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Naku in Sapara Nation territory of the sacred headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador

Anita Sanchez's picture

Somewhere along the way, many of us have bought into the lie of separation. We’ve swallowed the idea that we are just individual bags of flesh and bone whose purpose is to consume.

Rather than seeing ourselves as part of the Earth and intrinsically connected to her seasons, cycles and rhythms, this ‘I am separate’ mind-set causes us to behave toward the natural world as if we are not connected to it, as if it is something to own, use, and dominate, resulting in unlimited resource extraction, pollution of our environment, degradation of our food and water, climate change, the extinction of species, and more.

It is a mind-set that has allowed everything from slavery to colonization, capitalism, and environmental destruction to flourish.

What happens as we continue to operate out of this belief of isolation? We create and feed conditions that foster hopelessness, division, and even cruelty and terrorism. For example, we fall prey to xenophobia, the fear of others, perhaps a fear of homeless people in our community. I have found myself looking away from the homeless at times in my life rather than seeing another human being. We are the ones to stop it being routine to turn our eyes away, even pretend they don’t exist, rather than acknowledging their presence with a compassionate smile and hello.

It is time to wake up and end the destructive illusion that we are not connected to this planet or to each other. We are hurting ourselves, we are hurting nature and the earth, and we are hurting the spirit that nourishes our world and us.


Thankfully, there is another way to live.

As Tom Goldtooth of the 2016 Dakota Pipeline movement said in a Washington Post article, “Capitalism feeds on unlimited growth, it’s like this monster that’s always hungry and thirsty and devouring the earth. We have to live in balance; otherwise we’re going to perish.”

The first step is to own the situation at both the micro as well as the macro level because the way we treat our world reflects the way we treat ourselves.

It is easy to point the finger. We are quick to blame evil multinationals, greedy politicians and powerful media interests. We blame the oil and gas industry, the fossil fuel industry, the sugar, tobacco and pharmaceutical corporations, the banks, the white-collar criminals, the organized crime syndicates, and more.

These entities could not exist though if we were not complicit in some way. They thrive in an environment of fear, division, despair, lethargy, and judgment. We cannot love, respect and honor the Earth if we don’t love and honor ourselves. When we poison our own bodies with junk food, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, we do so to drown out the emotional and spiritual pain of feeling powerless and disconnected.

When we pollute our minds with fear-based news, tabloid gossip, online gambling or porn – objectifying women and children, we are feeding the ‘us and them’ and ‘I am separate’ lie.

When we numb ourselves with TV, shopping, social media, and medication, we are gagging our spirit.


The world is in turmoil and people wonder what they should do. The problems seem daunting. The indigenous Elders say that we must change our consciousness now by shifting from the mind to the heart. Our challenges will not be resolved with logic and reason. Solutions are not found using the same thinking that created the problems. It is our hearts that will guide us.

From the nomadic, spiritual, and indigenous perspective, we are part of the circle of energy that flows from the land, through the plants, through the animals, through the rocks, through the wind, and then through to humankind.

If the tree is taken out of that natural environment, if the birds and animals are taken out, they die. The same has happened with nomadic humans: We have been taken out of the natural environment and we are slowly dying.

Colonialism only considered the physical human; they did not think about the mental, sexual, spiritual, or environmental human.

The answer then is to reconnect. Reconnect with each other and with the cycles of the natural world including the movement of weather conditions, and plant and animal behavior. Most of all though, we must reconnect with our true selves. When we honor the spirit that resides within us, this will be reflected in our external world. It starts and ends with love.

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