I have been pondering this post for some time now. I always feel a great hesitancy when writing of sacred things, as I can become overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy when trying to put the holy into words. But on this sunny morning when the bees are flying and the clouds are dancing like happy children, I would like to talk about a particular quality of the Holy One that has been making its presence known to me this glorious spring.
One of the words for the Great Mystery—or Wakan Tanka—in the Lakota language is Taku Skanskan. Roughly translated, it means “Something moving,” “That which moves,” or “Something sacred is in motion.” Skan moves all things, from the arrow in flight, to the stone falling from a rock face, to the seed that springs up from the soil. It is a force that drives the animate and inanimate, the embodied and the ethereal. Skan dwells in all motion, and it thoughts, which are a form of mental movement.
For some reason, I have become acutely sensitized to the quality of motion or movement in my life these days. There are those deliberate movements in my days, when I put my hands to kneading bread or braiding my hair, and the quality of this kind of motion is serene and focused. Then, there are those moments when a glass crashes to the floor in the kitchen and Skan sends the shards flying out in all directions and my hands rise up, alarmed, and not of their own accord. Movement with a frantic, forceful feel to it.
Outdoors, I sense the quality of the spring breezes in all their many forms, some gentle and caressing and some whirling and charged with energy. My clematis vine moves up and out each day, too slowly for me to see were I to sit and watch, but by morning, I notice the change as the vines continue to reach always toward light. New shoots, kissed by Skan, reach up and stretch, then turn their heads to the sun. I see that there is a turning of most of life toward the sun and toward the light, and that this motion is a tender, graceful one.
The turnings of Earth and Sun and Moon I feel in a kind of kinesthetic sense, and it is a comforting motion, hinting to me of things that can be counted on. I feel thirst coming on, coming at me, slowly, or sometimes cold jumps on me fast, and these things moving on and in me are things that can be trusted, that do not change direction or timing on some mere whim.
These things like the cosmos in motion, sound, light, thirst, and minerals moving beneath the earth, and tides shifting shorelines—these are the real things that move. The stockmarket moves, too, and humankind collectively chooses to believe its movements are real and that they force us into or out of certain actions, but I do not believe such things are Skan.
Up at the hive entrance, my bees move in ways that communicate small bits of their life to me. Some float in lazy-eights in front of the hive, orienting themselves to their new home before they fly off to forage. Returning foragers move quickly and in a straight line for the hive door, bringing along with them a certain devotion and single-minded purposefulness to their gait. By the door, guard bees twirl and touch the incomers. Their efficient and swift hands pat and stroke and brush many of the returning bees, so that no contamination enters the sacred inner space, which is alway in motion.
My mornings begin slowly with little movement. I sit and meditate in bed, drink my coffee, gaze out the windows at the birds and flowers, and ponder my day. It is not until I start brushing my teeth and reach to pull on my pants that I feel my limbs speeding up and tightening.
This attention to motion, I think, could be a way of life. A different kind of contemplation, where I ask myself what is moving? What is the quality and emotion of that movement? There are so many ways to contemplate the face of God, but I had never before considered motion. The face perhaps smiling, pondering, frowning, moving muscles into expression.
I wonder, too, if death is the cessation of movement, of motion, but realize instantly that this is not true. At death, something sacred remains in motion. The soul spirits away. The body moves toward the Earth and disperses all of its molecules back into Skan.
Looking back on the past few years, I recognize that much of my life has been fraught with a sort of desperate motion: My thoughts, my body movements, my sleep, and the challenges that visited me. I have felt that life was racing at me, and that my movements needed to be defensive to keep from being struck by the force of too much life coming too fast.
You can only look at a situation once you are outside of it. Otherwise, you are in the jar and can’t read the label affixed to it. Only now, as Mystery has provided a soft lull, and the choppy waters of my life have settled down to soft ripples can I understand better all the many, interrelated and never ceasing movements that fuel a life. Always in motion. Life always in motion. We move, and are moved upon. We direct movement, and are danced by the movement.
It is said that all we can know of Taku Skanskan is the blue if the sky, because the sky and its color belong to this Wakan being. In the Lakota Sundance ceremony, dancers start out “in the red” and as the deprivation of the dance moves them into an alternate consciousness, the eventually, hopefully, step “into the blue.” Welcome, Dancer, to the blue. All the rest is mystery. But for now, I am feeling touched by grace that a bit of this mystery has found its way into my awareness. What is the quality of your life today? Fast, slow, frenetic, grief-laden, light, lilting? What motion will you put into the field of Skan today? What is the feeling of the energy that is moving you today?
Susan – I can see the FB message in my email inbox, but can’t access FB until further notice. I believe this is what you are looking for… xo Jamie
I saw you there in the
humid oak-poplar wood
of late summer morning.
Lanky young bruin
with perfect posture
deftly trampling the
delicate ostrich ferns
as you made your
up the rocky mountain slope.
like someone who had
just found an unyielding
faith in long-rumored miracles.
Your journey and my journey
will intersect this day.
some would say.
And we did have our moment.
Fully aware of the other’s earthly presence.
Looking deeply into each other’s sight-full eyes.
Breathing each other’s privileged breath
in a way that even a poet shouldn’t
try to explain.
And, there, on sacred ground,
I couldn’t contemplate ‘bear medicine.’
Couldn’t feel it tingling the hairs on my arms.
Couldn’t sense it transforming the course of my days.
Couldn’t bring myself to walk,
for even a second,
between the thin-veiled worlds.
No, no as we moved on from that moment,
You climbing Northwest,
Me climbing Southwest,
All I could think about was this:
What is human medicine to a bear?
What is human medicine to a bear?
Is it powerful?
Is it kind?
Does it leave you feeling grateful and graced?
Or, is it…?
Or, does it…?
This is what you left me with.
What is human medicine to a bear?
This question that has stilled me
in the dark silence of mySelf,
seeking the wisdom of thoughts
I’ve never before known.
© 2012-2014/Jamie K. Reaser
Blessings upon your patient pondering so that the movement of your awareness could begin to translate the experience into words as clearly evocative as these, Susan. It is a new tool to me now, this awakened sense of Skan living through all things, me included. I’m okay with Being Present much of the time, and know that can only be enhanced by enriching it with attunement to Movement. Started yoga classes recently, and now the teacher’s guidance to notice the motion of our breath has new meaning. So glad of You in my corner of the cosmos, dear S — and yes, it feels as if you’re ‘here’ in both senses of that phrase “in my corner”! Wonderful, wonderful blog — what a gift to us! with love and appreciation, Kit W-P
Oh, thank you, lovely writer, for this poetic post! I have been racing around a bit lately. Your words “I ask myself what is moving? What is the quality and emotion of that movement” touched me deeply. They made me stand still. I am still pondering them.