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We all have experienced times when we have wanted to attend, wondered about, or have been at a ceremony and didn't quite know what to do. At the first one we attended, most of us just nervously took a kind-of wait and see attitude, hoping we could pick up on what to do next while wishing we had been better informed and prepared before we came.
Sure, we all have read books and articles that have detailed the basics and particulars of these sacred events, but the written word, although a wonderful teaching tool, is very limited when compared with actual experience. You will find there are variations from ceremony to ceremony. Even if this is a particular ceremony of a particular tribe or group, you will find variations! You might think to yourself that this is a (let's use Lakota, for example because of it's popularity) sweat, but they are doing it different.
Why is this? Well, there are several facts. Perhaps we must understand that there are many variations, and perhaps variations of variations within single tribes or groups. This is largely due to personal revelation and understanding of the individual person who is conducting the event. You can read the biographies of Black Elk, Fools Crow, Lame Deer, Wallace Black Elk and others of Lakota heritage and see that they all had differing views about ceremonies, colors, directions and other variables.
It is the same with most tribes, groups, denominations, etc. You will find that there are some basics that are common to all these great Holy men, but all believed that the Creator had made allowances for the individual's maximum interaction within those basic frameworks. This doesn't mean they were given the freedom to change anything they wanted to. They just done it as the Creator wanted them to.
It is very common to hear someone say something about having been to a sweat or something and then say, "I've been to a Lakota (or other group) and that's not the way they do it." Sure, maybe not, but that doesn't mean they were wrong or that you have any right to say anything about it. Like I said earlier, there are many reasons why there will be differences. When one learns from a teacher, that teacher can only share his or her concept or understanding of what is being taught. Then that person can only share their concepts and understandings. No two people's understanding or interaction with anything will be the same. Realize this when you think of all the Christian denominations that exist today, for example.
Personal revelation comes through dreams, visions or just a knowing. Perhaps the Creator wanted this person to do something a specific way that was different from others. Remember that the Creator deals with us as individuals. We are not robots. One person may have a gift that someone else doesn't, but we all have our special gifts. This is for a purpose! If you attend a ceremony where the leader makes a big deal of being correct, doing it the only one true way or anything to that effect, watch out! That person is most likely being led by ego, not Spirit. The Creator is no respector of persons and is not interested in egotistical claims.
Another thing I would suggest to watch out for is racial claims or discrimination. The Creator made us the color or mixture that we are! Who then can deny us access to worship as we feel led in our heart. Who can say that we can't attend a ceremony or event based upon our race or nationality? What person pretends to deny us our chosen path because we don't belong to a particular race, tribe or group? The Creator doesn't, so why do people pretend to?
A true spiritual leader or teacher is very aware that there is only one thing that can be taught: "How to learn!" And the process is totally yours. No one can learn for you, no one can experience for you, no one can do any of this for you. It is up to you and only you! Another thing a true Spiritual knows is that the teachings are for all people, not just a select few who fall into man-made categories. Many people think they can obtain the tools or symbols of a certain position and that puts them there. They feel that just by owning a pipe, drum, rattle and having been to a few seminars or sweats will make them a "medicine person". That is not the case at all. Remember, it's the process that is very, very important. Lot's of people want a "title", but few would want the responsibility or would be willing to go through the process of legitimately earning that title. Wanting a title comes from ego.
People who are "real" medicine people would not consider themselves so. You have to move beyond self and ego or the whole process will be blocked. If someone says they're a "medicine person", likely they're not. If they are, likely you'll hear it from someone else, not them. People who brag about all they can do or about how great they are, usually are doing about all they are capable of doing: Running they're mouth! True medicine people know who they are and are at peace with themselves and have no need to brag or tell about all they can do. They just quietly do their thing and know that all true healing comes from the Creator and that they are only a hollow tube through which the Creator's work flows. Their job is to keep that tube clean and unobstructed. Ego will plug that tube!
When you decide to attend a ceremony, bring only yourself and nothing else. Do not bring expectations, for you will be surely disappointed. Leave your anger, jealousy, or any other detrimental thoughts or attitudes at home. Better yet, forgive everyone and be done with it, that way, you are totally free. Come open and loving and prepared to accept any and all gifts Spirit might offer.
If you come in a negative manner, there is a good chance that those negative thoughts, emotions or attitude can be turned against you or that Spirit might decide to teach you a lesson. If you come in a negative manner, your negativity will not only effect yourself, but can possibly alter or have a negative effect on others who are participating or the whole outcome of the ceremony.
If you cannot come in a positive, humble and respectful manner, don't come at all. You and all others involved will be the better for it. Remember, you and you alone are totally responsible for your physical, spiritual and psychological well being! No one else is responsible for you!
If you are taking prescription or non-prescription medications, inform the leader! A well informed ceremonial leader should know what to do. This is especially important if you are attending a sweat. The heat and conditions in a sweat can work along with certain drugs and/or physical conditions and cause physical and/or psychological damage. The leader should know what steps to take in order to prevent possible harmful effects or will determine that you should stay out for your own safety. If you know you have heart problems of any type, high blood pressure or on medication for either, stay out of a sweat. If you are on anti-depressant or nerve medicine, stay out! If you take medicine, whether prescription or not for headaches, stay out. In all cases, at least inform the leader first and then take personal responsibility for the outcome. Like I said before, likely the leader will know what to do or ask you to stay out. This is not an insult, it is for your safety.
Remember to be informed as possible before you go. Then, experience can take it's course. Be respectful and bring no expectations or negativity. Leave your anger at home, it will only hurt you and perhaps effect others. Use common sense, its one of the greatest spiritual tools we have!
This is in no way intended to be a complete in-depth study of attending ceremonies. No one has all the answers. A lot of these things you will have to seek, learn and experience yourself. Remember, you must take complete responsibility for your own physical, psychological and spiritual well being!
This is only intended to give you a little insight on some things that are not exactly everyday knowledge to everyone. If you have specific questions or concerns drop us a letter or e-mail. We'll be glad to answer as best we can and tell you what reading material, fact sheets, web sites or contacts would be appropriate to answer your questions and cover your concerns.
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Copyright (c) 1995 by RavenHawk