Monday, May 30, 2011
A Lesson in Ego
Don’t ask me why? LOL
Recently I asked myself the question why is it so difficult to be content? And why are we always looking for something new to experience? Why is it necessary to always be useful?
Lately, I notice how grateful each member of our family has been through the last decade because we’ve experienced together a lot of great adventures. My daughter was mentioning to a friend this weekend how “we’re” kind of like ghost busters. I couldn’t help but laugh at the words she used and how she attempted to make something, which sounds “crazy” to most people an event that is extraordinary and somewhat normal. KT told a story, which occurred almost 8 years ago when we traveled to N.B. to help a group of people who were determined to find the body of a young man who had drowned in the St-John river.
The story was unfortunately a familiar one especially for young people on reserves. Two intoxicated young men were returning home after a night of partying. The police called out to them and instead of waiting, they ran. While they tried to cross a small bay stretching to a sandy beach and leading to a small residential area they misjudged the currents and the tree roots. One of the young men made it to safety while the other one drowned. As specialists with the dead, we were called in once everyone knew there was a dead body to be found.
I remember sitting in one of the canoes that day, gliding over the water and watching people sink long bamboo sticks in the water as they searched for the body and telling myself “who would have guessed that I would be living this story right now?” All eyes seemed to be on me. I could tell lots of people were sceptical while others had huge expectations. They wanted me to come in and point the finger at where the body was hiding. Just like that!
If only it was that easy…
It took a while before I could eliminate everyone’s thoughts and expectations from my mind. I think it was the first time that I felt “performance anxiety.” I kept closing my eyes to still my heart beat. BP the First Nation man who had called us in kept telling everyone to let me pray.
“Give her space,” he repeated “and let her do her thing.”
I remember centering myself on his comment as if I needed some way to let go of everyone’s ego. We often define ego as that part of us that is arrogant and has a superior complex; that part of us that wants, expects, and thinks it knows it all; but the Sacred Circle teaches us that ego is actually a third of our soul, and ensures our survival. It gets us to where we have to be! People are often surprised to hear that with some discipline our ego can be our most important ally. It’s sad to say but we are actually conditioned to too quickly get rid of what doesn’t fit within our range of expectation when in truth if we were born with it: It’s because it’s important to our path and purpose. The question is how does “expectation and destination” come together?
That afternoon it took me over half an hour to detach myself from everyone’s dysfunctional ego and remember that my own was no longer an enemy. It was like an inner tug of aware. It got so intense at some point that I remember telling GP that I couldn’t do anything for these people and I wanted to go home. He looked at me without any judgment and nodded. It’s as if he was saying: “We’ll do whatever you say.” He’s the one who told BP that “we had done all we could for the day.” BP didn’t pressure neither one of us, he just paddled the canoe towards the shore. I had let go at that point and was simply looking forward to going home. It was then that we noticed an intoxicated middle age woman on a rocky cliff near the bay. She was screaming at us; crying insults at me. Two other individuals were pulling her back and attempting to convince her to go home. BP explained that this lady was the mother and she had been out of control since her son had passed. She was full of hatred and resentment; and grieving.
Time seemed to stand still at that moment. The woman’s screaming seemed to bring up the waves from the river. Just half an hour earlier the bay at been completely still. I whispered to GP and BP that the spirit of the river was happy with the woman’s misery. BP stopped paddling and listened. The wind grew more fierce. The fire, which burnt on the beach started to crackle. There was no mistaken the Spirit of the River was angry. It too like the woman expressed hatred, resentment and sorrow. There was no doubt for me that the river purposely kept the body hidden from us.
“Why?” BP asked as he docked the canoe.
I asked if the area was polluted?
“What rivers aren’t these days?” he replied.
“It isn’t so much about the material pollution as it is about the partying going on --- on this shore,” I explained.
“The Spirit of the River seems angry towards the people who come here and towards what they do here. It seems to be concerned about spiritual pollution,” I said knowing that what I was feeling from the river seemed so much stronger.
And so I tried again and said: “It’s as if the river expects people to be more aware of the full circle of life.”
Once we reached the fire, the sun was beginning to set. The wind was raging and the air had gotten much cooler. There was an old man there who I’m told had never left the beach since the start of the ordeal. He had made a fire every day with the intention to keep the rescuers warm. He’s the one who asked: “Now what?”
I remember giving him a sacred bundle and holding his hand for a while.
I replied: “You’ll find the body. The Spirit of the River promises to deliver the body as soon as someone shows sign of spiritual growth.”
BP wanted to tell everyone about what I had been said but I made him promise to keep it quiet because the river would perceive it as cheating.
“It has to come on its own,” I explained “naturally and in sync with nature and the stars. I promise it won’t be long.”
BP, GP, two of our students and family members as well as G, the old man promised to keep it quiet and prayed for the body to be found quickly. Three days later as we finally made it back home to Montreal – we got the message that G, the old man had finally found the body. It was in plain view exactly where everyone gathered when they came to the beach. It was where we had been when we vowed to the river and to each other to follow the dreaming. It was a mystery to all of us that nobody had seen it before.
It took almost a year before BP found out through G that it was the action of a small group of young people that had convinced the river to let the young man go… The evening after our departure they had gathered on the beach and promised to walk a path of healing and learn more about the traditional ways. I learnt that an elder friend of mine from a neighbouring reserve was called in to do ceremony and teach the Wheel the following months after this incident. I got a note from the chief thanking me for my help and although I judged my actions as unbelievably simple and somewhat insignificant I was reminded by my family that “not too many people would have been able to walk away without proving in some shape or form that they had been behind finding the body.”
In my journal, I ended up writing in relation to this experience: “This was definitely a lesson in ego.” Interestingly enough as KT retold the story this weekend I wondered what she got out of it. As I sat there listening I was pretty impressed with how much she remembered from this story. She didn’t miss a single detail. I don’t know exactly what she expected as a response from her girl friend but what she got was: “It’s weird and scary. In my family we tend to talk to real people. You do know rivers don’t talk.”
KT smiled one of those sad smiles and said: “That’s what makes my family special.”
Then, just as I expected it the least she added: “Just keep it in mind when your time comes because who knows you may need me as a friend even after life.” We looked at each other, my daughter and I, and high five. Ego can be fun sometimes. ☺