Category Archives: Action

Blessing for Standing Rock Protectors

“What is a blessing? A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen. Life is a constant flow of emergence. The beauty of blessing is its belief that it can affect what unfolds”                                     

                                                                                      ~John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

Blessing for Standing Rock Water Protectors

In the stillness of the North Dakota night
under the million-starred sky
this blessing is called down
upon the tipis and tents,
circle fires and sweat lodges,
cars, vans, trucks and horses,
upon the tribal elders, women and men,
upon the Standing Rock Youth Council
and their runners who raced across the land
in appreciation of all who have come together
to protect the water and the earth which holds it,
upon the babies and children,
and all who stand in witness to this call for clean water
and respect for sacred sites.

We call this blessing from the four directions,
and from above and below,
and from all the people, near and far,
who support the nations gathered in the prairie.

Great Spirit of all our souls, encircle with Light and strengthen
the ones who cook the meals
the ones who wash the clothes
the ones who tend the children
the ones who feed the horses
the ones who gave birth here and their child
the ones who speak out and testify
the ones who post on social media
the ones who march
the ones who drum
the ones who stand their ground
the ones who are arrested and imprisoned
the ones who are tazed and struck with rubber bullets
the ones who report and film the actions and are charged
the ones who established a new camp at Cannon Ball,
to reclaim the land that was once theirs.

We offer this blessing of love, understanding and truth-seeing
on behalf of all the ancestors,
of all our relations,
who speak to us today in the actions at Standing Rock
and in our dreams.
We offer our prayers, joined with theirs,
rising together in the smoke.

May we heed the call of all who have gone before
to protect the water that is life giving to all,
and the Earth, who nurtures us.
May we honor the history of the people
who have been wronged for too many years
and attend to this uprising and gathering
with ears to hear and hearts to love.
May healing come where harm was done,
May hearts and minds awaken,
May actions for the good be taken.

Editor’s Note: I wrote this blessing in response to a prompt from my poetry teacher, Sue Sutherland-Hanson. The blessing was also prompted by a deep desire to take an action on behalf of the Native people who have gathered to protect the water and the sacred burial sites on their land that is being threatened by the construction of an oil pipeline that would be laid underneath the Missouri River.

As I have educated myself on what is happening at Standing Rock, North Dakota, I have learned much and still have much to learn. This movement is testimony of the power of the people coming together, uniting for something that is bigger than each one of us, that is important to our survival and the survival of all the creatures.

Many of those speaking and acting to save the water quality, the very earth that sustains us, and the sacred sites of their ancestors have inspired me. I will name some here, and know I will miss some I wish to lift up. My hope is that this blessing reaches each and every one.

In Gratitude:

Thank you to the Youth Council of Standing Rock who held a race to thank those who have come together with the Sioux nation tribes, and to the International Indigenous Youth who participated in the protest at the Cannon Ball camp site.

Thank you to Sky Bird Black Owl for giving birth to her daughter in the tipi at Standing Rock and for her testimony about how women (and children and men) must be protected and must speak out to make the world safe for all.

Thank you to the ones who meet with Ban Ki-Moon to instruct him about the sovereign nations and who are not, and have not ever been, seated at the UN table.

Thank you to the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe chairman, Harold Frazier, who met with President Obama in Los Angeles on the National Day of Action at Standing Rock, October 25, 2016, to ask him to protect the rights of the Lakota People, their sacred sites and the waters of the Missouri River.[1]

Thank you to the people who have established the new Oceti Sakowin camp at Cannon Ball, ND, and took back unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land under control of the Oceti Sakowin, on the final three miles of the pipeline route.[2]

Thank you to those who resisted being moved from the Oceti Sakowin camp by police from five states, and took pepper spray, rubber bullets and other violence as they prayed to protect the water, risking harm to themselves.

Thank you to Amy Goodman and Deia Schlosberg for witnessing and covering the actions and being willing to be arrested and charged in order to maintain freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the coverage of Standing Rock and other pipeline climate change actions, and Josh Fox for continuing coverage.[3]

Thank you to the judge who dismissed the charges against Amy Goodwin.

Thank you to all the persons of faith (Unitarian Universalists, United Church of Christ, Episcopalians and many others) who have traveled to Standing Rock when I could not, who have issued statements of support and solidarity for this justice work, and who have taken supplies and warm clothing to the people living there.

Thank you to Mara Lindbergh, friend and massage therapist of twenty plus years, for talking with me about this important event in our time and for supporting me to speak out.

Thank you to Sue Sutherland-Hanson, poetry teacher, ministerial colleague and friend, for urging me to share this blessing more widely.

 ©Lisa Ashley, 10.25.16



[3] and

Light unfolding

Spirit, be upon me

Spirit of the Mighty, Gentle One,
come upon me, anoint me.

I see the oppressed.
I name them; I hold them close.
Make my life into good news for them.

I see the brokenhearted.
I name them; I hold them close.
Give me gentle grace to bind up their hearts.

I see the imprisoned.
I name them; I hold them close.
Give me true words and deeds to release them.

I see the ruined cities.
I name them; I hold them close.
Make me a part of their building up.

Spirit of God, be upon me.
I see my own ruins, my chains.
Hold me close
 and set me free,
that I may be
 your good news for others.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
, Unfolding Ligh

I read my daily email message from Pastor Steve Garnass-Holmes on December 9, 2014, in the midst of the furor over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the midst of the Advent season of darkness and waiting for Jesus’ birth. Pastor Steve titles his messages “Unfolding Light.” I am drawn to his postings each day because they are beautiful, poetic, inspiring and thought-provoking. I love his title because it is evocative and hopeful.

My understanding of spiritual direction and how it works is that of the “unfolding light”-—the light that is within you and each one of us.

We meet, talk, listen and reflect and our self awareness grows so that we might embrace the Divine within us and within other people. Our lights unfold.

Advent is a season of waiting in the dark for the Light to come in the form of Jesus’ birth, yet Pastor Steve’s prayer speaks of taking actions, of seeing, naming, and holding others close, and then acting to release and build up others. I believe that in taking these actions we take responsibility for ourselves and, to the extent possible, for those we can affect in positive ways. This includes all humans and all living creatures.

We must first see, then speak, then hold (in respect and love), and then release, lift up, and work for justice in order to rebuild what has fallen, be it a person, a city or a world.

To do this larger work, we must begin at home, with ourselves.

I am a fan of the ripple effect: that one drop of water falling into the pond ripples out and affects a much larger world, even when we cannot see or touch what has been affected. So it is with our listening, seeing, naming, respecting, holding in safety, and loving others. I believe we are co-creating our reality– working in conjunction with Spirit, God(dess), Sacred Mystery, Nature–all that we might “name” as Ultimate.

How and who will you see today? Who or what will you name? Who or what will you hold, respect and love? What actions will you then take?