The Simple Life
Copyright 2021 by Joyce Benedict
a child I
loved Nature and all of its creation. When movies
viewed of the early days of the pioneers and their struggles, I found
myself rooting for the Indians, feeling sad with their people being
literally mowed down, their lands being
for their unfortunate destiny never left me. One day I spied a
book in a bookstore about a Native American Shaman, Rolling
Thunder. From this purchase came a trip to his
reservation and a life changing experience never forgotten.
always had empathy and feeling for Native Americans. As a child I
would imagine I was one when walking in the woods, listening to the
nature sounds, trying to interpret their message, making as little
noise with my feet as possible. In the movies I cried when Indians
I matured, my
interest continued. I read every book I could get my hands on
concerning their way of life. When marriage and children came I
examined their natural way of healing and their community life. In
particular, I became fascinated by their spiritual values regarding
Mother Earth. Their way of raising children held appeal and they
treated those born with homosexual or lesbian tendencies with far
more understanding, tolerance and sensitivity than in our culture.
past and I
was in crisis, suffering from having just severed a long involvement
with a man I loved deeply but who was an incurable
feared my capacity for feeling had gone, forever.
read a book
about a Native American healer named Rolling Thunder who headed a
reservation in Carlin, Nevada named Meta Tantay. It was open to
visitors on a donation basis. I called. Yes, I could visit. A two
week period was designated. Prior my final arrangements a soft-spoken
woman called to ask me whether I was over my ‘moon time’
while I visited. Yes, I was over it completely. On the reservation
the tradition remained through eons of time, women remained in a
separate teepee away from the tribe while in their lunar cycle. She
didn’t want me to arrive and sit out my visit separated from
the main reservation.
accommodations varied at Meta Tantay from traditional teepees to
igloo like shapes called ‘wikiups’. I was to stay in one
designated for unmarried women. Inside the ‘wikiup’ were
wooden bunks. The floor was dirt. A wash basin and pitcher in a far
corner rested on a small table. I learned it was to get quite cold at
night (30 to 36 degrees). There were spare blankets but I had been
told to come prepared. It was hard to imagine it getting that cold at
night, for during the afternoons the temperature was over 112
shack’ was an experience in itself. A huge barrel held water
that was heated for doing dishes. Low hanging light bulbs were in the
kitchen and eating area. The work area was very small, but several of
us worked efficiently when it came to preparing food or doing dishes.
The men and children always ate first, women last. I
grumbled internally over that rule. Flies were everywhere but no one
seemed to notice. All the food was fresh, wholesome,
natural and abundant. A typical breakfast consisted of a variety of
homemade muffins, cooked, hot cereals, vegetables, herbal teas,
coffee, scrambled eggs and homemade breads. It was a lavish feast and
each mealtime the same, wholesome abundance.
of my first
assigned chores was to pick fresh lettuce and tomatoes from the
garden. The garden? In the middle of a hot desert? I
unprepared for the magnificent sight that greeted my eyes. A garden
of such lush proportions. Every imaginable herb and vegetable was
there and each variety was the largest and healthiest I had ever
seen. I saw the tallest corn, the largest cabbages, the highest beet
greens, gigantic Swiss Chard, the string bean vines bursting with its
bounty. The mulching around all the growth was thick, high and rich.
It seemed unbelievable, this verdant paradise in stark contrast to
the hot, almost colorless beige and browns of the desert.
a few days
of my stay, my routine was clear; up at 5:45 am for a Sunrise
ceremony held every morning on a small hilltop. Everyone had to
attend. Each given a small piece of tobacco. A fire was lit in the
center of a circle with men in the inner circle, women on the
outside. Announcements were given. Blessings given those who were to
leave the reservation that day. Everyone had the opportunity to state
a prayer followed by a hearty “Ho!” as the small piece of
tobacco was thrown into the fire.
to the cook
shack to prepare breakfast. Eat. Cleanup, do dishes. Preparation for
lunch followed. Around two o’clock I was given the
responsibility of watching the children play in the shallow stream.
What lively, happy little children! Their brown little bodies
glistening in the purest, clearest water I had seen in a long time.
back to the garden to harvest or to the kitchen to prepare a meal.
The set pattern was comforting, mindless, rhythmic, relaxing. On one
of the first days I was there, while we women were preparing food, I
noticed how quiet everyone was. By comparison, I was a chatterbox
questioning everything all the time like a little child. Do you have
divorce here? Is there a second marriage ceremony if another marriage
allowed? Who has the children if a relationship ends? Who is the
healer here? Where is Rolling Thunder, will I see him? I noticed
whites living here, are they ‘indoctrinated’ into the
or two of my babbling and questioning one Indian woman who was
probably in her early 60’s turned to me and said, “ If
you can remain silent for a time, and simply listen, you will find
all your answers will come to you. But you must listen.” I
realized I was just like the flies buzzing around their heads, a
nuisance. I did as I was told, and in the ensuing
summer afternoons, as I sat reading or watching the children, through
conversation, a passing comment, my answers were forthcoming. It was
a lesson in letting go, waiting, and listening.
after the dinner cleanup the young braves began a drumming ceremony.
The scene was surrealistic. Against a stark desert and brilliant
setting sun, the young men sat on old, broken down wooden chairs with
a large drum in the center. Those who came to listen sat in old
stuffed couches and armchairs, some with their insides hanging out
underneath, and others bleached white from the desert sun formed a
circle around the drummers. Their high wailing chants echoed through
the reservation and the still dusk of evening.
Rolling Thunder appeared. He was a lean, weathered
with a feather attached to his faded old hat. His
seemed bleached like the couches from the fierce, constant
smoked a medicine pipe. His eyes were keen, clear, penetrating. He
spoke softly and slowly of earth changes to come. He spoke of cities
becoming polluted and the people having hard times because of
supplies dwindling. He spoke of the simple things of life. He spoke
of the belief that all who loved earth were Indian in spirit. He
spoke of how important it was to live in the country away from the
cities. He spoke of the importance of being connected to Mother
was around the
fifth day that I felt it happen. I was listening one evening to the
drumming, the glow of the sun setting, a hint of the night time
desert cool was creeping into the camp. Like a plug going into a
socket making the current flow, I felt a powerful, but grounding
force enter me. Almost immediately, all tension left me. I felt
deeply connected to the earth beneath me. My depression faded. I
felt, at that moment, I could live this simple life for the rest of
my life. All desire for fame left me. The need to make money left me.
Trying to prove myself left me. All worry vanished. The incessant
chattering and questioning in my head left me. A feeling of belonging
and being rooted powerfully enveloped me.
remained with me. Ten days later it was time for me
leave. I started home, thinking all the way about
experienced. My deep, exhilarating peace and
came from twelve days of no tires on highways, no music or
telephones, no loud noises and music in stores, no TVs blaring in
every home I visited, no airplane sounds, no screaming, unhappy
children in malls and supermarkets, no fluorescent lights to disturb
brain patterns, no police and fire sirens, no telephones ringing.
Mother Earth had taken it all out of my system, had wiped away the
buildup of years of noise, tension, stress, worry, unhappiness. I
understood Rolling Thunder’s admonition to connect to Mother
Earth. I recalled how, at the end of each evening’s
‘pow wow’ amidst the starkness, the poverty, the torn,
bleached couches, the quiet, the dust, the heat, the flies, the lush
garden, the setting sun, he would finish his talk “It’s a
good life here, Ho!.” I
healing was underway.
world of personal consulting as an Astrologer, teaching classes,
writing, and a part time position the stark contrast of where I had
just come from was extreme to say the least. The pace of life so much
faster. Everyday sounds were deafening at times. it was difficult to
focus on the everyday details, the phones ringing. My mind had been
used to, for those days at Meta Tantay, to the silence that insulated
one like a gossamer cocoon as we partook of daily chores. The mind
had been at peace and a kind of rhythm, so comforting, undulated
amidst the waves of intense heat as I completed daily chores of
surviving. Though I was now home to the same daily chores of
surviving, I was hardly ‘enveloped in a gossamer
cocoon of peace and silence’.
passed what I began to be aware of was a great shift in my focus. The
initial adjustment back to speeded up civilization had indeed been
annoying, out right exasperating, but, I became aware that a deeper
calm from the core of my being was there.
experienced at Meta Tantay had not evaporated! No longer were the
irritations of the outer world settling deep into my spirit and soul
as before. The terrible tension inside, a kind of racing quality,
that had me on a kind of treadmill of doing, excelling, keeping pace
with everyone was gone! My mind was still calm. A core of solid
strength and peace resided deep inside.
commented, returning home to my work, on what they felt from me
stating, “I wish I had what you have.” Somehow the
grounding that took place in that barren, stark environment had
remained within me. A permanent, welcome reminder of a primitive,
reconnection to Earth and her power.
shift had also
occurred in that ‘things’, catalogs, labels, comparing
clothes, checking new hair styles seemed irrelevant. I was ‘seeing’
past these programmed behaviors imposed by a materialistic society. A
real shift in consciousness had transpired. I was
looking at the world and trying to bring it to me. I was concerned
more about bringing something to the world. I was here for a purpose,
had gotten off the track somewhat, and after Meta Tantay, everyday
life and the simple pleasures held far more meaning. This core of
strength and peace has never left me.
Tantay I was an Aspen Tree whose leaves rippled and trembled in the
wind like wave-lets on a pond as the wind blew strong. After Meta
Tantay I was the Oak that swayed only slightly when a strong wind
blows. Meta Tantay means, Go In Peace. And so I had.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
story list and biography
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher