An Exploration of Unity, Across the Racial Divide

An Exploration of Unity, Across the Racial Divide

I recently attended a community event called, Conversation Across The Racial Divide in Thunder Bay, hosted by the remarkably brilliant Aftab Erfan. Through a dynamic and skillfully facilitated process called Deep Democracy, gathered participants were invited to speak bravely, vulnerably and authentically about their experiences and perspectives of racism in Thunder Bay, a small Northern Ontario town notoriously struggling with a deep racial divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities...

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On Being an Intuitive Child

A large part of what has inspired my deep dive into exploring intuition is my own experience of being intuitive as a child. My experience sometimes felt lonely, as no one really talked to me about this inner knowing and guiding voice that seemed to be informing me in ways far beyond the physical. Looking back I see that my mom was deeply intuitive too, but perhaps was never taught to trust or understand it, like me.

And so I have been following both my intuition, and my curiosity to understand my intuition since I was little.

I invited my friend and talented singer-songwriter, Arley Hughes, to chat with me about her relationship with her intuition, and was delighted when she started talking about one of her early intuitive experiences. I hope you enjoy this sweet clip....

To find out more about Arley Hughes, and how you might work with her, check out her website at www.arleyhughes.com

And to stay tuned to the intuitive project as it unfolds, be sure to subscribe to my blog to have intuitive wisdom drop right into your inbox. 

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Navigating the Intersection Between Spirituality and Activism

Since I was a young girl, and I mean really young, I had an eye that could spot injustice from a mile away.  My parents were sometimes at a loss as I made passionate complaints about systemic sexism, or tearfully pleaded with my relatives to understand the impact of colonization on indigenous people in Canada, over Christmas dinner. I was probably 5 when I fully understood my own purpose and response-ability to be a part of the movement of people who would work in favour of humanity... in favour of this planet we call home.

My passion got stronger as I moved into my teenage years and I did what any socially conscious teenage girl did in the 1990's... I refused to wear a bra or shave my legs, and rejected the reigning social class system, willingly finding my people among the artists, musicians, and pot smokers. I was enraged, I was despairing, and yet I still believed deeply in our ability as a species to change.... if we wanted to. It was years earlier I remember watching one of those expose shows with my mom, when I suddenly realized with a crystalline clarity while witnessing corruption in action, how all institutions, all social structure, all of everything begins as a thought in the mind. And that thought in the mind is then built into something in three dimensions. And other people agree to that thought and make that creation even stronger.... even if its origin was a destructive thought.

In university I found myself in every available women's studies class... studied history and the history of women and the law in Canada, both indigenous and non-indigenous, and eventually found myself with a particular fire in my heart around the issue of violence against women.

I was an activist, organizing protests against discriminatory events on campus, calling out university leadership for their inaction, and speaking out through any media outlet that would hand me a microphone. After university I went on to coordinate two huge feminist undertakings in partnership with multiple local women's organizations. The first was an assessment of the system that supports abused women and children in Thunder Bay. I titled this report, which found its way onto the desks of over 40 local service providers and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Gaps and Traps, and included numerous recommendations for action for local service providers and beyond. The second was to develop and launch Thunder Bay's first Women's Court Watch Program which, thanks to over 20 volunteers, followed and systematically documented every single domestic violence case in Thunder Bay for a year. Every detail, every legal decision, police response, ethnicity, age, everything.

These were some of the most intense, and emotionally demanding years of my life. Although I knew the importance of the work I was doing, I was weeping inside at the stories, the women, the injustice, and most deeply, how little I felt I was actually directly helping anyone. The culmination of which was my very first anxiety attack before the press conference to release the final court watch report to distressed stakeholders and eager media outlets. It was in that space between my broken heart and an impending media and community firestorm that I made a promise to myself. If I could just get through this day, I would leave this work to find the peace I was seeking externally, internally.

I became a mystic.

Or rather I remembered that I had been a mystic all along. I remembered that my heart and mind allowed me to see beyond the despair, beyond the destruction, beyond the hatred and fear. I remembered joy, and actually found peace. And so I retreated into many years of meditation and spiritual study. I was gifted with teachings and healings from the four corners of this earth and found in every one of them a truth that was like a balm to my broken heart. I vowed that I was healing my own heart as means of offering healing to the whole.

As my Spirit got stronger I began to teach others how to connect with their own Spirit ... through art, through community, through ceremony and practice. I believed, and still do, that the realization of the individual is the key to the realization of the whole. We are the systems and the institutions. Every structure is occupied and made possible by the people occupying them. Even the destructive structures. People with a unique spirit just like you and me.

Remembering my 10 year old self who realized that if everything is simply the result of our thoughts, I silently celebrate 'INCREDIBLE, We can change our mind at any moment!' We can turn this ship around as soon as we realize our own insanity. As soon as we realize our deep connections to the land and one another.

My work in the world, centered around creating opportunities for people to come into relationship with their spirit, is a kind of activism. It is personal and spiritual activism as people choose emancipation from destructive structures.... economic, cultural, mental, emotional, spiritual. And in another sense this work is global activism as individuals with reawakened hearts head back to their offices on Monday morning and make decisions that affect us all. It was my ultimate prayer, like most yoga instructors, healers, and spiritual leaders, that the people I had the opportunity to touch would maintain their course toward realizing inner and outer unity.

And for a very long time I thought this was enough.

It was in Dawson Church's, Healing The Heart of The World, that I first came across the term 'Mystical Activism'. Something about the way these words fit together affected me deeply. Perhaps most profoundly, these words stitched back together two parts of myself that I had separated into opposite corners of my being. I could breathe again.

What does it mean to be a Mystical Activist?

In most ways I am still in the process of understanding this. I realize now that during that time in which I stepped away from my activist self, I didn't trust that my mystical self could survive my inner drive towards earthly activism. That they were somehow inherently conflicting.  But in truth, the result of this inner conflict is that our awakened voices are simply missing from important social and global conversations. Our news feeds are full of affirmations and spiritual insight, but devoid of meaningful engagement with the suffering world around us. Even our livers are smiling in meditation, but our neighbours are living in wars zones, in poverty, in fear. When we remain above it, not a part of it, we deny half of who we are.... Spiritual beings with a human purpose.

As Spiritual beings with a human purpose, the energy we hold in our well developed hearts becomes raw creative material for future destinations for humanity, no matter what it is that we are doing. We have the opportunity to bring our inner states into outer expression through our words, our actions, our art, our music, our signature on a petition, our presence at a rally, our response to hatred and bigotry, our direct action to bring balance back to the land and the people, in any form. We can trust our spirit to guide and infuse our action, even while we feel emotionally moved and affected. Our desire for change in the material world is nothing to fear, or suppress, or master through meditation, but rather a call to action from the very same source that calls us to moments of deep peace.

Ram Dass, spiritual teacher and student of the Indian Saint Neem Karoli Baba, speaks to this beautifully...

"Compassion becomes the ability to embrace both planes simultaneously, so that you have an equanimity in you that comes from allowing it to be what it is, and at the same moment allow your human heart that is wanting to do something about it, reach out to do so."

As I have discovered, it can feel incredibly uncomfortable and unfamiliar to move from a single-minded focus on higher planes within, to a balance between the inner and outer worlds. A new language is required, and new compassionate actions necessary. Although we may not yet know how to do this with as much mastery and grace as we (sometimes) have in our morning meditations, let us try. Let us trust our own hearts to stay the course in the face of suffering and destruction. And let us support one another as we sometimes stumble in the process of learning this new language of fierce love.

For me personally, the ways in which I choose to actively participate in the healing of our planet will never be the same as they were when I was a younger and more furious woman.

No, this furious woman has the universe inside her.

 

* This post is dedicated to the courageous people taking direct action in North Dakota to save sacred lands, those demanding justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women across Canada, and the people across this land taking great personal risk exposing institutional, corporate and social injustice on all of our behalf.

 

Mystical Activism Challenge:

What injustice is your heart currently most affected by?

What would it sound like if you said how you truly feel about this injustice out loud?

What direct action could you take to add your fierce love to the world?

 

"Any action, like any act of magic, is in some sense an act of faith... I've seen the desert bloom, the flower that emerges from the barest hint of water, and I know the power of life will rise, stubborn and persistent to be renewed. May our actions be the wind that brings the rain."

-Starhawk

 

 

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On Emotional Intelligence and Intuition

I had the joy and honour of spending this afternoon with Ojibwe Lodge Keeper, Standing Strong, also known as Cindy Crowe, to listen to her experience and wisdom around intuition.

It is already becoming apparent, only a few official conversations in to this intuitive journey, that there are common truths about our relationships with our intuition. And yet the subtly different ways in which we describe our sense of it, can be fascinating, illuminating and evocative. Several times during our conversation I could feel my own heart coming more alive... coming to realize itself a little more... seeing and hearing a new way of understanding myself, who I am, and what it all means.

 

I knew it was going to be a powerful conversation when, before I had my microphone set up or my computer opened, Cindy began sharing, what ironically I sense intuitively, was going to be the soundclip to share with you!

And so here it is... a gem from Cindy on the connection between our emotions and our intuition.

To find out more about Cindy Crowe, Blue Sky Community Healing Lodge, and how you might connect with the Lodge, check out her website at www.blueskycommunityhealingcentre.ca

And to stay tuned to the intuitive project as it unfolds, be sure to subscribe to my blog to have intuitive wisdom drop right into your inbox. 

 

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On God And Intuition

A new and inspiring project has found a home and voice in my heart, and I'm excited to share it with you, particularly because I think you might be as fascinated as I am with this idea! For the next year I will be diving deep into an exploration of INTUITION.

Since I was a child I've been keenly aware of the subtle spiritual world within me, which includes my intuition. It has guided me, expanded me, inspired me and challenged me. It has connected ideas and people, inspired paintings, writings and projects, and informed me about myself, others and creation in revelatory and sublime ways. To me, exploring intuition is about something bigger than the intuitions themselves. To me, intuition is a kind of secret doorway into the most essential space within us... our heart... our sense of meaning... our origin.. spirit.

And so, with the guidance of my intuition, which has already laid out a fairly comprehensive plan for the project on my behalf, I am saying YES and acting on it! (we'll talk a bunch about acting on our intuition later in the project)

Over the next year I'll be connecting with a wide variety of people to talk about intuition. I am fortunate enough to know a village worth of people who strive to live intuitively, so I won't have to look far. I also want to hear from you!... regardless of how intuitive you think you are or aren't. So I hope you will join me, chime in, ask questions, or just send your support. I think we are all going to learn a lot here together.

This morning I excitedly sat down for my first conversation about intuition with one of my best girls, Lindsey Holmstrom. Lindsey is a particularly gorgeous woman living right here in Thunder Bay, that I have know since I was about seven. Beyond being a soul-sister of mine who I could gush about for hours, Lindsey is a gifted Birthing From Within Mentor and Birth Doula. Essentially, Lindsey connects intuition and pregnancy, birthing, and parenting for that matter.

Here is my favourite clip from that conversation... it gave me goosebumps as she was saying it, and I knew it had to be shared.

To find out more about Lindsey, her intuitive birth preparation classes, and how you might work with her, check out her website at www.lindseyholmstrom.com

And to stay tuned to the intuitive project as it unfolds, be sure to subscribe to my blog to have intuitive wisdom drop right into your inbox. 
 

 

 

 

 

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Claiming Your Own Sacred Creative Space

Creating sacred space is one of my favourite topics, as I deeply enjoy creating sacred and magical containers conducive to consciousness, transformation, and creativity. 

I invite you to join me in experiencing the joy of carving out a space in your heart and home just for your creative and spiritual unfolding. If you already have created a space, perhaps this exercise will be an invitation to revisit, shift, love, or occupy it even more deeply.

Developing your own sacred creative space is a way of integrating the ongoing process of your creative and spiritual development into your daily life. You might choose to create a space that is designed for reading, meditating, writing, dancing, yoga, music making, art making, reminding you of what is important to you most..... any purpose of your choosing.

Ideally your space can have a certain degree of permanence... It can sometimes be uninspiring to have to continually rebuild a creative space over and over again before you can play in it. (I used to paint in my dining room and would have to pack up and unpack constantly). That said, if creating a dedicated space isn't a possibility, consider getting really slick in your design of a portable space for ease of setup when the time comes. Sometimes temporary spaces can feel particularly alive, inspiring and fresh, so there are benefits to either. 

Setting intention

One of the first things you might consider when creating your sacred space is setting an intention or intentions, that will guide its creation. You might consider....

  • Purpose - ie., writing, yoga, dancing, reading, painting, etc.
  • Preferred energy - what qualities would you like the space to hold for you? i.e., healing, creativity, confidence, freedom, etc....
  • Feeling - How you want to feel in the space... ie., safe, calm, inspired, unpressured

Size doesn't matter

It's true, you can create sacred space regardless of square footage you have available to you.... you don't need a huge studio, or your own room to create yourself something inspiring and meaningful. Notice areas in your house that you love to spend time in, maybe you have empty spaces or corners just waiting to be developed, or a beam of sunshine filling a special spot just waiting to be enjoyed. Maybe you are ready to clean out an entire room that is under-utilized, or maybe a small shelf that you can turn into an alter. You might consider light in your spaces, perhaps creating an early morning meditation space in a place that will feel dark and womb-like, and a creative space in areas where light streams in as inspiration. Throughout my life I've created sacred spaces ranging from (literally) my closet, to an entire gorgeous shared public space we called The Creative Commons. I've even had the opportunity to create the tiniest of sacred spaces with a group of women who were experiencing intimate partner violence.... meaningful spaces so small they would go undetected by the untrained eye.

Design

Throughout the design process, continue to hold your intention in your heart as a guide. Instead of beginning with an agenda of how it is going to look, try allowing the intention and perhaps an accompanying sense of joy to illuminate the optimal design. Sometimes I will gather objects that sparkle and call my attention as I walk around my house, or peak through my caches of sacred crystals, feathers, and special goodies I've collected or have been gifted over the years.

Less is sometimes more, especially in creative spaces. If a space is already filled by objects, it can create a cramped feeling and cause tension in response. You may also sense in to your personal comfort levels with empty space.... where emptiness and objects strike the perfect balance for you.

 

A few more design tips... 

  • Add objects sparingly and see how your body responds to their presence... remove/add as your heart guides you
  • Colour is powerful... it is its own healing modality. Look up the energetic qualities or sense into how colours make you feel, and apply intentionally to your space
  • Design to suit your specific purpose... no need to add that old chair you have had for years just because... be focused and scrupulous! 
  • Continue to tweak your space after using it for a while... its like first going into a meditative posture and then realizing your neck is out of alignment... keep listening and intentionally readjusting as necessary. Your space will grow with you.
  • Protect the boundaries you've set around your space. What are the expectations around how this space is treated? Can anyone pick up your paints, adjust your alter, or burn your incense? Sharing can be fun.... if its the intention
  • Remember that you deserve it! No apologies for claiming a space to call your own

Now its time to use it!

The more a space is used, the more it magnetizes us to it and enables our creative and spiritual practice. Eventually your sacred, creative space will develop an energy field of its own that will joyfully and effortlessly draw you in, supporting and magnifying all of your efforts.

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Surrendering to be Cracked Open at the Canvas

Voluntarily diving into a spiritual healing or self revelatory process is perhaps one of the most courageous things we can do. It takes away the middle man, resistance, that often colours our daily life experiences. By volunteering we are saying to Spirit, "I am now ready to listen". And so Spirit obliges, revealing itself to you, as you, through your very own heart.

The process of self revelation can be varied and very much unique to your own journey. And sometimes, as if a gift from beyond, we share common experiences in this process, giving us community in which to be held, understood and cheered on by fellow travellers. Sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment, resentment, fear, and unworthiness are near universal inner experiences along the way. Allowing these feelings to become a part of your journey, rather than something that is caused by anything external to yourself, is the practice that will bring much peace and growth in times of personal suffering.

What if all of your experiences are designed to support your growth and healing? What if every experience serves as a cleansing to the human heart, flowing through you and touching the inner tender bits of you that are now ready for healing? We often experience this 'touching of our inner tender bits' as suffering, taking the form of our particular acquired wounding. i.e., unworthiness, anger, etc., and blaming the external experience for causing our inner pain. But what if we saw experience as an ongoing catalyst in discovering and healing those already present wounds? How would we respond differently if we saw it all as grist for the spiritual mill? The inner experience is then allowed to take on new meaning and become of great valuable instead of simply painful.

Now imagine yourself at your canvas, volunteering to hear in a new way through image and colour and courage. Remember back to your original intention at the onset of your creation and all that has transpired within and without ever since. Notice what pain has been arising to be released as you move closer toward your own realized self? What has been illuminated in your heart to take the place of the pain that is on its way out? What imagery and colour and daily experiences have been arising to support your journey?

Everyone processes at their own pace, and this continues to be true with the creative process. For some, the first stroke of paint is enough to crack you wide open. For others the unfolding continues through throughout the creative journey, surprising you when you are suddenly faced with a challenging session in front of the canvas. Invite the pain.... acknowledge and honour its gift.... release.... repeat. Journal.... share your insights with loved ones.... take good care of yourself. 

And remember, its only a little bit about the actual painting.

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The Listening Heart: a look inside

Each time I sit in front of a big, white canvas, I am struck by the silence that proceeds the flurry of creativity that is about to transpire.

In the silence I hear my heart beat, and the thoughts floating through my awareness... my grand ideas, expectations and fears. I hear my emotions as they arise and transform and dissolve and arise again.... doubt, excitement and peace. I hear my body... its needs and desire to move, to be fed, to be of service.

This silence is anything but silent.

In a split second, as I acknowledge my thoughts, emotions and body, I am released of them all. Back to my heartbeat my awareness moves... beyond my heartbeat to a place within my heart. A place from which creativity is born. I am listening closely, and yet not 'trying' to listen at all. I am spiritually limber, non-attached, available, ready and waiting for the pulse from within which compels my first strokes.

I have a vision, a sense of the shape of the image beginning to develop, and yet I continue to create from that place that is limber, non-attached, and available. Tuned to the ever changing pulse within, the creative force expresses and transforms one thousands times on my once white canvas... so sure of its own labyrinth walk to completion.

I release my expectations and attachments again and again and again, until my heart has told its own authentic and entirely unexpected story through my brush. Only then do I finally see what my heart was teaching me all along.

 

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