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Who Am I? Strengthening Ethnic Values
by Linda Egenes

Transcendental Meditation for Women Professionals Blog    Translate This Article
8 October 2014

For many women, ''Who Am I?'' has as much to do with ethnic and cultural identity as who they are as a woman.

Christine Spotted Elk is such a person. Born during the 1960s to Meztisos (Hispanic, Mexican, Apache and Tewa) mother and Meztis (French-Canadian and Indian) father, she felt close to her maternal grandparents, who were children of the Hispanicized villages and pueblos of Northern New Mexico.

''Mi familia migrated north after the Mexican Revolt, and settled in La Colonia, an Indigenous Settlement in Northern Colorado, where they experienced economic hardship and racial violence,' she says.

Christine started the Transcendental Meditation technique with her mother at age 11, but did not continue the practice. She left home at the age of 16 and became a high school peer counselor. Later, she earned an A.A. in psychology, and a B.A. in psychology and women's studies.

She dedicated her career to helping children and young people heal from multiple-trauma and racial injustice by getting in touch with their cultural values and beliefs.

''There was a desire for Native American people to go inside and self-reflect, to look at their culture and their traditional ways in order to heal,'' said Christine.

In seeking to help others find their cultural identity, Christine found herself returning to her own roots. ''I was very close to my maternal grandfather, who taught me about the birds and living creatures,'' she says. ''After he passed away, I had a strong desire to return to New Mexico and reconnect with who I am and where I came from.''

During this time of reconnecting with her tribal traditions, Christine also met her husband, Blue Spotted Elk, a mixed-blood Cherokee. ''Like my grandfather, my husband has taught me how to live close with nature,'' she says.

When Christine's grandmother saw her returning to the traditional ways such as the sweat lodge and Sun Dance, which was banned until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, Christine feels that not only is the stress of the day dissolving as she meditates each morning and afternoon, but the historical burden of generations of trauma he was afraid for her granddaughter's life.

'She said, ''You have to stop doing that,'' says Christine. ''She was afraid I'd be killed. This was because in the not-too-distant past, it was illegal to speak our language or follow the teachings of our ancestors.''

Christine persisted and later, with her husband and son, Rain, moved to South Dakota to earn her master's in counseling.

Yet even with additional education, she found herself weighed down by stress, and found it increasingly difficult to help the students under her care. ''In my last job as a high school counselor at a tribal school, I noticed that I was reacting strongly to perceptions of injustice, and even though I carried on in my role as counselor on the outside, inside I was falling apart,'' she says.

At that point Christine knew she had to do something different. ''I felt strongly that I needed to return to my practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique,' she says. ''Also, my 15-year-old son, Rain, was going down a path that I wasn't happy with, failing school, running with the wrong crowd and not acting like himself.''

So in June 2013 Rain started the Transcendental Meditation technique, and Christine took the TM Refresher Course and started her practice again. ''We both had such a peaceful experience and it made a deep impact on both of us,'' she says. ''I felt like each day that I meditated, I was getting stronger and more resilient to all that was happening around me.''

Six months later, Christine's husband also started the TM technique. ''As a disabled Viet Nam combat veteran, he had been on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications for the past 40 years,'' she says. ''Since starting to meditate four months ago, he has not had to take one pill. I would not say that his PTSD symptoms are completely gone, but he is on the road to wellness for the first time in decades and enjoying his family more.'' Christine's son is also doing better, attending a new school where he is now getting As and Bs and making better choices in friends.

''When we have experienced trauma or injustice, we can carry a lot of emotional baggage from the past,'' she says. ''The beautiful thing is that through TM we can cleanse the nervous system of stress in the same way that we purify our bodies by going to a sweat. Practicing TM is like walking with the Great Mystery, the Creator, twice a day.''

Christine feels that not only is the stress of the day dissolving as she meditates each morning and afternoon, but the historical burden of generations of trauma.

''It feels like there is a huge transformation happening from deep within, along with a feeling of healing myself and my people,'' she says.

Christine also feels her life changing on a personal level. ''Now I don't have that aching, burning feeling of sadness inside,'' she says. ''And that's beautiful. It's not that I don't feel any sadness or pain, it's that I don't have the intensity, longevity and frequency of pain that I had before. I feel like every day I'm a new person.''

Christine continues, ''TM doesn't make everything perfect out there. It makes things perfect inside. I know there are still injustices in this world. They haven't disappeared. Yet I feel less reactive, and I even have empathy for the perpetrators of injustice. I have come to understand that they have done things because of their own stress. Now I know of a way to help them as well.''

Now Christine plans to become a teacher of the TM technique in order to bring the experience of meditation to her people.

''I feel that this universal experience will resonate with all of our Indigenous Peoples as it has resonated with me,'' she says. ''When we perform our ceremonies, our traditional ways to heal ourselves, we are connecting with the Great Spirit. And that also happens when we meditate.''

Christine notes that by getting more in touch with herself through meditation, she is strengthening her connection with her tribal traditions. ''My traditional songs and prayers are getting stronger in me,'' says Christine. ''They come to me at night when I'm asleep. All the people would want that. Learning the TM technique is not a religious practice. It's a way of being with yourself, with nature, your family, and with the Great Mystery.''

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