Spoonful by spoonful

navajo spoonCalling myself a weekend Buddhist seems to fit.
I’m afraid to stray too far from my Indian upbringing.
And I’m afraid to commit to a single way of knowing.
Truth is, my spiritual upbringing was obscure: difficult to discern.
In fact many of my Native pals and relatives stoked their spiritual embers later in life.
It wasn’t until I participated in dances, dinners and other gatherings in Indian Country that I recognized the links to my upbringing.
I never characterized our values as Indian.
Values were just…family.
So I was delighted to find other Indians shared my mother’s and grandmother’s teachings about the importance of listening and respect of elders.
And while I embrace the fruitfulness of living in the moment from Buddhism, it’s only lately that I see the linkages with indigeneity.
When I stack up my encounters with Indians—formal and informal–combined with a ton of books written by Natives—a pattern emerges of meeting life head-on, in the moment.
Meals in Indian Country and at Buddhist events share the commonality of attending to the present.
Diners savor the food, enjoying each bite.
I try to emulate my spiritual friends but the monkeys in my brain urge me to start planning the next meal while I still have food in my mouth.
I come back to the moment.
Spoonful by spoonful.

Navajo spoon from http://www.southwesternjewelry.net/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=2481


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, framing, Indian, journalism, Native Science, science, science communication, Uncategorized, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Spoonful by spoonful

  1. Cynthia, As usual, you touch a deep and responsive nerve. There are many overlaps between Native spirituality and Buddhism in my experience. The same holds true of Hinduism. When in India I often work with Hindu medical providers. We figured out that the teachings I share (passed to me by my teachers and my parents) translate easily and well into their Hindu frame of reference. Of course they may miss the nuances (I probably do as well) but there is a thread running through all of these ancient traditions. At the same time, I try to resist the globalizing influences of mas cultural mysticism….. Not easy.


  2. Reblogged this on Dreaming the World and commented:
    Cynthia Coleman writes often about the complexity of Native identity and of swimming between and within culture/s. Some of my teachers insisted I understand and “try on” Buddhist ways of experiencing the world. Later I found myself working with Buddhists and Hindus in Asia. It was only with the grace of conversations with these friends and colleagues that I began to perceive as thread of connection running through our ancient traditions.My father used to teach via gardening and dining metaphors using stories and visuals that crossed cultures. Finding one’s way in our complex and challenging time is perhaps its own sacred dance.


  3. Wonderful thoughtful post!


  4. MaryJean says:

    Cyndi, this was a special post. While I’ve always known you as a researcher of Native American interests, and daughter of an Osage tribe member, this is the first time I have ever heard you refer to your own “Indian upbringing” in such a personal way. This post reflects an ownership of Native American identity I’ve never heard from you before. Thank you for sharing.

    Regarding Buddhism and native spirituality, there is big, beautiful commonality there. The monkeys in my brain are intrigued lately with indigenous learning. Everyone is indigenous to something, and we all learn in primal, connected, embodied ways. I think this kind of knowledge can go unarticulated for a long time; the seeds of wisdom are there, waiting for words. This story you have told is rich with lifelong learning, and the power of listening and reflection. I’m quite sure your path is one the Buddha would endorse. 🙂

    You might want to read an article called “Non-western perspectives on learning and knowing” by Sharon B. Merriam and Sek Kim Young, published in “Third Update on Adult Learning Theory”, Jossey-Bass, San Franscisco 2008. Enjoy!


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