As some of you know, in my day job, we work with Indigenous Elders. There are days when I feel truly blessed to have this job. I have learned so much about myself since I started working here. I feel like a completely different person compared to what I was three years ago. I’m more honest with myself – and more at ease with who I am becoming.
This morning, I attended a workshop and listened to an Elder speak on several subjects. Within the first ten minutes, my mind was fully blown and I felt compelled to write about it. Since the Elder’s discussion bounced around so many different topics, I’m going to focus on two that really stuck with me.
Inner reflection and the importance of inner harmony.
The discussion this morning aligns very well with my fitness and weight loss challenge. Being healthy and fit, isn’t just about losing weight and eating well. Being healthy affects our mind and body. Being spirituality fit – is an important part of healing. Inner reflection and meditation – helps us to heal ourselves spiritually and become…whole.
All pictures in this article are from Pixabay, creative commons library.
Inner Reflection and Spirituality
The Elder asked everyone an easy question at the very beginning of the lecture. Or at least what I thought was an easy question.
He asked us all – Who are you? Who are you really? Do you know?
All photos from Pixabay
The Elder told us that the answers he got from different groups of people were always the same. People would talk about their cultural upbringing. Or where they were from. Or what kind of job they did. Or what kind of training they had.
But this wasn’t what he was getting at. This wasn’t what he was asking.
No, who are YOU?
This is where inner reflection comes to play. Read this with an open mind and an open heart. And let his words sink in.
The Elder got a little side tracked and went onto speak about what we do when we come home from work. He really struck a nerve with me with what he said next.
The Elder went onto say that most people when they are finished work – they will go home, lock the door, close the blinds and sit at home alone. He explained that this isn’t the what happens in the Indigenous communities. He said that he doesn’t even lock his door. It’s open for his neighbours to stop by at any time. Neighbours gather for food, drinks and they are there to help each other.
As someone who has lived downtown for twenty years, this concept is foreign to me. I don’t want to know my neighbours. And yes, I go home, lock my door and sit at my computer most evenings.
But I guess life is different in smaller communities. Communities are more like, well, family – according to the Elder. They love to gather and have big celebrations like Pow Wows. They are always there for each other. Being a neighbour – is like being part of an extended family.
I still have yet to attend a big Pow Wow. I am hoping to this summer get to a couple. I feel like I need to experience this.
Spirituality – Connecting with Nature
The Elder went onto speak about the sounds of nature. When we communicate with each other, we speak with sounds. When nature communications with us, nature makes sounds. He says this is Mother Earth calling to us.
Unlike Christianity where Christians celebrate God, the Indigenous believe in The Creator. They celebrate nature and animals.
From the Canadian Encyclopedia website:
Creation stories describe the origins of the cosmos and the interrelations of its elements. Among these tales is what scholars often refer to as the “Earth Diver myth.” This is a story where a Great Spirit or cultural hero dives, or orders animals to dive, into the primeval water to bring back mud, out of which the Earth is fashioned. In some versions of the story, Earth is formed on the back of a turtle; Turtle Island is a popular name used by certain Indigenous peoples for the land of North America.
Creation stories also tell about the origin of the moon, the sun, the stars and human beings. These tales can act as histories and/or lessons about the environment, the heavens and human’s relationship to the world and to one another. In many of these stories, tricksters and transformers — beings with superhuman powers — often play an active role, as they help to create the world as we know it and to guide humanity.
The Four Aspects of the Body
The Elder went onto to tell us about the four aspects of the body – if these four aspects of the body are not in relative balance, he said that we will be unhealthy and unhappy. At least until we learn who we really are – physically, and spiritually.
Being healthy, isn’t just about being fit and physically active. Being healthy, to the Indigenous peoples, means being of sound, mind and body.
The Elder went onto describe the four aspects of the body:
To dive further into the aspects of the body, I want to introduce you to The Medicine Wheel.
The Medicine Wheel
Different tribes have different beliefs in what the four directions of The Medicine Wheel mean. What are the four directions? North, East, South and West. Each direction is aligned with a natural element – Air, Fire, Water, Earth. Here is what the wheel looks like.
Have a look at the wheel, what direction do you identify with?
Connecting with Nature
I miss being in nature. For me, it’s the one place I feel connected. It’s healing. Therapeutic. I feel a true sense of inner peace when I’m on my own surrounded by the wonder that is Mother Earth.
Going for long mountain walks or hikes on my own, was the best therapy money could buy. Listening to Celtic music or piano music as I walked through the trees was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had.
I think to be truly in tune with yourself, you really need to connect with nature. Whether you go for a hike through the woods, or just for a walk at a park. For me, being near water and the mountains is a spiritual experience.
There’s something about mountains. Maybe it’s the history. How they became to be. Or maybe it’s because they are so majestic. But I almost feel a sense of sadness when I come home after a weekend in the mountains.
This is why travel is so important to me. I hear the mountains calling my name. It’s time to reconnect with nature and rediscover who I really am.
Listen – just listen
To connect with nature, find a quiet spot to meditate. Listen to what nature is saying to you. Listen to the birds chirping, the wind in the trees, the sounds of the water trickling down the creek. Listen to the animals around you. Just close your eyes – and really listen.
Forget the stress of your daily life. Forget all the mad ramblings in your head. Just close your eyes. Listen to the sounds of Mother Earth. Listen to what the Earth is saying to you.
Who Am I? Really?
This is such a deep question for a Wednesday morning. I don’t think I’m ready to answer this one. I’m in early stages of getting fit and healthy physically. But I think I have a lot of work to do to become spiritually fit and emotionally healthy.
I’m almost there. The anger I once felt about life is gone. The grief and sadness is still there – but it no longer controls my life. I laugh more. I connect well with people. And I feel good. I’m itching to get back into hiking and connecting with nature.
But these are things that I like to do. They don’t describe who I am.
I think it’s time to wander off to the mountains and reconnect with Mother Earth. Perhaps the answer will come to me then.
It’s time for some serious inner reflection.
It’s time to get spiritually fit.
Footnote: slightly edited. Formatting and title change.