Granny’s Mixing Bowl
Thich Nhat Hanh
All things depend on all other things for their existence. Take, for instance, this leaf. . . . Earth, water, heat, sea, tree, clouds, sun, time, space – all these elements have enabled this leaf to come into existence. If just one of these elements was missing, the leaf could not exist. All beings rely on the law of dependent co-arising. The source of one thing is in all things.
This teaching reminds me of my Granny’s mixing bowl.
When I was five years old my mother developed Tuberculosis and was taken away from our home in Moose Jaw where she cared for my four older brothers and I. She was taken for a very long stay in a hospital in Fort Quappell , Saskatchewan.
During this time I saw more of Métis Cree granny than when my mother was well. During my mother’s illness my granny would come over. For some reason she brought her butter coloured yellow mixing bowl with her. This puzzled me. We had mixing bowls in our cupboard that she could have used. As a child I surmised that my granny’s mixing bowl must be a magic mixing bowl. The fact that everything mixed in that bowl was sumptuous was surely proof of that! One day I took a deep breath and as granny put ingredient after ingredient into the bowl, I asked. “Why do you bring your bowl here? We have bowls in the cupboard here that you could use”? Granny smiled. Your great grandma gave this bowl to me. When she gave it to me she said this bowl is like circle of people bringing their goodness together. When I use this bowl I am reminded of Creator. You see Creator has made each of us different from one another. All of us are here to make the world a better place. The different things I put into this bowl are like the unique gifts each of us have inside of us. There are no two people who have the same gifts inside of them. We all use our inner gifts as ‘good medicine’ where it is needed. Like a mixing bowl, when we all bring our inner gifts together something good comes of it.
When she was well, my mom came home from the hospital. Granny would come to visit. Now, she and my mom worked beside one another to cook, use the wringer washer, and to hang wet clothes on the long clothes line to dry. When they would sit to take a break I would sit with them. Granny would invite me to sit on her knee and would whisper in my ear “Always remember the gifts you carry inside of yourself. Share them with others. Together, like the ingredients in granny’s mixing bowl, we will make the world a better place.” The bringing together of our unique inner gifts requires us to make a conscious effort to pay attention to how our words and actions impact those around us.
The elders who have mentored me say that when they wake in the morning, they prepare themselves to come together with another in a good way. They are aware that that if they are not living the values they had been taught to live, it would impact everyone around them in a negative manner. Cultures are diverse. There are many different ceremonies, and ways of preparing one’s self. Some take a spiritual bath in the river, some brush with branches of cedar or spruce, some light a candle or sage or sweet grass. I was taught to use sage and to smudge by my Cree elder, the late Leonard Ward. Please know that I am not writing this to impose anything from my culture upon you. I share this with you to let you know what I have been taught.
Kathi’s Smudging Prayer: Living our Smudge
The Elders tell us that there is more than one way to pray… this is one way that I pray. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to smudge. The Elders tell us to listen to our spirit and follow it while we pray in our own way.
I smudge my hands so that I do good work and kind and loving acts in my life.
I smudge my head so that I remember the things that I need to remember in order to stay on my sacred journey
I smudge my ears so that I hear things, in the way that I was meant to hear them. Also, so that I will hear things that I am meant to hear.
I smudge my eyes so that I will focus on the good things in people rather than the things that I might perceive as negative. Everyone is a sacred gift to the world. I look to see those gifts.
I smudge my mouth so that good words, kind words will be spoken. My elder says… ‘Our words are like bullets— They can kill someone’s spirit in an instant. Once they are out of your mouth, you cannot take them back. Use your words with care.”
I smudge my body so that I am physically protected as I walk my journey. I ask that I find healing and the ability ‘let go’ of my own woundedness. For it is my own woundedness that causes me to wound others.
I smudge behind me so that I remember where I am from. Where I have been in my life. I remember the lessons of my ancestors, my parents and also the lessons that I have learned on my own journey on this earth.
I smudge my heart. I ask that my spirit be protected while I walk my journey and I also remember to ask that all I do, be motivated by love. Love is the most powerful medicine. The world is need of it.