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Life Arts

Heyoka's Guide to Earthly Living

By       Message Grant Lawrence     Permalink
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A Heyoka is the sacred clown or the contrarian of the plains Indians. They served as a mirror or a teacher by their extreme behavior. They brought laughter by doing things differently or backwards, and they brought awareness by breaking cultural taboos.

The world is now in the grips of financial panic and extreme fear for the future. Our honored corporate leaders and politicians brought this on the world out of greed and the lust for power. Our leaders offered us an example, and the so-called "civilized" people of the world applauded this behavior and looked the other way when some voices in the wilderness tried to warn that certain actions would have certain results.

We were told by our global masters and their political and media puppets that the world was now different. That there didn't need to be any regulations or controls over corporate behavior and financial activity. That the past depressions were brought on because people didn't allow business to do what it does best, and that is to make a profit at all costs. But the "good" people of the world fell for it all because they somehow thought that they were benefitting, even though the system was built on massive worker displacements, underemployment, poverty, and abuses of men, women, and children in nearly all countries. It didn't matter if goods and services were being delivered by the suffering masses, because there would be growth on Wall Street. Investment income was booming and that was the bottom line.

But in every culture and in every age there are Heyokas, even though they are not commonly called that. They are the people that are nourished by the spirit and they see more clearly. We also have our Heyokas; some are famous like Ralph Nader and Cynthia Mckinney, and millions more are only known in the circles they run in. These Heyokas were here over the past several years, warning of corporate abuses, environmental disasters, taking stands against unjust wars, demanding an end to torture, demanding humane working conditions and workers rights, helping in their communities, and generally sowing seeds of love and peace while others concerned themselves mainly with their own benefit.

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But now that society has crashed from the abuses and excesses of living in greed and implementing terror for power, we still have the Heyokas of the world living contrary to the spirit of injustice and inhumanity that has marked the world for many decades and centuries. It is time now that people of the world begin to capture their contrary spirit and live as "Sacred Clowns." The world needs a rapid growth in Heyokas or Contraries to bring about the balance and wholeness that has been lost to humanity.

 We need more Heyokas, and for that we need to have some guide for future Heyokas to follow. So here is a list of attitudes and actions that would be helpful in living according to that Heyoka spirit.

A Heyoka must, above all, be concerned with the welfare and the benefit of others. This is completely contrary to the American spirit of greed and control. But it is time now to put an end to an "empire" mentality and to consider that the world needs people that actually care about others. Amazingly, when people start considering others, there is a benefit to their families, their communities, and to most living things that they come in contact with. There is a real Heyoka power to heal the mentality of others by simply caring about them and wanting them to benefit.

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A Heyoka must live in the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness. There is a real power that comes with appreciation. I learned this myself from working as a counselor with Navajo children and teens. When I first started working with them, I obviously noticed a cultural barrier that was making it difficult to deal with the moods that I encountered. I struggled to find a way to make a connection with them so that I could help them deal with their feelings and frustrations. I found that if I talked to the students about  appreciation and having gratitude for their lives, they connected with my words. I noticed that I didn't have to explain much because the young Navajos understood in a deep way, traditionally, the importance of honoring life and appreciating it. They just had to be pointed in that direction so they could make a connection with their past.

In the same way, an attitude of gratitude will lighten our burdens and bring joy into our lives. When we have a happy and joyful mind it is much easier to help others.

A Heyoka must live simply. The world says we can only be happy by wanting and grasping for more. Business and government call this consumerism, and in it is the faith that if a person is able to purchase, then a person is fulfilling his/her duty as a human being, and that will ultimately make that person happier. But there is never an end to the purchasing mentality and we think we need to buy everything and everything is for sale. Ultimately, living the faith of consumerism brings about a great deal of unhappiness because there is never enough money for what we want, and we are always wanting. This not only destroys the human spirit, but it has been a major reason for the destruction of the ecosystems of the world.

So, a Heyoka must live contrary to consumerism and practice a lifestyle that affirms the joys of knowing when we have enough.

A Heyoka must have some sort of spiritual understanding and connection. Now I am not advocating that all must believe in God. But I am saying that there has to be some understanding that life is interconnected and that we all are a part of it. That we can never separate ourselves away from life because we are life. That the life that breathes in the cricket and in the bird is the same life that is in all of us. The world glories in the death and destruction of others. But a Heyoka must live contrary to the spirit of the world and understand that what we do to others we are doing to life. We are a part of that life and thus there will be consequences to others and ourselves.

A Heyoka must trust in the spirit of life. That is, a Heyoka has to understand that this particular life is short, but that he/she has a duty to live life in the best spirit. For many years, science told us that we are only a physical body and that there is nothing other than what we experience in our bodies. Once the body dies, we die. Science saw everything in terms of dead matter. Then a revolution occurred in science and it was discovered that matter was energy and that energy never dies but just transforms. It was discovered that there was a fantastic power in the atom. Unfortunately, the world leaders used that power to create bigger bombs and to terrorize more people.

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But now Heyokas must show that power  not only exists in the atom, but also power exists in everything and everywhere. The Native peoples honored the spirit of that power in nature, and the Heyoka must live with a trust in the spirit of life. Once that trust has been established then there is great power to be gained for all.

Finally, the Heyoka must live to bring joy and to enjoy. As a Sacred Clown the Heyoka must allow him/her self the pleasure of humor. Life, unfortunately, can be very difficult, sad, and hard. No one understands this better than the Navajo that I know. But even with the untimely death of loved ones and while living in great poverty, the Navajo have a great sense of humor, and it helps to make a tough life survivable.

As we see, we are presently engaged in a world facing many difficult problems. We will need to cultivate humor and use comedy to lessen suffering.

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