Recognizing love as the source of our core identity helps us remember at the same time that we are souls on an eternal journey. One very vivid illustration of what this all-pervasive love can look like for us, and how it can change our perception of ourselves, was given by Patricia Locke, a Lakota educator and MacArthur Fellow, when she introduced herself at a talk she gave as a Libra Visiting Professor at the University of Southern Maine. She stood in front of her audience, took a step forward, and said:
I am an old person. I am a grandmother. And I am a keeper of our tradition.
She made a complete 360-degree turnaround in place, and continued on:
I am a young matron. I am raising my son and daughter. I am teaching them how to be brave, how to be generous, how to be compassionate, how to be respectful, how to be wise, and I am helping to keep alive the traditions of the Lakota.
She made another complete turn around, and continued:
I am a college student. I am learning the skills that will help me be a warrior in the society. I’m having fun. I’m still learning about the values and the traditions of the Lakota and the Anishinabe.
She turned around once again, and continued:
I’m a teenager. I’m frivolous. I’m a surfer. I’m a dancer, and I’m kind of foolish.
She turned around again:
I’m a child, a little girl. They have named me “Tawacin Waste Win.” My parents love me. My grandparents love me. I sit on my grandfather’s knee. I am barely learning about the Sun Dance, about the Sweat Lodge, and it’s hard to be quiet.
She turned around another time:
I’m a spirit child, looking to be born. I wonder where in this world I should go. Who needs me? Where shall I land? Into which family shall I go? I am going to be a sacred being.
And she turned around one last time, and explained,
And now I am a grandmother again, before you. I did that because I want you to remember the same thing in your lives, that you are all of those segments of your own lives at once, simultaneously, and you can call on all parts of your being to help you though the travails of life. You are still a sacred being, as I am still a sacred being because I am still a child, and I am still a dancer, and a surfer, and a young mother and a young wife, and all of the time all of those parts of me are still with me, and the same is it with you.
She went on to explain further,
I say that because I want you to know that I know you are sacred. I am not sure you know that. Sometimes in living in the cities and living with today’s bombardment with problems, we forget that we are sacred, and we become overburdened and sad, and we lose the joy that we felt when we were children, and when we were teenagers, and when we were young men and women.
I have another reason for asking you to remember all those stages of your life, because if you remember them, then it’s easier for us to be friends, to be interrelated, even though we are many different colors in this room.
She explained that looking beyond the external parts of our beings is something we have to do because “in each one of us there is this child, this lovely sacred being. The word for child in the Lakota language is sacred being, wakan yeja. That’s what our people call children, wakan yeja, so you are all wakan yeja, and we are all related.”
She concluded this part of her talk by adding,
That’s what soul-making means to me, that we remember that we are gifts of the Creator, and our souls and our spirits are sacred because they are gifts from the Creator. If we understand this that we must always, all through our lives, try to make ourselves hollow reeds, then that energy that comes through us will help us to be citizens of our families, our communities, and the larger world.
Patricia Locke helps us all remember the most important things in our lives: that we are all sacred beings; that we are all related; that we are in all the stages of our lives simultaneously; that our souls are gifts from the Creator; and that it is the Creator’s love for all creation that makes this all possible.