Last summer I found an old bone in the woods. It had been cleaned out by insects or animals and appeared to be pristine, the insides were absolutely smooth. I brought it back to the cabin and put it on my writing table, to remind me to include the potent, primal powers of life in my writing.
The great Lakota Sioux medicine man, Fools Crow, said in order to use our power effectively, we must all become “hollow bones.” No ego, no shame, no pride, no doubt or anger. Just a smooth, clean and open channel, so Spirit can come straight to you and straight through you. He instructed those learning to experience the power as it comes surging into you. To give that power and healing away to others, knowing that as you are emptied out, Wankan Tanka will keep filling you with even greater power to be given away.
This way, he noted, the medicine men and holy men of the Sioux typically lived longer and happier lives than most of the people around them. And, true to form, Fools Crow passed away in 1989 in his 100th year of life.
The Native American practice is similar to that of other traditions, including the Christian practice of Kinosis (self-emptying) from the “self-emptying of Christ” in Philippians 2; the Zen practice of Sunya (emptiness) from the Heart Sutra; and the Shamanic deconstruction journeying.
That bone visual aid on my desk inspired me to write an excerpt into my own novel, as experienced by John Green Raven Sinclair, a Native medicine man, who is led on his hollow bones cleansing and enlightenment by his animal guides:
Chapter 11: Hollow Bone
Sinclair pulled a faded red bandana from his back pocket and wiped the sweat from his face, squinting across the horizon at the setting sun. An hour at most until dark, time for one, maybe two, last loads of rocks. He jammed the cloth back in his pocket and shuffled down the trail where it fell steeply off the north side of the plateau.
Setting the last stone in the circle he grumbled, “Why did you send me a second wasiĉun?” He had no desire, or patience, to teach a white woman the sacred ways. The thought puckered his mouth, as if he’d just bitten into a lemon. He had been fighting misunderstanding by non-natives all of his life. They couldn’t comprehend how protecting a few spots did little to solve the issue of sacred land, since the spirits of the land were interconnected. These mountains were not sacred in just one place.
This was not the first time he had resisted his guides’ instructions. The last woman came up the trail to his campsite alone, just like Samantha. Bearcloud had not sent her. She had come on her own, pleading with him well into the night, asking him to blend his powers with hers. Asking him to fight. Asking him to be something other than what he was.
He had turned her away.
Instead of accepting his decision, his guides now sent another woman, young and naïve. She would be twice as much trouble as the last, but now there was no ignoring the message.
He could sense a darkness approaching, something bigger and older than the tourist restaurants and white-washed art galleries working their way up every slope. This was malevolent and ancient, older even than the bones of the ancestors buried beneath his feet.
It wanted him. It wanted his power. It saw a weakness in him, a weakness he hadn’t recognized until now.
He had isolated himself from his own tribe to live with his wife’s people. When she died, childless, he climbed this butte with her relatives to release her spirit to join her ancestors. But all he felt after was loneliness, a bitter solitude.
His own people believed when a man died, a portal opened between the worlds, so the dying person could enter the realm of the Spirit. But if the man had unfinished business in his world, he was unable to step though this portal, for he could not carry his worldly identity into the beyond. His channel must be clean, free of resentments, guilt, shame, anger and self-pity.
A stone was lodged in his spirit, preventing him from being pure. He would have to remove it, cleanse and cauterize the wound. Without purity he would fail. Without purity his spirit–and his power–would remain on earth with his body, unprotected and vulnerable.
He sank back onto the soft furs piled in the center of the ring next to the fire. It was time to pluck that stone.
Sinclair felt himself growing drowsy. The inward journey began. A quick acceleration. Suddenly his spirit was rushing upward, leaving his body behind.
All around was darkness, leaving only the stars to indicate direction. He found Orion’s Belt, Tayamni, and traced it to Sirius, the wolf’s tail, brightest in the heavens this time of year. Wakan Tanka. All that has been, and all that is. The image flooded into his mind, overwhelming his consciousness as he descended deeper into the trance.
On the earth below he saw the sacred area where his mate’s ancestors were buried, and the circle of stones where his own inert body now lay.
The needed connections are there; allies are awaiting your call. You have the support needed.
But she is wasicun, his mind protested. Not Lakota. Not even of the People.
What happens with one realm affects all others, the Wolf Star replied. We are all are joined: medicine men, priests, witches, animals, even the beings beyond and outside the material realm. The stars themselves are the eyes of the Watchers in the night sky. We are all caretakers for the Mother.
Sinclair felt his limp form drop softly to the ground below and sink into the earth, down, down until his body began to disintegrate. He surrendered to the feeling, thinking, if this is what you want.
His flesh began to peel off. A mother wolf picked up some bones, feeding them to her pups. We all used to eat each other, share the marrow of our bones, our nutrients and our very essence with each other. This is how we are related on the deepest of levels.
A blue-black raven hopped over for an easy meal, watching him with one black eye. As you help her, she will help you. The scavenger pecked at Sinclair’s head, pulling out three long silver hairs and dropping them on his chest.
The medicine man sank lower still into the earth, to its seething volcanic core. His remains liquefied and were pressured into molten magma. Riding the blazing red river upward, he shot to the earth’s surface and he felt his life’s blood and the blood of all his ancestors flow across the sacred ground. Expanding… radiating in bliss. Finally cooling… molding back into solid form.
For several heartbeats he stayed perfectly still, slowly settling back into his body, a heavy sense of reality after the lightness of the spirit’s escape.
Then he opened his eyes.
Above him stood a ring of faces. Watching. The mother wolf and her pups.
We are all linked. She pushed the thought into his mind. We must all be hollow bones.
# # #
“What we bones really become,” said Fools Crow, “is the pipeline that connects Wakan Tanka, the helpers and the community together. This tells us the direction our curing and healing must follow, and establishes the kind of life we must live.”
To become a hollow bone yourself, listen with your spirit, not your ego. With practice, you may hear the helpers from the unseen give you guidance. Finally, you will begin to hear your own spirit direct you in the way of your highest good. This is the beginning of the Hollow Bone Teaching.