Native American youth were taught the power of observation from an early age. Good observation can have many benefits in our life, as demonstrated in this lesson from Muskogee Creek Elder Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother.
“As part of my training, one of my teachers had me spend an entire day doing nothing but observing from early morning to evening. I had to sit in a field all day long without moving my body — he told me to just move my eyes very slowly from side to side.
“What was I observing? What direction is the wind coming from? Does that cloud seem to contain any large amounts of moisture? Is it dark on the underside and light on top? If so, perhaps it’s going to rain.
“If you see birds flying, are they circling or going in a straight line? Are they water birds flying to where there might be some water? If you’re looking for water, perhaps you should head in that direction.
“There didn’t have to be any particular significance to all the things I observed — the point was not to let anything escape my awareness, to master the difference between looking and seeing.
Did you ever wonder where the saying, “elephants never forget” comes from?
A 2000 PBS documentary presents a striking example of elephant friendship.
The documentary “The Urban Elephant” brought viewers the touching story of Shirley and Jenny, two crippled elephants reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after a 22-year separation.
Shirley, a former circus elephant, had lived for two decades in a zoo without the company of another elephant, and with a chain around her leg.
Her reunion at the sanctuary with her old friend Jenny is an astounding example of the way our four-legged friends can experience friendship, love and compassion as profound as that of humans.
Quite some time ago, when I subscribed to Horse illustrated, I read a letter to the editor that brought home the lesson of how much children have to teach us about competition.
It never fails to bring a tear to my eye; I hope you enjoy it, too.
Here it is, in its entirety, as written by Rhonda Goddard of Louisville, CO:
“Competition is essential. We learn from it, our characters are shaped by it, and we crave the rivalry. This competitive spirit is quite evident in the horse show world; few participants are unaffected by its influence.
“I am one of many who experience the thrills, woes and obsessions that accompany showing. Like my competitors, I coordinate my season zealously, selecting the right judges, attending the correct shows, and accumulating the most points in order to achieve my self-imposed goals – high point awards, year end placings, regional and national show qualifications.
“I am driven to attain these accomplishments by nothing more than my own desire to ‘succeed’. It took a child to remind me, however, that participation, good sportsmanship, and just plain enjoyment must always be my highest priorities.
“For several years I have judged the annual show for the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center in Lafayette, CO. The show hosts a variety of events, including English and Western Equitation, Trail, and Dressage, as well as fun classes such as Egg in Spoon.
“Each time I judge this show I am reminded that I do not have problems, but rather minor inconveniences, in comparison with the difficulties these students must overcome.
“If we could see inside other people’s hearts” is a moving 4-minute video from the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most renowned medical centers in the United States.
I see it as a visual version of the Native American saying, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.”
Enough said. Have a hankie ready.
The nature of wolves is something the average person doesn’t usually give any thought to. And yet most Native Americans are very aware of the wolf nation, their gifts and their nature.
So I thought it would be worth a blog post. Because wolves are in great danger now, and they need our help.
My first introduction to the nature of wolves
Years ago, my very favorite TV show was “The West Wing” — a fictional show about what goes on behind the scenes in the running of the presidency and our country.
One episode that stands out in my mind was the fictional workday during which senior staff met with fringe special interest groups. Not the kind of special interest groups that have expensive lobbyists behind them. Special interest groups that have no money but a forward-thinking idea.
One might call them “seventh generation” ideas.
In the Celtic calendar, May 1 is Beltaine, the first day of summer: the time to celebrate life, growth and love. The word “Beltaine” derives from the ancient Celtic words for “brilliant fire.”
Our Gregorian calendar says its still spring. But who cares? It’s what’s going on outside our window that’s important. Mother Nature doesn’t follow calendars, as we well know.
And again, this is not the post I had planned for this week. But as I sat in meditation this morning, listening to the birds, frogs and crickets sing their songs, I suddenly realized it was May 1 and the perfect day to write about what’s going on in the natural world.
There’s a saying that everyone knows they’re going to die, but no one believes it. The same is true of natural disasters – everyone knows it could happen in their town, but no one believes it will.
And then it does. And the big question will be: were you prepared?
This is not the post I had planned for this week. I was going to write about “Earthing” – the healing benefits of standing barefoot on Mother Earth.
But this week, my life got interrupted by a natural disaster, and I felt there would be more benefit in a post on the unexpected lessons that occur when Mother Earth seems [emphasis on the word “seems”] to turn against us.
Over 8.6 trillion text messages are sent across the world each day. And not one of them is from me.
I don’t text. And it’s not because I’m a technophobe.
As a writer, I spend most of the day on the computer and thank God regularly for the convenience it brings me.
And even though I love my iPhone, I have had texting disabled on it. Here are my reasons:
ONE: When one of my favorite T.V. character was asked why he doesn’t text, he replied “It’s for teenage girls.” I’m inclined to agree.
The average teen sends over 3000 texts per month. But the average teenage girl sends 4000. And these texts have a 100% open rate. How does that leave time for anything else?
TWO: People don’t talk to one another enough. Pick up the friggin’ phone and tell me what you want me to know.
THREE: Receiving texts interrupts you and keeps you from being in the moment. We live in a world full of distractions and it’s harder and harder to focus.
FOUR: In my opinion, texting is no easier than phoning now that smart phones can understand voice commands and make phone calls for us: “Siri, please call Jane” and, voila, I am connected to Jane.
Last week’s post was on the power of prayer. And one of my readers raised the excellent point that “sometimes it’s hard for me to feel fulfilled when I pray. I don’t know how to fix that.”
And she is in very good company. Mother Theresa, of all people, also felt unfulfilled when she prayed!
In September 1979, she wrote a letter to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, saying: “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”
The book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta” (Doubleday, 2007) consists primarily of correspondence between Mother Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years.
The letters reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever. And yet her works with the poor are so famous she has been beatified on the road to sainthood.
The power of prayer can take many forms. Bear Heart said, “Let your every step be as a prayer.”
What does that mean to you?
To me it means walking the earth each day with respect. And it means being ready to offer a prayer at a moment’s notice.
And prayer can take the form of acts of kindness, because that carries the same energy as prayer.
LEARNING HOW TO PRAY
I was raised a Catholic and prayer was something one memorized: the Our Father or the Hail Mary were the two most popular prayers I learned.
When I started attending Native American ceremonies, I was in awe of how people prayed from their heart, in their own words. It took a year or so of being in that environment before I felt comfortable praying out loud in ceremony. Now it’s second nature.
In my work as healing practitioner, there is a consistent pattern I’ve discovered when people don’t get well, or don’t achieve a goal: They have low self-esteem and don’t believe they are worthy of health, wealth or success.
And I’m here to encourage you to get over that right now. You absolutely do deserve everything wonderful in life. You are indeed worthy of all good things.
I can think of a few reasons why low self-esteem is so pervasive in our culture:
First, we are surrounded with advertising that inundates us with the message that we have to be slimmer, taller, blonder or better dressed in order to have value.
We’re constantly being compared to supermodels. It’s humiliating. And it’s just plain wrong.
How does one start a good habit? Particularly the habit of having a perfect day?
I admit that a checklist for anything, particularly a perfect day, might sound too unspontaneous to be a spiritual undertaking.
But to accomplish anything, we have to be intentional, and really work at it. And work takes time without interruptions, which means being organized. And checklists help with that!
This is my checklist for a perfect day [work day; days off are not so scheduled]. I am a person who finds routine productive and comforting. If you are, too, you may find this checklist helpful. By doing them in order, it guarantees they get done.
Change it to accommodate your lifestyle.
If you have a commute to work, put commute time on your schedule. And I highly recommend doing something peaceful or productive during that commute. Listen to a motivating CD, do breathing exercises, or, if you’re a passenger, meditate. Commute time doesn’t have to be wasted time.
THE PERFECT DAY CHECKLIST
I have always believed that commitment to a goal or cause is essential to its success. One can’t be lackadaisical about the intended result.
For 30 years I have carried around in my personal organizer a statement on Commitment written by W.H. Murray in “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition” in 1951.
It seemed about time to share it. Because every word is true:
My father taught me many wonderful things, mostly by example, which is the best way to learn. One of the things I most admire about him was that he had a very open mind and respected differing viewpoints.
That is refreshing in this day and age when people are quick to “unfriend” people who don’t see things the way they do.
I recall the time my father was at a football game sitting in front of someone rooting for the opposing team. His friend asked why he wasn’t upset about it and my father’s response was simply, “Well, that’s what makes a horse race.”
When I joined a cult in the 1970s, my father maintained a very open, wait and see attitude before judging me and my guru. In fact, he and my mother came to hear my teacher speak and to learn more about what I was involved in. I really didn’t know many parents who were doing that at that time.
In fact, my father told me about a conversation he had with someone critical of my guru:
Dad: Have you gone to hear him speak?
Dad: Have you spoken with members of his group?
Dad: Oh, so you’re an expert!
My father never hesitated to call it like he saw it.
What’s the opposite of cyber bullying? Cyber compliments!
After reading about the plague of cyber bullying on social media, Jeremiah Anthony of West High School in Iowa City, Iowa decided to do something about it. He started using social media to compliment fellow students instead of bully them. It spread like wildfire.
Jeremiah started tweeting daily compliments to his friends in October 2011. Soon a few of them started a twitter account called @WestHighBros. to send compliments to fellow students. Now the entire school is sending and receiving positive tweets — over 3000 so far!
This was passed on by Chief Joe Chasing Horse, a relative of Crazy
Horse. He translated it from the words of a grandmother who was
present when the words were spoken.
This is a statement of Crazy Horse as he sat smoking the Sacred Pipe
at Paha Sapa with Sitting Bull for the last time, 4 days before he was
assassinated. Many of these words are often repeated. There is one
line often left out, that of the “young white ones”.
Thanksgiving prayers are common to most religious groups. Native Americans had entire ceremonies just for the purpose of expressing thanks – sometimes they 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:
THANKSGIVING PRAYER FROM THE SENECA NATION
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 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 magic of family meal time comes not from the food on the plate but from who’s at the table and what’s happening there. The emotional and social benefits that come from family dinners are priceless,” said Elizabeth Planet, CASA’s Vice President and Director of Special Projects.
Christmas and Thanksgiving have always been my favorite times of the year: time with family and joyous celebrations. From my 20s on, I lived in California and my family was on the East Coast so I chose Christmas as the time to go East to visit, and spent Thanksgiving with friends in California.
It was always a great day, but there was one very interesting phenomenon that happened most years: everyone was very attached to having dishes from their childhood Thanksgivings. That meant we often ended up with multiple duplicate dishes, just made with different recipes.
I recall a Thanksgiving dinner for 8 that had two large turkeys, four different bowls of cranberries and an assortment of other dishes that could have fed 40. I knew at the time it was because each of us wanted to recapture the magic of our childhood Thanksgiving, but only recently did I start to give it more serious thought.
Next week being a major Celtic spiritual day [sorry, you will have to wait for next week’s post to find out what it is], I wanted to lead up to it with one of my favorite Irish stories. Please pardon the colloquialisms; you must imagine it being spoken with an Irish brogue:
There was a man there long ago, and he had a great name for himself as being very holy.
He was the first up to the chapel on Sunday, and there was never a mission he wasn’t at, praying all around him. And he was being held up as a good example to the sinners as a very holy man that never missed his duty.
Well, he said to himself, it would be a good thing for him to count all the times he was at Mass, so he got a big timber box and he made a hole in the cover of it, and he locked the box so that no one could interfere with it in any way, and he hid the key where no one could possibly find it.
This is a guest post from reader Ellinor Halle of Norway – excellent advice to live by.
Have you heard of book called ”A Course in Miracles?” It’s a great book which can change your life.
I have been practicing “A Course in Miracles” for many years and it has really helped me to go past the fear that prevents us from being ourselves no matter who we are with.
The Course works with the God-given energy that is inside us all, called the Holy Spirit in the book.
When you follow the workbook each day, it helps you to connect to that energy inside us. Then the voice of fear that belongs to the nightmare of childhood (our thoughts that are babbling away, or our ”ego” according to the book) becomes more and more quiet.