By Helene Szabados and Heidi Majano
Corn, squash, beans, sage and copal were just a few of the items used to create our altar in honor of the International Day of Peace and the Autumnal Equinox. Peaceful World Foundation collaborated with Cultural Conservancy and California Consortium for Urban Indian Health to create a sacred space of sharing outside the Tides Thoreau Center. We were joined by a few friends from Dalai Llama, Artseed and Tangible Hope Foundation for a small gathering to pay our respects to this special day.
As the medicine burned and the sun rose, we each shared our perspectives on the importance of gathering in community. Gatherings are an opportunity to co-create, to share emotional experiences and to connect with one’s community. Peaceful World Foundation briefly described the history of the International Day of Peace and how it came about through the United Nations in 1981. We also shared the principles of the equinox, a time of year when there are nearly the equal parts of daylight to night time as well as the first day of autumn.
Our circle was rich and diverse in culture and customs. Participants from Ethiopia, Uganda, Columbia, Yuki Wailaki Wappo Little Lake Tribe, Mohawk Indian Tribe and others were present. To begin our gathering, we smudged ourselves with the fragrance of a smudge stick which is a bundle of dried herbs as a way to cleanse our energies and bring us back into a more relaxed state. As we took deep breaths and received the warm impressions of the sunlight, we began to open ourselves and share our hopes for a new season. A colleague from the Mohawk Tribe shared a passage from the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Day Address to bring our event into full circle.
After our meaningful gathering, we joined at a table for a light breakfast and heartfelt connections. We shared our origins and discussed how labels, race and misunderstandings divide us. Perhaps acknowledging these divides is the first step to creating peace among us. We are more similar and alike then we perceive. Listening and highlighting our similarities verses our differences begins with humility and an open heart.