Tohi

Tohi

I’ve been searching for a way to describe what I feel when wading small, pristine, remote creeks while fly fishing. As a writer, it’s been especially frustrating not to be able to find words that adequately express my experiences. 

Last weekend, I came to understand that the English language would, if I were to attempt explanation, put boundaries or limits around my experience and the Mystery would be lost. I surrendered the idea of labeling my profound experiences of renewal and peace. I accepted that they would simply remain unexpressed through language and in a feeling state within me.

Just after giving up and accepting that there were not adequate words to fully convey what I was feeling, I was reminded of the Cherokee word Tohi. A beautiful smile erupted from within as I sat and listened to Dr. Tom Belt, a Cherokee elder, describe the meaning of the word.

Tohi is the Cherokee word for wellness, the ideal state of being. It’s a word full of meaning…peace, harmony, balance. Lisa Lefler, in her book Under the Rattlesnake: Cherokee Health and Resiliency, wrote: “Tohi is a fully confident sense of a smooth life, peaceful existence, unhurried pace, easy flow of time. The natural state of the world is to be neutral, balanced, with a similarly gently flowing pattern…All aspects—physical, mental emotional, and spiritual—figure into the Cherokee concept of good health.”

So, there is a word—one word—that fully describes my experience in the sacred creeks of this place. It’s in a language that is based on verbs instead of nouns to communicate. It doesn’t label life but rather describes the connections and expresses an active way of being in the world. 

Tohi—one word tells the story about what is taking place within me as I wade, fly fish, and open myself to the beauty around me. It doesn’t take away the Mystery to use this word, rather it deepens the Mystery and draws me ever-closer to It.

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