Native American culture & teachings through a modern lens

Tag: Mindfulness

Náádąą Rising & Other Reminders from the Cornfield

When I started my new adventure, I had no idea how much “new” I would be surrounded by. From finding a new coffee shop to hang out in to searching for a favorite new eatery to get carry-out from, life has been full of “firsts”. I’ve have also been seeking the answer to a new question – what songs do I sing to help the roots I am planting in this community be the healthiest?

 
I remember planting with my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother) when I was little. I love this memory of ours. From the feel of placing the jewel-toned corn kernels in the moist earth to the heat of the summer day, our entire time together was incredibly fun. I have been thinking of her consistently since I started to build my life in New Mexico. This memory came to be me recently as I have been reflecting about the kind of life I have planted and am cultivating. I remember her sharing songs as we planted. Offerings to the corn we hoped would grow in our field.

 
In my new home, days have been filled with exploration. I’ve been searching for my place within this community while also pushing myself to being open to people who cross my path. Being open provokes vulnerability which can be daunting. But there is treasure to be found in yourself and your surroundings when you crack open to (or from) a new experience. I recently shared a wonderful dinner with new friends and I was struck with pure giddiness as I felt the promise of a place being carved out for me here in these new lands.

 
As I have been seeking opportunities for Grownup Navajo to grow, I’ve longed for the strong sister bonds calling to me from across the desert. Answering prayers, I have connected to other motivating female Native entrepreneurs who have showed me a new kind of sisterhood. One formed and tested in the fire of trailblazing. They’ve cheered me on and reassured me of the normalcy of the journey I’ve traveled so far in launching my business.

 
In the corn field, my Nalí adszaan would move with measured intention. Creating the holes in the earth for the seeds with deliberate care. We would move row by row, being conscious of our thoughts and energy as we offered the seeds to the earth. Thinking about this day and the current point on my journey, I feel there are songs I need to learn and ones I somehow already know the melody. These “songs” I carry with me are ones of love, compassion and gentleness. I forget too easily, two lessons of the cornfield: 1) if I want corn to grow I have to get my hands dirty and work the earth and 2) corn takes time to grow. Much like children we must offer our praise and gratitude for the path that has unfolded. It is necessary to be thankful, even for the uncertain path.

 
I am grateful for the way the answers to the questions my heart asks arrive in my heart simultaneously quelling the anxiousness in my mind. Whether in the form of encouraging words from a fierce entrepreneur or an inspiring conversation with new friends, we are provided connections to the tools we need to continue to flourish. My life – each of our lives – have been prayed into existence and nurtured with intention, just like the corn that has grown in our fields. Corn which has grown for generations, blessed with songs whose power whisper reminders of our purpose. Our destiny is to grow and learn like the sacred náádąą (corn) we use for our prayers in the morning and ceremonies throughout our lives. Let’s hold this truth close, so we never doubt the direction we are going because it is innate in us to grow, rising bravely, like stalks of náádąą in a beautiful field.

Appreciating the Diné New Year & Seasons Change

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Ghąąjį’ bee nínáánááhai (It is the new year again with the mid-season)!

To mark the spirit of the season in the Diné (Navajo) calendar Grownup Navajo is hosting an inaugural event in appreciation of this time of year, TONIGHT, October 27, 2016.

We are holding a gathering to appreciate the Diné New Year and the seasons change. There will be a K’é (kinship) mixer, celebration, blessing and action.

I am so grateful for the generosity of our host venue, K’é and owner Pam Slim and her family who have been great supporters of Grownup Navajo. I am giddy at the thought of everyone sharing in kinship in their beautiful space.image

This month, Grownup Navajo also celebrates its fourth blogiversary, so we’ll have door prizes to share the love light! I am sending my gratitude to Beyond Buckskin Boutique, Rezonate Art, OXDX Clothing, First Nations artists Aura Last for their contributions of door prizes for both the in-person event and online contest happening now.

 

Also included in the festivities is a select number of Native creatives, sharing their work Nanibaa Beck of Notabove Jewelry will be sharing a showcase of her work along with pieces newly created! Kelvin Long the owner of Yeego Coffee will also be sharing delicious gowééh (coffee).

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As I have been sharing, Grownup Navajo has truly become a community and hosting this event will make that connection tangible. I am so eager to meet more of you and look forward to the fun we will have as we gather in – Ghąąjį’ baa ahxééh hwiindzin/appreciating the new year and seasons change!

 

 

 

 

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Event Details

October 27, 2016

6:30-8:30pm

K’é – 125 West Main Street

In Downtown Mesa, AZ

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Grace, Guts & Power

Growing up as the oldest grandchild and daughter in my family, I was keenly fond of praise. I relished in moments when my parents and grandparents would give me a compliment. I loved their feedback, whether it was about a speech I had written or how I did in the school play, I reveled in the feeling of their outward exclamations.

There were two things my grandparents would say however, that I wanted to hear most. If my late Nalí hastiin (paternal granddad) was ever impressed by something so much so that he said, “you have guts.” That was gold to me. I remember a couple times when I played in basketball games and he said, “That took guts, good job.” In college I ran for a pageant and came in as runner-up, I was crushed. When I told him on the phone I didn’t win, he sighed, clicked his tongue and said, “That took guts Jac, I am proud of you.”

Once my late Nalí Asdzaan (maternal grandmother), after my dad had given a great talk at the orientation for teachers shared, “Your dad really spoke with power.” She shook her fist as she closed her eyes as though it gave her strength just remembering him earlier in the day and the words he shared. I dreamed of her one day talking about me in that way.

The two of them, as I have written here many times, were my guideposts. Their compliments, teachings and stories drove me to strive. I wanted so much not solely to please them but I was so inspired by the way they lived their lives that I believed if I could follow their teachings, there would be hope for me to make similar impressions in the world.

 

I write this post still in disbelief at the remarkable night I had performing in celebration of OXDX Clothing’s Fall Release. I performed two poems, “Dear Girl-Made-of-Honey” and “Seeds of Resilience” which was written as a special collaboration with OXDX Clothing Founder, Jared Yazzie. I have given many public talks, I teach as well so public speaking is something I am comfortable with. However, if you measured my nerves on Saturday morning, I would have been noticeably anxious about the performance.

 

Performing my poetry was never my intention but standing on the stage and getting to share two poems which were foundational in my healing this year was such a privilege. I am honored to write this blog, thankful for the way it is received. I thought about my grandparents as I stood on the stage. I thought about how I never got to hear my Nalí asdzaan tell me I spoke with power. However, there were so many other compliments she shared with me while she was alive and I will carry those forward instead. I look at my life now, I think about how much I shook on the stage and realized, even in light of my fear, I had the guts to perform and I didn’t need any more compliments to reassure me…I could feel the power of the words reverberate in the room. Words given to me by the grace of Diyin Diné’é (Holy People) to share. I am so grateful for what this blog and these teachings…the same ones given to me by my late Nalís, have come to mean to people. It truly is beautiful to see that Grownup Navajo is not solely a blog. It now has a community of people surrounding it who work to “speak sacredness fluently” in their lives. That is power and it takes guts to commit to that value especially in a society that does not like difference. There are always threats to cultural learning, many created by a history of oppression in this country towards our people but also ones that we choose to let block us. It is those hurdles we must dismantle, they are the true challenge to furthering our knowledge base. When we choose to stop keeping ourselves from seeking more knowledge then we can truly harness our full power, utilize all our medicine to heal each other and show ourselves just what our guts are made of.

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This vlog shares the teaching of “ahééh jinízin”. Ahééh jinízin is the instructive ideology of being appreciative, living in thankfulness. Gratitude has been proven to help build resiliency in people. When we are thankful, it allows us to adapt to situations more fluidly, it strengthens our medicine.

In the spirit of this teaching I would like to say ahé’hee (thank you) to my family for their love and support and to my partner Warren, for his help with the GN booth, tech support in recording the performances and for offering a reserve of strength.

Speak Sacredness Fluently

There are days when I hit snooze before the sun changes from the white dawn to blue sky, long before my feet even hit the floor in my home. There are evenings when I am just so grateful the pain, frustration of the day is gone, that I am happy to not look back.

But then there are mornings when I run to the east, pray to the sun before it shines over the summit. There are points on my travels home after having made an offering to our sacred mountain that I feel I am living out the sacredness I was taught. These moments of synchronicity in sacredness are the ones I chase and strive to hold and achieve.

In a recent conversation with a close friend preparing for ceremony, I was inspired, challenged, to think about my life as a language – a conversation of sacredness. Watching my friend prepare for ceremony reminded me of ways I was taught to prepare for practices of sacredness. Preparation begins with a choice. A choice to speak sacredness fluently. Sacredness is finding gratitude in every moment, greeting our brothers and sister with terms of kinship, sacredness is putting others – our community before ourselves. Sacredness is choosing to heal, choosing the light when it seems easier to cower in the darkness.

I have been meditating on this challenge of speaking sacredness fluently. Wondering how can I lead in sacredness? How can I love in sacredness? How can I live a life full of sacredness like my ancestors and elders have? Some of this will mean me practicing more of my language, striving to seek more knowledge of plant medicines. But what this means most is to live in gentle humility. Understanding I am connected. Connected to other bilá ashląądii (five-fingered people). Living in sacredness is not living in perfection, it is actually the opposite of perfection. Speaking sacredness fluently in life means I am always becoming. I am always able to do more for my family and community. Speaking sacredness fluently will be a new model I begin to use to challenge myself to rise with active hope aimed at serving those around me.

As I write this, I am grateful for all the moments leading me to this understanding of self and grateful I get to share it with beautiful brilliant souls all seeking the same truth – to speak sacredness into existence by living it out day after day on the corn pollen path.

 

Returning…to Myself

The month of June has been full. Brimming with love, time with family, adventures in new lands but also returns. Numerous things this month have come back to me and I returned to many places too. From a gratitude journal I had lost to the power of my body being restored dealing with ailments it’s been facing. I traveled back to places that have taught me much about myself in times before. Family members returned for visits. Love returned – in many ways, as if to show me all the ways I have grown.

There is a beautiful quote I recently fell in love with by poet Yrsa Daley-Ward, “And sometimes you meet yourself back where you started, but stronger.” I love this phrase and feel it resonate as the message of my month. I feel the medicine of these returns collectively showing me how much I have grown. It is a blessing to write of these returns for all that they are, gifts. Reminders to me of how much can be gained when we choose to be authentic, risk and trust our strength in order to better ourselves.

When we think of all the ways we come back to a place, a moment, a person, we are often met with comfort. Noting some sort of familiarity with this “place”. The gift in getting to return is the opportunity to continue to explore the place with new perspective, see things you haven’t seen before, make new connections, spend more time in gratitude for the lessons learned in the space, moment or person.

I often think of the return of my people from Hweełdí (the Place of Suffering) in southern New Mexico during the Long Walk. I think about what it must have been like when they walked home after their imprisonment. How beautiful every rock formation was when the “first” glimpse was taken. I imagine the swelling of their hearts knowing there were people who were not making the journey with them. I think of how incredible it must have felt to know that everything that was trying to break you; that tried to extinguish the light of your soul did not succeed. The joy that was felt in that moment must have been what challenged them to not rest complacently in the comfort of return but gave reason to rise.

What a gift a return can be. To get another opportunity to look at something you’ve cared for and feel it with your being. What a gift it is to return to a place that shaped your perspective and feel its hold take you. What a blessing it is to hold the person you love knowing you can grow within reach of each other.

The return of my people to Diné Bikeyáh (Navajoland) is paramount. Though this happened over 140 years ago, I can still feel its power. I am grateful for the ways the carrying of the story of my people has taught me the beauty of returning to something, someone you love. How they taught me not to be lulled into contentedness by being back where you have been but instead to challenge yourself to look for ways to hold onto to this sacred feeling of being back “home” but knowing you are stronger than before and therefore must strive and reach for new practices. What a glorious way to challenge your heart. To know it is elastic and able to grow within your new shape. So tonight, I am resting in the comfort of my wholeness, returning to myself, a beautiful asdzaan Diné (Navajo lady) who is made, formed by a constant cycle of returning beginnings.

The Languages of Hummingbirds & Land

This morning, I woke in the desert with the goal of hiking and basking in the new light of the day at mountain’s top. Breathless after my ascent, I relaxed with a beautiful view of the mountains of the desert around me. While I sat still enjoying the view, I noticed there were several hummingbirds dancing on this mountain top. Called a “charm of hummingbirds” – I actually had to google the word for a gathering of hummingbirds – these beautiful beings sang and danced, a show that moved my heart.

In the past year, I have reflected and meditated a lot on the various conversations we can have with the world around us. The different languages we speak. It is the ones that are not centered on the use of the English language that make my heart the happiest, that fill my soul with the medicine it needs to continue to heal, grow and thrive. From the hug from a close friend, the movement of light draw on the wall inside your home as it sets, all have a tremendous power to share a message. This morning, on top a mountain, my soul and I danced with a charm of hummingbirds, listened to the wind, had a beautiful bee and beautiful beetle land on top of me. It ALL was a reminder of the many languages that provide us guidance in life and how being open and loving can allow the goodness, love and light of the world into us. In this Glittering World, there is so much opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to be loving to each other. This is the wisdom of my conversation with the hummingbird – no matter how swift we are caused to move in this world, there is always enough time to use loving language as we communicate with each other…and to ourselves.
Keep Shining!

 

Medicine of the Dził and Our Hearts

My recent trip home was everything I needed it to be. There is a serenity my heart feels when I am in Diné Bikeyáh that is hard to match in the city. I have learned over the years since moving away from the reservation that the medicine of my homeland is critical and necessary for my wellness. 

Before I drove back to Phoenix, I sat with my brother. Though he is younger than me, he fills the role of an older brother. Getting to share time with him is always a steady comfort as his presence is strong and reassuring. Before leaving we spent the last of our time together gifting each other traditional medicine. Exchanging different medicines we talked about what we needed to collect more of and reminded each other of how to use it. It was a beautiful memory I will carry forward with me, as it was just the two of us. Our parents were not around, nor any aunties or uncles. Just us two “kids” sharing what we had so could continue carrying out the ways we were taught.

On my way trek back, I stopped to pray at our sacred mountain of the west, known as the San Francisco Peaks in English. I offered thanks for all the medicine I carry within me. Both what I am aware of but also of the medicine that has not yet been called out. Being with my brother and spending time in the mountains was such a grounding experience. It reminded me of how much I still have to learn but more importantly, that as I work on learning more to heal, I can’t lose sight of sharing what is in me to help others and myself.

K’é teaches us we are all interconnected, we all have knowledge to share and within this are the answers to what can help us as a people. We don’t heal each other by just trying to work on ourselves. This is the antithesis of being a part of a community. As a community, we heal each other, by giving more love, sharing more of our light and offering more of our medicine to the world and our relatives around us.

This lesson is what I heard in our dził (mountain) today, a reminder that through the giving and sharing of the medicine of our hearts, we will find our way not only to the remedies we need but our way back to each other.

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Here is a new video recorded on the mountain. Please watch, share and comment. Ahé’hee.

Homeland Mindfulness

On my trip home this weekend, I was able to enjoy the beautiful spring weather in my favorite place in the world Diné Bikeyáh. Surrounded by showers of female rain and rolling clouds and filled with many conversations and laughter, my heart was supremely happy. Driving is a meditative state for me and while on my way home, I thought of many things but focused on how important expressing gratitude can be. I recorded my first travel vlog for Grownup Navajo roadside and in it I challenge us to think about ways we can be better. Watch, ponder, share your thoughts with me.

 

 

If you are looking for more on mindfulness, I encourage you to listen to this conversation I had with Dennis Worden. Dennis founded the podcast NextGen Native to celebrate and raise the profiles of Native people doing impactful work in our communities with the goal of not solely inspiring hope but generating action. I have long felt NextGen Native and Grownup Navajo are aligned greatly with each other as they celebrate the knowledge we have in Indian Country TODAY. For this reason, to be included on this podcast is great honor and privilege. Ahé’hee to Dennis for sharing your vision and continuing to create positive waves for our people.

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Hai Reflections in Spring

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The agaves and ocotillo have been blooming here in the desert. I love seasons changing! I have written that before here on Grownup Navajo. But its magic never fails in amazing me. I am completely taken away as I run, hike and simply be in the desert.

At the heart of the transition of seasons is a movement from an ending of one period to the start of another. While these shifts are gradual they can be in retrospect monumental. The past six months have been one of the most intense periods of my life. It has taught me so many lessons and truly dared me to rise like a mountain in the desert.

As a celebration of my favorite season, winter or Hai in Navajo, I challenged myself to not only continue my gratitude practice but incorporate a visual element. The daughter of a photographer, I love taking photos. I love capturing a moment. Through my Instagram account, and in this last season of my life, I made a conscious effort to share a photo each day of a moment that made me incredibly happy and grateful.

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Using the hashtag #HappyHaiJac, I shared a photo each day. The result is a collection of 88 photos of my winter moments. I am one photo short. It’s the day I lost my best friend Jet, my fur baby – dog. I looked but could not find anything in that day that brought me joy. One of my best friends pointed out to me that Jet remained in my life through my hard moments on purpose and now that I was stronger, she thought he realized he could leave me. Though my heart still hurts for his steady companionship, I think she was right.

I often hear from people how they hate winter. I try to understand this but it always misses me. I am at home, in my element, in the winter. In my culture, winter is focused on healing. It’s when we rebuild ourselves through our ceremonies. When I look at this past fall and winter, this truly was the focus. I learned to risk, say goodbye and hello, I reconnected with my soul’s needs, and I began to see all of my power and fell unapologetically in love with it.

FullSizeRender (5)On the Winter Solstice, I climbed Piestewa Peak, here in the desert, my favorite mountain to hike. My spirit was heavy but I was hopeful as I watched the sunrise that morning. What has happened since then has been full of so much power, I don’t have words to describe it all. All I have is gratitude.

There is a saying I often repeat, when I find myself speechless at the universe’s outpouring of love for me – “Ahé’hee…more please”. It’s my small, mindful prayer to the Holy People. My way of accepting my life as it is in this moment. I find so much, especially in the time of the seasons change, in this month with so much earthen energy to be grateful for. From the vibrant yellow of the Palo Verde trees, to the fire in the Ocotillo blooms, life is everywhere and the desert’s beauty leaves me with a full heart and today, now, all I have to say is…

Ahé’hee…more please.

 

The Power of Presence – A Lesson Discovered as I Made My Bed

During a late night drive across my homeland, I jokingly told a close friend how I often feel the “most Navajo” in the mornings when I am making my bed. Instead of laughing as I expected he would, he shared how it made sense. Noting how even this modern act of starting the day could be beautifully traditional. I had never articulated this thought until this moment. But the more I shared the more I understood how much this one teaching infused not just my day, but my life.

Growing up shímasaní (my maternal grandmother) would always instruct me how it was very important that I made my bed. She would indicate how it was a way to show respect for my belongings but also a way for me to show I wasn’t lazy. As I made my bed in the morning when I was little she’d share with me that fixing my bed allowed me to start my day with positive thoughts and intentions.

Shímasaní stayed with us a lot when we were little. She would always be caring for us as my parents traveled and worked. It was her care that showed me how cooking can be a rich love language as she always asked my brothers what they wanted for dinner. They’d respond with either potato soup or her dumpling stew. It’s her recipes for these dishes that are my measure for all others. It is her tortillas that I miss now as her hands are too old flap bread and she is not able to stand very long to cook. But it is also her I think of every morning.

I read a poem recently called “Chorus of Cells” about making a bed. Written by a 100-plus year old poet, the poem illustrated the lyrical simplicity of life found only in seemingly mundane acts. It was this poem and the conversation with my friend that reminded me of the power of being present and how my morning ritual was a conduit to this sense of being.

I always make my bed in the morning. Each day I rise, I hear her teachings urging me to carry openness to the possibilities the day may present. As I smooth the sheets, fluff the pillows and lay the duvet over my bed, I am thinking of my day ahead. Preparing my spirit as I think of the work the Holy People will have me do. It is often the first point in my day, even before I run or pray, when I articulate my gratitude for simply being awake and able to show my dedication to this practice.

I was able to visit shímasaní on my last trip home. I sat with her on her favorite corner of the couch and held her hand. She shared how she was proud of the work I am doing which always means the most to me coming from her because she is one of the strongest people I know. When I look at her life and all that she created, I am left speechless. Her ability to hold onto her traditional knowledge evening after attending boarding school, raising a family of six on her own after shícheíí (my paternal grandfather) died. I don’t always feel worthy of her praise especially when I battle the guilt of being away from her now as she’s older. But when I think about my life and how I live it. I am most proud of having realized how much her many teachings have become my center for the mindful way I aim to live my life. I am grateful now for a beautiful late night conversation which helped me to see the power of my presence – rather, the power of shímasaní’s presence and how it continues to shape me.