It’s a Matter of Time
Before we enter the (Lakota) Sweat Lodge, we often shout out Hoka hey! It’s a good day to die. This expression always brings me down to Earth, to my feet and the present moment. It reminds me that I am very much alive and that entering the Sweat Lodge has definite risks. Be alert. Be receptive. Prepare to give, to serve, to surrender, to receive. Join the Circle and come to the Center of the Universe – as if I’ve never done anything else in my life. The rocks or Spirits might have a message for me. The heat will certainly purify me and the songs unite me with the other voices in bodies I cannot see. And then we crawl out, shake hands, feast, maybe there’s a loaded Pipe to smoke together and then we all go our separate ways. Here, the ceremony begins.
Say what you like about cultural appropriation, we were gifted with these Teachings. A Lakota-Minneconjou Holy Man had the Vision to bring his Peoples’ wisdom to Europeans. That was in 1988. I met him in 1992 and will honor this gift until the day I die.
Yes, the Teachings begin once the ceremony is over. The Sweat Lodge, for me, is not the Teaching, but the celebration of LIFE and a place to give thanks to the Earth, to pray for those in need of some sort of healing, to laugh, to cry, to share what’s weighing on our minds and hearts or miracles we’ve witnessed. The Teachings have taught me about time. Have taught me how slow I learn, how painstaking, breath-taking, soul-shaking it is to truly be a human being – a member of the Circle of Life and my place in it. As Pat McCabe so stunningly said “Humans were the last to be created. We are the youngest. We must learn from our Elders, watching, looking and listening to all those created before us.”
And that takes time. Loads of it. Especially as a white woman on the Red Road, which is dominated by white men doing the same. Two very different paths.
Over the past 30+ years, these Teachings have taught me how deeply patriarchy and the colonization/oppression of women has penetrated my cells. And how difficult it has been to incrementally reclaim my body, the only thing that truly belongs to me on this Earth. Years of practicing Moon Time (menstruation) ceremonies, followed by years of merging with the Dark Moon (menopause), these Teachings speak in lifetimes. Of course, they do, they’re ancient. These Teachings speak of loving responses to the Circle of Life.
When I get caught up in a sense of urgency to do something about our predicament, to act, repair, go ballistic or just shake in my shoes, my teachers – the clouds and wind and trees are the ones I’d bring the most apples to – talk about serenity or tell me a really good joke. Which is usually on me.
Now, this is all fine & dandy as long as I’m grounded in my natural habitat or with other people striving to come home to their bodies, too, finding their own shape of loving responses. But what about the other human beings stubbornly determined to go down in isolation, fear and mega-consumption?
Time and again I hear how difficult it is to speak about collapse with people unwilling or unable to face our looming demise. I get that. It’s hard. Particularly if you have never been in your body long enough to feel the connection to Life. Particularly if you insist no one can help, guide, teach, care for or appreciate you. Particularly if you simply don’t feel loved, lovable or loving. Isolated. Burdened. Ashamed. And, heaven forbid, needy.
The Teachings speak of respect for all living beings. And the incredible, profound power of silence. No one needs to be convinced. And everyone needs to be heard, listened to and accepted. The Teachings tell me to watch and listen and give every human being the same time I needed to get where I am now. And that’s been a looooong journey. If it gets too hard to listen, say thank you and walk away. For me, respect also means allowing every human being to take response-ability (the ability to respond) for their own lives.
Sure, it gets lonely. So what? Loneliness is also an incredible teacher. So often I have asked myself why it’s so important to win someone over. Why do I feel such a need to save/help/heal them What’s driving me? Why do I think I’m right? How can I bear this alone? Silly me. Silly you, the clouds, wind, trees, birds, ants, deer say.
Maybe we don’t have many years left on our amazing Mother Earth. Our children are certainly going to have a hard time, if they survive at all. Until then, the Ceremonies will continue. Our children, who were born into these ways, will carry on what we started, many connecting with the family across the ocean. We will keep learning to be human, keep learning to step into the Circle of Life and take our place, whatever it may be and however it manifests. And as long as I live, I will return to the Teachings when I get distracted (I’m only human 😊), I will turn to my Elders for wisdom. I have this moment with all of you. And it’s an eternity. I will keep the door open. Always.
Mitakuye oasin (All my Relations)
Image by Ramey Rieger