as witnesses to prophecy? Is it just this passive spectator type event or are we meant to meaningfully engage with the prophecies that are unfolding around us? And how do we know when the time is right? To to do that? And I think that, what we’ve learned to do with some of the information that’s coming in for us is we’ve learned to do something symbolic around it, rather than actually diving in deeper and being clear about what the right movement is. We just do something even if it’s not the right thing, because we have this immense need to keep moving. And what ends up happening is that we have these large scale symbolic gestures that occur that don’t really deal with healing on a deep level, the root of the issues that are being discussed.
Neil Sattin: Right. Right. I mean, just hearing you describe this process is so moving to me. And I find myself wondering, you know, as we as we kind of sit in a moment of indecision or we’re being really impacted and and trying to take in, you know, the fact that we might be looking at the world or at a particular situation through a mask that we’re wearing, from your perspective, how do we invite the the the deeper knowing and also be able to recognize it when it arrives?
Sherri Mitchell:Well, I think that one of the things that is most important that I wrote about in the book is about really coming to know the teacher within, because we tend to be led so easily by the opinions of others who we hold in high esteem. And so my advice to people is to really take the time to cultivate a relationship with that teacher within, the one who holds your highest level of truth. The one that is most aligned with your deepest and purest itself. And then no matter what you’re given for advice from another, you know, whether it be me or some other figure that people hold in esteem, they’re able to process that through, this knowing that lives deep within us to gauge whether or not it’s in alignment with their highest truth. And so I think that that that question is somewhat subjective depending on what one’s deepest truth may be. For me, that process is about being able to allow our style ourselves to be still allow ourselves to learn when we’re hearing the voice of truth within us and when we’re hearing a prerecorded message of somebody else’s ideas. Right? So it all kind of comes back to the same thing. And being able to open up the space within us. So, we have one of our creation stories, which is not in this book, it’s gonna be in the second book, he follow up book, “Sacred Laws,” talks about the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine. And so the sacred masculine is this pool of energy, this pool of matter, unrealized potential, that just sits there stable waiting and is not animated and brought into form until the sacred feminine speaks into it and creates vibration and frequency that create the form that emerges. And so that feminine interior, divine, creative, intuitive knowing is what speaks into form the physical manifestations that we create out in the world, and it’s that dance between the masculine and feminine and being able to realize that we all have that exact thing within us. We have that that pool of possibility, that field of matter, that masculine action oriented activity out in the physical world element that’s waiting within us to be formed. And the division that we’ve created between the voice of the sacred feminine and the movement of the sacred masculine has created a rift in the forms that are being created. So we have this real imbalanced creation that is moving out into our physical reality because we haven’t learned to heal that rift between the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine within us. And when we are able to do that, then we hear the heart based wisdom, the intuitive guidance of that sacred feminine. And it guides us to create the forms and the movement out in the physical world that are going to be a balanced representation of wholeness from within us. And so if we want to be able to really get in that space where we know that what we’re creating, what we’re moving out in the physical world, is a true representation of our highest knowing and heart based wisdom.We have to be able to heal that that division between the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine within us. And so that process of engaging that teacher within introduces us lovingly to those aspects of ourselves that have been divided, that have been fragmented off, that have been broken down into commodified salable parts and that prevent us from emerging as whole beings in the world today, which we’re needed as whole beings in the world today. That’s how we offer our gifts to the world. What we were born for exists within our wholeness. And so if we want to be able to realize the purpose that we were born for, we have to be able to emerge as whole human beings. And, you know, part of that process is healing the division between our body and our spirit, healing the division between our sacred masculine and our sacred feminine, healing the division between our higher truth and the ideas that have been embedded into our into our ways of being. And so all of that healing has to take place in order for us to be able to show up in the world in the ways that we were meant for. And so that’s how that process unfolds for me. That’s how I see it. But like I said, that’s you know, that’s something that people have to arrive at that place in their own ways and with their own understandings.
Neil Sattin: That was such a beautiful way of also like summing up so many things that we’ve touched on in this conversation. I’m wondering if we have time for one more question before you go?
Sherri Mitchell: Sure.
Neil Sattin: I’m curious about when you find that you are someone who is engaged in this process of connecting with your inner teacher and confronting the masks that you’re wearing and operating from this place of how do I heal the divisions, how do I create this wholeness? How do you hold yourself in relationship to people who maybe aren’t going through that process for themselves? And, you know, obviously that’s possible again in the world at large. And often this comes up in relationships, right?Where someone is kind of the growth focused person and the other person just kind of has their head down and and doesn’t care or doesn’t care to engage in that way?
Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, I think it’s a challenge at times to do that. And a conversation that I had with my ex-husband one day while I was making dinner and he was standing on the other side of the counter from me as I was chopping up vegetables and we were talking about something. And he was just standing there looking at me dumbfounded. And, you know, we had been together for quite a long time at this point in time. And I asked him, “What’s what’s wrong?” And he said, “I just realized that this isn’t a phase, like you really do want to save the world. And I just want to live in it.” And and I said, “Well, somebody has to make sure you have a good place to live.” And, you know, then we just went back to cooking dinner. But that that moment was the beginning of the end of our relationship, because there was a level of simplicity, a level of detachment that he felt most comfortable in that I would never feel comfortable in, because I was this voracious seeker of truth that, you know, I came I came in with a fire that drove me to seek levels of truth on many different fronts. You know, spiritually, socially, in regard to justice. All of these issues that were really feeding this fire within me that I had been born with because that was what I was born for. And we were able to sit down together and to acknowledge that we wanted very different things for our lives going forward. And that the pathway leading into the future for us was not a pathway that merged any longer, that these pathways were were divergent, but we were able to sit in ceremony together and lovingly untangle the ties that we had made to one another and to wish each other well on that pathway that we would each be traveling into the future with love and respect for one another. That doesn’t mean that whenever you get to these places of division that you have to separate from the ones that you love.But sometimes the greatest act of love that we can offer someone is to just accept who they are, and where they are, to allow them to continue to flourish into who they are becoming. And we can do that with them, in relationship with them, in close proximity, or we can do that with them, in relationship with them, with some physical separation. And only the individuals who are involved in that moment in time together can decide. Do we do this? Is it a continued act of love for us to continue to walk this pathway together? Because we again, where we’re filled with all of these ideas of what we’re supposed to do. Who we’re supposed to be. What it’s supposed to look like for us. And when that doesn’t resonate with our truth, we find ourselves in constant conflict. So we have to get to a place where we’re doing that meaningful work in a way that aligns with our deepest truth. And in order to get to that deepest truth, we have to move through all of the filters and the tapes that we’ve been carrying with us, that tell us who we’re supposed to be, you know, who I feel I was meant to be in the world, is not a person that could have sacrificed their own dreams in order to fulfill somebody else’s need at that moment in time. And the love that that other person had for me was such that they did not want to restrict who I was becoming in order to make them feel safe in the world. And and so, you know, we have to be able to hold ourselves, I think, to that that moment of fire. And try to see each other with eyes of of real love. Like, is this person that I see before me, someone that I am capable of giving absolute acceptance to, regardless of what that means to me? Am I allowing this person to become who they are choosing to become in a way that is meaningful and in alignment with their own truth? Or am I trying to restrict them based on my own fear? Am I capable of dealing with my fear in this moment and allowing them to become while allowing myself to become as well without running away? Right? So there’s this element of running away that we do that is not about consciously thinking about how can I best love this person in this moment, in truth?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Sherri Mitchell: AndI think that place right there is the juicy bit of life. Can we sit with the discomfort that we’re feeling? Can we deal with our ego? Can we deal with our fear and our need to control? Can we just get to that spot of of real love and acceptance? And then from that place, looking at each other without having to fix or to change or to judge or explain, choose to accept each other in that moment. And cycle forward into whatever future it is that we’re holding the dream of within us together, or if it’s a more loving act to allow our paths to diverge at that point in time. And I don’t think that people do that. I think that people, you know, people throw around this this term, “conscious uncoupling,” right now. And I think that there’s an element of beauty in that. That we don’t always have to be what somebody else wants us to be and still be demonstrating acts of love, that sometimes it’s an act of love to say, “I’m sorry that this conflict exists between us. I’m, you know, going to stand here firmly in my own truth and I’m going to lovingly accept what comes up for you in this moment. And hopefully you can look at me with some loving acceptance about what’s coming up for me in this moment, and we can make space for each other to be uncomfortable and then to settle in to the real baseline love that we have for one another, and be able to discuss this in a way that allows us to both become the most whole versions of ourselves and to make a decision in that moment on what’s best for us.”
Neil Sattin: Mm hmm. Yeah, I’m right there with you. And I think that that’s such an important element of moving the paradigm of relationship in a more whole direction than than the ways that, you know, historically the way that we’ve bound ourselves to each other without really thought of everything that you just named, the way that that’s creating challenges for people that don’t necessarily need to need to be perpetuated.
Sherri Mitchell: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: So yes. The way that you know, I had the Gottmans here in Maine recently, John and Julie Gottman, for a live version of my show here in Portland. And as I was sitting with them, I had this thought, which is that so much of the energy that we’ve put into how to make relationships work, how to help people succeed in relationships has like been based on this presupposition that longevity is somehow the marker of success in a relationship. And so if you take that as a given, then from that point unfold, all of these things that are about like fostering longevity. That, the lens changes a little bit when you’re looking at it from a place of who am I, who am I meant to be when I get past what I’ve been told I should be? And who are you meant to be? And how can we love each other in that? And how can we make choices? Sometimes really challenging choices, but be rooted in that love for each other, even when it represents a divergence or an acknowledgement of some core differences?
Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, I think what tends to happen is that people let go of and sacrifice pieces of themselves in order to achieve that goal of longevity. That is the social standard of success. Andone of the things that I do in one of my trauma workshops is I give participants a meditation to have them go into each relationship that they have and ask themselves what aspects of myself have I had to give up in order to be in relationship with this person? What dreams of mine have I let go in order to be in relationship with this person? What parts of myself have had to be suppressed in order to make this this person happy? And then to look at the way that that giving away of aspects of themselves has actually led to a lot of the problems that rise up in the relationship because you’re no longer the person that that other person thought you were, but you’re also no longer the person that you know yourself to be. So you’re in conflict continuously. And so we’ve we’ve been raised under this capitalist system that leads us to believe that we are either a consumer or a commodity. And so,we are constantly looking for ways to sell ourselves, whether that be to our friends, to our families, to our faith communities, to our employers, to our potential partners. We look for the aspects of ourselves that we believe are going to be most saleable to that other that we want to be in relationship with.
Sherri Mitchell: Or, that we want to create this sense of inclusivity and belonging with and we sacrifice the aspects of ourselves that we don’t feel line up. And in doing so, we never, ever know if we in and of ourselves are lovable because we’re only putting forward an image that we believe will be acceptable to whoever that other is. And so the aspects of ourselves that we hide become cloaked in shame and in fear that if they escape, we’re no longer going to be lovable because we’ve made this contractual agreement on a spiritual level to only show this aspect of ourselves that we feel it’s going to be acceptable. And so, you know, when we’re in that situation, which is a majority of the world, we don’t know if we, the wholeness of who we are, is truly lovable. And so we live in constant fear of losing the love that we have put forward conditionally. We’ve put ourselves forward to be loved conditionally rather than unconditionally. And so we have to have the courage to bring forward all aspects of ourselves. And it’s so cliched at this point in time, right?. But the courage that’s required to be able to do that is phenomenal. It’s phenomenal because we all need a sense of belonging, connectivity, inclusivity and the threat of losing that registers in our primitive brain as being ostracized at a time when our connectivity was absolutely crucial for our physical survival. And so it wasn’t very long ago that when somebody was ostracized or moved beyond the pale. Right, that that they were no longer guaranteed safety. Right. Because they didn’t have the safety of the group. And so we actually recognized that in our bodies. This fear of not belonging, this fear of not being included, is equated with actual death in our physiology, the way that our body chemically responds to it. And so we have to be willing to work with that system so that we can evolve it, so that we can consciously evolve it into realizing what is the real threat here? The real threat is death to our whole selves, death to own truth, in order to barter for acceptability. That’s conditional. And can we have the courage to move beyond that? Can we have the courage to show up with all of our our parts available to be seen, and see if we can be accepted as we are? That’s the real dance that we have with ourselves in order to be able to have truly intimate, truly loving relationships with others.
Neil Sattin: Well, what you’re talking about is something that’s impacted me personally very recently, so I’m really taking that all in very deeply. And I think my wish for all of you listening is that you feel inspired to be courageous in this absolutely essential and cliche way of discovering who you are and being willing to offer that courageously in the world.
Neil Sattin: Sherri Mitchell, it’s been such a pleasure to talk with you today. Your book, “Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit Based Change” is so full of good stuff. We’ve only really scratched the surface today. So, I definitely recommend checking the book out. And I’m excited to hear that there’s another one in the works. When’s that due to come out? Do you have a sense or?
Sherri Mitchell: I’m not sure if it’ll be out in 2020 or early 2021. I’m hoping it’ll be out by the end of 2020.
Neil Sattin: Got it. Well, that’s definitely something to look forward to. I hope we can have you back on the show to talk about it.
Sherri Mitchell: That would be wonderful.
Neil Sattin: And if people want to find out more about you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Sherri Mitchell: They can go to my website, sacred-instructions-dot-life, or they can follow me on social media. My public Facebook page is Facebook-dot-com-slash-sacred-instructions. And I do have Instagram, but I’m terrible about social media. I need to have somebody come along. I’ve accepted that about myself.
Neil Sattin: Same.
Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, you know, that’s just not the thing that I do well. And so I’m constantly searching for the technology person who can help to deal with that aspect of my life. But I do my best.
Neil Sattin: Well, hopefully you can call that person in. So that people can, you know, watch your life from the outside and hopefully come and participate through, I mean, it sounds like you’re offering workshops and the ceremonies that you’re hosting. Sounds so powerful. And again, if you want to get a transcript of today’s episode, just visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-sacred or text the word “passion” to the number 3-3-4-4,-4. Sherri Mitchell, your native name. I’m going to just invite you to say it means she who brings the light. And I definitely feel like you’ve been bringing the light today to to me, into our listeners.
Sherri Mitchell: Thank you. So we’d say in our language, the words that I offer for all my relatives and my name in my language, Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset.
Neil Sattin: Thank you so much. So good to meet you and be with you today.
Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, you too. Thank you so much, Neil.
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