My husband and I often shop in First Nation stores on and off reserves. We often find treasures usually hidden behind the counter or in the back room. In a store in Wendake we were told that certain moccasins, drums, pipes, medicine bags, dream catchers or jewellery are only bought by First Nation people while tourists always gravitate towards the fake stuff made in Indonesia. The man said that he could tell that I was knowledgeable in First Nation crafts, culture and tradition just by some of my comments and my questions. Plus, I had left on the counter a few items which were impressively all originals, made from local artists. I’ve noticed through my journey that there’s what the eye and mind expects as authentic and then, there’s the actual reality of authenticity. There’s no such thing as proof of authenticity no matter the laws we put into place or the little stub hanging from a piece of clothing or mattress. I have found that the best way to know what you’re getting is to be educated -- your own little expert on whatever topic you are seeking out: A rare diamond, a painting, a piece of furniture, a mechanical tool or even a SHAMAN!
Approximately 11 years ago, ET and I were roaming through a tourist shop in Montreal, which was owned by a Mohawk family. I’m sure I’ve told you this story before… I remember asking the sales lady if she had any traditional drums for sale and she got angry with me. She started giving me this speech about how First Nation people weren’t dancing around fires anymore.
“We’re modern people too,” she barked at me, “and believe it or not I’m Catholic just like you.”
Completely caught up in the situation I lashed back and replied: “I’M a traditionalist and I was really looking for a traditional drum” and walked away. We didn’t buy anything that day and we talked about the incident for years until I worked through every little detail and why it had bothered me so much. In the end I actually sympathized with the lady and understood her point of view. Often when we react we get obstinate about the notion of “being heard” rather than taking the time to realize that there’s always another perspective. Actually there’s 36 of them… It’s only after we’ve spun the Wheel that we can see what the dreaming is attempting to convey. In this case it was ironically obvious that both the lady and I were aiming for a better embodiment and a more accurate depiction of the First Nation image and identity. We were journeying towards the same center theme but from opposite angles.
I’ve seen countless times people argue on whether or not this or that Shaman is authentic. Sometimes I’ve even said: “You wouldn't know a Shaman if it hit you in the face.Is it anyone’s business who is Shaman and who isn’t?"
These are definitely repetitive questions when exploring shamanism.
Would you be OK if someone called themselves a lawyer, an engineer, or a medical physician after taking a free weekend class at the local community center? On the other hand do we need to regulate everything to be able to trust? I’ve had carpenters, contractors, plumbers, hairdressers, lawyers and doctors with their diploma and experience incapable if delivering what they were contracted to deliver. Still, I knew a handyman who was able to do it all include diagnose a rash as mushrooms (it wasn’t my rash by the way ). Personally, it always translates as observation, education and becoming knowledgeable about life or things in general.
Our ancestors used to sit and watch the birds, the porcupines, the deer, the caribou, the seasons, the trees etc…. They had knowledge of nature because they were part of it. They listened. I think that we could eliminate at least 50% of our problems if we learnt how to listen. Many years ago I gave a workshop on hypersensitivity and one of the participants, a young woman in her early thirties had the bad habit of always interrupting me in mid-sentence to share her story. She wanted to show everyone how her story was compatible with what I was saying. At some point, I stopped her and said: “You are not listening.” Upset with my statement she refused to ever share her story again. She understood my comment as meaning “she was talking too much.”
Listening is a process and a skill that needs practice. It’s true that at first when you learn to listen you need to be silent; but with time, you can become a great listener even when you’re talking. Recently I explained to IL in one of our weekly classes that “she has a tendency of interpreting what people are saying according to her own experience.”
“Listening” I told everyone “is about being present to the reality of others and to be able to see where they are coming from. It has nothing to do with our story, our experience, our opinions etc…. It’s all about them.”
You don’t have to understand or even make sense of what others are saying. It’s not about YOU or your life, it’s about theirs. There are all kinds of people. Some want all of the attention. They don’t even take the time to observe whether or not people are actually listening to them. They just keep talking no matter what; imposing their story on others. And then, there’s the individuals who are insecure and give only bits and pieces of the story because they don’t want to be judged or they want to be judged in a specific way. GP used to do that all the time and then, complain that people never understood him or his story, which inevitably would increase his fears and insecurities. People also have a tendency to look for compatibility. If someone is speaking about a topic that is unrelated to their experience they usually walk away or attempt to change the subject.
“I’m not an engineer,” said a lady at the bus stop “I don’t have to listen to the man. I don’t get what he’s trying to say. All I want is to be able to take my bus on time.”
Ironically if she would have listened to the engineer who was simply being nice by “telling her that the bus stop had been moved down two blocks because of a new construction” she would have reached her destination on time but because he introduced himself as the engineer of the project and told her a bit of what they were planning to do, she decided she didn’t need to listen anymore. I think we can all relate to these examples because we’ve all done this at some point or another. The Medicine Wheel teaches us that once we’ve spun a sacred circle we should stand in attitude and gratitude. Basically what this means is – once we’ve figured out what we do wrong we should find the courage and consciousness to change our attitudes and be thankful for the ability to choose, for free will and for the constant teachings given to us by the Universe and the Dream Time. Ignorance is at the basis of most of our human problems. Learning and healing is an important part of life. We should try to sit in stillness before reacting. We should work on being less susceptible to people’s words and actions. We shouldn’t be so touchy especially when criticism comes from people we trust and love. If we learnt to listen we would probably touch a potential of growth that is much greater than we can imagine.
My 2 cents on the matter.
P.S. 14 year old picture of me.