“James, earn this… earn it.” Dying words of Capt. John Miller to Private James Ryan in the film, Saving Private Ryan.
Officially, Memorial Day in the United States is a day for remembering and honoring all Americans who died in any war.
Unfortunately, Memorial Day weekend also marks the beginning of the summer holiday, with people focusing on shopping, family gatherings, picnics and sporting events. So we sometimes forget the real meaning of the Day.
I love to look for the sacred in every day life. And there may be no better example than the opportunity offered by mindfully drinking a simple cup of tea, as in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Whether gazing out the window, or going through the formality of a Japanese tea ceremony, there is tranquility and grace to be found there.
The Japanese are reputed to have the lowest rate of heart disease in the world. Diet is a big part of that, but also, 50% of Japanese drink three cups of green tea day!
Perhaps there’s something to learn from that and, in particular, how>/b> they drink tea.
How is the “Washington Redskins” team name still in use in this day and age?
Most of us have heard the term, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?”
Did you ever believe it was true?
Not likely, because we all know words have power and can hurt.
In fact, there is ample evidence that negative thoughts, feelings and words, can be harmful to the body.
It follows that everyone, be it an individual or a national sports team, should be more conscious of their use of words.
THE HISTORY OF THE TERM “REDSKINS”
The Washington team has tried to defend its name choice by saying that the term “Redskins” honors Native Americans. But that view doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
Winter Solstice is the day when light is reborn out of the darkness of winter. Our days start to become longer and lead us back to the beauty of spring and the warmth of summer, stretching towards their peak at the Summer Solstice.
Most ancient cultures celebrated this return of light and life with feasting, music, light and fire, and for many, it was the true beginning of the New Year.
It was so important to the pre-Celt ancients of Ireland that they spent over 30 years building a monument to the returning sun: Newgrange.
Older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza, it was designed so that on the Winter Solstice, the rising sun shines directly along the long passage into the inner chamber and for 17 minutes illuminates the chamber floor and the symbols etched on the back wall.
WHAT DID THE ANCIENTS KNOW THAT WE DON’T?
Your family plays, forms loving bonds and social hierarchies, raises children and works to sustain itself, just like every other family.
But on a regular basis, your family members are slaughtered, just for being alive in the world today.
I could be talking about any minority group, anywhere in the world. But today I’m talking about wolves.
Mysterious, mystical, misunderstood wolves.
This post contains a 4-minute video on how the presence of wolves has a cascading effect on ecosystems by changing the behavior of deer, regenerating forests and stabilizing rivers. It’s almost miraculous. Wolves restore ecosystems by their very existence.
I have published this prayer for the past two years during Thanksgiving week. It is timeless and appropriate at any time of year, but particularly now.
Thanksgiving prayers are common to most religious groups. Native Americans had entire ceremonies just for the purpose of expressing thanks – sometimes the ceremonies lasted for days.
This Thanksgiving Prayer comes from the Seneca Nation and is at least 500 years old.
It is traditionally done around a fire, with spiritual food on the altar. I have adapted it to be used as a Thanksgiving Prayer on our national holiday:
SENECA THANKSGIVING PRAYER
And now we are gathered together to remember the Great Mystery’s first instruction to us: to love one another always, we who move about on this earth.
And the Great Mystery said that when even just two people meet, they should first greet each other by saying: “Nyah Weh Skenno” which translates to “thank you for being” and then they may take up the matter with which they are concerned.
[Nyah Weh Skenno more literally means: “thank you for being alive in the here and now and not adding to the confusion of the world.”]
The Great Mystery gave us our lives and requires in return only that we be grateful and love one another. The purpose of this prayer is to pass on those instructions and give us the opportunity to express our gratitude.
So the first thing we will do is give thanks for our lives.Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago my friend Gary posted on Facebook that he was going to do 30 days of yoga and no sugar and asked who would join him.
I was the only taker! And neither Gary nor I had even watched the documentary “Fed Up” yet.
“Fed Up” proposes a 10-day no sugar challenge. If you go to the website www.fedupmovie.com you can sign up to join the challenge and get helpful reminder emails for 10 days.
You can watch the “Fed Up” trailer at the end of this post.
I am now on day 11 and feeling great. But I’m surprised no one else wanted to join us so I thought a blog post on why we should be avoiding sugar was in order.
Because sugar is slowly killing us as a nation.
Imagine a foreign-speaking stranger, calling himself Christopher Columbus, walked into your house one day, claimed it was now his and threw you out, or even enslaved or killed you and your family.
Would you celebrate him with a national holiday?
Neither would I.
Yet the United States and other countries in the West continue to celebrateChristopher Columbus as having discovered the “New World” even though there was a perfectly marvelous civilization already living here.
[Columbus Day in 2014 is Monday, October 13 – a Federal holiday.]
My Lakota dad Wallace Black Elk called Columbus “the first illegal alien.”
Native Americans had been living fulfilling lives on this continent for thousands of years before Columbus’ arrival. Or, as author Kurt Vonnegut put it, “1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat and kill them.”
Do you know where you come from?
I’m not talking geography here, I’m talking about our ancestors – those who walked before us and paved the way for our life today.
Learning about your ancestors can give your life a whole new meaning.
KNOW YOUR ANCESTORS, KNOW YOURSELF
In 1992, I accompanied a Native American elder to Australia for a conference including Maori and Aborigine elders.
Maoris are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, but the group traveling with us was living in Australia at the time.
Known for their warrior culture, Maoris are also known for their traditional haka war dance. If you’ve ever watched New Zealand’s rugby team, the All-Blacks, you’ve likely seen them perform the haka before the game. It’s meant to intimidate their opponents and raise their own energy and is quite a sight to behold and feel.
But Maoris are also very friendly and fun loving and loved to sit around camp singing and inviting people over for coffee and laughter.
Because they were living in Australia at the time, the Maori family invited our group to come and stay at their home in Adelaide for a few days in between teaching events. It was here that I got the most powerful life lesson of that trip.
In my years of “walking the red road” as well as well as living in the non-Indian world, I’ve come across a few misconceptions about Native American spirituality that I’d like to lay to rest.
Here are the most common misconceptions I’ve heard:
1. Native Americans idolize things such as bison [buffalo] skulls and nature.
2. Native Americans don’t believe in God.
3. Native Americans believe in ghosts.
None of the above is true. Here’s what is true as to what Native Americans believe in:
“We” versus “I” – which you say the most may determine your success in life.
As a Keith Urban fan, I make a point of listening to interviews with him. Something caught my attention earlier this year when he was being interviewed about his duet with Miranda Lambert on their hit song, “When We Were Us.”
Urban said “Miranda used to open for us…”
Note that this megastar musician who is backed up by his own band said “us” not “me.” He considers his band as important in the equation of success as he is.
And it also shows a high consciousness.
“Us” and “we” consciousness is what makes the world go around in a good way.
“I” and “me” – not so much.
NO SUCCESSFUL PERSON SAYS “I”
Ernesto Sirolli in his September 2012 TED talk has this to say on the subject:
I love Facebook, and not for the usual reasons.
I joined kicking and screaming about five years ago after my Australian friend Barbara convinced me it was a great way to stay in touch with friends around the world.
She was right, but I’ve found it’s also so much more.
Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room in 2003 and has since changed the way we live our lives.
Is it misused? Of course. But the good it is doing can’t be minimized – it’s connecting the world, or at least the half a billion people worldwide who use it.
Facebook is an excellent example of the old saying: “you get out of it what you put into it.”
Salt has a bad reputation, through no fault of its own. It’s come about because most people use commercial table salt, an unhealthy concoction which we shouldn’t be ingesting in the first place.
Not all salt is created equal. Natural salt from the earth is what we should be using, and the results can contribute greatly to good health. Commercial table salt does just the opposite.
To the ancients, salt was as valuable as gold.
When you understand its benefits, you may just forget the commercial table salt and “go natural” once again.
If you’re like me, I learned in grade school that the U.S. Constitution was based on ancient Greek democracy. Which was a creative stretch of the truth, since ancient Greece was not a democracy.
My research as to what children are taught today about the origin of our government is also disappointing, although there are some states that have updated the teachings to include Native American influence.
Apparently the Founding Fathers simply created it out of thin air, or were influenced by European governments even though there was no democracy anywhere in Europe at that time.
“Bear Heart has a wisdom in his words that I use daily to further my spiritual growth. My copy of The Wind Is My Mother lives right there on my nightstand and gets referred to on a regular basis. I have bought about three dozen copies of this book to share with friends and family trying to get their spiritual lives in balance.”
The above is a review on Amazon.com from a reader of The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman, which I had the privilege of co-authoring with my spiritual teacher, Bear Heart.
There are dozens more reviews like it, such as “Any time that I’m feeling depressed, I reread this book,” and “This book changed my life forever.”
Did you know the world’s largest garbage patch is in the ocean?
And that it consists of what was once hailed as a great future?
In the 1967 film, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, the new college graduate is cornered by a friend of the family with advice for his future:
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
[Note: the bolded line is ranked #42 in the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema.]
Little did we know that the great future of plastics could turn out to be The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – and a persistent tragedy on our planet.
In 1988, reporter Mike Watkiss interviewed Muskogee Creek elder Marcellus “Bear Heart” Williams for the television show A Current Affair.
This first segment is Bear Heart’s answer to the questions: What is it that you do? How do you help people?
Do you keep your word? Or are you an “Indian Giver?” Do you even know what that means?
When I was a child, the term “Indian giver” was thrown around as a derogatory term when someone gave something and then wanted it back.
At the time, I thought it meant that Native Americans used to do that: give gifts then take them back.
But I was wrong.
Bear Heart used to joke that, “It’s hard to have humility because you can’t brag about it – if you’re really humble.”
That’s true. But of course, the truly humble person wouldn’t even want to brag.
What’s the opposite of humility?
I have occasionally met people who loved to talk about their accomplishments to the point that a conversation with them is a conversation about them.
A simple, “How are you?” can lead to a 5 minute monologue on their recent achievements.
I can only assume that stems from a deep-seated lack of self-worth; why else would a person feel a need to work so hard to validate themselves in your eyes?
It shows that they don’t understand the simple tenet that people will judge you by your actions, not what you say about your actions.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader in the Civil Rights Movement who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
This past Monday in the U.S. commemorated his life and Facebook was full of quotes from him.
Frankly, I hadn’t heard many of them before, and they are very inspiring.
If you subscribe to my blog, and received my thank-you gift of “What Lies Within You; Inspirational Quotes to Lift Your Spirits”, you know I am passionate about inspiring quotes.
Often just a few well-phrased words can be deep with meaning and advice.
We can never get too much inspiration, so I felt a post filled with his words would both honor Dr. King and be the best inspiration I could give my readers this week:
I heartedly encourage you to take some of these words into your heart as guidance to live by.