At our core, we all desire the same things. We want to be happy, in whatever way we personally define happiness. We want to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. We aim to be in tune with ourselves and those around us. Most of all, we want to be accepted and respected for who we are – our uniqueness and our underlying equality.
The Native American way of life incorporates these attitudes into daily living. For centuries, indigenous American people have cherished their philosophy, passing on to the next generation. Here are 6 Native American principles that can help all of us lead happier lives.
Here are 6 Native American principles that can help all of us lead happier lives:
Principle 1: People Are Both Physical and Spiritual Beings
In the Native American tradition, people have two dimensions: physical and spiritual. In other words, there is the mundane person which is made up of a physical body and there is the spirit person which is connected to all that is – the Earth, nature, other beings.
Any division between the physical and the spiritual self can lead to unhappiness. In the same way, the unity between the physical and spiritual self can promote greater happiness. What does this mean in practical terms? Simply put, we must give our spiritual needs the same attention that we give our physical cravings in order to feel fulfilled.
Principle 2: Maintaining a Sense of Community
In Native American culture, everything is shared. There is no “mine” and “yours” within the tribal unit. If one warrior finds food, all will eat. If one mother needs help with a sick infant, all mothers will pitch in to help. Community support is thus akin to survival within each tribe, and also a central tenet of Native American spirituality.
Maintaining a sense of community means that happiness is more available to all as well as more equitably dispersed among community members. Making others happy within our community will therefore inevitably make us happy.
Principle 3: The Spirit of “Aloha”
The native peoples of the Hawaiian Islands use the word “Aloha” to signify both hello and goodbye. But beyond these simple definitions, “aloha” itself is a way of life. In this way, the word aloha translates more accurately to mean “The Spirit of Aloha.”
Embedded within the aloha spirit is the native Hawaiians’ belief that all individuals deserve to be loved and respected as they are.
In the Hawaiian culture, aloha signifies compassion, love and respect in interactions with the land and others. Compassion and empathy should therefore be extended not only to family and friends but to every other soul you meet. To be truly happy, we need to learn how to love others as much as we love ourselves.
Principle 4: Nature is Beloved and Revered
In the Native American tradition, there is the recognition that human life, nature and happiness are inextricably linked. Nature and humanity are not separate. Rather, they create a powerful unity.
Taking the time to appreciate nature can reduce stress, lead to greater happiness, increase creativity, foster gentleness and goodness, awaken the senses and improve generosity and human kindness.
Principle 5: Change Is Both Valuable and Inevitable
If there is one guarantee in life, it’s that change happens in each and every moment. Every second, the body’s cells are changing. Some are dying while others are being born. In the same way, in every corner of the globe, there is death and birth, disintegration and growth, hot and cold, love and apathy. Change is continually flowing in and around each person.
Here, it is not change itself that causes unhappiness, but our efforts to resist or avoid any change.
The Native American culture accepts and embraces the inevitability and constancy of change. Change is a sign that life is continuing to evolve, to unfold and to improve. Learning to accept change is thus a recognized pathway to happiness.
Welcoming change into your life with positivity, patience, a sense of adventure, a faith that you can face any challenge or opportunity life presents – this is a recipe for learning to be happy in the midst of ever-present change.
Principle 6: Silence is Sacred
The Native American culture has a great love and respect for silence. Silence inhibits recklessness and impulsiveness. It permits time for personal reflection, analysis and intentional living. In addition, silence promotes learning through listening and observation, while allowing the inner intuition to speak and be heard.
Silence is critical for survival, whether in the primal sense of not alerting hungry forest predators to one’s presence or in the modern sense of not saying something rash that can limit our opportunities in life or damage our most treasured relationships. At its core, silence can be a good, lifelong friend.
These six ancient and honored Native American principles are just as relevant and applicable today as they were in the first days of the first peoples. By taking a balanced approach to living, loving, learning and co-existing, native peoples have been able to achieve a respectful, mutually beneficial relationship with all that is. It is this balance that can help us achieve greater happiness in our own everyday lives.
Author Bio: Heather Redding is a part time assistant manager and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is a coffee-addict who enjoys swimming and reading. Street photography is her newly discovered artistic outlet and she likes to capture life’s little moments with her camera.
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