The Simple Life

Joyce Benedict


© Copyright 2021 by Joyce Benedict


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

As a child I loved Nature and all of its creation.  When movies were 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 taken. 

My compassion 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.

I’ve 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 were killed.

As 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.

Years 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 alcoholic.  I feared my capacity for feeling had gone, forever.  

I 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.

Sleeping 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 degrees.

The ‘cook 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, hot cereals, vegetables, herbal teas, coffee, scrambled eggs and homemade breads. It was a lavish feast and each mealtime the same, wholesome abundance.

One 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 was 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 their 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.

Within 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.

Off 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.

At four o’clock 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 is 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 tribe? 

After a morning 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 hot 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.

Every evening 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.

It was then Rolling Thunder appeared.  He was a lean, weathered man with a feather attached to his faded old hat.  His clothing seemed bleached like the couches from the fierce, constant Sun.  He 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 Earth.

It was around the fifth day that I felt it happen. I was listening one evening to the drumming, watching the glow of the sun setting, feeling a hint of the night time desert cool 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.

That feeling remained with me.  Ten days later it was time for me to leave.  I started home, thinking all the way about what I’d experienced.  My deep, exhilarating peace and ‘grounding’ 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 smiled.  My healing was underway. 

Returning to my 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, such as the phones ringing. My mind had been used to, for those days at Meta Tantay, 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’.  

As the weeks 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. 

What I 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. 

Returning home to my work even my clients commented 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. 

A 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 no  longer 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 and had gotten off the track somewhat.  After Meta Tantay everyday life and the simple pleasures held far more meaning. This core of strength and peace has never left me. 

Before Meta 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. 

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