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Reporting from Native America

Monday
December 22, 2014
Latest post: March 20 5:07 pm

Sweat ceremonies and transcendental meditation, not dissimilar

By Santee Ross, University of Montana

Combating diabetes on the Winnebago reservation has boiled down to chanting one simple word, “Ohm.”

Indian Country today Media Network reports that Transcendental Meditation which is the technique of sitting comfortably with eyes closed for 15-20 minutes twice a day has been taught to administrators, teachers and students on the reservation.

TM has had a significant impact on tribal members who practice the technique. Those with diabetes have seen a drop in their blood glucose levels and students have improved on standardized tests and exhibited a 25 percent drop in absenteeism.

I always thought those yoga people who sat around chanting “ohm,” were a little weird but after hearing those positive improvements on the Winnebago reservation, I might have to take a crack at it.

When you think about the positive effects of TM it makes sense that taking a few minutes out of your day to relax and let your mind rest is going to improve many areas of your life—I’m talking about TM time not TV time; major difference here.

Studies show that stress causes all kinds of chaos for people’s health mentally and physically—and I can’t think of anybody on the rez who’s stress-free.

So of course TM is a practical and logical way of incorporating positive change within reservation life.

The one thing I thought of when I heard about this story is our sweat ceremonies. All the effects of this Eastern practice can be seen in our own traditions.

Sure we don’t chant “ohm,” but essentially it’s the same idea because I have never felt more in tune with myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually than I have when I first come out of the sweat lodge.

After a sweat ceremony the weight of my worries, concerns and burdens are lifted. I am better able to handle all of life’s daily stresses without feeling overwhelmed and defeated.

Attending ceremonies to participate or even just helping will aid in combating the issues we face in Indian Country because the outcomes of practicing TM are essentially the same as going into sweat.

Not only will there be positive outcomes in daily life there will be a strengthening of culture through ceremony—I think the elders would call that a win-win.

But of course if you are unable to pencil in a sweat ceremony then TM is still a good way of balancing your life in a positive way—so say it with me, “ohm.”

Santee Ross (Hopi/Lakota) is from Lander, Wyo.

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