Friday, May 27, 2011

The wisdom in learning from Custodial Elders

At different times in my life I have been awakened to the importance of the Pacific Ocean. One such time was when an Elder of the Gumbaynggirr people shared with me, a story about the relationship between her people and the ocean. This was a powerful moment because she affirmed for me what I had only dared to allow myself to feel and never to speak.

This old woman, who has since passed on, took the time to prepare me to truly hear what she was about to tell me. She asked me in relation to my work with her people...

‘Why do you do what you do?’

It seemed like an easy question and I answered her. She asked me the same question again. I answered again, adding more of my story. I figured that I had not yet told her what she wished to hear. (there was a time in my learning of these ways that I may have thought... ‘ah well she is not hearing me, I will say it another way’ this was before i was able to see the wisdom in the Elder’s approach to learning).

Well this went on for a few more minutes where the question was continually repeated until I had said all I could say about me and my story. The question still came. I stopped and thought and realised I was empty of all I could say. It was at this moment that I heard myself saying

‘... because my spirit moves me this way!’.

This is what she had been waiting for. It was only then, when I was connected to spirit and empty in my head that I was given the story she was willing to share with me.


At this point in my writing I need to make it clear that there are very important lores around story and who has the place to share what with whom. I wish to make it clear that what I am sharing with you is my experience only and unless I am specifically given the place to share a story it will not be told through me.

I have plenty of stories that it is my place to share. It is these that will be told in the weeks to come.

Janette