Deep Breaths

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July 30, 2022, Bellemont, AZ- The toddler was fascinated with the stenciled bear on my hand drum. She periodically got to strike the drum with its stick, before handing it back to me and watching how I was keeping rhythm, during a series of chants.

Most of the chants were devotional in nature, including one that many people who are familiar with Dineh culture would recognize: “I Walk In Beauty”. Two Dineh elders who live in Flagstaff, about 20 miles from here, came to spend time with us this evening, as their daughter and grandchildren were among the camp attendees. The husband is a Medicine Man (He dislikes the term “Shaman”), and spoke of the holistic nature of healing that is his concern, in his practice. The wife is also well-versed in holistic healing, and spoke of the nature of Dineh philosophy and spiritual practice. She stressed the value of maintaining balance and of unity with all peoples.

In the traditional way, one is told to begin the day, turning to each of the four main directions, breathing deeply and offering thanks to the Creator and asking blessings upon the people in each direction. I make special sense to focus on one’s breath. At the very least, I notice that my heart rate is within healthy range, when I take 3-10 slow, deep breaths each morning, This works well, no matter the altitude at which I find myself. (Here, it is 7000 ft. above sea level, as opposed to 5000 ft., in Prescott or 200 feet in my childhood home of Saugus, MA.).

So, mindfulness and breathing go hand in hand, in keeping a person focused and purposeful.

Blue Star

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December 18, 2020, Sedona-

The tower of strength walked in to the room, where four of us were having an earnest conversation about stars, planets and the Earth-bound, and calmly introduced herself. Her first act after that was to bond with the thirty-ish woman in our group, sharing photos of herself at a younger age, of her grandmother and great-grandmother and of her late first husband, a World War II veteran.

Blue Star is still formidable, at 91, has traveled far more broadly than I and has established herself somewhat, in the literary world. After a fashion, she blessed me and the other men in the circle, and told fascinating stories of her Lakota ancestors, as well as of all the experiences she’s had, driving several times across the nation, and abroad-in Europe and in South America. Self-care, she said, has made much possible, as has looking beyond any current upheavals or mischief at a high level.

The luminous presence has, among other things, operated a coffee house on Charles Street, in Boston, and said the late Ted Kennedy was one of her regulars. She spoke of having walked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a few of the marches he organized and of having met Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, in Newport, Rhode Island, at that city’s Folk Festival, in 1962.

I had a newly-bestowed drum with me, showed it to her and gave it a couple of taps with the drumstick, drawing her approval. A scowl from a fellow Baby Boomer across the room put a stop to the tapping, (Why is it that men who are my contemporaries are so often the wet blankets in a group?), as we place harmony over self-satisfaction. Blue Star quietly assured me that the rhythm was good and that there would be many occasions for the drum to aid in my self-expression.

She has a sense of celestial energy about her, and imparts a re-assuring message: ‘It is a restorative thing, to treasure the people and spaces where one happens to be. If the person for whose presence one makes a journey is not available, then those whom one is INTENDED to encounter should have full attention. There are no wasted journeys.’ She was alluding to her own having come to Synergy to visit with the owner, who happened to be elsewhere this evening. The message was apropos for each of us, as various people sat in the circle for a while, then got up and went to an impromptu Blues guitar session in the next room, or wandered outside for the night air.

Blue Star showed me what may well lie ahead, should my fate, as another friend recently wished for me, be one of “iron longevity”. I look forward to seeing her again, at one of the gatherings here.