A Ladder to the Light: A Conversation with Steven Charleston and Sarah Quint


“Darkness will not last forever. Together we can climb toward the light.”

Editor’s note: When I received my copy of A Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage by Steven Charleston, I teared up. The book found me at the right time. His words were a balm and a benediction to my spirit. So when SheLoves Magazine had a chance to chat with him about this book, I knew I had to ask Sarah Quint, a friend who’s work and words have been a balm and a benediction in my life, to host the conversation.

In this book, Steven, who is a Choctaw elder and Episcopal priest, offers words of hard-won hope, rooted in daily conversations with the Spirit and steeped in Indigenous wisdom. He shares what he hears from Spirit every morning during prayer, and adds thoughtful reflection to help guide us to the light.

If you’re curious to learn more about this book, dive deeper into indigenous wisdom, or need some help to find you way towards the light, I think this conversation is for you.

May it lead you deeper into the Divine, just as it led me.

P.S. You will notice minor audio issues in this recording. We’ve provided a transcript of this conversation below.

Email subscribers, please click through to the website to watch the video or visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Il8256BHizk.

About Steven:

steven charlestonSteven Charleston is a leading voice of justice for indigenous peoples, the environment, and spiritual renewal in North America. A member of the Choctaw Nation, Charleston has appeared on ABC World News TonightBBC World NewsThe News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and other outlets. The author of more than a dozen books on theology and spirituality, Charleston has served as the Episcopal bishop of Alaska, president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, and professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary. Steven serves as the theologian in residence at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University. Charleston lives with his wife, Susan, in Oklahoma, and writes daily meditations on social media, which reach thousands.

About Sarah:

Sarah Quint stands outdoors looking off screen. She is wearing a colorful scarf a gray jacket and colorful earringsSarah Quint is a citizen of the Mattaponi Nation of Tsenacommacah, Turtle Island (Eastern Virginia, USA). With the help of her Elders and the Holy Spirit, Sarah has been walking the decolonizing, contextualizing and reconnecting Way of Jesus. Sarah leads in this integrating journey through writing songs in her Tribe’s traditional tongue, connections to the land, writing, teachings and oral storytelling. She is currently co-pastoring with her husband and has a church plant set to launch in 2021.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity:

Sarah: Hello everybody and winganakoa! My name is Sarah Quint and I come to you as a guest on the land of the Pottawatomie in southern Michigan. I’m a citizen of Mattaponi tribe. And if you would do me the honor, I would love to introduce you to myself in my native tongue. Neteriwins “Sarah Quint.” Mattaponi Runapeiwak a nir nena wah. Tsenacommocah A nir nena wah. (*Powhatan is not yet a written language. This is a phonetic transcription provided by Sarah Quint). So what I said there’s “Hello, greetings to you all. My name is Sarah Quint, and I am from the MattaponiI tribe in Tsenacommacah, which is present-day Eastern Virginia. And I have been so looking forward to this conversation. Thank you to SheLoves Magazine for allowing me to host this with Steven Charleston, author and citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the retired Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, and the author of Ladder to the Light, as well as other books on spirituality from Native American perspective. Halito, Steven! 

Steven: Halito, halito! Chim achukma? It’s very good.

Sarah: I did enough research.

Steven: Yeah, you caught me off guard on that. That’s great.

Sarah: Welcome, I’ve been looking forward to our conversation on your book.

Steven: Well, me too. Thank you for letting me be with you. I’ve been looking forward to this, too. And, and I really, really enjoyed hearing your language. It’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing that.

Sarah: Yes, yes. And I thought we would share some of yours too. It’s beautiful to hear these native tongues, across our continent, that often people don’t get to hear it all. It’s so beautiful to hear them.

Steven: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. Suh hohchifo Steven, (which translates to) my name is Steven.

Sarah: Yes. Just so everybody knows, I respect Stephen as my elder. But he has given us permission to address him as Steven throughout this interview. Steven, is there anything you’d like to say outside of that formal introduction? Tell us where you’re living and about your family, maybe?

Steven: Sure. Here’s kind of a sketch maybe, of where we’re where I am at this point in my life. I’m living in Oklahoma. Although I’ve lived all around the country. My return to Oklahoma, which is where my people, the Choctaw people are, at least the Oklahoma community (we have a community in Mississippi and we have a community in Louisiana). But I’m from the Oklahoma, Choctaw people. Chocataw Okla, we say, Okla, the people all the all of the people. And we arrived in Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears back in the 1830s, which many other Eastern nations did as native community nations as they were driven West. So I have a history of that and my family came over on the Trail of te\ars. And that sort of memory always stirred in me deep spiritual questions about life. And I think it sort of led me into writing and thinking and talking with people about spirituality, it’s important to me, because of that history. I guess that’s about it. My son is actually a teacher in the Choctaw Nation of our traditional language. He’s a native language speaker and teacher. And my, my wife, Susan, is an artist, and she did the covers of many of my books.

Sarah: I love that. Well, thank you for that. A little less formal introduction and peek into your life. So today, I wanted to talk with you about your latest book. I’m lucky to have many of your books on my shelf. But your latest book, Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope, and Courage. Speaking of cover art, I don’t know if your wife did this one, but it is beautiful.

Steven: No, she didn’t actually. But it is. It is a lovely cover isn’t it?

Sarah: It captured my eyes before I even got into the book, I think it matches the insights of the book quite well. So you launched this book in the middle of a pandemic, so I’m thankful to be discussing this today because I don’t want it to get lost in the middle of all the pandemic and the stuff that was going on because it’s I think it’s timely, I think it’s a really beautiful book. But you talk about in this book, you share personally how your great grandfather expressed to you and your family that you would be a spiritual guide, helping others to find their way. And you’ve done that. And we shared a little bit of that in the introduction — being a retired bishop over Alaska, you’ve also been a professor and president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School. So it’s very evident how you’ve used some of the gifts in your life. And then suddenly, Facebook came about. And your path took an interesting turn. Would you share with me how this book came about, and particularly how Facebook was involved?

Steven: I would say it started when I first heard about Facebook. I didn’t want to be on Facebook. I often tell people, I don’t have any pictures of cats that I can share. Or at that time, I didn’t have a lot of grandchildren, you know, and I didn’t have recipes. I didn’t go in any interesting vacation. So I thought I don’t belong on Facebook, I have nothing to say. But some friends kept encouraging, telling me, it’s social media. It’s sad, especially if you’re getting older. And it’s a way to stay in touch. To make a long story short, I got on Facebook. I signed up for it. And then I did not know what to write. I joke about it but I that first blank screen on Facebook to say something I didn’t know what to say. And so I decided that since I didn’t have a lot of the other things people share on social media, that the one thing I could share is whatever came into my mind after I said my morning prayer. My own my morning devotional time, little prayer time to start the day and I would write whatever I was thinking. And I started doing that as my way of contributing or being part of the Facebook experience. And at the beginning, there were four people who read, who were my friends on Facebook. Well, through all of these years, in a nutshell, what’s happened is this. I think that those little meditations, those little thoughts, I would write, which I’ve been doing now, oh, I don’t know, maybe 10 years or something. I just keeps going every day. And I write them every day, but Saturday and I put them on Facebook. Well, I never expected or intended for that to be much more than just a handful of people. But I think there is something in those little words that touched people or helped people. And particularly because the nature of what I did was inclusive. It’s a community for people of all traditions. I started off that way. And I’ve always been that way in my Facebook presence, that it would be for everyone, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, it doesn’t matter. So the community began to grow around these little meditations. And as things got more and more and more difficult, and especially with the pandemic, and the social upheaval in our country. Those little messages every day began to attract a community of people who felt like well that will get me through today. You know, something It’ll help me. And it did. It’s it helped people a lot. So I collected them. In this book, these meditations that I believe, or little messages, the Spirit helps me come up with. I’ve often said, I write these but I don’t think I’m the author. There’s a difference, if you know what I mean. So I tried to collect these because they were I thought messages that would help people during a particularly tough time.

Sarah: Yes, I’ve been the recipient of some of those messages of hope, encouraged myself. So I, if you started off at four, I looked I peek today to see where you were, and I’m here closer to 30,000 followers now.  Yeah, it’s amazing. So thank you for not having enough cat pictures.

Steven: I still don’t have a cat!

Sarah: There’s a niche in the world, for those who have cat pictures. But, you serve your own niche. And I appreciate it.

Steven: Thank you.

Sarah: That’s so funny. And you know, it’s interesting. I meet a lot of natives in this area and the urban center around Detroit. And so many of us are not big fans of social media because we tend to want to do work and community and social media can feel not doesn’t feel as strong as our community when we’re around each other. So I know that is a unique thing. And so this book, these reflections, for those of you who are tuning in, maybe you don’t own this book yet, and I highly recommend it. Those Facebook reflections, but let’s take it away from Facebook, let’s put it back into just his spiritual morning reflections are throughout this book on the pages and italics throughout the chapters. And there’s these little moments where, yeah, it does feel very universal. And I think that’s such a powerful thing, when you say that these are really messaged for all and very inclusive. And you can see that and even a cat picture can cause division on Facebook. But it seems that the message that the Spirit speaks through these is very healing and helpful to just about all who read and listen.

Steven: I think that’s sort of part of the, the mystery of all of this is how something which otherwise could be sort of trivialized like Facebook, you know, it’s not where you’d expect to receive the wisdom of the Dalai Lama or something on Facebook, but it’ there. Spirituality is in the marketplace, it’s in the midst of the community, in the 21st century. And if you want to go out into the marketplace, or into the community, where everybody of all shapes, sizes, and colors are moving, it’s in social media. And so I think this spiritual viewpoint, just looking at life from a spiritual way, and just sort of trusting your intuition spiritually, like I do each day when I write these. It’s not a lot of mumbo jumbo or magic, it’s just a human heart opening up. Just saying, from your own experience, who you are as a human being. This is how I feel, and this is what I want to share. And I think the simplicity of that, and the honesty, is what really is the glue that binds the Facebook community together. And it touches me and helps me as much as I hope it does other people who come. This book, I think, will reach people with that same spiritual, good news in their lives, hope and healing and mercy. Whatever their faith tradition may be, and and that this book was sort of taken out to a new community, a different community, than many people who may or may not be on Facebook.

Sarah: Correct. And if that is your hope, and intention, then I’m seeing it fulfilled, it’s doing just that. The title of the book — Ladder to the Light — speaks of a ladder, and then you frame the book around the Kiva. And that is more traditional, that’s the native Native American tradition, but you explicitly say throughout the book, but this book is for all through all traditions. But before we get too far, could you explain to the listeners, what’s the principle of the Kiva? What’s the signal against the the ladder and the metaphorical framework that you use throughout the book?

Stephen: Yes, it is important that the Kiva is an underground worship space. That’s an easy way to say it. I don’t know if it’s totally unique to the southwestern peoples. But it’s particularly evident in the southwestern part of the United States, among communities, indigenous communities, like the Hopi, and, and some of the Pueblo peoples. It’s either circular or it can be rectangular. And it’s a space, like, under the ground, there’s wooden beams over the top, and so it’s enclosed. And the only point of entry or or exit is by a ladder, which leads down into the Kiva. So the Kiva itself is a very, sort of wonderfully dark and enclosed space. It’s got a feeling of like a womb, the womb of the world in a way. It’s a wonderful kind of darkness. It’s not at all intimidating or negative. It’s generative — that’s a fancy word for it — it’s full of life. That ladder, you see that ladder, rising up a wooden ladder to be climbed, rung by rung to return to the upper world. It’s all part of the tradition of the indigenous faith of these folks. Humanity emerged from within the earth, we emerged as a people onto the onto the beauty of the earth that we see today. So the Kiva, while I respect it as such a powerful spiritual image or message for people, I’m not in any way trying to speak for those who use the Kiva — the Hopi people or anyone else. For all of the all of the people of those nations, that Kiva is unique to their way of worship and should be respected. What I’m doing is taking just that image of being in that Kiva and that ladder going into the sunlight, and using that image as a metaphor for a spiritual ascent. And the whole thing of light and dark, ascending or descending, are universal, again, kind of universal images. So it’s respectfully using an image that and acknowledging it from the native tradition, and then lifting it up and letting people have different traditions see what it’s saying to them as, hopefully, something positive. And so that’s how it all blends together. That’s how it works together. Because the Kiva image is a wonderfully powerful image for people of all traditions and fates.

Sarah: It’s really helpful to see that images as like, when we think of, and you compare and contrast the darkness that might surround us now The struggles and the conflicts and the even the lack of health or the death dealing or the oppression, the things that are all around us. You contrast that to the darkness of the Kiva, which is, like you said, a womb-like space of regeneration, and rebirth, and how that’s an opportunity for us collectively to come out of it. So you use that the image, furthermore, of the ladder. Each rung becomes a chapter of your book. And as we ascend this ladder, we grow in our spiritual intuition and connection, but not just with the spirit, both with one another, and even ourselves. So your goal as you get to the top — What is the light to you what is at the top of this ladder?

Steven: The image is of the rungs of this ladder. It’s a homemade ladder with wooden slats. It’s sort of this organic image rising out of the Kiva. And each rung, like you were saying, is a different aspect of our spiritual journey. And it’s one that we take and retake over and over again. So my book continues to speak to these, these different levels or different places where we find ourselves. And it’s not that one is necessarily higher or more important than another. But each rung has its own nature as part of the of the spiritual journey of any human being. We find ourselves on a rung of hope. There moments in life when we’re very hopeful. We find ourselves on a rung of action when we have to confront the reality around us and not be passive. So each rung has its own integrity. But the very top is what I call the rung of transformation, because I think ultimately, spiritual life transforms us individually, it transforms our communities and our families, it can transform our nations. And it can, as we’ve all seen, can transform the world. Powerful spiritual teachings, people of faith, humble people who just want to lead a good life and a decent life, and who want to live in peace with one another. Those are incredibly important issues that are part of every one of those rungs of the spiritual journey.

Sarah: That’s so that’s so beautiful. And I love as I was reading through this, I could sense that these rungs, like you said, are not like in succession, like you have to do this and master it to then go to the next level. I think thinking circularly would be more helpful at that point, just always returning and going deeper in our understanding of all each of those rungs. But because it’s so collective, like you said, it’s transformative to not just ourselves, but our connections to place, our connections to people, to Creator. This book doesn’t very squarely fall into like a self help book. Because it’s so much more than just self, although it’s very healing to those who are reading and listening. Your focus is so much more on the collective, on the whole. And I greatly appreciate that.

Steven: Thank you.

Sarah: You’re welcome. I love how the Ladder to the Light is different than like the stairway to heaven, that imagination, because it puts our spiritual orientation back to the earth, and to this location and to our purposes here. So we’re climbing up to arrive to where creator has made us to function and to be. And I was wondering, how does this orientation of instead of “I’m trying to get out of this place. I just want to get to heaven. Get me through this place,” but instead to fully arrive here. How does that change in orientation? What does that do with our theology and our practice as people of faith?

Steven: Well, I think, for example, the Kiva image again, where I think the genius of the spiritual genius, theological genius, Native people, is clearly manifest in the example of the Kiva. Because no, it’s not a stairway to heaven where you follow these rules, or you do what the hierarchy tells you, or you just believe this and nothing else. It’s that kind of vertical, patriarchal, going up, you know, to be in the top, and a vertical power paradigm. The wonderful thing about the Kiva is it says, you go in exactly the opposite direction. No, you don’t go up to greater and greater power and glory. You go down, you look down to Mother Earth, you look down to the soil around you, you look down to the network of life that unfolds you, you look down to respect how you are a creature of God and made for a purpose and for a reason — not an accident of some lab experiment gone wrong, no, an intentionally-formed human being a soul and a spirit designed to do something important. And it’s for all of us, it is something that involves all of us. And that touches all of us. So there’s no hierarchy; it is community, it is the circle of life that is so typical of our country, you know, as well as I that among our people, that image of the circle of life, the hoop of the nation, very important. And again, not a hierarchical symbol. So I think the beauty of the Ladder to the Light and the image of the Kiva and the ladder is that it represents a going back into the earth as well as an arising out of spiritual life. Because the flip side of the coin is important too. And that is, yes, you go into the Kiva and it’s nurturing and warm and wonderful. And you’d like to stay there because you’d like to turn it into a bomb shelter. Why be in a survivalist place and don’t go up because out there is dangerous and difficult? The idea of the ladder, if you have spiritual integrity, you go back up. Where do you come? You come out in reality, you come out into the everyday world where the sun shines and where it rains and where it’s cold and hot, and where people live and die. In the real world. That’s where your spirituality belongs. That’s where it takes root and where it has its place. Otherwise, it’s an escapist into either the paradigm of a patriarchy where you’re more important than anybody else and where that leads us, which is nowhere, or to go down into the earth to find your sources, but you live it out in the everyday world. And that’s why my little book is an attempt to talk about a spirituality that works in the here and now. Not one that is just made up. But one that really comes from the human experience.

Sarah: That’s so powerful. And you don’t dance around those hard truths throughout the book. I mean, you speak about the heaviness and the things that your people have collectively gone through, you discuss the Trail of Tears. I mean, you you live in that reality of the the heart, like because of the rains that come and the darkness that’s there. But instead of forming an escape route, like you said, either down or up, but not here, your idea to combat the darkness is really just to turn on the light, and to find that light, and to see that the Spirit is there to even in the darkness, the Spirit is there. And I think that’s so powerful because it allows us to be human, which is all we can be. And when we play God or when we play less than human is when we get into our troubles.

Steven: It’s true, isn’t it? And I think the one of the words that will jump out, I think for readers of the book is the family of humanity and human beings and being human and living in a human community. These things are are true for all of us. And I don’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers who’s watching this this interview. But I will say that in a very simple way I have a faith that tells me that if there is a divine being who cares for all of us, it’s really full stop for all of us. It’s not “cares for a few of us, but not the others” because they chose wrong, or because they believed wrong or because they were the wrong kind of people. Or because they were political adversary so they obviously they they don’t count. Everyone counts. Everyone matters. Everyone is loved. I think that’s the message that’s in this book.

Sarah: Absolutely. That’s so beautiful. Thank you for that encouragement. If you don’t mind, since we’re talking about this Spirit that universally speaks to all, creates all, loves all, I would love to read a passage out of out of your book, on page 95. Specific speaking of the sound of the Spirit. This is from one of your Facebook reflections, called “The Sound of the Spirit.”

What voice do you hear calling you to the holy? Is it the chant of somber voices in the meditation hall, a call to prayer song out over the city, or a cantor’s invitation to enter the tent of meeting? What speaks to you? How does it know your language of heart? We each have a spiritual sound, a code imprinted on our soul to which we respond. Before we learn the lessons of our faith. Before we were taught to recite and repeat, we only had a sound — a beautiful, haunting sound. We heard it, we came to it, and we stayed. The sound of the Spirit is the voice of hope. It speaks in a thousand ways calling each one of us individually. The mystery is that we hear it as if it knew us by name.

Such a beautiful reflection from the Spirit. You speak of the Spirit throughout this book. And I’d like to go back in your life and just from reflection. before we before we memorize things, before we knew the rules, before we you know had our you know doctrines and those things, Spirit was there. I would love to hear how she showed up in your life. When was your first experiences with the Spirit.

Steven: I’d said that when I was small, that my grandfather would use the word imishilombish, which is Choctaw language and it means spirit guide. And the point is, you know, you may grow up and be someone who helps others search for it. It’s not saying you’re going to be ordained or you’ll become a monk or priest or something. It’s saying regard for people. And so you’re trying to show everyone a path. And that spiritual understanding started with me then at a very early age, like around age four, where I really did see the world through the lenses, that there is a Spirit out there that is loving and kind and generous to everyone. And it’s not dividing us up into different types of people. And my role was not doing it and telling other people what to believe because that’s not my job, or to judge other people for not believing what I believe because that’s not my job. My job is to help anyone I meet, fulfill their own best journey in trying to lead a life that is a holy and good life. And hope they’ll help me do it at the same time, and be as open to being changed by them as they are changed by me. And when you live that way, really live that way, look at what a healing that would have in this country. Look at how divided people are by something as ephemeral as a political opinion that can change on on places like Facebook or other social media, in the blink of an eye What’s lasting and what’s eternal, what’s truly spiritual, and gives us all dignity and hope is something much different and much deeper. And that’s what any guide of the spirit is  trying to help. And that’s why I refer to the Divine, that holy sort of person in my life, as the Spirit because it’s a generic word that many of us could understand in the broadest way as to who the higher power in our lives may be.

Sarah: Well, I’m grateful for that mark on your life as a spiritual guide, that would probably that would be such a good way to sum up what this book is — it’s just you walking the readers along as they travel with the Spirit. So thank you for sharing that. It’s very obvious that you have an intimacy with the Spirit. How would you respond to those who are reading this, maybe they’re just hearing our conversation today, and they’re desiring to cultivate a stronger connection to the spirit that you say is accessible to all. What would your response to them be?

Steven: If wonderful idea, that’s exactly the right impulse. Now you have to take take it to heart. And that means you do not find your spiritual path, and this is only coming from my own subjective opinion and I don’t know any more about this than you do, but I can say that one thing you might want to think about is if it doesn’t work for you inside where you are, as who you are, you will not find it outside of you by going to other sources, to tell you what is the right way to be spiritually. Trust your instincts, your heart will tell you if you were in a religious service, that doesn’t sound right or doesn’t seem to work right for you. Or if someone’s telling you an idea about a book, or whether it’s the Bible or any other the Upanishads in Hinduism, judge from your own inner self. And to do that, open yourself up to something bigger than who you are. Open yourself up by by a life of being very honest and very truthful with yourself and then find the community that support you in doing right thing. And it’s not a solo journey. It has to be right for you inside. But you got to share it with other people for it to make a difference.

Sarah: Right. It sounds sounds to me, it recalls the first chapter where you speak of the rung of faith, what you just described, we all have to begin to trust. There is this power around us there is this spirit around us, and to move into that. But one of my favorite chapters of yours is the chapter on hope. I believe it was chapter three, maybe. And you talk about how some people have their faith and their they get their connection to the spirit. But then they keep it to themselves. And then they stop there and they don’t share it with the rest of the world. And hope that round three is where you start to imagine a better future. Imagine a collective of people that can live in harmony together. And it’s where you take your faith and to start taking your faith into action and into the community. So I love that you say that this is not a solo endeavor. We are meant for one another. So that’s really beautiful. Something that, you know what my biggest takeaway from this book, the first time I read it through, you stopped me in my tracks. I was only 11 pages and I stopped because you said something I had never heard another human being say before. And you talked about peace on page 11, you reflect and say,

I am a person at peace. At peace within myself, at peace with the world around me.

And granted, I was reading this in the middle of, you know, the pandemic and the political, but everybody is. But there’s always there’s always darkness, there’s always turmoil mixed with the light that’s in our world. But I had never heard someone just so confidently say, “I’m a person at peace. I have peace with everything around me.” And I was curious, what is the reason for your peace?

Steven: I am at peace. And I don’t know why. I don’t. I didn’t get here on my own. So I can’t tell you. Well, this is how I did it. I don’t know exactly how I became peaceful. I don’t know certainly why I’m peaceful. Because the world around me is not peaceful in my life like yours, turns on a dime. Today is a great day. Tomorrow, the phone rings, you pick it up, hello, and your world changes. You know what I’m talking about. In the midst of all of that, I found myself quite surprisingly at peace. I don’t know when it happened. When did it change? When did that transformation of the last run occur? Was it the 1,000,000th prayer? Or did it happen because this turned out the way I wanted to work? No, was it because I went to this service or that service? Or this person’s book or listen to that preacher? No. Is it because I found the mystery of the secret nobody else knows but me? No. I don’t know anything about it, I can’t sell it to you, I can’t do anything, I can’t even give it to you. I can’t. I don’t have the power. But I can tell you one thing. And that is tell you, truthfully, I’m at peace. And I hope you will be too. And I believe that if we’re kind to each other and honest, it can help you suddenly wake up one morning and realize it’s true for you, too. And you can then share it by your witness to other people. And we can start healing.

Sarah: Thank you, Steven. I am that kind of leads me into some of my last reflections on your book. When you talk about in chapter five, the rung of action, doing something together and you talk about how we often think that our ability to work together and to be unified has to mean that we all have to think the same believe the same, assimilate. And the similar way for us to actually have unity, we have to have conformity, basically to have unity. And you push against that and say, like peace, we all have these universal things, desires and hopes, and peace being one of them. And we can work around our collective humanity, the tribe of humanity, we can work around that and you speak specifically, you get a little bit practical. And you talk about disorganized social gatherings. And I loved that that phrase, but disorganized social gatherings around shared hopes. Having a meal. The beauty of having a meal together with people who are different than you, think different than you, look different than you, pray differently than you, and find that shared camaraderie. And you say some of the things that you should share around the table besides food. And you talk about three questions that we can ask that kind of poke at some of the universalities that all of us have: Share photos of your children. Talk about the funniest thing that happened in your family or about your family. And then one of the things you say that we can speak to each other about is our hopes for the future. So I would love for you to tell me and the listeners today, what are your hopes for our future.

Steven: I have a wonderful hope for the future. It’s an amazing hope. Part of my piece and I don’t feel that I can explain exactly how this will work, but I know that there is a moment that is going to come when we crossover into a different way of thinking. Right now we believe that everything must be geared to our technology and that that technology is taking us ahead as fast as we can run. And it’s all that is ultimate importance. But there’s another part of us that’s expanding and growing. We’re beginning to know each other, as people as human beings. I know more now about people who live in India than I ever could have learned, even five years ago, 10 years ago, when I was born. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t understand what what the life is like for Muslim people, and what their what their book is about what the Quran is about, what Hinduism is about, what any other people’s life is like. We’re learning about one another and we’re beginning to discover a way to talk to each other and to share things that doesn’t depend on hierarchies. What you and I are doing right now is revolutionary. We are too small people talking about big ideas with each other. What if there were a million of us? What if there were 10?

Sarah: That’s beautiful.

Steven: Yes, it all starts here with all of us who are tiny little seeds, nobody special. But once we connect, we will grow.

Sarah: Yes my friend, we are better together. As more connections happen, I see that unfold more and more. That’s a very beautiful hope. The ladder is meant for humanity to climb together. Obviously we can find ourselves individually in this book. We all need to arrive to the top of the Kiva together if this is really supposed to work and to face the darkness collectively and shine our light through it. This book, like I said, doesn’t fit neatly into a self-help category because it does demand the collective, not just with our fellow humans but also with creation and the Spirit. But it is for the whole tribe of humanity. Are there any other reflections you would like to share before I close out? Anything you’d like to share about your book to our listeners?

Steven: Oh that’s OK. You’ve been kind to me to listen to me talk enough. I just am grateful for the chance to get to know you and I hope you tell others about it. This little book is another effort to bring some light and life. Thank you for letting me talk.

Sarah: It’s been beautiful. Like I’ve said, I’ve really, really been anticipating and looking forward to this. This is not a book you’re going to read once and put down. It’s something I think most of the readers will pick up over and over again. I’ve read some reflections on Amazon, and it seems very universal that everyone’s saying, “I just want to pick it up and read it bit by bit,” or “I will return to it.” It’s such a beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing your connection with the Spirit and sharing these reflections with the rest of the world. I’d love to end with page 105. You give a peace blessing, which is what I would call it. It’s called “All Things Come and Go.” I would love to read that out loud for views. Thank you for tuning in. I pray that you receive these words as a blessing of peace over your life.

Be at peace on this blessed day, whether it brings sunlight or storms, serenity or struggle. Be at peace in passing through it, doing what needs to be done, living as fully as you can, as authentically as you can, at peace in your soul. Know that all things come and go on the way to where you are called to be. They pass around you, they pass over and under you, but they do not define you or contain you. For your life is not an inventory of pains or pleasures, but a sonnet of the spirit, a mystery fashioned from and for eternity, a strength so powerful that it can afford to be vulnerable to love.

Blessings to you, my friend. Thank you for this conversation.