Chapter OneOur Animal Companions on Turtle Island
Before any human beings there was the Great Mystery. After preparing the Sun and Moon and Water and setting them into place, the Great Mystery made patterns for all things that were to be born and arranged for all happenings that were to occur.
Then the Great Mystery prepared Nature Land, where all things were to mingle in harmony, and the Great Mystery created the plants and all the creatures that swam, crawled, walked, and flew. Gifts were bestowed upon them, with abilities to learn lessons from one another.
All things belong to the Great Mystery. For this reason, the same Spirit is in everything that breathes, senses, hears, tastes, smells, and sees. The inhabitants of Nature Land are aware of the Great Mystery through the whisperings that speak through the mind.
The ancestors of our people sensed a powerful force all around them. Some were able to feel the force; others were able to see it. They called the force "Swen-i-o," the Great Mystery.
The lessons that nature taught set a pattern for the people to follow. The Seneca soon learned that each person must find a way to fit into this pattern in order to experience a sense of happiness. In the atmosphere of the forest, they recognized the presence of the Great Mystery. Its force penetrated into every soul, making every soul a part of it.
As they learned the unspoken language of the inhabitants who livein the forest, the Seneca understood the necessity for living in harmony with self and with nature.
They accepted the kinship of all creatures and all plants of nature.
They believed all creatures and plants were equal in the sight of nature, each performing its specific talents according to its abilities.
Whenever the Seneca fell out of balance with nature, they caused conditions of discord. When the Seneca developed spiritual equality and a life of spiritual balance, they became a mature people of wisdom.
The Seneca taught their children the importance of identifying themselves with all creatures and plants of nature. They learned the differences between themselves and the creatures, but they understood that it was the same Spirit flowing through all of them.
All of Nature is in Us
Understanding the sanctity of nature and having a reverence for life begins with the recognition that we humans are but one species of living beings. All living things are the Great Mystery's sacred creations, endowed with spirit, consciousness, and intelligence.
In the Oracle of Atsuta, an expression of the path of Shinto, it is written: "Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters."
In his thought-provoking book "Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search," Dr. Larry Dossey theorizes about the existence of a universal mind that connects human beings, animals, and all living things. From the very beginning of human evolution, Dr. Dossey suggests, it has made "good biological sense that a nonlocal, psychological communion might have developed between humans and animals as an asset to survival ... that ... nature in its wisdomwould, in fact, have designed a mind that envelops all creatures great and small."
To fully understand and embrace the concept of a "nonlocal mind" requires a genuine humility that enables us to know deeply "that we may be on a similar footing with all the rest of God's creatures."
The Bhagavad Gita (6:28-32) states that those who touch the Godhead and free themselves from the burden of evil see "the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self."
In "Shamanic Voices: A Survey of Visionary Narratives," Joan Halifax quotes Petagna Yuba Mani's statement: "As my brother Lame Deer has said, all of nature is in us, all of us is in nature. That's as it should be."
Today, Grandmother Twylah, the Repositor of Wisdom for her tribe, still teaches her students the Seneca practice of going into the Silence of solitude to regain the feeling of belonging to nature, of being at one with the Great Mystery, and of being in harmony with all of nature's creatures.
To enter the Silence, in Grandmother's words, is "to be enchanted by the Great Mystery." It is truly a magical process by which serious-minded students are able to elevate their consciousness to the spiritual realm, where visions of the past, present, and future live in an existence independent of our material world. This dimension exists in the Eternal Now, thus making it older than Time and newer than our next heartbeat.
Draw Upon Ancient Wisdom Through Your Animal Totem
One of the most effective methods of drawing upon the power of this ancient wisdom is to regain the awareness that you are once again fitting into the pattern of nature and that you are living in harmony with all creatures. And one of the quickest ways totruly understand that it is the very same Spirit that flows through you and through all other beings is to learn the proper use of animal symbology in the creation of your own personal totem.
Among the Medicine teachings of the traditional Native Americans, the totem represents the physical form of one's spirit helper, his or her guardian or guide.
As Medicine Hawk and Grey Cat have said, "While the Great Mystery lives in everything, animate and inanimate, it also exists as itself. It is above us and at the same time is us. It is not a 'God' in the European's sense of God. Neither are the totems 'godlings, ' separate pantheistic deities. However, there may in some ways be a comparison to the concept of the guardian angel."