What is "prayer"?
- Prayer is an effort to communicate with the Creator, Higher Power, and God or to an object of worship.
- Prayer is one of the main ways we practice our spirituality.
- Prayers are VERY powerful. Our prayers are one of our natural healing resources each one of us can use today, any time of the day.
- The medicine of prayer is a good way to maintain good health.
- Prayers usually offer praise, thanks, make a request, or simply express one's thoughts and emotions to help us be in harmony, balance and peace.
- It can be done in many ways. Prayers can be said out loud, quietly, through song, dance, art, tears and smudge for example.
- You can also pray in any position: lying down, sitting, and kneeling, with hands folded, raised, opened, and closed, and so on.
- Many people begin each morning greeting the sun in prayer. They pray at sunset to thank the Creator, Higher Spirit, God for a good day.
- Many people pray mainly when they are in crisis or we pray more often and strongly during times of suffering.
- When a person is truly in their spiritual self, in prayer, they do not focus on their body, mind, and emotions. In a total spiritual state people do not feel pain, heat, cold, hunger, thirst.
- The prayer of one is very strong but the prayers of many are powerful! So consider a prayer circle or a prayer line for your personal healing. This may mean asking or allowing others to pray for you.
- An elder once said, “Our thoughts are our prayers” and another said “Our thoughts of today are our plans for our future”. So if we are going to have one thought, shouldn't we make it a good one?
- Meditation is a way to tame and train the mind to hold the silence between thoughts and make room for the sacred.
- You stop the restlessness of your mind by focusing your undivided attention on whatever you're experiencing right now.
- At this point you can listen to the Creator, Higher Power, God, Angels, spirit helpers etc.
- The simplest version of meditation involves focusing on your breath.
- This can be very relaxing, healing and energizing once a person spends quiet time doing this.
- Some people call meditation prayer but meditation itself need not be a religious or spiritual activity.
- Miracles happen quite often. Many times this is due to our belief systems.
- Many times miracles happen by not believing what others tell us, such as “there is no cure”. If you believe there is no cure, there will definitely be no cure! Yet if you truly BELIEVE that a miracle can happen and you CAN be cured, you are planting the seed for a beautiful miracle to take place!
- Some people have had miracle cures by just prayers alone!!! (include vignette…testimony: Katherine Big Hail (elder), Rose Miller)
- Knowing that miracles do happen helps keep “hope” and “faith” alive.
- Visualization is the process of focusing your concentration on a picture of what you want and seeing it as already being done.
- It is said that Native people are visual learners. That means that we learn best by seeing things, watching things be done.
- This is very true. We understand and learn better by seeing something be done, rather than reading about it or hearing about it. It makes more sense to us when we can see it.
- Someone who is without eyesight is still visual in their mind (blind elder or others are still generally visual learners and visually gifted).
- Our ancestors taught us to listen to our dreams, go on vision quests, seek a vision, watch the animals, watch the weather, pay attention to the changing seasons, to name a few.
- Because we are visual learners, we can use our special visual gift to help us in our healing process. We can “see” the cancer dissolving, we can “see” our bodies getting stronger, and we can “see” our wounds healing and we can “see” our medicines healing us. We can do this very easily and effectively.
- Many traditional cultures believe dreams are very important.
- Dreams come to us in symbols. Many Native people understand symbols as they are used in many of our traditional ceremonies.
- Dreams can warn us, give us messages, identify feelings, give us songs, designs and ceremonies, guide us, give direction, identify and solve problems, give reminders, tell the future and give answers.
- Do not dismiss your dreams. Dreams are our inner teacher. Dreams are the voice and wisdom of the soul.
- All dreams are messages if you choose to look for it.
- When you do not understand your dreams you can talk with a traditional healer or dream interpreter to help you find or understand the messages
Spirit Helpers/Guardian Angels
- Many people have spirit helpers or guardian angels that they work with as part of their spiritual practices. These helpers talk to them and/or guide them in either their daily lives or in specific situations.
Animal Spirit Helpers
- Many tribes belief in animal (bear, rabbit) or other spirit helpers (mouse, turtle, spider, snake, frog)
- For these people the spirit helpers work with them throughout their lives, but especially during times of need.
- These animal helpers have come to a person in a special way where the person strongly identifies with it.
- The animal helpers' natural strengths can protect, assist, guide and give power to a person in their particular situations.
Click on Heather's picture to read her story
- Many times people ask for a ceremony to heal a problem of the body, mind, emotion or spirit.
- Most ceremonies have a group of people come together to pray and perform a ritual in a specific way for a specific reason.
- The prayers of the group are focused on the person and much healing can take place.
- All traditional ceremonies are holistic in their delivery. This means every part of our humanness is involved, the body, mind, emotion and spirit.
- Most traditional ceremonies include very specific steps and action that require the guidance of a trained healer to help you do the ceremony “in a good way” and in the right way without accidentally being disrespectful of the ceremony.
- There are many types of Native ceremonies.
- No details are given here to protect the privacy of the practices. You will need to talk with your traditional healer to determine which ceremony is best for you and your family. Remember to tell your healer that you are a cancer survivor. The healer is likely to adjust some parts of ceremony to protect you from interfering with your recovery from modern western medicine, while still preserving the ritual and sacredness of the ceremony.
- Some common types are:
- Sweat Lodge
- Vision Quest
- Pipe Ceremony
- Feather dance
- Smoke house
- Native American Church
- Stomp dances
- Most of the traditional ceremonies are mainly done with prayer. The prayer can be said out loud, quietly, or many times the prayer is through songs and/or dance.
- Most traditional ceremonies use many sacred items such as feathers, herbs, tobacco, rattles, drums, smudges etc. and usually include items of the main elements of the medicine wheel; earth, air, water and fire.
- Ceremonies can be either very detailed or simple. They can be long or short. They may need a lot of time and effort to prepare for them, or little preparation.
- Some ceremonies are very involved and need a special healer or medicine person to perform it.
- Some ceremonies take several days from start to finish.
- Some ceremonies need to be repeated several times before they are complete.
- Other ceremonies are very simple and personal and can be done by any family member.
Click on Marlene's picture to read her story
- If you are interested in having a special traditional ceremony for yourself or a loved one, you may want to ask an elder, a knowledgeable person, or someone you trust, that is involved in ceremony to help direct you.
- Another suggestion is that if you are a woman, seek out a woman advisor, if you are a man, and seek out a male advisor. Most ceremonies have strict male/female roles and rules. A person of your same sex would be best to advise you of your role and how to go about it correctly.
- Remember that ceremonies can be done in groups, but also can be done alone. Traditional healers can help you learn how to do this. If no one is around to do ceremonies with you, let yourself learn how to do ceremony alone, or listen to your heart to give you guidance.
Suggestions for how to prepare for ceremony during and following cancer treatments and recovery
- The following suggestions are ways to protect you prior to, during and following ceremony.
- It is important you talk with both your modern western medicine providers and your traditional healers before taking part in a ceremony. Both should provide you with instructions on how to be safe.
- The western provider can provide suggestions of minor changes in ceremonial ritual that can help protect you.
- Traditional healers can work with you to help you through these challenges before, during and after the ceremony.
- For example, in one ceremony, the breast cancer survivor was allowed permission by the healer to go into a private area and drink water. All other participants in the ceremony, who were not drinking water, knew she was a survivor and that this was important to her recovery from the cancer experience.
- Traditional medicine healers need to be told that you are a cancer survivor and some of your personal needs (feeling tired or weak or frightened) related to the cancer experience.
- Fasting, weakness, and fatigue are issues that can last for 1-2 years after your finish your cancer treatment.
- They may need to help you find different ways for you to rest and sleep because if you have had chemo or radiation, you may have problems with feeling tired that sleep does not “fix”.
- They need to be aware of your diet and physical activity in preparation for ceremony.
- They need to know which medications and herbal remedies you are taking and the amounts or how often you take them. These may need to be changed to help you.
- You need to ask the traditional healer that the ceremonies will be done in such a way that will not risk you to infections.
- You can be susceptible to infection for 1-2 years following western medical treatments.
Lymphedema and “giving flesh” (sterility of knife)… never on the arm on the side of mastectomy, lumpectomy, or lump removal.
- extra antibiotics for flesh giving
- extra bottled water for long ceremonies (traditional medicine will work with patient on how to go through ceremony, but follow medical guidelines)
- Ceremonies that require all night dancing with articles that bang against the legs (such as a Stomp Dance) may need:
- To remove the articles for periods of time to allow circulation
- Circulation is a common problem after selected types of chemo, especially with diabetic and cancer survivors.
- You may need to lie down and raise your legs to help reduce problems with circulation caused by the cancer experience off and on throughout the night and daytime dancing.
- If your traditional ceremonies take a long time to prepare for, you may find that you need to delay doing ceremony for a few years following your treatment to allow your body time to heal.
- Obviously you cannot wait that long for spiritual healing to begin.
- When this has happened to other survivors, a member of their family or sometimes a close friend agrees to prepare and do ceremony for the patient.
- Do your Western Medicine and when well enough, do another ceremony yourself. Many traditional medicine healers are comfortable working with you while you go through modern western medicine.
- The traditional healer often will do a “short” or “easier” ceremony with you until you are strong enough to go through ceremony yourself.
Organized Religion Healing Ceremonies
Many organized religions have their own healing ceremonies such as:
- Christian Science
- Assembly of God
- Russian Orthodox
Most of these ceremonies are done mainly in prayer. The person that is being prayed for receives the special healing or blessing from the prayers of the congregation.
Each organized religion has its own unique features. For example, the Catholic religion use many saints and angels as healers, some are:
- Archangel Michael cures cancer
- St. Agatha for curing breast cancer
- St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes
- St. Lasaro, dogs licking the wounds and curing
- St. Peregrine for cancer
If you are interested in having an organized religion healing ceremony done for you or a loved one, again, contact a minister, priest or trusted person who is involved in these ceremonies. They will guide you in how to proceed.