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The Words Before All Else

Thanksgiving is such an incredible time. In the last couple of years the spirits have been adamant about their teaching around reverence, gratitude and appreciation, which of course is what real thanksgiving is all about.   The spirits say that these emotions and feelings are actually the gateway to: good mental heath, physical well being, emotional balance and spiritual connection.  How much of the day do you spend with these feelings?  To revere and appreciate the world around you, your teachers and co-workers, your family, friends, and yourself:  Such an incredible concept.  One that opens the heart, frees the mind, expands the body.  It illuminates the soul allowing for the wonder, mystery, excitement, and fullness of life to be exposed and appreciated.  Awe and it feels so good. 

I feel that instead of celebrating a day of Thanksgiving in the month of November, we should celebrate the month of November. Some indigenous elders feel that the reason that our life on this planet is so out of balance is because we only ask and don’t say “thank you” enough.  I share with you a prayer: A prayer of thanksgiving. It is very long, as it should be. Some of the thanksgiving prayers of our ancestors were actually four days long!  Can you imagine praying for four days straight?

The style of this prayer originated with the Iroquois people.  It came to me via an Iroquois elder, Jake Swamp, who passed it on to a wilderness school, Jon Young, where Deb Scrivens, a former associate teacher with LightSong, learned it and shared it with me.  At each stage it was modified and personalized. I personally have had a tremendous response from its energy.  People used it and revised it for their own personal use.  They used it for prayer each day or around the thanksgiving table. The purpose of this prayer is to remember that we are all divinely connected to all things.  We share the same planet and universe.  What one does – affects us all.  I invite you to pray like this, it has an amazing affect on your heart; it is full of reverence, gratitude and appreciation.  It heals through the power and energy of the words and how they in themselves affect the body, mind and soul.   

The format of this style of prayer is: Starting with self – and then reaching out around self – and out into the universe.

You can devise your own prayer, if you like, using this style, personalizing it to include your own family, friends, teachers, coworkers, and environment:  Actually inserting names into the sentences.  Use your imagination. 

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I start with myself and extend out into the world that surrounds me.  I give great thanks for my health, my wellness and ability to greet each day with a smile and open heart. I give great thanks that I see well, feel well and can start each day by giving thanks.  I give great thanks that I love what I do for a living and I have the opportunity to make a difference each day in someone’s life.  I give great thanks that I smile more than I frown and laugh more than I cry.

I give great thanks for all of my students, the LightSong community, you, for your willingness to learn, to grow, to participate, and to challenge yourselves.  It is because of you that I get to live in “my original instruction, my song.” I learn from you and you amaze me daily. I give great thanks that you want to help people to heal, to have less pain, to have better lives and more happiness.  You are amazing people that I will love, respect, and remember always.

I give great thanks to my teachers.  Because of them my life is forever changed and enriched.  I owe everything to these incredible seekers.  I give respect, admiration, and heartfelt gratitude.

I send a greeting and give thanks for all the people in my life. I extend out away from me and my immediate loved ones and I look to this beautiful earth that I have the privilege to experience.

****** Deb Scrivens version:

I greet and send thanksgivings to my Mother the Earth, who has not forgotten her original instructions since the beginning of time. She has given of her life so that I may exist. She gives me all that I need. All that I have, have had, or will have has come from her.  With the sun and the water she supports all life. My bones are made of her bones, from the minerals that come from her, and my flesh comes from her. She supports me in every step.  She supported me before I could walk, when I crawled upon her. She will hold and cradle me inside of her when I walk no more.  I marvel in her beauty, I marvel in her diversity, I marvel in her power.  I strive to understand something so magnificent, so complex, and so forgiving.  I respect her and wish to acknowledge her throughout every moment.  Without her I would not be. So I give thanks for my Mother the Earth, and I express my love and gratitude for her.

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I send thanksgivings and greetings to the Waters of the Earth, and all those beings that dwell in the Water, for they too have not forgotten their original instructions from the creator of all life. For all these waters remember their cycles and give continuously to us all. The rain that falls is recycled from sweat and tears, baptisms and swimming pools linking us all into the magical wonder of the water cycle.  No life can exist without water, and our planet is a water planet.  Our bodies are made mostly of water.  So I send thanks to all the forms of water on the planet: from the polar ice caps to the frozen glaciers to the cold rushing mountain streams.  From the peaceful lakes to the estuaries and bays to the pounding seashore with its mighty surf and tides.  I send thanksgiving greetings to the great oceans that blanket our planet, to the deepest abyss of the oceans, and the mysterious chasms where dwell undiscovered forms of life.

And I give thanks for all the living things that dwell in the Waters, in their great variety of color and form, from the caddis fly in the mountain stream to the great whales in the sea.  I call to mind the myriad of creatures that live in the water and that provide me with beauty and wonder at the world; the starfish and the salmon, the seals and the tropical fishes, the coral reefs.  I give great thanks to the Waters of the world for supporting all life and to the great variety of life in the Waters, and for all that it means to me. I give thanks for the dolphins that greeted me in the open seas off the coast of Belize.  The experience of sonar pulsing through me taught me so much of these great ones that live in the water. I am thankful that my son was able to reach out and touch one of these magnificent creatures and was able to participate in this awesome event. I am thankful for that special and personal experience.

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And now I turn my thoughts to the low growing things and the plants that blanket the Earth, and the small forms of life that creeps and crawls in and under the plants.  I send greetings and thanksgiving to all the small living things that help plants grow, and refresh and recycle the Earth.  Frogs, snakes, ants, worms, beetles and honeybees; each have remembered its original instructions since the beginning of time.   

And I give thanks for the Plants.  In its great variety of color and form, the Plant Nation provides us with beauty and food and medicine and shelter and clothing, and with air to breathe.  I give thanks for the tall grasses that blow in the wind and give us grain; I give thanks for the grass that gently covers the graves of our dead and rolls in luscious landscapes on the sides of hills.  I give thanks for the berries and the many plants that provide us with food.  I give thanks for the medicine plants, the herbs and for the healing that they provide. For they too have not forgotten their original instructions for there are many members of this incredible Nation that sustain those who walk upon this Earth and there are many others who continue to fulfill their duties to take away the sicknesses of the human family. I give thanks to the plants that hold the Earth in place and keep the Waters clean and clear, so that the living things in the Waters may thrive.

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And now I lift my eyes a little higher and notice the four-legged ones that move among the plants, and I send a thanksgiving greeting to the Animal Nation.  I send a greeting to the Animals, in their great variety of color and form, and I call to mind the elephant and the horse, the wolf and the great cats of Africa, the buffalo, tiger, deer, raccoon and the red fox. 

I send thanks to the Animals for they provide us with so much.  They give themselves to us for food and clothing. They lend us their power.  In their grace and beauty and naturalness, they teach us by example.  They are our older brothers and sisters, and we can learn everything we need to know by observing them.  The tracks they leave on the ground disappear into the forest, and our minds turn to their hidden and mysterious lives.

Our hearts draw close to them as we think of the animals that live in our homes and share our lives, and of the love that they give to us so freely. 

I say a special prayer for all the animals that are lost or lonely or cold or frightened or injured, and for any that suffer abuse at the hands of people.  To these I send my heartfelt love and compassion and I am thankful that they have never turned against us.  For without the Animals, we would experience a great loneliness of spirit.  For their love and companionship and for all that they give us, I send thanks and greetings to the Animals.

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Lifting my eyes higher still, I see green leaves against blue sky, and boughs waving in the wind.  I send my thanksgiving greetings to the Standing (Tree) People.  Their roots go into the Earth beneath us, their branches stretch into the sky above us.  Connecting Earth and Sky, they are our older brothers and sisters and our teachers. 

Some of them are very, very old, and they remember and remind us of the ages of the Earth.  In their rings they record the coming of the flood and the drought.  Many tribes of trees around the world make the mighty forests, and they carpet the earth with their canopies.  The forests of trees give the plants and animals shelter and homes.  The trees give the birds a place to rest their feet and to raise their young. 

The trees also shelter us and keep us warm.  We need look no farther than the walls of our houses to understand what the trees give to us, for they give their bones to make our homes, and to make the fire in our hearths.  They give us food and fruit and shade on a hot day, and beauty and comfort and air, and the gentle sound of leaves rustling in a soft wind.  And so we give heartfelt thanks and send greetings to the Trees.

I give thanks to those that protect the trees, the lungs of our Earth.  I give thanks to those in South America that strive and fight for the rain forests.  If the rain forests die so shall we.

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High in the trees, I hear music; the gentle sound of silvery bells in the branches, and from the river comes the sound of a silver flute.  The sounds come from the throats of the birds, and I lift my eyes to the skies and see Winged Ones and I hear them singing.  In their great variety of color and form, the Bird Nation brings great beauty to the world, and the wonder of flight.  It is said the birds were put on Earth to lighten the hearts of the people and lift them from their heavy thoughts, and every time we lift our eyes and listen to the thanksgiving song of a bird, this is so. 

There is a line on the Earth, where the darkness meets the light, a line we call Dawn.  At this line the birds sing together in a chorus of thanksgiving, and this line of song travels around the Earth.  So always, somewhere, the thanksgiving song of the birds radiates from the Earth into outer space, all the time.  For dawn is always happening somewhere.

I give thanks that the birds greet the Sun with song.  I give thanks for the raucous call of the jay and the raven and the piercing call of the eagle and the hawk, and for the lovely songs of the thrush and the lark and the wren.  I give thanks for the mysterious sounds of the owl at night. I give thanks and send greetings to the birds.

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Under the wings of the birds flow the Winds, and now I turn my mind to the Four Winds that blow from each direction and carry the rain to the Earth.  I send a thanksgiving greeting to the Winds, for they cleanse the Earth and carry the Weather Spirits and the ThunderBeings upon their backs.  I send a thanksgiving greeting to the ThunderBeings, who harness the mighty power of the storm.  The ThunderBeings have the power to teach humility to every single person on the earth, as we witness the magnificent and awesome power of the mighty storms.  And so I send my humble thanksgiving and greetings to the Four Winds and to the ThunderBeings: those that give life and also take it away. 

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Turning my face higher still, I see a silver face looking back at me from above, and I recognize my Grandmother the Moon.  I send greetings and give thanks to my Grandmother the Moon, for she holds hands with all the women of the Earth.  She tugs on the seeds and she tugs on the tides and she tugs on the rhythms in our bodies.  Perhaps we learned to count beyond the number of our fingers and our toes, long ago when our species was young, by sitting at her knee and noticing her changes.  She gives us silver light at night that helps us to see in a special way and she bathes the world in silver light and makes it beautiful.  And so I send greetings and thanks to my Grandmother the Moon and that she too has not forgotten her original instructions.

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And now I turn my mind to our oldest brother the Sun.  The Sun.  Our star. He provides all of the warmth and energy for our life. The Sun is the great engine that powers all of the life on our planet.  We shut our eyes and turn our faces to the warm, golden light of the sun, and feel his warm kiss on our cheek. We exist in a narrow band of temperatures, and the sun provides for us perfectly, not too hot and not too cold.  With a single flare or shift the sun could extinguish all life on Earth or freeze it into solid stillness, but that has never happened, and we are perfectly provided for with just the right amount of warmth.  For endless ages the Earth has danced with the Sun, and he holds her in a warm and perfect embrace.  And so I give great thanks to our Eldest Brother the Sun, for him remembering his original instruction and for the life he provides for us.

Turning my attention beyond the sun, I see many suns, millions and billions of stars, and I send a greeting and thanks to the Star Nation. The galaxies stretch the limits of the human imagination, for they are unimaginably old.  The matter that is in our bodies may once have been in a star that burned out long ago and changed form, as the universe endlessly cycled.  And so we wonder at our kinship with the stars…we are stardust walking.  We look at the stars in great wonder.  And we give great thanks for the beauty of the night sky.

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And now I turn my attention to the Unseen, to the Spirits of the Four Directions, and the many spirits that protect us and guide our steps and help us in our lives.  It is said we each have 405 loving spirits surrounding us at any moment.  We acknowledge that we cannot survive without their loving protection.  They guide us and we feel them in many ways.  They whisper into the ears of our heart, and they show the eyes of our heart things of great beauty.  They guide our steps so that we do not stumble.  We are thankful for their protection and guidance and compassion.  We are thankful that they love and care for us.  And so we express our heartfelt gratitude to the spirits, and for the Wakan (sacred) in our lives.

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Finally I turn my mind to that which is beyond the human imagination, the Creator of All Things that existed before time began and which will exist beyond the end of Time.  I turn my mind toward the Mysterious Force that we cannot understand or imagine… The God, Great Spirit, Great Mystery, the Alpha and the Omega, Essence, Source, Word.  We can only turn our faces toward this Light and say Thank You.  Thank you giving us all that we need.  Thank you for our lives.  Thank You for This Life.  Thank You.

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And now, keeping my heart in touch with the Infinite and at the same time pulling my attention into the center of my heart, I look forward into the Future and I look over my shoulder back into the Past.  And stretching seven generations forward I see the descendents of the human race, and stretching seven generations into the past I see our ancestors.  And our ancestors still care for us and our descendents depend on us.  They depend on us to keep them in mind when we make choices at this moment in time, the Perfect Present, for they are coming, and they will depend on what we do Now.  And our hearts are connected to the hearts of our children and their descendents, forward into the future, and connected to the hearts of our ancestors, backward into the past, an unbroken chain of humanity, connecting like a thread, heart to heart to heart to heart….  And so I send a greeting and a prayer of thanks to the unbroken chain of the human race.

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It has been my intention to greet and send thanks to Everything, but I am a two-legged learning to be a Human Being, and so it is not possible for my mind to know of or remember Everything.  So now I send a greeting and thanks to everything that I have left out, and ask you to please remember that I did not leave you out intentionally.  I have done my humble best to bring my mind together with All Things, and now my mind is One.  Mitakuye Oyasin. (All my relations, I am related to all things.) 

I ask myself have I forgotten my original instructions? In truth yes, for I am human and I struggle with ego and mind, but when I let myself be lead by my heart into the area of thanksgiving, (reverence, gratitude, appreciation) and pure joy, I feel that I am closer to my original instruction.

I give thanks to you, my dearests of relationship, for you have touched my life, you have a cord to my heart and soul.  Since we have met our souls will remember each other through lifetime and lifetime.  The meeting of souls is a sacred thing, for all is in divine order.  I give great thanks for our meeting and our continued exchange.  Smile and have great joy during this holiday season and always.

With great thankfulness, appreciation and love,

Jan Engels-Smith

Thanksgiving address: a version, adapted from our indigenous forefathers, the prayer given by Chief Jake Swamp, and wilderness awareness school. Put so poetically together by: Deb Scrivens, former associate teacher LightSong School of 21st Century Shamanism and Energy Medicine.

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