“House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.”
From the Navaho Night Chant
It has been more than two weeks since I last posted. The first three weeks of the Fall term have been very busy. Outside, the weather has turned cooler and a tad wetter. Color is creeping into the trees. Here and there a tree shows good color; more than a few small trees have turned brown, stressed by the dry summer.
On occasion we are asked to settle a disturbance in a house. Sometimes there are spirits at work, other times the disturbance seems to arise from conflicts between present or past occupants of the house. I’m not sure why this may be so, but it seems to me that folks in our culture underestimate the lasting effects of family conflict. I’m not talking about the everyday strains of living in close proximity. Rather, I am thinking about the long lasting hurts that arise when kindness breaks down. When asked to help in such circumstances, we may perform ceremony seeking a return to balance and kindness.
We humans often underestimate the impacts our thoughts and actions have on the world and beings around us. We live in a finite, carefully regulated Earth house. Even small numbers of people can have a large physical and spiritual impact on the land and its other inhabitants. Tradition teaches us that we literally live in a house made of dawn. Different tribal traditions speak to this in their own, unique ways. I have long loved the Navajo version, perhaps as a result of reading M. Scott Momaday long ago.
Western culture tells us that we can say and think pretty much what we please, and so so without impacting others. Yet Medicine traditions all around the world insist otherwise. They insist the spirits of the land and the other organisms know our thoughts, and are touched by them. We are encouraged to be thankful for the generosity of the Rain beings, the animals and plants who give themselves up so we may eat and live, and all who make our lives possible. We are reminded that we are simply one node in a grand, interactive pattern of being.
To perform ceremony is to acknowledge, and consciously partake in, that great pattern, to touch the pulse of All That Is. Through ceremony we are reminded and supported to return to balance. It is not that we do not feel anger, lust, fear, or greed. Rather, we acknowledge the humanity inherent in those experiences, and seek balance so they do not run our lives. We two-legged ones are given to passions and violence. An awareness of the fragility of the houses we live, and love, in, and humbleness in the face of the immensity of human emotion and experience provide some cushion against the effects of our inevitable mistakes.
As we approach the Autumn Equinox our thoughts return to the necessity of balance, even as the human world seems to spin ever more off center. We are reminded we live in a house of great beauty, fragility, and mystery. In my view, the cardinal points in the solar year are more ceremonial markers than innate turning points. They remind us that we are situated in the world of living beings, totally dependent upon the good graces of the sun, the rain clouds, and innumerable living beings that create our breathing and feed us. There are also the Ancestors, and the innumerable spirits who, with Mother Earth, create the conditions that make our lives possible. Without them, we would not be.
It is easy to imagine that we are only here to consume, for we eat in order to be. The centrality of our hungers is also the web in which consumerist culture snares us. The traditions tell us another is another way. We must consume in order to continue, yet we can do so with mindfulness and gratitude. This is a difficult path. Following it we are open to the heartbreak that accompanies awareness. We are also available to joy.