In Native American cultures, The Great Spirit is a deity intertwined with the fabric of the Universe itself on the large scale and yet personally engaged with the web of living things and the world on an earthly scale. I am creating a spiritual practice by borrowing a little from the Buddhists and the practice of mindfulness, but mostly from the strong connection I feel for the worship of Earth as taught us by our first nations. For those who hunger for the connection of a spiritual practice from someone who is learning to braid her own.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mitakuye Oyasin


Mitakuye Oyasin (Mutawkwey Ahsun) is a Lakota term that reflects a world view of interconnectedness. The phrase translates in English as "we are all related," or "all my relations." It is an expression of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys. Beginnings, endings and all exclamation points in native rituals and ceremonies get a just-audible "Mitakuye Oyasin" from ceremony leaders and close followers. 

I understood this sentiment almost instantly . . . from an intellectual perspective it makes sense based on how life evolved on Earth. I get that we all breathe the same air over and over. But I did not really connect to Mitakuye Oyasin until I faced it straight up.

One Saturday night I was enjoying the house to myself, delighted by the thought of retiring early with a cup of tea and a good book ,when I failed to unplug my electric pot after pouring it almost dry, and hustled back to the kitchen under the duress of the beeping pot. In the dim-lit walk back down the hall and a quick left turn into the kitchen to douse the annoying beep I did not notice the opened dishwasher door a little more than a step to my left. My right shin banged into that open door sending me up, over and directly down on the strand-woven, steel-strong bamboo floor, mouth first. Bam. No time to use my hands. 

I lay there frozen, face down, unable to take back my carelessness.

All I could do was worry what I had broken or dislodged in my mouth. I could taste blood. I fished around with my tongue as best I could with lips smashed to the floor. I immediately knew I would have a fat lip, Other body contusions were a blur until later. The kitchen was dark and so was the floor in front of me. And I was alone. My husband was out of town. I didn't know if I was hurt bad enough that I needed to go to the ER. If so who I would call on a Saturday night? I felt violated. I tried to collect myself. And then I worried for a moment it was the beginning of a trend. 

“Just breathe.” The voice was clear.

I found a towel within reach from the bottom drawer and put it over my mouth, then another I wrapped around a cold pack I retrieved from the freezer. I carefully found my way back to my bed where I crumbled, ice pack resting gently on my burning mouth. I tried to find my breath again. By now I was pretty sure nothing was broken. My teeth were intact. The question about whether or not I should figure out how to get to the hospital cropped up again. I wondered what others do in situations like this. 

At once I was overwhelmed by a gulp of tears that fell hopeless and helpless—in a stomach wrenching sadness, the sorrow of the human spirit, all those who came before me to that loneliness. My heart ached for all of the them. I cried for all my relations.

The despair I felt that night transformed forever my allegiance to "Mitakuye Oyasin," and the meaning it has for me now in my prayers and words gratitude. I could muse forever though about the physical and emotional connection I was able to make with universal emotion, and the amount of humanity there is to be found in the intensity of the moment.


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