All lives, all spirits, are inter-related in one great web or circle of spiritual existence. So everything and every activity has its effects on everything else, to varying degrees. Nothing is isolated or separate from the great interconnected Circle of Life. Whatever we give to the greater Life adds to the life we receive, and whatever we destroy then depletes our own life. This is the spiritual natural law of interrelatedness. And it's not just about the physical ecology; we are also spiritually interrelated. The inner and outer worlds each affect one another. Native peoples directly realized that their natural environment profoundly affected the individual psyche, emotions and well-being of each person, as well as their physical health.
The whole body of nature – the environment, the animals, plants, trees, land and weather, all have profound effects on our mind and our emotional feelings of well-being. The human psyche cannot be separated from nature and the environment. Our very soul and our mental and emotional balance all depend upon the health and balance in Nature, because we are a reflection of all the energies and qualities in the natural world. In other words, our inner world reflects the outer world.
But also, our own emotional attitudes, feelings and thoughts have significant effects on the natural world. As well, our feelings of respect and gratitude in relation to natural places, to the land, to the trees and to other lives, will actually open up communication with nature spirits and even with the greater Spirit of Nature.
We revere the Great Spirit as an invisible Mystery and a feeling of Spiritual Presence, but we also revere the Great Spirit in Its visible and individual forms, and we give appreciation to the various inter-related manifestations of Spirit.
Our sincere appreciation for manifested Spirit naturally brings forth a caring and responsible kind of love, and this care and responsibility needs to be directed to whatever lives around us. As we walk through Nature we walk through particular environments and are surrounded by particular trees, etc. We walk upon particular parts of the land. So wherever we walk, and wherever we are, there is a local circle of life around us. This circle is made of individual lives, each of which can be respected and appreciated, cared for and loved. So the Native Teachings say, Wake up to who and what is around you, and acknowledge the spiritual presence within the circle of your vision.
Let us respect and appreciate the particular land we walk on or live on, as well as all the natural relations within that circle or locality. Respect and care must begin with the particular circle surrounding us, wherever we are and with the particular people and relations of nature which are in our local circle of life. If we could look around and build a cooperative and caring circle of relations with the lives immediately surrounding us, then there would be many interconnected and interwoven circles of love and community throughout the whole planet.
So the Native wisdom says to begin loving and caring where you are at. See and acknowledge a circle of life surrounding you and local to you, then help strengthen the cooperation and caring within this circle, and nurture the beauty of diversity within this circle.
The Native American culture was and still is especially concerned with the building of cooperative social communities, not based on material greed or the ideal of economic superiority, and this cooperative ideal of community is fundamentally rooted in a deep appreciation for the local natural environment and an intelligent care for its resources. The ideal for community is to be mutually cooperative with the local ecology of Nature, whereby the local environmental circle of natural relations is given to, as well as received from. For in the Native Earth Wisdom, the fundamental spiritual law is the inter-relatedness of all life, and the fundamental ethical law is the balance of giving and taking.
So, it is vitally important that we each, and as community, help strengthen the inter-related web of life around us and all that is within our particular circle of relationships. We do this by developing friendship, trust, caring, and cooperation. This strengthens the life circle and nurtures prosperity for all within the circle. Cooperation and friendship within any circle, or within any environment, may involve other people, other lives of Nature, and various nature spirits. The same kind of respect and cooperation is applicable to spirits and trees, as it is to human beings. Any circle or community is not just about human beings, but must necessarily involve the land and the lives there on, as well as the nature spirits.
Teachings on the Sacred Circle tell us that we each need to develop our sensitivity and caring within a small circle of relations, and then extend outward this sensitivity and caring, by expanding our circle and opening up to the greater interconnected Circle. It is possible for consciousness to comprehend the Whole Circle of life, or the whole of Mother Earth relations. Our consciousness, sensitivity and care can extend out more and more, so the circle of care and cooperation grows ever-wider.
The Native Wisdom tells us to be practical, as well as visionary, which is not merely an abstract caring, but involves caring and service in very particular ways, for particular people and things. Though we can only do so much practically, as one person or as one group. In some way or another we can give our respect, our recognition, our thankfulness, our sensitivity and our caring to our immediate circle of life, while also opening to and doing what we can for an even greater circle of life, and so on.
Know that the quality of our giving to any small circle of life or to any individual life has related effects in the Greater Circle. So every particular gift of love, to one thing or to one being, is like a pebble dropped into the sacred lake of all life – its vibrations ripple outward in all directions, expanding outward into the whole Great Circle. Meditate on this spiritual law and have trust in it. This helps expand our recognized relatedness to the whole of life.
We are all like trees in a wonderful forest. Each tree is unique. Each tree has its own individual power and unique beauty, and its own special presence. And yet, all the trees form a Whole forest and an Overall ecology. We can realize our own special uniqueness and have our own self-respect, and we can each express our unique seed of potential and stretch out our branches in creative freedom.
But we also need to realize humbly that we are each just one tree in a Greater forest, and we are nourished by the same soil, water, air and sun. We live by the same resources of life and we live in the same space together. The beauty of the forest is made by all the individual trees, so one can appreciate the Overall forest though one also needs to appreciate each of the trees which make up that whole forest of beauty.
So too in our relations in life. We can appreciate and give to the overall ecology of life, to Mother Earth as a whole, and we can also appreciate and give to particular expressions of the One Life, which includes giving to our own self. The earth person, attuned with Nature, can give to the greater life in many ways, both physically and with spiritual love offerings and blessings.
We might pray that we can give to Mother Earth and to the whole circle of life, and meditate upon various ways of giving our appreciation and love. And of course, we can also give to individual people, to animals, plants, trees, and to particular places on the land. We can show our respect and give recognition and appreciation to individual trees. So we can direct our sensitive attention and love to specific lives and places of Nature. If we can remember to give love and respect to the greater whole, and to individual spirits as well, then we are truly part of the spiritual path.
We ask to be of service and know how we can give back to the Earth Life. This is the Way of Love, which is the essence of Great Spirit. For Great Spirit is essentially the Spirit of Love, which is the Great Power and Wisdom pervading all life and within our own soul. When we discover this Great Source of Love-Power, we become evermore radiant with love and evermore wishing to give to the awakening of Spirit everywhere.
Unfortunately, the Spirit of Love, the spiritual presence within all form, has hidden itself away because of our lack of respect and recognition. Much of the spiritual presence or nature presences on Earth have closed down and sleep for now, because there is so little recognition. But the many presences (of the Great Presence) are awaiting respect and recognition, appreciation and cooperation. Then their radiance will once again be revealed, and mankind will live in the wholeness of spiritual beauty right here on Earth.
The Native Way is to consciously walk about the Earth, fully sensing and enjoying the sacredness of life and all the beautiful natural manifestations of the Great Spirit. Open yourself to the beauty of nature and begin to recognize the spiritual presence of each life, be it a plant, tree, animal, human, or even a rock. Live your life awake to life. Open up your eyes, your ears, your senses. Be awake to what is around – the individual expressions of Spirit. This is the Native Way.
Recognize the spiritual presence in all things of Earth, and as you do this the whole of physical existence is seen as many unique expressions of Spirit, and each form of life begins to radiate the beauty of Spirit. In essence, every form of life, including the rocks, is a manifestation of the One Great Spirit, and yet each is unique. Each is a unique spiritual presence, and yet each spirit lives within the One Spirit. So we recognize many individual spirits of nature, though each is part of the One Great Spiritual Essence, or Creative Power-Intelligence, most often called Great Spirit, which is beyond gender.
Love begins with respect. So begin with respect. Then there is the possibility of recognition. Then the next steps of love are sacred reverence and gratitude. But first is respect, which means giving attention to the individuality and uniqueness of a human being, an animal, a plant, a tree, a rock or crystal. This is respect for that individual spirit presence or that particular unique power and expression of the One Spirit. To respect is to re-see or give special attention to a particular expression and be open to learning or receiving from that unique spiritual form or life. We should also respect our self in this way, and keep looking deeper inside ourself for what we previously neglected to notice.
So respect is about giving attention to particulars and noticing unique qualities which were previously ignored. This means that we cannot just assume a general abstract love for Nature or for life, though this general kind of love is important too, but we also need to be respectfully sensitive to particular lives and spirits of Nature.
Then, there is recognition, which is a recognition of the Great Spirit expressing uniquely through this particular life. The unique quality is still acknowledged and respected, yet this uniqueness is recognized as a spiritual expression, having its source in the One Great Spirit. One is recognizing the radiant beauty of Spirit beaming through this person or tree or whatever life it is.
Then finally we may experience a sacred reverence for this being and a deep appreciation for this expression of Nature's Love, Wisdom and Power. We recognize the spiritual radiance and intelligence coming through this being, and we revere this radiant expression as we would revere any sacred, divine incarnation. Reverence is not actually worship, but we could worship the Great Spirit in its Mystery through whatever part of nature we meet. In other words, we can worship the Great Spirit by way of experiencing Its Presence in natural life and by our gratitude for the visible, individual forms of Spirit.
Our respect and care is Equal to all, though not necessarily 'the same', since each is unique. Remember that true respect is acknowledging the uniqueness of each being and responding in a way appropriate to their unique needs. In the Native Way, we give our respect and appreciation to everyone and everything, in response to our recognizing their unique gifts to the circle of relations.
Appreciation acknowledges what is given, though before this is possible there needs to be the recognition and awareness of 'what is given', which is only possible if we wake up and really see what is being expressed in the world. For without awareness and sensitivity, we would never be able to recognize all that is given.
We make a spiritual intention to give love and respect equally to all people and all relations of the Earth Mother, while recognizing more and more the various unique talents and gifts expressed in the circle of life, then help to nourish those gifts. Not all of us have the same talents, and some people express their gifts in a more complete way than others, but each talent is equally respected for what it is and each person can be equally respected for who they are without comparison to others.
It can be said that each of us are potential artists in our own way, so all of the many ways can be respected, assuming those 'ways' do not infringe upon other ways. What we really respect and appreciate is what is uniquely given to the Circle of life-relations. And the more one gives to the greater Circle, the more one is respected and appreciated. This simple truth is basic to Native Wisdom.
Respect comes to those who give positively to life, and when we recognize the gifts uniquely given, by a person, tree, or spirit, we give back our appreciation and praise. So as good energy is given, good energy is given back. This is the Realization and the Way of the Medicine People, who recognize good medicine (good energy), and who give back with heart-felt appreciation and love-offerings of thankfulness.
Appreciation and love are real energies, which nurture the well-being of animals, trees, vegetation, and spirits of the land. These feelings of appreciation, gratitude, thankfulness, and spiritual reverence are powerful good energies, which radiate out to that particular life or spirit. We say that good feelings are good medicine, because good feelings nurture healing and well-being. So, when we are loving, joyful and grateful, this good energy radiates out to all other relations, while also nourishing our own body and spirit.
Gratefulness is an expression of love, and it is a real medicine energy which nurtures the unfoldment of Great Spirit on Earth.
Remember that Great Spirit is alive and conscious throughout Mother Earth and in all natural things, so when we give thanks to Great Spirit or to the Mother Earth, or to any of the giving Nature Spirits, our gratefulness is heard, when it comes from the heart and from love, and this is partly how we can give back love to Mother Nature and to Great Spirit. Recognition and appreciation for love given, is love returned.
So be grateful for all which is provided by Mother Earth and All Our Relations. Give thanks to each of the kingdoms of Nature and to all the powers of Great Spirit. This is how the nature powers will hear you and know your sincerity. This is also the way you can give your love to the Great Spirit and to all the relations of Mother Earth. We give our love through our gratefulness, and through gratefulness we open the door to greater love, wisdom, and spiritual power.
Recognize and reflect upon what is given by each Relation and Power of Spirit, then simply and sincerely say in your heart, “Thank you for being and all that you give.” This is the key to opening that particular spiritual power and quality. Know that recognition and gratefulness is the key to receiving the special power of any form or presence in Nature. Then, an added energy and quality begins to awaken within yourself.
If your mind and senses are closed off, then you won’t see all of the many gifts of Spirit; then gratefulness will not resound within you, and you won’t respond to life with care and reciprocity. So many people live in such a closed way, without really seeing, without appreciating, and without really caring about anything other than their own trivial concerns. Their hearts and minds are closed off to the whole Life Circle. We need to see that life can be lived either in a closed off and self-centered way, or we can live open-hearted and open-minded to the ever-greater Circle and as a conscious dancer in a Larger Circle of love-relations, while always reaching out our love to an ever-widening Circle of life.