Selections from the book RETURN TO CREATION, by Manitonquat (Medicine Story):
(Reprinted with permission.)
What we need to investigate and learn together is healing. In a time of great sickness nothing else should concern us. Healing the earth, healing society, healing our communities, healing ourselves. To paraphrase a saying, if we are not part of the medicine, we are part of the disease.
You have come to the circle which this book represents to hear me speak. Perhaps you wish to learn something about Native American healing from a medicine man. Maybe you wish to experience a healing yourself. Well, I hope you do learn something, and I hope you get in touch with the spirit of healing. I must tell you, however, that the healing power for you is only within you. A medicine person’s real job, whether it be with a ritual, with herbs, with steam or water, with song or dance or with story – whatever the medicine, the real work is to convince you of your own healing power. That is the healing power of Creation which is within each of us.
Sickness of any kind is a dissonance in the harmony of nature, a noisy intrusion into the Song of Creation. A certain amount of dissonance and conflict is expected and desirable. They are a spur to consciousness. Our most essential teachers are Pain and Beauty. Without pain, which guides and corrects the course of awareness, there would be neither rapture nor ecstasy.
There is a rhythm to the universe. Part of sickness is losing the beat, falling out of time. That is why we use drums and rattles to heal. That is why we bring all of the universe into the medicine lodge. We sing the song that comes from within and without, the Song of Creation.
We must also be quiet. That way we can hear the music and the rhythm of the universe in the great silence.
As a teacher, a medicine person is a guide. This is the one who knows the back country of the mind and the pathways of the heart, who has taken the journeys of the spirit in other worlds. The one who knows where these trails connect in the body, in the world of physical matter. One who can show you the routes, explain the safety precautions, and be a companion in your quest. But not take your trip for you. A medicine person cannot see for you or hear for you or learn for you. In a sense a medicine person does not really teach or heal. A medicine person can only describe the territory, be with you and encourage you. You must learn for yourself. You must open yourself to your own healing.
Too many of us feel trapped and helpless, at the mercy of forces we cannot contend with or comprehend. Part of my work as a medicine man is to reveal people’s own healing powers to them, to help them understand the nature of the sicknesses that have befallen the world until they now permeate all aspects of our lives. To indicate the healing ways that are available to every one of us.
At the deepest level the disease is spiritual. Spirituality, as I conceive it, is simply the relationship of all things in the universe. Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we must consider our families, our children, our unborn generations, our planet and all the beings who share it with us, all the stars and beings throughout the cosmos, and the connections among all of these.
Where it must begin is with trust. Unless we trust that the Creation is good, that it works, that we are good, and that we can learn to live in a good way in this Creation, we give ourselves over to force or to despair. When we do not trust we resort to force for protection, to police and armies, we set up the counter force. But once we have this trust, we need only to discover the way that Creation works, find the path and follow it. It is the way of harmony, of cooperation with natural law. Fortunately we have many guides who have followed that path before us and many who are following it now. And we have the guide of the heart within us.
There is an old native saying that every step we take upon the Earth Mother should be as a prayer. Now, a prayer is just a way of becoming really conscious, really tuning in to all the relationships of everything in existence. To make every step a prayer is simply to be totally conscious in every act we do. Most of us spend most of our waking hours half asleep, only dimly aware of our feelings, to say nothing of what is going on in the world and of the connections between things.
Whatever we do has a meaning and an effect. We can ask ourselves, if I am really conscious, what effect will this action have upon Creation? How will it affect me, affect my family and my community? How will it affect the planet? How will it affect the future and the generations to come?
Our elders have passed down to us a guide for doing this. Our people call this the Original Instructions. Let us consider those instructions next. Let us begin to retrace our steps and find the Sacred Path again. As we go, let us walk in a sacred manner by letting each step be as a prayer. In this way we will find the Path of Beauty, the Path of the Heart, and return to Creation once more.
When we do not follow the Original Instructions we will feel the effects. When we clear-cut the forests and plow up the prairies and strip-mine the hills we create erosion and lose our soil. The loss of topsoil is a major catastrophe in civilized countries, and the loss of water in the water tables below the surface is the beginning of another catastrophe. When we manufacture more and more things we create more and more garbage and pollution and cancer. A hundred years ago cancer was a rare disease, and in many non-industrial areas it is still unknown. The most dense industrial areas, such as New Jersey, are the areas of highest cancer among the general public. Considering that radioactive waste has destructive power for hundreds of thousands of years and that we are dumping this poison in our Mother Earth for our unborn generations to have to deal with, we are certainly flouting our Original Instructions to our peril.
The people on this continent at one time tried to live their lives according to these Original Instructions. They did not always succeed. They were human beings and were not perfect, but growing and learning, like the rest of us. But their lives were encompassed by these Original Instructions: individual consciousness, family life, social organizations, educational and political and spiritual ways were all in harmony. Despite the notoriety of a handful of warlike nations, most of the over five hundred nations of this continent were among the most pacific people that ever inhabited the earth. They created the first United Nations in the world and a peace that has lasted among them for a thousand years. But the Great Law of Peace was not written down. It was kept in the hearts of the People of the Longhouse, so that the spirit, which was attuned to the spirit of Creation, would never be lost.
The First People were in harmony with themselves and all Creation because theirs was not written law, no Ten Commandments to be broken, no statutes for police to enforce and lawyers to find loopholes in. An ancient Chinese sage once said “Where there is no law, there will be no criminals.” Human laws create criminals, because they create opposition – they are based on fear and not love. The more laws the lower the level of trust, and human community functions best on trust. Natural Law enforces itself, there are no loopholes in it. Four hundred years ago on this continent there was no need for a legal profession, and there was no such thing as a criminal profession. No one lived by hurting others. The Original Instructions are to be found in no book for the scholars to dispute. They are in our hearts, all the time. We all know what is right. You know what is right. You know when you are doing wrong. And when people point out to someone that he has made a mistake and hurt someone, if they are not condemning but helpful that person will do anything to repay the hurt he has caused in order to feel good about himself again.
There is no cruelty in the wilderness, in nature, without human beings. Animals are never cruel, do not act out of spite or revenge, and do not carry anger or fear beyond the appropriate moment. Only human beings think and understand with their minds that they must die. But with this understanding comes the knowledge of the Original Instructions. For we are the only beings on this earth that can feel and know Beauty in our hearts. When through our acts we create ugliness and imbalance and bad feelings we know this is not the Way of Creation. When we create Beauty and Joy and Love we feel good. Our hearts tell us that we are in harmony and in good balance.
The basic elements of tribal life are spiritual. To understand the tribe you must first know that Creation is a circle made of circles. You must know that humankind is a circle made of all the circles of all the nations, the nation a circle of the circles of its tribes, and the tribe a circle of the circles of its families. And our circles connect through time, so that we not only have a place in the family and the tribe, but also in the spiral that connects our ancestors with the unborn generations to come.
The deepest, strongest, best feelings of my life are the ones I get when I regard my children. Watching them learn, play, hurt, laugh, or just sleep, I am overwhelmed by the deepest awe. At that moment I know my Original Instructions clearly. I hear the Creator whisper in my ear to do my utmost for these, and teach them to do the same for their children, and that where all this love and all this learning is going is what the Creation is all about. Our children are the growing edge of the conscious evolution of life on this planet.
My Original Instructions tell me to be a tribal being, since it is in the warm, loving, accepting, appreciating environment of the tribe that my children are going to flourish the best. Whether I am biologically a parent or not, in the tribe I am a parent of all the children. To the extent that I forget or lose that feeling, that nourishing and caring for the growth of all our little ones, to that extent the work of my life will lose contact with the sacred path that is the way of Creation.
Do you see how it all fits together? The Original Instructions are the Circle. I am a circle, but not isolated, not separate. I join with a woman, and we have children. Now our individual circles are together in another circle – the family – which includes the grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins – and these join in another circle – the tribe. The tribe draws its circle upon the Earth Mother and says so much will we protect and care for, and she will provide for us. Then our tribal circle looks to the neighboring tribes and comes to one mind with them to protect and care for that region of the earth. And now in our modern era of technology we can extend this all around the planet.
But the basic circle is still the tribe. The largest number of people that can live in the intimate sharing of the resources of our immediate environment. When we get beyond that we create abstractions – states, governments, corporations. We have the illusion that we control these creations – but they are monsters with lives of their own, and soon they have usurped all our power. We are powerless within our own institutions.
Yet the Original Instructions are there still. Still in our blood. In our genes. In our heritage. We fall in love. We conceive children. We long for the security of our tribe, our own people, our own sacred land. Our society is crumbling all around us, and still in our ears we can hear, if we but listen, the voice of the Creator whispering in the night, telling us to hold our loved ones, to keep our families together, to embrace our neighbors, to share the beauty and the bounty of the earth in one sacred circle.
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