Years of ongoing shamanic and spiritual training have taught me many lessons. Perhaps the main lesson is that life is a never-ending learning process. Although we reach a certain level in our growth and development, there is always something new to learn, to experience, and to help us evolve to a higher level of spirituality -- even if it means failing, backsliding, and hitting rock bottom, and having to start all over again. This includes medicine men and women or spiritual teachers and tribal leaders. We are all also human and therefore will make mistakes in life. Thus, we should not be so quick to judge and criticize those who are trying, or those who assume higher roles.
As a spiritual teacher and healer I recognize the value of various beliefs, teachings, and practices. There are many laws that exist and operate in the Universe, and some of these laws may differ from culture to culture, place to place, and religion to religion. Identifying the spiritual laws that appear to be held in common could reduce possible confusion and provide a basis for greater understanding among people from a variety of belief systems.
A number of different things can make a person sick. I don't want to give the impression that every sickness, injury, accident, disease, streak of misfortune, or ailment is a direct result of violating a Natural Law or the Great Creator's Laws. Some sicknesses and problems, however, can indeed be attributed to spiritual transgression. As a consequence, many potential illnesses, diseases, accidents, and ailments might be prevented, averted, or allayed by knowing the spiritual laws and trying not to violate them. A clean, strong, and healthy spirit is in better condition to fight off the sicknesses and diseases caused by the pollutants, viruses, and industrial mistakes and ignorance of in modern society.
Understanding the Cause of Your Disease
A former patient, whom I doctored for breast cancer and cured, brought me an interesting book that in turn helped her understand the cause of her disease. Spiritually she was a fairly clean person; she had very few offenses. The book, entitled Diet for a Poisoned Planet, by David Steinman, offers more concrete information and evidence about the ways chemicals contaminate our foods.
For example, the author states how one grape can have more than 15 different poisonous chemicals in it, or an apple might carry more than 25; milk has more than 20 chemicals, collard greens and spinach can contain as many as 87, and peanuts alone might have as many as 183 different chemicals in them. And he gives many more examples in his research, reporting that the worst foods to eat include hot dogs, salami, pizza, bacon, and so forth. Cigarettes and alcohol can contain as many as 150 different chemicals.
In addition, we are also making ourselves sick with poor eating habits and the fast-food syndrome of modern living. We are all guilty of eating foods saturated with fats, high in cholesterol, and low in natural vitamins. But even worse, less than 1 percent of the total population ever takes the time to clean out their colons or purify their organisms via fasting and herbs; Western society pays more attention to changing the oil and filters of the automobile than it does to caring for the human body. And yet we wonder why the human vehicle breaks down so much.
Spiritual Techniques as Forms of Preventive Medicine
There are a number of spiritual techniques you can use in your life as forms of preventive medicine without offending the Native religions. Some of these techniques are universal and were used in all cultures at one time; for example, all cultures once had a women's moontime ceremony. All cultures had some form of a sacred sweat lodge or purification system, such as a sauna, steam bath, hot springs, or hot tub. Air, fire, earth, and water are the four natural elements and powers from the Earth. We can use them for protection, purification, and healing; and they are found in the sweat lodges, saunas, steam baths, and women's moontime huts or ceremonial lodges.
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All cultures once used sacred herbs for healing, in the form of teas or soaps, as prayer offerings and for invocation, or for bathing and cleansing. All cultures and most religions used herbs and medicines from the trees to smudge with (to smudge means to purify with smoke made from burning cedar, sage, mugwort, or other herbs); for purification of themselves, their homes, and their religious sites; to ward off bad spirits, ghosts, and negative energies; and as a tea for disinfectant.
In traditional Native healing we are taught by our Elders to purify and protect ourselves before going to a funeral and to smudge our clothes, home, and family after we return. Some of us still use a purification ritual in the sweat lodge with herbs to finalize the process and as a means to eliminate death contamination.
Giving Thanks Under the Law of Reciprocity
We are taught to pray and offer tobacco, herbs, or food to anything in Nature, under the Law of Reciprocity, as a means to ask permission and give thanks before we hunt, fish, or gather food, herbs, and natural resources. Everything has a spirit and power in it; we don't have the right to take it and use it without permission and just cause. Our relationship to Nature is an ancient agreement, and if people violate that spiritual contract they will get punished -- for every action, there is a reaction.
We don't have the right to desecrate the dead, experiment upon deceased people, and abuse skeletons, even if we try to justify it under the concept of education and science. I have seen a lot of physicians, nurses, medical practitioners, chiropractors, college professors, and even students get hurt and sick because they didn't know the Natural Law or because they refused to accept it, treating it as superstition. Hence, if you find yourself in that predicament, learn to smudge yourself before and after the contact; bathe in a hot tub full of salt, mugwort tea, or sage tea for a cleansing.
Learn to pray to the Great Spirit and Nature on a daily basis, at least once a day, preferably at Sunrise or at Sunset. Give thanks to the Sun, Moon, Stars, Wind, Rain, Fog, Snow for their gifts; pray and give thanks to the spirit of the water every time you drink it, bathe in it, and use it, because otherwise we might lose it. Talk to the natural things around you -- the trees, plants, birds, animals, bugs, reptiles, Snakes, rocks, and all of Nature; thank them for their gifts and ask them to protect and watch over you. Put tobacco in your hand if you don't smoke, or use cornmeal or oatmeal and blow the offering to Nature in a gesture of gratitude.
Cleansing: Inside and Out
Learn to take time in your life to perform a smudging ceremony on your home. Make sure you open the doors and windows and let out all the negativity, and pray with your mate or family; pray for one another. I have even prayed to the Great Spirit and Nature right downtown in New York City or Los Angeles, because something from Nature is always around us to hear and witness the prayer.
There is no excuse for people to pollute their mind, body, and soul with alcohol and drugs. Try to stay off that kind of poison, and if you are addicted get professional therapy. Even coffee is a drug. I have been fighting it for years, so I have tried switching over to decaf and herbal substitutes. Coffee is a real killer to men's prostate glands. And any form of sugar, except certain natural sweeteners, is a real poison to the human organism. White flour, candy, cakes, pies, milk, soda pop, and numerous other kinds of Western starchy foods are destroying our Native American people, generation after generation. Historically, genetically, and physically, we have been primarily meat and fish eaters; our diets were high in protein and very low in carbohydrates. We need to get back to that "natural" type of diet if we want to become healthy and survive in the future! In this sense our tribal and traditional foods are, indeed, medicine.
It is always best if you can grow or gather your own foods, but if not, then try using health food stores or co-ops where the food doesn't have chemicals. Be sure not to eat fruits and vegetables together at the same meal: their natural chemicals and energies don't agree with each other and can cause sickness. Another way to maintain spirituality is to always pray over your food, put good thoughts in it, and give thanks to the Creator and Nature for the food. Don't cook food or eat it when you are angry and upset. The negativity will cause sickness.
I eat meats, although I know all the valid arguments against it. I have learned from all these years of doctoring that the human organism needs some kind of meat, at least on a periodic basis. I try to eat the natural meats from animals in Nature when I get the opportunity. Otherwise I have learned to cleanse my intestines and organism by fasting for three to four days, a few times a year, or at least once a year. I use natural laxatives to purge my system. Chickweed, sage, red clover, and burdock teas are good herbs to use for purifying and strengthening the organism along with the laxatives and fasting.
I also try to use my sacred sweat lodge as much as possible to remove stress, mental negative energies, and body toxins. Good common sense and instinct should tell us: the more the world around us becomes polluted, the more ways we will have to find to deal with it, and clean ourselves.
©2001. Reprinted with permission of Bear & Co.,
an imprint of Inner Traditions Intl.
Call of the Great Spirit: The Shamanic Life and Teachings of Medicine Grizzly Bear
by Bobby Lake-Thom.
This redemption story of Native American healer Bobby Lake-Thom invites the reader to enter a world of authentic indigenous traditions and ceremonies. Bobby, also known as Medicine Grizzly Bear, didn't recognize his shamanic calling at first. He didn't know that his vivid dreams, psychic abilities, and visitations by wild animals and ghostly figures were calls from the Great Spirit. In the age-old shamanic tradition, it took a near-death experience for the message to get through to him. He woke up--alive--the next morning and received a message from Eagle, telling him to seek help from Wahsek, a medicine man in the northern mountains. And so Bobby's apprenticeship began. Forbidden to reveal Wahsek's secrets until 10 years after his death, Bobby is now free to share this fascinating story with the world.
About the Author
Bobby Lake-Thom (Medicine Grizzly Bear) is a traditional Native healer and spiritual teacher of Karuk, Seneca, Cherokee, and Caucasian descent. He lectures, conducts workshops, and has doctored hundreds of different people from all walks of life. He has also served as Professor for Native American Studies at Humboldt State University and as an Indian affairs specialist for numerous Indian tribes, organizations, and academic institutions in the United States. Visit his website at www.nativehealer.net.
Books by this Author