The nun from Bishop McDevitt High who judged our debate called me a “natural negative.” I accepted her judgment as a compliment; decades later, I’m not so sure. A lonely book nerd and geek, I found refuge within theatre, debate and forensics. A born skeptic, a glance at this month’s featured topic rendered me a bit “naturally negative.” Given the existence of The Secret and the Law of Attraction, what could I add to the mix?
Editor Tim Miejan put a spin on the subject that invited a possible angle. He asked that we explore the mind-body, mind-reality connection. I read the prompt to Cedric Red Feather about “positive thinking” and “real healing,” and he replied, “They’re the same thing.” After some reflection, I realized the truth of his rapid-fire insight.
Positive thinking is the foundation of real healing. This is because all human dis-ease or illness results from negative states of consciousness. Often, we act from a deep, cavernous place inhabited by dark denizens of doubt, fear, mistrust and jealousy. The way out is to flood this place with light and love. As Cedric puts it so succinctly, “Negative thoughts come from fear; positive thoughts come from love.”
My predilection for the negative shifted immeasurably in 1995 when I visited Cedric Red Feather in Tennessee. I noticed the way he conducted himself in the world, silently moving from one task to the next, smiling at people and merely laughing gently when they became difficult or contrary. If I made any comment that possessed even a tinge of negativity, instead of chiding or correcting me, he would just turn the remark around. He did this easily, seamlessly, gracefully.
Cedric really listened to people when they spoke. He did not interrupt them or immediately offer his “two cents.” Instead, he let them finish their thoughts. He looked past the surface into their hearts and offered whatever encouragement they needed. He used very few words, but each word held light, insight, humor. The language was simple, yet considered. Behold: I was in the presence of genuine speech and connection, the product of a positive mind and a loving heart.
Those two blissful months in which Cedric and I got to know each other in Memphis seemed like a dream. We had music, and poetry, powwows, and a sweatlodge at a friend’s house in Foristell, Missouri. In that brief stay in positivity paradise, I learned the art of turning things around. I would catch a negative idea even before it was hatched, and I would flip it. After a while, I noticed that Cedric’s eyes lit up when I spoke. Everything that happened to us in the early days of our enduring friendship was sparkling and synchronous.
People misunderstand Cedric’s nature. Some call him “lucky,” or “a magician.” He is neither. What he is, mainly, is genuine. He was blown off a tank in Vietnam, almost left for dead, and dragged off the battlefield by a Navajo named Ray Hoskie. He survived skull fractures, a neck fracture, ruptured ear drums, embedded shrapnel, and temporary amnesia. He has endured post-traumatic stress syndrome that never leaves. Despite overwhelming life experiences, he has persisted in the spiritual — even when others around him have grown greedy or indifferent. Through fasting, sweatlodges, sundances, the pipe, prayer and meditation, he has remained positive in the face of every adversity.
I like the three-word slogan coined by Mike Dooley very much. I listened to a YouTube version of one of his talks. He extends three fingers, one at a time, saying, “Thoughts become things.” A person must be willing to take personal responsibility for every thought, every word, every action. It has nothing to do with trying to be perfect, or with earning brownie points for admission into Heaven. Everything we think eventually appears as the reality through which we move. Thus, we can start small. By replacing each negative thought with a positive one, we can heal ourselves and live in a very different kind of world.