or thousands of years, the Natives of the Americas such as the Sinagua, Anasazi, Hopi, Yavapai, Apache, and Navajo called Sedona, Arizona home. I did too, for 17 years. It's a powerful and wild place. The landscape is infused with the remains of historic dwellings, from the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, and the austere desert hills of the Verde Valley, to the box canyons of Sedona's Red Rock Country. The deep connection between the Colorado Plateau and its native people is profound. And I can feel it.
I am just becoming aware of the Native Americans who once inhabited the central coast of California near where I now live in Santa Barbara. The Chumash were a fishing tribe who sealed their boats with the naturally occurring tar. They were also great artists who painted in caves and were known for their baskets made from the brush. There is a reservation where the Chumash tribe lives.
Many elders today say that Chumash means “bead maker” or “seashell people.”
"We called ourselves “the first people,” and the Pacific Ocean is our first home."
As hunters, gatherers, and fishermen, Chumash ancestors recognized their dependency on the world around them. Ceremonies soon came to mark the significant seasons that their lives were contingent upon: emphasis was given to the fall harvest and the storage of food for the winter months. During the winter solstice, the shaman priests led several days of feasting and dancing to honor the power of their father, the Sun.
Whether in Sedona or Santa Barbara, the people who dwelled on the land I now am privileged to live on lived in harmony with their world. They are my teachers. Their recognition and reverence for all of their relations were vital to their survival. And, not just their familial relations, but with their relations to the natural ecosystem. Whether it be a forest, prairie, river, stream, desert, plain, mountainous region, garden, or ocean.
We have many relationships within our communities and with our neighbors. And, our relationship to nature is just as important as to humans around us. Consider the essential relationships between plants and animals, water and plants, insects and soil, bees and flowers, birds and air, space and life, moon and tides, and sun and trees. What if you were to shift your perspective to be more like the Natives of the Americas and naturally recognize that all the life forms that live near you are also your neighbors. Consider how vital all the living organisms are to the proper function and flow of the community where you live including the plants, bugs, rodents, bats, birds, and mammals.
And consider this: nature is you.
Nature is in you, as it is in all of life.
You are made of water, air, space, fire, and earth, literally. As you deepen your spiritual practice, you may feel the call to create better relations. You may want to adopt the mindset of doing no harm to the neighbors around you, and recognize that, in fact, you are an integral part of this ecosystem that promotes all life on earth.
When I awaken early in the morning and the sun is rising, I sense the millions of people over the centuries who have been awestruck at its power and beauty. I think of the right relations that I must be responsible for in my little world so to add to the harmony on this planet. Then, I pray. This is one of my favorite Native American Prayers, it was also a favorite of Eleanor Roosevelt's, which was translated by the Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark, in 1887.
Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold
the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have
made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things
you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.