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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
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Spirituality and Indigenous People

By Rev. Leo Booth


My understanding of spirituality has always affirmed the concept of the many connecting with The ONE; and this speaks to indigenous people.

Over the past twenty years I’ve drawn a distinction between religion and spirituality, suggesting that religion describes a group of people who have definite beliefs and rituals, expressing concepts that concern morality, holy writings and worship.

Religions and denominations are necessarily exclusive, separating themselves from other religions and beliefs. Spirituality, on the other hand, is inclusive; it enjoys and celebrates the diversity of beliefs in the world, affirming individual cultures and sacred writings.

When I was visiting Teotihuacán, Mexico, I came to understand how the Toltec people had absorbed Spanish, Mexican and Native American rituals and fables into their culture and worship. Indeed, their inclusion of cultures enabled it to meaningfully represent the various indigenous tribes and survive.

Today, people who have never traveled to Teotihuacán are being introduced to some Toltec beliefs in the popular book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Spirituality is that golden thread that connects today with ancient times.

A fascinating aspect of Toltec spirituality for me was the concept of living in a fog. The idea that we can live for years not knowing who we really are, or what we need to make us happy. This Toltec story suggests that the fog, the mist of not knowing, is created by a tragic truth; we are living somebody else’s story.

Too often others have told us what to believe, how we should feel, what is the correct thing to say: and we exist like empty zombies. This was true for me. Society and the church had given me a tape to play in my head and I had never questioned what I believed until recently.

Today I am becoming spiritually aware of what I believe, what I truly feel and what I need to say; my truth is taking me out of the fog into an authentic life. And I’m grateful to the people of ancient times for giving me an insight into my personal recovery.

September this year I shall be taking a group of spiritual seekers to Cambodia and Vietnam. Again, we will see and experience a comprehensive spirituality that brings together Hindu, Buddhism and various Chinese religions, not forgetting French Catholicism, combining a collection of indigenous peoples and rituals. The diversity of the rituals adds something to the teachings, reflecting a divine Truth: The many connecting with ONE.

On my last trip to Vietnam I remember a Buddhist friend telling me that the smallest gesture can reflect an ancient spiritual truth. An example; he smelt and gently touched the fruit he was holding before cutting it into delicate pieces; this showed respect for the fruit, respect for the earth that had fed the fruit, respect to the Creator of all things.

Today, I often catch myself smelling the apple or orange, gently holding it before I respectfully eat the fruit. I’m sure this tradition was birthed in some forgotten indigenous tribe and has been passed on as a living tradition.

I believe spirituality holds the key to peace and harmony in the world. Instead of the historical record of religions fighting with each other, arguing that one belief is superior to another, we are moving into an all-inclusive spirituality that combines the best of all the indigenous cultures and brings a respectful reverence.

It is this message that I will bring to A Celebration of Recovery at Common Ground on the last Sunday evening of every month. Those wounded by alcohol, depression, mental health issues and co-dependency will come together as an indigenous group to affirm the power of Wellness.

Everyone is welcome to bring their specialness to the service. My first talk will address the ancient Chinese concept of “Letting Go; moving with the flow.”

If we imagine ourselves falling into a powerful river, we will survive if we cease to fight the waves and let the mighty current take us to the surface. Recovery comes when we cease to fight our challenges and embrace the ancient spiritual truth of surrender. Indigenous people, all over the world, are knowing this Truth, not from reading books, but by absorbing and experiencing nature’s totality.

Reverend Leo Booth is a Unity Minister and Associate Minister at Common Ground in Tustin, California. He is the author of several books including, Say Yes to Your Life, Say Yes to Your Spirit and The Wisdom of Letting Go. He presents a Celebration of Recovery the last Sunday of every month (7:00pm) at Common Ground. For more information on Rev Leo and his Spiritual Journeys visit www.fatherleo.com, email: fatherleo@fatherleo.com For more information on Common Ground: www.embracehumanity.com or call (714) 573-2546.