Op-Ed
Published in

Op-Ed

Wakan Tanka

Today I go to meet the Great Mystery of the Lakota people, Wakan Tanka, The Grandfather Spirit.

Photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash

To prepare for my quest, I’ve been carefully securing prayer ties to a cotton string. I fill each cotton square with tobacco, first the reds, then the yellows, then the whites, then the blacks, followed by a green and a blue, and then two more white and black ties for a total of 106. I’ve spent hours praying and singing and tying. I’m nervous but I want to suppress that so it isn’t real. I pray harder that I will have strength and courage, and that I will be protected on my Vision Quest. I don’t just have fears of what will happen while I am there, I have anxiety about leaving behind my responsibilities. I haven’t even unpacked from my trip to Biloxi because I lead a sacred sisterhood circle on the beach for the New Moon as soon as I got back. My car still doesn’t work so I wonder how I’ll afford to pay for those repairs when I don’t even know what’s wrong with it. Still, I have to leave all of those worries behind so that I can receive the message I am hoping to be given.

The rituals associated with this Vision Quest are meant to humble me, and that is sometimes uncomfortable. The elders of the church each have their own way of passing down their knowledge, and sometimes they can contradict one another with various degrees of rigidity. They do not go out of their way to express niceties, they only wish to preserve the lessons that were given to them. When you are accustomed to a fake culture like the one we live in, it can seem blunt, brash, and harsh. While it is not the intention, I sometimes feel embarrassed for not knowing things before I am told. In the corporate culture I am used to, you look things up to know them ahead of time. While this is something I can do now even for the Lakota traditions, there is still this issue of each community doing things slightly differently. I have a strong desire to impress people and that sort of competitive instinct is not so helpful in a tribe.

Last night I embraced the coziness of my bed knowing that for the next two or three nights that comfort will be felt from a different space. While my body may not like what I’ll be doing, my spirit will recognize why it is that I am. I will be testing my restraint, my endurance, and my will power. Right now, I’m enjoying my coffee and appreciating the technology that allows me to journal with kindred spirits. I sit with a wonderful incense burning beside me and the sound of my neighbors’ baby goats yelling outside. The space heater providing ambience and warmth in my humble little abode.

I know I am prepared to be mentally strong. I know I am brave and will make it through, but this is just the beginning. This moment of reverence for what I have is to prepare me for all of that being stripped away. It may seem like an eternity while I am out there or maybe the time will fly by. I am excited to give gifts to the fire keepers and to the Chief. I am ready to show them the prayer ties I spent hours making. I want to make them proud to watch me grow, like a little broccoli plant. But I do still love classical music and I am very grateful to experience the technological advancements of modern society. It is only because they exist that I am able to realize how difficult it will be without them. The beautiful fact that I can want more than I need and that I can have some of those desires regularly, without thinking twice about them, is why I am on this quest. In those moments of suffering I will understand at a much deeper level how fortunate I am and it will make every morning a beautiful one.

I have a deep desire to return to simple life while I also love luxury. This is not a contradiction, but for every indulgence, I must be willing to give back. With every beat of my heart I hope to remember the beat of a sacred drum so that I can return to a place of reverence.

“The romantic contrast between modern industry that “destroys nature” and our ancestors who “lived in harmony with nature” is groundless. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinctions. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of life.”
Yuval Noah Harari, From Animals into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind

Originally written in Collective Journaling at The Stoa

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store