Thursday, February 5, 2015

Special object to give...

It was pitch black and chilly, but the rain that had come and gone the whole weekend had stopped. The clouds parted, giving us a beautiful view of the Milky Way.

I led the men, staff in hand, single file, each man's right hand on the shoulder of the man ahead of him. We walked in silence until we came to the large circle of corn meal I poured earlier. Cautioning against entering, I walked the men around the circle until they were spread along its perimeter. I stepped back and introduced them to the neighborhood.

I talked about the redwoods around us, how they were there before any of us was born, how they would be there long after all of us died. I talked about a fallen redwood, just beyond our circle, still taller on its side than any of us standing, and how it was on its journey back into the earth.

I looked up at the stars and I asked the men to let themselves stretch in time and space, connecting with their legacy, a legacy passed on for billions of years, across time and space.

We stood, quiet. The men waited as I lit a bundle of white sage, blew out the flame, spread the smoke over my entire body. I went to each man, blew on the embers until the bundle glowed red and a cloud of sweet white smoke billowed. I wafted the smoke over his back side. My hand on his shoulder, I gently guided him to turn clockwise, coaxed the smoke over his front side, then guided him clockwise again, returning him to face the other men around the circle. It was a Lakota cleansing tradition known as smudging, that I had learned from my teacher, who had learned from his.

The smudging took some time, a ritual that invited us all to be with ourselves in a way so rarely found today, an invitation to sink into our hearts.

Finishing the last man, I entered the circle, walked to a large flat rock at the center, on which I laid the smoking sage. I kneeled and said a prayer out loud to Grandfather, asking him to take care of my family, to take care of the men putting on this initiation, and the men here around me.

Leaving the circle, I invited the first man on my left to enter. It did not take him long to find his voice at the altar, nor any man, as we slowly rotated to allow each to enter. In the next half-hour I was moved to tears as 20 men shared themselves through some 9 different manners of expression. Some I recognized: Christian, Judaic, Islamic, including one man who honored us by singing a prayer in Lakota. Others I did not.

When the last one finished, I led the men back inside, staff in hand, single file, right hand on the shoulder of the man ahead, in silence. And we left just as we had come. Almost. JS annotation code