By Anita Sanchez, Ph.D.

My Mexican and Aztecan abuelita (Grandmother) would raise her hand multiple times while cooking, giving thanks to the spirit, to the earth, to the water, and to this food that provides nourishment for all of us. Every chance she got, she would take us outside into her garden.

“Mira, hija (look, daughter),” she would say, “the flowers are turning all day long toward the sun. They are mirasoles (sunflowers). No matter if we are in health or sickness, no matter what is happening outside of ourselves, we must remember to look at the sun. It is a new day. Remember this, hija, for in remembering, you, your brothers and sisters, and our family will enjoy life.” As I listened to my Grandmother, I learned even more deeply just how important this lesson is for orienting away from the darkness of pain and toward the light in this journey of life.
My earliest dream as a little girl of four years old was to connect people’s hearts to each other all around the world. This dream carried me through childhood and adulthood. I became the first in my family to get a doctoral degree and my passion grew to inspire tens of thousands of people to discover and trust their gifts so that they become a life-giving connection to each other and our earth. I am now living my dream, consulting and training leaders and their teams in global corporations and non-profit organizations.

My grandmother’s words to turn toward the sun — the light — were essential in my evolution to achieve all that I have. I had an inner darkness to overcome, a secret of the nine years of childhood abuse I had endured at the hands of my father, complicated further when he was murdered in an incident of racial hatred, leaving my mother to raise six children in economic poverty. It was my mother’s and grandmother’s love that continually reminded me to turn towards the light. Their love made it possible for me to pursue my dreams.

The path to happiness and fulfillment is not a straight shot. There are many curves along the way, and doubt sometimes caused me to question my purpose in life. After 19 years of training leaders in diversity, inclusion, and cross-cultural competence, I still did not see a significant number of women or people of color rising to levels of leadership in these organizations. Even though there were white male champions along the way, the structures and belief systems reinforced by racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia made sustainable change seem impossible.

Division and separation between people was growing within families as well as in the political, economic, and social arenas. I knew I needed more than information to deal with this perpetuated illusion of separateness; I was in need of wisdom. So I turned to indigenous Elders from around the world to provide guidance on how to live as a whole human being, understanding my connection to myself, other people, earth, and spirit.

In 1995 — while volunteering my leadership training to youth with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society — indigenous Elders from around the world whose people had been faced with genocide provided the wisdom of how to live in harmony. They called this wisdom the “four sacred gifts.” The first gift is the power to forgive the unforgivable; the second gift is the power to heal; the third gift is the power of unity; and the fourth gift is the power of hope in action.

For 22 years, I’ve used these gifts to support my life and provide guidance to leaders around the world with great success. Then, I felt the call from my Grandmother, indigenous Elders, and from the spirit within me to write a book and share the four sacred gifts with all humankind so we can live in right relationship, joy, and peace with one another. That’s how my book — “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times” — was born. Welcome to this community of human beings who accept these four gifts from the 43 indigenous Elders from around the world. Together, we will use these gifts to create harmony and connection with all beings.

Anita Sanchez, Ph.D., Aztec and Mexican-American, is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the new book, “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times” (Simon & Schuster). She bridges indigenous teachings with the latest science to inspire and equip women and men to enjoy meaningful, empowered lives and careers. For more information, visit www.FourSacredGifts.com.

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