On Native American Culture
"A letter from Josh about his connection to Native American culture".
To who it may concern,
My name is Josh Clayton. I moved out to Los Angeles from Boston ten years ago to pursue my career as a musician. For those ten years I have spent much of my time and energy making music while learning the lessons of the real- and yet not so real world of Los Angeles. I have for a long time sacrificed my need for community and cultural roots because the music business in Los Angeles, and the life of most musicians don't make room for those things. I didn't know where to go for what was so deeply missing in my life, I only knew what to avoid, so I ended up very isolated and cut off as a result of trying to protect myself from the falseness all around. On one level it worked, I have a recording contract and am in fact doing what I came out here to do, and I have just finished my forth CD. About a three years ago I began to realize how much more I needed to make life complete. I realized that a tree can't grow in a planter for ever. At some point it needs to be put in the earth, so it's roots can grow deep in the timeless and enriching soil that it was meant to be in, in the first place.
I began to feel a strong connection to the ways and images of Native American culture. A very rooted and natural way. The culture that has lived here on this continent all along with stories and myths, with community and traditions that have kept it strong, and go back further than we may ever know. A tradition based on preserving a good life on and for the earth. Never taking more than you need and always giving back in some way what you have taken. A tradition in which it is everyone's right and duty to insure a good life for the "seventh generation" to come, and a culture that has the understanding and the tools to do that. I realized that that kind of long term thinking and care is what could save all of us from this mess that we are currently living in and creating today. A situation that is growing so bad, that no one knows what's around the corner, much less if there will be any thing left in seven generations. We've been brought up not only without the tools or language to get ourselves and the earth out of this mess, but with a way that in itself both creates the problems and keeps us from seeing the solutions. I became very hungry for more knowledge about Native American culture, and found that although there was some available, that much of it was understandably, inaccessible to whites because of our history and past disregard and near destruction of their beautiful ways. For a couple of years I have read books, listened to tapes, and listened to my own instincts about these things, but I didn't know how I could really get an education, or more importantly an experience in these ways. And then, very happily through a friend I found out about Wolf and Lisa. I went to my first sweat lodge, an incredible experience which would take too many pages to explain. T oday, some seven months later, I continue to go to the lodge whenever I can. After my first sweat, we were all invited to help and take part in a "Vision Quest" ceremony, something that I had been reading and thinking about for a long time. It was as though I had walked into a gold mine for many of the things in myself that until then had no place for expression or sharing.
At best I could have only hoped to find an accepting and open door to these ways, and maybe learn a bit more, and then be back out on my own again to figure it out. Instead I found what is now called Descendants Of The Earth, a community of people who all in their own unique and generous ways had a deep connection and affinity with American Indian ways, and all of the goodness that goes with them. Each person I've met there seems to have a great story about how and why they found the Sweat Lodge and how lucky they feel about it. This is a group of people who actually live to their best ability their words of kindness. I found Wolf and Lisa. Two of the best teachers you can imagine, both in the sense of telling stories, and sharing teachings of the ways, but also as examples of people who live by them, kindly and nonjudgementally. They do not sit on a pedestal, they sit on the ground with all of us, as one of us. They are living proof of these ways and how beautiful and healing they are. When Wolf turns to each of the four directions before entering the Sweat Lodge, you can feel how much each of those directions mean to him, and that in itself is a teaching.
In the sweat lodge I have found myself so surrounded by good intention and mutual respect and love that I have a very difficult time translating this experience to any of my friends outside without sounding wishful or unrealistic, so I have just taking to telling those who ask, and otherwise letting my actions and heart speak for these ways as best I can. This tradition does not have to be a persons whole life either. I can tell that even people who just pass through this community and the sweat lodge, are given a gift that will inspire their lives in what ever way they chose to live, or express their sense of faith. It lets people be human, make mistakes, and have a beautiful way to return to themselves, the self they truly are and like again. These ways help me to shine a light on the unknown and dark places in myself and give me my own subtle way out into that light. Also they have given me the opportunity to pray in my own words, and not just repeat words that I don't understand that were written a couple thousand years ago. Words that for me had always been spoken more out of guilt and fear than out of my own commitment and love.
Wolf says that this lodge was set up for the new comer, the Native American and non alike. And each time he introduces someone new to the lodge, he does so with such a sense of importance and care, that it engages even those people who have been coming for the longest time. I know that I have been very lucky to have found this group of people, and that anyone who shares, learns and experiences this for themselves, especially in the care of Descendants Of The Earth and Wolf and Lisa will be as lucky and enriched by the experience as they are willing to be.
I know that the ripple effect of these people and all the good that is going on here is already being felt near by, and will be felt by many more people, much further away in time. This is an experience that if you could give to a child or student would be priceless. If this was an extension course, I would have taken it. But like most of the best things in life, there is no fee. Nothing is charged for these experiences because they are sacred and not to be sold. So the community is held together by donations and the love of the people here. Now, I am writing this letter because it seems that there is an opportunity to solidify this community and to give it a real home and base. I believe that if we can gather the funds to really get it on it's feet, that it could be an open door to this important and sacred world, and a place to learn these ways for many people of all backgrounds for years to come. Descendants Of The Earn might even turn out to be an example of cultural sharing and teaching that sees beyond race or any other kind of separation or stratification to other groups of its kind that may be trying to get their own start. This is a place that seems to help everyone it touches, and everyone they touch, and finally this planet which is so in need of our attention. I hope that we can find a way to give Descendants Of The Earth a solid foundation for ourselves and the other descendants for years to come. That way it won't just be a great story we tell our friends one day, but instead, a place we can bring them to, and grow with them. Wherever my life, and the music I play takes me, this community, these ways, and all I have learned from them, will always be close to my heart and will always give me hope and strength. And that is a gift worth sharing.