My first six years in school were completed at an AYOP school. We had one teacher and one classroom for six grade levels. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages in a school like this, the most obvious being only one teacher for all grades.
If you we’re a little slower to catch on, the teacher had to spend more time in your area, if you caught on fast you were encouraged to move ahead at your own pace – thus the name AYOP. You could then help the teacher with the slower students by working with them on the side to help them catch up.
Being one of the quicker students eventually brought me to a point where there weren’t any more books for me to read or tests to take. To avoid me getting completely bored, I was released to my Grandfather to learn the old ways. Grandfather was a healer, medicine man and probably the wisest man on the reservation.
One of the first things I learned was about the Circle of Life. The Circle of Life was set like a compass, east, north, south and west. Each point of the compass had a corresponding color assigned to it, red for East, white for North, black for West and yellow for the South. The colors represented the different ‘Spirits’ of life: Light, Love, Life and Creation. The circle of life was also the center of the healing process, of which I will get into at a later date.
Grandfather was very patient while I was taught the Prayer Of The Four Directions. He explained that each spirit represented a portion of my life and that I was to keep the reverence of them always.
Great Spirit of Light, come to me out of the East (red) with the power of the rising sun. Let there be light in my words, let there be light on my path as I walk. Let me remember always that you give the gift of a new day. And never let me be burdened with sorrow by not starting over again.
Great Spirit of Love, come to me with the power of the North (white). Make me courageous when the cold wind falls upon me. Give me strength and endurance for everything that is harsh, everything that hurts, everything that makes me squint. Let me move through life ready to take on what comes from the north.
Great Spirit of Life, I face the West (black), the direction of sundown. Help me remember everyday that the moment will come when my sun will go down. Never let me forget that I must fade into you. Give me a beautiful color, give me a great sky for setting, so that when it is my time to meet you, I can come with glory.
Great Spirit of Creation, send me the warm and soothing winds from the South (yellow). Comfort me and caress me when I am tired and cold. Unfold me like the gentle breezes that unfold the leaves on the trees. As you give to all the earth your warm, moving wind, give some to me, so that I may grow close to you in warmth. Man did not create the web of life, but he is a strand in it. Whatever man does to the web, he does to himself.
I don’t know if I got all the words right, but I am sure I have the context of the prayer right. It has been many years since I have thought it out. If nothing else this taught me the value of having God in your life, the value of love in life and a greater appreciation for nature. I learned to value of every life, not just my own and that everything born into our world is there for a very good reason, the balance of nature.
The next lesson grandfather taught was about The Circle Of Life. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. The birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun raises and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.
The most important lessen Grandfather taught was me how to live my life. He told me to live life so the fear of death can never enter my heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life and beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a stranger in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs them of their visions.
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, who weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
These are just a few of the lessons Grandfather taught me before he passed on. I learned many secrets of life from these particular lessons and keep them sacred in my heart. I’ve learned they all have a common thread – Love!.
Perhaps in a later post I will share a few more of Grandfather’s life changing lessons with you.
Please feel free to comment and or ask questions. I am learning that I have much to share.