While I taught at St. Michael Indian School (SMIS), a school serving youth from the…
I have been fascinated by the language of the Diné (Navajo) people since living on the Rez. In the nursing department we have been trying to keep up with learning a new “Navajo Word of the Day.” The language is quite a difficult one to learn as it uses sounds and syllables that my English speaking mouth just can’t seem to make happen no matter how hard I try.
One of the words (that I can actually pronounce!) I find particularly interesting. It is the word hózhǫ́ (it kind of sounds like ho-shown). It occurs in two important ceremonials called the Blessing Way and the Beauty Way and is found in many Navajo songs and prayers. My co-workers tell me it means, “walk in beauty, a place of harmony, blessing, a state of holy being, or a peaceful place.” From asking around and from doing some research, I was amazed to come to know that not even a hundred English words can truly describe what the word hózhǫ́ means to the Navajo people.
In short, this word seems to encompass beauty, order, harmony, and the idea of striving for a balanced life. According to Navajo culture and traditions, every aspect of life is related to hózhǫ́. Even more so, the Diné people believe that this doesn’t mean to pray for what you do not have, but rather to pray for balance with what is going on. For example, while others may pray for rain during a drought, the Navajo hold ceremonies to put them in balance and harmony with a drought.
The whole idea of hózhǫ́ recognizes what is beyond our control to change. Hózhǫ́ is changing one’s attitude to fit the situation, not to try to change the situation to our attitude. We need to try to become content with the inevitable. This harmony is a choice that we can pick each and every day. It calls us to be flexible in all situations, yielding adaptive skills and learning how to thrive under radically new conditions. Another English word that falls under this idea of hózhǫ́ is gratitude. Hózhǫ́ calls people to be grateful in every situation, both the good and the bad.
It is said that the Navajo do not look for beauty, rather they are engulfed in it. When it seems disrupted, they restore it; when it is lost or diminished, they renew it; when it is present, they celebrate it. Often it is said, “with me there is beauty (shil hózhó),” “in me there is beauty (shii’ hózhó),” and “from me beauty radiates (shaa hózhó).”
This makes me think of how Christians view God. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. We are engulfed in His love. When our relationship with Him seems to be disrupted, we try to restore it, when it feels lost or diminished, we try to renew it, when we feel His presence, we celebrate it. We are taught to be grateful in all things and to praise Him in both the good and the bad times. He is with me, in me, and from me His light and love radiates.
This year has been crazy so far, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When we get stuck in the mud but God helps us find a way out, I think hózhǫ́. When we get to go hiking and be surrounded by God’s creation, I think hózhǫ́. When there are days when nothing seems to get accomplished at work or I feel like I didn’t make a difference, but I made a student smile, I think hózhǫ́. And lastly, when I see these four amazing women I get to share this year’s experience with, I think hózhǫ́. Being on the Rez this year, we have seen beauty and light with us, in us, and radiating from us, as we continue to live out what God has called us to do.
Kaitlyn Miller: St. Michaels, AZ