Eleven years ago I was blasted out of Virginia with the split up of a 25 years old marriage and landed in sweet Takoma Park Md. My life was out of control, shredded and I felt I was hanging on by a thin thread.
I never thought I would be a single Mom again ( first son and now the third), but there I was. In my new found spiritual path of Earth spirituality, I was part of a Lodge community and the water pourer was a Sundancer on Rosebud, SD. I found myself going there to support her and she never made it. But I was there with a small group of friends, including my middle son, Parmatma, who was one of the main fire tenders. I ended up massaging one of the elders and when she heard my story she said I HAD to go to the Chief and ask to dance. I really did not think this was possible, but when he heard my husband had left me he knew I needed spiritual help, and said I could dance. I did dance, one day.
That year I began to learn the power of the Pipe, and forgiveness. On the end of that day I felt so much anger releasing from my heart. All the pain I had carried about my husband not loving me and wanting to be with other women. The tears, prayers and support from the holy circle gave me an opportunity for deep, deep healing of my wounded heart.
To Sundance you make a commitment for four years and then you have to show up and be willing to sacrifice and pray for the people. I had been on the dharma path for most of my life but I was not ready for the intensity of this experience.
For the first four days you prepare by doing Lodges and getting your spiritual things ready for the dance. You also help with setting up the camp and whatever else is needed to serve. The day before the dance you go and get the tree. The tree is sacred in the Ceremony as it represents the Tree of Life and is a portal for the spirits to move up from the earth to the heavens. It is the focal point of the dance and we see it as a symbol of the Creator. It is brought into the Sundance grounds with so much respect and love. Then, all the people place their prayer ties on the tree. The sweet smell of tobacco is so powerful!
Then the dancers begin their fasting, as soon as the tree is up. We do not drink or touch water for four days and fast from food ( unless you need to eat something light at night for your health). It is always a personal choice, but whatever you make a commitment to do, you walk it. For all four days we rise at 4am to Lodge and get ready to enter the arbor as the sun rises from the East Gate. This is the Guardian of re-birth. There are so many helpers too. The fire tenders are the bomb!!They are working so hard to keep the fire going all four days, with lots of lodges and smudging.
Then there are the drummers and singers. They keep us dancing and singing. The songs are all prayers and so beautiful. I loved feeling my feet touch the earth and the energy that would come into my being. The songs….it’s hard to describe. They are pure spirit and to this day, pierce my heart.
The first year I was kind of in shock by it all and I have to say, it got me through the year. As the years went by my relationship with my Pipe became so beautiful. All I can say is the dance humbled me. I would be so thirsty, tired and when I would pray for my children or someone back home who were sick I would get the energy to dance.
Every year by the fourth day I would be in such an altered state I felt God’s presence with me every moment. The pipe was always in my left hand feeding my heart. And the tree was there as a reminder of all that is sacred and good. Of all the love that is always available if I only open to it. A few times at the end I had an experience of feeling the oneness of us all. That I was part of a bigger whole. That we are truly all related. I would be smiling through my tears as I sang with the drummers to Tunkashila.
And for some who may not understand this, sometimes I pierced for my relatives. I never thought I would do this but when I was there the spirits told me to. I did it as a spiritual give-away. I felt my prayers were being heard and it made me feel like it would help me get through the year back home and give me strength as a single Mom. It did and more.
At the end of the dance there would always be a big give-away and feast. This was a time of celebration and gratitude. The Lakota people have taught me so much about myself. In the mist of the dance I made two 4 year commitment, fell in love with the only African who danced there ( Tieku, known as Fred), and got adopted by Jean Last Horse. She gave me the name, Tanampe Wakan Wi which means Sacred Hand Woman, for my healing abilities.
After the last dance I knew it was over as I was moving on a different path with my studies with Rinpoche and a reconnection to yoga and meditation. The Pipe and Ceremony continues to be a spiritual way for me. I offer Pipe Ceremonies here as a service to the community and will always teach the ways of the Pipe to anyone who comes with a good heart. The Sundance is a ceremony that occurs in the summer all over the world, but mostly in the US and Canada with the Native tribes.
As a white girl with Irish heritage, I somehow was blessed enough to find a Sundance community that was open to all nations. My gratitude to the Sundance ( I am honoring their privacy by not mentioning their names), for all their give-away and supporting me those eight years. With deepest gratitude, All My Relations