In most of Southeast Asia* there is the common belief that spirits dwell all about, in the forest, in the mountains, in elderly trees, on people’s properties and at their businesses. Many people have ‘Spirit Houses’ at their homes or place of work for their resident spirits to live in. It is also customary for anyone passing by to show their respects to these spirit houses by putting their hands together and bowing their heads. These spirits are believed to help protect these places and the people that live there.
I was 16 when I moved to the West Coast, I brought with me from Thailand a few customs and traditions, one of them was this belief of spirits dwelling in places like the forest and in the mountains. Since coming to live in California I have learned the Native Americans have a similar belief in the great spirit of the earth and of spirits that inhabit all things no matter how large or small.
When I go for a hike in the forest or a climb in the mountains I always take a moment to pay my respects to the spirits. I put my hands together and bow my head. I thank them for taking care of the land, I ask them to protect me and even invite them to accompany me while I am visiting their domain.
I also always pay my respect when I pass by a cemetery. I figure if there is any place where there is bound to be a few spirits out and about it would definitely be at a cemetery.
When working on a landscape project, I try to be sensitive to the spirit(s) of the site. I try to design a landscape that flows with nature, pays homage to the land and is in balance with the surrounding environment.
I believe people are also part of the spirit world. Humans are trying to protect the earth and take care of it as well. I think it is important for all of us to be respectful and have compassion and empathy for one another. We all want to live in safe, comfortable homes, live meaningful lives and live in harmony with our planet.
“Native American isn’t blood; it is what is in the heart, the love for the land, the respect for it, those who inhabit it and the respect and acknowledgement of the spirits and the elders, that is what it is to be Indian.” ~ White Feather, Navajo Medicine Man