Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times: The Seven Teachings

March 19, 2014

By Michael Meuers, Indian Country, Today Media Network

Excerpt: "We are invited once again to revisit the time honored Teachings, and to embrace the old ways in order to renew our connection to the Sacred Teachings. We need this old knowledge in our lives to live in these modern times of technology."

So began a PowerPoint presentation by Chi-Ma'iingan/Great Wolf (Larry Stillday)—aided by wife Violet—at the 8th Annual Drug and Gang Summit held at Seven Clans Casino and Event Center on February 11 to 13, 2014.

"A long time ago, we were given everything we need to live a good life," he said. "We are taught that we originated from the Earth and that the Earth is the Great Mother of all, She provides us with everything we need to survive in this life."

The Cycle of Life

"Everything was put in place for our earth walk," said Stillday. "Our earth walk begins when our spirit enters our physical body from the direction of the East. The traditional way of teaching was by example, experience and storytelling. Learning is a continuous process from birth to death."

Stillday says that there are many lessons we can learn from the natural world, because that’s where the Great Spirit put all the lessons we need to fulfill our earth walk. We were given everything to live a good life.

"When we put our frame of reference of thinking on our Earth Mother, and look deep into nature, we have a better understanding of everything," he said. "When we connect with the 'animal guides,' they help us to be a better person, and to be healthier spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. This enables us to see the world…and everything in it…with clarity and better understanding. We need to plug into the earth!"

"The Circle is one of the strongest symbols in nature," declared Chi-Ma'iingan, "and symbolism is a powerful language, that we were given to understand and communicate, with spiritual concepts and truths. Our Ancestors always engaged in ceremonies as a way of honoring all of life; they thrived on symbolism to help them see the world in terms of circles and cycles. Like them, we too can use the same frame-work of symbolism to incorporate the circular and spiral energies."

"The Medicine Wheel is the symbol we use to express and represent the meaning of life, and meaning provides us with purpose and understanding. The symbol of the circle holds a special place of importance in our belief system. There is no hierarchy in a circle, it's about equality."

Ceremonies Are Our First Duty

"The greatest wisdom is in simplicity." he said. "It is not complex or elaborate and is encoded in our DNA. Everything we need is within, therefore we are programed for ceremonies and rituals, which is our inheritance from our Ancestors.

When we quit doing our ceremony something else comes in, fills the gap. But when we engage in our ceremonies, we awaken and affirm our innate wisdom and we invoke our ability to heal mind, body, heart and spirit. We are born into the natural rhythm of the Universe…and Mother Earth…which connects us with our own natural rhythm, and with Nature. The great teachers have always said, 'when we find our heart, we will find our way.'"

"For us to live Mino-Bimaadiziwin (the Good Life), we need to return to the Teachings and our way of understanding. The Mino-Bimaadiziwin Principles provide the outline of what it means to live and learn as Anishinaabeg," declared Stillday.

The Seven Natural Laws of Life, also called the Seven Grandfather Teachings

Stillday says that the Aadizookaanaan (Sacred Stories) tell us the Great Spirit gave the Seven Grandfathers…who are very powerful spirits…the responsibility to watch over the people.

"The Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers were given to us early in our history. They are teachings about human conduct towards others," said Stillday. "The teachings are important and have long been a part of our language. They have been handed down to us through generations. They are gifts or blueprints for living a good life. Each teaching is a gift of knowledge for the learning of values and living by those values. They were given to us in order to develop the spiritual aspect of self, and to teach us the importance for understanding who we are. The teachings were then, and still are, what we need for our families and our communities to survive and thrive."

"All of our feelings, thoughts and actions are a combination of one or more…or even all…of the Seven Teachings," said Stillday. "The Teachings remind us of the need for balance in the world, and the balance we must strive for everyday within ourselves. The teachings offer direction for all who wish to have a balanced and peaceful life." "Our wisdom keepers say, we are to use all these laws together in our lives and NOT to pick and choose between them," said Stillday, "because to pick and choose one, will only work the opposite way of what is intended. When we break one law, we break all of them because they all work together in balance. When we break one law of the Great Spirit we not only break the law with the Great Spirit, we break the law with our selves, our families and our communities."

"Each law honors the basic virtue necessary for a full and healthy life. The teachings honor spiritual laws that help us connect to the land," he said.

Each Teaching Is Represented by an Animal

"The Seven Grandfather Teachings are Intended to work in a Circle, equally together," said Stillday. "The Circle has always been an important part of our everyday lives. Everyone and everything in the circle is equal, as well as interconnected, which helps us to have a strong sense of family and community."

"The teachings emphasize the importance of respect for all," says Stillday. "Animals are here to help man. The animals taught us how to live close to the earth…and that connection we have with them…instilled the respect for all of life. Each animal offers a special gift and understanding of how we are to live our lives on Mother Earth."

Nbwaakaawin (Wisdom) Is Represented by Amik (Beaver)

Amik represents determination, strong will, a gatherer and accomplishment. To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. We were given Wisdom in order to better our lives through knowledge. To know Wisdom is to know that the Great Spirit gave everyone special gifts to be used to build a strong family and a healthy community. Developing a strong family and a community is entirely dependent on the gifts given to each individual by the Great Spirit, and how we use those gifts.

Amik uses its sharp teeth to cut trees and branches to build dams. This is a gift it received from the Creator. Amik teaches us the lesson of Wisdom in the way it uses its teeth or gift to build its lodges for its family; if it doesn’t use its teeth, they will continue to grow and become useless, making it difficult to sustain its life. It is the same way for us. If we let our own spirit go weak, it will not be able to fulfil its use. Like the beaver if we use our gifts properly, they will greatly contribute to the development of a healthy family and community...

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