“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”- Joseph Campbell
I had the honor of participating in a sacred Pipe Blessing* that was performed inside a traditional Lakota Sweat Lodge (Inipi) to support the spiritual grounding for John Cypress Eagle, a local Native artist with Choctaw heritage. I have received permission from the participants to share my experience of this special, sacred event. Names have been changed to protect the identity of participants participating in the ceremony.
Since it was dark in the lodge, I faced a challenge: How would I know what happens during the ceremony where the language is spoken, songs are sung, and there is no translation in sign? How can I participate in this sacred occasion when I’m not only deaf but blind? I decided to be open and allow the Universe to show me whatever it needs to show me. I entered the Inipi with an open heart and a small buckskin hand drum.
This drum was my interpreter of the vocal chants. I placed my hand on the buckskin, it sent the songs into my body through vibration. I also placed my other hand on Silver Fawn’s throat. I could feel the difference between the singing voices of Golden Hawk, the SunDancer leading the ceremony, and Silver Fawn. During that, I had visions that were swirls of light- like fireflies- dancing. It was beautiful.
When Golden Hawk opened the door of the lodge, light came through and I could see everyone’s figures but I could not entirely lip read or see their facial expressions. Golden Hawk started interpreting everyone’s prayers using some signs I taught him. It was nice to have a bit of access with what’s going on at first, but then it became laborious trying to understand, catching pieces of the puzzle and trying to figure out what is being said. I did not have my cochlear implant on and I could not read Golden Hawk’s lips, some of the signs were confusing to me. So that became a bit of struggle towards the end.
In a circle, we each took turns, sharing our prayers, I was calm and receptive- but started to wonder what I would say when it was my turn.
When it was Silver Fawn’s turn to share her prayer, she motioned me to close my eyes.
That I received with no objection or fear. I closed my eyes and felt a blanket of peace. I entered Nothingness.
My mind was trying to figure out what I would contribute in the sharing of prayers, I was looking for answers. I didn’t want to share in spoken English and I wasn’t sure if using Sign Language was going to work. There’s no point “cutting off” people and leaving them to guess what I’m saying in sign. I had already done that in the beginning during our opening prayers where I signed in gestures showing gratitude.
Then the vision of the swirls came back… and I thought about John Cypress Eagle, since this ceremony was dedicated to him. I felt the magical energy of his artistic soul, the vibrant colors, the springs, his artist style/design come up in my visions.
I thought about the Lakota saying, Aho Mitakuye Osyian [Aho-Ma-Take-Oyason] which translates to “We All Are Connected”.
So, how do I contribute to that? I thought about teaching them the sign for “connected” and have them cross their arms, connect to each other through the sign…but I wanted people to touch each other. I want them to FEEL connected. Then boom! An idea landed on my lap, the drum…. The vibrations… That’s an excellent way to share with them all what I experienced in the lodge, since many of them were curious what it was like being a deaf person in the Inipi.
So, when it was my turn to say the prayers, passing the pipe… Silver Fawn handed the pipe to me… my heart started racing… I raised the pipe, took deep breath, landed the pipe on my lap, and I gestured and spoke softly:
“I don’t have much words to say, but I want to offer that we move a little closer to the center of the circle.”
People understood and scooted closer with no objections.
“Ah, what makes us all connected? Our pulse. Now, I’m going to place my hand on Golden Hawk’s knee… Golden Hawk, you place your hand on Joe’s, and so on… everyone put their left hand… in a circle. Then I’m going to relay the beat of my heartbeat.”
I placed two fingers on the pulse on my neck, it was beating pretty fast because I was in the center of attention. The nervous energy… but it also felt a different source of energy was also leading. Boom-Boom- Tap-Tap- Tap… I closed my eyes… and within a few slow seconds, Silver Fawn’s hand began drumming on my right knee with the same rhythm of my pulse.
We did it for almost a minute.
Then I stopped. Smiled and opened my eyes to look around. And gestured… “We All Are Connected- One Heartbeat”.
A few people were inspired to tears.
It felt profound and after I passed the pipe to Golden Hawk; my eyes started filling with tears. Two drops trickled down each of my cheeks.
While anxiety lay in panic, in searching for answers/directions, it was in Silence where I found answers.
Silver Fawn’s decision to ask me to close my eyes and shut off the world took me to a place of silence, not disconnection. It was Silence that allowed me to receive the idea of using the Heart-Drum. I would have mumbled meaningless words. Messages might have been lost in translation. Silence provided me the tool to connect everyone through the senses of touch and rhythm.
Less is more. Less talk and more observation gives room for creativity.
Trusting the process, the Universe knows the answer and brings it to you if you ask.
#We All Are Related…Connected. Aho Mitakuye Osyian
The heart. The pulse. Feeling our heartbeats is important.
Silence is golden.
One Heart, One Drum.
*The pipe ceremony provides the Lakota with the spiritual grounding and rooting of a Native identity in the modern world. Lakota people are conscious that with each pipe ceremony they pray not only for themselves and their well being, but for all human beings and the whole of creation. Each part of the pipe—stem, bowl, tobacco, breath, and smoke—is symbolic of the fundamental relationships among plants, animals, humans, elements, and spiritual beings that keep the cosmos in motion. In pipe ceremonies, numerous pinches of tobacco signify prayers of blessing for each part of creation and the whole cosmic community. -https://pluralism.org/sacred-pipe-of-the-lakota-sioux