Blog: EarthSpirit
by Mayah

Lessons from Nature

Gretchen McKay is Sangoma (traditional healer) and shamanic practitioner. This is her wonderful blog post in which she discusses the book "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants" by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Date:   3/20/2021 10:59:27 PM   ( 23 mon ) ... viewed 632 times

Reciprocity: Lessons from Nature
by Gretchen Crilly McKay
Saturday, March 13, 2021

“In the Western tradition there is a recognized hierarchy of beings, with, of course, the human being on top—the pinnacle of evolution, the darling of Creation—and the plants at the bottom. But in Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as “the younger brothers of Creation.” We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn—we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance. Their wisdom is apparent in the way that they live. They teach us by example. They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out.” (Braiding Sweetgrass)

"Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants" by Robin Wall Kimmerer has become an inspirational text for me. She is a botanist, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a poetic writer who shares her understanding of the ways the natural world teaches us to live in harmony and balance, recognizing that reciprocity in all things is the key. I am constantly motivated by her perspective and the life lessons she offers.

"The sweetgrass that had not been picked or disturbed in any way was choked with dead stems while the harvested plots were thriving... Picking sweetgrass seemed to actually stimulate growth. In the first year’s harvest, the plants that grew the very best were the ones that had been yanked up in a handful. But whether it was pinched singly or pulled in a clump, the end result was nearly the same. If we use a plant respectfully it will stay with us and flourish. If we ignore it, it will go away.” (Braiding Sweetgrass, pg 162-163)

Nature teaches us many things that seem contrary to the Western mind. I used to think that I could make something last longer by protecting it, taking care of it in a way that it never changed. All living beings, human and non-human, are bound to each other in a reciprocal relationship. Plants and animals feed us and therefore we have a responsibility to support their life. Gratitude for each gift from the natural environment is an integral part of reciprocity between humans and the natural world that supports us. How do we give back? How do we tend the relationship?

“What I'm looking for, I suppose, is balance, and that is a moving target. Balance is not a passive resting place - it takes work, balancing the giving and the taking, the raking out and the putting in.” (Braiding Sweetgrass)

Balance is not a passive resting place. That thought is profound. It suggests intention and action. Although the action might not be physical, it requires planning and focus. It requires an active response. The definition of balance is a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

Like nature, the care of the soul requires tending and letting go of that which no longer encourages growth. Our soul’s path needs tending and weeding to encourage healthy roots. Change is constant and necessary. Joy and sorrow walk hand in hand. It is the times when we are plucked up by our roots and asked to face the pain in our heart and mind that stimulates new growth and new ways of seeing things. Expanded perspectives. Reciprocity. Nature provides evidence of the need to face challenges that we might wish we could avoid. Growth requires embracing the lessons of the dark nights of our soul and choosing to move through them, embracing the fact that we are 100% responsible for our life and that situations present themselves in order for us to shift and become more of our authentic self.

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” (Braiding Sweetgrass)

May each of us receive the blessings and gifts of the earth and, in reciprocity, recognize our responsibility to give back, to become stewards of the earth. Be thankful for what you are given by the ones who sustain you. This is reciprocity.

Blessings of peace, love and light,

Gogo Gretchen

​"May you find a harmony between your soul and your life " ~ John O'Donohue

"Gogo Gretchen Crilly McKay is Sangoma (traditional healer) and shamanic practitioner. She has studied with master healers in the United States and apprenticed with Traditional Doctor P.H. Mtshali in Swaziland, Africa. She qualified as Sangoma under the mentorship Babe P.H. Mtshali in August 2001. ​​​​​​​​

Gogo Gretchen's Blog: Ancestral Wisdom:

Related Blog: Musings on a Butterfly

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