Brent Law, Program Manager and Student Advocate at Natchez Trace Youth Academy, left this beautiful world on November 24, 2020. His legacy lives on through this message he gave at The Lightwork Awards performance in Nashville, TN, at which he was honored on February 23, 2020.
The following was transcription was compiled by Special Projects Editor Marci Lingelbach.
My intention today is to try to share a couple of things with you that are pretty simple. They are not new, but sometimes we try to overthink things or we overlook the simplicity of how things are and how they could be. At the heart of Lakota teachings is a conversation around Mitakuye Oyasin, which simply says that we are all related. And really it’s not about being related as we are in family, but it’s about being in a relationship. These beautiful trees among us inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, and we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. We are in relationship with the tree. It is true that science is starting to catch up with the indigenous understanding that the same cosmetic makeup that is involved in the universe is also what we are made of. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin is quite simple. If we come to understand this and we start to embody this understanding, with it comes a responsibility — a responsibility to take steps towards our own healing. We need to have an honest conversation about what we are sending to others. And, just being on this rock and flying through space at 67,000,000 miles per hour, what are we sending down the pipeline? Is it victim? Is it shame? Embarrassment? Not enough? Or is it hope? Possibilities? Is it love? Are we sending our joy to the people? Could it be possible that you could save the world and no one ever know it, just by walking towards your own healing? It is an honorable path, it is a sacred path, and to be honest with you, I’m learning that it becomes a life. Because I get to stand here in front of you today…. On May 4, 2018, I was driving down 440 westbound, and had what they call a widow maker heart attack while driving. Paramedics somehow got me out of the car after and they said I was unresponsive for 12 minutes. They took me to Vanderbilt Hospital, and God bless Vanderbilt Hospital, they were able to do emergency open heart surgery and put me into a chemically induced coma. They told my family that I had a 5% chance of waking up, and asked them to consider how long I would want to be on life support. My ceremony community came together and after a few days I woke up. And I get to come here today, and talk to you guys about Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. When we do sweat lodge in the Lakota tradition, if you have a difficult time in the lodge and you need the door, you would say Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, “Open the door!” In Lakota understanding there are seven directions. If you think about a medicine wheel, we think there are only four, but actually there are seven directions — the west, north, east and south, above and below, and can anybody guess what the seventh direction might be? It’s YOU. You are the seventh direction. You are and always have been the variable in your own life. It’s your CALL. Today may suck, and our mind is a bloodhound that is going to go looking for information to support our belief system. If you wake up in the morning and you think it’s going to be terrible that is exactly what you are going to have. When we consider some of the things that
we are looking at here this evening, we are the seventh direction. How can we honor Mitakuye Oyasin? The next time we have a feast or drink a cool glass of water, can we send that to those who don’t have it today? I took a tour in Sedona, AZ, quite some time ago where they were pointing out these cypress trees as we were rolling through the desert, “I said I’m curious about these trees,” and the guy said, “I’m glad you asked me about trees. They are all connected to the same root system, and we are all connected, however we just can’t see the root system.” Have you ever been standing in line at the grocery store and known that somebody two people back is upset about something? The kids that I work with say, “I feel you,” and when I was growing up we used to say, “I hear you” — and I might be dating myself a little bit there — but “I feel you” is more true. Because sometimes what someone is saying and what I’m feeling are very different things, you know? So how can we show up, in a whishtaylow* way, for the people who are in our lives but also the people who are far from us, and maybe people we think we don’t care for. We all deserve a shot, we all deserve the best of each other. Ram Dass says we are just walking each other home, you know? So I want to leave you with a Lakota prayer, I want to say a couple things. I’m grateful to the organizers of this tonight because I sometimes ask myself why I’m still here? You know you don’t have an experience like I had and not wonder… and I think it is so I could come here tonight and say a couple of things, and thank you, because I needed to hear everything I’m saying. There is no disconnect here, there is no sense of perfection in my world about these things. I want to say, my sacred relatives, you can see your own ancestors in these tapestries back here, in these paintings. We are the variable, you can look back, sometimes we turn away from them. “I got it from here,” sometimes is a conversation. In Lakota we say we are the wauchope, the two legged, YOU are the wauchope, the people of light. Jesus said don’t hide your light under a bushel. If there is something you’ve been yearning to do, something you need to say, please say it. Take a minute, do that. The Toltec shamans in Mexico drink the sun through their eyes in their ceremonies. In Lakota we have Wiwanke Wachipi, which is a Sundance ceremony. It’s our New Year, and it’s where we go to recharge our batteries, and pray and fast for four days. For all of the people, we offer ourselves in that way. We all Sundance in our own way though. In what ways are you willing to look at your own stuff? You decide, for the good of the people, I’m willing to address this. I promise you that everything you want, the answer to your prayer, is on the other side of your comfort zone. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. Thank you.
*Phonetic spellings provided. Please contact the editorial team to help us correct them to proper Lakota at [email protected]