Healthy Living in Indian Country

Traditional healers in Indian country speak to us about four elements and
how their balance is essential for our well being. For the Mayas and
Toltecs they are known as the four suns of healing, and their use is
widespread in traditional healing practices known as “Curanderismo.”

1. Land, the first sun.

The first sun, the one of the “Land” consists in strengthening one’s roots,
finding our true nature, and affirming our being. We find the light of this
sun when we answer the question: “Who am I?”

The Mayas tell us that when we find our being we also find our purpose,
which they represent as a bird – a Quetzal – that lives in our heart. Those
who follow its calling develop a true face; those who ignored it are never
fully born, and this betrayal of self causes many complications. Therefore,
the first element that we need to check for our health is our sense of
being and purpose in life. If we don’t know who we are, it does not matter
where we are. We are lost. The Mayas tell us “find yourself and you will
find your way.”

2. Water, the second sun.

Water represents our emotions. It is the second sun. An excess of emotions
or an absence of them, can affect our sense of balance. To retain too many
emotions, is described in Curanderismo as being “drown in one’s own water.”
What is needed is: “un-drowning” a process facilitated by breaking the
silence, finding one’s own voice and talking from the heart. The
characteristic of healthy water is its movement. Stagnant water is just
like stagnant air: Toxic. Flowing water is nurturing and life-giving, one
of the key signs of well being. Life is restored when your emotions flow.
3. Air, the third sun.

The concept of “Air” the third sun of the ancient healers is used when
people speak of good or bad air, which are determined by the sense of
wellness or illness experienced by being around a particular person. Energy
is contagious. When people have good air they bring forth healing energy
wherever they may go. With them comes hope, inspiration, enthusiasm, and
clarity of mind.

The element of air, just like the one of water before it, needs to be in
circulation in order to preserve its healing properties, otherwise, with no
outlet, it becomes stagnant and toxic. People with bad air suck the air out
of life. They don’t alleviate life’s burdens but add to them. Having lost
their heart, they cannot encourage others to rise to life’s challenges, nor
can they offer any relief in times of sorrow. Therefore, for our sake, and
the sake of others, we must cultivate good air in our lives.

4. Fire, the fourth sun.

When people are overflowed with water, there is no air. And with no air,
there is no fire. Once water reaches a healthy level, air is restored into
our being. Where the air circulates, the fire of life can be ignited. Fire
represents the energy of life. With fire within us we become a living sun,
we don’t burn out: We burn up. By choosing to use our energy for the
goodness of our lives and our community we become like the sun: A bright
light that illuminates the world.

Roberto Dansie is a clinical psychologist. In 1997 he received the golden
medallion from the National Indian Health Board for his contributions to
health in Indian country. He lives in northern California.

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Healthy Living in Indian Country

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