By Michael Prate (Mission, South Dakota)
Mike Prate works at Sicangu Co (https://www.sicangu.co/) based in Mission, South Dakota, and lives on Rosebud Reservation with his wife Margaret O’Conner.
Spirituality is one of those things that is so essential for individuals and communities, but so difficult to express and define. It is always moving and shifting, needing to be redefined and clarified. To me, spirituality is a practice, and a way of life. It is reflected in the most significant, and most inconsequential actions of our lives, and it is up to us to evaluate whether or not we are living within our spiritual values. In that way, it is a process – it isn’t where we are going, it’s how we are journeying there that really matters. That sounds cliché, but I think it’s true. I was born and raised in New York, just outside the city. As I reached my college years, I recognized a deep restlessness in myself that had me searching for an authentic way of life, something that would challenge me and leave me spiritually-filled.
Moving to South Dakota and to Rosebud Reservation, was a major part of that journey, and since moving here I have found a daily practice that I feel is deeply meaningful. I believe there is a common energy, a unifying principle that moves through everything, and that it is my job as a human being to pay attention to it, and to stay as connected as possible to it, as often as possible. I think that is why physical activity – particularly activities that tie me to nature – have become such an important part of my spiritual life. My best spiritual practices have always been physical. They help me to quiet my mind and emotions, to ease my body into a deeper awareness of my surroundings and of my interior workings.
Laboring out in the garden is such an important part of keeping me grounded and connected. All my senses are activated, and I feel deeply present to everything around me. I hear birds calling to one another, feel the wind blowing across my face, feel the dirt and mud coating my hands and burrowing under my fingernails. I watch the plants grow each week, paying attention to them so I understand how they are developing and what they need from me. I can feel power and life all around me, and in me, and I feel alive. I get the same feeling when I am out by myself cutting wood for winter, or when I am hunting in the hills behind my house. These times have taught me the importance of relationships, of paying attention, of quieting myself down.
I can’t say how many times I have been outside working in the garden or cutting wood where I have stopped and taken a deep breath, and just had a sudden feeling of awe and amazement, and of deep belonging. That is an incredible and powerful feeling. I think nature does that for me. It helps me understand my place and purpose in things. It gives me perspective on my impact relative to everything around me, and that is important. That is the best way I can describe my understanding of spirituality, and how I currently live it.
What are your daily activities or relationships that tie you to the land, to others, to the community, and to our global society?