My life path has been altered by the many chance connections I have had. I married a woman I met on a plane ride. I signed an agreement to publish a calendar with a dinner table seat mate I just met . I was referred to a new job by someone I met at Starbucks. And on and on.......have learned that if I keep an open mind, an open heart, and open to connections, things happen. Things that will expand my world and my world view.
Mati and Luhui Waiti are Chumash (shoo-maush) spiritual leaders and environmental advocates for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. They run a non-profit called Wishtoyo, dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the Chumash culture. How did these people become friends and how does my family become supporters of Wishtoyo?
The wife of one of my closest friends, Brenda Berman, was part Choctaw Indian. When she was diagnosed with a deadly and unstoppable form of breast cancer called "triple negative", she sought spiritual support. Brenda's close friend Jennifer thought a re-connection to her Indian roots might help. She knew Wishtoyo and introduced Brenda and her husband Mitch to Mati and Luhui. The Chumash traditions brought great peace to Brenda. They helped her through her pain and struggle during her last days. They connected Brenda with her inner spirit in palpable ways. It is impossible to explain here, but it was extraordinary.
Brenda's husband Mitch, who previously had little spirituality, was transformed by the message and meaning of the Chumash, but especially by the spiritual embrace of Mati and Luhui. He is a different person today.
To be honest, while I was happy for Brenda and her family in finding their peace, I was wary about what this meant to me. I was not seeking any spiritual guidance or facing any personal tragedies.
Over the last 6 months, my family and I learned more about Wishtoyo, largely through several memorials for Brenda. Today, we have become deeply involved with Wishtoyo. We have been moved by the words and actions of Mati and Luhui. We have acquired an understanding of what Brenda experienced and we are better for it. When I think about it, it is a surprising turn of events.
So literally, a friend of a friend introduced us to a world we did not know---to people who seemed foreign and not terribly relevant. How did a series of exotic experiences became existentially essential? How did this happen? Luck? Destiny?
More than anything it is open-mindedness. Acceptance of new and different things. The more my life is changed by these encounters, the more I seek them and share them. I have come to learn how my view of the world, my routines, habits and preferences filter out so much. I am constantly humbled how much I don't know and understand.
We erroneously think that new experiences are out there in a special place we should visit some day. Reality is you encounter them everyday and they are right in front of you disguised as people, opportunities, and ideas you ignore. Connections are not chance they are a choice.
Wishtoyo means rainbow bridge in Chumash. We all need to be open to new bridges that connect us with one another and to our inner spirits.
Thanks for reading. John