How to be Good?

A Chat with an Anishinaabe Kwe (Ojibway Woman)

July 05, 2021 Sarah Buckmaster Season 1 Episode 13
A Chat with an Anishinaabe Kwe (Ojibway Woman)
How to be Good?
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How to be Good?
A Chat with an Anishinaabe Kwe (Ojibway Woman)
Jul 05, 2021 Season 1 Episode 13
Sarah Buckmaster

What does it mean to be a good person according to a member of the First Nations? 

We ask Melanie Goodchild, Moose Clan, to share her opinion on being good according to Indigenous teachings.

Melanie is Anishinaabe (Ojibway or Chippewa) from Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Ketegaunseebee First Nations in northern Ontario, Canada. She is a senior indigenous research fellow and associate at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Currently studying for her PhD in social and ecological sustainability, Melanie is also the founder of the Turtle Island Institute, an Indigenous social innovation think & do tank - a teaching lodge – that is working to enable transformative change.

In her work, Melanie weaves together her unique perspectives of Anishinaabe gikendaasowin (knowledge) with systems thinking/complexity theory and social innovation to address society’s most intractable problems. She believes in the teaching methods of her ancestors, in “coming to know” on the land, and so she supports initiatives that seek to connect people to ceremony, story, art, language and the land.

Melanie is an incredible person with such a wealth of knowledge, coupled with a real depth of kindness and compassion. She starts this interview by introducing herself in Anishinaabemowin – the language of her ancestors – so you can hear more about where she’s from in her own words.

If, after listening, you'd like to learn more about Melanie Goodchild, please visit Turtle Island Institute and you can also read her recent paper on Relational Systems Thinking.

Show Notes Transcript

What does it mean to be a good person according to a member of the First Nations? 

We ask Melanie Goodchild, Moose Clan, to share her opinion on being good according to Indigenous teachings.

Melanie is Anishinaabe (Ojibway or Chippewa) from Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Ketegaunseebee First Nations in northern Ontario, Canada. She is a senior indigenous research fellow and associate at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Currently studying for her PhD in social and ecological sustainability, Melanie is also the founder of the Turtle Island Institute, an Indigenous social innovation think & do tank - a teaching lodge – that is working to enable transformative change.

In her work, Melanie weaves together her unique perspectives of Anishinaabe gikendaasowin (knowledge) with systems thinking/complexity theory and social innovation to address society’s most intractable problems. She believes in the teaching methods of her ancestors, in “coming to know” on the land, and so she supports initiatives that seek to connect people to ceremony, story, art, language and the land.

Melanie is an incredible person with such a wealth of knowledge, coupled with a real depth of kindness and compassion. She starts this interview by introducing herself in Anishinaabemowin – the language of her ancestors – so you can hear more about where she’s from in her own words.

If, after listening, you'd like to learn more about Melanie Goodchild, please visit Turtle Island Institute and you can also read her recent paper on Relational Systems Thinking.

[Podcast Theme Music: upbeat electro/beats]

Sarah Buckmaster  0:03 
Hi everyone. I'm Sarah and this is 'How to be Good?' - the podcast that explores what it means to be a good person in today's world.

Today I'm talking with Anishinaabe, Melanie Goodchild.

[Podcast Theme Music]

Melanie Goodchild  0:17 
We are taught that we are not the centre of the universe. We do not have a domain. But we are also not subordinate. So, we're not above nature or below nature. We're a part of nature.

Sarah Buckmaster  0:33 
Melanie is Moose clan from Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Garden River First Nations in Northwestern Ontario.

Now I'm using her English name and English pronunciations here, but we start the interview with Melanie introducing herself in Anishinaabemowin so you can hear more about where she's from in the language of her ancestors.

Melanie Goodchild  0:53 
That's greetings to you, all of my relations. That's to the folks who are listening and to you

Sarah Buckmaster  0:58 
Melanie is a senior indigenous Research Fellow and associate at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Currently studying for her PhD in social and ecological sustainability, she is the founder of the Turtle Island Institute: an Indigenous social innovation think & do tank - a teaching lodge – that is working to enable transformative change.

Melanie Goodchild  1:20 
As a spirit being on a human journey, we are gifted all kinds of teachings and helpers.

Sarah Buckmaster  1:27 
In her work Melanie weaves together her unique perspectives of indigenous knowledge with systems thinking, complexity theory and social innovation. She believes in the teaching methods of her ancestors in coming to know on the land, and so she supports initiatives that seek to connect people to ceremony, story, our language and the land.

Melanie Goodchild  1:47 
Connect to nature for yourself because all of this good work in the world - that outer work - begins with an inner work.

Sarah Buckmaster  1:54 
Melanie is an incredible person with such a wealth of knowledge coupled with a real depth of kindness and compassion. I really hope you enjoy the wisdom she shares with us in this conversation. It is my complete honour to introduce you all to Melanie Goodchild.

Melanie Goodchild  2:11 
[Melanie speaks in Anishinaabemowin].. that's greetings to you, to all of my relations. That's to the folks who are listening and to you. The language I'm about to speak is Anishinaabemowin, which is the language of my ancestors and I will do a traditional greeting of my spirit name clan and where I'm from and where I am right now. [Melanie speaks in Anishinaabemowin]  That's thank you for listening and those are my names, as I'm known in the spirit world and ojibway. Melanie Goodchild is what I'm known in English - Melanie, named after my dad Delaney. My late father and my mother Melinda. They halved it up and spelled it like Melanie, but it's pronounced like Delaney. I tell that story because sometimes folks can't remember why it's it's pronounced differently. [Melanie speaks Anishinaabemowin]  And those are the two First Nations I'm from in Northwestern Ontario.

And I'm here at my home in Crystal Beach, which is just south of Niagara Falls, Ontario. So this is traditional confederacy and three fires confederacy territory. [editors note: The Three Fires Confederacy is an alliance of the Potawatomi / Pottawatomi (Bodéwadmi / Bodowadomi), Ottawa (Odawa) and Chippewa (Ojibwe / Ojibwa). Tribal Nations in the Great Lakes region are also known as the Anishinaabe, Anishinaabeg, Anishnabek, Neshnibek, Neshnabek, Original or True People or Spontaneous Beings]

I'm a visitor to this territory, but my ancestors are from this whole area. And Niagara Falls is a very sacred place for us. So I always acknowledge the thundering waters.

Sarah Buckmaster  3:38 
Well, thank you so much for joining me Melanie. And maybe we just start with that first big question: what does it mean to be a good person according to indigenous teachings?

Melanie Goodchild  3:49 
Well, I'm an Anishinaabe Kwe and speak only for my nation. But there's lots of similarities with other indigenous peoples in terms of our teachings and cosmology. So for us, we say Good (or great) Life. That's one of our foundational teachings that we are given. And it's part of our natural law. So, as a spirit being on a human journey, we are gifted all kinds of teachings and helpers. One of those teachings is the teaching of The Good Life - to pursue that. That means to live your life fully as an Anishinaabe and to be in balance. So we have a medicine wheel teaching. And in that teaching of the medicine wheel, there's balance and so you can think of a circle with an X through it. There's four quadrants and that's spiritual, mental, physical, emotional. So even our concept of wellness is different than in the biomedical model. In a lot of Western teachings, and the approach of doctors, for example, and physicians, it's the absence of disease. When you are healthy for us, it's actually the presence of balance.

I mean, it's interesting when I think about "good" because in western thinking that's often a binary, you know, there's good and there's bad. There's black and white. In Anishinaabe gikendaasowin, which is our original ways of knowing, we don't really have that binary thinking in that way. But we do have concepts of good. And when we say the good life, that's about something that you pursue. And so you're taught that through a number of ceremonies, how you can access that and live your life as a commitment to the Good Life.

Sarah Buckmaster  5:50 
And how about the concept of being a bad person? Are there certain actions or behaviours that would be pulled out as being seen as bad?

Melanie Goodchild  5:58 
Oh Yeah, for sure. There are concepts of behaviour that violates protocols, for example, behaviour that would harm somebody else, behaviour that doesn't represent the values we have of sharing.

You know, we survived for thousands of years by sharing. The concept of greed, for example, would have put someone's life at risk. Now people can be greedy, and you know, we see the people who have everything and the people who have nothing. What are the consequences for that? in our communities, the consequences were often that you were ostracised. And so you were told to go to the edge of the woods and live there and not in the village. And that was really hard, because that means you lost access to your social life, your community life. Now, how would you do that in the modern day? But that is because we were so communal, we didn't really have the deep commitment to individualism and individuality that modern Western societies have. It was very communal, and your survival depended on that. So you shared if you were hunting and fishing, collecting berries. You shared that with elders who couldn't do that anymore. You really looked after people. And if you didn't, I think you might consider that like bad, but we didn't really have this concept of good and evil.

We also had tricksters. And so these were, you know, in our legends, those stories. We have all kinds of stories. Storytelling is also how we transmit knowledge, part of that oral culture. So in the winter, you would sit around and listen to stories by the fire because that was the seasonal flow of things. And so a lot of our communities in different nations have midwinter ceremonies. And when you listen to those stories, and you hear them your whole life about how someone did this, and then there was a consequence for it, that's how those those types of values were imparted  and continue to be. I talk like I'm talking in the past. It's not because we only existed in the past. But some people do talk and write about us like that. I'm just saying that that is like what was a part of your daily life before contact. When you're living close to the land and seasonal. You know, now, we're as emeshed in globalisation as any other community driving cars, living in houses. And what we're trying to do is reawaken those traditional values and learn from them. Like we go back and look at how did we impart knowledge, and then I bring that into my work so that I'm not imparting knowledge only in the ways that Western society has sanctioned for many years, not only sanction, but universalized you know, it's very hegemonic, like you have to read it in a book in English and text or it's not valid knowledge - and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal, for example. I think all of that, you know, it's about balance. It's not really about let's get rid of all the journals. No, but it's also you might learn your most profound teachings from hearing the teachings on a birch bark scroll.

Sarah Buckmaster  9:12 
And the values that are imparted by these stories, what would some examples of those values be?

Melanie Goodchild  9:16 
It's always situational, so I mentioned respect, caring, sharing, humility, honesty, truth, love. Those are often presented as grandmother or grandfather teachings. But there's also the original instructions which are taught to you through the creation story. We are taught that we are not the centre of the universe. We do not have a domain. But we are also not subordinate. And so we're not above nature or below nature. We're a part of nature. We're part of a net - a web of life. We understood the interconnected web of life for thousands of years. And that taught you things like sustainability, and sharing. Those concepts of those values I think are sometimes antidotes to what we're socialised to be like, and when I say "we", I mean all of humanity, you know, - "be greedy, own your stuff, collect more stuff". All of those things are part of our socialisation. But if we were sharing everything we ate for dinner tonight with somebody who was hungry, would that address hunger?

So you know, that's what I do is try to think about some of those core values. And I had the opportunity the other day to sit in conversation with Oren Lyons. He's 91 years old, he's a leader and a faith keeper with the Wolf Clan of the Onondaga Nation in the Longhouse. And that's what he talked about. He talked to me and some colleagues about instruction, that's what he called it. People these days are not given instruction in these original teachings, in these values, and they need that. You can't just assume someone's going to know they should be respectful and caring. You know, maybe your temperament and personality is such but the more that you see that modelled, the more you understand how to enact compassion, or love. I mean, the elders talk about love more than anything. And then they'll talk about respect and humility, and it's all interconnected, but they really do prioritise, coming from a place of love towards Mother Earth - towards all the other beings and towards each other. They share that with us quite a bit.

Sarah Buckmaster  11:33 
When it comes to the teaching of those values, you've mentioned ceremony and stories, are there any other kind of formal structures that are set up now to ensure the communication of these teachings through the community and also through to new generations?

Melanie Goodchild  11:49 
You know, there's some really great work actually by a scholar named Gregory Cajete, who's a Pueblo scholar, and he talks about the seven stages of Indian education. He refers to pre-contact indigenous peoples: there was a whole system and it did not involve schools or classrooms, or, for many of us written texts. We're primarily an oral culture so our teachings and values are encoded in songs and ceremonies. In our language, our language comes from the land. It's very verb-based, we say, as opposed to noun-based. It's actually very process oriented. I just heard recently an elder say that - it's not really even verbs, because the word verb is a noun, he said. That was Dr. Leroy, Little Bear. And so the teachings come from a repetition of a lot of different traditional, sacred legends or teachings. There's also your personal stories. And there's protocols around sacred stories and teachings. And so there's only sometimes a certain time of year, or a certain place, or certain people who have, you know, the right to share those sacred stories and teachings. But we have a creation story, or an origin story, of how we came to be here on the back of a turtle, Turtle Island, which is North America, modern day North America.

So there are ceremonies and teachings throughout your life cycles. And some of those are passages, you know, when you're going from a child perhaps into coming into adulthood or adolescence, like going fasting or a vision-quest. There's ceremonies for women, when they start their menstruation. All of those encode those teachings, and that's what I mean that you hear it repeated - these different values - and what we call natural law. You hear all of that throughout your lifetime. We did have recordings of teachings on sacred birch bark scrolls and petroglyphs, and so there are some beautiful very spiritual teachings there. But primarily you learned also through apprenticeship. So you you go to a lot of ceremonies and you sit there and you see what the elders are doing and you can come become a helper. So my husband and I, for example, are helpers in the healing lodges and teaching lodges back home. So we spent a lot of time with elders. And that's where we're able to translate some of that into the work that we do.

Sarah Buckmaster  14:30 
Do you ever have any worries when you're sharing those teachings that they'll be misunderstood or maybe even misused?

Melanie Goodchild  14:38 
Yeah, there is a bit of a concern... more from the perspective of that, you know, one of our natural laws is to do no harm. And so sometimes even introducing people to metaphysical teachings - to spirituality - could be harmful when they are deeply emotionally and psychologically committed to their scientific rationality and the concept of mother Earth, not as being, or as your mother, but Mother Earth as a thing to be commodified, exploited, you know, here to serve us. And so even if you think about mental models like Peter Senge, in the Fifth Discipline, talks about mental models and challenging mental models is some of the toughest inner work that you can do with people. And that's sort of like the basis of my work. And so I worry not so much about appropriation. I mean, that's certainly a concern that things will be taken and used. But even the elders have have talked to me about not so much worrying about appropriation, because the knowledge requires so much depth, like what we can share in workshops, and zoom calls is just the tip of the iceberg, really, there's so many profound teachings, I mean, it takes a lifetime to learn about the medicines to learn the language to learn so many things. And so that is protection, in some ways against, you know, the misuse. You know, we've seen people that learn a ceremony and then start to do the ceremony. But the protocols that you'd have to be taught, and maybe you were gifted that - maybe you do have the teachings to pick that medicine. And so I don't really judge. I don't come from a place of judgement with people. In fact, I've taught people who are grieving, for example, to put out an ancestor plate and feed their ancestors. The ancestors know what that is, even if they don't know and it's not your custom and culture. And it's really helped people with grief. So we call that medicine. And medicine means the strength from Mother Earth. That's what that literally translates. Because for us, it was plants, you know, plant medicine, water, food, all of that was medicine to help us with Thre Good Life and wellness, to help us stay in balance. You access the medicine to being you back into balance. For me, the more I teach people, sometimes there's going to be a risk of a misquote or misappropriation. But generally I am sharing as much as I can share to do no harm. And so I hope people take it and run with it.

Sarah Buckmaster  17:15 
And what's the relationship between intention and action when it comes to those types of situations?

Melanie Goodchild  17:22 
I guess it depends on almost depth or scale of the result of the action. So people can make mistakes, and, and violate protocol. But if your intention includes the violation of protocol, then you know that, that has to be addressed. And, and in order to do that, there's protocols that are quite deep, that maybe someone just learning about the culture would not know that. And so they're not going to get in trouble per se, but they're going to get taught. And so we call them teachable moments. And there's a lot of teachable moments in cross-cultural dialogue where protocols are violated. And so for example, there are things that probably might be foreign to some people, but in our culture, when we sit in circle and we speak, we go clockwise. And so we go to the left. So I would go to my left and introduce the next person but in this territory, Haudenosaunee territory, they go to the right. And there's different teaching about that. But if I don't know that I am in this territory, and I just go to my left, and there are, you know, my Mohawk relatives are there, what I do is I speak to that, right? One of the things you do is you say, "and please understand, I don't understand all of the protocols here, because I'm not from here".

So if I were to go to somewhere where I don't know the culture at all, the one thing to remember about protocols is always respect. Just practice your utmost hospitality, in that, in that presence, wherever it is, if it's a new culture, and respect. I mean, humour also goes a long way. I mean, a lot of people, you know, we laugh a lot. So, um, so yeah, I mean, if there's, if it's if it's a major violation of protocol that wasn't intended, then it's, you know, it's a teachable moment. If it was intended, then you would have to be addressed, and you might have to make amends for that, but there are ceremonies to do that as well. The amends are not going to be something awful, they're going to be something that probably instils with it a new humility. Because that's another one of our, our deep values and if you don't have humility, you know, community members will see that and that's a major violations protocol. And that's probably a lack of humility leads to transgressions more than trying to hurt someone or being bad or something like that.

Sarah Buckmaster  20:10 
Would you share with us some of your experience of how it's been as an indigenous woman going into a very western education system? You're now studying for your doctorate and actually researching within that space between different forms of knowledge, but how has the journey been right from the beginning to where you are now?

Melanie Goodchild  20:28 
For me, I had done an undergraduate degree and a master's degree where I really just followed the teachings of the discipline in sociology, you know, this is the canonical literature, this is how you do social science research etc. And at that point, as a scholar, I just accepted what I needed to do to get granted those degrees. And when I started a PhD programme, I was more mature, a little more confident, really bringing forth my identity as an Anishinaabe, as an indigenous scholar. And so when I got into my Ph D programme, the first couple of courses that I was in had professors that didn't quite know how to handle me. I'm very respectful in pointing out something as simple as, "wow, this reading list doesn't have any indigenous scholars, or feminist scholars?" Oh, yeah, well, no, this is the canoncal literature of social and ecological sustainability. "Really? defined by whom?" - as if indigenous peoples around the world have nothing to say, or ever had anything to say, about sustainability, and the survival of Mother Earth and all the beings that are here with us.

So I had to go into ceremony. I consult a lot of elders back home, I text them, email them, I zoom with them, I look at our language. And I really redefine what some of those concepts are - the concepts I'm learning in the western disciplines - like ecological economics, or resilience thinking. So I took resilience, and I asked some elders back home, well, how would we say resilience? Like in the CS Hawkins definition, you know, the capacity of a system to absorb a shock and not flip into another identity. So that that's the concept of social ecological resilience in complex adaptive systems. So I told all of that to the elders and they each came back to me.. my cousin said, I, I would say that is a river flowing flexibly through the land, and then my sister Eleanor, she said, I would say that is always contextual. It's a river, but it's the quick twists and turns of the river, you know, flowing through the land. So they each came back to me with a river flowing flexibly through the land and the twists and turns. And then when they told me that Eleanor said, are you near a river? And I said, Yeah, I was actually right near the North River. I'm staying in a house there near Waterloo - the university I go to in Ontario. The University of Waterloo. And she said, well, that river is teaching you what resilience is. So you have to go down and do a ceremony and make an offering. And I did. And so in my comprehensive exam, I was writing that paper, a 10,000 word essay, about traditional ecological knowledge, which I was actually critiquing, because we don't define our own knowledge as traditional ecological knowledge. We may use that term. But it's ecologists who said, hey, that's what we want to learn from indigenous peoples. But our knowledge is very holistic. You can get "TEK" in so many things. And so it's really, you know, that concept of resilience was how I critiqued traditional ecological knowledge. Because you're not learning the languages if you're not on the land, if you're not, you know, spending time with elders to fully understand this - not just in your mind. Knowledge resides on the land is revealed to you through personal experiences on the land. So I went and I sat by that river, and I made offerings, because I needed to thank her for being a co writer, if you could think about it that way with me.

So I think, really important. And for me, I've had to find those spaces in university. They're not granted to you and I've heard the concept of hospitality and epistemic violence. And so when you come from a different cosmology and epistemology, to that being taught in your university programme, you sometimes - it's a big battle, you know, and that gift that you're offering - of a different way of knowing - it's either received with hostility, and rejected as a threat to their discipline, even their identity as a scholar of a certain discipline, or it's accepted as Wow, that's beautiful, can I learn more? and then you teach each other. And so that's how I've found and I've wrote about it ... something called relational systems thinking, where, you know, we're in the river of life together, and the river itself, she's in danger now. And we need to share our ways of knowing so that we can figure out how to continue life on this planet.

Sarah Buckmaster  25:20 
You mentioned writing about relational systems thinking and I read the paper that you've published on that topic. And something that really struck me is when you talk about the space that's created when you're bringing together people from different perspectives and cultures and backgrounds and belief systems and knowledge systems. You talk about in the middle, that space being a sacred space or an ethical space. Can you maybe explain a bit more about that, and also share some of the practical realities of making that happen, because the theory is really beautiful and sounds wonderful, but I imagine that there are a lot of challenges in actually making that happen in reality.

Melanie Goodchild  26:00 
So as a PhD student, I was encouraged to publish an academic paper and I kind of resisted that for a while. It just seemed so very colonial to me in English, you know, and text. But I started to realise, of course, as a student, I was citing all kinds of papers and the more indigenous scholars that published, the more I was citing, and so when a couple of colleagues of mine, who are deep systems thinkers, Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer from MIT invited me to write a paper, I thought, well, this is this is a chance to start to really explore further what I was doing in systems thinking and deep systems awareness. And my uncle Dan Longboat, who's Mohawk, he said, Well, if you're talking to Western systems thinkers, make sure you talk to us, like our systems thinkers. And so I got to sit down in conversation with four elders last year, and I was writing at first two separate papers. Then I brought them together because I could hear in Peter and Otto's stories, similar things to what the elders were saying, but they were saying them in a different way. So the elders were talking from a certain philosophy and worldview. Peter and Otto were speaking from their own worldview, as individuals as human beings, also from the scholarship, you know, they're really kind of well known for their systems thinking approaches. And I brought them together, and I was inspired by the teachings of the land here.

And when we say that knowledge resides on the land, it is on the land that you are on wherever you are. And as a visitor here, I really needed to learn about the philosophy here because I'm not Mohawk, I'm Ojibwe. They taught me about the first treaty signed between Dutch merchants, later followed by the French and the British, and the Hodinoshoni peoples and their leadership signed this treaty... and these beautiful, sacred shells that come from the ocean are on a belt, like they're strong on a belt, and that belt has white in the background, and two columns of purple beads. So it's white with two columns of purple beads. Those purple beads represent the Dutch merchant sailing ship and the Iroquois birch bark canoe. The treaty was of peace, friendship and respect of peaceful coexistence. But the real spirit of the treaty was that that we would not interfere. So it's equal but differentiated. And that treaty was broken over time, because of course colonisation interferes. The whole agreement was that the Hodinoshoni would continue the life that they had; their distinct culture, language, lifestyle. And that was for all nations.. we were all treaty making, you know, a long time ago. But many of those treaties, most of them have been broken through empire building, land grabs, you know, disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples from their their identity, their land, residential school. So a number of colonial and genocidal policies here in Canada and in the US were attempts to destroy our culture. I mean to kill our traditional way of life, our original way of life actually.

So when I wrote the the paper, the concept of relational systems thinking is that our cosmology is relationship-based. Our whole culture is about relationships: relationships to the land, to each other, to our ancestors, and to other beings, not just the two legged but the winged beings, the four leggeds, the ones in the water - that we are all related. All my relations. You know, I am related to everything in the universe.

So relational systems thinking for me is an approach where one of the columns, one of the purple rows is perhaps conventional systems thinking, which comes out of Western science and other things like that. On the other side, the birch bark canoe is what we would say is our original knowledge, wisdom. And that in-between is what is called ethical space. My uncle Dan calls it sacred space. There's an elder who calls it the third space. It's that space in-between - in the river. But you know, you can think of it as - are you on this canoe or are you on this ship but you need to work together. So you've got to meet each other in the middle, there in that ethical space. And you're swimming, you're in the river of life together, kind of whether you like it or not, like we're one family, the two leggeds around the world. And so the River of life, as my uncle Dan says, is in danger now. So it behoves us to work together to find a way to perpetuate life on Mother Earth: everybody, whatever colour your skin, whatever nation you're associated with, the two are indigenous to Mother Earth, because you are, you would not survive without her.

And so, relational systems thinking is a bridge and in practice that bridge to bring people across the bridge to meet and to be able to get into that ethical space, not only intellectually, but spiritually, you know, sometimes physically, and certainly emotionally. We do that through a focus on healing self and systems. So the work I do recognises that that type of mindset shift can be destabilising, maybe even frightening for people, very emotional, because you're letting go of assumptions. Maybe they're racist assumptions. Maybe they're sexist. And in order to do that, we have to build really safe containers. And so we show people the article, but then we also build containers, we do ceremonies, and we do tea ceremonies. We drink tea together, so the framework is a dialogic framework, but I would say in the middle is healing self and systems and cups of tea.

Sarah Buckmaster  32:37 
And finally, if you could share one piece of advice as to how our listeners could go out, and do one good thing today, or contribute to the world positively, what would you recommend?

Melanie Goodchild  32:48 
I would say wherever anyone is and it's hard, I know, when we're in a really urban concrete place that's very built and built environment, I would say connect to nature for yourself, because all of this good work in the world, that outter work begins with an inner work. I mean, it's people that have done their inner work that are doing that, that good outer work, whatever their passion or commitment is: activists, you know, folks doing social justice, work. All of that, I think, needs to start with an intimate connection with Mother Earth. Because that's ultimately who we need to be connected to, in order to do good in the world in order to live. And I take that advice myself. I will go for days where I'm in the house and in the car and driving and not really walking on the earth. My colleague talks about walking barefoot on the earth, the elders talk about that.

And so if it is having a cup of tea, particularly Chinese, Japanese tea, because you can learn their history, you can learn about community experiences as a gift. It is the plant that chose us. It's a gift from our relatives in the east. We do gongfu Cha, which is a tea service, taught to us (my husband and I, Sly) through Chinese and Japanese tea masters who have said, go teach people about teach. So it's not appropriation and we've studied and understand the Chi of the tea and come from a very spiritual place. And so I've led tea ceremonies for the United Nations, for all of our funders, in our virtual teaching Lodge. And I led one last week and I just got an email this morning from someone who was experiencing grief and he said that he cried through the whole tea ceremony, because we do it in silence. So you're pouring the water and we use different teas each time, but one of them is puerh. And puerh is a beautiful old fermented tea and we often use old growth because it's like a secular spiritual practice, you know. It's not necessarily any religion and so people from all different backgrounds can drink tea, but if you really meditate on it, and you take the time you can elevate it to ceremony. And it involves fire and water. So fire is the sun. And the water is the moon.

And so we often talk about the medicine of polarities. And instead of that binary thinking that's going to dismiss or destroy one, or pick one or the other. The greatest medicine is in the polarities, that space in between. So too much fire will evaporate the water, too much water will put out a fire. So in the tea ceremony, you can get teachings about the sky, the sun, the earth, Mother Earth, and then water. The tea ceremony brings in so many indigenous teachings. So people have called it an indigenous tea ceremony when I do it. I think it's indigenous because I'm indigenous and doing that ceremony. But it really does bring in concept of cultural fluency, which is studying with Chinese and Japanese tea masters so that we teach about tea the right way, and it helps people shift consciousness. And the Japanese when they have a tea house, they talk about brushing off the dust of the world, it used to be very dusty, and give you a hot towel. And I love that concept. So we we're actually doing a workshop coming up where we're sending everybody a white cloth, so that they can wipe themselves off before we come on to zoom together. That's going to be part of our daily practice.

So those are the types of things that I would say, for people to just realise that you can connect to 1000-year old old-growth puerh tree, connect to Mother Earth, you know, a 1000 years ago, and really be appreciative of that water. In our culture, the men are firekeepers, and the women are waterkeepers. And so we protect and speak for water and pray to water and do water ceremonies. Men are firekeepers - my husband's a fire-keeper. So that's how you can elevate. I know other cultures talk about Zen. That's how you can bring some Zen or elevate really common everyday things to ceremony. Especially if that's not your culture you don't want to appropriate but appreciate the teachings of those ceremonies.

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Sarah Buckmaster  37:32 
My deepest thanks go to Melanie for taking the time to talk with me and talking us through the deep work she's carrying out in the field of relational systems thinking. If you'd like to learn more about Melanie's work, I'll include a link to the journal paper we discussed in the show notes (here it is: Relational Systems Thinking). And you can also find out more about the Turtle Island Institute at Turtleislandinstitute.ca.

If you've enjoyed this episode, and would like to hear more episodes and interviews exploring the question of what it means to be a good person in today's world, then please consider hitting the subscribe button. And if you have time and liked what you heard, then I would love you to leave a review and share with your friends. Thank you for listening. And if you have any questions or suggestions, please email me at any time. It's sarah@howtobegood.co.uk and I would love to hear from you. Thank you

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai and Sarah Buckmaster