The Lakota Way: 5 Lessons of Sioux Wisdom

The flexibility of the bow, the grace of the arrow, the patience of the archer… It is these qualities, essential to a powerful and dignified life, that the Lakota author Joseph Marshall III proposes to us to cultivate in his book The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage.

The stories and legends told by his Lakota grandparents rocked the childhood of the writer and historian Joseph Marshall III. “They are our gift to the world. They are not secrets, but markers on the path of life – the answers that rise above the great plains of our lives carried by the wind of wisdom to help us, ”he wrote in The Circle of Life (Albin Michel), published a little over ten years ago. His latest book, The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage, continues its initiation into Native American traditions through personal stories and experiences. The author, who is also a bowmaker and archer, has selected five teachings: the most important, according to him, among all those he has received.

The transformation

Lesson. For the Lakota, life is above all a succession of transformations. “Some are slow, like the rod goes through to become a bow. Others are quick, like the green stalk my grandfather pruned, sanitized, and hardened over the fire. The important thing, Joseph Marshall III tells us, is to be aware of them so as not to suffer them. “Like the bow builders, who approach their task with respect, gentleness, care, so as to make the best bow possible. ”

The practice. It is about strengthening and promoting positive transformations. Once a week, take the time to replay the film of the last few days by reliving them: visualize the moments, feel the emotions associated with them. Then try to identify on the one hand what, in your relationships, your tasks, your organization, gives you pleasure and a feeling of balance and, on the other hand, what annoys you, worries you, assaults you or you exhaust. Once you have identified these two poles, think about what might threaten your positive pole and how you might find a new and satisfying balance; then to what could improve your negative pole. Plan a series of concrete actions to be carried out day by day, with patience and tenacity.

The simplicity

Lesson. “Every aspect of building a bow and arrow was reduced to its simplest form possible. This design made construction easy. Keeping it simple was more than a philosophy. It had practical day-to-day application. My grandparents had chosen a simple lifestyle in order to be able to make the best use of the available resources, ”writes Joseph Marshall III, specifying that their life was not always so, far from it, but that the solution that ‘they chose to achieve a goal was the easiest, cheapest, one that respected a form of natural balance and harmony. For the author, slowing down, finding calm places, inside and outside, distinguishing between sufficient and too much are the only ways to make us appreciate the flavor of life and not to waste energy. , ours and that of our environment.

The practice. Realize that everything is energy (thoughts, words, money, matter…) and that, as living beings in a finite world, we do not have unlimited energy capital. Everything we produce and consume at a cost. The better we manage our energy – physical, psychic and spiritual – the better we live. From this perspective, simplicity should be our compass, the one that guides our way of communicating (authenticity, discretion) or of consuming (responsibility, sobriety). Every day, train yourself to qualify your actions (comments, purchases, decisions, etc.) as “fair” or “too much”. Too complicated or excessive. Trust your inner little voice, which knows better than your mind what feeds simplicity or excess. Identify which ones in the “too many” have given you pleasure or well-being, then think about how you could achieve those same benefits without going overboard.

For further

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The goal

Lesson. “Few objects such as the bow and arrow symbolize both purpose and function. Combined, they find their mutual function: to achieve a goal, ”says the author. He specifies that, although we may feel that we have no particular goals, we can, if we choose, find them, or allow them to find us by letting them spring from us. The goal of Joseph Marshall III was to continue the transmission of the stories of his ancestors. In Lakota wisdom, the one that everyone should strive for is to help others before thinking of oneself. “Crazy Horse1 taught us that taking care of others and being in the gift was the right thing to do. Each in his own way, with his means. “The important thing is to have the feeling of making a commitment for yourself, and not doing something out of obligation or duty. ”

1. Crazy Horse, Lakota Sioux leader (1840-1877) who, like Sitting Bull, fought against American military colonists.

The practice. Bringing one’s stone, however tiny, to the betterment of the world cannot be done if we do not know which one is suitable for us to handle and transport. Just as the archer, the bow and the arrow are one, we must know how to choose the form of gift that most resembles us, the one that emanates from our inner being. Some are good at listening, others to advise, still others to bring cheerfulness or beauty, to denounce or to build. It is others, your loved ones, who often know your particular altruistic talent better than you. They express it with gratitude when they thank you because you make them laugh, allay their concerns, resolve a complicated situation, or listen with kindness. It is simply this quality which is to be cultivated, to be dispensed liberally, whenever you can.

Strength

Lesson. “Let’s be like the green wooden bow that my grandfather used to dry over the fire. The heat made him stronger. Without it, the rod would never have become a bow. Any arc factor knows that heat is the best catalyst. The expression “the test by fire” has never been more eloquent than in the pen of Joseph Marshall III, who reminds us that we readily feel that there is no solution to our problems. , “And we often forget that these situations are opportunities to acquire emotional and mental resistance”. It doesn’t matter whether or not we get through the ordeal. The real strength lies in facing the problem, and showing resistance and fighting spirit. Facing the obstacle reveals resources that “peacetime” leaves dormant.

The practice. Let come to your memory the various tests which you had to face in your life. Don’t focus on the outcome, happy or unhappy, but focus on the resources you had to deploy. What did you learn about yourself? Have you been disappointed or pleasantly surprised? What did you do with these experiences? In light of what you have learned from yourself and from life, how would you face them today? Once this work is done, take a moment to honor your inner strength. Congratulate yourself, light a candle, give yourself a gift … Keep in mind that real strength is in trying to do the best you can, without lying to yourself.

Resilience

Lesson. “An incredible characteristic of the primitive lakota bow is its resilience capacity. There are three reasons for this: the wood the postman chose, the simple and effective design of the bow, the skill of the craftsman. »Wood for the intrinsic qualities of human beings, design for the orientation of their actions and choices, and skill for their way of leading them. To continue despite the ordeal, Joseph Marshall III encourages us to rely “on the qualities and aspects of our temperament, which are, by nature, as powerful as what put us in the face of this difficulty”. And if we do not believe that we have the resources required to overcome the obstacle, he invites us, as is the Lakota tradition, to rely on those around us, to be inspired by the ways in which others, before us, have been able to straighten up and continue on their way.

The practice. Fortunately, our modern world has resources like therapy to help us recover from trials, heal and soothe our wounds. But if the shock is not too strong, if we feel that we just need a helping hand to get up, we can try to be that helping hand for ourselves. Why not try to give yourself the care and advice you would provide to a loved one? And if you cannot get up on your own, why not ask relatives, who can take turns and provide you with help and support to help you recover?

For further


The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage by Joseph Marshall III. On the strength of his grandfather’s teaching, the author transmits the wisdom lessons of the Lakota (Vega, 218 p., € 18).

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