If you believe that the purpose of our earthly experience is for us to learn so we can grow as an individual and evolve as a species, you also probably believe that there are lessons all around us. I am one of these people. I was taught to "still hunt" and this knowledge has proved invaluable to me as a student of life.

Still hunting is simple and can be done by anyone. It is finding a place, any place, and observing the people, nature and things around you in an effort to learn from them. The "place" is more of a mental state of being since any location can serve to teach you. In this frame of mind, the inner dialog is stilled and the mind is quieted so that we are "listening" to the world rather than our internal banter. Another part of still hunting is to set aside prejudgment. We must be compassionately detached gatherers of information. Once the information is gathered, we make time to sit and prayerfully meditate on it to seek the meaning of what we have been shown.

It would serve each of us and the world around us to simply practice walking in awareness. Be aware that the Universe is speaking to you every day, every minute. You might be surprised at all of the things people miss in the course of the day… so practice! The more you practice, the more you "hear". The more you hear, the more you learn - and we are here to learn! Instead of viewing the world as an external event that is going on around you, view it as something that you are part of that is trying to teach you.

Practice awareness by asking:
What is the Universe trying to show me?
What can I learn from the events I am witnessing?

This skill is at the center of a new beginning. To be aware you may have to change your thinking. When you change your thinking, you change your beliefs. When you change your beliefs, you change your actions. When you change your actions, you change your destiny.

I want to relate a personal experience I had with still hunting because it works to show you the practical application of still hunting.

While preparing for a sweat lodge ceremony I built a fire to heat the rocks. This fire requires logs of pretty good size to be stacked around the rocks. I always try to start the fire from the inside, meaning as close to the rocks (or center) as I can get.

Once the fire was going, I noticed there were beetles that had eaten holes in the logs that were obviously disturbed by the heat. I sat down on a stump and watched these beetles to see what they could teach me. I saw the beetles come out of their holes long enough to run around the log for a minute. Then they did something that really surprised me. Instead of running down the logs and escaping the fire, they ran back into their holes. Even when the flames consumed the logs, they never came out again.

In the ceremony I prayed for understanding and here is what I was shown:
We are not all that different than the beetle in that we create for ourselves - either spiritually, mentally, emotionally or physically - a little safe haven (the holes in the logs) which we come to depend on and trust in times of trouble. Like the beetle we go for what we know, seeking refuge in that which we believe will protect us, whether it actually will or not. We are creatures of habit. Change is sometimes difficult for us to effect and once in awhile this is to our detriment.

From this little beetle I learned many lessons. He caused me to look at what I believe and ponder what could be trusted.
What were some of the things I put my faith in? How could they fail me?

I was surprised by what I saw.

I give thanks to this little brother who taught me in his death and pray that I learned all that I was meant to so that this was not in vain. I think that his sacrifice becomes even more meaningful when I share this with others so that they, too, may learn. If you take something positive from this, then the value of his sacrifice has just doubled.

Happy Hunting!
Ralph Brown (Tawennihake)

Author's Bio: 

Ralph P. Brown (also known as Tawennihake) is a Mohawk Indian of the Akwesasne tribe. He currently resides in Nebraska, creating his art and delivering his message from Earth Lodge Studios. Ralph is a self-taught artist who uses a stipple style to create the pointillistic impressions of his cultural and spiritual ideas. He draws inspiration from his native culture, nature and his unique perspective on the world and his spirituality. He is the author of soon to be released "Awakening the Eagle: A Guide to the Medicine Wheel" and "13 Virtues to a New Life: A Journey Around the Medicine Wheel." Visit his web site at mirroredwindows.com for additional insight, stories, lessons and visual creations related to many native American stories. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved worldwide. Please contact the author at the website mentioned above for permission to reprint.