Yesterday I mentioned the fact that whenever I visit Lakota country - especially the Badlands and Bear Lodge (Devil's Tower) - I can't help but feel that I am encircled by an ancient sense of presence, and that even my own thoughts and emotions are arising - like echoes - from a very distant past. This experience adds a sense of sacredness to my life, and encourages me to treat my own thoughts and emotions with more loving care and mindfulness.
During the past six months, my life has undergone a radical change since I acquired my first smartphone. I avoided getting one for years, but then finally succumbed for business reasons. I find however - like everyone else - that the increased sense of being almost continually "plugged in" to the societal network, and the impulse to check messages quite frequently are a difficult adjustment to make. I know that this same challenge occurs with people of diverse cultures all over the world, and for all of us it can often lead to the addictively obsessive habit of checking messages.
For a while now, I've wanted to find a way to practice my message-checking more mindfully and with less frequency. However, this past weekend, while camping, it occurred to me that even my message-checking - and the messages themselves, along with the people who send them - also have an ancient, echo-like quality to them, and that they too carry an innate sacredness. In order to facilitate this sense of sacredness and also encourage less compulsive cell phone use, a fresh idea occurred to me.
While in South Dakota, I discovered some beautiful Lakota beaded bags - used traditionally for tobacco employed in chanupa (pipe) ceremonies and in offering a pinch in prayer to each of the four, six or seven directions - and suddenly a light went on in my mind and heart. I realized that if my wife and I each had a bag to store our smartphones, we would treat our message-checking and texting more mindfully.
In addition, having the phone hidden inside the bag would discourage us from using it as much, forming a kind of barrier to compulsive message-checking. Also, associating the phone use with the sacred directions would help in connecting Facebook messages, "Likes," Instagram "hearts" and email messages to the larger landscape, and to the sacred Native cultures that were here long before all of this technology ever came about.
When I returned home, I gave my wife hers (the larger bag, since she has the larger version of the iPhone), and we've both been enjoying using them. When in the car, I hang mine on the rearview mirror. Every time I glance at the beaded pattern, it serves as a reminder for me to live in a sacred way . . .
Photos: Lakota tobacco bags (Joanne's is white; mine is brown), with our cell phones, made by Dawn Yellow Bank; Bear Lodge (Devil's Tower, WY) and the Badlands (SD); May 20=22, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.