SPIRIT COMMUNICATION

October 1st, 2012

In the Indian world, we are comfortable discussing Spirit Communication.  You hear the term, “Spirit told me to do this or that”.  It sounds awfully easy and rather trite.   The question remains, “What does it mean to talk with Spirits.”

When the leader of your community says that the Spirits told him to take a certain action, you have a right to know just what that means and how he could be so sure.  We know that people have done awful things because of a so called Divine message.  Remember Jonestown.

It is always right to question.  If you aren’t sure, ask.

I can only describe how conversation with the Spirits happens for me.  I cannot speak for anyone else.  I don’t claim to be a shaman although I do go into that other world when I need to know something or find out something for one of my community.

There are three levels of communication with each having an increasing level of certainty:

Level 1.

I think this is common to all of us.  We get a strong impression that we should take a certain action.  It is almost as if there is a hand on the shoulder urging us to listen.  This is the level which is most common and most likely to be misunderstood.  We get strong impressions about a lot of things.  Most of the time the Grandfather Spirits are not involved. At this level it is necessary to be careful before taking action.  Check it out.  Ask yourself if it is right, ethical, or helpful to move ahead?  Am I hearing what I want to hear? Is this just an affirmation agreement with your preconceived notion?  Is there anything new I wouldn’t think of on my own? It is easy to be fooled at this level. The Christian Bible says that you must “test the Spirits.” This is true.

Level 2.
Sometimes the Spirits speak with such a strong voice that we are stopped in our tracks.  It feels like the voice is outside us.  We hear it with our ears, although not exactly.

There was a time when Priscilla and I were hiking with our the Shelties and my teacher, Ishnala Mani, said, “Sweat Otterheart before you leave.” That voice was loud and clear.  I argued with it and was overruled. I checked it out in the sweatlodge and was told why I had gotten that direction.

Several years ago I was awaked from a deep sleep and heard very strongly and clearly, “That was your last sweatlodge” referring to a ceremony the night before. I had no reason to expect that message and found it very disturbing.

So, I went to a deeper level the next day with my Sacred Pipe where I got the full story.

Level 3
It is a wonderful gift to have the experience of sitting in person with your Spirit teacher.  On my Fourth Vision Quest, my teacher joined me and sat beside me in the Vision Quest altar area.  We talked person to person.  He gave me some excellent teaching and also taught me some sacred songs.

I have bet my life on the reality of this experience.  For more than thirty years, I have followed his guidance. He is always beside me.  He is always there when I have a question.  His constant presence is very comforting to me.

Recently, I had a strong impression (level 1) that since I had been doing all that was asked and was teaching a great deal, maybe I could go back into the sweatlodge.  However, since this was just an impression and was something I very much wanted, I could not accept it without testing.  I took my Chanupa Wakan (Sacred Pipe) and went to Vision Quest Hill.

Opening my bundle and filling my Pipe, I asked my Grandfather to join me.  Immediately, he was sitting beside me in a very pensive attitude.  He agreed that I had been teaching and had done everything requested.  He also said that the work I am doing would be facilitated (my word, not his) if I were pouring sweatlodges. He also added that I should not set up a traditional sweatlodge community, but keep the teaching within Red Path Zen.

I have been asked, “What if the Spirits never told you that you could not sweat?  What if you just misunderstood Them.?”

That is a fair question.  But, what could they have been saying that I misunderstood?  That was your last sweatlodge unless you need to do another one?  That was your next to last sweatlodge?  I don’t think I misunderstood this message, and it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to hear.

When I went to the Pipe, I got the full story.  The Spirits had a reason for what They said.

So, it is for me, when I get a communication that is level one, I always check it out.  If it is level two, I check it out more quickly and pay a lot more attention.  If it is level three, I am willing to bet my life on it.

If I felt that either the commands to leave the sweatlodge or return to the sweatlodge were misperceptions, I would put away my Pipe and call it quits.  I bet my life on it.

But, it is always appropriate to question.

QUESTIONS ABOUT RED PATH ZEN

June 2nd, 2012

THESE WERE QUESTIONS POSED BY A REPORTER FOR THE GRAND TRAVERSE INSIDER. YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN MY ANSWERS.

Why do you believe that now is the right time to share Red Path teaching to non-native people?

I have been shown that we are at the end of the current age and beginning a new one. This understanding is not mine alone but is common among spiritual people of all types. The end of the current age is being marked by fear, resistance and chaos, while the new age brings in a period of human understanding and mutual respect. During this time of transition it is very important for us to love, respect, support, and generally develop a sense of community. I believe that Zen, especially Red Path Zen, will be a great help to all life during this period.

What first led to your exploration of Zen Buddhism?

For 30 years the Sweat Lodge had been my spiritual home. During those years I lived very close to my Sacred Pipe and listened to the guidance of my Spirit Teachers. I have been honored to teach a great many people how to walk the Native American spiritual path, the Red Road. Eleven years ago the Grandfathers (Spirit Teachers) told me that they wanted me to teach outside the Native community because we were entering a time of violence, discord, and destruction. It will be desperately needed for us to teach reverence for Grandmother Earth, respect for humanity and all life. I agreed to do that, but there were not many opportunities for me to teach these things. I couldn’t imagine myself standing on a street corner like some ancient prophet expounding on the importance of our spirituality, so nothing much came from it.

A few years later after having conducted a routine Sweat Lodge ceremony, sometime during the middle of the night, the Spirits woke me and told me that I had just completed my last Sweat Lodge. As you can imagine I was pretty confused. So, I took my Sacred Pipe the next morning and asked the Grandfathers what this was all about. I was told that as long as I was based in the Sweat Lodge I would not be teaching non-natives in the way that was needed. You can’t imagine how devastated I was because the Sweat Lodge had been my home for so many years. I told them that I would do this but They would have to open doors for me if they wanted me to teach.

Literally, within one week, I was invited to hold a workshop at the Zen Peacemakers Monastery where Roshi Paul Genki Kahn was the spiritual director. After that I began to give workshops in other Zen venues. The more I was exposed to Zen, the more I realized how compatible Zen philosophy is with Native American Spirituality. Incidently, Roshi Genki is now head of the Zen Garland Order in which I am a priest and sensei.

What motivated you to become a Zen priest?

Meditation has always been important to me even though it was not Zen type meditation. I had been wanting for a while to develop a meditation group in my home community with my neighbors. As I became more involved with Zen, it became more of a Zen meditation group or Sangha. From my early adulthood I have always been a priest/teacher so it was within my natural evolution to take the vowels and precepts of a Zen Buddhist priest. Since then I have completed the necessary studies and activities to become a Dharma Successor or Sensei.

What led you to combine red path teaching with Zen meditation?

It was a natural step. Having always been a spiritual teacher now Aplaced@ within Zen, it seemed clear to me that my task was to take Native American spiritual insights and appropriate practices and enrich Zen with them in a way that makes the Zen experience more fulfilling for people.

How do the two traditions complement each other?
The native way is the way of Mitakuye Oyas’in, which means “all my relations.” It is a way of Oneness with not just human beings but with all Creation: stones, trees, rivers, mountains, four-legged, human beings… all creation. Everything we do is done in the name of Mitakuye Oyas=in.

A basic concept in Zen is Oneness which sees all things as One and to live in a way which enhances that Oneness, a way of service, love and respect. So, at a very basic level the two systems are alike.

How are they most different from each other?

In the native world we sit in a circle around red-hot stones in a Sweat Lodge, and there we get rid of the poisons in our bodies, minds and spirits. All of our ceremonies help us to recognize our Oneness with all.

In Zen we sit on a cushion in deep meditation and in that way experience our Oneness with all creation. Red Path Zen encourages us not only to do sitting meditation but to also meditate outdoors in the woods. I do a lot of walking meditation along wooded paths feeling the energy of the trees and plants and being present for them. In the native world we don’t talk about practicing presence so much as do Zen folk, but we’re practicing the presence in Sweat Lodge.

Unfortunately, Sweat Lodges and native ceremonies are not available to the general community. Zen is accessible to everyone and offers a practice for experiencing these things in a way that has been followed for over 2500 years. Maybe not as rigorous and exotic as a Sweat Lodge, Zen will help you experience your Oneness and come to understand your own being through direct experience.

What might you say to someone who is concerned that their own religious affiliation/belief might be compromised by exploring Red Path Zen?

I can only say that we do nothing in the Zen which would conflict or disrespect an individual’s personal religion. Zen has existed for over 2500 years alongside dominant cultural religions. The same is true of the native American way. I have personally known only one medicine man who was not a Christian. Even the great former medicine chief of the Lakota people, grandfather Fools Crow, was a devout Catholic, pouring Sweat Lodges on Saturday night while attending mass on Sunday morning. The same was true of Black Elk who was not only a Medicine Man but a Catholic catechist. There are priest/ministers who are sweat Lodge leaders. I, personally, am active in my home church back in Massachusetts, while at the same time serving as a Zen priest and sensei.

There is no conflict. During those times of meditation when prayer is appropriate, one prays in the name of the God or Sacred Being which is part of their personal religion. Buddha taught that belief in a God and/or specific rituals have no bearing on Buddhism one way or the other.

Incidentally, Buddha isn’t perceived as a God or a deity. Rather, Buddhism is a philosophy and practice based on the Dharma (teachings) of how to live actively in a way that is fulfilling for you individually and healthy for the universe. Its foundation is the Dharma , not a person.

What in your experience causes non-native people to explore Native American Spirituality?

I personally think that many traditional religions have become formalized, bureaucratic, rigidly dogmatic, and thus without much relevant power. Rituals are reduced to reading and reciting prayers and following prescribed actions with little sense of the presence of Spirits or a personal spiritual practice. I know that some would question that observation but it is my personal opinion. I think people are attracted to the native religion because it offers a deeply personal experience of the Sacred. It is experiential, mysterious, and embeds the Sacred in the natural world.

Why is it deemed wise/necessary by most native teachers to exclude others from this knowledge? Is any sharing allowed and encouraged?

There are divergent strains of thought within the native communities.

There is a general wariness about sharing spiritual things with non-Indians. White folk have a genius for changing things and Aimproving@ them. Native people do not want outsiders messing with their traditional spiritual practices. Many of those practices are physically rigorous and spiritually powerful, and when done by someone who doesn’t understand them and is not skilled at using them, they can be dangerous. For example, remember that so-called Sweat Lodge in Arizona where a White entrepreneur, self-help mogul, was using a Sweat Lodge in a way horrifying to native people and ended up killing several of his students. There is a natural concern about making these ceremonies available.

Once, in my personal experience, a Protestant minister asked to come to my ceremonies and I allowed it. He attended several times and I didn=t see him again. Then, I found out that he was representing himself as an Indian spiritual teacher, running spiritual growth groups and teaching our practices as if he knew what he was doing. I had created a “medicine man” with three sweatlodge experiences.

On the other hand there is a teaching particularly from older medicine men that that the time has come for non-Indians to be invited into our spiritual path. They tell of a prophecy that when red men, white men, black men, and yellow men dance together at Sun Dance, it will mark the beginning of the new age. This is now happening.

One final thing, over time in the Sweat Lodge ceremony, a bonding develops in which people share their deepest feelings, worries and concerns in front of each other and the Grandfathers. A stranger coming into the group changes the dynamics. Truthfully, most of the time when outsiders want to sweat, they mainly want to “take in” the experience just to see what it is like. They are not usually interested in any kind of commitment to the ceremony or the community.
Sweat lodges tend to be small because we are looking for small, committed communities. The sweats that I have built have held about 13 people. There are larger ones but the smaller sweats are the most common. It is almost impossible to find native Sweat Lodge communities which are interested in entertaining outsiders. It sometimes happens, but the non-Indian person must have first won the trust and respect of someone in the native community.

So it is that many teachers like me are taking native concepts and teachings about the Creation and Oneness into other communities. I am honored to be leading the Red Path Zen of the Zen Garland order.

What is the most important message of Red Path Zen to the world?

There are several messages. People want to live fulfilled lives. I think most of us want serenity, belonging, and purpose in our lives. Zen Buddhism teaches that meditation is the primary practice to finding peace, contentment, and beauty. Secondly, Zen teaches the importance of loving service particularly for the most needy brothers and sisters, animate and inanimate, of this world. It also teaches the importance of physical balance. Most of our younger people are practicing Yoga, aikido, tai chi or some other form of physical discipline. Body work at my age consists of rigorous hiking over rough terrain, weight training, and stretching.

What would you most like the people to know about the work with which you have been charged?

I want the people to know that I have no agenda for them other than for them to find their own way. I can teach certain things that will facilitate their spiritual journey. It has been shown by voluminous neuro-psychological research that Zen meditation makes positive changes in the brain which then makes changes in the mind which then changes the way we think, and which moves individuals toward happiness and peace. I hope that people in my Sanghas will recognize that I follow the guidance of my Spirit Teachers to the best of my ability, and I will continue to follow Their guidance and fulfill my calling until I shed this body.

What results have you seen in people who have been faithful to their meditation practice? What have you personally experienced?

I can only tell you that I have seen people become more centered, happier and better able to work through the stresses of life. I have seen people deal successfully with the most horrendous sets of life circumstances because they are able to meditate and to connect with the loving and healing energy of Creation. As for me, I can tell you that I am basically happier than I have ever been. I am fulfilling my calling.

Who is more powerful, the Creator or the Spirits?

January 4th, 2012

Someone asked me the question, “Who is more powerful, the Creator or the Spirits?”  Here is my answer and you may find it interesting.

You asked a very important question. Who is more powerful, the Creator or the Spirits. Obviously, if there is a Creator, then He/She created everything, including the Spirits. But that is not the real question. I think the more pertinent question is, “who do we consult and work with? The Creator or the Spirits or both?”
I think we first must look at our definition of Creator. Do we see the Creator as the Old Man in the Heavens….the Grandfather of all Grandfathers. De we believe in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man?
The Native people before the missionaries came, did not think much at all, apparently, about the nature of God. They felt that there were no words that could describe Him. They didn’t think of a male or female Deity of all Deities. They contented themselves to call him Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery. They preferred to work with the Spirits whom they could see and with whom they could interact and from whom they could get help.
I, personally, do not believe in a personified God. I don’t think He/She is made in the image of Man. I don’t believe that whatever God may be, that He/She is involved in our stuff and is managing our destiny. I don’t believe that He/She chose one person to be Hitler and another to be Ghandi.
I think that the best term for God is, Wakan Tanka, and that when the great mystery expressed Itself, It created the world in Its own image, and I think that image is Mitakuye Oyas’in…which the Buddhists call Oneness.
I think that thereafter, the whole Creation is striving in its own way after Oneness. This is the task of the Spirit world and our world. Each Spirit has his/her own agenda, task, to realize Oneness. We have our own life purpose to bring Oneness to the world, so that everything we do is in the name of Mitakuye Oyas’in. None of us ever does this perfectly, but some do more than others. Many people have no idea that this is a purpose in their lives.
So, realizing Oneness in my own life and sphere of influence, has become my over arching purpose. To that end, I listen to the Spirits. My teacher, Ishnala Mani, has been a constant guide and source of inspiration. Some times he or my other teachers will want me to do something which I would rather not do, but I generally acquiesce because we are all serving Oneness and they have a better perspective than I do, and I think have access to more information than I have.
Are they infallible. Of course not. No Spirit guide that I know of has ever claimed to be infallible. We are all in this process together…to realize oneness, Mitakuye Oyas’in. So, I listen to my teachers and generally cooperate with them. I try to live in a way that creates oneness with my fellow beings, human, animal, vegetable and mineral. I try to let go of those things that separate me. Among those things are a judgmental attitude. When I find myself judging another person, it is generally because they are showing me things in myself that I abhor. I try to let go of anger because nursing anger keeps me separate and is contrary to Mitakuye Oyas’in. In each situation requiring me to set a course of action, I try to choose the loving course. In these ways, I join the rest and the best of creation in bringing Mitakuye Oyas’in into being.
There are times when you say “no” to the Spirits. If what they are asking is more than you can do physically or emotionally, you have a right to say “no.” Remember, they have work to do and see you as a co-worker and may not care as much as you would wish, whether or not their requests are convenient. You may decide that They aren’t seeing a situation in the correct light, that they are wrong. In that case you go by what you know is right, but you should look carefully at your reasons for disagreeing because they generally have more information than you do. I think it is most often when I am in a judgmental or angry stance that I want to say, “no.”
The Spirits pulled me from the sweatlodge. That really hurt. I know that I am perfectly capable of sweating, but in the name of Oneness, they want me teaching. I have been angry and hurt about this, but agreed to go along with it. Just today, I saw clearly that I was, and am now and will always be the sweatlodge. I am One with the lodge. We are all One, even with people we don’t like. That is just a fact of existence. Our task is to ground that Oneness in reality.
So, who is more powerful, God or the Spirits? In the Christian metaphor as told in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Of course, in the Christian way, that flesh was the Christ. I like the Native/Buddhist metaphors best. In the beginning was the Great Mystery that expressed itself in Oneness (Mitakuye Oyas’in) and the creation blossomed forth as an expression of that Oneness. So, we work with the Spirits (analogous somewhat to angels, but not exactly), asking them to help us even as we help them.

Mitakuye Oyas’in
Duncan Sings-Alone

ON BEING A HOLLOW BONE

August 25th, 2011

An important part of my practice is to be in the woods, greeting the sun, honoring my brother/sister nations: the treesl the four-leggeds, the stones. Standing mindfully, I hear their voices greeting me in return. Always, I end my prayers with the request, “help me to be a hollow bone.”

It was early morning and dawn had begun to spread its soft light around a little wooden house on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. Inside the house there was movement as an old man and old woman pulled on their clothes, picked up the Sacred Bundle, and made their way to the outside. Opening the Bundle, he pulled out a Chanupa Wakan, filled it with sacred tobacco, and stood facing the sunrise. He and his elderly wife offered the tobacco, offered the Pipe and made their morning prayers. His prayers ended, “let me be a hollow bone for my people.” The old man, was Grandpa Fools Crow with Grandma Fools Crow. He was the beloved spiritual leader of the Lakota nation. Both are now on the other side.

My teacher George Whitewolf, was taught by Grandpa Fools Crow and Dawson No Horse. It was Whitewolf who told me the story. It has always stayed with me as one of the most important things that I can do… be a hollow bone. This means to let the love and healing of the creation flow through you to everyone and everything around you, and to let that love and healing flow back to you from all the brother/sister nations. This is the heart of Mitakuye Oyas’in. We are all related. We are involved in this life, this dimension, together. We live with and for each other. Being a hollow bone is a conduit in both directions. To be a hollow bone is to truly live Mitakuye Oyas’in.

Unfortunately it is not all that easy. For to be a hollow bone means that you have to be truly hollow. You can’t be all clogged up with hatred, venom, revenge, suspicion, and anger or constipated with neuroses, depression, and any number of diagnostic categories. We must strive to be clear so that the love and healing of the universe flows through us in both directions.

In Zen Garland there is an emphasis not just on meditation but upon keeping the body fit and open through physical disciplines like aikido, tai chi, and yoga. Zen Garland also urges us to clean out the smut that keeps us from being truly open. Zen Garland highly recommends the process of Focusing as a useful cleansing tool. You can find out more about Focusing by contacting our Roshi, Genki Kahn, or his assistant, Seiryo. You can find them by going to www.ZenGarland.org.

I urge everyone who wants to walk Red Path Zen to greet each day with the hollow bone prayer. It has been a wonderful practice for keeping me centered and with a deepened awareness of my oneness with the universe.

Mitakuye Oyas’in,

Sings-Alone

CHANUPA WAKAN (SACRED PIPE)

August 13th, 2011

It had been a terribly cold winter for the Lakota in what we now call South Dakota. The migrating herds had not returned. The people were beginning to starve. Their tragedy was compounded because the people had forgotten what it meant to be human beings. They were not looking out for each other. They were not living by their own standards of generosity. The hunters were not sharing their kills with the widows and the elderly. For these reasons the animals had not returned…not even a rabbit or Coyote.

One chilly morning two young brothers grabbed their bows and arrows and slipped off into the early morning dark hoping to have success. The sun rose and the day’s first warmth wrapped around them, but they saw nothing. Toward noon they approached the crest of a hill, and getting down on their bellies they inched to the top looking over to see if there were any animals in the valley below. They saw nothing. Just as they were surrendering to another day of starvation, there was movement on the opposite side of the valley…a woman making her way down the hillside. She was wearing white buckskins and moved with unusual grace.

One of the brothers turned and said, “there is a woman without a man I am going take her.” His brother said, “you had better leave her alone because she might be wakan.” “Nonsense” said the brother, and with that he began to make his way down the hillside reaching the valley floor at the same time as the lone woman. She saw him and it was obvious what he had in mind. Strangely, she signaled him to approach her. You can imagine the young man’s surprise at such an invitation and he dashed toward the woman. They were enveloped in a mist and when it dissipated, the woman was standing there with a skeleton at her feet.

The other brother had seen it all, and he was terrified. Imagine the horror that gripped him when the woman signaled him to come down. Afraid to run and afraid to obey, he nevertheless approached the woman. She told him to go back to his camp and Chief Standing Hollow Horn, and tell him that she would be coming to the camp in four days. He was to bring all the people together for she had something for them.

The young man ran back to the village and breathlessly told the chief all that he had seen. The woman was obviously wakan, so the chief sent runners in all directions to bring in the people from the outlying camps. Soon they converged on the main camp where they erected a council Tipi, and rolled up the sides so that everyone could see and hear.

The woman entered the village as promised and walked directly into the Tipi. She sat down and all the chiefs and head men sat in council with her. Everyone else gathered around, pressing as close as possible so they would hear everything.

For several days she reminded them what it meant to be human beings. She gave them the ceremonies to do such as the sweat Lodge and vision quests. Then she said one last thing. The Grandfathers are very happy that you make your prayers with tobacco and a sacred fire. Now they wants you to use this, and she picked up a bundle handing it to the chief. He held it as she opened the bundle and lifted out a stone pipe. The grandfathers want you to use this as a sacred altar on which to burn the tobacco and make your prayers. Furthermore she told him to take this pipe to all the nations as a gift from the Grandfathers.

When she finished, she walked out of the council Tipi and onto the Prairie where she was enveloped in a mist. When the mist faded the people saw a young, white buffalo calf rolling in the dirt. Jumping to her feet she ran off across the horizon. Thus, the woman became known as the White Buffalo Calf Maiden, bringer of the sacred pipe.

That Chanupa Wakan became the central sacred ceremony for the people. It is used in conjunction with everything that we do. Powerful in itself, the Pipe adds power to sweat lodges, vision quests, Sundances, whatever the people are doing. To understand the Red Road you must know about the Chanupa Wakan (Sacred Pipe). Many tribes have and use a sacred pipe, but I come from a Lakota point of view because I was trained by a Lakota medicine man.

The Sacred Pipe came to the people 19 generations ago. 19 generations have passed since the first pipe was given to the people, and that original Pipe is in the care of Orval Looking Horse on the Cheyanne River Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Now, we turn to technical information about the Chanupa Wakan.

The Pipe bowl is made of red pipe stone which the White Man calls Catlinite. It is dark red, and represents the blood of the people. It is found only at the Pipestone National Monuments in Pipestone, Minnesota. It can only be mined by Native Americans.

The Pipe stem is made of wood, generally sumac. On each stem you will find buckskin, and if it is a sacred pipe it will also be dressd with Eagle or Hawk feathers. There is a whole ceremony around smoking the pipe. Hopefully you will have the opportunity to experience the ceremony.

The bowl is mineral. The stem is wood. The buckskin and feathers are animal. So, you have animal, vegetable, and mineral. The stem is male and the bowl is female. Putting them together means that you have the whole world in your hands.

If the Pipe is being offered in a group, we prefer to have everyone sitting in a circle. The person offering the pipe will be sitting facing the sun down. Everyone else will be sitting in the circle leaving, however, a space between the person offering the pipe and the West.

For the Pipe ceremony, shoes are removed as an expression of respect. The person conducting the ceremony is called a Pipe Carrier. He or she holds a position of great honor among the people. The Pipe Carrier will have participated in many Pipe ceremonies and sweatlodges. It takes several years of careful preparation for this responsibility, because the Pipe Carrier must stand in for the Medicine person, and must learn how to conduct all the ceremonies in the Medicine person’s absence.

The Pipe is filled using a special sacred tobacco mix. The leader will express a few words about the purpose of the ceremony. The first smoke of the Pipe is offered to the Grandfathers in all the direction, and then passed to everyone who is participating. The Pipe goes from right to left, clockwise, around the circle. The bowl is held in the left hand (heart hand). It is customary to take several puffs from the pipe, but if one is not able for whatever reason to actually smoke the Pipe, he or she should touch it to the lips four times and pass it on.

The Pipe is used in several ways:

For private meditation and prayer.

For seeking guidance or help with a problem.

In the Pipe Round (third round) of the sweatlodge, if a Medicine person is present, one may ask for help in understanding a dream, guidance about problems, healing from an illness of self or another.

We always warn folk, don’t ask a question if you aren’t ready to take responsibility for what you are given. Don’t ask for guidance and then reject it. Always be careful what you ask for, because you may get it.

I think this is enough for this lesson. I am sure there will be more later about the Pipe, but ask any question you like in the “comment” box under the blog.

Mitakuye Oyas’in,

Sings-Alone