Burden Basket

From a very young age I felt a resonance with the Native American people. As an adult I have been blessed and influenced by various Native American Teachers. One of those is Jamie Sams, a member of the Wolf Clan of the Seneca Nation. She is a medicine teacher and healer who has studied the traditions of many nations and who has respectfully brought those teachings to those of us not born into them.

One of her teachings that brought balance to my life is found in her book titled “Sacred Path Cards.” The teaching is simple, clear, and beautiful. For those of us who tend to take on too much or care too much, this teaching can bring us balance and protect us from doing harm to ourselves. Her words say it best and what follows are direct quotes from pages 255-259 of her book. My understanding is that each woman made her own burden basket so she determined its size and capacity.

Native women were never asked to bear a burden heavier than their Burden Basket could handle. When the Burden Basket was not in use, it was hung outside the home for another reason.

To receive permission to enter the Sacred Space of any Native American Home…it was necessary to scratch lightly upon the door. …if there was no answer entry was not permitted at that time. The family could be eating a meal, having a Family Council, or just wanting some privacy The decision was always honored.   If permission to enter was granted, the Burden Basket was the reminder to the guest to leave his or her personal complaints or problems in the Burden Basket before entering another person’s Sacred Space. The custom was honored, or the visitor was barred from entering that dwelling ever again.

As Guardians of the home, the Burden Baskets were a reminder to respect the happiness and privacy of each family’s Sacred Space. …it reminded each visitor of the strength of character needed to set aside personal problems. To enter another’s home with a black cloud of worry or neediness was considered very poor manners. To be in the present moment and be willing to be a welcome guest requires strength of character.

Self-reliance is the keynote in all of the Burden Basket teachings. To have compassion for the burdens of others, and yet not take those burdens on as our own, requires a strong heart.

Unlike many seekers in today’s world who seek and then refuse advice, the instructions of a wise person in Native America were sacred and holy. If a seeker sought counsel, the wisdom given was honored to the letter.

Great sensitivity is necessary for impeccable timing in knowing when and how to speak to others.  Inner-strength is created through trusting our personal knowledge and only seeking counsel when we have exhausted all other paths.


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