Yesterday, I did my yearly Thanksgiving Prayer Fast in honour of the world’s indigenous peoples who still struggle under colonial rule and whose genocide continues to go mostly unnoticed. The irony of the day never escaped me. That we celebrate one day of the year to give thanks to the peoples whose lands were stolen, who were massacred and driven off their ancestral lands. If they had learned anything from the Indians it should have been that every day is a day to give thanks and a balance must be struck between all the inhabitants of a land. Lands cannot be discovered when people already live there.
I learned about the Prayer Fast from my Aunty Charmaine, a Lakota elder who is now the spokesperson for the Black Hills Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council and took over the position after Grampa Tony passed away. She taught me and continues to teach me so much, as each day her teachings take on new meanings and textures. Thanksgiving has become such a day of Deadly Sins, mainly Gluttony and Greed, and while the original message is a beautiful one it has been lost to the commercialisation of American life and their erasure of the negative aspects of their history. I do the Prayer Fast now on Thanksgiving to find some of the balance that is missing in this world and to honour all of those who have struggled and still struggle for the rights and justice of all.
I realise how blessed I am that I have a choice in whether I will eat or not. While I am fasting and when the hunger begins to set in, I always remind myself of the people that live their lives in a constant state of hunger. I notice while fasting that after a while, the hungry feeling goes away and I start to feel normal again, but when I go to do something like pick up a fallen sock or move a chair, I am so weak and my head spins. I can only imagine what prolonged starvation feels like. And for this I am so blessed. The Prayer Fast has taught me to recognise all the blessings in my life.
The Prayer Fast has also helped me to heal. Aunty Charmaine told me that when doing a Prayer Fast, it must never be for oneself. You must always pray for someone else. This is the way it has always been. It is a switch because the Lakota way of Prayer is that you must always give thanks first, but the first person you pray for must be yourself; you must take care of yourself first because if you are not well, you cannot take care of others. The Prayer Fast is a sacrifice of the self, and it is amazing how much one can learn about oneself when doing a simple thing like not eating for a day. It is incredible how much we get from doing things in honour of others. There really is no other joy in the world like it, except love.
These days I have been feeling my mind rushing like a cataract before it hits the waterfall. So many thoughts, emotions, dreams. I haven’t been able to sleep very well, my body is sluggish while my mind races, my stomach has been hurting hurting. During the Prayer Fast I noticed how everything slowed down. I could not think. I could only watch what was going on around me and all of a sudden I could feel the very things that were making me sick. I knew what I would need to do to heal myself, it was so clear.
I fasted for just about 30 hours, I probably could have gone longer but my body said that my prayer was finished. I woke up and had a small glass of water and a few bites of a banana, that was all my stomach could take. Immediately after I ate and went back to bed I noticed that my mind began racing once again. Like it was the food that was fueling my thoughts and without the food I had peace and quiet inside. What a strange thing. After I ate my first meal I noticed my thoughts speeding up even further. I felt a restlessness inside that had not been present during the Fast. As if while Praying I was simply content with where I was in my life, on my path, and immediately after breaking the Fast I began to go right back where I started. Like I didn’t learn anything at all.
I am doing my best to be mindful. I liked the feeling of quiet inside. A pin could drop in my heart and I would feel its sweet vibration throughout my core. I want that quiet back. I realised it was not food that was feeding the level of my thoughts. I had been in the zone of Prayer, the place where my body becomes the Creator’s temple and it is in this space where sacredness begins. Eating for me is an everyday event, and the everyday event brought me back to a more banal sense of self where my mind races and can’t focus, I am in pain and unsettled in my own skin.
Now comes the real challenge: making that peace inside a daily event and remembering that each act of each day can be a prayer whose voice is heard by The Creator. With good intentions, with love, the simplest daily act becomes one of utmost devotion. There will cease to be sacrifice, there will only be a soul inherently connected to all souls that are and ever existed moving towards Illumination and universal love.
I give thanks for this day, this new opportunity to do good, another day to fill myself with love and spread it as far as I can. I give thanks to The Creator for this wonderful life that is so full of glory and blessings. I give thanks. I give thanks. I give thanks. Blessed be.