12 Things I learned From Native Americans That Changed My Life

Our mainstream media does little to let us know what goes on in Native America. Many years ago I fell into a wonderful string of events that brought Native people from varied nations and their traditions into my awareness. The experiences opened my heart and validated concepts and feelings I already carried within me. Here are some of the things I learned that I feel could change our world into a more loving and compassionate place.

1)Woman Are Held in High Esteem — Women carry the great responsibility of giving birth. The keen intuition of women helps us care for children. When we keep our hearts open we know what is needed to heal any situation, therefore in most Native nations no decision is finalized until the women elders have reviewed all options. Because we are givers of life and sustenance Earth is considered to be a Mother.

2)Men and Women Think Differently and That’s Okay — The Creator made men and women in different forms to keep each other in balance, not for one to dominate over the other. It is not necessary to fight over which traits are better. All traits of each gender, when implemented for the greater good, are valuable.

3)If You are Different There is Always a Place for You — If you are gender neutral or are born with a preference for intimate relationship with the same sex, you are not considered unusual. If you learn in a different way from others, if your body or skin color does not look like all the rest, if you cannot speak or see or hear you are honored with the same respect as all beings human or otherwise. Under no circumstances does being different carry a negative connotation.

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4)Nature and You are Not Separate — You are One of a Multitude of Equal Beings — Like the quartz crystals that once powered wrist watches, all rocks and stones carry an energy that Native people know as a form of life. All creatures, trees, and plants, water, air, fire, and earth are considered sacred and sentient. While indigenous knew this truth for eons, Western culture is finally catching up with experiments that demonstrate the amazing intelligence of creatures formerly known as “dumb” and the discovery of how trees communicate.

5)Lessons are Everywhere and the Simplest Task Can Teach You About Yourself — When my first Lakota teacher gave a lesson in making a Native American style necklace, he said, “Pay attention! There is no wrong way to do this. The process will show you yourself.” Sure enough, during an activity I thought I would ace due to a lifetime of art and crafting skills, I discovered the impatience and lack of humility that lingered inside of me and I realized how my mind buzzed with excessive thought.

6)Everything is Connected and Responds to Your Actions — I’d been accused of oversensitivity by secular society when I cried over beautiful trees cut down and turned into mulch or when I saw an animal who had been hit by a car. In much of Native America, if you feel sadness about any being whose life has ended prematurely without due respect, they are family and of course you feel sad. If you have ever had a premonition or walk into a room and can pick out who is happy, sad, or indifferent, then you know there is some unseen force that connects us. We were born this way to detect creatures who might see us as prey or other dangers and that ability has not left us in our modern age. We have the same kind of connection with all Beings and if we pay close attention with an open heart we will hear messages that speak through them.

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7)Children Deserve our Respect and Attention — Too often we think of children as untamed, ignorant balls of clay who are here for us to mold into small versions of ourselves. However, children carry with them a wisdom based on innocence and non-censure that we can learn from. In my book Earth Divine — Adventures of an Everyday Mystic I tell a story about a time I listened to a command from my five-year-old nephew and the result was nothing short of miraculous. In order to receive the gifts children can convey we must stay out of our egos and trust the moment.

8)Elders Deserve our Respect and Attention — Elders have a lifetime of experiences to share that could help us if we would only listen. Not everyone can deal with the pains of aging with a smile, so it is up to us to realize we will be there one day too and master the art of empathy. There is a Native American story about a boy who observes his parents verbally abusing his grandfather who lives with them. The parents decide to put the old man in a far-off home where they don’t have to bother with him. When the boy grows up he does the same with his parents despite their protests. We can learn from that story in an age where youth reigns and elders are often considered used up and useless.

9)All on This Earth Deserve our Respect and Attention — When you see everything as alive, when you know that everything placed here on earth depends on everything else, when you yourself want to be heard and respected, it makes sense to offer the same to the Mother Earth and her inhabitants. All that is here on earth, including humans, are just individual cells in a larger living being and it all works together. No one cell can function without all the others. When disrespect begins in one small corner of the world it spreads like wildfire unless we do something to correct it. If each person on the planet tended to their own emotional wounds so they don’t project them onto others, disrespect would never happen in the first place. We each are responsible for correcting all the wrongs we see “out there” by correcting what is dysfunctional within us.

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10)Much Healing Occurs with Attention, Respect, and Care for the Individual — I listened to a Native speaker who shared his experiences as a doctor schooled in Western medicine. After observing a lot of neglect and mistreatment he dug into his Native heritage and studied with Native healers. He learned the importance of asking questions to draw out the stories of his patients, what their lives were like before they got ill, and how they perceived the illness took root. Then he told the healing stories from his elders and patients responded to treatment much quicker from the attention and respect alone.

11)Prayer is Lightning Fast — My Native friends do not spend a lot of time asking for a result and trust that in due time they will be answered. Meanwhile they supplement prayer with action that moves toward the desired result, including fine-tuning self-awareness and mastery of emotion. When prayers appear to go unheard, patience and courage are strengthened to continue the journey.

12)The Body May Die but the Spirit Lives On — Much honor is given to deceased ancestors. At a pueblo I visited, they celebrated Day of the Dead by creating paths from the cemetery to the homes, so the spirits could visit their respective families. The paths were formed by rows of marigold blossoms that had been collected from gardens and dried. Special feasts were prepared to share with the spirits and once the cooking ceased family members sat in their living rooms to await their lost loved ones. In their minds and hearts, loved ones are never far away even after death of the body. Your heart knows.

My life changed when I stepped out of my mind and into my heart. The heart has a way of listening that surpasses the censorship and judgement of the mind. Meditate, spend time in nature, practice yoga or Qi Gong, and any number of other mind-calming activities. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for to make necessary changes that will heal all of civilization.

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Robin Reichert

Author, Earth Divine - Adventures of an Everyday Mystic speaker/storyteller, peace alchemist, artist, award-winning story Transformed, www.RobinHeartStories.com