Teachings from the Tree of Life, part 5

"The Gift of the Heart"

Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon; August 23), 2018

Illustration The Tree of Life by Blake Debassige

How to Choose Your Spiritual Path: an Ancient Anishinaabe Teaching from the Tree of Life

"Our spiritual path was designed way before we were born on Mother Earth; many times you'll be tested and many times you'll fail.

"Spiritual Paths" or "The Tree Of Life" is a simple teaching to understand and all you need to do is to take a good look at yourself and see what you truly need.

When we try to get things that our neighbours have, this is where our Spiritual Path and design gets confused and ultimately fail.

This is where people get confused and create problems in their life. 

When confusion sets into your life, you have the ability to choose another branch from the tree of life and follow that branch towards discovery.

When you stand back and take a good look, you have so many branches to choose from."*

- Wikwemikong Anishinaabe Medicine Painter James Mishibinijima


Illustration: The Tree of Life, acrylic on canvas by Blake Debassige. Source: Norval Morrisseau blogspot.

*Excerpt from Mishmountains Blogspot, "Teachings to the Tree Of Life."

The Gift of the Heart - and how to cope with it

Child with Halo Meaning Blessings of the Earth by Miskwaabik Animikii

Does this sound familiar? You know you have a gift. Your sensitivity is a big part of that gift. On one hand it allows you to commune with the spirits; on the other hand it feels like a handicap because it makes you vurnerable to other people’s jealousy.

In Western society, highly sensitive people are often commonly misunderstood as weak or lacking in internal fortitude. But in the past, when our People were not yet overrun by Western society, highly sensitive people were considered gifted. Our ancestors knew that such sensitivity allowed a great ability to perceive and therefore understand others – and enabled the one who’s sensitive to better understand the teachings of the ancestors and the messages conveyed by the spirits and the animals.

I think it is important that you realize that it is not your sensitivity that’s the problem; it’s the negativity of people in your immediate surrounding who are jealous of your gift. You touch many people with your smile; but some get offended by your inner beauty and goodness. They sense you have an innocent heart so they try to destroy that. I know what i’m saying. Someone I care deeply for possesses a heart that is big and warm and that touches mine in ways I cannot express in words; but sometimes a cloud of self-sabotage casts a black shadow over her heart and it is in times like these that she tends to destroy all that is pure and beautiful in her own heart, and it is then that she tries to destroy mine along with it. But i will never allow her to touch my gift - , no matter how unspeakably sad her behavior makes me, and no matter how much i still care for her. That, in itself, I believe is a gift too, and a sign of strength.

You have the gift of the Heart. It is the strongest, most powerful gift there is. But in order to be able to do something good with it and eventually help others with this gift, before you are ready to truly use this gift to heal others, you must first set boundaries for yourself. Only when you find a way to cope with your "handicap" (your emotional sensitiveness) you can start developing your gifts – trough ceremony, trough talking with Elders. Guard yourself against negativity by spending less time on Facebook or any other social media is a first good step. It will take a while but you will feel much better about yourself (and about others) in the long run. Continue to partake in ceremonies, talk to Elders you trust, try to find out more about this gift and what it means -  the gift of the heart. Work on managing your strong feelings so they are you allies, rather than enemies. Learn the language so you will be able to understand the Elders better. Knowing your language brings you closer to your ancestors, they have so many things to teach you about your gift. Balance your sensitivity with awareness (awareness of your gift, awareness of the reasons why many of our people are so negative nowadays). Balance your sensitivity with common sense (hard to find nowadays). Balance your sensitivity with confidence (which you have to work on) and with resilience (of which you have plenty).
The time and energy you spend in giving all you got in your art or writings, in your job, or in your hobbies, or in sports, or in spending time outdoors is essential, they help building that common sense and self-confidence and resilience. All these things will help you not to over-react to life’s everyday events and to guard yourself against the jealousy of others.

One day you will use your gift by helping others to heal. Give it time, but start working on it.

And never stop blessing the world – even the negative people – with your smile.

Illustration: Miskwaabik Animikii (Norval Morrisseau): Child with Halo Meaning Blessings of the Earth, acrylic on canvas 1995. Private Collection. Norval Morrisseau: Return to the House of Invention. By Donald C. Robinson. Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books Limited, 2005.

Zhaawano Giizjhik at Michipicoten Bay

About the author/artist and his inspiration

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently residing in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten.

As a second- generation Woodland artist who writes stories and creates graphic art and jewelry designs, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. For this he calls on his manidoo-minjimandamowin, or "Spirit Memory"; which means he tries to remember the knowledge and the lessons of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists.

To Zhaawano's ancestors the MAZINAAJIMOWINAN or "pictorial spirit writings" - which are rich with symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos that they felt they were an integral part of. 

Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the lake's coastlines where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.

The way Zhaawano understands it, it is in these sacred places invisible to the ordinary, waking eye that his design and storyteller's inspiration originate from.



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