Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann: My people are not threatened by silence

My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have lived for thousands of years with Nature’s quietness. My people today recognise and experience in this quietness the great Life-Giving Spirit, the Father of us all. It is easy for me to experience God’s presence. When I am out hunting, when I am in the bush, among the trees, on a hill or by a billabong; these are the times when I can simply be in God’s presence. My people have been so aware of Nature. It is natural that we will feel close to the Creator. Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth…

When twilight comes, we prepare for the night. At dawn we rise with the sun.

We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly.

We wait for the right time for our ceremonies and our meetings. The right people must be present. Everything must be done in the proper way. Careful preparations must be made. We don’t mind waiting, because we want things to be done with care.

We don’t like to hurry. There is nothing more important than what we are attending to. There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.

We wait on God, too. His time is the right time. We wait for him to make his word clear to us. We don’t worry. We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri (that deep listening and quiet stillness) his way will be clear.

We are river people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways.

We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up – but waiting with us, as we find our pace in this world.

If you stay closely united, you are like a tree, standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree, you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to be reborn.

Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take time to know us; to be still and to listen to us.

– Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann (Aboriginal activist, educator, artist and 2021 Senior Australian of the year)

I have noticed a few things in my own life related to much of what she so beautifully mentions here.

When I am in nature – for instance at the cabin in Norway or in the countryside in the Andes mountains – I naturally get up at dawn and go to bed early. I follow the natural cycles. It just makes sense in those settings. (A more urban setting tends to disconnect me more from nature, although only to a certain extent.)

In general, it’s difficult for me to do anything unless the time feels ripe – the situation and something in me is ready for it. I organize my life, as far as possible, so there is some flexibility in when I do my tasks so I can do it when it happens naturally.

It’s also very difficult to know anything very far in advance. I cannot easily plan more than two or three weeks ahead because my intuition and inner guidance don’t work that far in advance. Too much may happen and too much may change in me between now and then.

I love silence. I love the sounds of nature without too much human noise. I don’t really understand the tendency of some in our civilization to want noise and to want to play loud music or anything loud. (I understand it may be fun and exciting for a little while, they enjoy the contrast, and that some may want to drown out their own inner distress that way, but I cannot connect with it viscerally so much.)

I sometimes have a strong inner guidance about a situation, and it turns out later to be accurate. If others are involved, it can create a challenge for me since I cannot explain it rationally so they understand.

The image is created by me and Midjourney, very loosely inspired by aboriginal art.

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