I recently had an insightful conversation with an adult adoptee. Like me, she has Cherokee ancestry. We talked about the healing process of adoption, the years of peeling off layers of shrouds and how adoption issues continue to impact our lives in small and not so small ways. We discussed being assigned a specific lineage and ancestry when in reality what we were told was false. We talked about the discovery of truth and the challenge of reclaiming and re-learning our true history and how to move forward with a new understanding. We talked about the process of integration.
We are both curious as to how to move from external integration such as reading our adoption documents and hearing the information to internal integration, which seems to be a much longer process with many stops and restarts.
My friend stated that she felt like her biological family’s mistress. She was a part of the family but not a full member. She hovered around the outskirts of her own ancestry.
I do not see myself as the mistress. My experience is more like being the daughter of the mistress–though my mother was not an actual mistress. She was a child–seventeen. Maybe a better name would be The Child’s Daughter. My father had children my mother’s age when I was conceived.When I arrived excited to meet everyone, things did not go as I imagined. I found myself making excuses for my presence.
As a deeply spiritual woman my desire is to learn, practice and understand the rituals of my ancestors. How did they live their lives? There is a longing to integrate Cherokee-Shawnee beliefs and practices into my practice. I want to walk the path of my ancestors. Attempting to peer into the past thru a spiritual lens seems to create some sort of link between past and present, biological and adoptive families and where I came from, though the glass is often clouded by my own projections.
This longing to belong seems to perpetuate the outsider archetype that entered this world with me—attached. It is my Siamese twin with a hidden umbilical cord of its own.
To date I have adopted Eastern practices because they reflect my values and how I see and experience the world. I had no idea I already had a spiritual practice that was a part of a culture that I was raised outside of. Thankfully, Eastern practices offered a vast storehouse of wisdom to draw from. I have walked this path for many years. The Goddess/Divine Feminine has always been central to my practices. She has been the gateway—my connection to the Mystery. She is/was the Mystery.
There is a Corn Mother in the Cherokee practices but we have yet to be introduced. I’m not sure how central she is to the spiritual practices. Can I envision her as an integral part? There is also an Earth Mother but I experience her as vast—not personal.
I do not want to get caught in the world of duality—adoptive family verses biological family—Eastern practices verses Native American spirituality. One isn’t right and the other wrong. Shifting from this dualistic perspective has not been easy. Will what I practice become a hybrid? How do I keep the veins of both clear—not murky? Do I embrace one and wave goodbye to the other? I feel like there is some sort of ritual I should do—a reclaiming as I move into uncharted territory. I wonder if there is a Cherokee Elder to bless this next segment of my spiritual journey.
I am working on internal and external integration to the best of my ability, though in reality, it often feels like three steps forward and five back. I feel like I have been in the role of observer for a very long time. I can see it all—even talk about it logically but there is still some disconnect between head and heart. Feeling only happens on occasion—like a bleed through.
What I know to be true: Stories, story-telling and deep listening are very healing. Speaking my story and listening to other adoptees speak their truths seems to assist with integration. It also provides validation, acceptance and the strength to stop living as an outsider in my own life. I believe that when our stories are spoken their energy is released thru the breath. I think they are carried to the Creator like the smoke from a smudge stick.