We held a smudge at our office yesterday. We gathered in the kitchen area, sat in a circle and shared in the healing power of our Indigenous traditions.
It was a member of the homeless-serving community who reached out to ask if the team would like to smudge.
It had been a tough week. The aftereffects of Monday’s stunning news that a member of the foundation’s board of directors (where I work) had been arrested on charges of sexual assault against vulnerable youth, continued to reverberate throughout the week.
The smudge was our opportunity, the ceremony leader told us, to give our burdens to our ancestors. It is their role, he said. To carry away the burdens. To protect us. To guide us and keep us safe.
Today, some people call them ‘angels’. Long ago, they were simply, ‘our ancestors’.
No matter who they were in life or what they did, in spirit form, they are the essence of our collective humanity. Wise. Caring. Strong. Compassionate. They are the essential goodness at the core of our human spirit.
Our ancestors do not judge. They do not malign. They do not condemn. They honour, protect and care.
You don’t have to be specific, the ceremony leader said. You don’t have to name names or even events. Just speak what is on your heart, what feels heavy, burdensome. What is preventing you from finding grace in the every day.
We went around the circle. Each person offering their burden to the ancestors. Aging parents. Moving. Challenging children.
And the elephant in the room. The man who is alleged to have committed these acts that shocked us all.
It was in the naming of what felt so unspeakable that I remembered — it is not my role to carry someone else’s burdens.
Whether the individual did or did not commit these acts is for the courts to determine.
My job is to be light, not darkness. To carry hope, not despair.
And I cannot do that carrying the angst and sorrow and the sense of betrayal that has permeated my every thought this past week.
I surrendered my burden to the smudge. I let the smoke carry it away and cleanse me.
I cannot change the past. I cannot divine innocence or guilt.
I can stand in this moment knowing, whatever has happened, my role is to be fully present in this moment. When I stand in my light, when I join others in prayer and song in a circle where we invite our ancestors to support, protect, and guide us, and name the sorrows and burdens we do not want to name, and invite in the wisdom we cannot know, we are stronger for facing our truth and being open to Spirit. In Spirit’s presence, now is not forever. In time, this too shall pass.
The rivers flow to the sea. The sea becomes the ocean. In its waters we are all integral drops that make the whole of life on earth. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes ugly and inexplicable. Always life.
We are all connected.
Yesterday, I sat in a circle and set my burdens in the centre. I cleansed my body in the smoke and invited Spirit to be my guide.
The ancestors carried my burdens away. My choice today whether I pick them up again, or carry on lightly, free to step into this moment full of light and promise, hope and possibility, Love and gratitude.
I choose to travel light.