(an excerpt from “Tomorrow’s Children – A Cherokee Elder’s Guide to Parenting)

Notice how trees on a mountaintop move slightly as the wind ripples through their branches, and how the sun makes the shadows of trees dance on the earth. As we pay attention to our surroundings, they teach us about the beauty of another life – a life of freedom.

It is important to gain inner freedom in order to be good parents. One way to do this is by going inside ourselves, looking around inch by inch, and facing then releasing any negative emotions we encounter. The first sensation we may come upon is fear – the dread of uncovering feelings that might cause us discomfort. But with patience and determination we can push aside this fear and begin facing the negative emotions of pain, anger, sadness or loneliness. We get rid of each one by taking slow deep breaths all the way into the abdomen, holding the breath while concentrating on the negative feeling, and letting the breath out with force. This should be done five times or until the feeling has been released.

Another way to inner freedom involves releasing the pain carried from childhood that contributes to who we are now. To find this freedom, go to the mountaintop and give your pain to the Creator. As you release it, the wind will carry away the pain and you will be healed. Work to attain this freedom, for then you can be true to yourself and better face what life has to offer.

An additional means to inner freedom involves reducing the stresses of daily life. For effective stress reduction, breathe deeply from you abdomen, with your jaws fully apart, and let out a spontaneous sound. While working with all these exercises, it is helpful to remember that if our spirits were not strong, we would not be here searching for freedom.

The search for inner freedom is sometimes hard for society to accept; yet it is essential for learning about your particular spirit and connecting with it in day to day life. If you choose to independently cleanse yourself of hurts and other painful emotions, notice that the release of each one draws you closer to your spirit. It helps to meditate for fifteen to twenty minutes: as you begin to sense a calmness inside, ask the Creator to help you let go of whatever blinds you to your true nature. In doing this each day, you come to know yourself as a powerful resource capable of distinguishing right from wrong.

If instead you decide to work toward inner freedom in a spiritual group, make sure you are learning true teachings about the spirit and making a genuine connection with it rather than the emotions. This will prevent you from giving your power away.

Because pregnancy is such a significant step in life, it is best approached in a state of inner freedom. Women who are unburdened of negativity and worries learn to pay closer attention to their bodies, better understand how they function and adapt more easily to the many changes pregnancy brings. They come to know inwardly the most healthful foods for their bodies and the importance of drinking plenty of water, exercising in conducive ways such as walking or swimming and practicing stillness several times a day. When you relax, your unborn child learns how to be calm.

Cherokee culture explicitly encourages the attainment of inner freedom before pregnancy. When a man and woman decide they are ready to have a family, the woman is traditionally given time to think about child rearing and its many responsibilities. She spends a day or more alone with herself and the Creator, at liberty to explore her inner world. Then she speaks with an elder, a respected person of knowledge. The elder may ask her if she has had dreams or visions of a child, or of anything related to children. If she has, the elder will interpret their meaning for her. Is she hasn’t the elder will furnish answers to her questions.

Whether of not you are inclined to seek the counsel of an elder, consider finding inner freedom before deciding to have a child. That way you will be less likely to confuse hormonal changes that stimulate yearnings for a baby with deeper desires rooted in love for children and dedications to future society. Freedom creates the space for choosing wisely and for avoiding unwanted pregnancy.

Achieving inner freedom gives us the perspective, strength, and wisdom to someday soar like an eagle. Imagine riding on the back of an eagle, with a gentle rain falling on your face, the wind in your hair, or the sun warming your back. Feel the bird’s soft feathers and the heat of its body as you glide through the clouds and up over a brilliantly coloured rainbow. Mountains are in front of you now and you hold on tight, preparing to weave among the peaks with utmost precision. Your energy is high. Excitement floods your entire body, filling you with joy. You are weightless, thoughtless, painless, worry free. You want to become a part of this eagle and soar forever, seeing far and wide, resilient enough to ride any current, and keenly attuned to the ways of nature’s landscape.