In August 1997, I was introduced to an Ojibwa elder in Ontario, Canada who became my spiritual teacher for a time. On the day we met, Carolyn sat me down as far away from her as she could get me in her room and grilled me with questions. Satisfied that I was 'okay', she began to teaching me about the First Nations perspectives. I cried through all these teachings.
Carolyn then took me to a park where she provided more teachings. She had me feel and connect with Mother Earth. She also gave me instructions for a prayer that I was to do twice daily. My prayers were to be offered outside in Nature; in the mornings before sunrise and in the evenings before going to bed.
Her instructions were to give thanks to everything I witnessed and could think of while in nature. Carolyn told me that this is how Native people gather medicine. In the beginning, she said, these prayers would take me maybe 10-minutes but soon would increase to 20-minutes, 30-minutes, and then an hour and more.
She was right!
I did as she instructed every morning and every evening no matter how early, how late or how tired I was. Very soon, I spent a minimum of an hour twice every day offering gratitude. I stood outside as early as 4:30 a.m. in the summer, often late at night, and in every weather condition imaginable. The spot I chose for these prayers was in front of two large cedar trees overlooking a river a few blocks from where I lived. The cedars became my friends.
I witnessed and acknowledged changes in the landscape as the seasons came and went. I thanked the seasons themselves and the weather beings. I gave thanks to many trees, plants, animals, insects, birds, fish, etc. for a multitude of their gifts; gifts I 'discovered' in the process of these prayers. I appreciated many things about the river, learned from Grandmother Moon, Mother Earth, Father Sun, planets and stars. In addition to appreciating the gifts of many aspects of nature, I was moved by my own feelings of appreciation. Until these prayers, ‘thank you’ was about being polite.
Nature began to speak back to me, teaching me and inspiring me with ideas. I learned that only we humans wonder what we should be and what we should do. These prayers transformed me. I was no longer consumed by negative thoughts, and for the first time, I felt connected and related to life around me. I felt known and loved.
I continue to gather medicine in my daily prayers.