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The Sacred Clown

There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.


 Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.

Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.

I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other.  The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.

Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.

We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.

“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author

Embracing the contradictions of my life

Let's go snowming mom!!

So many things come to mind as I walk the halls of the Tulsa Cancer Treatment Center of America or as they call it here CTCA, but today I was thinking how odd it is that I love this place and at the same time I wish I wasn’t here.  I even catch myself and think oh my gosh I can’t love this place I don’t want to be here, but I am embracing being here.  It’s not like this is the first contradiction in my thinking I hate to see anyone get hurt that I am connected to in some way but I enjoy watching funniest home videos especially the videos where someone really gets knocked on their can, they strike me as the funniest.  What is up with that?!?!?

Dealing with cancer is such a contradiction too.  Cancer is serious business but humor is the best medicine to deal with it.  They even have humor therapy classes here, I mean really what is funnier than dealing with cancer?!?!?!?  Cancer is this alien invasion in your body that you put poison in your body to rid yourself of it, but it is still part of your body, a piece of you.  So you are to destroy part of yourself to survive.  How can you wrap your brain around that one.  Also how can you truly love yourself if you are trying to destroy part of yourself. 

I went through a stage where I said I hate cancer, I really despise that word and what it stands for, but I said it anyway.  I am amused by that contradiction I hate to say hate!  Then as with all the other contradictions I am now aware of, I was not comfortable with hating something associated with my dad even if it was something I didn’t want him to have.  It seemed disrespectful, unkind and unloving to him.  So now what do I do with these conflicted, contradictory feelings I have about cancer and specifically the cancer cells in my dad’s body.  They are part of him and I love him so I guess by proxy I love them too.  What in the hell does that mean, I have a love/hate relationship with cancer.  Again more contradictions. 

In Asian philosophy there is a concept called yin yang where opposites complete the whole, each rely on the other, order from chaos.  I understand cancers reliance on dad but what is dad’s reliance on cancer?  I don’t have the answer but just contemplating the question expands my horizon. 

I guess these contradictions or opposites further reinforce my belief that everything is just as it is supposed to be, it is neither good nor bad, it just is, complete as it is.  Rather than judging my experiences I can simply experience them, notice them for what they are, experiences.  I am trying to be aware, to be present, be authentic, be transparent, be compassionate, be grateful, just be.

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