Monthly Archive: August 2013

A Brief History of The Sun Dance

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last post has been taking my readers with me through the sun dance.  It was an incredible experience that I am still processing. And I feel it is important to share this experience with anyone who wants it. To catch up to this post you can read “The Sun Dance”.

I first read of the sun dance in “Black Elk Speaks” narrated by John G. Neihardt, and then in “Two Ravens: The Life and

 Teachings of a Spiritual Warrior” by Louis Two Ravens Irwin and Robert Liebert. Black Elk was a Sioux elder and medicine man,

 

Howard Terpning - Prepare for Sun Dance

Howard Terpning – Prepare for Sun Dance

who lived through some of the horrendous years of white aggression (not that it’s over!) and believed the sun dance was for people of all races and colour.  Two Ravens was a leader in the radical American Native Movement group (AIM) earlier in his life; he later changed his views (see “Building Bridges Beneath the Sacred Tree”), and was a major influence in bringing the sun dance to all people.

Sun Dance was forbidden by the white authorities, and was finally allowed and not interfered with, thanks to leaders like Black Elk.  Some tribes – notably the Lakota Nation – allow only native dancers.  I participate in a sun dance open to all peoples.

It takes a year to prepare for the sun dance.  A dance chief is selected and begins the process of planning space, requirements, meals, preparation of the ceremonial lands and of the dance arbor.  Closer to the time, the grounds are cleared and made ready, then the many supporters who make the sun dance possible spend weeks putting all the structures in place to feed and protect and support ceremonially the participants.  The tree is decorated, room is made for the ancestors.  The bodies of the dancers are purified by way of a sweatlodge.  Finally, the arbor is blessed and sealed and the dance begins.

Next week I will talk about how I personally am impacted by participating in the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

The Sun Dance

The sun dance is a 3-day Native American high ceremony that, to my knowledge, encompasses all other ceremonies throughout the year.  It is a ceremony performed for ourselves and our community.

Sun Dancer

Sun Dancer

It requires sacrifice: people food-fast for almost four days, some dry-fast (no food or water, no moisture of any kind except for the rain that naturally falls on us), and some have body piercing.

We dance to drum and song, back and forth to the Tree of Life, free of distractions.  By connecting to the Tree, to the ground water that feeds it, and to the water within us, we are able to fully appreciate this gift of life that we have been given, however brief, and rejoice in it.

Not everyone who wants to can participate as a dancer – there is limited room in the dance arbor.  And so the dancers dance not only for themselves and their community, they also dance for the healing of Mother Earth and thanksgiving.

“The Dance shows a continuity between life and death – and a regeneration of spiritual oneness with the Great Spirit.  It shows that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic true deaths and rebirths.  All of nature is intertwined and dependent on one another.” ( http://www.dancingtoeaglesspiritsociety.org)

In next week’s blog, we will be talking about the history of the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Needless Suffering

“The most ancient form of suffering is what we do to ourselves and our body – in what we say or don’t say, feel or don’t feel, do or

Truth is Crying by Suzy Kasse

Truth is Crying by Suzy Kasse

don’t do.  In our search for the Eden we lost as children, we lose the magic of the present.  The story of our lives that we hang onto no longer works for us and seems never finished.

Self-acceptance is the real Eden.  There is a way of finishing the cycle of self-doubt. The energy we liberate from our needless suffering is available once more for creative living in the here and now.”

I wrote that several years ago, then filed it away.  It surfaced when I was tidying up old files.  It is the reason behind my desire and passion for doing what I do, and why I chose to call what I do “The Joy of Living”.

Have you ever done that?  Jotted down something that many years later strikes you as immediately meaningful in your life?  Perhaps it’s time to take another look and see what the elder within you was trying to tell you.  You may find something that moves you from wuat others have said.

 Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Distractions

A close friend pointed out the other day that I was distracting myself; when I thought I was doing something meaningful, I was actually avoiding that very thing.  Thinking about what she said, I had to agree with her.  Sometimes, though, distractions let me distractionshave a break in the middle of a heavy day.

After taking a good look, I came up with three kinds of distractions that I busy myself with far too often.

Entertainment – like a good movie (well known by that industry), solitaire (mindless and not very satisfying), daydreaming of what I want and would like, reading mystery novels.

Productive – much more subtle because I feel as though I’ve accomplished something, even while not accomplishing something possibly much more important.  These are self improvement classes, crafts, diets and “good” eating, exercising.  It isn’t that these aren’t worthy things to do – it’s when they replace things I’d rather avoid that they are a distraction, such as marketing my work, or assessing someone else’s work.  Even housework looks good then!

And finally, there are the really devious distractions – ones that make me feel as though I am doing something that is meaningful and that make me special, when I’m not really.  What I’m really doing is hiding a very young part of me that is afraid and overwhelmed.

When I am honest with myself, those things that truly give meaning to my life are about relationship with myself, my world and the people I truly care about.

Do you sometimes entertain yourself with distractions?  How do they help and how can they hinder?  What is truly meaningful to you?

You can find more on dealing with distractions from Leo Babauta.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Summer Tips

July and August are the times that our gardens look their best.  Gardening, as a wise man put it, is the one thing that will always bring us happiness.  Here are three tips for reducing anxiety this summer season.

1. Plant something, then watch it grow as you tend it. It’s not too late!  It might be a flower in a pot, a pot of lettuce or tomatoes, or

Planting

Planting

an entire garden.  See how this contributes to your sense of wellbeing, and how you grow as your garden grows and as you care for it.

2. Get outside for half an hour every day – enjoy your neighbour’s gardens and local parks.  Go for a walk, a bike ride; sit in a park and let the sun penetrate and warm you.  This time of year is filled with the heady smells of growth.  Research shows that only half an hour of outdoors activity every day increases our sense of happiness.

3. Connect with a tree.  Trees are responsible for shading us and cleaning most of our air.  Trees have deep roots and some in our neighbourhood have been around for hundreds of years.  They are one of the first forms of life on our planet Earth.  Did you know that the Ginkgo has been around for over 200 million years?  Leaning on a tree can give us stability and calm us; it can connect us to what is wise within us.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.