The Hard Part

Fighting Our Worst Enemy

Chief Fools Crow often reminded us that our worst enemy was always ourselves. We will therefore attack this enemy with our most devastating weapon, harsh truth, but tempered with compassion, understanding and forgiveness.

When we prepare to go on the hill (Vision Quest) the most important thing we can do in preparation is to dig deep into our faults and failings in order to obliterate any pride we may be secretly holding onto and thus to humble, lower and abase ourselves. (That doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, does it?) The hardest things that we can ever do (and this is going to sound silly on the face of it) is to forgive ourselves for being human beings, having a flawed and imperfect human nature, and learn to see ourselves as we really are rather than the idealized self image that we would prefer to think of as our accurate description. That doesn't sound too bad, but when we actually begin to deflate the idealized self image that each of us humans creates, it hurts like hell to recognize our own self deceptions.

We hide from ourselves by creating fictions / illusions that tell us that we are wonderful, especially when we are not. We also hide from our motivations, concocting elaborate explanations and justifications to explain our actions rather than becoming aware of our real motivations. We can see this in other people, but we don't want to think that we are the same way. It is not the least bit enjoyable to confront these aspects of our human nature that we normally keep hidden from conscious awareness, in fact, in some instances, people would rather die than truly see themselves as they are, which is sad since we are all so completely forgivable. Creator does not judge us for those parts of us that we cannot face. Creator forgives us; we need only confront and forgive ourselves and thereby gain some humility. Then we will be ready to go on the hill.

We live in a world beset with problems that threaten its health and our existence. The media and our culture would have us ignore all of those problems and focus our attention on our immediate perceived needs, and especially our desires, even as this path leads to our inevitable self destruction. We are told we should buy larger and more luxurious cars, even though this increases CO2 in the atmosphere. If our culture was sane, it would make us feel like heroes for taking public transportation or riding a bicycle and people who drove Hummers and other huge vehicles would be branded as selfish inconsiderate narcissists.

The spiritual path turns us away from our self concern and desires and turns us towards focusing our awareness on the needs of others. Our awareness and concern expands to encompass not only our family, relatives, friends, acquaintances and our country's citizens, but to all of the people in the world and the world itself.

Mitakuye Oasin!

For all of the medicine men and the Lakota people, the most profound and widely used prayer of all is "Mitakuye Oasin" (which is pronounced "mee-TAH-koo-yay o-AH-see" but often gets run together and sounds like "mee-TAH-kwee-Ah-see".) This is what is said at the end of every prayer where Judeo-Christians would say "Amen". It is also said when going into and when coming out of sweat lodges. The translation of "Mitakuye Oasin" is "All My Relations". The "All" refers to everything that we are observing around us.
The prayer acknowledges that we are all related;
we are related to every other human being on the planet;
we are related to all of the animals;
we are related to the birds that fly and the fish that swim;
we are related to all of the plants and trees;
we are related to the dirt and stones beneath our feet, the water we drink and the air we breathe;
we are related to the entire world, the sun, the stars in the sky, and the spaces in between.

So while the Lakota continually express their relationship with those around them, our culture very effectively isolates us and tries to convince us that we should serve, not one another or some greater good, but only ourselves. We are told that "We Deserve" whatever unnecessary environmentally destructive luxury that they want to sell us. We are manipulated and deceived, told we are special, good, righteous, and God blesses us and is on our side, so therefore we must kill and not ask questions, and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

They fill our heads with nonsense designed to make us docile, self absorbed consumers who don't really give a damn how our unsustainable lifestyles and consumption are directly destroying the lives of economic slave laborers in far off places and slowly but surely and increasingly poisoning the entire planet. Even as the effects of this poisoning are becoming apparent, the heartless kings and apostles of "Greed is God" insist that they are not to blame despite the obvious and conclusive evidence to the contrary.

These are harsh words to read and harsh to write as none of us (myself especially included) are above reproach. We all have to tear down the monstrous illusion of our own innocence and be willing to recognize and forgive our culpability and then turn our hearts and minds to the task of bringing about change.

Facing these truths, humbling ourselves and committing ourselves to always maintaining an awareness of how our actions and lifestyle affect others globally, and through our intent, becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem is an essential part of preparing to go on the hill.

On the Rosebud Reservation there was a Jesuit Scholastic and historian by the name of Rich Lundstrom who was devoutly Catholic, loyal to his church, and a close friend to the priests and brothers at the St. Francis Mission. Never-the-less he wrote some papers that were scathing criticisms of the Church's failure to work for true justice for the Indian people. His papers, harsh as they were, were not condemnations as much as they were pleas for the Church to examine itself, repent, and renew its commitment to serve Christ.

By today's post Cold War geopolitical standards, Rich's writings from the 1970's seem politically dated, but looking beneath the politics, he shows us many unpleasant truths about our all too human nature and how easily we can deceive ourselves and live in illusions both individually and as groups. Rich's writings can break your heart in an important and good way, if you let them. Here are links to two of his papers:

His Columbus and the Church Paper deals with how each of us can deceive ourselves on a personal level.

His Mythology Paper shows us how an entire nation or group of people can deceive themselves.

It is hard and unrewarding work to tear down our fantasies and illusions that we have wanted to believe are actual reality, to face harsh unpleasant truths about ourselves, and to learn to forgive ourselves. The path to Spiritual Transformation and enlightenment takes us through some of the most unpleasant and degrading experiences that are humanly possible, but if our goal is to gain true humility, then this is a necessary step. We MUST be ready and able to look ourselves in the mirror, tear down the illusions, and see ourselves for how we really are, for how can we possibly hope to stand before God if we cannot bear to stand in front of a mirror and see ourselves as we are?

The Final Exercise and Preparation

To prepare ourselves to go on the hill, we should spend at least one month of preparation. Every day, we should spend at least one half hour (and maybe one whole hour per day during the last week before going on the hill) sitting in complete silence, especially as regards our thoughts. We also should spend a half hour or an hour per day cleaning up any messes that we have been putting off. As we clean and order our surroundings, so too do we clean up our mental messes.

A good measure of what we should clean up first is to figure out which of our messes or chores that we have been putting off do we LEAST want to do or clean up and work on that one first. We handle the rest of the chores in the same way, doing the least desirable chore first. This increases our level of discipline while it frustrates the desires of our ego and helps us to focus better. It also makes the chores get better and easier as time goes on.

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