The word ‘reconciliation’ appears with increasing urgency as we approach our first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. With it comes a heaviness that occupies spaces of dissatisfaction, cynicism, or outright anger that equates to ‘failure,’ especially regarding Indian Residential Schools in Canada. Conversely, we associate ‘action’ as a ‘successful’ means of achieving reconciliation. Inevitably, action turns into expectations around how apologies or acknowledgments should sound or be spoken, who must be in the conversation, and who does not belong. What exists in between is a dizzying spectrum of numbness, apathy, or confusion towards reconciliation.
Instead, imagine the heaviness or the expectation as a conversation. Each conversation flows along a river towards us from the future, brushes us in the present, and ripples off into the past. Now, imagine disconnection as an anchor that plants our feet firmly facing the past. Disconnection is pain. It is hurt. It is struggle. Disconnection ensures that we continue to recycle the heaviness, apathy, confusion, numbness, and pain into future generations. At the same time, when disconnection is coupled with openness it has the potential to connect us. Connection guarantees that we meet in a space of mutuality where we express and receive reconciliation with humility.
Reconciliation Requires Awareness First
Children provide us with endless examples of how disconnection occurs. A child fully expresses joy, love, fear, sadness, or anger, until an event takes place that alters their relationships with these emotions. For example, a child who screams or cries when startled will learn to suppress their fear and remain quiet when an event like physical abuse occurs. Events trigger disconnection as a means of self preservation whether it takes on forms of withholding, suppressing emotions, control, or pretending something didn't happen. In truth, hundreds of these events happen to children that alter their emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual relationship. Several of which leave significant or impactful lifelong disconnections.
Unfortunately, disconnection also morphs our relationships with others in unimaginable ways. As events like abuse repeat themselves, our relationship with a parent, sibling, friend, teacher, police officer, or spiritual leader, shifts from connectedness to disconnection.
A relationship with a parent becomes a far away concept that we learn to release with time; the critical teacher in junior high becomes all teachers; the priest who we sought for spiritual guidance becomes entangled in a twisted ball of deep hurt that includes faith itself. Again, we seek to pretend, fantasize, numb, hide, or withdraw from life as a means of self-preservation.
Disconnections that are so profound alter our relationships with culture, nature, land, country, or systems in ways that can haunt nations for decades. Words like holocaust, colonization, genocide, Indian Residential School, or apartheid fail to fully articulate the entirety of disconnections at this level. As a people, we apply the same practices of numbing, dismissing, controlling, or withdrawing to preserve something that we deem as valuable culturally. Every cultural community, person, family, workplace inherits disconnections, practices, habits, and expectations from the past. And they all derive from unreconciled hurt.
Today, we refer to disconnections as identity, opinions, point-of-view, or even “truth”. Without awareness, we unintentionally recycle the same conversations of generational disconnection that were given to us, because we fail to distinguish our disconnection with everyday life. Simply put, our disconnections obscure our view of everything – self, others, joy, hope, peace, reconciliation, and even life.
In Altering Your Conversation, You Create Reconciliation for Yourself, Others, and Life
As much as the ways that we disconnect keeps us stuck, they also connect us all in powerful ways. For example, the Returning to Spirit reconciliation process is facilitated in a group-circle format where we identify one past event as a triggering disconnection from self or others. What begins to unfold surprises folks. First, a circle-wide internal dialogue begins as the group gets quiet. It has been described to us as panic, or questioning how this possibly relates to residential schools. Inevitably, one person after another chooses to share emotions, thoughts, habits, or expectations around what happened and how it disconnects them. The surprise is not only that they willingly share but also the discovery of how many disconnecting events overlap cultural communities, genders, and more. More importantly, the group-circle converse on a level of mutuality rather than differences.
Don’t believe that it could be this simple? Our hurt, our pain tells us that reconciliation needs to be something massive, punishment, or systems changing. When in truth, it is all about being – truth, honesty, courage, respect, wisdom, love, and humility – without blaming, judging, or finding fault. What follows will be expressed from a space of personal integrity and your reconciliation experience will become a gift that keeps on giving generationally. A process that ensures the ripples of disconnections flow in the past rather than in our present or future.
The nature of life requires us to let go of defending whatever position we’ve taken in this conversation. It requires that we acknowledge our disconnections with openness. It requires that we communicate our hurt in a space of responsibility. Finally, it requires that we listen without fixing or helping. Imagine a world where this level of conversation exists? You don’t have to imagine it, because the possibility exists in each of you to create it. We know this to be true because we’ve witnessed thousands experience it. The next step is yours.