The Good Mind

by Liseli Haines
Mohawk Valley Meeting


In preparation for going on the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign in 2013, I picked up a book by Vine Deloria Jr called God Is Red. Of the many interesting things in the book, there was one that I must have been ready to hear, because it jumped out at me, made me put the book down and say “Oh”. Vine Deloria Jr. was talking about the Good Mind, a concept we also heard about from Onondaga Clan Mother Freida Jacques at Summer Sessions some years ago. As Vine Deloria Jr. said, we all know that doing good works in our community can make a better and stronger community; but the Good Mind goes beyond that. It is the concept that you must not only be of service but must think only good thoughts as well, because every one of your thoughts, both good and bad, also affects your community. I immediately thought of a woman that I know who I found irritating. Someone I could be civil to, but who inside annoyed me almost every time she opened her mouth. I realized that these thoughts were surely affecting the way that I spoke to her and regarded her in the community, and that my actions could never compensate for those thoughts. I knew that this was not good for me, not good for her, and not good for the community. In that moment, I knew that I could love this woman for who she was. I no longer needed to judge her or even be irritated by her but could accept and even welcome her into my life.


It has not always been this instantaneous, nor am I always able to hold myself to the ways of the Good Mind. One thing that helps me tremendously is a way I have started to think of people who I find challenging to love. For 26 years I worked as a maternity nurse in the newborn nursery and special care nursery. I held thousands of newborn babies in that time. I looked into their eyes and I fell in love. And I know, without a doubt, that each and every one of those children was born perfect, a perfect child with all the potential in the world. Then life happened. It happened differently to each one of them, but it happened; the good, the bad, the ugly. Many, perhaps all, lost some of their potential to be a perfect human being. But when I meet a person that challenges me, I imagine that person as a perfect newborn baby in their mother’s arms, or in my arms. The baby whose eyes I look into and with whom I fall in love. The baby with all the potential in the world. And I know that these people who challenge me, still have that perfect newborn inside and I can still fall in love.


I think of this as the Good Mind: being able to fall in love with each person who I encounter. Oh, no, I am not perfect at it. I still have my challenges; times when I forget they have a perfect person inside, when I forget to look for the newborn eyes. But I will keep trying.