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In Sweet Company

“… for me, spiritual practice is making the bed, defrosting dinner, and so on. It’s not magical or removed; it’s about how I discover and reveal myself as I do things that are ordinary.” — Miriam Polster, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

It’s been several years since I interviewed Grandmother Twyla Hurd Nitsch for my last book, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE, yet I find myself thinking a lot about her. Gram, as she liked to be called, was the Lineage Holder of Seneca wisdom and the leader of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge. http://www.wolfclanteachinglodge.org/ Hers was an inherited position, one she was trained for as a child by her grandfather; one she, in turn, trained her son, Bob, and his wife, Lee, to carry on after her passing in 2007.

Gram knew how to be a Wisdom Keeper not just in her role as a spiritual leader, but in how she moved through her life. It wasn’t what she did, but who she was. Being smart, or wise or “right” was not important to her. She tried simply to be, as she said in our interview, “a good example.” She was so comfortable in her own skin, so at peace with how the Universe worked and her place in it, that her smile spoke volumes.

Gram was not separate from the world. She did not lead an ivory tower life. She raised five kids, suffered tragic losses, had more than her share of hard times. But she used everything that happened to her as a stepping stone to bring her closer to Great Mystery. “Everything that happened to me was just like going to school. Even [for a period] when I couldn’t hear or see…I felt like I was being gifted because of what I was learning through the experience.

“When I was a child, my elders taught me it was up to me to make myself happy, and when I go to bed each night I should thank Great Mystery for my happiness. Most people don’t take responsibility for their own happiness—it doesn’t even enter their heads to do that! And at the end of the day, they’re not grateful for the good things that happen to them.”

Personal responsibility and gratitude are not intellectual or esoteric concepts known to a privileged few. Gram took these concepts, and all the teachings she so deeply believed in, and made them her own. She lived them in her daily life. It was beautiful to see. It taught me so much.

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