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Center of All That Is

In this article, the Center of All That Is whisper is a featured excerpt on the Braided Way blog. This whisper, originally written in Kevin Hancock’s 48 Whispers, delves into the concept of center. Kevin writes in a quote from Black Elk, who understood that center is within ourselves, and that this is the path to sustained peace.

Click here to read the full article.




#19 | INDIGENOUS WISDOM

“It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among those shadows men get lost.”

—Black Elk

I have dedicated the essays that I write this year to Black Elk, but I have not yet told you why.

The answer is that I see deep truth in indigenous wisdom and Black Elk is one of my favorite indigenous teachers.

Born in 1863, Black Elk lived until 1950.  As a small child he had never seen a white person yet his entire community’s fate would soon be transformed by them.  Black Elk, a cousin to Crazy Horse, was present at the Battle of Little Big Horn as well as the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.  He was born nomadic and free, following the buffalo and moving with the seasons.  He would die in a small square cabin at the apex of the reservation era. . I have visited that cabin in the tall summer grass on numerous occasions with Black Elk Speaks in hand, marveling at the eternal relevance of his messages.

At the foundation of Black Elk’s stories and Lakota spirituality is the concept of MITAKUYE OYASIN, which translated means “all things are one thing” or “we are all related”.  The Lakota understand, through their intimate connection to the natural world, that all that exists is connected by an invisible web of threads.

For me, Black Elk is a prophet when it comes to seeing the sacred that dwells within us all.  Late in his life Black Elk sat with his friend John Neihardt and told the stories of his people which Neihardt recorded and then wrote down.

Here is a cursory look at Black Elk’s life, learnings,
and spirituality in his own words.

“I am a Lakota of the Oglala band. My father’s name was Black Elk, and his father before him bore the name, and the father of his father, so that I am the fourth to bear it.”

We all come from a tribe. The time and place of our birth pulls on us all. We must learn to honor that heritage yet also see our shared humanity.

* * *

“I had never seen a Wasichu [white person] then [as a child], and did not know what one looked like; but everyone was saying that the Wasichus were coming and that they were going to take our country and rub us all out [kill us].”

Those with the most power often overreach. Ego emboldens us to go too far and take too much.

* * *

“Now and then the voices would come back when I was out alone, like someone calling me, but what they wanted me to do I did not know.”

This is Black Elk’s authentic voice awakening and interacting with the Great Spirit. Such awakenings always come from within.

* * *

“Your Grandfathers all over the world are having a council, and they have called you here to teach you.”

Thus began Black Elk’s great vision through which he saw his path as peacemaker and healer.

* * *

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

This is the culmination of his vision, in which seeing “in a sacred manner” allowed him to pierce the veil of tribalism and recognize our shared humanity.

* * *

“Black Elk said the mountain he stood upon in his vision was Harney Peak in the Black Hills. ‘But anywhere is the center of the world,’ he added.”

—John Neihardt

Anywhere is the center of the world. This one sentence capsulizes the sacredness of the human spirit. Wherever you are at this moment is the center.

You are the center.

* * *

“Nothing can live well except in a manner that is suited to the ways the sacred Power of the World lives and moves.”

True power comes from living in alignment with the nature’s vibration and flow.

* * *

In 2014 I carried a small piece of wood siding that had fallen to the ground beside Black Elk’s cabin and placed it in a tree on the same peak he had flown to in his sacred vision. Before placing it there I tore it in half. The outside of the wood was tired, gray, and worn, but the inside was bright, fresh, and representative of new life. As I nestled one half deep in the balsam tree filled with colorful Lakota flags, I said the following prayer:

“This piece of wood from your home is now broken open and fresh again with new life. This represents a new beginning for all the people of the sacred hoop of the world.”

While seeing in a sacred manner, Black Elk saw all the people of the world as one tribe.

We all possess the same capacity to see what Black Elk saw. The Lakota call this ability the Seventh Power, and it dwells within us all…

* * *

“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”

―Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

This is the tree where I placed half of the old piece of wood siding and said a prayer in Black Elk’s honor. It’s also the place Black Elk was flown to as a boy during his sacred vision in which he saw the single hoop of the world and all its people living within that hoop as one family.
To see, hear, and feel a bit more about my visits to Pine Ridge, the northern plains, and the ancestral homelands of Crazy Horse, click here to watch this short video (6 minutes).

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the nineteenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



#6 | CIRCLES AND SQUARES

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. The sky is round, and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls, birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

—Black Elk

The remains of old Fort Fetterman sit high above the North Platte River at a point just north of Douglas, Wyoming. It’s a cold fall day as I pull my dust-covered rental truck into the inconspicuous gravel parking lot. No other vehicles are in sight. The fort is closed, which is my favorite time to visit.

The abandoned forts, trails, and battle sites commemorating the nineteenth century on the northern plains are best visited alone. It is in silence that these windswept artifacts tell their stories about the winning—and the losing—of the American West.

I pull my wool hat down over my ears as I ascend the ridge before me that conceals the remains of the fort. My Lakota medicine wheel necklace bounces gently on my sweater as I walk. Tumbleweeds dance and dart in front of me. The wind and my footsteps are the only sounds. I am facing north toward the Bighorn Mountains, toward the Little Bighorn River, and toward the Montana goldfields that created the necessity for this fort and the Bozeman Trail that passed through it.

Parade grounds sit at the center of all the Western forts I have visited. As I follow their sharp edges with my eyes, I can’t help but think how closely related a square is to a circle. All that is required is to bend the corners.

The abandoned flagpole and supporting metal guide wires whistle in the wind. My feet crunch with each step on the narrow gravel path. Without thinking, I begin walking more aggressively and deliberately so that I can hear that sound, the sound of marching. I move in rhythm, accentuating each step down the faint outline of the old parade grounds. I am in no hurry. I have nowhere to go.

Circles and squares define the northern plains. Nature makes the circles, and men—a product of nature themselves—then turn them into squares.

The hills roll.

The rivers bend.

The grass swirls.

The seasons come and go.

Day turns to night.

Life emerges and then fades.

It’s all a circle.

Yet the plains today are equally dominated by squares.

From the air you see property divided, square after square.

Houses are square and fence posts travel in straight lines.

To the Sioux and other plains tribes the circle is sacred, for that is how life travels.

There is much to be gained from seeing the circles that surround and define us all. While no two human journeys are ever the same, our lives do share a pattern that nature’s rhythm commands.

Consciousness itself is a circle. We are born full of innocence. The time and place of our birth then begins to pull on us and makes its mark. Eventually we come of age and the opportunity to awaken presents itself. Our degree of consciousness then defines our experience until we return to our place of origin and rejoin the innocence, which is also the place of knowing.

Consciousness is the state of being awake and aware. Birth is the invitation to acquire it. But to gain consciousness we must know where to look. In a world full of chaos and distractions we must learn to look within ourselves, where consciousness resides.

Consciousness once created can never be destroyed. We carry it back with us and gift it to the collective human memory and the shared learning of the Universe. Even consciousness—or the lack thereof—travels in a circle.

“We Indians think of the Earth and the whole universe as a never-ending circle, and in this circle, man is just another animal. The buffalo and the coyote are our brothers; the birds, our cousins. Even the tiniest ant, even a louse, even the smallest flower you can find, they are all relatives.”

—Jenny Leading Cloud

* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the sixth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!