Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Way of Smoke
©2010. Turtle Heart
photo by Silvia Santi
The purpose of the Sacred Pipe is not magic. It is not personal power. The sacred teaches us about the joy of life, how to cherish others and to hear the voices of nature speak clearly from inside, rather than outside, our souls.
Until you have helped another person, wept and felt their pain and suffering as your own, you cannot understand what it means to hold Sacred Pipe. Until you can stand inside your own mind and yet hear the wind, feel the water of the earth and know the songs of the birds flying into the light, you are isolated and lonely. Even if you believe you have everything.
Personal desires are like stones deep in the valley. What is sacred is the long road to the top of the mountain. Can you carry the stones of the valley up to the mountain? Until you know the meaning of these things it is meaningless to reach for the sacred. This world is the mirror of your soul, but you have to look into that mirror with your eyes open, all your senses open.
Today Sacred Pipe is a mass-produced item, like toy swords made of shiny metal or play money used in children’s games. You cannot go to the market and buy the sacred. You cannot hold the sacred just because you have some blood quantum or walk inside some particular culture. It is more elusive. Sometimes it is free, but nothing is free. You must understand what to pay, who to pay, and where to pay. And then you pay. This is real freedom.
I have followed the way of Sacred Pipe all of my long life. My path of smoke, and wind, and fire has lead me to this place, the tiny island in the ancient sea. Inside my body I feel time pulling at my eyes, at my muscles and bones. Time has the power to steal what is most precious in the space of a single breath. I am far from my home, but I am still on sacred ground, a land that knows me very well and holds me. I awaken to beauty. It is what I see when I open my eyes. It is what I feel coming up from my feet. Beauty fades. What is beautiful is beautiful because it fades. This is something I have learned from time as I watch its shadow in my dreams. I have always chosen beauty, for what other choice, in what other direction would my satisfaction lead me? The perfect beauty of a storm, the perfect beauty of silence, the perfect beauty of thunder; so I send beauty my smoke and the songs of the old Indians and in thunder, or in flames or sitting still I accept the choices I have made. I smoke in a sacred manner. And I dream.
Following the smoke of the red stone I have traveled in eight directions. I have gone where I have never been before, where no American Indian has been before. It has taken only determination. There is and has never been a question about believing. I understand that my travels with this sacred bundle have changed lives. Each changed life carries even more changes forward, into the seven generations. The changer is also the changed. I remember very well where I started. I started in Hell. Following the sacred smoke I made my way forward, one step at a time.
I have never been satisfied with the tribal reservation philosophy of more or less cowering before the modern world in paranoia and anger. I was never satisfied that my diverse ethnic origins, being part welsh, ojibwe and catabwa would mean that any door in this world could be closed to me. Racial qualifications are a poisonous lie which celebrates fear over change and growth in my view. So no door has been closed to me. I went and breathed, looked into the eyes and lives of teachers from many American Indian tribes…and also from Japan, China, Tibet, South America,, Israel, Egypt and the Old South. I liked those homemade biscuits and the long dirt path to the houses of my old southern catabwa relatives. None of those people had automobiles. They lived deep inside the forest, not at the end of a parking lot like now. Yes, those old souther biscuits took me everywhere. Along with the tobacco that my old relations grew up from sacred beginnings, as food for heaven.There are many kinds of smoke my friend. If you follow smoke you will see this. Sacred smoke has its own color, movement physics and ambient. It is particular smoke.
Out into the world some ancient children of nanaboozho were the first to go far away from the family lands, deeper into the unknown world. What they brought back became the foundation of our sacred rites and teachings. I understand those emotions that drove them forward. It is not a negative feeling, but it is not a feeling of being satisfied. There must be something more. Something more I can do. So I have started moving in this ancient way.
Today, people listen to what is said from far away. There are no ears to hear what is being said right in front of you. I understand this. In the modern world heaven is far away, another place than here. Following the smoke of sacred pipe keeps me inside my body, right where I am, where I happen to be. I treasure this. For me, the answers are not far away. They are nearby.
Over the long years in my private life I am usually alone, or with animals rather than people, something which is very important to me. Inside the ceremonies I am wrapped up, a yuwipi of ceremonial attention in making correction ceremonies….and at those times I am with the people, wrapped up in the waiting world and waiting for their hearts to show me what is possible. A ceremony with the people is a mirror and it can reflect only what is shown by those people who may be looking into it. This, as well, is one of those answers that is nearby. Though no one is listening nearby. Their attention is far away, so I pas by unnoticed but not unfelt. Like smoke.
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