One of the major lessons from the indigenous worldview is to always be present to how we are in right relationship—with one another, our families and friends, our communities, and also Mother Earth and all of nature. And to ensure our relationships stay healthy, strong, and a living and breathing exchange of energy. This lesson of living with, “All my relations” is simple on the surface, but yet living it is such a deep and powerful daily practice and lesson and can be incredibly challenging. I think it is such an important lesson that needs almost a daily reminder of its significance and importance to all our lives.
Last summer, with the gentle nudging of my elder, I led my first vision quest. This honor came after more than 15 years of questing, assisting on quests with elders, and having survived my own battle with cancer and having to surrender to the Great Mystery over and over in my healing process. As the questers and I moved into the sacred space of vision quest my relationship with the spirits of nature deepened—as it did for all who quested and supported. Our land offerings and relationship to place became a living and breathing relationship, as did the relationship with the trees, the clouds, and so on. These sacred teachings, that can only be learned through direct experience, moved me, and taught me a lot.
As part of my preparation, I worked on connecting, and deepening, my relationship with the spirits of water. In fact, it spread out to six months of being immersed with our original ancestor, the Mother of all life, and the healing power of water in all its forms. Trusting the message to connect more deeply helped me to forge a different relationship to the spirits of water as my elder, a healer, and teacher. I thought of this process like getting to know anyone—that it would take time and it would require that I showed up over and over to make time and space for this relationship and to extend myself in ways to show that this relationship, like all my relationships, was important to me. And one of the highest demonstrations of showing someone they are important is to how up for them.
My practice was to visit a body of water daily and make an offering of some sort (a prayer of gratitude, tobacco, a song), open my heart and listen to any lessons or guidance the water might offer. Rain or shine, hot or cold, I visited the water and listened. I visited rivers and streams, lakes and little, tiny creeks in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota. It was a process that transformed my relationship with water and opened up some doorways to feeling the different lessons that different bodies of water had for me. The energy and power of Lake Superior, for example, was overwhelming at time, strong and persistent, so open to receive all my emotional pain and help transform it, showed me there is always s a strength within and a feeling as huge as the universe. Water ceremonies, after all, are all about grief and releasing pain (sweat lodges typically are considered water ceremonies). And other bodies of water seemed to cry out to me, showing me how weak their energy was from pollution, liter, lack of respect, and being taken advantage of. Water, in its ability to move from form to form is much like the notion of the Great Mystery which is always moving and always formless—can take on whatever form is needed.
I mention my experience with the power of the water spirits and the power of nature as a way to encourage everyone to return to the Great Mystery for our healing and learning, as the source of all healing work and all spiritual wisdom. If we want to be in a good way with our relationships, we have to be in a good way with nature as well. If we want to learn about healing work, we can’t rely on working with plant medicines and at the same time deny our inherent connection the place where those plant medicines come from (Mother Earth). Part of listening to the plants and the medicines is allowing ourselves to return to the practices of indigenous peoples to honor and take our relationships with these elements seriously and tend to them with care.
I am curious how each of you connects with the spirits of nature and how that nurtures your spirit.