A Sober Life

Jen and donkey.jpg

When I was a kid, one of my relatives loved watching the evangelist, Billy Graham on T.V. He also watched other shows where people were miraculously healed from a variety of ailments and sailed off to a seemingly happy life. I wished healing was like that for a while. I felt deflated when I first discovered that that wasn’t going to be my experience of healing food addiction when I first started this process in 2010.

I’ve experienced miraculous healing by the grace of Spirit. However, I had to walk out of those situations and live out that healing. By this I mean that I had to keep choosing to remain healed and to keep healing in order to be happy in my life. This is not something that someone else could do for me. No one else can make me happy. It is a choice I make every day, sometimes moment to moment, and recommit to when I need to.

The world we live in is a challenging place as well as a beauty-filled one. I used to focus on the things that weren’t working in the world and fall into a place of despair. How can I ever make a positive impact in such a mess? I realized, however, that this attitude was creating apathy and overwhelm inside of me and was simply adding to the chaos. Could I stop the mass killing of innocents around the world or mutilation of women’s genitals? Probably not. I could, however, work to change my own life and vow not to add to the destruction. I could create beauty. I could lend my life force energy to projects that contribute to the healing of our species and the Earth. I could work to change my corner of the world. I could join hands with other like-minded folks and do what I could. Now that was something I could say yes to.

And through that, I saw that the healing never ends as long as I am alive. The world does not have to be my version of utopia in order for me to be happy. I do not need to control the things and people around me in order to find peace. And instead of seeing the dysfunctional intergenerational patterns all families have to some extent as a curse, I could see them as an opportunity to break karmic patterns so that future generations do not have to continue to live through what their ancestors did. I could stop the cycle of violence at the start. I could start with myself.

And so that is what I continue to do after doing the work to heal a lifelong food addiction throughout the year of 2010. I didn’t walk away from my final Marking Ceremony a forever cured woman in all ways. I left being a slave to addiction behind. I stopped the inner war. I negotiated peace inside myself. A few months after the ceremony, I sprained my ankle and ended up quitting kickboxing. I couldn’t do it with my ankle in that condition and I realized that my body was screaming at me to find a form of exercising that put less impact on my joints. I was torn about this because kickboxing was a great way to keep energy running in my body and helped me to reduce stress. I also moved in with my life partner, which meant needing to buy a car to get around the city when I formerly took transit and walked everywhere.

Needless to say, it was a hard balancing act at this time to do my life’s work as well as exercising as much as my body needed to stay fit. I ended up gaining ten pounds. My ankle took six months to heal. I felt like a failure. I realized it was time to start using the tools and strategies I learned.   And I persevered. Failure is giving up and not learning from life. Failure to me means staying stagnant in one’s evolution. I readjusted my attitude majorly and succeeded.

I continue to listen to my body and give it what it needs. It is ever changing and it is always teaching me something new about myself I didn’t know. The benefit to being aware of my negative patterns and having lots of tools and strategies to draw from is that I can now see them coming from a mile away.   I can now stop and assess the situation to make better choices. I can anticipate possibly stressful situations ahead of time and prepare for them. I am no longer allowing something outside me to dictate my behaviour. I can choose to eat a cupcake or not. I am conscious of the choice I am making in the moment and can be at peace with it.

Sugar and wheat were never my enemies. They didn’t cause the addiction. I chose the addiction, albeit unconsciously, as a way to cope with the stress in life. I own that and everything it brought into my life. Living sober, for me, has to do with being conscious of what I am creating in my life. It also has to do with accepting what is and knowing what I can change and what I cannot. Then, choosing to focus on the only thing in the world I do have control of– myself.

Jennifer Engracio

Calgary, AB









The Great Mystery

Sometimes things work out and sometimes things don’t. Failing at something is not always one’s own “fault.” There is a mystery in life that we can’t know, always working behind the scenes to keep existence balanced. I don’t claim to understand this mystery, but I am willing to concede that I participate knowing that I can make impact without necessarily being in control of how anything turns out. I chase my dreams. I do the work. And the outcome is always uncertain, no matter how diligently I do the journey. There are no guarantees in life.

-Jen Engracio

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.


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