Taking a Leap of Faith

Early in my teaching career, I was at a cross-roads.  After three years as a public school teacher, I was not 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 wave length as them.  One Friday night, I got a call from a teacher whose class I substitute taught in.  I listened for fifteen minutes as she basically tore me a new one, criticizing my teaching methods and attacking my character.  This teacher did not know me personally and what could have been a really good professional development moment where she got curious about my teaching strategies to learn more, turned into a nasty exchange that ended with her saying: “They should never have certified you.  You are a horrible excuse for a teacher and I don’t know how you made it through your teaching practicums.”

I didn’t know if she was right or not.  At this point, I felt so discouraged and tired of swimming upstream in the education system that I quit all three school districts.  At the encouragement of a friend of mine who was a horticulturist with her own landscaping company, I started working full time as an apprentice gardener.  Gardening and farming was in my ancestry: Portuguese people have a deep reverence for the land and create gardens no matter where 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.

Every day working with the plants in silence, I began recovering parts of my soul that had left me bit by bit during my years as a public school teacher.  I got really clear in my mind about the reasons I became an educator and questioned all the negative feedback I’d received from teachers and administrators.  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 school rules that made no sense to me or them?  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 learners.  Why were we at war when we didn’t need to be?

After a year of working with the plants, I had developed a plan to open my own small school.  All I needed was ten families who were on board to give it a go.  I started talking to professionals in the community who had already done this.  During my research, I found out about Wondertree, SelfDesign and Brent Cameron’s learning philosophy (he had co-founded these learning organizations).  I asked him about starting a school and he said, “We are 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 as SelfDesign professionals, I looked around at my fifty colleagues sitting in a circle discussing education strategies and I knew I’d found the “staff room” I belonged in.  We were all on the same team and we all had a similar value of working with children and families to tailor education plans that fit the particular learner.  I’d come home as an educator.

Most of all, I learned through 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 of me that I anchored into so that I could continue to navigate in a world that didn’t honour a child’s right to steer his or her own ship in life.  Today, I am a much more effective educator because of this team approach.  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 taught me that.  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 what is so.

“To understand that life is a wise teacher willing to show us our higher self, revolutionizes how we live…We see life as trustworthy, here to usher us into a deeper self-connection. We also know it’s inherently good, a mirror of our own internal state of goodness. This approach recognizes that we are fundamentally interconnected to all that happens in our life, so that we are co-creators of the reality in which we live. Life doesn’t happen to us, but happens with us.”

-Shefali Tsabary from “The Conscious Parent”


life growing out of lava rock

life growing out of lava rock

Going Shamanic Radio: The Healing Power of Writing

I’ve recently been reading Brené Brown’s book where she outlines the research she’s gathered on vulnerability and shame.  In the book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” Dr. Brown talks about shame resilience as a way to counter the naturally occurring emotion of shame.

“Shame resilience is a strategy for protecting connection–our connection with ourselves and our connections with the people we care about.  But resilience requires cognition, or thinking, and that’s where shame has a huge advantage.  When shame descends, we almost always are hijacked by the limbic system…Shame thrives on secret keeping…Since his early work on the effects of secret keeping, James Pennebaker has focused much of his research on the healing power of expressive writing.  In his book “Writing to Heal,” Pennebaker writes, ‘Since the mid-1980s an increasing number of studies have focused on the value of expressive writing as a way to bring about healing.  The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day for three or four days can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health.  Emotional writing can also affect people’s sleep habits, work efficiency, and how they connect with others.’ Shame resilience is a practice and like Pennebaker, I think writing about our shame experiences is an incredibly powerful component of practice.  It takes time to cultivate that practice and courage to reach out and talk about hard things.”

Today’s guest has a lot of experience in the realm of writing to heal.  She has just published a poem in the book “Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life.” Sue Berlie (Lightning Heart) has a BSc in Pharmacy and has been a personal trainer, water fitness instructor and an emotional kinesiology therapist. She is now a shamanic coach and practitioner. While Sue began writing poetry as a young child, she stopped for many years, eventually returning to it after she began reading Dr. Seuss books to her children.

To find out more about Sue and the work she does, please visit www.sueberlie.com

To listen to the show, go to:


The Power of Stories

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the greatest thing you’ll ever do.” ~ Brené Brown

Today we welcome two women who have ‘dared greatly’ and recently published an incredible book – Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life.

To find out more, go to:


Jennifer Engracio and Carell Mehl are both the editors and contributors of this incredible gift they have created together.

Jennifer is a teacher, author, shamanic practitioner, reiki master and Lomi Lomi practitioner who lives in Calgary Alberta. She has a passion for working with children and families in the context of ceremony. She has also published a book with co-authors called The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within. 

Carell is a reiki master teacher and shamanic practitioner who is also based in Calgary. She served on the board of the Canadian Reiki Association for eight years and has a deep reverence for the earth. She enjoys the comraderie of like-minded individuals who are also on the healing journey. She has a passion for teaching reiki and shamanism, together and separately.

Join us as we dive into the how-to’s of creating power stories from the challenging and traumatic experiences we  all face.

To listen to the show, go to:


Going Shamanic Radio: The Sacred Masculine

Today your host, Jennifer Engracio ~ Snow Hawk, will talk with Andre Leclipteux about the Sacred Masculine and how it affects us all, every day.

As a shamanic and FEEL practitioner, Andre incorporates native ceremonies with horse wisdom and interactions, to help individuals and groups align or transform to achieve self-empowerment and emotional growth.  Andre will be offering a course in Calgary in April of 2016.  To find out more go to:


To listen to the show, go to:


Going Shamanic Radio: The Sacred Feminine

Today’s show features Sheryl Watson (Dawn Heart Sings) in conversation with Jennifer Engracio, your host of Going Shamanic.

Sheryl Watson has been a registered massage therapist since 1995 and a massage therapy college instructor since 2001.  Her focus on pelvic health naturally lead her to a path of studies in sacred sexuality, shamanism, the divine feminine, and a gateway of deep self-discovery. Check out workshop info in Vancouver and Calgary.

Her website is www.reclaimingfeminineconsciousness.com

The Sacred Feminine

What is it, really? Why is this topic an important one to discuss at this time of our lives? How does it relate to our daily lives?

If you’re someone who does too much, or finds they have no energy, or perhaps you are exploring how to balance the feminine and masculine aspects of your world, then join this conversation.

You will learn that the energy of the feminine isn’t exactly what you imagined! It is so much more.


Going Shamanic Radio: The Wisdom of Horses

Today on Going Shamanic, you will get to be a fly on the wall as Jennifer Engracio and Wendy Golding have an intimate and eye-opening conversation about what it means for us to really discover what’s inside to be healed, through horses.

Wendy Golding is a respected leader in the field of Equine Facilitated Learning and President of Horse Spirit Connections Inc., a not for profit corporation dedicated to promoting transformation and personal growth through the wisdom of the horse.  www.horsespiritconnections.com

You will love listening to Wendy’s history and how it came to her that horses would be her partners for healing, for both herself and others. Enjoy the show, and remember to grab a pen and paper….there’s great gems in this one!



Article: Chickadee Teachings

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 2.53.51 PM

My father-in-law, Bill, built a beautiful birdhouse that he put up in our fairy garden last year. This year, chickadees decided to raise their brood in there after scouting it out rigorously over the winter months. I wondered why they chose our garden and what meaning that might have for me at this point in my life. It turns out that chickadees are the truth-bringers; their medicine is to point out hidden truths that need to be spoken for the benefit of all.

I discovered that these tiny birds are capable of big energy and are persistent in their guardianship of the truths in life. When I started to prepare my garden in April, their chicks had already hatched; they were protective and watched me intently as I worked. I spoke to them to let them know I meant them no harm and that they could raise their babies in my garden without fear. They settled after that but they hedged their bets by making sure one parent was going out for food while the other stayed with the chicks. They stayed true to their instincts.

Two months of diligent feeding by the parents every five minutes or so led to the growth of five very healthy baby chickadees. I was stunned by the devotion and selflessness of the parenting I witnessed. I was working on a new writing project in my backyard when I felt someone looking at me. I looked up and my father-in-law and his wife were grinning at me. They rarely come into Calgary but they had a doctor’s appointment so they swung by on the off chance that I’d be home. I made tea and brought it out into the garden. I was thinking how great it was that they could come and enjoy the garden Bill had helped us create when I saw a little head peaking out of the birdhouse. This young chickadee was surveying the outside world for the first time, planning her next move. All of the sudden, her parent called to her from a tree branch and she flew on fresh wings to meet her.

After that, she could not get enough; she was flying all over the garden and calling out in joy. Her brothers and sisters followed her and they were all darting around like the youngsters they are with so much energy and life. We marveled at them all exploring the world with such glee. It was a cacophony of chickadee calls unlike the ones I’ve been used to hearing the last few months made by the two parents. It sounded like a chickadee family reunion in my back garden! Everything had come full circle.

Weeks ago, I had secretly prayed to Spirit to allow me to witness the babies’ first flight and I was so thrilled that my wish was granted. This reaffirmed that everything in life–all successes and even all failures–is co-created with Spirit for my learning.   I am in the process of birthing a lot of dreams and projects at the moment and it seemed like Spirit was saying to me: “See. You never gave up. You were patient like the chickadees. You tried new things. You kept on going through the challenges and now all your dreams are coming true. You can release them into the world joyfully.”

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