Friday, May 1, 2015
There are many ways to be a warrior--How-Ta-Shai
May 1, 2015
There are many ways of being a leader.
How-ta-shai's tells his story
19th Century United States
This young boy was born to be a warrior. As soon as he could walk, he remembered wanting to ride a horse. If his mother didn't watch him, he would run off to where the horses were penned and try to walk among them. Remarkably enough, he was never hurt. Many times, he would escape the eyes of the adults who were watching him and run to the horses. Once they realized that he wouldn't get hurt, they let him do so. Perhaps he thought he was a horse instead of a ‘two-legged.’ Or perhaps he just cherished the horses’ power.
As everyone suspected, he became an excellent horseman, and everyone knew he would be a brave warrior until the most unexpected thing happened. He fell from his horse. In fact, he was sure an invisible force had pushed him. He was thirteen and on his first buffalo hunt. He was feeling like a man, but not acting like one because he thought he was better than the horse; he was the hunter.
This pride got him in trouble. He wasn’t respecting the horse or the buffalo, and when the horse moved quickly to the left, he moved to the right. He was so caught up in the act of being a ‘man’ that he behaved like a small boy and forgot his very first lesson. He and the horse were one. And so, in his arrogance, he fell from the horse, right into the path of a raging buffalo.
Worse yet, he fell onto his shoulder and his right arm lay limp at his side. He grabbed his spear with his left hand and, just as the Spirit had pushed him from the horse, the Spirit led his arm true and struck the buffalo with his spear. The giant animal did not die with one stroke, but he stumbled. This gave the boy time to jump up and run to his horse, which waited for him in spite of the great danger.
With his remaining good arm, the boy pulled himself on to the horse's back and rode to safety. The other hunters had witnessed this scene and released the buffalo from life. The young hunter had struck the first blow on a mighty buffalo, and he was a hero. However, he realized, as his spear arm lay limp at his side, that he would never be a warrior.
His shoulder healed much quicker than his heart. He recovered most of the movement of his arm, but he could not throw a spear or use a bow and arrow. Finally, he learned to use his arm well enough to hunt, but he did not have the strength to go into battle. And so he brooded. His life was over. He was not a warrior. He was barely a man! How could he live with this handicap?
He was useless. His life was over before it had a chance to begin. He wandered around supposedly on hunting trips, but he had no heart for hunting. He didn't even enjoy riding his horse. He would have to leave the tribe. He had nothing to give and it was selfish for him to stay. He did not know where to go. He only knew he had to leave.
One morning, before dawn, he gathered a few things and slipped out of the teepee before anyone else awoke. He headed due west, away from the rising sun, and away from his dreams. He did not know where he was going, or why. He didn't care. For days and days, he walked. He hadn't brought his horse, as a warrior needed it and he had no right to take it with him.
After many rising and setting suns, he came into a territory that was new to him. By the end of the second moon cycle, he was lost. Of course, he wasn't lost in the sense that he couldn't go home; but he was lost in that he had no idea where he was or what he would experience next. He was not afraid. Nothing worse could happen to him. Maybe if he could lose his past, he could find a future.
In the distance, he saw a high cliff and decided he would climb to the top to seek his vision. He buried his provisions at the bottom of the cliff, as he would need no food or comfort, and began his climb. The way to the top was very steep, with loose gravel and little to hold on to.
After nearly falling several times, and wishing he had a man’s strength in both of his arms, he finally reached the top of the cliff as the last rays of the sun were setting below the horizon. He found a small niche in which to sit and curled himself up to wait. The night grew colder and colder, yet he hardly noticed. He vowed that he would not move until he had received his vision. With every hour, he drew deeper and deeper into himself. By dawn, he was in a deep trance.
Gradually, a storm began to gather about him. It seemed to echo the storm that raged within his soul. The weather became colder and colder, and the wind grew icy. He knew that soon it would be the first snow. It had been many moons since his injury. The plains and the pain of his wasted life seemed far below him now. From his perch on the cliff, he felt like he was a part of the growing force of Nature, and less and less a part of his physical body.
As the wind whipped about him, he could feel his Spirit being tugged by it. He wished to fly like the wind and roar like the thunder and be free once and for all of the limitations of his wounded body. His anger and disappointment filled his heart and mind, and he wished to leave the clay prison of his body.
“’Grandfather,” he cried to the howling wind. “Take me with you!”
He surrendered to the pull of nature’s storm, and, with a flash of lightning, he was pulled out of his body. He looked down and saw a small empty form clinging to the side of a cliff and could vaguely remember it was he. He took to the wind like a bird. His Spirit knew no limits, and the turbulence in the air only added to his excitement. He didn't know where he was or where he was going. He didn't care if he ever returned to that small shell.
He was Home now. He was the wind and the sky that held it. He was lifted higher and higher away from where, and whom, he once was. He seemed to lose consciousness for a moment, and when he awoke, he found himself on the plains. He was alone except for one buffalo that was as white as snow.
“They are coming to kill us!” it said. “They will gain power over you by killing us and there is nothing we can do to stop them.”
With these words, the buffalo turned and walked away.
The Spirit of the Indian ran after him with many questions.
“’Who are ‘THEY’? Why do they want power over us? How can they kill you?’
But the buffalo was just an animal now. It was no longer white, and it was all alone. The man turned around and saw many mounds off in the distance. He could not make them out, so he went closer to investigate.
As he got closer, he saw that the mounds were dead buffalo--thousands of them, lying dead on the prairie. Some were skinned, but the precious meat was left to spoil in the sun. Some were wounded and left to suffer and die a slow death. Some were calves and some were pregnant cows. What was this atrocity?
“Who could do such a thing, and why?” The white buffalo's words echoed in his head, “They will gain power over you by killing us.”
He must stop the slaughter. He could not allow this to happen. He must return to his tribe and warn them. He could not abandon his people in their time of need. With that thought, he was suddenly aware of himself way below his Spirit, pressed against the side of a cliff. He looked as dead as the buffalo on the plains.
His face was white, his lips were blue, and there was snow all around him. He must get back into his body before it was too late. He struggled to return, but the very wind that had given him freedom was now causing his death. The currents of air were strong and they pushed him away from his body. He knew that in order to return to it he would have to WANT to live. He would have to fight for the right to be alive--alive with a purpose. He must return and help his people.
Gradually, he could feel himself moving towards his body. He reached for it as if he could pull himself back into it. When he finally touched it, it was ice cold. It was too late. He was already dead. If he entered his body now, maybe he would be a ghost, caught forever between two worlds, but he had to take that chance. He had to believe that he could restore himself to health. And then, suddenly, all was dark and he was cold, very, very, cold! He tried to move but could not.
His arms and legs were ice, and he could not feel his fingers or toes. He collapsed into a small heap trying to hold within him any heat he could. He had to get warm. Gradually, he found he could crawl. Actually, he was dragging himself with his elbows. There seemed to be an indentation just ahead; perhaps it was a cave.
After what seemed like a very long time, he reached the mouth of the cave. He rolled into it, but it was slanted down and he felt himself rolling out of control. He rolled and rolled until he was suddenly stopped by something big and furry. It was a bear. He didn't care. It was warm. He fell into the warmth of its fur and passed out.
He didn't know how long he was unconscious, but when he awoke he was warm, or at least he wasn't cold. And he could move. His hands and legs obeyed his command, but his fingers and toes were on fire as though a million bees were stinging him. Rubbing his hands together, he willed himself to sit up and get his bearings. Gradually, as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he found he was alone. But on the floor beside him was a pile of roots. They were almost frozen, but they were edible.
Why was this pile of roots in the cave? He knew he hadn’t put them there. He still was not sure where he was or how he had gotten there. Then he remembered the vision and his struggle to return to his frozen body, his fall into the cave, and the bear. He had never heard of a bear taking food into his cave. But it was food, and he was starving. He began to eat the roots, and once he started, there was not another thought until he had eaten them all. When he finished, he was thirsty and he crawled to the mouth of the cave, amazed at how weak he still was, to eat some snow.
Where was the bear? Had he found another cave, or was he on his last search for food before his hibernation? If that were the case, he needed to leave before the bear returned. But with the thought of leaving the sheltered cave, he realized he was still too weak. If the bear were going to kill him, he would already have done so. Besides, he surely could not yet survive outside. He crawled back to the deepest depths of the cave and fell asleep.
Several times he came to the edges of wakefulness and remembered a large furry lump leaning against his sleeping form. He felt safe, secure, and warm and drifted back into the depth of sleep. When he awoke fully, he often found more roots, which he ate with a great appetite. Sometimes the bear was there, and sometimes he was not. Finally, after an indeterminate length of time, the man was able to stay awake long enough to ponder his situation.
This time when he awoke, he found the bear deeply asleep in the farthest depths of the cave. It was almost as if the bear knew that the young man was well now, and so he went into his winter's sleep. The man realized that the bear had brought him the roots, kept him warm, and in fact, saved his life. This was a powerful omen as to the purpose of his life. Nature had saved him and he must pay her back. He had been granted Bear Medicine, and he would learn to use it.
For two winters he lived in that cave with the bear. How he survived the first winter, he was not sure. When he had regained enough strength, he had crawled down to the base of the hill and uncovered his supplies from beneath a pile of snow. He slept a great deal, snuggled up against the warmth of the bear. Somehow he survived on the supplies he had recovered and the small animals he caught outside the cave.
His first teachings were in the dream-state. He met nightly with the Great Spirit and received many instructions. Upon awaking, he would walk in the snow to try to anchor these instructions into his physical form. It was during these daily walks that he learned to connect with Nature in a way that he had never done before. All of Nature was asleep, like him, in the depths of winter, but the Great Spirit never sleep and became a constant companion for the man.
The person that he had always known as he was now dead, and he had not yet given birth to his new self. He was pregnant with himself. He was gestating a new essence from deep, deep inside, which was fed every night in his dream state. As spring began to dawn, so did the seedlings of his new self. The bear awoke and left him alone in the cave. He was surprised at how lonely he felt. He, too, would leave the cave to build himself a shelter against the face of the cliff he had climbed that fateful day at the very beginning of winter.
As he saw the new life of spring all around him, he began to build a new life within himself. His new self was totally at one with all of Nature. Like his horses, he could smell water, and, no matter how far he walked from his shelter, he could always return. He ate much like his friend the bear: fish from the rivers and a nearby lake, berries, roots, and small creatures.
One day, while he was eating berries, he felt a strange metamorphosis take over his body. Suddenly, his hands became very large and furry and his back took on an unfamiliar curve. His sense of smell was so intense that he was almost dizzy. He fell down on all fours and began running through the woods at an incredible speed.
He wondered if he just felt like a bear or if someone outside of himself would actually see him as one. And then he smelled the most magnificent smell he had ever experienced, a female bear. He came upon her slowly from an upwind direction. But she was too smart for him, and turned to face him. She sniffed the air as if she were confused by his scent. He stood on his hind legs, raised his paws, and growled to impress her. She had no cub and would be ready soon to mate. The man/bear turned and ran up the hill, leaving her awaiting his return.
He awoke at the edge of a stream beside the berry patch. He was naked and what clothes he had were torn from him and lay in shreds around him. How could he have had the strength to tear his clothes from himself without a knife? Had it been true? Had he been a bear, or was it only a vision? Did it matter? He lived in two worlds now, the Spirit World and the Land of his Fathers. He could travel back and forth and never realize that he had changed realities. Had he lost his mind, or merely exchanged it for his Spirit?
While he was a bear, he had seen some mushrooms. He would pick them and save them for the full moon, which was coming within a few days. He realized that there was something important that he must do. Grandfather Sky and Grandmother Earth were calling him. He fasted for three days and stayed as naked as he had been when he awoke by the stream. Then it was time.
The moon was full and high in the sky. He blessed the mushrooms in each of the four directions, presented them to the Great Spirit, and slowly ate them. Nausea overtook him briefly, but he did not purge himself. He laid back and stared into the moon. She seemed to be speaking to him.
“Remember. Remember, my warrior?
“Remember what? he wondered. And a warrior! Was she taunting him? He knew he could never be a warrior.
“Oh, but there are many kinds of warriors,’ she said. ‘They are different only in their choice of weapons.’
“I cannot yield a weapon. Even as a bear, my one arm was weaker!’
The voice ignored his complaint.
“Your weapon shall be your medicine!’
“I have no medicine,’ he argued.
“If you remember who you are, you shall have your medicine. If the bear recognized you, why do you not recognize yourself?’
“But who will be my teacher? I am alone in the wilderness.’
“Yes, you are right. The wilderness shall be your teacher.’
And then the voice stopped and he saw many visions. He saw men in blue clothing with saddles and fire sticks like the trappers used. There were many of them – too many. He saw fires, and women and children running in panic. The men were gone. Where were they?
How could they have abandoned their families? No, they had not abandoned them. He saw the warriors awaiting the battle, but the men in blue were afraid of them, and only fought the women and children. Had these enemies no honor?
Then he saw naked trees. The leaves were gone, and the trees were tied together to trap something inside. He had to free what was trapped inside. He beat upon the wood, looking for a way in, when he heard laughter. He looked above him and saw a man in blue inside the strand of trees, with his head and shoulders looking over the dead trees, and down at him. The man laughed and laughed.
“NO!’ he cried. ‘I do not want this vision. It is evil!’
The voice returned. ‘Cycles end, like the changing moon. But like the moon always returns, so will the People!’
The next vision he saw, he could not understand. There were his people, only there was no space around them. There were no plains. There were no buffalo. Their warriors lay around like sick old men, leaning up against trees and drinking firewater. They seemed to live in teepees that were not the shape of the medicine wheel, but were flat with something shining on the top. There were things around them that looked almost like the iron horses, but they were smaller and appeared to be broken.
Everyone was sad and beaten. And then it happened. With a bang of the old wooden door, someone came out of a flat teepee. He was a warrior in full dress. He had his paint and war bonnet on. He carried his best bow and arrow. He did not want the white man's fire stick. And in his other hand, held high, was something bright. Something almost burning, but it did not burn.
It was as light as the sun and spread over the entire camp. One by one, the lazy, sick men arose and were transformed into mighty warriors. The chief raised both of his arms high into the sky and summoned the Spirit World. He looked into the warrior's face, and in that one face, he saw the faces of his People.
Then all went black. He saw nothing more. He tried to bring it back. He wanted to remember everything, but he couldn't stay awake. Something was pulling at his Spirit. The last thing he saw was his naked form lying on the forest floor.
When he awoke, the sun was high. He crawled to the stream and rolled into it. He lay there for most of the day, crawling in and out of the water, until finally he had to find food. What could his vision have meant? How could the wilderness teach him his medicine?
He spent the rest of the summer answering that question. The vision was still a mystery, but the wilderness was his teacher. The sky taught him how to be free. The birds let him use their eyes to see land far below them. The trees told him where to find roots and other edibles. The bees found him honey, and all the creatures spoke to him in a language without words.
As he moved through the woods, he somehow knew that this bark could heal pain and this flower would ease the fire in a wound. Nature gave her secrets to him. As the days shortened and the nights grew cold, his lessons continued. Then he knew it was time to return to the female bear. Did they really mate or was it a vision? All he could remember was that they appeared to become one being. Was she really a bear or was she his Spirit Guide?
Then winter was upon him and he knew that he would hibernate like the bear. He had gathered his food and an old stag had given his life up for him. His bear mate had told him where to find it. From this gift of Nature, he made his winter clothes and set up his provisions. When he went to the cave for his winter's rest, the bear was waiting for him. He looked at his two-legged roommate and ambled to the back of the cave.
The man seldom took walks this winter. He was too busy dreaming. He walked the skies with the Grandfathers and returned to Grandmother Earth only to eat and relieve him self. When spring came, he was ready. He didn't know for what, but he was ready. One day he awoke and the bear was gone.
He knew that he, too, must now leave the safety of the cave. He gathered his few possessions, as he knew that he would not return. He had received his lessons. He had learned his Medicine. Now he must use it for the good of his people. He would return to them now. He had something to share with them. He was a warrior and his weapon was his Medicine.
He decided to take one last tour of the valley to say goodbye and to gather provisions for his long journey home. Every tree and blade of grass seemed to know him. The flowers turned in his direction, and the animals, insects, and birds seemed to recognize him. Finally, with the sadness of goodbye and the joy of hope and purpose, he turned one last time as he reached the edge of the valley. What was that he saw in the distance? Yes, it was his bear mate. And beside her was a small cub.
“But what did the vision mean?” asked Shature.
How-ta-shai’s face grew gray and sad.
“The vision was the Truth, although it took me many years to know it.”
He motioned his hand to the right of him, toward the old, dying man. An Indian woman was entering the teepee with a small bowl of food and a skin of water. The old man waved it away.
“’I will not eat until the Bluecoats allow us to place our teepees outside the walls of this fort.’
The young woman nodded with sadness and respect and backed out of the teepee with the untouched food. She looked over to the Commander of the fort who was just entering his quarters, set the food down in front of the teepee, and left.
The Commander had no taste for this job. What was the point in torturing these people further? Every morning, as he entered his office, they placed the old Medicine Man's food outside his teepee. And every evening, they took that same full plate of food away as the commander left his office. He had heard that each remaining member of the tribe had sacrificed a small portion of their nearly inedible food as a gesture of support for their one remaining warrior.
The commander had served in the Civil War and had fought many brave battles, but he saw no purpose in shaming these poor, defeated people any more. However, his orders were to keep them within the confines of the fort. Where would they go now? There were so few of them left. The warriors were dead or in prison. But he had to obey his orders, didn't he?
And then one morning, as he walked up the stairs to his office, he turned to look at the familiar scene of the food in front of the old man's teepee. But instead, he saw the women taking down the teepee and wrapping the old Medicine Man in a burial skin. They all turned to look straight into the face of the Commander, their eyes shown with pride and love. Even the children stopped to make sure he knew what had happened.
The Commander had seen many terrible things in his long military career, but the simple sight of the loss of one courageous old man struck his heart. He found that he had to lean against the pillar of the porch to regain his composure. He then called his Lieutenant and said in his most powerful voice:
“’Lieutenant, tell these people to set up their teepees outside the fort!’”
As the Medicine Man finished his story, Shature felt the deep sorrow of “The People.” She had heard the story with her heart and was in awe of How-ta-shai’s courage. Could she be such a brave warrior when she returned to Earth?
“There are many ways to be a warrior,” spoke How-ta-shai. “Remember my story. I had to lose my ability to be a warrior in the way that I had wanted order to be a warrior in the manner that was my destiny. I did not share with you the many years in which I was of great service to my people. These were years filled with happiness, service and love. Later, I had to learn to keep that love alive during years and years of pain, suffering and loss.
“At my death, the only thing that I had left was Love itself. Love for something greater than the material world. Love for an ideal. I had sacrificed myself as a symbol of the love I held for the ways of my people. It took a lifetime of service to achieve it, but I can now give you a love that is transpersonal and beyond human emotions. This love is an energy field and a beam of power. Take this gift from me and hold it in your heart.”
The Medicine Man stood up and Shature followed his example. He circled the fire and embraced her, heart to heart. She could feel his bear energy, his love of Nature, and all his pain that he had transformed into wisdom. Yes, she would hold this gift forever, beyond all life and death, within her Heart.