Completing the Circle

For my ceremony reflection, I posted on this blog about what it means to “Break the Circle.”  I finished the paper with these sentiments: “While I am still conflicted as to what exactly constitutes a broken circle, I now realize that I will never know the full extent of what the circle means and how it embodies itself, as its meaning will continue to evolve over time.  The embodiment of the circle is ever changing, adapting with the culture and it seems that, even if the circle is often interrupted by change, it may never fully be broken.”  As we finished up with our final pipe ceremony yesterday, I had an overpowering feeling of the significance of the circle and couldn’t help noticing that by doing this we truly were completing the circle.

It’s crazy how strong the power of association of memories is.  Sitting in a circle in Shove yesterday for Celinda’s pipe ceremony, my mind automatically transported me back to that initial pipe ceremony we had on one of the first days of this course.  I flashed back on all those initial feelings I had and, by reliving these, I was able to contrast just how far I’ve come in these past few weeks and how much I’ve learned in the process.  I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect going into that first pipe ceremony.  I spent the majority of the pipe ceremony terrified that I would do something wrong that would ruin the ceremony for everyone or upset the spirits.  I kept reminding myself to listen to follow Celinda’s orders – just a pinch of tobacco, grab the pipe with your left hand first, don’t break the circle, no wearing metal jewelry, allow yourself to be a “hollow bone.”  All I could focus on was following these instructions and trying not to break the circle, made up of a class full of people I knew barely, if at all.  I was unfamiliar with the chants, with the meaning of “Mitakuye Oyasin,” all my relations.  When it came time to give everyone hugs at the end of the ceremony I felt slightly uncomfortable hugging people I had barely ever met.  My first pipe ceremony unraveled in that way; above all else, it was constituted by a state of heavy emotional vulnerability on my part, being thrown into a culture I knew nothing about.

The pipe ceremony I attended yesterday brought all these memories flooding back to me and allowed me to see just how much I’ve grown this block.  This time the words being chanted were familiar and I was surrounded by a community of people I have grown to love and trust over the past month.  We had gone everything together, from that very first pipe ceremony, to arriving at Pine Ridge, to that very first sweat lodge, to Bear Butte, back to CC where we all struggled to assimilate back into the larger CC community, and finally to this final pipe ceremony.  We had truly formed a community.

At the end of yesterday’s pipe ceremony, it came time to hug everyone in the circle.  This time, I was grateful for the hugs, having formed some sort of a connection with everyone in the class.  After giving my final hug, I returned to my spot and realized that I had walked the full circle.  I looked around and realized that, through the hugging process, the circle had literally grown smaller and now everyone was closer.  And I knew then that, no matter what sort of relationship our class has following this block, we can continue to walk the circle in the future, but for now the circle has undoubtedly been completed.  Four weeks ago I struggled to grasp what the “circle” was that Celinda was speaking of.  Now I understand its true capacity.  And I now know that the circle can never truly be broken.

Mitakuye Oyasin, my friends.

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