Reclaiming Mindfulness as Indigenous Medicine
Mindfulness is not a new age secret to be learned; rather, it is an ancient Indigenous way of being to be reclaimed.
Authored by: Andrea Rosenberger-Deleeuw
November 9, 2020
As a social worker, mom of two young girls, community volunteer and a recent university graduate, I am used to life on the go. Since getting involved with Indigenous community organizing in my early 20’s, a substantial amount of my energy has been spent thinking about everything I needed to get done today, and everything that had yet to be done tomorrow: Networking. Planning. Facilitating. Committee meetings. Teaching. Volunteering. Being there for my daughters and other young people in the community. Managing a household. Wake up and do it all again tomorrow.
All of this came to a screeching halt in February with the sudden passing of a friend and colleague. Delaine was my mentor, and a role model for so many.
Guilt gripped my heart and existential crisis settled in my bones:
What is all this for if I don’t have the time to check in with the people I love most in this world?
As life would have it, a global pandemic would shut the world down less than a month later.
Life as I knew it would be changed forever.
Returning to the Land
At the height of social distancing our family started spending more time on the land.
Some of our favorite things are harvesting medicines, picking berries, and going on hunting adventures. The pandemic had carved out time and space for me to rekindle my relationship to the natural world.
I started noticing that when I was on the land, I felt better. Not great, but better.
When I was hit with waves of grief, the rivers washed away my tears.
When I was lonely, the wind came to visit.
When I was angry, the trees met me with understanding.
As time went on it became increasingly obvious that the more time I spent on the land, the more calm and at peace I felt. It was not long before my anxiety levels decreased, my body felt grounded, and my breaths drew slower.
In my social work training, I had learned about mindfulness, but it was not something that really resonated with me. If I am being honest, I had written off mindfulness as yet another ploy for new age wellness workers to package and sell as the next big thing. I attended an academic institution that continues to center colonial paradigms, and I often struggled with parsing out what was meant for me as an Indigenous woman.
One day I was in the middle of harvesting raspberries in our yard and giving thanks to the Creator for her abundant gifts, when suddenly everything about mindfulness clicked for me.
Every time I offer tobacco, every time I sing to the plants, every time I harvest medicines, every time I watch as an eagle soars overhead, every time I give thanks to the wind for the visit, I am practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is enshrined in every single Indigenous ceremony and tradition. It isn’t a new age secret to be learned; rather, it is an ancient Indigenous way of being to be reclaimed.
Guided by the Land
I could not have gotten to this place of understanding on my own. As Indigenous peoples we know how deeply relationships matter. It was my relationship with the land allowed me to surrender and follow her lead.
Winter is here, and just like the rest of humanity, I am unsure what this next season will bring. From time to time, the land catches me thinking too hard about what the future holds, and how I can mend a world so broken.
Without judgement, the land gently guides me back to the present moment.
And in those moments, I find the capacity to trust that whatever happens, the land and I have all we need to bloom again.
About the Author
Andrea Deleeuw is a Métis-Cree mom of two from northern Alberta, Treaty 8 territory. For nearly a decade, Andrea has worked to support the holistic wellness of the urban Indigenous community in her community through her work and volunteerism. She is the founder of T8GP.com, an Indigenous-led online community intended to educate, promote local initiatives, and welcome people into the circle. Recently, Andrea has begun sharing her journey with nature-based mindfulness on Instagram using the hashtag #landbasedmindfulness.
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