Just what is “civilization?”
I asked myself that question after writing last week’s post about Christopher Columbus not being the first to discover the New World. And his still being celebrated for paving the way for Europeans to bring “civilization” to the west.
Will Durant spent 50 years writing “The Story of Civilization” and says that civilization is marked by four elements:
pursuit of knowledge and the arts
The Native American societies of North America lived by the above principles for centuries before the arrival of Columbus.
Here’s my definition of civilization:
“In our culture, whenever we receive a gift of food – whether someone buys us groceries or makes us breakfast or takes us out to dinner – we say that it extends our life. And as we accept that food, we breathe a word of prayer so that the dividends of that gift might be multiplied into the life of the person who gave it.” Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother
CEREMONIAL GIFT OF FOOD
Viewing food as a gift is one reason that most Native American ceremonies I have attended include a pot-luck afterwards: we are practicing the gift of life extension by feeding one another.
But before the people eat, a “spirit plate” is prepared and offered to either the Ceremonial Fire or Mother Earth. This represents a thank you for all that we have received and a prayer for the continuation of life and that all the nations on earth have enough food and water always.
Many Native American ceremonies also include Spiritual food on the altar. In the Lakota tradition it may be water, corn, berries and meat that are placed on the altar during the ceremony.
They are placed there as a prayer that the Eagle Nation will come and take the essence of that food to the places in the world where there is not enough food or water. So the food on the altar is a prayer that all the Nations have enough to eat.
This Saturday, September 22 at 10:49 a.m. Eastern Time marks the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a day of balance of the hours of light and dark.
From here, temperatures begin to fall and daylight hours get shorter than the nights. The word equinox comes from the latin words meaning “equal night.”
Since a balanced life is something we all strive for, yet can be hard to achieve, why not set the goal of having the best possible day of balance in the Equinox? Just one day to start with. One day at a time is often the easiest way to make any change.
Here are 16 tips to help you live a day of balance this Saturday:
After a long, hard climb up the mountain, the spiritual seekers finally found themselves in front of the great teacher.
Bowing deeply, they asked the question that had been burning inside them for so long:
“How do we become wise?”
There was a long pause until the teacher emerged from meditation. Finally came the reply: “Good choices.”
“But teacher, how do we make good choices?”
I had a recent meltdown that caused me to ask whether Americans [including myself] are spoiled and take for granted all that we have.
Upon arriving at my hotel after an eight-hour drive to Northern Wisconsin, I was shocked, SHOCKED to find I had left my overnight bag at home.
The overnight bag that contained everything I need to make myself presentable each day!
I’m usually very cool, calm and collected, but this was a catastrophe of a high order for me.
But here’s the irony: Within half an hour, I was able to replace all my makeup and hair supplies at the Walmart next to the hotel.
I had the means and opportunity and I was still upset. How’s that for spoiled?
It was a good reality check as to how far I still have to go in my spiritual growth. And I know I’m not alone.
If you’re like me, I learned in grade school that the U.S. Constitution was based on ancient Greek democracy. Which was nowhere close to the truth. The government of ancient Greece was not a democracy.
My research as to what children are taught today about the origin of our government is also disappointing.
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.
THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
Ever wonder how the classic Hitchcock thriller “Psycho” is related to clearing the clutter? Probably not, so read on.
If your nerves were on edge while watching “Psycho,” here’s why: every time director Alfred Hitchcock cut to the house on the hill, something was different.
In each shot he would change the location of the door, or the number or placement of windows, or the number of panes in each window.
The shots weren’t held long enough for the viewer to be conscious of what the changes were, only that something was “wrong” with that house. The result? An uneasy feeling throughout the film. That’s why Hitchcock was such a master director.
On Father’s Day I remember how very blessed I am to have had three fathers, all at the same time. This was not a product of divorce. It was the product of the beautiful Native American tradition of adoption.
Read on to learn about my three dads: my birth father and Native American elders Wallace Black Elk and Marcellus “Bear Heart” Williams.
More wisdom from Bear Heart in the Wind Is My Mother on what to do when bad things happen in our lives:
Not long ago a woman called me and I went to see her in the hospital. She was a very young mother who had just given birth to a child with no arms. He had webbed feet and scars on his face and she was wondering, “Why me? Why me?”
I had to talk to her a long time, pray with her, to show her that there was a blessing somewhere in her situation.
In our culture, when such children are born we say they are specially blessed. The Creator had a reason for bringing that child into the world and we are helping the Creator when we make the child as comfortable as possible in every way.
It’s said there is a special blessing when we help someone like that, although that’s not our reason for doing it. My people don’t even talk about the reasons, we just try to help.
I told her the story of a similar situation where a little boy was born without arms and the doctors asked her husband to stay by his wife’s bedside as she came out of sedation so he could tell her.
I hope that the healed life is the goal of each of us: to work toward emotional healing, physical health and spiritual fulfillment.
Emotional healing includes learning what didn’t work and to no longer repeat our past, self-defeating patterns.
This lovely piece by Portia Nelson sums it up nicely.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE CHAPTERS
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
In the following excerpt from The Wind Is My Mother, Bear Heart instructs on how to walk your talk:
“Nokus Ele’, or Bear Paw, the Seminole elder who put me on the ant hill as part of my training, was a medicine man.
“A member of our tribe wanted to learn something from Bear Paw and extended an invitation to him, saying, ‘I want you to stay overnight at my home.’
“So Bear Paw spent all night at this man’s house then got up early in the morning and waited until his host finally got up, too.
“The man said to him, ‘Breakfast is ready now, why don’t you come and eat.’
“In my tribe, people usually talk after the meal so when they had finished eating, the host said, ‘I’d like for you to tell me anything you think I ought to know.’
“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 behind the day.
Can we learn to be optimistic?
I believe so, and researchers agree.
But it will take some undoing of early programming.
The average fourth grade child has heard the words “no, you can’t do that” over 70,000 times. So we have to work to overcome that negative imprint.
Not only are optimists happier than pessimists, research shows they are healthier, live longer and make more money.
The Ten Indian Commandments are all we need to know to heal ourselves and the planet!
1. Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
2. Remain close to the Great Spirit.
3. Show great respect for your fellow beings.
4. Work together for the betterment of all humankind.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to share the memoriam I wrote after my mother passed away ten years ago. I hope it can serve as a reminder of the little things we should cherish every day.
My mother went home to her ancestors on October 13, 2002 in Hospice House, Holland, Michigan, surrounded by her family.
Memorial is often a time of sadness that someone has died, but it’s better used as a time of celebration that someone has lived and touched our lives.
“Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.” Native American proverb
Years ago, my friend Carol stopped at a gas station while driving through Oklahoma. Just as her car was approaching the pump, she was cut off by a big RV that pulled in ahead of her.
Carol was pissed and found another pump. When she went inside to pay, the woman who had cut her off was standing in front of her in line. Carol resolved to give her a dirty look when she turned around.
But her world was turned upside down when she heard the woman say to the cashier,
“Everything is part of the Sacred Hoop and everything is related. Our existence is so intertwined that our survival depends upon maintaining a balanced relationship with everything within the Sacred Hoop.” Bear Heart
Earth Day is the perfect day to focus on the Sacred Hoop of All Creation and how to establish a relationship with the natural world around us.
In indigenous cultures, the circle is sacred — when we sit in a circle there is a spirit of oneness and everyone is equal.
The elders teach that the universe is in harmony as long as the Sacred Hoop, the circle of life, is intact.
The Sacred Hoop includes all of life: the four directions (West, North, East and South), the earth, trees, plants, rivers, oceans, two-leggeds, four-leggeds, winged creatures, swimmers (fish) and “creepy crawlers” (insects).
They all bring their own unique contribution to the earth and one another.
A young Native American man was talking to his grandfather about how he felt.
He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
“One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one.
“The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.”
The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in my heart?”
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Gandhi
I’m a big fan of peaceful social activism. Having marched in the 1970s in opposition to the Vietnam War, I’m proud that my generation helped end it.
We have even more opportunity today, with the advent of online petitions that are getting lots of results, fast.
UGLY SOCIAL ACTIVISM
But there is also un-social activism that causes me concern. I’m thinking specifically of Spike Lee’s ill-advised re-tweet of the supposed address of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
Traditionally, April 1 is “April Fool’s Day,” an opportunity to play harmless and fun jokes and tricks on others. Frankly, I’ve never been a fan.
Not much is known about the origin of this holiday. One popular origin tale is that when the Gregorian Calendar moved the first day of the year from April 1 to January 1, not everyone got the message, or simply chose to ignore it.
After all, there was no internet then to spread the word. Those who continued to view April 1 as the first day of the year were called “Fools”.
But this story doesn’t hold water because the history of pranking on April 1 started long before the Gregorian Calendar came along in 1582, and it also has traditions around the world.
Another theory is that the timing of a day of pranks is tied to the arrival of spring, when nature “fools” humankind with fickle weather. That explanation makes sense to me, particularly this year.