Whenever I spend time in the redrock canyon country of the Southwest, I can feel the presence of the Native Peoples whose sacred homeland this is. In fact, it is their spirituality that gives the land a portion of its power, for they are the traditional human voice of the canyons, mesas, buttes, rivers, skies, plants and animals. In particular, I sense the powerful presence and influence of the Dine' (Navajo) people who call this landscape home.
I have always been profoundly affected by the Dine' experience of "Hozho," translated by the word "beauty" in English. This quality permeates Dine' cosmology, and it connotes something much deeper and more metaphysical and cosmic than the usual conception of beauty in English. It is not mere "prettiness," but refers to the sense of balance, order, and the serene harmonizing of life's contrasts that beautiful things bring us to. As such, it includes not only aesthetic but also ethical and metaphysical meanings. Here, beauty inhabits not only beautiful landscapes and peoples, but also beautiful ceremonies, actions and words. Through these ceremonies, deeds and words, the Dine' spread beauty throughout their world. And, of course, we can't forget to mention the beauty that travels across the world through sublime Dine' artwork, especially rugs, jewelry, pottery and sand paintings.
Last week after I posted the first line of a Dine' Beautyway chant translated into English on Facebook, a wonderful Dine' friend added some insights of her own. Here is what she wrote:
"I can say the Navajo prayer from which your quote comes in my own language. It gives it so much more meaning. The English translation below is something I found on a website at one time some years ago. I happened to write it down and kept it. I remembered it when I saw your post.
"Today may I walk in beauty
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
"To walk in beauty is to walk in harmony with all things. Our words, our language is sacred. Therefore, I will speak in beauty. I will not harm another. This includes even the smallest insect as well as humans.
"A Navajo prayer is done early in the morning when the good spirits are out and about. To breathe in the freshness of a new dawn, to breathe in blessings for the day. I give offering of the sacred corn pollen to the sun, to the East for guidance. I offer a pinch of corn pollen in all four directions as I say the prayer."
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Today may each of us help spread the serene harmony of Hozho in our own sphere of influence - through our words, compliments, actions and creative endeavors, and through a sacred attitude that is mindful of the holy beauty of each and every person, landscape, creature and event we might encounter throughout our ordinary, everyday life.
Photos: Canyonlands National Park, UT, November 28-30, 2015