Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Not Dead Yet!

The title came to me when talking to Lisa about a dream of me working with Elders. I'm not shy to say that I am 63 years old this year. The past decade has been one of adapting to aging in a society which worships youth. We've come a far cry from our Ancestors who respected and honoured their Elders for their wisdom and experience. Today we hide our Elders away in old folks homes as if it is a crime or shameful to grow old. They are often seen as a burden to society. Then we spend a fortune on wrinkle cream, hair dyes, hair transplants, botox injections, plastic surgery, etc.... to ward off the inevitable with every ounce of our being. It gets a little tiring after awhile to fight against nature. 

What is the value of Seniors in today's world? It's true that Elders today can't guide the youth when it comes to technology. Maybe  age is more of a curse than a blessing in our modern world. But there is more to life than computers, iPhones and video games. 

My parents lived through WWII, the great Depression and the invention of phones, cars, TV and computers. They watched the first man step on the Moon. 

I remember when the air and water were clear and clean and when we weren't concerned about global warming or extinction of hundreds of species of animals, not to mention the human species and the planet herself. I remember when we got our first TV, it was in black and white. Phones were black too and you had to turn the dial on them. None of this digital business back then. I didn't have a computer until the year 2000, never saw a need for one until Lisa invited me to her on-line community. 

I may not be technically adept, but I have lots of life experience. I have grown and healed a lot. I have come a long ways from the small town prairie girl who lived far north isolated from the outside world. 

And I still have a lot more living and learning to do. 

I am reading a book by Ruth Montgomery called "A World Beyond".  In it she is receiving messages from beyond the grave, from the famous medium Arthur Ford, who died in 1971. He talks about the transition we go through after we die. He also speaks about how we are here to learn and advance in consciousness.  It is making me think about some things. 

Have I done everything I came here to do? If I am still here, there must be more to accomplish, learn and heal.  Am I ready to die at any given moment? What do I expect to experience after I leave this earthly body? Am I ready to face the unknown.... To stand before my Creator with "open hands and straight eyes... without shame" as the Native prayer says. 

Fortunately, I have been given a few glimpses of the afterlife and can honestly say that I am looking forward to it. It is living that I find hard. As I age and the world around me continues to race towards mass destruction, I wonder what is the use of being here and not being able to make a difference. 

But then I know that if I am walking my path the best I can, doing what I am called to do, I am making a difference in my small part of the world, to my own evolution and perhaps touching something in those around me. 

Creator is not letting me leave yet, and as long as I live and breath, I have work to do. 

I have created a page on Facebook titled "I'm not Dead Yet", in honour of those who are 45+, to have a place to share and discuss issues, triumphs and challenges of aging, death and dying, as well as the afterlife. All perspectives are welcome, and we will be sharing our viewpoints of  these topics from a Natural and Cosmological viewpoint. 

If you are forty-five or older and are interested in joining, just go to Facebook and request an invitation to the page. Let's talk about life and death and all that we are living as we grow older. 

 This tree is 300 years old. 
Imagine if we could hear what it had to say. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Garden of Eden.

I apologize for not writing more this summer, and I truly appreciate how so many have you have taken this opportunity to catch up on old blog entries…  

It’s been a strange summer.  It started slow and by the time it reached “strawberry season” (end of June for us on the South Shore of Montreal) we weren’t quite convinced it was ever going to get hot.  I was lucky enough to leave for Calgary, Alberta in early July, for a workshop where I appreciated 30 degrees Celsius weather and pure sunshine for twelve days straight. 

In the last twelve years I’ve been lucky enough to visit Banff National Park at least eight times.  It’s amazing how much things can change in a decade.  On this latest trip I was sadden by the condition of many of the conifers.  Lots of them were dead, blacken by wind and swinging dryly through live trees like zombies lost in a crowd.  It truly gave me an eerie feeling and certainly explained why forest fires were blazing up in the Northern Territories and through Alberta. 

What impressed me the most was how the smoke from distant fires was covering the Rocky Mountains to the point where we could barely see them.  I was also totally shocked with how little snow covered the peaks.  Just a decade ago, the mountains were still beautifully white.  This was not the case this time…  I was quite surprised at how much the smoke affected us.  We were all struggling with breathing:  Our nostrils and throats were burning as if we were inhaling the fire itself.  From a shamanistic point of view this trip certainly shifted a few of my perspectives on fire and smoke (two important elements in Shamanism and traditionalism). 

The Medicine Wheel teaches us that FIRE is life:  It fuels needs, intentions, desires, prayers, and it is absolutely crucial to our survival.  In the NE of the Wheel where all things are born, Fire leads the way, keeps us warm, and keeps us safe.  As a First Nation traditionalist Fire is important to all of our ceremonies whether we are looking at the Sweat Lodge, the Sun Dance, the Pipe or even in the celebration of the Medicine Wheel.  We believe that the smoke of our Sacred Fires brings forth our prayers to Creator. 

On this trip, Fire seemed to want us to notice its power / medicine:  How it could strike anywhere, destroy huge sections of forestry, and threaten our survival.  Honestly, I wondered if we even existed in “its” reality.  Fire wasn’t only about triggering and feeding life (East); but also about accepting death and letting go of the earthly shell (North).   It was about releasing us from the body and giving us access to the Spirit realm.

Since I had just finished a Moonlodge Workshop where I had guided 24 women to contemplate the fact that their feminine body was created in the image of the Earth (Goddess): All hills and valleys, curves and forms  --- I saw the last week in Banff as a kind of confirmation.  It just seemed befitting that I was there, in the midst of it all:  Blaring heat, burning trees and smoking landscape.  It certainly captured many of the stories we had shared all week through.

·      How we struggle with shame.
·      Hide who we are.
·      Feel burnt by life and responsibilities.
·      Looking for ways to be Goddess:  Stronger, better, happy!

Synchronically, we started the workshop with a Fire and Water smudge.  It was actually quite beautiful.  AMF, our initiated Fire Keeper, along with LP guided the prayer outdoors on the patio overlooking the mountains, while I offered purification through water around the Wheel.  On a few occasions during our time together, the women felt called to connect to water, earth and fire.  We were hoping for “as little wind as possible” considering the crisis …

It was wonderful to mirror nature and the stars through simple rituals.  It certainly brought us together not as humans who often lose their way; but as women seeking out the Goddess within and the Goddess way.  With the help of the story of Adam and Eve, I showed the women the difference between “myth” and “indoctrination.”  Who would have guessed that in the end :  “All of us were quite keen in eating the apple…” 

Who knows it may have been a forest fire that drove all the animals, Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden?  Whatever it was, I believe we were all ready for it.   We need to remind each other that we are Keepers of this Earth; and that we are all here together, might as well join hands and make it work!

It seems strange to say: “… but it seemed like I was noticing for the first time how life and death knotted together in the NE exactly where fire resides on the Wheel.” Suddenly, it wasn’t so much about my prayers traveling up to Spirit; but about ME soaring to heights unheard and unimagined.  Goddess work! It seemed so clear that by doing “my work” (my healing and learning) I was contributing to my soul taking its final journey to the Stars.

A few people teased me during the trip, suggesting that I “dance for rain.”  It seems it’s a stereotypical behaviour for a Shaman (I’m told).  Little do they know that such rituals actually do work!  Nevertheless, it didn’t seem time yet, to suffocate the smoke and get rid of this natural element that can inspire life through death.   I felt it was more important to be attentive.

On a few isolated moments, I snuck out on my own to connect to nature.  It wasn’t surprising to hear a few tourists complaining how they could barely see anything and how disappointed it was.  Strangely enough every time I went out, the most beautiful natural scenes appeared:  The kind you would never see without forest fires. 

One evening, the sun was blaring red and setting over the mountains while smoky mist travelled through the trees.   It felt like a veil was lifting and ghosts were stepping out of the in-between. 

“Ashes-to-ashes,” the smoke whispered to me as I smudged with water and sacred herbs; keeping my eye on the path that would soon be filled with lots of hikers. It seemed time to let go of anything and everything useless; let go of old ways and old skins; and surrender: Purify.

If anything I came home appreciating the beauty of Quebec:  The lush trees and the greenery.  I stepped off the plane ready for change, ready for wings, and ready for the next trip out of Eden...

P.S.  Please, I’d love to hear from those who shared the Moonlodge Workshop.  Add your story to the blog and complete what was left between the lines.  HAU!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Love: One of the Twelve Elements on the Medicine Wheel.

Growth, Trust and Love.Southern Elements of the Medicine Wheel. 

When I first started studying the Medicine Wheel close to 30 years ago, I was surprised to find “love” as one of the twelve elements. 

It seemed so much unlike
  • ·       Clarity, knowledge, and illumination (east).
  • ·       Growth and trust (south).
  • ·       Experience, introspection and strength (west).
  • ·       Renewal, purification and wisdom (north).

Where most people refer to love as an emotion, something that we should feel for our family members and closest friends; the Medicine Wheel speaks of it as a kaleidoscope of sensations:  Something we feel by being an integrated part of a whole.  As Westerners we believe that all emotions stem from our individual thoughts and perspectives.  We see the World around us as if we are looking through a telescope:  Our eye on a dot in the horizon.  The Sacred Circle tradition in comparison shows us how to see a whole tapestry by surrendering to the experience of being one of its countless threads. 

At 16 years old, my father gifted me six tickets to a Kenny Rogers country music concert. I hand picked a few friends and we travelled to Montreal on our own.  I remember exactly how I felt:  Independent, excited and powerful!  All evening I kept telling myself “to remember” this moment / this dream because soon I would wake up from it.  The next morning I wrote in my journal: “It was amazing how the crowd’s excitement enhanced my appetite for Kenny Rogers.  I couldn’t wait to buy every single one of his records.  The pleasure was hard to contain and for at least a few hours it felt like I was madly in love especially when he looked straight at me. This morning I’m strangely enough back to myself with a case of the butterflies every time I let my thoughts journey back to the memory.”

In College and University I learnt through philosophy, religion, and literature (French and English) that as Westerners we are programmed by ancient cultures and their notion of love.  For example, born Roman Catholic and educated at the convent for twelve years of my life, I understood love as something so much bigger than me: The size of God.  When I started questioning love and exploring it I quickly became disappointed because so much of it was unoriginal and based on perspectives, which were no longer practical or valid in modern times.  “Loving the mind, the heart, and the soul” for example, which at the time was the motto for the emerging New Age was actually a Greek philosophy tactfully repackaged.  With the exile of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 2001, Buddhism gently appeared in North America and gently impacted our society by delivering the message that love was compassion and enlightenment. It seemed we understood love according to what others felt or figured out…

It wasn’t surprising then, that in my own life as a newly married woman with two toddler children, love seemed removed from my experience.   I don’t remember ever candidly talking about love with my friends and family.  It was just assumed that love existed and that it was the reason why we gathered together as loved ones.  In school it was all about social, cultural and religious programming but in my life it seemed to be basic, necessary and in so many ways lacking.

Only once I started journeying with the Medicine Wheel did I begin to pin point exactly when I felt “love,” and it wasn’t very complicated. For as long as I can remember I always knew that “I should love others as I love myself;” yet, in time I also learnt that “it’s through the experience of loving others that I grew into loving myself.”  Love is a perfect circle and it’s the reason why it exists on the Medicine Wheel.

One day, I sat down in our backyard and watched the Red Wing Blackbirds build their nests and I felt curiosity, attraction, fascination, desire, pleasure and respect:  All different threads within the love tapestry.

I walked into the house happy! 

My husband who was watching me, asked: “What were you doing?”
I replied: “Learning to love.”

Love is also an important part of mythology.  All ancient people told stories about love:  About how it can be the greatest of virtues, a most appealing ideal, as well as a gateway into the worst of whom we are.  If we overindulge in love we can be incredibly destructive.  Too many people tip the scale from love to jealousy, paranoia, mistrust, competition and revenge. Too much dysfunctional love can make people kill.  Even historical stories show us that in many cases it is the “love of God” that led the bloodiest conquests.  Love in the hands of humans seems almost dangerous. 

The Medicine Wheel teachings show us that we are inspired to love.  With the help of the Fire Keeper Wind in the NE, Life’s first breath, we learn to understand that need, desire, lust, expectation --- FIRE --- inspires us to love.  It’s a biological drive, which brings us to develop attachments and a survival instinct.  Love gives life meaning and purpose.  In scientific experiments it was proven that love had an impact on our physiology.  Love can heal and love can make miracles.

Erich Fromm in his book The Art of Loving says that “Love is not merely a feeling but it is also actions”.   

The Wheel shows us that every element although stationary in each direction moves through the Wheel and around it.  Clarity is not merely in the east at the start of every project or every vision, it is also in the West when it is time to let go or die, and in the North as we look back and renew.  The same applies with love.  It exists in each direction but makes its home in the south where we sit as we build our wheel / our personal story and look up towards wisdom.  Each element demands commitment:  Actions. 

Just recently I asked a young 15 year-old girl: “What is it that you like about that boy you are seeing?”

She replied: “I like the way he makes me feel.  The way he is with me.  The way he talks to me.  The way he looks at me.” 

Love is a moment of presence when someone or something stops to notice us.  Suddenly we are understood and recognized.  Love is a conscious commitment to others and the World around us.  It permeates all that we are from thoughts, to feelings, to behaviors, to attitudes and most of all to actions.  It is unconditional.  We can’t control it.  Love appears unexpectedly and reveals the deepest secrets. Love along with every other element on the Wheel is divine and exposes mystery.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Totems and Relationships

I get a lot of questions about totems from individuals who struggle in their relationships. It makes sense since the word itself "totem" implies "relations." There are no better teachers than animals, plants and stones when it comes to understanding "how to live together." Just a few weeks ago my husband and I took a weekend trip to the country. On the way there we noticed a few areas where there had been rockslides. As we drove around the stones we were pretty amazed at the size of them. Both my husband and I pulled different lessons and wisdom from the incident.

He said: "I wouldn't want to be in the way when one of those cliffs let's go of something major." 

It brought us to discuss the relationships of a few couples in our lives. The kind of individuals who need to constantly vent about their mates but don't have the courage to be forward and clear with them. They often argue and put a damper on those evenings we were all looking forward to enjoy. 

ET asked: "What are you supposed to do stay clear of them?"

It just seemed to me that it was exactly what the rockslide was advising. From my side I was more impressed with the beauty and precision of the crack. All through their youth, I've been watching my kids move through several relationships. It's the age where we learn about "relations": What it takes to make them work. 

What always impresses me is how the Universe triggers the end so to speak and makes it crystal clear. It takes listening to the facts and accepting to move on. All relationships bring us to grow but the lasting relations are about growing together.

As a child I always said that I was a wolf growing in a family of cats. My father and mother were so much like Lions. My mother took care of us kids and worked full time, my father was a traveling salesman and showed up every now and again. My brother was actually born in July and he certainly carried the Leo personae stereotypically. And then there was my sister the cub who often behaved like a stray cat. Honestly, I found it difficult to grasp the feline mentality. As a Wolf I seemed to respond to a completely different set of rules.

Unfortunately, I left home at the age of nineteen years old after a catfight with my mother. Looking back I wish we could have agreed to disagree rather than constantly fight for territory. Still, I admired the strength and endurance my family possessed literally in every scenario. They taught me to be stubborn, strong and independent. My Wolf learnt to lead and to grow into an Alpha from a household of felines.

Cats are resilient and perseverant. When they are not happy they make you feel it. They are solitary creatures. As I was growing up it often felt like it was always about them: Their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their due. And it was! Cats often give you the sense that they are entitled to pretty much everything. Looking back at my mother's story as well as my sister's it seemed they often walked around the element of Love. I learnt really early in life that stray cats have torturous, hard lives; while those felines that get adopted into good homes where they are loved unconditionally usually grow into affectionate pets who know how to give back.

I taught my Beagles to track cats, squirrels, rabbits, mice and chipmunks. They were pups when they learnt not to hunt skunks, they always seem to leave you smelling horrible for months. All I have to do is say the words and they'll literally go on alert and start searching. They never fail, if you want them to find a cat it's exactly what they'll do. If you say "skunk" they'll shake their heads and sneeze. I find it incredible that they can tell the difference between one animal and another with just their sense of smell. I certainly taught me to develop my senses and be better skilled at identifying these different totems in the crowd of people around me. 
 It's through working with our totems that we learn more about ourselves, and others. 

When I met my husband I knew that we shared traits in common. We both excelled through team work; knowing when to jump in and surrender. We had predator perspectives; enjoying the hunt / journey above and beyond the outcome. We never stopped until we got the tasks, chores or projects done. We were always practical, loyal and committed individuals. We believed in being attentive to our environment.  It wasn't just about us. Nevertheless, I saw right away from the beginning that I needed pack members and possessed the skills to find them and bring them together. He could work with whatever he got...  At work he excels with people in general.  I need individuals who share a common perspective.

It took a trip out west in 1986 to discover that my husband was not a Wolf but an Orca. He became totally fascinated with these whales especially after witnessing a pod of them during a boat excursion. They scared me; but with him it was like finding home. The exact feeling I had with Wolves. It was then that we started pointing out the similarities between the Killer Whale and the White Wolf. We learnt that these whales were actually referred to as the Wolves of the Sea. Interestingly enough learning about these creatures showed us why "we work" and "why sometimes we need to shift perspective to work."

From birth we knew the totems of our children. It's not always the case especially in families, which have lost touch with nature and totems (the fact that they are related to all things). Our son is Wolf like me, and our daughter is a Bear. It was interesting at first to watch our children interact. It often did look like a Bear swiping at a barking, growling Wolf. By being aware of these animals and loving their individual totems, both our kids developed into the strength and beauty of these creatures and learnt to share the forest. Today they co-exist wonderfully.

It doesn't surprise me that having babies is more important to my daughter, while the band and the guys (musicians) are a must to my son. We embody the characteristics and sometimes should even follow the diet of our totems to actually feel balanced. It's quite impressive the way totems affect relationships people-to-people level and relationships at the Me/Myself level. 

At the beginning of the blog entry I spoke of plants, animals and stones to show that totems reach beyond the animal kingdom. I've always loved trees. Several years ago I decided to take my students out on a field trip. I wanted them to have the experience of trees. To dream their stories. It was interesting how some people related to some trees and not others. After a bit of research many of them came back acknowledging that the trees they had connected to represented them and their attitudes as well as issues. 

I've always loved red Maple trees. As soon as I planted a few I discovered that they had a slow growth. Yet, once they reach 25 years and over they strive and get noticed. So much about their story resembles my own. No doubt my parents were conifers. They often pointed out as we were growing up how much they loved Pine trees. We never had a home without the presence of a Pine tree. 

As I was discovering my tree totems I discovered I was Pine at the soul level. Suddenly a few of the puzzle pieces fell together. I understood better some of my life scenarios as well as the roles my family members played in my growth development. Today, I teach this aspect of the Medicine Wheel and try to explain to people that it's not about giving reason to the negative in our lives but also perceiving the positive; building on goodness...

There are countless ways to explore relations and each exploration brings forth the mystery, magic, and of course challenges, which exist between people / or fragments. MR and I for example (authors of this blog) connected at the Butterfly level. The fact that we were both born on the same day (June 16th) and are Gemini, allowed us to confirm that we are together to explore "the air element." We always manage to deeply connect at the intellectual / psyche level. It made sense that we would become both teachers of the Medicine Wheel, writers and lecturers. Friends, sisters, family seems to be the way of this insect.

I recommend that you all start looking at your relationships as well as your environment as a constant totemic discussion. This way you'll learn so much about yourself, your family and community as well as your World.