Native American culture & teachings through a modern lens

Tag: navajo; culture;

T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego…It is up to You

I have missed writing.
T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego.
It hurts to write. Like the struggle of returning to my running practice a couple of weeks ago. My body is not used to sitting to type. I have grown accustomed to writing for myself. My mind does not want to focus on one thought. It has grown comfortable of the flow of the pen as it writes in my journal meandering across the page.

 
T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego.
I took a break. Walked around the living room. Drank water. Bounced on my trampoline. This part of my day is one of my favorites. I love the freedom of jumping on this contraption. It has quelled nerves, relieved stress, calmed anger and conspired with me to procrastinate as I avoid words longing to be written.

 
T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego.
This phrase is one which echoes in my head repeatedly throughout the week. Sometimes it is a whisper, sometimes it is a loud booming voice reminiscent of my late Nalí Hastiin’s. His favorite phrase, “If it is to be, it is up to me,” mirrors these words. T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego instructs “it is all up to your effort and hard work and determination.” Both phrases remind me how powerful each of us. The phrases iterate a theme of agency and self-determination.

 
I will be marking a year since I moved from Phoenix, and this life I live is a manifestation of t’áá hwó’ ají t’éego. I don’t know all the ways I have changed but I can feel I am a different person than I was a year ago. I am so grateful for all the ways I have been lead to this beautiful place in this Glittering World.
I have been challenged to examine my scars and fear, pushed to heal and grow. I have spent time deep in prayer and meditation and lately been thinking about what is possible when we “stay open” to the world around us.

 
Today I recognize how my decision to leave my job and pursue this journey allowed me to reconnect to myself, my culture, my history and the world. Writing this feels different as I try to compose a post as though I am writing to a dear friend in the middle of a long journey; even though I still haven’t made sense of all the events nor feel I have reached the destination. Simultaneously, I write as though I am providing a kind of performance in this correspondence as though to distract you from noticing how much time has actually passed between our visits or letters.

 

T’áá hwó’ ají t’éego.
One of the first poets I met when I was younger was Dorothy Allison. She wrote a book entitled, “Two or Three Things I Know for Sure” and since meeting her, I often motivate myself by noting two or three things I know for sure. Today I recognize: 1) My life, and its ability to be of service to others is up to me. 2) This is the instruction I am pushed to live out every day. I choose to autonomy, action, love and respect. I write these words as an offering, I act each day to be of service to this energy in the spirit of K’é.

And to you my dear friend, it is so good to see you again. Remember, t’áá hwó’ ají t’éego…live out your best effort.

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.

Languages of New Lands

How do I prepare? How will I begin? How do I start?

Each of these questions has been racing through my mind each day since I committed to expanding Grownup Navajo full-time. Having moved from the Sonoran desert to the high Puebla desert I am slowing planting roots. Having never made a home outside of Arizona, I am beginning to understand how daunting the “all-possibility” mode of a journey can be.

In a recent conversation with Dennis Worden of NextGen Native, I shared how optimistic I am to one day speak the languages of these lands I find myself in now. What I shared on the podcast is how I do not mean the actual languages of the Native people who live here but the languages of the land. In leaving my beloved Sonoran Desert and O’odham Bikéyáh (O’odham Lands) , I understood more fully just how much the land of the desert made me who I am today. Living there I had conversations with sunsets, realized how mountains were actually purple and learned of the powerful impact of welcoming the sunrise each day. These lessons composed an entire language of the place in which I spent over 11 years.

I find myself in a new place observing. Watching the way the sun casts shadows on the hills around me, trying to recall from memory, after the sun sets, the profile of the beautiful mountains circling me, finding most often, how in my mind, they are blurry because we don’t know one another yet. Even things as simple as understanding a place with a tangible season, I am learning how to bring a sweater or jacket with me as I venture out the door.

I am also watching myself. Understanding how my body is struggling trying to find the light in the morning as my home is new to me. How happy I am to have creative brainstorms any time I choose since I do not have a structured schedule. I am simultaneously realizing how I long for a structured schedule because the openness of the each day can at times distract or intimidate me.

This journey is filled with unlearning and learning lessons and languages. How does one begin to speak new languages? Linguists today share that immersion is key. If you want to speak fluently, you need to surround yourself with the language you want to share. I am confident my act of throwing myself into the deep end of this adventure will result in my being able to speak the sacredness of this place.

While the newness of the exploration is daunting, I am continuously encouraged by the voice of my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother) in my head saying, “Don’t talk about it, just do it.” While I continuously have more questions than answers, right now I also know my observing, listening, questioning is all a part of me doing. While I may not know the language of these lands, I know I am capable of the growth in understanding. One learns language, yes through immersion but also through speaking. I want my actions to be pronounced so I will listen and then speak. I will act in an effort to communicate my heart’s work, understanding I will rise to the occasion of speaking the language this beautifully powerful place will teach me.

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).

yeego-coffee

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.

 

Molded in the Image of Asdzaan Diné – Part Two

I am proud to be an asdzaan Diné (Navajo woman). This blog was founded on this thesis and the desire to continue to uplift the story and importance of the Kinaaldá ceremony. I began this project with the hope it would aid me in articulating the power of this ceremony but also provide a space for me to examine the new ways I could challenge myself to learn more about the Kinaaldá and Navajo culture.  The incorporation of the concept of “grownup” is meant as a nod to the idea of never feeling like you are an adult. I use the line “I am always becoming” in the poem Soliloquy of Hozhó to reflect a similar understanding that I am constantly able to improve and become something new.

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Jaclyn Roessel (aka Grownup Navajo) taken during Maili’s Kinaaldá.

 

Over the last year, I have meditated deeply on the role I carried out in Maili’s Kinaaldá. I thought about the ways I challenged myself to take on the role and how it was similar to the way I approached being an auntie. Each role was approached with reverence and care. I want to be an example of a woman who is thoughtful, loving, generous and lives her life independently with purpose but also is not afraid to be authentic.

My continuous reminder to myself, when life gets hard, when I doubt my strength is my mantra, “my life has been prayed into existence.” In moments of trial I think back to the time I had my Kinaaldá and visualize the people in the Hogan. My parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunties all sitting together and praying for my life. I think about how some of these people are no longer physically with me but live in me and whose teachings come into practice with the way I live my life. I do not have enough words to articulate how grateful I am to my parents and my family for choosing to give me a Kinaaldá. What this ceremony has instilled in me can never be taken away. It implanted in me the richness of the earth from the white dawn I ran into in the mornings to the blue sky I looked up at often at our homestead. There are sacred stones that line my soul, the fire that baked my cake is also what burns in me with the desire to continue to help my people. It must be said that these are only the things I have uncovered so far. I know I will continue to discover the lessons of this beautiful ceremony as I become a wife, a mother and grandparent.

So as I look back at the experience of tying Maili’s hair, I also look forward. I look forward at the promise of continuing to have a strong relationship with her and her family. I look forward to seeing this intelligent woman take on the world. I look forward knowing with certainty she will be a brilliant light that will shine love on her people too. My heart is still humbled by the gift of this connection to her. My soul shakes knowing fully that though my ceremony occurred over 20 years ago, I am still becoming more woman. I am still, like Changing Woman, the matriarch of all Diné (Navajo People), changing, becoming the next version of an asdzaan Diné.

The treasure of the ceremony is boundless – it exists beyond time, place and person. It allows us as families to feel the strength of our ancestors beyond ourselves. This is where the power lies – not solely in the wombs of the women but in our ability to connect and foster each other’s faith through participating in our culture. K’é (philosophy of kinship) means community and community means we show up for each other. That is how we heal, grow and shine. This is foundational beauty of our culture – knowing that as we gather to celebrate the powerful change occurring in a young woman’s body, we are honoring each other. We honor the belief that when we gather in the Hogan to pray, we pray for a young woman’s life generously because we know she is the bloodline, our clans will run through her and out to our people. There is nothing more eloquent than the generosity of my people, the gifts we share, knowing that as we “give away” these good blessings they will only return to us through the work of this woman, her children and back to our people…lifting each other up in generous love.

Gratitude as Translator and Other Thoughts in Pueblolands

There are moments when the gratitude for the life I lead feels heavy. Not in a way that is negative, but in a way that I am so grounded by the power of these gifts I am able to experience, that my heart transcends levity and exists on a plane that is beyond words. This week while traveling for work, in one of my favorite places, “Puebloland” in New Mexico, I experienced this state.

My heart on numerous occasions, felt as though it was folding into itself. This sensation is incredible to experience and one which I often can only react to with tears. While traveling for work, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to facilitate a workshop with a Puebloan artist in Albuquerque.  I enjoy cultural sharing and exchange so there were many points in which I was simply thankful for the experience. However, on one particular day the energy in the room was so powerful and strong as participants spoke to each other in Keres. During this exchange, which had nothing to do with me, I found my heart was not at all lost in trying to understand what was occurring. Instead, it was as if my heart knew what was being said and was grateful – grateful to be in a world that holds such goodness.

I think we forget how powerful a tool gratitude can be. I believe it to be one of the best translators. When we tap into the feeling of appreciating a moment, we surrender to the beauty and gifts and are able to drink it in, wholeheartedly. Gratitude allows us to move through a moment without getting caught in trying to dissect its meaning. In other words, we travel to a place where we can suspend reality and simply be everything we are in connection to the world and people around us. This then becomes a propellant to action. We can then move forward continuing to strive to be better. In this latest vlog, I share more on this topic and challenge each of us to think about ways gratitude is not a passive feeling but a motivator to create more positive change in our lives.

 

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.

Understand, I am Always Becoming

I begin this post by simply saying ahé’hee. Thank you to you, the beautiful subscribers of this blog, for all the ways you support my work and words. I have been astounded by the incredible response to the poems I have shared on Grownup Navajo. It was an incredible challenge to risk, dare and share these words and I am delighted people, mostly women, have found inspiration in them. With this, I challenged myself to record another video of the first poem I shared on the blog. “Soliloquy of Hozhó is an ode to all the ways I am still becoming – still “growing up” in this gorgeous world. I hope you have the courage to share your soulspeak as I call it, with the world. I can truly say there isn’t a grander feeling than releasing these parts of ourselves and basking in the freedom it brings.

With love & light, enjoy!