The Medicine Way is based on an unwritten "code of ethics" that honors the natural laws of Creation to guide our way of life toward harmony and balance with all our relations -- personal, social, and environmental. The "Way of the Circle" is passed down from generation to generation, from Native American Elders to the children in the form of stories, traditions, customs, and teachings. What follows is a general collection of these teachings, which can be embraced by anyone seeking the way of harmony and balance:
1. When you first arise in the morning, give thanks to the Creator (Great Spirit), to the Four Directions, to Mother Earth, to Father Sky, and to all of our relations, for the life within you, and for all life around you.
2. Remember that all things are connected.
* All things have purpose, everything has its place.
* Honor others by treating them with kindness and consideration; always assume that a guest is tired, cold, and hungry, making sure to provide him or her with the best of what you have to offer.
3. If you have more than you need for yourself and your family, consider performing a "giveaway" by distributing your possessions to others who are in need.
4. You are bound by your word, which cannot be broken except by permission of the other party.
5. Seek harmony and balance in all things.
* It is always important to remember where you are in relation to everything else, and to contribute to the Circle in whatever way you can by being a "helper" and a protector of life.
* Sharing is the best part of receiving.
* Practice silence and patience in all things as a reflection of self-control, endurance, dignity, reverence, and inner calm.
* Practice modesty in all things; avoid boasting and loud behavior that attracts attention to yourself.
* Know the things that contribute to your well-being, and those things that lead to your destruction.
6. Always ask permission, and give something for everything that is received, including giving thanks for, and honoring, all living things.
7. Be aware of what is around you, what is inside of you, and always show respect.
* Treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest Elder with respect.
* Do not stare at others; drop your eyes as a sign of respect, especially in the presence of Elders, teachers, or other honored persons.
* Always give a sign of greeting when passing a friend or stranger.
* Never criticize or talk about someone in a harmful, negative way.
* Never touch something that belongs to someone else without permission.
* Respect the privacy of every person, making sure to never intrude upon someone's quiet moments or personal space.
* Never interfere in the affairs of another by asking questions or offering advice.
* Never interrupt others.
* In another person's home, follow his or her customs rather than your own.
* Treat with respect all things held sacred to others whether you understand these things or not.
* Treat Earth as your mother; give to her, protect her, honor her; show deep respect for those in the animal world, plant world, and mineral world.
8. Listen to guidance offered by all of your surroundings; expect this guidance to come in the form of prayer, dreams, quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and friends.
9. Listen with your heart.
10. Learn from your experiences, and always be open to new ones.
11. Always remember that a smile is something sacred, to be shared.
12. Live each day as it comes.
This article is excerpted from:
Medicine of the Cherokee: The Way of Right Relationship
by J.T. Garrett and Michael Garrett.
About the Authors
J.T. Garrett, Ed.D., and his son, Michael Garrett, Ph.D., are members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee from North Carolina Asstudents and teachers of Indian Medicine, they draw on the ancient wisdom teachings of their Medicine Elders on the Cherokee Reservation in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Garretts have developed ways to present the "old teachings" to effectively guide people today to appreciate and understand living the "Medicine Way."