In Memory of Bear Heart. Part 11.

English: Frame for sweat lodge at Lake Superio...
English: Frame for sweat lodge at Lake Superior Provincial Park, Wawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
June 30, 2013
by Jerry Alatalo

“So the living God is one God. There are many ways people worship God, and that’s why there are so many churches of different denominations-their rituals are different, the order of services are different, but it is the same God. Whether you go to a Catholic church, a Jewish temple, a Protestant service, or a Native American ceremony, if you are strong in your belief and your faith, you don’t have to fear what anyone else does.”

Bear Heart said that there is only one Creator; there is not many gods.

He describes the Sacred Stone People’s Lodge or sweat lodge. This is a ceremony where stones become heated to red hot in an open fire, brought into the lodge, steam gets produced by throwing water on the rocks, and toxins are released when we sweat. The sweat lodge is a place to communicate with the Creator.

The sweat lodge is not a place to show others how much heat you can take, but is a sacred place. Here a person becomes purified and cleaned to communicate with the Higher Power. The differences between a sweat lodge and a sauna or steam room is that the sweat lodge involves a spiritual aspect. There is no reason that when one takes a sauna or sits in a steam room that the experience can’t be a form of prayer and spiritual.

Whether it is the sweat lodge, sauna or steam room the main cause in communicating with Creator is humility. With the sweat lodge you have to crawl through the low doorway to get inside and that is showing humility. The seven stones which are used in the lodge represent the Creator, the Earth, the four directions and one more for all living things. Bear Heart said, “So, when we sit there, we are in a little universe. And in that little space, we can pray for any situation on our planet, we can add our love, our concern for the whole world. There are many things that we can pray for from our churches and our little lodges and it doesn’t matter how great or small the structure because the One we appeal to has the greatest power of all.”

He describes prayer as communicating from our hearts to the One who will listen no matter what our station in life. He talks about the elders praying for people who have experienced disasters of some type. They pray for orphans so that someone may express good thoughts to them, give them food or toys to play with. Bear Heart said, “We can pray for these things if we are spiritual. The spirit just works, it doesn’t think in terms of distance, it doesn’t think in terms of time.”

When the drum was used there was an awareness of the spirit inside the drum. The wood of the drum was once a tree while the skin of the drum  was once life. The drum represents the heartbeat of the Creator, and when people danced to the drum all were in harmony with our fellow-man.

“The spirit of the One who gave us life, the Life Form of all life forms, is being called upon, and in time, that person’s heartbeat is going to catch up with the drumbeat. You don’t have to be a great medicine person to do this. You just have to have a lot of love in your heart to be able to do it, a lot of concern for your fellow-man. That’s why the drum is a sacred instrument for us.”

The fire where the stones become heated is attended to carefully and gently. The fire that burns is the eternal fire and is the sun lighting our way.

Bear Heart goes on to explain the meaning of the circle or Sacred Hoop. Sweat lodges and tipis are round and represent the circle without end, without any time element. People who gather in a circle experience oneness and a sense of the sacredness that is inside us all. The Sacred Hoop is the circle of all life and includes the four directions, the Earth and every living thing.

“Everything is part of the Sacred Hoop and everything is related. Our existence is so intertwined that our survival depends on maintaining a balanced relationship with everything within the Sacred Hoop.”

He said the circle represents the universe, all of creation united as relatives. The circle, the Hoop has been broken many times through history as man has ignored his fellow-man, the Earth and living things on her.

“In today’s culture, the Hoop has been broken in many places. What we’re trying to do is repair it. The circle brings us closer together in harmony with a sense of blending, forgiving, loving, tolerating. If we can live that way, then perhaps our world, which is the greatest circle, might be a better place.”

Bear Heart talked about the responsibilities of leadership where human beings have been entrusted to your care. The leader is responsible for every soul and every problem. It is a large responsibility.

He goes on to describe the use of peyote in the Native American Church. He noted that peyote has many healing properties, science has determined that it is not habit-forming, and that it has medicine value. Natives view it as medicine which cures all kinds of mental, emotional and physical problems. It is not taken to “get high” but because we need help, direction, strength and encouragement.

There isn’t any hallucinating with peyote, but the seeing of visions that teach.

“Peyote still works for our people today. I visited an Otoe man in the veterans’ hospital who told me he had used it to see his son in action during the Korean conflict. He told me, ‘I was home on Saturday, really worrying about my son. The heaviness in my heart for him was there. I didn’t want to go to town because I’d just end up drinking if I did. So I stayed home and decided to take peyote and, in my way, pray. I wanted to hear something good about my son, to see if he was safe. That’s all I was asking.’

“So he ingested some peyote and closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he was flying and, looking down, he saw his son with four or five soldiers who became surrounded by the enemy. ‘They were trapped and my son would have been trapped along with them, but I saw him crawling through the weeds and then the weeds seemed to give way and he fell into a dry creek bed that couldn’t be seen because of the high grass around it. He crawled under a fence and got into some trees and made it to a safe area, so I felt good. I closed my eyes again and when I opened them I was still there lying on my bed. I don’t know how long it took, but I saw that.’ ”

Bear Heart mentioned that two months later the man and his wife got a letter from their son describing exactly what the father had seen. He had seen his son in Korea by using peyote and never touched a drop of alcohol again.

Continued in Part 12…

****

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