“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”Legendary Lakota chief Crazy Horse
If you go to visit Mount Rushmore, be sure to drive a few more miles down the road and see Crazy Horse, four times the scale of Rushmore, a monument-in-the-making to the legendary Lakota chief. My visit was memorable, and not just because my seven-year-old went missing in a sea of hundreds of motorcyclists.
Crazy Horse was born Čháŋ Óhaŋ, which means “Among the Trees,” and “One with Nature.” He was a visionary and a revered and remembered leader who sought to safeguard the traditions and principles of his people. He fought hard for peace in the land he loved. “Fought for peace” sounds like a contradiction; so too was the fact that the brave warrior was stabbed in the back as he walked away from conflict. (As the story goes, he left his reservation without permission to deliver his tuberculosis-ridden wife to her parents and, in doing so, was arrested and accused of mounting a rebellion.) Crazy Horse was a fierce and capable defender with visions and dreams of peace.
Today, I was discussing my interest in Native American wisdom with a friend. She texted, “Who knew you had inner Indian?” My response: “I did! I spent most of my childhood in the woods behind my house… and Pocahontas was my favorite nickname.”
Growing up, we all knew what “walk like an Indian” meant. (Today, it is erased from the Internet.) It’s about being quiet, listening, connecting to nature. Mindfulness: the Native Americans were there first!
I have always been fascinated by a few tenets of native tradition.
First, storytelling, the reverence for the elderly, and the passing along of tradition and experience. Second, the rites of passage from adolescence to adulthood. A wise counselor I know works with young men and their families, coaching them as they move through growing pains. He notes that the Native Americans first taught their children well and then launched them with conviction and ceremony. Now, young Americans spend ten years fumbling without direction or any clear launch plan. Third, I admire the native reverence for women, who are honored as the spiritual centers of the family and supported in their care-taking roles across generations. Fourth, of course, is connection to our true love, Mother Earth.
Recently, I came across “The Ten Commandments of the Native American Indians.” I’m not sure of the origin, but I think they rock.
- Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
- Remain close to the Great Spirit.
- Show great respect for your fellow beings.
- Work together for the betterment of all humankind.
- Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
- Be truthful and honest at all times.
- Do what you know to be right.
- Look after the wellbeing of mind and body.
- Take full responsibility for your actions.
- Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
The natives of this land embodied everything we now pontificate as mindful. They lived intentionally and from the heart. The used rite and ritual to honor the most natural processes, like death and coming of age, both of which modern society has “progressed beyond.” So it goes for the the morals and values they passed down. A favorite story, inscribed on posters and pillows about my house, goes like this:
The Tale of Two Wolves
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, doubt, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, forgiveness, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Today, practice “walking like an Indian.” Get outside, walk quietly, ground your feet into the earth. No coincidence that great walking meditation teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh and Natalie Goldberg lead a similar walking meditation. Breathe and feel the corners of your feet as you intentionally place them. Most of all, be connected to the landscape: the earth, the sounds of the birds chirping, the ever-changing sky. And walk the walk of “The Indian Ten Commandments,” today.
I leave you with a final quote from Crazy Horse as he passed the peace pipe with Sitting Bull four days before he was assassinated. Go figure.
”Upon suffering beyond suffering; the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world.
A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations.
A world longing for light again.
I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.
In that day there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things, and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.
I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells.
For when you are at that center within you and I am in that place within me, we shall be as one.” ~ Crazy Horse