Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shamanism and Western Living: Can they come together?

In the last month I’ve come across a few people who voiced out a concern toward bringing together Shamanism and Western living.  In two of the cases, the individuals believed that Shamanism was not something you could incorporate at work; or successfully bring home to the family.  Of course I disagree!! What was most surprising was to hear the statement from a student of Shamanism who has walked the path in her Western World, for close to a decade.  

When G and I started teaching the Medicine Wheel and Indigenous Dreaming 15+ years ago, we used to tell our students to “leave their Western thinking at the door.”  We had understood through our personal experience and initiations that it was difficult to receive the most out of these old traditions if we approached them with our Western programs and expectations.  Noted: Everyone filters what they learn and what they heal through their cultural, religious and social indoctrination. 

Yet, leaving what “we know” at the door isn’t as easy as it may sound.  Most of us don’t even realize that programs often dictate our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  If we don’t see it in action, we believe we are free thinkers.  It was the practice of soul retrieval that got me to understand that it would probably be more beneficial to ask our students to walk in with all of what they are; but with the intent to become aware of their programs.  Through exploring the notion of “personal Medicine Wheels” we were able to acknowledge that wounds, trauma, reactions as well as healing are interwoven with the notion of indoctrination.  You can’t separate Shamanism from Western living:  One evolved from the other. 

25+ years ago, when I chose to walk a shamanistic path, I was fresh out of University and felt like I didn’t quite fit in the Western World.  I wasn’t a scientist, an environmental engineer or even a schoolteacher like many of my friends.  I didn’t feel called as a member of the youth of the ‘80’s (the future politicians and entrepreneurs etc…) to predict the future and attempt to change it.  I was more interested in finding a space to explore all of me, not just what my parents and society approved of.  I felt like there was more to the World than what we perceived it to be through programs, expectations and youthful immaturity.  I wanted experience and growth. 

I wanted to step out of boxes: Mine, and those imposed on me. 

When you begin to explore ancestral stories (what people call past lives), you learn that many of us have collected lifetimes of programs and expectations. They could be our own (belief of reincarnation) or they could be burdens of sorts handed down to us by our ancestors.  DNA also shows us that we are connected to the human specie and that it is hence, possible to be in tune with the stories of others past, present and future through biology.

In fact on a daily basis we trigger countless memories and find ourselves reliving emotions, thoughts, fears and anxiety that could be judged as irrelevant to the Western person that we have come to believe “we are.”  Yet, in Shamanism, nothing is irrelevant.  The notion of “soul retrieval” explores the concept of wholeness by bringing to consciousness every little detail; which creates our personal story, and finding a way to integrate them so that closure and resolution can be reached.

Shamanism made sense to me because it considered nature (my natural, cosmic and human environment) and the stars.  Where the Church often talked about “Heaven and Earth;” Shamanism empirically considered them as daily influences in human life.  Whether you are at work, at home with the kids, or on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend there’s always natural and cosmological influences at play.  It is impossible for anyone (knowledgeable or not of Shamanism) to separate Shamanism from their daily living. 

In the last decade of teaching Shamanism, the Medicine Wheel and Indigenous Dreaming I’ve noticed more resistance and intolerance to these ancient traditions than ever before.  I have some theories…. Returning to Shamanism in many cases implies having to face the denial and resistance from many of the characters we’ve accumulated to our story (our mates, our family members, friends etc…) through time.  It means doing the work and retrieving those parts of us that have been lost.  It also means facing programs and changing them.   In most cases, it seems simpler to continue living life as Westerners than to incorporate Shamanism to it.

For me it was clear from the start, I wanted to step away from inconsistencies and Shamanism offered me the opportunity to do so.  What was also important to me was the notion of “walking my talk”.  It seemed I spent too much time suffocating under the idea of having to fit and having to please others.  I felt like I was loosing my way just by following …  Shamanism gave me access to the Medicine Wheel; which in turn allowed me to adopt functional, sacred and healthy attitudes and behaviours.  I found that these attitudes brought clarity, consciousness and wisdom to my life. 

I consider myself more “shamanistic” than “western” these days because Shamanism permeates all of what I am and do.  Yet, I still have to be in Western circles and cross the path of Westerners who have no idea of my shamanistic ways.  I don’t find that it demands a shift from me.  I am who I am in all circles. 

To those who find that they can’t bring Shamanism and their Western reality together, I would suggest that they revisit the topic….    In most cases it’s about indoctrination and how it serve you…. Or not!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Geo Dreaming

I recently visited Vancouver, BC.  On several occasions  during my trip we came across Totem Poles.  I loved the idea of Geo Dreaming behind the idea of carving a pole.  Since then, it's been a theme in my life.  


Today, I spent the afternoon in Montreal, Quebec (my home town).  G was looking for shoes and I was the reluctant tag-along.  Anyone who has been to Montreal knows how busy it can get especially during the week.  Traffic is a constant in the city and if you’re trying to find parking, you better be prepared for a few annoying spins around a maze of one ways.  Some of us who believe in Spirit usually do a few prayers before leaving home.  Quick parking is usually a confirmation that Spirit is on our side… L

G and I usually park near the Cathedral Marie Reine du Monde when we want to go walking in centre town.  It’s a bit of a stroll to reach Ste-Catherine Street, the main shopping strip; but the “Sacred Site vibe” I’ve always gotten from the Cathedral and its surrounding areas is well worth it. 

In Shamanism, a Sacred Site is often another word for a cemetery.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to pin point a burial ground just by the impressions I can pick up from the land.  Of course, unless there’s a few tomb stones to validate the actual existence of a cemetery, it’s more a hunch than anything else.  It’s not like I can start digging and prove my case…

I’ve been visiting the Cathedral Marie Reine du Monde ever since I was a child.  My grandparents were actually married there some time in the 1920’s.  It was during my adolescence that I started having phenomenal experiences in and around this Cathedral.  Ghosts seemed more abundant there in comparison to other historical and touristic sites.  Even after doing some research, I couldn’t find too many reasons why this area felt more to me like a cemetery.

Today, we couldn’t park the car near the Cathedral because of construction.   Just as we rounded the corner of the Place du Canada where much of the re-vamping was occurring, we noticed a large banner showing archaeological photos of remains recently discovered under the plaza of the Place du Canada where millions of people cross every year.  It seems there was an old cemetery exactly where I felt it…

 “I knew it!” I jumped up.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be validated. 

For G and I, this kind of incident is what we call “Geo Dreaming.”  We’ve noticed through the last 15 years of exploring different cities in different countries, that “geology” tells a story.  It’s almost as if the land remembers the wars, the love affairs, the droughts and the great empires; or maybe it inspires them…

While visiting with traditional Wabanaki elders in Northern N.B. almost a decade ago, it was fascinating to hear all kinds of stories where rivers, mountains and valleys were personified with emotions and the ability to affect people.  Some rivers were said to be angry enough to kill.   In Hawaii, Pele is not only a Volcano but the Goddess of Fire: Passionate, volatile and capricious. 

Australian Aboriginals believe that landscape holds and shares dreams.  Anyone who has travelled has certainly noticed that every city, village or mountaintop holds a particular impression:  A signature of sorts.  If you are sensitive to the land; which most of us are because we are connected to it and because we are related to our ancestors who are buried underneath it – we can pick up on the stories and memories etched within the rock.    

Just as we passed the Cathedral, G brought back a story; which occurred in winter of 2006.  I woke up from a dream that morning where EC, a Passamaquoddy deceased friend and teacher, asked me to go to the Cathedral of Marie Reine du Monde for 11:00 am.  I remember sitting in the Church with no real idea of what to do next.  Suddenly my cell phone rang and I had to step out to take the call.  When I returned my winter gloves had been stolen. 

I was pissed off! 

I couldn’t believe that I’d get robbed in a Church.  There were a few homeless people roaming the aisles that day trying to stay warm.   Since I wasn’t there to witness the robbery I couldn’t accuse anyone.  Plus, I figured these people needed the gloves more so than I.  I gave a gratitude prayer for the abundance and beauty Spirit has granted to my life – and left wondering why EC had sent me there for something seemingly insignificant. 

Today as I read the story behind the cemetery I understood that even in the 1800’s the Cathedral of Marie Reine du Monde attracted countless people dealing with hardships.  Built near the Port of Montreal, the Catholic Church received many immigrants who were leaving famine, illness, and poverty for a new World and a hopeful future.  This Cathedral contributed in helping many Catholic families settle in.  A good amount of the remains found on site were relocated to the Côte des Neiges cemetery and belonged to victims of an outbreak of cholera in the mid-1800’s. 

It’s amazing how we can humanely alter the land we live on but we can’t erase the memories of the past.  Our ancestors ironically left behind a legacy; which ‘til this day still unconsciously affects us.  Our dreams, our thoughts, our emotions are bombarded by memories on a daily basis; sometimes we are the solution or the resolution to old stories and other times, we carry the burden of the land.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Trip out West.

The West of the Medicine Wheel is where we find the Sun setting.  Here we explore our mortality, we let go, we fall into somber and dream. 

I just returned from Vancouver, B.C.  I travelled out West to visit with my in-laws who retired in Port-Albernie a little over fifteen years ago.  I was also invited to give an introductory Conference, in Vancouver to promote our up coming workshop on Indigenous Dreaming, in October.  A few of our friends moved to B.C. in the last twenty years and we looked forward to connecting with them again.  Finally, I hadn’t been in Vancouver since 1986 (Expo) and looked forward to a 2nd visit.   

With four different reasons to head out towards the West -- I can't say I'm at all surprised to have anchored into a journey; which quite remarkably revealed the West of my personal Wheel and it's collective connections.  It will take more then one blog entry to go through all of what I've learnt and healed through this latest trip.


My husband and I decided to rent a car so that we could freely travel the region.  In 1986 we drove through the Island and the Vancouver area; and loved the scenery:  The mountains, the open sea, the numerous creeks and amazing century old trees.  It was because of our trip to B.C. 28 years ago that we decided to get married.  

Bliss inspired us! 
It just seemed befitting to return out west, for our 26th wedding anniversary.

Honestly, I was quite disappointed to find a city of skyscrapers the size of New York or Montreal.  Twenty eight years ago, there were laws in place, which prohibited the construction of buildings over 8 to 12 storeys high. 

I guess the economy won over the environment!

I couldn’t believe how much had changed in 28 years.  The buildings hide the mountains and you had to drive to the shore to see the ocean.  Once on the coast, huge tankers or cruise ships crowded the waterways.  Nature no longer dominated the view.   

On our way back from Nanaimo at the end of the week, we met up with some friends for some fish and chips in the town of Horseshoe Bay.  PU a friend of ours who lives in BC recently returned to India to care for his father.  As he talked about his trip to Bombay, I recognized some of my own observations of Vancouver and other cities around the World.  It isn’t any different in Montreal.  The cities overpower the landscape.  These days, it seems that no matter where we go on the Planet, humans and their obsession with economy (money) changes and fills the space. 

Think about it if Indigenous Dreaming is about how natural / cosmological realities impact Creation Time / or the Dream Time; what could it mean if the dreaming was suddenly overpowered by human waste (programs, materialism / economy etc…)? In an earlier blog entry while I was traveling through Banff, I spoke how the trees were infected and dry.  The floods, the tornadoes, the forest fires have drastically increased in the last few years.  Animals are disappearing and even though a huge amount of the population prefers to stay in denial, we are marching towards a reality that is affected by humanity rather than nature. 

When dreaming “the land” we often come across very particular traits, which belong to the territory.  Often people who live in the region will unconsciously mimic these traits. Where you may find the “surfer dude” in California, we noticed the “hippie” still well and alive in Vancouver.  KD who has been in Vancouver for close to 20 years describes the people (herself included) as having “a sense of flightiness, flakiness, lack of commitment, transient, difficulty forming solid friendships or relationship (if you are not immediately in front of people they seem to forget you exist), a general lack of ability to connect (no eye contact).  It seems people have a really hard time making decisions and committing to things until the last minute.

I noticed as soon as I arrived in Vancouver that I felt more anxious.  LB and KD both expressed that they struggled with anxiety (especially in the last 2 to 3 years) and couldn’t quite explain why.  After a while the excuse that “we’re more stressed these days because of work” doesn’t quite answer the question…  I know for a fact that I’m hypersensitive to my environment and because I’m a traditional Dreamer – “I dream the land”.   In most areas with a great concentration of population the anxiety level seems to increase.  It doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m doing or how I’m doing it – most times it’s just about “collective emotions and reactions.”  Of course if I allow myself to mimic the anxiety, it gets worst.

KD said:  “I also experience what I could call surges, and depressions or falls.  For a few days I’ll feel anxiety, they I’ll fall into a really low mood, then will get bursts of high energy that will last a few days.  Overall my energy levels and moods are not consistent. “

It took leaving the city for a few days to uncover some kind of “energetic blockage” in the centre of town. In my dream it felt like energy was being vacuumed out of the Earth and then, released in surges.  I was able to draw small scribbles on a map after dreaming a few days on it.  Once I returned and showed the map to KD and EA, we discovered together that in this particular part of town, there were 40 to 50 salmon streams, which were buried over by construction.   It doesn’t help, that such thing as “fracking” for natural gas and drilling for oil continues in Northern BC.  It simply shows that we’ll stop at nothing to “rape our planet” for our economic growth. 

It’s incredible how nature, cosmology and humanity can affect the dreaming.  In return the dreaming communicates to us how it feels about these impacts in hope that we can bring forth changes.  Unfortunately, we’ve stopped observing the Way of the Sacred Circle almost 100 years ago and because of it, we’ve stopped receiving messages from the Dream Time.  The Mayans expressed through the building of their Temples that natural, cosmological and human reality had an affect on Life every 52 years.  In 2012, this reality came to a close as the Mayans had predicted.  Instead, it now takes half that time (25 years) for changes to occur.  Who would have guessed that by ignoring circular living we’d have such a detrimental affect on Creation Time?

It seems so obvious to me that if we wanted to reverse the affects all we’d need to do is to return to circular thinking.  Have we gone too far?  Are we no longer capable of returning to this way of life? 

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!