Last week, I shared Bear Heart’s story of how the cedar tree is a gift from the Creator. Today’s post shares more teachings about cedar.
The history of cedar
The cedar tree has been revered for it’s spiritual qualities by many cultures, and is frequently referenced in the Bible: it was chosen to build the temple of God in Jerusalem [1 Kings 6:9-20].
The wood is not attacked by insects, has no knots and has remarkable longevity: the cedar forests of Lebanon often had a lifespan of over 2,000 years.
Cedar wood was used to build the doors of sacred temples in ancient cultures and burned for purification.
“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.
This story about the Cedar Tree was told to me by Bear Heart:
“A long time ago, there lived a human being who always went out of his way to help the people of his village.
“When the elders could no longer hunt for themselves, he would bring them food.
“A young couple getting married could count on him to help make their tipi poles and gather the hides needed to cover their lodge.
“If a child’s family was killed, he would take that child in and raise it as his own.
“And there were many more good deeds he performed that no one knew of, because he never sought praise or attention for his actions. Every day he remained alert to what he could do to help his tribe, and he did so with good humor and enthusiasm.
“Many years went by in this way and all the while the Creator watched this man and took note of his virtues.
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?”
Last spring as I was walking around the lake near my home, I came upon a family of swans by the shore: two beautiful, huge adults and 10 little baby swans. Ten!
[Yes, I know they’re called cygnets but that word isn’t cute enough to do them justice].
The two parents were putting up a very loud squawk and, as I got closer, I saw that one of the babies had become stranded on the shore side of a big log and the parents were encouraging it to climb over.
The baby kept trying to get over the log but the log was too big and the baby too small. So the parents took turns stepping up on the log, turning around and squatting in the hopes the baby would grab on to them and be pulled out. After about a dozen attempts, they succeeded.
The irony was that if any of them had looked to the baby’s left, they would have seen it could easily have swum around the log to freedom! But they were all too focused on the problem right in front of them to look for other solutions.
It struck me that this was a perfect example of the benefits of meditation. Stop, take a break, relax, regroup and look around for a fresh perspective. That usually allows inspiration and new ideas to flow in.
Tobacco is an herb that has become a pariah in our society, yet is sacred to many native peoples. It wasn’t meant to be used and smoked the way we use it in our society.
My first teacher, Sun Bear, had a wonderful saying: “White people misused tobacco, the sacred medicine of the native people, and it made them sick. When native people misused white peoples’ medicine, the sacred wine of the mass, it became their undoing.”
We must respect one another’s medicines.
THE UNKNOWN SPIRITUAL LIFE OF TOBACCO
Tobacco has the quality of being able to absorb. When made into a poultice, it can absorb toxins out of a rash or bug bite. When you pray with it, it absorbs your prayers. And when smoked, the smoke carries your prayers up to the Creator.
“I’m not interested in any philosophy unless it can help me grow corn.” Sun Bear
Meaning, “it gives me practical help in my life.” This post is about how celebrating the Spring Equinox can do just that.
This year the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is March 20, 1:14 a.m. Eastern Time: a day of equal balance of the hours of light and dark before the sun continues its journey towards longer daylight hours and warming temperatures. The word equinox comes from the latin words meaning “equal night.”
The equinox energy is strong for four days before and after March 20th, giving you time to bask in the opportunities and lessons it brings.
Ancient cultures throughout history have celebrated this time of rebirth of Mother Earth. But what does it mean for us?
There is an old saying that, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. It certainly was true for me. I’m frequently asked how I got involved with the Native American spiritual path. The short answer is: “I asked the universe.”
During college, I experimented with the usual recreational drugs and had an epiphany one day on a hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains.
High on mescaline, I saw a mountain breathe and immediately knew two things:Continue reading
A few months ago I did something I’ve never done before. I ate my lunch without simultaneously reading or working; instead I ate on my screened porch and listened to the wind. Then I sat and listened some more.
It was a very strong wind; there were no other sounds to be heard over it. The birds that are usually so vocal during the day were relatively silent, perhaps holding onto tree branches for dear life.Continue reading
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.” John Muir
We had a lot of thunderstorms in Michigan this year. A lot. It’s particularly memorable to me because each storm, as it gets close, necessitates unplugging all my computer equipment. [Losing a printer in a storm last year was all it took for me to learn that lesson!]
So the drill at my home during a storm is:
“The thing that is wrong in the world today is that people have forgotten their instructions.” Onondaga Chief Leon Shenandoa in “To Become a Human Being”
And what instructions might those be, you ask? Every indigenous person would know: the instructions passed down from the Creator, the elders, the ancestors, on how to live a life in harmony and balance with the world around them.Continue reading