A’ho Mitakuye Oyasin is a Lakota greeting which is a recognition of the interconnectedness of all of life, that each of us is related in the sense that we are all humans, and we therefore should treat every human being we meet with honor and respect. We also should tread lightly on this earth, and each of us does make a difference. We can learn a lot about how to live in harmony with the earth just by following the principles of this beautiful inclusive saying.
Many years ago I was blessed to be invited to ceremonial sweats of the Lakota tradition. That was the first time I remember hearing this transformational phrase. I went to several sweats, my voice joining the others singing songs in a language I didn’t know. But those songs were already within me, and the sweats not only transformed me, they brought me memories of a previous incarnation. The heat inside a sweat can become very intense. It’s important to drink lots of water, and cover up with a towel as close to the edge of the lodge as possible. I never had to leave in the middle, but if someone did, nobody objected or anything like that.
Afterwards I always felt reborn – clean and fresh and inspired. My friends had a potluck dinner after each sweat, which helped ground the energy we had tapped into and filled ourselves up with. Bliss can be quite intoxicating. Talking to my friends I learned we had much in common, for my mother had taught me to have love in my heart for all humanity, and also for all living things. Meeting a whole group of friends who felt the same way and who greeted each other with the beautiful words of “A’ho Mitakuye Oyasin” about a year after my mother passed away brought me closer to that space in my heart where I cherish her still. And the wonderful part about this greeting is that our ancestors are included, for even though they don’t walk in the land of the living anymore, at one time they did. And they continue to live on in our hearts. This is how we truly become part of the rainbow bridge which connects heaven and earth. There are many similar greetings around the world, but this one in particular is my favorite.