Freeing our Indigenous Soul

Indigenous to Mother Earth article by Sandra Cosentino: nature connection, tribal culture, western culture awakening ancestral knowing, sharing our stories, rationalist mind and native soul, indigenous expression of community.

In our roots, lies an indigenous soul.
Inherent within each of us is direct connection to source of life, no matter what our cultural upbringing might be. Many of us carry an awakened sense of love of Mother Earth and deep longing for more connectedness and creative expression in our lives that flows from our authentic source.  Mother Earth has impressed deep into my psyche that I am birthed of her and she is my real Mother.

“It is not the woods I hike through.  I hike through the field of power around me that I call my soul, even though at this moment, in this place, I may call it “the woods.”  (Tom Cowan, Yearning for the Wind)

Navajo woman painting by RC Gorman.

Indigenous to Mother Earth

In ecology, an indigenous species is an organism which is native to a given region or ecosystem.

Pre-modern earth-based cultures carry a heritage that grew out of a direct relationship to the living spirit of the natural world. The great inter-related circle of life is expressed in stories, songs, art, ceremonies, spiritual and healing practices and are a precious living human heritage.

While most of us in western cultures did not grow up with direct access to our tribal heritage wisdom, we still carry an innate sense of belonging from these ancestral roots.   We can free this in-dwelling wild connectedness to life through:

  • Time spent with direct experience of the natural world.
  • Share experiences with Native peoples who still carry a world-view and cultural expression from pre-industrial times gives a felt sense of this connection.  I never wanted to apprentice or copy any particular tribe’s customs.  Rather, I just absorb by osmosis,–honoring and valuing their ways of the circle–letting that enrich my life.
  • That sense of primal connectedness is also fed by sharing our stories/life journey in outdoor circles. “As a culture–through immigration, mobility and industrialization, we have mostly lost the experience of sharing our stories around the campfire. But the need remains: It is through the contemplation of our shared stories that we interpret and integrate our experiences–it is how we evolve.” (Whisper Panther)
  • Ceremonies, which are a prominent part of Native culture, are usually centered on seasonal rhythms.  They help humans rebalance body and mind, reinforce bonds to each other and expand our energies as we become conduits of universal energy for the good of all.

Havasupai, Grand Canyon, ceremony

Havasupai ceremony at Grand Canyon by Sandra Cosentino

This concept of indigenous soul is eloquently expressed by Martin Prechtel:
(Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Memoirs From the Living Heart of a Mayan Village):

“Somewhere during the course of my initiation as a shaman, I came to the startling and troubling realization that every human being alive today, modern or tribal, primal or over domesticated, has a soul that is original, natural, and above all, indigenous in one way or another.  And like all indigenous peoples today, that indigenous soul of the modern person has either been banished to some far reaches of the dream world or it under direct attack by the modern mind…Since the human body is the world, every individual in the world, regardless of the background or race, has an indigenous soul struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile environment created by that individual’s mind, which subscribes to the mores of the machine age.  Because of this, a modern person’s body has become a battleground between the rationalist mind and the native soul.  As a shaman, I saw this as the cause of a great deal of spiritual and physical illness.”

Pathways to Awakening my Indigenous Soul

Childhood Summers at Mountain Ranch
I discovered my indigenous spirit in the mountains of central Arizona as a child.  There I experienced precious moments, even whole days, unfettered by the looming pressure of societal expectations that seemed to enmesh me in an isolated web of anxiety.

Absorbed in exploring the rocky, juniper studded hillsides, the open meadows or the tiny creek, joy permeated my energy field—life was lived in the moment.  Stories of pioneering times in this remote valley sparked a sense of pride and admiration.  I had to meet my own challenges like fear of the horses biting me or throwing me off, of the rattlesnakes, of going back to the city where I felt like a prisoner.

Once any place comes alive in you, it is a magic connection to all of Creation.
Without doubt I know I am indigenous to Mother Earth, not separate to her or an alien introduction. For me that ecosystem is the deserts, canyons and mountains of Arizona.  But also in my inner sacred landscape are adopted rugged landscapes of Alaska, the greater Southwest US, and Peru and Ecuador—all places that live in me.

Adult Discovery of Mystic Path
As an adult, I discovered in nature exploration and contemplation and in lucid dreams a profound sense of my greater soul speaking to me.

In my passion to see and feel primordial beauty and energies, I began sensing reciprocal flows of energy with the natural world around  me.   In this absorption, the worrying-doubting-overactive mind slowed down and I entered higher frequencies of consciousness which allowed simultaneously a heightened awareness of every sensory nuance around me and more insights from my own intuitive knowing to come forth.

I was instinctually coming into connection with the greater reality beyond that seen by my physical eyes. Signs and synchronicities appeared more often.  The inner mystic arose from my own direct experience.

As I explored prehistoric Puebloan ruins of the Southwest, I felt a deep longing for a time when people lived life centered on community within nature and ceremony and wondered why these exquisite creations now lay abandoned.

author at Chaco Canyon exploring in early 2000’s.

Native People as Role Models

Now after more than 3 decades of sharing experiences with circles of living indigenous peoples in Alaska, the American Southwest and Peru, I reflect on wisdom absorbed from Native peoples.   They provided me a model of how to see from the heart, to honor all peoples, to pray from the heart with gratitude knowing in absolute trust that the universe will respond.

Patience and Letting Go
Native peoples have a real mastery of letting go–a powerful role model for those of us who live in cultures of acquisition.  I have been often reminded of the importance of being patient and to take time to listen and wait for the answer which comes in a big circle in its own time.

Circles, oh so many circles, have we shared. And oh so slowly have I absorbed the wisdom of the circle. How all are equal with something of value to offer. How to open up and express what you really feel. Humility grows in me daily as I see how each of us has part of the truth.

Balance of Opposing Tensions
So many learnings: bring opposing tensions into balance..mistakes are our teachers…trust your own instincts. I have seen their pain, a kind of generational grief. But they will let it out in ceremony, creating a new beginning.  And I have never laughed so much as with my Native friends. What seems like paradox in our Western world, just two sides of the whole to Native peoples.


Campfire earth-spirit circle with Navajo host in Canyon de Chelly. Photo by Sandra Cosentino

Emotions Flow
People from the modernized world are deeply touched when I bring them into circles of connection with nature and indigenous expression of community.  Many of us, who many not be from a living tribal culture, also carry an awakened sense of love of Mother Earth and deep longing for more connectedness and creative expression in our lives that flows from our authentic source.

So many times, I have seen participants who came to experience the power of a solo overnight vision quest, also be deeply touched by the campfire circle sharing, freeing of their voice and the interdependence and friendship engendered by camp living.

Contemplate our Shared Stories

I share some eloquent words from a medicine sister, Whisper Panther, on the role of sharing our stories:

“We wonder sometimes about the strong hold television can have on us.The answer to that lies in the fact that we are the storytelling animal. From sharing our stories we grow a sense of place–inherited or adopted–and from that, a sense of self, or “indigenous soul.” As a culture–through immigration, mobility and industrialization, we have mostly lost the experience of sharing our stories around the campfire. But the need remains: It is through the contemplation of our shared stories that we interpret and integrate our experiences–it is how we evolve.

So, the TV has now become our pale fire, around which we continue to gather, to hear the stories–so that we may yet find our way to the heart and meaning of the people and events in our lives. No–we are not our stories, but it is the stories that help us meet the people we have become, might yet become, behind our masks. It is the stories that remind us of treasured values, and dare us to change–paving the new thought ways that can breathe new life into what has grown stale and flaccid in us, stretch us beyond old mind habits that no longer serve, and remember us to that which sustains.”

Time to Sing our Songs

I agree with Martin Prechtel, when he said:

“For there to be a world at all, every indigenous, original, natural thing must start singing its song, dancing its dance, moving and breathing, each according to its own nature, saying its name, manifesting simultaneously its secret spiritual signature….Deep in our bones resides an ancient, singing couple who just won’t give up making their beautiful, wild noise. The world won’t end if we can find them.”

Article posted September 4, 2008