“Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last fish has been caught, only after the last river has been poisoned, only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.” - Cree Proverb
Lately there have been plenty of childhood memories surfacing for me. The other night I watched a show about a man who is travelling the globe to take part in the lifestyles, ceremonies and rituals of indigenous cultures. He is doing so in the hopes of learning their ancient ways and telling their stories before they die out for good. Brilliant, I thought - absolutely brilliant. This brought me to recall the time I was preparing to move to Ireland, and over a cup of fresh organic coffee I said to a friend that it was part of my plan to attempt to learn some Irish Gaelic; this was just something I always knew in my heart and my soul that I would do. “Well“, he said, “Now why would you do that? There’s a dying language.” A bit surprised, as to me it was obvious … “Well that’s precisely why“, I replied.
Reflecting upon this I remembered the ‘tests’ I would put myself through as I was growing up. Even though we never had much in the first place, I was always getting rid of things. I refused to accept or play with dolls, opting instead for one well loved stuffed bear. Along with that, my music collection, clothes and a bed, my room was filled to what I was content with. I was quite happy also with a tall round Tupperware container filled with clothespins, and I would spend lots of time clipping the pins around the upper edge of this container. By the end I was very happy with the completed ‘fan’ look. As the years progressed for me, it became a game of “What can I do without? How minimally can I live?” I could never quite understand why I did this, why I had such a repulsion to most things I felt were frivolous or unnecessarily technological. I later realized that subconsciously, I wanted to be prepared to live out my life comfortably even if all things as we knew them were taken away. There was a sort of deep seated thought pattern that said “This, as it is, won’t last … be ready… “
I knew this idea could also be a bit extreme. Until I lived with a girl who really WAS extreme. And I realized I wasn’t alone in my quest for the minimal. She would keep the heating down in the house to such an extent that the pipes would freeze while it was colder than forty below outside, and you could see your breath inside. We would wear layer upon layer inside of the house, with hats and scarves, and I would have to sleep in fleece outerwear just to sleep comfortably. She later admitted to me that she was testing herself, to see how cold she could stand it. I would be going to teach classes, already so frozen by the time I got there, that I still wouldn’t feel warm by the end of class. So I thought, there needs to be a balance. I realized, there is no need to be harsh to myself any longer in order to understand how to “live without”. And this balance comes down to that which I learned in so many of my energy work and spiritual healing classes - absolutely everything is about the give and take.
This is a concept forgotten by many for so long, but one which I believe is re-awakening. If you take something, give something back. And as has been the way with indigenous communities, and as we all inherently know and remember somewhere within our psyches, this doesn’t need to be a material exchange. There are subtle exchanges as well, exchanges of thought and sentiment, exchanges of good deeds, exchanges of energy. If someone wishes you well, it is a natural response to wish them well in return. Relationships are wonderful practice rooms for healthy exchange. It takes all one can muster not to respond in kind to a negative word or action. On another level, the earth is giving to us continually, sustaining us and nurturing us. We drink of her blood (water), walk on her body (soil), are kept warm by her vital energy (fire) and are supported by her essence (air). It is the indigenous cultures and those practising indigenous ways that have kept the exchange and the gratitude alive.
Giving thanks every single day is empowering. Being aware of one’s surroundings is empowering. We need to come back to our natural and innate connection to our elements, animals, and negative space; ie, that which we cannot “see” with our eyes alone. Increase our collective awareness. The ways of greed, anger, selfishness, and violence are not innate to the human condition. It took a long time for these programs to be bred into the human vein, and we are now at a time in our planet’s cycle where these programs are being triggered, challenged, and preparing to be disseminated. As with any cleansing of the old, it is initially a painful process but will be so rewarded in the end. Many cultures believe that it is in fact the heart which is the mind. And most shamanic teachings tell us that it is with the heart that we “see”.
I am now reminded of a wonderful teacher of mine. We met at a time of great transition in my life, and I don’t believe in coincidences. He was a Native elder, true to form, living in the forest straight off of the land and performing healing work with medicinal herbs and plants. When we first met he triggered me greatly, as I knew what he had come across my path to do. So naturally, I closed off to him, out of fear and my mind telling me “I’m not prepared”. But we’re never really prepared, are we? Knowing what was going on with me, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I AM a true shaman”. I blinked, my resolve struck for a moment. Then my cheeky aspect of self replied, “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting you. I don’t have any tobacco”. He blinked. Then he chuckled. I then broke down and began to divulge to him what I hadn’t told anyone in many, many years … the dreams I’d had, the visions I’d been having, some about the past, some seeming to be future, but all with a common thread and with the idea that “time” is simultaneous. He calmed me down and gave me basic instructions on what to do next. I became his student for a time, and one thing he showed me involved being able to “see” a blood clot within the chest of a friend of mine. He then proceeded to draw the clot out and to my amazement, a dark red spot appeared on the back of his hand as he worked. It grew in size until he had finished. Appalled, and in the spirit of give-and-take, I asked him, “What on earth will you do with that now? You can’t keep it!” With a smirk of patience, he replied, “I will take it home and give it to a tree”. Again creaked my cheekiness, “But how do you know the tree wants it?”. Chuckles, chuckles, and more chuckles … but no reply. Fair enough, I thought. I clearly have much more to learn! Much time has passed since then, and I am so grateful. The balance of give and take, an easy concept, but a not so easy practice. We are getting there. All of us.
“They will start as fires that burn within us, and we will burn up with desires and conflict if we do not remember the original teachings, and return to the peaceful way of life.”
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