Native American beliefs are both spiritual and cultural. Therefore, only those who have grown up or been taught within the culture can have a true understanding of them.
However, there are some lessons we can learn from Native American spirituality. We can use these ideas to help us find deeper truths in our own lives.
Native American beliefs are very diverse and varied. However, there are many common themes that speak to people who feel they have lost their connection with spirituality and nature. From these ideas, we can learn to understand ourselves better. We may realize truths about ourselves that were previously hidden.
As with so many religious and cultural belief systems, Native American beliefs usually include creations myths. In a scientific age, these may seem outdated and irrelevant. However, these stories help bind communities together and create a sense of belonging. They give a sense of meaning in a world that can sometimes feel alien and confusing.
Human beings love stories. They help us to understand our place in the world. Children love to hear stories about how they were born and how they fit into a wider family. Understanding our family and cultural histories helps us to feel secure and achieve a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves.
Even if we do not believe in a creator, we can still use stories to help us get a sense of our place in the world. From family stories to histories of our own culture and place these stories, myths and legends can help us feel like we belong.
An important part of Native American Spirituality is to honor the earth. Native American beliefs include a true reverence for all of nature. They live closely connected to the cycles of life. They can see that they depend on nature for everything.
We are also dependent on nature for our very existence. However, the connection seems more distant. We mostly buy our food from stores and are detached from the cycles of growth. We can easily forget that the earth sustains us. If we reconnected more closely with the natural world, then we might develop a true respect for mother earth and learn to take care of her once more.
As with most religions, Native American beliefs include rituals. For many Native American tribes, a spiritual journey or vision quest is a rite of passage. A vision quest often involves spending time alone, communing with nature and going inward to connect with the deeper parts of ourselves.
In our modern society, we are very outward looking. We spend most of our time in the material world, seeking to improve our lives and achieve success. However, we can learn a lot by taking an inner journey and reconnecting with our own spirit. Often, when we are dissatisfied with our outer lives, a journey inward can help.
Native American practice and beliefs include a strong reverence for ancestors. We have similar beliefs in modern society, for example, a deep respect for the founding fathers. This helps us to build a sense of continuity in our lives. We realize that we are here only because of those who went before us.
When we look at our lives in this way we become less individualistic and learn that we all depend on one another. Understanding our own histories and what makes us who we are can also help us to respect other cultures.
The practices of a medicine man or woman or a shaman are sacred. They arise from a strong cultural belief system and should never be used as a quick fix for our problems.
However, with our dependence on one kind of physical medicine in the west, we may have lost the concept of spiritual medicine. Medicine people are responsible not only for the illness of individuals but of the whole community. In our individualistic society, this sense of community-mindedness is sorely lacking.
Native American spirituality teaches us that not every ailment can be fixed by a pill. There is such a thing as spiritual illness. Sometimes our illness, whether physical or mental, is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong with the way we are living.
We can learn that sometimes we don’t need medication; we need to fix the balance of our lives and reconnect with what is important to us. When a society is sick or in pain, every member suffers. When we learn to solve the problems of our communities, we make everyone’s lives more healthy and harmonious.
It is not always appropriate to copy the spiritual ideas of others without a deep understanding of the culture in which they evolved. However, we can learn many lessons from other cultures and belief systems.
The beliefs of Native American spirituality may help us reconnect with a spiritual life many of us in the West have lost because of the dominant materialistic worldview.