Chinese New Year Photos

Chinese Cultural Center, Calgary

From their website:

“The highlight of the Centre is Dr. Henry Fok Cultural Hall, and its 70-foot high ceiling, modeled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which was built in 1420 and used exclusively by the Emperors for communicating with their patron gods, and for praying for a bountiful harvest, is magnificently decorated.  The intricate designs on the ceiling include the paintings of 561 dragons and 40 phoenixes. Three different dragon designs ornament the inner dome: spiral, walking, and flying. The four central columns supporting the dome, each painstakingly hand-decorated with genuine gold represent the four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter whereas the twelve posts along the middle circle represent the 12 months. The blue tiles on the outside of the roof symbolizing heaven and sky were fabricated by the same company that created the original roof tiles for the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and shipped all the way from China to Calgary. The unique artistic skills and dedicated craftsmanship by 22 artisans from China involved in the creation of this eye-catching dome are most impressive.”










A chilly me in 21 below weather- see the frost on my scarf?









roof detail











This lady got into the Rabbit Year spirit!









ceremonial altar











my Chinese calligraphy









column detail











ceiling detail

















Me in the dragon head!

Magic White Rabbits

I couldn’t sleep last night and after hours of restless tossing and turning, I decided at 3:30 am to go for a walk in the freshly falling snow.  I love those silent nights when the wind is still, snow is falling, and I am the only one outside.  I knew why I couldn’t sleep:  fear and anxiety around some important decisions I need to make.  So I walked to the local park and stood in the middle of the field feeling the snow fall on my face as I looked up at it glittering as it moved past the street lights.  A wondrous scene.  I knew everything was going to work out- just like it always does- even if not the exact way I think it will unfold.  I had plans to go to Chinese New Year (the Year of the Rabbit) in Chinatown the next morning and was wondering if I should just sleep in when I caught something out of the corner of my eye.  I thought it was just my tired eyes playing tricks on me when I spotted three almost purely white rabbits.  The only reason I saw them was because one of them had a bit of brown on her ears; they were otherwise completely camouflaged.  I have never seen rabbits in the middle of the city and I wondered how they got to this tiny park almost in the middle of downtown Calgary.  I sat there for a while wondering if this whole thing was a vision.  Nope.  They were there in the physical.  Magic.  I was born in 1975, a wood rabbit year.  I was sensing that this was important somehow for me to celebrate the lunar New Year and seeing the rabbits confirmed it.  They seemed to be a family and as I stood perfectly still and asked them what they had to teach me tonight, they each inched closer to me one at a time and stopped in front of me to impart their wisdom.  The first one came in front of me and reared up on its hind legs as it sniffed me.  Rabbits in some shamanic traditions stand for fear. This one’s message to me was to face my fears courageously this year.  The other two came with their own messages that were more personal.  I gave gratitude for the night omen as I walked back finally tired enough to sleep to my apartment where I slipped under my covers and drifted into the dreamtime hoping the magic rabbits would continue their conversation with me there and satisfied with what they had already shared.  A gift in an unlikely place.

Prayer of the Day

May today there be peace within.

May you  trust that you are exactly where you  are meant to be.

May you not forget  the infinite possibilities  that are born of faith in yourself and others.

May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content with yourself just the way you are.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom  to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there  for each and every one of  us.

-author unknown

Modern Twist: Portuguese Fado

Modern: Amália Hoje – A Gaivota

Traditional: Amália Rodrigues “Gaivota” Live


Connection in Nature

“The Universe reveals its abundance most clearly when we can be who we are.”

– Mark Nepo

“Interconnected” by Andrea Orlic

I went for a walk along the Bow River in twenty below weather.  You are probably thinking:  “Is this girl nuts?  I mean, I know she’s new to Calgary and all and maybe a bit overly enthusiastic but she’s gonna freeze out there!”  Yup. I won’t lie.  It was cold and I didn’t last out there for as long as I normally do before coming in for a hot cup of coffee.  And it was WAY worth it for what nature taught me today.

I was walking along trying to get some perspective on a relational issue with a friend when I heard a great cacophony of noise.  Literally, hundreds of Canada geese and ducks all chattering away and honking as they landed perfectly in sync in a small area of the river that had not yet frozen over.  I was in such awe that I stopped dead in my tracks and watched riveted for about 20 minutes.  As a shamanic practitioner, I look for omens from nature when I am out on walks- especially if I’ve gone out with a problem I am trying to solve.  This was a clear sign to pay attention.

The first scene took my breath away, yes.  However, this next scene was simply humbling.  The din stopped and I watched as these two different species of birds huddled together peacefully for warmth- so many in one relatively tiny spot that I could barely see the water any more.   As they sat there in their cuddle party, other birds started flying in to participate.  A feeling of deep peace came over me. This had a kind of bringing-me-down-to earth sort of effect on my whole being.  And as I sat there, I thought:  It really is this simple to find a win-win.  How effortless and natural.  I didn’t see Canada geese murdering ducks for their share of the pond.  Instead, I saw species working together for mutual survival.  It struck me that we humans spend so much time warring and competing with one another in this deficit mentality that saps our energy when we could be using that same amount of energy to generate creative solutions that benefit all parties.   We could learn a thing or two by observing the natural world.

And so I wondered what this scenario was teaching me about my original problem.

Two things came to mind: The book I am reading on ethnic cleansing and why it is that humans cannot seem to find and maintain this kind of peace and a TED talk I watched on the power of vulnerability.  I believe the two are connected.  What follows is not an earth-shattering realization and it’s been said before:  we are not separate from each other or anything else in the universe.  What you may not have heard is that we humans create this separation out of fear when we feel vulnerable in some way.  It’s a coping strategy to protect us from uncomfortable feelings like rage, anger, confusion, frustration and pain. If we live in an abundant, creative universe and we are interdependent, then why do we behave the way we do?  The research says: We don’t think we are worthy of abundance in all forms at our core.  So we try and “beat” other people to the resources that we think are in short supply (love, sustenance, money).

Stick with me; this is going somewhere, I promise.

Neuroscience tells us that we are hardwired for connection. We know that human babies who do not receive regular physical touch and affection have failure to thrive.  These babies have a hard time connecting with people. Unfortunately for our culture, from the time we are born, our parents and loved ones are encouraged to keep us at arm’s length supposedly to instill a sense of independence and to maintain boundaries.  In nature, mammals like us nurse their babies whenever their babies are hungry.  Animals mate when the desire is there and the season is right.  Animals snuggle into each other and mothers carry their babies in their pouches and on their backs in some cases.  Animals play with each other and rejoice in being alive.  Predator and prey co-exist without internal conflict about this relationship; they accept their role in the scheme of things.  They don’t struggle against the prevalent energy stream like we humans seem to.  In short, they don’t separate. So with all the separation we humans create, it is no wonder that whenever we feel vulnerable in some way, we start to shut down instead of moving into and with the discomfort to learn more about who we really are and what it is we need in that moment.

Back to the situation with my friend and two more questions come to mind:

Why do we try to change and convert each other?

Why do we struggle to find ways to live together in harmony like these geese and ducks do?

Well, if we don’t think we are worthy of love, and are scared to show our vulnerability (in other words to be authentically who we really are in the moment) then seeking connection like the duck and geese do is scary stuff and we automatically go into survival mode: fight or flight.  Although this is, in part, a vestige of an older part of our brain (the reptilian and original part) that probably kept us safe at the beginning of our species, it is no longer serving us as a default.  Thankfully, the brain is plastic- that means it changes.  Other good news: each of us can choose to train in new patterns of response.  We are not doomed to be at the effect of some evolutionary glitch.

Finally, I find an answer to my problem.  I don’t need to change anything about my friend to get my own needs for connection met.  My friend’s resistance to physical affection and intimacy does not mean I am not lovable.  It does not, in fact, mean anything about me at all.  The solution, I realized, is to keep remembering my connection by cultivating practices that, by their very nature, defy separation: dancing, singing, drumming, walks in nature.  Interesting that all of mine involve using my body.  I would love to hear ways you have found to stay connected to the Everything.

-written by Jennifer Engracio

On Vulnerability

This TED talk by Brene Brown is worth the 20 minutes.

“Vulnerability” by Carmen Keys

Diggin’ her art.  Go to:

to see more…