An Ojibwe expression of ‘Opposite Spirit’
How do you address your opposite spirit? Some of us were raised with terms like Satan or the devil. My Christian education referred to these as sources of evil, temptations to be avoided and causes of damnation.
Prior to an Ojibwe ceremony during a gathering, I observed a man walking behind the Sweat Lodge and offering a prayer. I later asked him about this. He explained that he was addressing Bekaanizid Manidoo. He was giving thanks to this opposite spirit as this was the one who offered opportunity for choices. Without an opposite spirit, there is no opportunity to exercise the responsibilities of growth and health, of relationship and blessing.
This teaching rocked my Christian practice of fear and avoidance. I had learned to fear and avoid the devil. Now I hear a man expressing gratitude for having such a spirit present to offer an opportunity to ‘exercise responsible spirituality’.
In the recovery world, we have discussed the many voices that ‘tempt’ us to use. Our addictive nature has a way of talking us backwards toward our behaviors that caused so much shame, pain, and dis-ease. I have given my addictive nature a name. I call him George. George is bekaanizid manidoo, that opposite spirit that does not want me sober, healthy, happy and loving myself. George likes to keep me in shame and self-hatred, telling me that I’ll never be good enough or loveable.
Well, George and I speak often. However, I am no longer afraid of George. I no longer wait for George to leave so that I can be happy. No. Instead, I greet George, thank him for being in my life. I serve him an eviction notice. Then I walk away from George, telling him that I am choosing myself, my health, my joy, my source of courage and respect. I am choosing my Great Spirit, my God, my community of healed scars and courageous love. George, I choose love as I walk away from you into the arms of a forgiving, welcoming, wild and crazy group of wounded, healing people. This is where my God resides.
George is getting used to me choosing you. He is always ready to invite me backwards toward my using life. But we are stronger than George. We are stronger because we are witnessing each other ‘exercise responsible’ pain management – together. Our exercise creates respect, love, honesty, humility, wisdom, courage, truth, and wisdom. These are the gifts we give each other. These are the gifts that bring us to rest, often beside the water.
Water, that source of life, healing, refreshment.
It’s a great place to meet, meditate, and hug and splash around and get crazy.