In our way of life, with every decision we make,
we always keep in mind
the Seventh Generation of children to come.
When we walk upon Mother Earth,
we always plant our feet carefully, because we know
that the faces of future generations are looking up at us
from beneath the ground. We never forget them.
-- Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of The Onondaga Nation
I do not remember the first time I heard the saying "If you can find the end of a rainbow, you'll find a pot of gold." It sounded strange to me at the time, but it was, nonetheless, something that I tucked away somewhere in the back of my mind. After all, one never knows when one might need a pot of gold. However, as a child, it was mainly the mystery of the whole thing that struck me.
I do not remember the first time I actually saw a rainbow or where I was, but I do know that its quiet beauty struck my heart with such awe that it touched something deep within me. Just seeing a rainbow catches you quite off guard and somehow just makes you stop and look ... and wonder. I suppose it is like finding a pot of gold, although I have never had that pleasure. But I am fortunate to be able to say that I have been given many gifts during my time on Mother Earth, and seeing a rainbow has been among the more cherished of them. It is sacred.
And just as the rainbow is sacred, so is my life. Yes, my life is sacred to me. That may sound a bit arrogant at first, but only because of how it sounds rather than what it means to me. It is interesting when we begin to realize what we consider gifts and what we expect, what we consider privilege and what we consider obligation. For example, my mother was not obligated to give me life. And yet she did.
The Sacred Gift of Life
I remember once when I was home for my birthday, I noticed that my mother was crying to herself. When I asked her why, thinking that something had happened and maybe she needed my help, she simply responded, "I was having you right now." At first, I didn't understand. Then, I suddenly realized that she was reliving the moments leading up to my birth and that this was still such an emotionally powerful experience for her, even all these years later. She looked upon me as a gift and treated me as such. And I, in turn, have always looked upon her gift of life to me as nothing less than sacred.
I have tried to live my life with this attitude. I live my life this way because I choose to live my life this way. This is my Medicine, and for me it is a Good Medicine Way. It holds power for me -- not the power of control, but the power of perspective. To look upon all things as sacred and purposeful is no small task for us human beings, who have been blessed with the intellectual and spiritual capacity to transcend both time and space in a single thought (sounds like Superman, right?). Yet there are times when we human beings do not choose to look beyond our noses and walk right into a tree that was standing there plain as day, for possibly hundreds of years before we arrived. "Damn trees!" we might even say.
If Uwohali, Eagle, flying high, looks no further than the end of her beak, then she misses the beauty of the great expanse that exists above, below, and all around her. The eagle who has the ability to fly but chooses not to recognize her place in relation to the Greater Circle loses that sense of place and may become lost. How might it feel to be floating high upon the wind, not knowing where we are or where we are going? Some might consider this a welcome opportunity, but for how long? When we float high upon the wind or when we walk upon the ground, can we recognize the forest for the trees? Can we even see the trees there before us, let alone the vastness of the forest of which they are a part?
Searching for Connection
Consider people's fascination with the past. What is this fascination with history, legends, stories, things from the past, and things that remind us of the past? What makes certain pictures or special gifts we received once so important to us? Are we simply burdened with too much free time, or is there a sense of connection that gives our lives meaning?
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
The past and things that tie us to it give us a sense of connection with those things, experiences, people that have gone before us. In order for us to know our place in the universe, we must realize where we stand in relation to all things around us; this is the power of relation. Our connection with the past gives us a sense of continuity, a sense that we are somehow part of the Greater Circle. It gives us a sense of place and a sense of direction. Our connection with the future also gives us a sense of direction and purpose on the path that we walk.
I have long wondered what really is at the end of a rainbow. Quite honestly, I have never checked (I've chalked that up as one of the many pursuits for later life...). But I do wonder. There have been many stones on my path that I have thus far left unturned, either because I just haven't gotten around to them or maybe because those stones did not wish to be bothered in the first place (it's important to know the difference).
So every time I see a rainbow, I just stand there in awe of its beauty and immensity, and whisper a small prayer thanking the rainbow for being willing to share its beauty with me. And something about the sight of it moves me from within, as if it were touching my spirit, and a deep sense of calm comes over me. I look upon the very sight of the rainbow as a gift, just as I look upon the very sight of the eagle as a gift, and the squirrel, and the ant, and the rock, and the little dandelions, and the rain, and all living beings in the Circle of Life. I know that a rainbow is not a rainbow without all of its colors, just as the Sacred Web of Life cannot exist without every one of its strands in harmony and balance.
We usually don't look upon a rainbow and think about how much prettier the red looks than the blue or how much nicer the whole thing would be if it were curved in a different way or not curved at all. We usually either look upon the rainbow as something of great beauty in and of itself, or we may just ignore it almost altogether. The point is, when we look upon something as a gift, we tend to accept it as it is, to appreciate it as it is, and it just makes us feel good. There is a sense of connection. It touches something within us and somehow grants us sacred moments of harmony.
THE NATURE OF THE JOURNEY
We can speak of the rainbow as a refraction of light and color, or we can speak of the rainbow as spirit energy. In the same way, we can speak of our own minds as the sky, our own thoughts as spirit energy refracted at will to reflect the beauty and color of our hearts, the power of relation that flows through our veins, and the vision that keeps us oriented along the journey. We can speak of the light as the energy that we all share in common with all our relations: life!
And now I ask, what if I did finally go looking for the end of a rainbow as I mentioned that I still intend to do, and what if I were lucky enough to find it? What if, when I finally found the end of the rainbow, there was no pot of gold waiting there for me? Would I say, "Damn rainbows!" and kick the rainbow because I didn't get what I expected? Would I just give up? Would rainbows be any less beautiful to me? Would I go looking for another rainbow to follow? Would I simply look elsewhere (perhaps at the end of a tornado) for my pot of gold? What would I do? I suppose it all depends upon what I am really looking for and why, as well as how I go about it.
What Are You Really Looking For?
Now, think about yourself. What are you really looking for? Where is your sense of place? What is it that moves you? What are the things you cherish? What are the gifts that you have received, and what are the gifts that you have to give? Where is your love? Where does your vision lead you? What will it take for you to follow your vision?
The journey is not "somewhere over there" or "some other time." It is with us right here and right now. It is a part of us in everything that we do and everything that we are. What we perceive as our "pot of gold" may in fact be something very different when and if we find the end of the rainbow. What if the rainbow has no end? What if it is a circle that wraps itself gently around Earth in a continuous cycle of energy?
As we walk, all of our ancestors walk with us. As we dance, all of our ancestors dance the Sacred Dance. Each step that we place is an important one. All of our relatives are walking with us, speaking through us like the many colors of the rainbow. Listen, and you will hear their steps, their voices, their colors. Listen, and you will hear your spirit calling upon all our relations, and you will feel their energy. Our spirit is an extension of them and they are an extension of us. Our spirit connects us with the memories of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. Our spirit connects us with all of our relations in the Circle of Life. Listen, and you will hear Water speaking, Wind dancing, Sun smiling, the heartbeat of Mother Earth pulsing beneath our feet.
Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit. And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Bear & Co., an imprint of Inner Traditions Intl.
Walking on the Wind: Cherokee Teachings for Harmony and Balance
by Michael Garrett.
In the spirit of the highly acclaimed Medicine of the Cherokee, coauthored with his father J. T. Garrett, Michael Garrett shares with us the delightful, all-ages stories passed down from his great-grandfather and other medicine teachers. Blending his background as an Eastern Cherokee with his skills as a counselor, Michael reveals through these tales how to make sense of our experiences in life, see beauty in them, and be at peace with our choices.
Info/Order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Michael Tlanusta Garrett, Eastern Band of Cherokee, grew up on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in the mountains of western North Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in counselor education and an M.Ed. in counseling and development. During the past several years, he has taught courses at the university level and given numerous presentations, workshops, and seminars on topics including wellness, cultural values and beliefs, spirituality, relationships, group techniques, counseling children, conflict resolution, date rape / sexual violence, and play therapy. Author/coauthor of numerous articles and book chapters, he has co-written with his father, J.T. Garrett, Medicine of the Cherokee: The Way of Right Relationship and The Cherokee Full Circle: A Practical Guide to Sacred Ceremonies and Traditions.