Dreaming: An Essential Skill

This article first appeared in the November 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

In “Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing,” I wrote a lot about my personal connection with my Dreamer. What follows is a sample from the book that is relevant to this article’s theme:

It was by practicing and studying shamanism that I learned to hear and identify the true voice of my own spirit, also called “Dreamer” or “Higher Self.” Through journeys, I met this luminous being and got to know her more intimately throughout the years. At first, I found it hard to believe that there was a part of me that could never be broken, hurt, screwed up, or depressed. I had the tendency to see her at first as something other than me–the way I saw Jesus or Mary as enlightened prophets. Her benevolence, beauty, and compassion bowled me over time and time again. You see, shamanic cultures have always known that there is a part of our beings that is pure spirit and they trained people to tap into the wisdom of the dreamer within. Our Dreamers know what our life purpose is in this lifetime and are the only ones who can guide us perfectly on our journey in order to accomplish our purpose.

At first, I had a lot of resistance to the idea that there is a part of me who absolutely knows what I am meant to be doing, how to do it, and how to accomplish it. I would follow my ego’s idea of what I should be doing and totally neglect to consult with my Dreamer to see if this plan of mine was even worthwhile. I learned the hard way that refusing to go in the direction that my Dreamer was sending me in was counterproductive and often painful. When I didn’t listen, I had a lot of messes to clean up in my life that took energy away from living my dreams.

Winnie the Pooh famously said: “Doing nothing leads to doing something.” Contrary to what most people believe, dreaming is not an idle activity. Whether we realize it or not, we are living in a spiritual soup of energy containing many layers of experience and knowing that we can access if we are able to quiet our inner worlds to listen. Dreaming is a vital practice for our time. The world we’ve created collectively as humans is in chaos. If dreaming unconsciously is how we created this mess, dreaming consciously–aware of the impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions are having on the dreaming matrix–is what will begin to turn around the reality we’ve created. The solutions to these problems are not outside of ourselves where we normally look to resolve issues: they are inside of us, accessed through our ever-present connection with the spiritual matrix of life.

While shamanic dreaming might sound like a New Age fad to some, this practice is, in fact, ancient and known to shamanic practitioners throughout the world. To give you a flavor of what this practice is about, I offer an Incan perspective by Alberto Villoldo on dreaming from his article “How Shamans Dream the World into Being”:

Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being. What we’re engaging in is not the sleeping dream we’re familiar with, but the waking dream we craft with our eyes open. When we’re unaware that we all share the power to co-create reality with the help of the Universe itself, that power slips away from us and our dream turns into a nightmare. We begin to feel we’re the victims of an unknown and frightening creation that we’re unable to influence or change. Events seem to control us and trap us. The only way to end this dreadful reality is to awaken to the fact that it, too, is a dream, and recognize our ability to write a better story, one that the Universe will work with us to manifest. The nature of the cosmos is such that whatever dream you have about yourself and the world will become reality. As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.

What Villoldo describes here takes practice; just like any other skill, we must re-learn dreaming by putting our attention on it again. We live in a busy outer world. We inadvertently train the natural ability to dream out of our children when we tell them they don’t have time to dream, play, or rest. We keep them overscheduled and overtired in a continuous stream of doing so that there is no time for being. If we want to find the treasures hidden in our inner worlds, we must slow down, quiet ourselves and really listen deeply with our whole beings. This is why the world’s spiritual systems have built in practices that train reflection into our harried lives. Introspection takes us into the heart of dreaming. These reflective practices are the things people do every day to consciously interact with the spiritual aspect of life in order to learn more about the sacredness of living and their place within the Dream of Life. In order to connect with the spiritual aspect of the world around us, spiritual practices are embedded into daily living so they become habits as natural as brushing our teeth every day. Practicing spiritual hygiene is just as important as that of the physical variety.

Many spiritually-minded folks I’ve talked to feel they simply get sucked into mainstream reality unless they practice connecting to Great Spirit/God/Creator/Goddess/Allah/Yahweh on a daily basis. These folks set aside part of their day to tune into themselves. These intuitive practices that lead us straight into the healing arms of our Dreamers can include: singing spiritual music (i.e. chanting), meditation, contemplative practices (i.e. walking labyrinths and journaling), working with totem animals and spirit guides, drum journeys, prayer sessions and vigils, studying and discussing spiritual texts and teachings, playing instruments (i.e. drums, rattles, church organs), spiritual dances (i.e. Powwow and Sufi dances), working with archteypes presented in dreams to derive personal spiritual meaning, interpreting omens in nature, ceremony, ritual, rites of passage, pilgrimages, vision quests, and making spiritual art–to name a few.

What spiritual practices do you already do on a daily basis? How do you use the information intuited from these sessions to take action to change your waking dreams? What is not working in your life? Take those problems into your contemplative practices to see what solutions your Dreamer can show you. Consider trying some of these other practices listed in this article to see if they work better for you. For example, some people do their best introspective work when they are moving their bodies, in which case sacred dance or walking ceremonies like labyrinths might be a better fit. Most importantly, when you need motivation, remember the intent behind the practices stated so eloquently by Villoldo:

Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. What science is now discovering describes what the ancient wisdomkeepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses. Like the Aborigines, the Earthkeepers live in a world where the dreamtime has not been pushed into the domain of sleep like it has for us. They know that all of creation arises from, and returns to, this dreamtime. The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself. For the Earthkeepers, dreaming reality is not only an ability but a duty, one we must perform with grace and love so that our grandchildren will inherit a world where they can live in peace and abundance.

 

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Connecting with the Inner Wise One

Art by Autumn Skye Morrison

*This article first appeared in September 2018’s Pagan Pages Magazine.

“Only free people can come together; sovereignty is something we can only give ourselves. The key to sovereignty is sharing. Everyone in time will become a healer because that’s the only way we can move. You have to heal yourself first and love all that you see. This requires humility; this needs to be learned in the head. Live what you feel–that requires reverence. Humility and reverence make up the heart. With self-discipline, we know we are all connected and learn there are no separations.”

-Hawaiian Kahuna Hale Makua

We are living in a time when connecting with elder medicine is essential if we are going to be able to navigate the challenges of our time: continuing wars, genocide, global warming, economic collapse, and violence of all kinds. Wise elders are a living resource; they have much life experience and they have learned how to wade through life’s ups and downs in a way that looks easeful and even graceful. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with elders from many different traditions and backgrounds. I’ve had the chance to study how they talk, what actions they take, how they treat people, and what values are contained in their world views. What follows is a bit of what I’ve learned.

Wise elders are masters of timing. They don’t rush and they don’t tarry either. They don’t always give you an answer right away. They know that life is complex and that different circumstances require nuanced responses. Wise elders listen with their whole selves and really take in what the other person is saying. They listen for connection and greater understanding instead of from a place of trying to be right or prove their point. They’ve learned that the quality of one’s relationships is the most important thing about living. Relationships extend to all living and sentient beings: the plants, the animals, the mineral world, and ancestors in the spirit world, for example. Wise elders know that we are part of the extensive matrix of life that we cannot possibly comprehend in its entirety. They know that every action an individual takes has an impact on that web of life and so elders seek to be conscious of the effect of their words and actions. Wise elders take care of themselves because they know that the only thing they have one hundred percent control over is how they treat themselves on the inside and on the outside. The ability to truly love “everything we see” starts with the relationship we have with ourselves.

In the tradition I study, we offer community members turning 60 an opportunity to have an elder honouring ceremony. The elder can always decline, however, most accept because they want to share their life’s knowledge and skills with future generations. They know that giving back is part of the elder way. At forty-three, I am an elder-in-training with training wheels on. I won’t have my elder honouring ceremony for quite some time yet. However, I’ve already started to tap into the energy of my inner wise one. When I am in a situation that I am not sure how to move through, I call on my inner elder–the elder I will be–to guide and inform me. When I am about to go into a tough conversation that I know I have to have and want to make sure happens in a good way, I call on my inner elder. In this way, she is teaching me how to use my energy, my words, and my actions more judiciously while still keeping me connected to the essence of who I am. Often, I hear things coming out of my mouth or see myself taking actions my younger self would never have dared to speak or carry out. I feel a lot braver when I can see out of the benevolent elder eyes of my inner wise one. I can see the long view and I don’t get so caught up in trivial things. I am also less likely to keep bumping my head up against things I have no control over. Instead, I see where I can indeed make positive impact and put my energy there. I skirt obstacles when I can and face the ones I can’t move around. I’ve learned that that is how life works: presenting challenges and gifts. Life doesn’t do this to punish us but to sharpen the quality of our characters.

This shamanic strategy is available to anyone at any age. I know there were times in my childhood when I acted in a way that was “wise beyond my years.” Although I didn’t consciously know it at that time, my inner elder was moving through me without a lot of effort. Kids, of course, tend to be a lot more open to expressing different aspects of their psyche than adults are. However, any of us can hold the intent to play with connecting with this inner aspect that is always there to see how we can move with more ease and grace in our lives before our chronological elder years. Perhaps if more people did, we would come to a place of inner sovereignty earlier in our individual life cycles and come up with creative solutions to the world’s problems.

To learn more about Honouring Elder Wisdom, tune into this Going Shamanic Show.

 

Self-Love: The Gift of Living Aloha

“Aloha” by Alina Barbuceanu

Love is the only emotion that expands intelligence.”

-Humberto Maturana

Recently, my partner and I went to see the new documentary about one of my childhood heroes, Fred Rogers. The film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” touched me at a deep, universal soul level; I am rarely affected this way by movies so this experience had my attention. I wept through the film wondering what words I could use to describe what I was feeling. When I was a kid, I used to watch “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” every weekday on television. At some point in the show, he would say the healing words that made me feel truly seen and accepted for who I was: “I like you just as you are.” In a society that is always telling us that we are not good enough, this was–and remains–a radical statement. If people love themselves, that love can’t help but extend out to others. From a shamanic perspective, the dark energies of the universe cannot exist in such blazing light. This is the way we use our personal power as humans to transform hate into love, as this quote by Adebe DeRango-Adem alludes to: Loving who you are means giving yourself permission to cherish your authenticity, and forgive the times you forgot your own power.” In Traditional Hawaiian Medicine, this is the way to maintain our personal sovereignty. Freedom starts with how we treat ourselves on the inside.

As an adult, I can see that Mr. Rogers was expressing a world view that I too held as truth and have been able to articulate better recently. I was invited to speak to mental health nursing students at a university from the point of view of a recovering addict who healed using shamanic medicine. In my sharing, I pointed out that some addicts are not able to heal without including the spiritual aspect of life, so often times mainstream medicine alone won’t cut if for folks like me. We also talked a lot about self-acceptance and how vital it is to the healing process. Many students were confused by this: “Why would you accept something that is causing harm like addiction?” In shamanic practice, we say that life is the greatest teacher. Our practice is in learning from every situation life throws at us. With each new challenge, we have a chance to grow our characters while becoming more content living in the present. We live in the present so we can see life as it is–not as we’d like it to be. If we don’t acknowledge the truth of our situations, we have no chance to transform our lives into ones that are aligned with our individual values and sacred dreams.

Like many of you, I was taught implicitly that I had to earn approval and acceptance by what I contributed and how I acted. It wasn’t enough to just “be.” Growing up Catholic, I was taught that I was a flawed being who had to prove my worthiness. I could understand how it was hard for the students at the university to grok how we could improve our characters by loving ourselves just as we are in this moment when many of them grew up with this belief too: If we don’t work hard to change the things we don’t like about ourselves, then we will never improve ourselves. It was hard initially for me to understand this, too. I learned that acceptance means being honest with ourselves about what is so and we can do that without applying negative self-talk and cruelty to the mix. Contrary to what many of us were taught, violence does not in and of itself inspire positive change. As Uncle Harry Uhane Jim says, “Love doesn’t prevent trauma; it prevails it.” If we really want to create positive change in our lives, the journey may involve endeavoring to learn to love ourselves the way the Creator/Creatrix does. In my experience, the universe doesn’t punish us for our actions; it merely gives us many opportunities to remember that we come from light and aloha. We can change course at any time as sovereign beings.

There is a saying I’ve heard that we are each a cell in the body of the Great Spirit. Christians express a similar sentiment when they say that we are all children of God. If we follow that out, it only makes sense that self-love is important because how we treat ourselves says something about our relationship with the energy of creation. It wasn’t until I started studying Traditional Hawaiian Medicine and practicing lomilomi that I began to understand the importance of maintaining this energy flow of aloha between me and Great Spirit. Simply put, aloha is the unconditional love of Spirit that moves through us with every breath we take. Lomilomi teaches the receiver and giver both how to live in a state of aloha where the energy of Spirit moves through the body with ease and grace. Richard Gunderman said that [w]hen Rogers encouraged children to be kinder and more loving, he believed that he was not only promoting public health, but also nurturing the most important part of a human being—the part that exhibits a divine spark.” Remembering that we come from aloha is vitally important to our healing as spirit beings in human form.

Often, people tell me that they didn’t come to a group ceremony because they weren’t “fit for human consumption”– or to say it more neutrally, they weren’t at their best. To that, I say: “That is exactly when we need to come together in healing–when we are not feeling great. This simply means that we have forgotten that we are made of light and need a reminder.” Over the years, I’ve adopted Mr. Roger’s statement and encouraged people to come as they are. Emotional expression is a valid way of communicating with the world. We don’t always feel bright or cheerful and expressing this authentically is truthful. If ceremonies are to be effective, there must be space for this. I may not always like the way people choose to express themselves, but I’ve trained myself to stay open to listening to the unmet universal needs they are revealing through their words and actions. I believe loving and being loved in return is a universal human need. Validating others as legitimate beings however they appear in the moment opens the door to greater healing. By holding space and healthy boundaries, we can support each other in figuring out new ways to heal, grow, communicate, and learn.

On my personal healing journey, I’ve tried healing by beating myself up and also by practicing realigning myself with the energy of aloha. What I’ve found is that starting from the belief that I come from aloha is an easier road to healing than staying with the belief that I am inherently bad and in need of fixing. I found that feeding this false belief took up a lot of precious energy that could have been going towards living my life purpose. Treating myself as a sacred being has helped me to enjoy the gift of being alive in a human body. Whatever happens, I can be present and practice new ways to move through challenges. I also catch more of the joyful moments because I am not so wrapped up in how I think things should go. I am not so caught up in presenting the perfect “me” that I think people want to see. Surprising things bring me pleasure when I can stay in this place of self-love. How can you practice living aloha to support your healing today? How might this help you enjoy your life more? When your container is filled with aloha, how will you actively allow that to spill over into your community?

I leave you with Mr. Roger’s words just before his death: “I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. And to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.” I send my heartfelt gratitude and blessings to your spirit, Fred Rogers.

*This article first appeared in the August 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

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A Leap of Faith

*This article first appeared in the June 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

Early in my teaching career, I was at a crossroads.  After three years as a public schoolteacher, I wasn’t sure whether I was cut out to be an educator.  I loved the kids and teaching, but it was clear from my run-ins with school administrators and colleagues that I was not on the same wavelength as them.  Even during my practicum work as a university student, I was told by my mentor that she would do everything in her power to make sure I didn’t become a teacher. I was upsetting the applecart with the new education ideas I brought with me into the field. Luckily, my faculty associate at university advocated for me, citing my willingness to take risks and try new things in service of my students as being essential qualities of a good educator. After a year of rough practicum experiences, I graduated with a Bachelor in Education and I was ready to enter the profession as a certified teacher. I looked forward to leaving these challenges behind me.

Years after this event, I was sitting at home one Friday night when I got a call from a teacher whose class I substitute taught in the day before.  I listened for fifteen minutes as she tore a strip off of me. She criticized my teaching methods and attacked my character.  I’d never even met this teacher before. What could have been a really good professional development moment where she got curious about my teaching strategies to learn more, turned nasty. She ended by saying: “They should never have certified you.  You are a horrible excuse for a teacher. I don’t know how you made it through your teaching practicums.” I never got a chance to say a word.

I didn’t know if she was right or not. I was in shock.  When I recovered, I reached out to one of my experienced teacher friends. He was outraged when I told him what happened and urged me to complain to the principal of the school and file a grievance with the union. At this point, I felt so discouraged and tired of swimming upstream in the education system that I quit all three school districts I was working for.  I needed to find clarity. I prayed for help and said to the universe: “If I am meant to be an educator, please send me the job that is right for me.”

At the encouragement of a friend who was a horticulturist with her own landscaping company, I started working full-time as an apprentice gardener.  Gardening and farming were in my ancestry; Portuguese people have a deep reverence for the land and find ways to create gardens wherever they live.  It’s not uncommon for apartment balconies to be filled with pots containing edible plants.  My paternal grandpa was a farmer in Portugal and continued that practice in his East Vancouver lot when he moved to Canada. It felt comforting to be walking in his footsteps.

Each day working with the plants in silence, I began recovering more parts of my soul that had left me bit by bit during my years as a public schoolteacher.  I got really clear in my mind about the reasons I became an educator and began questioning all the negative feedback I’d received from colleagues.  Why were they so threatened by my methods?  Why was it so horrible to include parents in their children’s learning?  Why were my students expected to follow unjust school rules?  Why did students have no say in their education and in helping to develop the school’s ethos?  I simply didn’t understand why we as educators couldn’t team up with children.  Why were we at war with learners and families when we didn’t need to be?

After a year of working with the plants, I developed a plan to open a small school. I started talking to professionals in the community who had already done this.  During my research, I found a school and learning philosophy I really grooved with.  I called the founder to see if he would meet with me and teach me how to begin manifesting my dream. Surprisingly, he said, “We’re already doing what you want to do.  Why don’t you just come work with us?”  That was in 2004 and the rest is history.  During our first meeting, I looked around at my fifty colleagues sitting in a circle discussing pedagogy and I knew I’d found the “staff room” I belonged in.  We were all on the same team and we all had similar values when it came to our work with children. I’d finally come home as an educator.

Most of all, I learned from the plants to accept myself as I was and to trust what I knew deep inside of me: I was a good educator with a passion for advocating for children’s rights to learn in ways that matched their sensibilities.  I found a place deep inside that I anchored into to draw strength.  Though I honour and respect my public school colleagues, I don’t regret my decision to leave and take a path less traveled.  Plants stay rooted while they reach for the sun.  They give life without asking anything of us in return.  They stand in what they know with tremendous trust. They showed me that what I was actually doing as an educator was aligning with life and its natural flow.  It paid off big to stop warring with the truth inside me, even though it flew in the face of conventional “wisdom.”

In the years since, I’ve worked with hundreds of children– many of whom are now adults who are thriving. They know who they are as people and they are aware of what their strengths and weaknesses are. They have learned the skills to excel in their interests with confidence. They are not afraid to follow unconventional paths in life. I am so humbled by the fact that I’ve been able to walk alongside them on their journeys for a short while.

Today, I know that I wouldn’t have been effective at guiding children if I hadn’t had the courage to take leaps of faith myself. How could I ask children to take risks if I hadn’t practiced that skill? All those early challenges had a purpose: to prepare me to bring forward the educator I really was in my heart. I learned that it is not how other people see you that determines your character or worthiness. We are all worthy. Today, I respect the kind of educator I am even when colleagues do not agree with my methods. Honouring myself­–like I do each of the vastly different children in my care–was the key that was there all along inside of me. I am grateful I found the courage to turn it and walk through the door into my new life.

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Children and the Seven Generations

*This article first appeared in the July 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

Colonial states separate children from parents because they know it works. It destroys and traumatizes for generations. It’s an attack on the future as well as the present.”

-Jesse Wente

In my writing, I make it a point to stay out of commenting on political stances for many reasons. However, when policy starts to cross over into human rights violations that threaten the health of future generations, as a shamanic practitioner, spiritual warrior, and fellow human being, I am compelled to speak. And this article is the result of one of those moments. When the story broke of asylum seekers from Central, North, and South America being separated from their children at the US border, I felt it important to share what I know about child development and early childhood trauma. I also want to add from the beginning that this isn’t a solely American phenomenon but a result of patriarchal beliefs and structures that our world currently operates under. This system is hurting men, women, and children all around the world and it’s time to start questioning its modus operandi.

As an educator, I’ve dedicated my adult life to the thriving of families by supporting children and parents. This looks many different ways that go beyond academics and guiding families in setting up appropriate education models for their children. The truth is, children who are living in poverty and with a substantial amount of trauma are in survival mode: no brain can take in new information when it is in constant fight of flight. Poverty is not a crime nor a result of laziness; it comes out of oppressive policies that benefit the few and marginalize many of the most vulnerable citizens. Parents who struggle financially love their children and most are good parents despite the challenges they face. Poverty is not a reason to separate children from their parents; many social services seek to provide financial aid so parents can raise their children to adulthood. Supporting families means keeping them together, providing resources to help families to thrive, and creating policies that help parents to raise their children without so much stress on the family structure. Currently, we have a worldwide economic system that places undue stress on young families and when family systems start to collapse, parents are often blamed for their “failure.” My job is to advocate for kids and families, look for that support, and put it in place to give families some breathing room while they are doing the most important job on earth: raising healthy, resilient, compassionate, and creative citizens.

Recently, an excellent documentary series came out showing how we humans develop from our earliest years and how vital the first years of life are in creating our self-concepts, attitude toward life, creativity and flexibility of mind. In “The Beginning of Life,” experts in the fields of human developmental stages, pediatric medicine, psychology, and neuroscience come together to paint a new picture for societies that show how important it is to support families and what the effects are to society at large when we don’t provide this support (i.e. increased crime rates, higher health care costs, and higher taxes). One social worker recently told me that it is much less expensive for the government to provide groceries for a family for a few months while they get back on their feet than to pull a child from a home and put them in foster care. If you don’t care for the moral or financial arguments, the science is clear: parents and kids belong together. Many people don’t like the idea of using tax payer dollars to support families, however, when we start to separate families without providing them with the support they need first (i.e. parenting classes, financial aid, job training, good daycare, time for maternal and paternal leaves), the cost to society at large tends to be much greater for all of us. I personally want my tax dollars to be spent on investing in the well-being of future generations instead of on policies that focus on short term financial “gains.”

I made a spiritual vow many years ago to protect children’s rights. My motto is “do no harm.” This seems impossible for us humans and yet I feel that it is a worthy vision to hold in front of me as I do this work. Many people in the world don’t realize that we have a three-decade’s old international document in place that sets out the rights of children via the United Nations called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. icle 3 states the focus of the document: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” Most folks would agree that staying with his/her parents is in the best interest of the child unless the child is being neglected or abused, which is not the case here. And even though the children who are separated from their parents are being fed, clothed, and sheltered, we know from longitudinal studies of children who grew up in Romanian orphanages that providing the basic physical needs of life is not enough for children to thrive. For children to be truly healthy (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually), they need to be surrounded by safe and strong attachments to caregivers and community members who love and know them. When a child is taken away from a parent or guardian, this is a significant trauma that cannot be underestimated and often takes a lifelong toll on the child. If readers don’t know about the decades long Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), I highly recommend watching the TED Talk at the foot of this article. Many children and adults in our “corrections” systems have high ACES scores, not surprisingly.

You might be wondering why I am so passionate about this as a Canadian citizen with no voting rights in the USA. First, I am a child of immigrants who came to Canada looking for a better life for future generations. My family and I have been able to heal from the intergenerational trauma of growing up in a dictatorial state because of the relative safety and support we’ve experienced in Canada. Second, as a shamanic practitioner, I know that what we do today affects the seven generations ahead and the seven generations behind us. We have the chance to shift what we believe about children and their value in a way that our ancestors perhaps were not able to. Respecting the work of parents and the rights of children to explore their new world in safety is actually good for all of us because those kids will be deciding policy and taking care of us when we are elders. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a traumatized, jaded, and perhaps violent person taking care of me when I am an elder. I want to be surrounded by adults who were nurtured when they were children. These adults are more likely to be compassionate, have a strong sense of human and environmental rights, carry love in their hearts, and be active in their citizenship.

I know from researching that this practice of separating children from parents has been happening in the USA and even in Canada for quite a few years now; this is a non-partisan issue. I am not an American citizen otherwise I would be writing my local political representative. I will nevertheless look for ways to make my voice heard as an international citizen. I hope you will join me as a citizen of the world in making sure we protect the most vulnerable members of our society because the truth is that we are all connected to one another. We are all relations.

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Meal Planning Tips

I originally starting meal planning as part of my food addiction healing process. Learning and implementing new strategies for reducing unnecessary stressors in life is a necessary part of any addict’s healing journey. Stress is a trigger for addicts and although we can’t eliminate all external stressors, we can minimize them. This was tedious and hard at first because there were so many new things to learn.  I had to be patient with myself while I tried new things to see what worked best for me. I consulted people who were good at organization and planning and this article is pretty much the result of everything I learned that works for me (and now my family, as it turns out). I learned that being disciplined with planning led to a lot more freedom and curtailed unconscious eating patterns.

Why meal plan? Believe it or not, taking the time to organize meals for the week ahead can be a huge time and money saver as well as a stress reliever. Families are often looking for pockets of quality time together while also wanting to eat healthy meals. Involving kids in the planning process and inviting them to participate in meal prep to the best of their developmental ability can build in some of that quality time. In my experience, planning ahead leaves more time to spend with family members outside of the kitchen too.

Making it a family experience also takes the pressure off of the one person in the family who usually does this task by themselves in many families. It also helps other family members to see what goes into planning for meals. Kids who participate in meal planning also tend to eat meals their parents prepare because they are involved in the decision-making process. This is a good way to have conversations about what comprises balanced nutrition while also negotiating having meals now and again that might not be as healthy (i.e. pizza nights). You may also want to negotiate agreements around meals.  In some families, each older kid picks a night to plan a meal and cook it (with help if need be) each week.  In our family, we have an agreement that whoever cooks doesn’t do the washing up and kitchen clean up (provided the chef cleans as s/he goes!).

Grocery Delivery Services

Depending on what your budget is like, we recommend considering a grocery delivery service.  Delivery fees (if they have them) are usually minimal. We use Spud.ca because we eat local and organic at our house.  The food is almost always high quality and if something is not up to par, getting a refund on your account is easy. We’ve also sourced out local organic farmers to get our meat and poultry from in bulk, as this is cheaper than buying smaller portions from Spud; they deliver right to our door in the winter and in the summer, we pick up our order at the closest Farmer’s Market. However, if you are not particular about local and organic, Save On Foods has a delivery service too, for example. Perhaps your favourite store does too.

We’ve found that home delivery actually saves us money because we don’t pay for delivery and we don’t have to spend gas money to get to the store. Also, because we meal plan, we know exactly what we have to buy so it saves us money and we eat healthier (no food waste and no impulse shopping in those nutrition-less middle aisles at the grocery store). We only do one Costco run a month to purchase bulk items and things that are cheaper to buy there that we use all of the time (i.e. toilet paper, diced tomatoes, chicken broth).

Tips

*Pick a day to meal plan for the week that is consistent and works for you and your family.  We do this on Sunday and enter our order on Spud on Sunday too.  Then, we don’t have to think about it for the rest of the week. Keep your meal plan up on the fridge for the week so all your family members know what’s on the menu each day.

*Keep your pantry stocked with items you use frequently to minimize trips to the store. Organize it in a way that makes sense to you so you can find things quickly when you are cooking.

*Keep a grocery list on your fridge. When something runs out, write it up and put it through on the next order.

*Keep on the lookout for new recipes so you don’t get bored of what you are eating.  We ask friends for their favourite recipes often on FB, for example. We keep a file on our computer with links to good sites.  We also bought some good and easy recipe books containing foods we like to eat.

*When you plan for meals, make extra so that you can freeze part of it. That way, if you have a busy week, you can pull out a frozen meal before you leave for work in the morning and all you have to do is heat it up for your family at dinner time. We keep healthy frozen pizzas and samosas we buy from our local Halal place on hand too.

*We go out to dinner once a month to try something new foods.  We build this into our budget because it’s inspiring and it is nice to take a break from cooking now and again (even though I personally enjoy cooking).

*Look for meals that “cook themselves” like crockpot meals or ones you prepare and then throw in the oven–especially on days when you know you’re not going to have a lot of time to cook. Set a timer and walk away! In the summer, we barbeque pretty much everything on the grill (i.e. vegetables, corn, fish, meat, potatoes, etc.). We like barbeque because it is often quick, tasty, and healthy.

Some Favourite Recipe Sites

100 Crock Pot Recipes

Oh She Glows: Great Vegan Recipes

 

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Being of the Earth

*This article first appeared in the April 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

Ever since I can remember, I had a connection to the Great Mystery.  I grew up in a Portuguese family. My paternal grandma was a devout Catholic.  She taught me sacred songs in Portuguese and encouraged me to pray to God.  I did this all the time when I was confused, sad, or upset and I always received an intuitive response that helped me get through difficult times in my childhood. Though they were mystified at why I wanted to attend mass with my grandma every Sunday, my parents allowed me to go and practice my spiritual beliefs. Even though I am no longer Catholic today, I have so much gratitude for the way my family validated my spiritual aspect and supported me in growing this in myself.

Considering the fact that I was born in urban East Vancouver, Canada, my family members did a wonderful job of keeping me connected to the land. I spent most of the daylight hours playing outdoors with friends. I come from a lineage of farmers and fishers. Portuguese people of my grandparent’s generation knew how to work with the Earth to grow and gather food and feed their families. My grandpa had a double lot in East Van, which he filled with edible and non-edible plants. Even though it was forbidden by bylaws, he even had livestock.  Every spring and summer, my extended relatives made a trip to Tofino to fish for weeks at a time.  We camped and the kids were responsible for cleaning gutted fish.  At the end of our vacation, the catch was divided equally among all the families that participated.  This gift from the ocean fed our families in the year ahead. Memories of Tofino are still treasured ones for me.

People often ask me how a Catholic Portuguese kid ended up being so steeped in shamanic and indigenous traditions. I am proud of my Portuguese heritage and the foundation my family laid for me.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been drawn to indigenous cultures around the world.  I couldn’t really explain this when I was young except to say that it made sense to me that indigenous people revere nature and seek to be in harmony with her. Indeed, some of my most healing moments in childhood happened while exploring the outdoors.  These experiences still guide me on my spiritual path today.

I was born on Musqueam territory.  When I asked one of the elders about my connection to my blood ancestors and also the land on which I was born, he saw no discrepancy between the two. I will never forget what he told me: “Jen, when you were born on this land, my ancestors adopted you as one of their own.  They have been guiding you ever since that day. You responded to their call.”  Every time I drive back into the rainforest from the prairies (where I live today), tears form in my eyes when I feel the energy of the land.  The ancestors always welcome me home. Sharing shamanic knowledge is my way of saying “thank you” and honouring my responsibility to the Earth and the ancestors who love me and are always there for me.

In fact, I’ve never met an elder in any indigenous tradition around the world who does not understand this interconnectedness. They champion diversity and actively look for ways to bring healing to their communities. Elders know that we are all relations.  In this statement, all sentient beings are included as relations: the plants, the animals, the rocks, the elements, and so on. This can be a hard thing for folks who have not grown up connected to the land to understand.  Most of us see our relations as objects that we are entitled to. We have forgotten our interconnection to these beings and their importance in our ability to survive and thrive here on Earth. I teach and practice shamanism because it reconnects people with this primal knowing.  When we know ourselves, where we came from, and why we are here, we are much less likely to harm ourselves, others, and the Earth.  Author and teacher, Anita Sanchez is of Mexican-American Aztec ancestry.  She answers the question of what it means to be of the Earth eloquently:

“In the beginning, everyone’s ancestors were indigenous…But for many of us who have been separated geographically and/or culturally from our tribe’s original ancestral traditions and instructions, we then don’t regard ourselves as indigenous…A truly indigenous person is one who has intimate connection with Mother Earth and who embraces all human beings in order to get along with them. There is a respect for diversity, which is part of the circle of life…We are all connected. Indigenous peoples listen to not only their minds but most importantly to their hearts, and to what Mother Earth is saying.”

Indigenous cultures all around the world have developed technologies that work to bring us back into balance with nature.  Many of these are ancient and have been passed down through generations.  Through ceremony, rites of passage, medicine wheel teachings, sacred dances, drum journeys, talking sticks, and medicine songs, people are brought back to their original state of wholeness.  Being human is a beautiful and challenging journey.  When we are in right relation to our relatives–human and otherwise–life is not as hard and lonely a journey. I pray that these traditions continue to bring people together–especially in the modern age where there are so many forces trying to divide and separate us.  I am grateful to all the elders around the world who continue to share this wisdom with future generations. Indeed, we are all indigenous to the Earth Mother.

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