The spirituality of Nature, Earth and Universe
May 31, 2007
Letter to the Editor
Our traditional Navajo grandparents taught us children the sense of spirituality of the Mother Earth (sacred mountains Dookoosliid San Francisco Peaks; life), Mother Nature (animals, plants, fungi, monera [bacteria] and protista [algae, and protozoa]), Father Universe (electromagnetic energy; photosynthesis, dark matter). If we learn or attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. The stardust was there, stardust is here, we are the stardust from the Universe, from the Earth; we are of Nature, we are Nature, we come from Nature, we go back to Nature. This is ancient Navajo sense of spirituality. The Earth, Nature, and Universe communicate with each other by electromagnetic energy, which is our sense of spirituality. That's our identity and life.
Being part of a spiritual gathering to protect San Francisco Peaks is a challenging journey that involves passing through different stages of knowing in order, balance, respect, beauty, peace, and harmony to achieve a sophisticated and effective understanding of Nature, Earth (sacred mountains), and Universe. It is a responsibility to protect our environment. Our environment helps us to live healthy life and succeed in the future. We have reciprocal relationship within Nature, nourish from Earth and elemental quantum energy from the Universe.
There is a sense these days that we, Navajos have nearly lost our Navajo cultural, traditional spirituality. Watch the faces of non-traditional Navajo people in the ceremonial gatherings, in the stores, at the Tuba City Flea Market on Friday, in the streets at Flagstaff, Arizona, and in the streets of any American city such as Los Angeles, California or Phoenix, Arizona.
We look below the surface of how we Navajos live spiritually-past the strain and speed of our daily routines and consider how we relate to our Navajo friends and family; where we live and the health of our communities and environment; what we eat every day; how our Navajo children spend their time.
The traditional Navajo culture, and those of us who live within it, seems to have lost a certain quality of Navajo cultural, traditional, spiritual life. The Navajo graciousness, Navajo self-belief, self-identity, self-respect, Navajo spiritual value system, peace and harmony of mind during the Corn Pollen prayers in the spiritual ceremony to honor, respect, and pray to Earth, Nature, Universe, which is our Creator.
Some of us, Navajos would think about what our great grandparents would say to us about our Navajo cultural, traditional spirituality of the San Francisco Peaks (sacred mountains). Yet what we sense is missing is only hiding within us. It is hiding, resting in the depths, within our own bodies, minds, spirits, and soul-hearts. Navajo cultural, traditional spirituality is waiting for us, as it has waited for ancient Navajo grandparents in every age; waited for Navajo people in Navajo culture we believe it we stand on earth, in the universe, and in nature spirituality. The Western culture cannot destroy the Navajo soul and spirituality of San Francisco Peaks (sacred mountains); it can try to evict it, but the soul and spirituality waits around in the shadows of Navajo bodies. Shining a spotlight on the whole life of Navajo is a helpful part of any one Navajo's spiritual search of Earth, Nature, Universe, and spiritual life.
It is a Navajo individual journey; the spiritual search is also a collective one. Just as we are influenced by our Navajo family of origin-Navajo Oral History, Ancient Navajo Culture, and Ancient Navajo Philosophy so are we formed by our larger Navajo family, our Navajo culture of Earth, Nature, and Universe with its express Navajo spirituality and principles as well as its unspoken expectations, its images. We may disagree forcefully with certain Navajo cultural spiritual values and American cultural spiritual values, but nonetheless we are stamped by them, and the mark goes deep; the Earth, Nature, and Universe are our spiritual life. If we destroy the San Francisco Peaks, we destroy every species and human around it.
We live in a Navajo and American culture that is seriously split off from the nourishing pace and Navajo values and American values of soul and spirituality. What exactly are these values? We call some Navajo food, Mexican food, American food, or music or worship "soulful," but what do we mean? We go to Navajo traditional ceremony, everyone bow his/her heads to say prayer for food to eat. What is this? What is soulless, or spiritless about other food? What we meant is, do we think about prayer in our mind before we eat at other places other than at the traditional ceremonial gathering places honor, respect and pray to Earth, Nature, and Universe? These are good questions for all Navajo and non-Navajo people interested in the Navajo cultural, traditional spirituality to consider.
(continued below from 6/6/07 edition)
Navajo people, today, lived relatively cohesive, spiritual Navajo society, and entered the Navajo culture and Western culture after the World War II. This includes the non-Navajo traders, who trade at the Trading Posts on the Navajo land. Navajo culture and Western culture, together, focus on materialism, science, and the separation of Church and State led to a steady decline in the spiritual influence on Navajo and Western individuals and communities.
We have been fully secularized. This is not bad or good. It is just a fact that stacks up with other facts of Navajo life and American life and fills in the story line about each one of us who has grown up in America on Navajo land (Earth; sacred mountains). The "loss of spirit," or the "loss of soul," or the "loss of culture," the casualty of modernity, is a fact of our Navajo lives, and the sooner we feel deeply into the reality of this fact, the sooner we will be able to know how we want to deal with it.
The reason we stress that loss of soul or loss of Ancient Navajo Culture or loss of the Navajo cultural, traditional spirituality is neither bad nor good is because, with every loss there is a gain. Much has been gained in Navajo culture over the past one hundred years, even as we have nearly lost our Navajo spiritual life.
As industry and technology have disconnected us from Nature, Earth, Universe, spiritual life, and accelerated the pace of daily Navajo life and Western life, so have they freed many more people than ever before to explore dimensions of the Navajo experience other than survival journey into the twentieth-first century Western non-spiritual life.
While the focus on the worth of each Navajo individual has eroded the health of Navajo communities and families, this same focus has empowered previously disenfranchised Navajo individuals to exercise their intelligence from Infinite Intelligent Sá'ah NaagheI Bik'eh llózhóón Creator given inalienable rights.
As Navajo male authority structures have been questioned and overturned, more than just lawlessness and moral lack of spiritual emotion, a condition of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility, have replaced them. Voices that were silenced years and years ago-including the voices of the Navajo women and of the sacred Earth (sacred mountains), Nature, and Universe itself-are claiming their legitimacy and changing Navajo cultural society and American cultural society.
Rising from the ashes of the old ways is the steady growth of the inner authority of the Navajo individual and American individual-any individual-and in the end that will be the most important foundation of a real freedom or democracy, or speak out for what we believe in North America (Native American Land).
Navajo clan system, intermarriage, the loss of a majority population, the melting pot alchemy that literally changed the face of the traditional Navajo country during the twentieth-first century, has created a unharmonious use of Navajo language as opposed to agreeable sound of Navajo language of competing traditions in philosophy, and spirituality.
No longer is there one way to speak, to learn, to celebrate, to eat, to worship. On the surface, the conflicts and confusions of diversity look overwhelming. Some traditional Navajos may long for the more traditional days when one people celebrated the seasonal round with known rituals and shared beliefs of Navajo traditional ceremony to honor, respect, and revere Earth, Nature, and Universe.
The Navajo cultural diversity and American cultural diversity are also a gift of profound proportion. The challenge of unifying many different peoples or races into one cohesive people may seem like an impossible task. It is also a sacred spiritual task. It mimics, copies the journey each one of us, Navajos takes individually as we seek to integrate the many, often, conflicting parts of the self. It asks us to meet within ourselves "the other," or Ancient Navajo called "the shadow." A Caucasian man, who worked at Peabody Coal Company, used to call anyone that he is his shadow.
It mirrors Nature, where diversity equals life. Striving for harmony within diversity is akin to the reconciling of the not reconcilable, the discovery of unity within duality, which is Ancient Navajo Cultural Philosophy. Navajo diversity points us in this direction. It is the direction of Navajo spirituality, Navajo emotional soul, intelligent mind, healthy body, and protecting Earth, Nature, Universe from the affluent sewage pollution.
From the beginning of Navajo creation, Navajo Oral History of the First World, Second World, Third World, Fourth World, twenty-century to the twentieth-first century, we can indeed find our way back to our Navajo emotional soul, which is our spirituality. Our spirituality is within us. Earth (San Francisco Peaks), Nature, Universe is within us.
Let's look clearly at what we have lost and what we have gained. Let's look with open, unsentimental eyes. Yes, there's often more safety and civility in hierarchical, or high position, societies of Ancient Navajo Culture. Yes, we have lost that. We still have spirituality within our soul.
There's more room for communication and creativity in free societies. We have gained that. Where there's a soulful simplicity to non-industrialized societies, there's frequently more empowerment and opportunity for a wider range of individuals in industrialized societies. We may have lost the sense of unity, spirituality, and Navajo cultural tradition of a homogenous society, but by mixing it up, we have gained the aliveness and the potential for higher unity that is inherent in Western diversity and Navajo spirituality.
Our mission now is to find a middle way, to do what Navajo traditional grandparents had taught us, children, that is to learn both Navajo Culture and Western Culture, and its spirituality. Pull the depth of the Navajo soul and Western soul with us as we pass beyond, respect Earth, (San Francisco Peaks), Nature, and Universe, transcend the casualties, relationship between cause and effect of our times. We can mine for the simple treasures that we have lost to the horrible excesses of modern Western culture, while at the same time enjoying the fruits of our advancements-our liberties, our hooghan, our modern home, and our variety. We can transcend those parts of our past that were exclusionary and rigid, and include those parts that celebrated community, civility, and authenticity of Ancient Navajo Cultural Spirituality.
We can do the same with modern America: transcend the hollow Western values and obsessive individuality of the times, and include the freedom and diversity-our Navajo sacred trust as Dine.
Navajo philosophy asserts "ancient Navajo evolution always transcends and includes, incorporates and goes beyond," synthesis of scientific and spiritual thought; however stresses spiritual thought more positively. If we do not understand it, Navajo philosophers use the evolutionary concept of "transcend and include" to describe both the personal and societal movement toward wholeness. We come from Nature, Earth, and Universe.
A healthy person grows into individuality, integrating the best of inherited and taught behavior and spirituality, and transcending those parts that no longer serve the mature self. If we try to transcend only, in a compulsion to separate from the past, we end up damaging parts of ourselves-clan root parts that keep us connected to our basic Nature and our place in the Universe. Yet if we reject the Natural urge toward transcendence and turn around, grabbing on to the past with homesickness, a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past, we also do violence to life, because life is also movement, creativity, evolution and spirituality of Earth (sacred mountains), Nature, Universe.
To walk the spiritual path is to transcend, pass beyond a human limit. For the person this means evolving beyond the limits of the past, while honoring the wisdom of those who came before, incorporating the voices and traditions of one's Navajo ancestors, while claiming a unique self-identity.
We believe that Navajos are well suited for this task, having inherited from the ancient Navajo grandparents' idea that one can make oneself anew through hard work and honest self-examination, self-identity, self-belief, self-respect and self-worth of Nature, which we are a part of, we are Nature, we come from Nature, Earth, and Universe.
The Navajo spirituality includes the ancient Navajo grandparents' idea of personal transformation, and transcends it, pass beyond a human limit, expanding its realm to embrace mental, physical, creative, and spiritual transformation. Navajo Nation must also transcend, pass beyond Navajo limit, and include if they are to mature. The Navajo spirituality of San Francisco Peaks that is now emerging in the Navajo culture reflects an impulse toward transcendence and inclusion. We are awakened to speak up to protect Nature, Earth, and Universe from spelling affluent sewage on sacred mountains San Francisco Peaks.
The Holy People thought about the beloved Navajo soul-spirituality, the affective, emotional domain of Dine's clan personality as opposed to the analytical, intellectual aspects. "Clan system is electromagnetic spectrum, which connects everything spiritually in the Universe."
The ancient Navajo grandparents' spirituality, soul-image, unconscious domain of mind which the Holy People and Spirit Air People made to be composed of the inner spirituality. The Mother Earth (sacred mountains [inner form of Mother Earth]), Mother Nature (animals, plants, fungi, monera [bacteria] and protista [algae, and protozoa]), and Father Universe, which is our inner spirituality (Sá'ah NaagheI Ashkii Bik'eh Hózhóón At'ééd [electromagnetic energy]). "We, Native North Americans are Nature, Earth, and Universe."
The Dookoosliid II Gathering has been postponed until further notice. Tentative dates for rescheduling are in July or August. Notification will be made prior to the event.
Edward Johnson Little