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Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ


"We are all related". These are words from the Lakota language that embrace their philosophy of interconnectedness. I learned them from my Seminole spiritual teacher as well as my Lakota spiritual teachers. This concept is especially pertinent in today's world, although it is not an easy concept to embrace if you are not familiar with it.

Most native cultures have a similar philosophy - the understanding that we, the human race, are intricately and intimately connected to the entire web of life, and that, what we do to the web, we do to ourselves. This is true, whether you believe it or not. Science is true, whether you believe it or not. One can experience it by going out in nature and living off the land for even a short time. I experienced this while working on an organic farm. Our daily work depended on the seasons, the weather, the length of daylight, the life cycles of the plants, the needs of the animals, and when the insects or diseases decided to invade. We had to be ever vigilant and prepared for immediate changes. It was the most rewarding work I have ever done and made me ever grateful for the earth and all she gives us, as well as mindful how I treat her and her beings.

In yoga, this comes back to the principle of "ahimsa" - non-violence - "first do no harm". If only we all lived by this principle, we would do no harm - not just to others, but to the earth and all of her beings. Ahimsa is said to be the most important "yama" because if we followed this principle, we would, by default, follow all of the others.

Our modern society has made it easy to become disconnected. We can, for the most part, control the temperature of our setting. We can stay inside during bad weather. We can buy any food we want at any time of year by having it shipped or by growing it under unnatural conditions. We can live in gated communities and keep out "others" with whom we do not want to interact, instead of finding common ground and striving for the best for all in our community. We have lost our connection to wildlife, buying our food from farms that we do not live on or growing it ourselves or hunting and fishing and gathering. We have no appreciation for the mass suffering on factory farms. We have no connection to the purpose of a timber wolf or a black bear because they do nothing to serve our personal survival. Many of us never travel outside of our country, and have no idea how others live or how the way we live might impact them. Yet, we share the same atmosphere and the same oceans.

If you have ever spent time backwoods camping, or have grown your own food, or worked on a farm - you can see that Nature gives us everything we need to survive. Supplies to build shelter, fire for warmth, food and medicine to nourish us, and companionship. We can nurture and appreciate these things or take them for granted and use them in excess.

The earth is changing - whether we want it to or not - whether we admit it or not. Buddhism teaches us that everything is temporary. Still, how we live with one another and how we walk on this earth - how we treat its inhabitants matters. We can hasten our destruction or we can help our neighbors and receive the benefits of our interconnectedness - of community. No matter what your religion or spiritual belief - we can appreciate that every single thing created on this planet must have a purpose - according to "God's" plan or Mother Earth or Nature or Great Spirit or that which cannot be named....There is so much beauty here - given freely to us. Will we embrace it or destroy it?


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