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Going to the Tree

The Native American Eagle Dance

by Carolyn A. Romano, Bliss Healing Arts
October 2007

As a medicine woman, I am always on the lookout for compelling stories, ceremonies, and teachings that I can share with the people around me to support their healing and growth.  Truthfully, the urgency with which I search for these stories underscores my own need for renewal and inspiration. There is nothing quite like the right story at the right time.
One such “story” that has had lasting impact on me is that of the Eagle Dance, a Native American ceremony that is a prayer for the self and the world spoken through the movement of the body.  The dance, which goes from dawn to dusk, is centered around a tree which represents the sacred center of life.  Participants gather in a circle around the tree. When the dance begins, they blow eagle whistles as they run to the center of the tree; then, they dance to the drumbeat back to the circle again and again and again, never turning their back on the tree. As they move forward and back they send their prayers up to Great Spirit on the wings of Eagle.  They do this all day. All day. They can consume no food or water and may only take a couple of five-minute breaks. 

At some point each person is challenged by the dance and inevitably wants to quit.  The role of the leader is to keep them dancing, no matter what.  It is in this way that the dance becomes a metaphor for the places in our lives where we hit the wall, where we repeat the same patterns, where we cannot go beyond through our will alone. 

When we do hit the wall, and we’ve all done it, what are some of our common reactions?  Afraid to look at ourselves, we may get angry, lash out, or seek to blame others.  Or, maybe we simply resist continuing when we stumble upon our limitations or something that we cannot control. We look for any distraction to postpone doing what needs to be done to move beyond where we currently are.  Or, we look to run away entirely.  No one is going to stop us, right? 

We come to the same crossroads, and we do what we’ve always done.  Why?  Well, for all those reasons mentioned above, and because it’s what we’ve always done!  It’s what makes us feel comfortable, even if that means comfortably unhappy. 

And so I ask myself and I ask you:  What would it take for you to do something different this time? to really breakthrough?  Think about it.  How many times before have you stood at the same crossroads, faced the same patterns?  How many times have you made it three-fourths of the way through only to quit again because you didn’t believe in yourself, or you couldn’t see your way to the other side?  Is it the same guy, different skin for the 10th time?  Is it the same 20 pounds that you keep gaining and losing?  Is it a project that means everything to you, but that you just can’t seem to finish?  Is it the inability to move beyond fear or anxiety that is preventing you from living your dream or fulfilling even the simplest of goals? 

Yes, what would it take for you to do something different this time?  The answer lies in the Eagle Dance:  Go to the tree one more time.  Just one more.  Take the first step toward the tree in the moment right in front of you.  Don’t think about the fear or the anxiety or the pain or the despair.  Don’t think about anything but that next step.  Surrender and go to the tree one more time.

And rest assured, surrender in this context does not mean giving up.  Quite the contrary.  For when you surrender in this way, when you keep showing up for your life, that which can carry you beyond your limitations will find you.  It is both within you and larger than you, and it is seeking you as much as you are seeking it.  It is in this way that we are reminded that we are not our fear or our pain or our anxiety.  We are reminded that we are part of the Great Mystery and that we can ask for its help.  It is in this moment that we see the truth of who we are. 

We are all on our own journeys, all performing our Eagle Dances.  I can’t do your dance for you, and you can’t do mine for me.  But I can promise you that when I see you falter or stumble or about to quit, I will look unwaveringly at you, and I will encourage you to go to the tree one more time. 

© 2007 Carolyn A. Romano.  All Rights Reserved.  www.blisshealingarts.com


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