Saturday, December 27, 2014
Dried chiles at the mercado.
We have only been in Mexico for three days and I already have so much to write! What an amazing culture! We are "stranded" for a few days without our car in Puebla, a large city in central Mexico, about an hour and a half southeast of Mexico City. Let me tell you about how we got here...and why we are stranded.
On Christmas Eve, we slept at a charming old hotel in Laredo, Texas that was right on the river that divides Texas and Mexico. It was literally right next to the two border crossing bridges. There were loud fireworks all night long. A little preview of the loud and celebratory Mexican culture to come...
We awoke early and headed to the border bridge around 7:30 am. We had lots of paperwork and passports and photocopied documents. We approached the booths in our car and no one was manning them. It was vacant. We had a green light so we just drove through. "Is that it?" We said to each other. We were in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and it was desolate. On Christmas morning everything was closed up tight. We knew we needed visitor visas, but where to get them? We drove around for a while looking for signs that said anything about visas. We gave some change to a woman in a wheelchair who was missing a leg. We finally stopped back at another border crossing bridge and asked for help. In broken English a man pointed us in the right direction.
We arrived in a huge parking lot that was jammed full of cars. We parked and walked inside a large building to find many hundreds of people in a giant, winding line waiting to get vehicle import permits (which we ordered online ahead of time, THANK GOODNESS). We had planned out our day and had a couchsurfing host, kind enough to host us on Christmas, awaiting our arrival that evening, 8 hours south. The lineup would have taken hours! I made some comment when the line moved a little and a man in front of us said something in English to us. We were pleasantly surprised because we were certainly the only gringos in the whole place. He said that a police officer was just there and had taken a group to the second border crossing office just to get visitor visas, which is what we needed. So we got in our car and found the tiny office just down the street. We had our visas in 20 minutes. Back on the road.
We had read that there was a second border check-stop about 25 km into Mexico on the toll road. So we had all of our paperwork in order and as we approached this second check stop plaza, the only other human at the whole place was a man selling bread at a table. There was just some tumbleweed blowing around. So we slowly drove through in amazement at how little border control there was. Was it just because it was Christmas?
By the third time we stopped to use a washroom that morning, I realized that toilet paper is a valuable commodity in any public place. At the first visa office, where there were hundreds of people, I went to use the washroom and there was a communal roll of TP and it was empty. None of the stalls even had a paper holder. None of the toilets had seats either. Very different. So I learned quickly to keep a roll in our car. At many of the gas stations and rest stops, there are locals selling squares of paper for a few pesos.
The quality of the toll highways in Mexico is surprisingly better than most highways in the USA and Canada... Except for a few things: Sudden intermittent giant potholes. Herds of goats. Overly-brave pedestrians. Stray dogs. Horses and donkeys grazing in the median. Many police and military vehicles with men standing up in the back holding large guns.
At the toll booths there are soldiers with guns. The speed limit can say anything, but people still go insanely fast no matter what. 120km/hr seems to be the minimum speed of highway driving, with plenty of people zooming past at much, much faster speeds.
Every kilometer or so, there is a little booth on the side of the road selling grilled meats. There are also men with lots of car tires and car parts everywhere down the highway. The rainbow colors of the mostly abandoned buildings and small homes are so beautiful against the brownish landscape in the northern part of Mexico. Many casas had black plastic tanks on the roof for solar hot water.
We drove about 8 hours south on Christmas to a city called San Luis Potosí. We attempted to contact our Couchsurfing host, but my Canadian phone couldn't call her phone. So I bought a prepaid Mexican calling card for use in special pay phones only. That didn't get through to her either. We wanted to arrive at her place before dark so we bought a real map. We found her home around 5pm, and knocked. No answer. We left a nice note in the door with our phone number and drove to find a restaurant and had supper. Still no call. We were advised by many to not travel around after dark. So we sat in a Starbucks at a fancy hotel and waited. Finally at 9pm Alejandra called us. She was the best CS host we have had yet. Her whole family was so kind and they all spoke great English which was very welcoming.
She cooked us some Mexican snacks that night and we had a great chat. In the morning, I awoke to the window next to my bed rattling from the 6am fireworks and mucho celebrating. We had an excellent Mexican breakfast together. They have invited us to come back and stay for a few days on our return trip. They know of a brujo, or a witch doctor that is supposed to be an amazing healer and they want to go find him with us. Sounds pretty exciting!
On day two, we got a late start. We enjoyed talking with Alejandra and her mama so much that we lost track of time. We drove to a city called Queretaro and somehow missed a sign and ended up downtown in traffic for a while. It was beautiful. Amazing colors.
We found our way out and then approaching Mexico City, we missed another turn that would have taken us way outside of the perimeter of the city limits. Instead we drove along the outskirts. We have never seen anything like it. Millions of shanties that looked barely livable. The smell in the air was of sewage. Just driving past for a half hour, I had a sore throat and nose from the poor air quality. There are upwards of 20 million people there. Wow.
We continued of drive and as we exited the Mexico City area, the traffic got very congested and while we sat waiting to pay a toll, we spotted a cloud of ash puffing out of the top of one of the massive volcanoes, Popocatépetl. I have photos on my camera. I will have to post one later.
We raced up the mountain passes and watched as dozens of cars were pulled over with their hoods up, engines smoking. I thought of how lucky we were that our little old Jetta was running so well after 5,000km of driving over the last 10 days. We approached the city of Puebla, which is home to North America's largest auto plant, Volkswagen, which is where our Jetta was built over a decade ago. There is even a Volkswagen bank! All of the taxis and police cars are VW's in this city.
We sat in a creeping traffic jam for an hour just outside of the city limits. Darkness set in and as we finally drove into the city to find a hotel, our car overheated and the red temperature light came on and beeped. We had no idea where we were and it was getting late. We pulled over on the side of a city street where a police car was flashing and the officer was standing watch over the traffic and pedestrians. We asked him to lead us to a safe hotel. He smirked and said "YO???" (Me???). And shook his head no. I asked why not??? Then he asked us to open the hood of the car. A couple of minutes later, a friend of his happened to walk up and started fiddling with stuff under the hood. He was a mechanic and worked at a shop a few blocks away. He told us to bring our car there in the morning. The police officer ended up leading us to a hotel where we hunkered down. It is a funky retro place right across from a huge bus terminal and mercado. Very loud people most of the night but it is safe and cozy.
Morning. We take the Jetta to the mechanic. One man speaks a decent amount of English, which was helpful. Before we left Texas, we purchased a Spanish-English dictionary. Best purchase ever. They replaced the thermostat and the temperature sensor. It took several hours, and it was still overheating when they finished. They closed at 2pm today and won't be back for working until Monday morning. They will put a new water pump in next and see if that solves the issue. So much for heading to our next destination. In the meantime, I knew I needed a Mexican phone. I went across the parking lot from the mechanic and noticed the we could now see the same huge volcano from the opposite side. It was letting out tiny puffs of ash from its snow-capped flat top in the hot sun. The ash coming off of that peak might explain why come people here are wearing surgical type masks. Breathing that in constantly could be hard on lungs.
The young man, Oscar, working in the convenience store said he didn't sell a SIM card to fit my iPhone, but offered to walk us to the phone shop about 10 minutes away. He didn't speak English so it was a fun challenge. The phone shop was in the middle of a large mercado where there were people and stuff everywhere. So many smells, colors and loud noises! We would have never found it without his help. Just crossing the street was a huge challenge. The national slogan of Mexico could easily be "Welcome to Mexico. Anything goes!"
My favorite part of the mercado was the boxes of tiny puppies! We are resting in our hotel room after a very long day. Planning which sites to see over the next two days, since the universe has decided that this is where we are to remain for a while.
Oh, also, we were the only gringos all day and the locals seem so amazed when they see us. We feel like celebrities. It's very strange! A few people stopped us and asked where we were from. Many people are staring and pointing and especially small kids are mesmerized when they see us. It's adorable. They wave at us from car windows and they especially love the huge blonde beard on my travel partner. I have nicknamed him Barba Grande. (Big Beard).
Stay tuned for part two...adios for now.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
I really struggle to wrap my mind around the idea that in 2014, racial variety is still an issue that some people haven't accepted as just a part of human evolution. Humans come in different shapes and colors with varied languages and traditions. Whaaaaat?! Yeah. It's been that way for a long, loooong time.
I hear racist comments on a regular basis from all sorts of people. All ages, both genders, many races. It's not just against people of African descent either, as is currently so prominent in our media coverage. It's happening against Native and aboriginal people, Asian people, Latin people, Indian and Arab people and on and on...Basically, anyone who isn't white. But then again, we Caucasians are judged too. By religion, class, career, zip code and everything else in between, even amongst other Caucasians. Why are some humans so unaccepting of one another? It's pretty simple. Fear of what is different than ourselves.
Here's the thing. How did all of our current nationalities come into existence? Interbreeding, of course. The world didn't just appear suddenly with perfectly settled cultures across the entire globe eating sushi and pizza and tacos. It took many thousands of years for each unique culture to develop. We are still developing gradually, as evolution doesn't just stop.
I grew up with a racist father who still makes racist comments on a regular basis. It took me over 30 years to ask him to please keep his hurtful comments to himself. The reality is that it's all he knows and he doesn't see it as racism.
I clearly remember the day my dad called me up to tell me that, to his horror, my younger sister had an African-American boyfriend. I first felt angry at him for the judgement and ignorance. But then I decided to just keep listening. He said "If whites and blacks keep having children together, eventually, in a few generations everyone on the planet will look like Obama!" I laughed to myself and then answered "That sounds great. Obama is pretty good-looking!"
There was silence on the other end.
That conversation was about 4 years ago. Again, a few months ago, he was ranting about mixed races in our family. I felt so furious that I raised my voice (which I very rarely do) and said to him "I want you to listen to me and listen very carefully. I love you, but I will never, EVER agree with the words that are coming out of your mouth. So please do not even bother wasting both of our time on this topic." It stuck for a while, but seems to have worn off recently. I'm once again getting chain emails forwarded to my inbox that are totally offensive to me.
I was recently reminded of a comment that my former step-son made when he was 5 years old (He's almost 12 now). His hair and eyes are dark and his skin is slightly olive colored, as his father is Caucasian and his mother was from Colombia. We were driving in the car and from the back seat he was telling me that he got along really well with a boy in his class and that they were best pals (the boy was East Indian). I told him that sounded really nice and asked why he thought they were such good friends. He answered "obviously... because we are both pretty much brown people." I laughed and told him that I was glad that he had so many friends of all skin colors. He said "it doesn't matter to me about anyone's skin. They're all my friends." Yes! Well said child!
In a perfectly timely manner to me writing this post, I spoke to my dad on the phone today for much longer than our usual quick "hello and goodbye". Sure enough, the topic he brought up was racism. He said that my sister was up in arms about this "whole Ferguson thing" and that he doesn't see what the big deal is. I said "Dad. This is the straw that broke the camel's back. It's not just about this one incident. It just took this one incident to tip the scales."
A year ago, while traveling in the US of A, we went to a movie theater (which is a very rare occurrence) to see 12 Years A Slave. It devastated me. I could hardly watch. I was sick to my stomach. I felt deep sadness and anguish for many weeks afterward. This abuse is still happening in marginally milder ways. Segregation, judgement, verbal and physical violence, inequalities, mistrust, racial profiling and more judgement.
Since moving to Vancouver Island, I have felt deep disturbance after I learned more about how the Canadian government has pushed the First Nations tribes around for generations. Until recently, I didn't quite understand the depth of the pain and suffering that has been (and is being) inflicted upon our native brothers and sisters.
Our friend, who is a First Nations elder, has been an amazing mentor to us both. He is making huge efforts to heal and strengthen the connections between his people and the paler brothers and sisters. He hosts sweat lodges in ceremony for all of us to give thanks to our ancestors who came before us to pave the way for us to live here together today. It brings all of us closer and helps to wash away the old pain and bring in new, fresh energy.
It has been so wonderful to begin to learn more about who came before us and how we all have the power to shift human relations for the better. With love in our hearts, we must view each other as the equals that we are. We are all one race. The human race. Therefore, racism against anyone is racism against ourselves.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Writing what my heart tells me to isn't always easy. I often blog about things that feel iffy or risky to discuss. I wonder what some people might think about the topics. I wonder if anyone actually cares what I think and feel. I wonder who is even reading this? Then I remember why I started this blog in the first place...For me. "This above all, to thine own self be true." Shakespeare was so wise. All that matters is that we are being true to ourselves. It sounds easy enough. However, it can come with some hefty challenges, as I continue to discover.
I have let go of several dear friends since I started this blog a year and a half ago. Not everyone is ready to read the things that I write. Some have made that very clear to me. It saddens me to have to move forward without those people in my life. Fortunately for all of us, there are 8+ billion humans in the neighborhood and I continue to connect with many people who jump at the chance to discuss the topics that I write about. These are the people who I write to support, so they know they are not alone. The ones who know that we are living in a world based on many false realities, far beyond what many of our minds can comprehend. Those who know that we are all far more powerful and intelligent than we are led to believe. Those who follow their own path and fly their own flag, albeit lonely at times, to remain true to themselves and not conform to the insane normalities that we call society.
I applaud you all for standing in your power. It's not always rainbows and butterflies. It can feel like trudging through quicksand or like standing alone at the top of a tall mountain, overlooking the world and wishing that everyone could stop for just a moment and see what's really happening.
Everywhere I go, nearly every time I leave the house and go mingle with the world, I connect with people. Like light bulbs clicking on. Like two Lego blocks fitting together. It is so wonderful and I am so grateful to have this gift. I know that there are thousands, if not millions of us loving compassionate earth angels out there, flitting around sprinkling peace and love dust everywhere we go.
I also have dark moments of sadness, loneliness and frustration at times. It is then that I remind myself of all of you out there who continue down the road less traveled. We give our time, knowledge and gifts to the world, knowing that for someone, somewhere that it's making a big difference. Remaining unattached to the outcome is the secret.
Nearly 10,000 views on this site now...
I love you. All of you. Yes, I do.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
|Whole Guatemalan Cacao Beans|
However, what is not as widely known is that cacao actually has the ability to open our hearts to love and heal ourselves, and to strengthen connections with those around us. It gently guides us to see the truth of who we are and to guide us toward our higher calling. In our family, we also lovingly call it "truth serum". While under the magic spell of this beautiful brown bean, you simply cannot dishonor yourself. It seems to whisper to your heart. It's no secret why so many of us love chocolate. It induces a feeling of euphoria (especially the dark, rich, organic, fairly-traded stuff) that few other purely natural foods can create. Imagine the feeling that savoring your favorite chocolate bar gives you and multiply that times a LOT! This is what I feel when I drink a ceremonial dose of rich, flavorful, magical Guatemalan cacao medicine!
|Cacao Truffles photo by Anaya Lea|
In the past few months, I have attended a handful of these sacred healing Cacao Ceremonies, led by none other than my very special friend / unofficial-mother-in-law, Cori. She has a beautiful gift with sharing her knowledge of plant medicines and music that when combined, creates a wonderfully warm and magical ceremonial experience. I have learned from her about the plant and it's healing properties. I have also realized how important it is for us to acknowledge the wisdom of all plants as our medicine and to thank the spirit of cacao for allowing us to work with it in such a pleasurable way. Through the use of cacao, I have deepened my love for myself. I have deepened many friendships and exchanged laughter and tears with complete strangers over a cup of this heart-opening potion.
If the opportunity arises for you to participate in one of these ceremonies, I highly recommend it. There simply is no downside to a circle of loving human beings opening their hearts and sharing the joy of life and the love of chocolate while singing and laughing together! Muchas Gracias Cacao!
Monday, November 03, 2014
We recently did our first 7-day fast. Sure, fasting is pretty common these days, even trendy. There are huge health benefits, which encompass mind, body and spirit.
What about urine fasting? You may not know that urine therapy and urine fasting are ancient practices, dating back thousands of years in the Vedic texts of India.
Initially, when I was first introduced to the concept several years ago, my face cringed and my stomach did a backflip. After all, we are taught that urine is a waste product of the body, right? Wrong. Urine has tons of trace minerals and can have a very healing and therapeutic effect on our cells. There are documented cases of UT clearing up many serious illnesses.
Urine fasting is comprised of several parts. Capturing urine in a glass jar, and aging it for several days turns the pH from acidic to alkaline, increasing its healing properties. It is recommended that you massage the alkaline urine into your skin from head to toe. This action not only draws toxins from the skin, but it also results in softer, clearer skin. I especially noticed it on my face. The use of urine as a rinse in hair before shampooing leaves hair softer and shinier too. Sounds too gross or strange? You may be surprised to learn that derivatives of urine (from various critters) are common ingredients in many beauty products for their youth-enhancing, rejuvenating properties. (Personally, I would rather use my own urine.) Many leather conditioners also contain urea to soften and preserve the leather (aka skin).
The second part is using urine packs, or cloths soaked in the aged urine, and placed for a length of time on any part of the body that needs extra healing and TLC. Organs, skin rashes, wounds, burns, etc., can benefit greatly from the sterile soaking in these packs.
Urine can also be used to balance our hormones. Pregnant mare urine (PMU) is a main ingredient in medications used to balance hormones in menopausal women.
In order to receive the full benefit of urine cleansing, drinking your urine is crucial. Consuming urine cleans out all aspects of our bodies. First the digestive tract, and then all of our cells get a flush. Urine fasting has also been used for deep detoxing purposes. I, myself, have been seeking relief from a candida overgrowth in my body for several long and uncomfortable years. I tried so many medicines (traditional Rx's and natural) as well as cleanses, diets, and various regimens to try to clear up the candida. So exhausting. After a week of UT, I am feeling better than I have in nearly a year. When compared to the suffering I have faced in the last few years, drinking urine seems like a small price to pay.
We began and ended our fast with a couple of days of fresh-pressed organic juice from our bountiful garden harvest to ease our bodies into and out of the fast to and from a solid food diet.
We both kept detailed notes about how we felt, any changes, any discomforts etc. I made notes of the tricks that my mind kept trying to play on me. We both also dropped to body weights that we hadn't experienced since our teens. A fascinating side effect.
A few crucial notes if you are considering a urine fast:
1. Drinking fresh water is important if you feel like you need extra hydrating.
2. Fast when you have a BLANK schedule. Any extra exertion is not recommended. Your body needs rest to fully cleanse and heal itself.
3. Listen to your body. If you are feeling any severe symptoms, ease back out of the fast very gently.
4. Consider retreating to a place that isn't home so that you can completely relax and be present with the magic of fasting.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Do you resonate with the concept that many people are starving for meaningful, soul-level human connection?
Why are we lacking this connection? Could it be that we are not connected to ourselves?
Do you feel like you are "different"?
Do you struggle to share your “bizarre experiences” with your friends and family?
Are you afraid of being judged for your unique abilities?
I was too. Until NOW.
I have chosen to share this information to encourage all of us to learn to embrace ourselves and all of our unique gifts and to connect with one another on a deeper level to strengthen our relationships and to build community around the planet.
I have recently and excitedly become aware that after 30+ years of feeling like I was simply “weird”, that I belong to a group of humans that are highly-sensitive. If you can relate to this concept, you may be a part of this rapidly-growing demographic.
Research is showing that approximately 20% of all humans are highly-sensitive, and the other 80% are likely not far behind…they just may not know it...yet! I believe that we are all sensitive to varying degrees, directly related to our individual level of self-awareness. It's a sliding scale.
Often, us Highly-Sensitive Humans ( I will refer to us as HSH's) struggle to feel comfortable in our fast-paced, highly-demanding, overly-stimulating society. Our minds and bodies are constantly picking up on subtle energies and messages from sources outside of ourselves. We might get a feeling that something is going to happen but struggle to explain ourselves. We question just about everything and we have the ability to see through the veil of false and misleading information that is bombarding our lives.
Here is a list that I made of common traits among HSH's that I have met throughout my life:
- High Level of Creativity
- Recharged by Time in Nature
- Aversion to Crowds
- Require Extra Personal Space
- Connection with Animals or Plants
- Soul Recognition
- “Super Senses”
- Above average "B.S." detector (I love this one. It was one that an audience member suggested that I add. It's SO true.)
- Photographic Memory or Deja-Vu
- Powerful Lasting Dreams
- Need Decompression Timeouts
- Strong Desire to Connect to/Help Others
- Struggle with “Small Talk” and "Normal"
- Resistance to Authoritative Figures
- Tend to Avoid Media and News
- Absorb Emotions and Thoughts of Others
- Addictions: Drugs, Food, Sex, Gambling etc.to Distract and Numb High Sensitivities
- Dietary Super-Sensitivities (alcohol, caffeine, medications, certain food groups)
- Consciously-High Manifestation Rate
- Ability to Read Other People's Energy / Aura
- Mild Self-Mutilation (unconscious pulling hair, biting nails, scratching, teeth grinding, etc.)
- Anxious Tendencies / Sense of Urgency
- Concern for Social Justice and our Environment
- Affinity for Crystals, other Natural Phenomena
(Disclaimer: Some of these traits could be labeled as "symptoms" of mental disorders. I like to think that most of us aren't crazy and that we just don't understand ourselves or each other fully. There may be some that will need help from medical professionals.)
Modern society is training us to forget who we really are and where we come from, and with this, we unknowingly forfeit our unlimited wisdom and intelligence. Luckily, we are awakening as a species. Each day, collectively,we are more conscious, more sensitive and more powerful. Could this be a major sign that humanity is evolving to the next level?
With the loving encouragement of many wonderful HSH’s that I know, I am beginning to share what I have learned and continue to learn each day! I am passionate about guiding others to embrace these wonderful metaphysical gifts. I will be hosting several interactive talks in various communities across Vancouver Island (and beyond!) throughout the coming months. There will be monthly HSH Connection Circles in various communities across the island as well. These will be casual gatherings to both nurture ourselves and to connect with other sensitive people in our community. We will share our stories and experiences to encourage and support each other as fellow HSH’s. I am also hosting full-day workshops that will focus on embracing our gifts, remaining balanced in this increasingly-chaotic world, and supporting one another as HSH’s.
I believe that it is a responsibility (and a really fun one) that those of us who are HSH's gently take the hands of others who are approaching this level of awareness and guide them in whatever way we can to keep going!
We, at One World Wellness are seeking to expand our travels this winter and to spread these messages far and wide. If you know of an organization anywhere that may be interested in hosting such a talk or workshop, please pass on my contact information. email@example.com
PS. LIKE our Facebook page "One World Wellness" (the one in B.C. Canada) so you can follow our events and travels! Yippee!
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
(Note: I left the photos out of this post so that you could imagine all of this for yourself. Except the plant itself. You have to see the plant. Oh, and maybe get a cup of tea or coffee. This is a long one.)
In the Amazon jungle grows a wild and gnarly vine called Ayahuasca, aka "the soul vine". It has been used by shamans for many hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of years to call in the spirits of nature to guide humans to a higher understanding of themselves and the intricate workings of the universe. Last week I had the opportunity to partake in an Ayahuasca ceremony. It was a wild ride that I will never forget. Ever.
Two shamans, one a local First Nations elder and one a gringo shaman working with traditional Amazonian shamanism knowledge, led the ceremony, which lasted nearly five hours. Likely the longest five hours of my life. As I write this, my heart is thumping, my guts rumbling and I feel a shiver with a deep chill, as the plant medicine resides within me many days after the ceremony has ended.
Ayahuasca takes us deep within our own psyche to face our fears, overcome our inner obstacles and test our limits, as well as to impart wisdom and new ways of being upon us. Every participant will experience a unique adventure and it will be different each time that this plant medicine is consumed.
Here is my recollection of my first journey down the Ayahuasca rabbit hole...
A group of six participants and two shamans gathered into a cozy room with large windows on two sides. Before we began, both shamans opened cases filled with jars containing various dried plants and carefully laid out feathers and instruments of all kinds, as well as their ceremonial pipes.
The two shamans smudged us (and the cat who joined in) with special perfumes and smoked herbs to purify us for the sacred ceremony. It was nightfall and we all hunkered down into piles of pillows and blankets as we anticipated the start of the ceremony. We had followed specific dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the week leading up to this night. The plant medicine does not react well with competing elements. It is referred to as a jealous plant medicine.
We were advised to refrain from speaking or touching anyone else during the ceremony and to try our best to avoid leaving the ceremony, other than to use the washroom. We were all given our very own "purging pail", as vomiting is a common side effect.
I was the only newbie in the room and I was told that first-timers get a half dose of the plant medicine, as to ease into the journey. We all took our turn receiving the elixir and most people cringed as they choked down the harsh tasting fluid. After I swallowed it I said to the shaman "huh! It's not nearly as awful as I thought it would be!" He replied with a smirk, "Just wait until you're vomiting it up all night long." Alrighty then. This should be interesting, I thought. Too late to turn back now...
Once all eight of us had drank the medicine, the lights were turned out and we reclined into our pillow nests to enjoy the ceremony in complete darkness. The shamans invoked the spirit guides and began to drum and chant in foreign tongues.
After about 20 or 30 minutes, my body began to tingle all over and I felt myself yawning and getting a bit sleepy. One of the shamans called each of us up, one at a time, to have a private ceremony where he sang, chanted and played various instruments to help each of us with our individual journey. I was called up second in line. As soon as I stood up, I felt like I was inside a big ship, rocking around on the ocean waves. I reached for my bucket, just in case, even though I wasn't at all queasy. I sat down in the darkness, knee-to-knee with the shaman as he lit some dried herbs to smudge me with. I immediately got an intense rumbling in my lower abdomen and awkwardly told him that I needed a washroom break immediately. He said he could wait for me, so I dashed toward the glass patio door with bucket in hand.
I stumbled to the outdoor washroom, the pathway and interior illuminated by party-style rope lighting. As I entered, all of the harmless spiders in their webs that I had noticed before the ceremony, had suddenly become animated and intimidating. The washroom seemed to hum with the sound of these spiders spinning webs and creeping about the room. There was one jumbo spider in particular who I found very off-putting. He was the size of a quarter and red and yellow striped. He lurked in his huge, woven masterpiece next to the toilet. I made it to the toilet just in time. As I sat there, I felt my body cool off to an uncomfortable temperature. I began to shake and tremble like nothing I had ever experienced before. I felt as though I was under a spell. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of being surrounded by spiders, I had a moment of clarity, snapped back to the task at hand, and made my way back into the ceremony building.
I sat back down in front of the shaman. He proceeded to light more dried herbs and blow the smoke around me. He mumbled something and then I heard him reach for two rattles in the darkness. Simultaneously, he and the other shaman broke into wild chanting and rattling. I instantly felt my guts twisting and churning. I still had my bucket, though I didn't feel the need to use it. Throughout the song, I heard the voice of a friend who had given me a deep tissue acupressure massage earlier that day. He said "BREATHE! Remember to keep breathing." So I did. I briefly opened my eyes to see the faint silhouette of the shaman literally rattling me to the core, as he wildly waved his arms around me. When the rattling ended, he spoke a few more phrases and reached for a pair of eagle's wings. I could hear the ruffling of the huge feathers. He also used an eagle bone as a whistle that sounded eerily like an eagle's cry. I was swept away in a torrent of flapping wings and a powerful breeze that took my breath away. It was beyond surreal. Lastly, the shaman took both of my hands into his and wrapped his warm palms around my icy fingers. He said a prayer to thank the plant medicine for guiding both of us. I thanked him and then made a beeline for the door. I stepped out into the crisp night air and was caught off guard by the loud echoing call of two owls in the dark trees before me. Then a third bird chimed in. It sounded very lonely and almost like it was dying. A swan? Then I laughed and shook my head because I was sure that the other shaman and his assistant were playing mind tricks on me by making creepy noises in the woods.
I stumbled once more to the outdoor washroom and felt extremely weak as I wrestled with the door that had deer antler handles (that part is real). I was greeted this time by a spider dangling right in front of the toilet and a few earwigs scrambling on the floor, walls and mirror. Ugh. I felt disgusted, but was so ill that I didn't care. I sat there shaking violently as though I were riding a mechanical bull. Was this an exorcism, I wondered? If so, thank goodness! Better out than in!
Again, I achieved a brief moment of clarity and remembered that I should head back inside. The two owls faded away into the distance and as I stepped into the ceremony space, I heard the two men who I had suspected were lurking in the woods. They were right in the same spot that they were when I left. Those were some seriously bizarre bird calls then. I wondered what they were saying to me...
I laid back down in my nest of bean bags and blankets. I buried myself in as many blankets as were within arms reach. I was also wearing sheepskin boots over wool socks, pants, a flannel shirt and a down vest. It was probably about 15 degrees in the room (or for Americans, about 65F or something) but I was certain that hypothermia had me in its grip. I just couldn't stop shaking.
My own breath felt like a cold Arctic wind on my fingers. I twisted and turned and wriggled around to try to find a warmer position.
I then rationalized that people don't typically freeze to death in temperatures that warm. Duh.
Meanwhile, in between the seven private one-on-one ceremonies, the shamans performed song after song with drums, chanting (sometimes in a language that seemed like gibberish), and many instruments. There was rarely a break in the music for more than a couple of minutes.
Before long, I felt another rumbling in my belly. I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog's Day. Again?! I begrudgingly wrestled the unnaturally heavy pile of blankets off of me and headed for the door with my bucket. When I reached the washroom, the insects and spiders had appeared to multiply! I felt as though they were having a great time laughing at my expense. Can they actually do that? Cracking themselves up over humans that are silly and uncomfortable around them? Who knows. This time, as I sat there in the cold outhouse, I set the bucket down on the floor and laughed. I suddenly got the message that I was different. Just because everyone else was vomiting into buckets didn't mean that I had to follow suit. My body had a different evacuation plan - obviously!
I went outside and looked up at the clear, starry sky and felt super dizzy. I spun my feet around in circles and decided that I had better go back in and lay down before I got myself lost in the woods. The medicine seemed to have hit a peak of intensity and I was seriously questioning my own judgement. I crawled into my nest and bundled up. I continued to shake violently. I then felt like someone was laying on my legs...but they weren't. Just another trick. A friend who laid next to me stood up with a blanket around his shoulders like a cape. His silhouette appeared 12 feet high and I was sure he was either Batman or Zorro. Or both. Multiple times. The old tabby cat was hunkered down next to me most of the night. His purring sounded like a machine gun and I could feel it vibrating all of the cells in my body.
The event lasted nearly five hours. My entire being felt so relieved when the shamans closed the ceremony around 3 am, and the room became quiet. Then the talking and laughing began. We all shared our experiences. Most of us were still feeling heavily influenced by the plant medicine. All of my senses felt like they were on steroids. I mentioned that I felt like I was going to freeze to death, so everyone piled more blankets and several sheep skins on top of me. Ahh. Just right. I later realized that I had no verbal filter and words just kept pouring from my mouth for the next couple of hours as I struggled to feel any hint of comfort. Apparently, some of the things that I said were hilarious to some people in the room. I also think some of the other things that I said may have been labeled as rude. I felt as though I was a puppet, possessed by the plant spirits. Eventually, people trickled out of the room and I fell asleep amongst a few friends. When I opened my eyes and saw the light of day, I was stunned and also thrilled to have survived the longest night of my life! Yahooooo! I made it!!!!!
I, myself, was strongly affected the entire next day. I had an ayahuasca hangover. With a lot more toilet time, a severe headache... and even some vomit bucket time. I laid most of the day on our futon, feeling heavy with the medicine. My heart pounding. I was chilled to the bone. I gazed out the window at the trees and just barely forced out a smile. I had faced my ego head on. I experienced what utter helplessness felt like. I learned that the spiders and creepy crawlers were here to teach me to relax and let go, not to harass me. I learned that I am different. Not a follower. I learned greater patience and to just go with the flow. Suddenly, everything I face each day seems so much simpler. I find myself laughing at my thoughts and actions and at the follies of all humans.
The spiders are still with me though. Every day. In lots of ways. When I least expect them. I think I had better get used to it. They outnumber me billions to one.
Look for an ayahuasca ceremony near you. Worth every penny!
Thursday, August 21, 2014
I sit here alone tonight sipping my tea, after a powerful two-hour Skype call with a wonderful friend. It had been a couple of weeks since we had last spoken. We thought we knew what the topic of conversation would be, but after about 5 minutes the conversation took an unexpected turn.
Instead of smiling all pretty and saying "I'm doing great. Life is perfect!", like so many of us want each other to believe, we both openly shared how we were feeling: afraid. Our lives are very different, yet, underlying it all is a sense of insecurity. An uneasiness. A feeling of disconnection. A feeling of unclarity. We ask ourselves: Who am I and why am I here? Why is our society generally focused on all of the wrong things? Why do so many of us have hundreds of Facebook friends, but yet we feel isolated and alone? Why do we go to jobs that we don't love? Why do we feel like we need to prove ourselves to the world? Why???
|From 150 Love Notes by Sugarboo|
We both shared stories of ourselves and others we know who are in a current state of what I would best describe as bewilderedness. People of all ages and races, both sexes and in various life circumstances are feeling lost. People are feeling trapped. People are feeling depressed and some are panicking. People are feeling hopeless and helpless. People are all around exhausted.
We, at least in the "developed" world, are all faced with endless daily personal challenges: health, family, work, debt, rent, mortgage, fitness, looks, material possessions and of course, keeping up with the Jones's! None of this is what really matters. We have forgotten how to connect with one another, how to listen and be compassionate. Humanity's ship is sinking and no one knows how to swim. Is this even possible?! Where are the life rafts? Well I'm here to say we ARE the life rafts. For each other. We must all hold hands and together we will stay afloat.
As my friend and I talked, we both allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. We cried. We cried hard. It was sad, but also somehow so comforting to know that others understand what we are experiencing. We are all in this together. This turbulent time in history as human beings.
We lamented about how devastating it can be to watch people we care about self-medicating to numb the all-consuming overarching discomfort. People are over-shopping and over-eating. They're using all manner of drugs and alcohol to calm their nerves and bring themselves back to a state of being able to cope with our current global crises. There are workaholics and sexaholics, neat-freaks, hoarders and even exercise-aholics. We all have our own way of coping. But the truth is that none of these things are getting us closer to the real answers. They're just band aids to cover up the wounds. If we fill our brains and time with stuff and substances then we don't have to think about the stuff lurking in the shadows.
I told her that I have recently discovered that I have an over-active adrenal system as a result of excess stress (some self-administered) for the last 30+ years. Being a highly sensitive human compounds it all, too. Even though I no longer live a very stressful lifestyle, my body has been thrown out of balance and I am determined to rebalance myself. The hardest part for me has been the lack of knowledgeable healthcare professionals. I have probably consulted with a dozen doctors of various backgrounds over the last two years. The latest doctor whom I consulted told me she didn't know how to help me, but she offered to "go home and google the symptoms tonight on my computer while I have the other eye on the TV". I told her thanks, but don't bother, I can use google too. Seriously. It's safe to say that my faith in the western medical system is hanging by a spiderweb strand (and that's even being kind). So back to the drawing board I go. I will be experimenting with my own ideas from here on out and following the paths that the universe lays down before me. If anyone has any amazing ideas, please share.
My partner is currently at his first Ayahuasca ceremony for the remainder of tonight. He's on a mission to gain a clearer vision of who he is and why he's on earth at this time. I eagerly anticipate hearing all about his otherworldly experience. Maybe plants hold the wisdom and answers to our human questions and concerns in this age of chaos....
Sunday, August 03, 2014
I instinctively stand up and walk to John's table. We shake hands and I sit down for what turns into a two-hour life lesson. I knew immediately that I was at this pub just for this encounter. He sips a mug of beer and smiles as wisdom pours continually out of his mouth. He hands me a carving. It is a large eagle feather, about a foot and a half high, chiseled by his hands and painted with the traditional red and black colors of the northwest native art. I already know that it's coming home with me. (And most people that know me know that I rarely purchase much unless it's edible or wearable.) I ask John how long it took him to make it. He says about a week start to finish. I remark on how flawless it is and he tells me that he's been honing this carving skill for 33 years. It's how he makes a living, and as he points to the pink clouds over the coastal mountains, he tells me that when he can spend his time in this place using nature as inspiration, he can't possibly imagine going back and working a 9-5 job. He says he's been a logger, a fisherman and everything in between from age 16. He left home and school early to help pay for his family to survive.
I smiled at him and said good for you for respecting yourself, and said that I promised that I wouldn't ask for an awkward tourist photo.
He says he's 54 years old but I wouldn't guess he is a day over 40. I ask what his secret is to looking so youthful. He smiles a big grin and says UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. He tells me that no matter what life deals him, his love for his children, and grandchildren and the natural world, paired with his creativity in carving are what make life so wonderful. This makes perfect sense to me.
He beams as he talks about his 3 daughters. He mentions his ex-wife and how ugly their relationship became. He looks at my fiancé (who has now joined in the conversation) and I and says very seriously that communication is the most important thing in any relationship. Keep all of your cards on the table at all times. Don't hold any emotions back. Share your gratitude with each other. Share, share, and share some more. He urges the two of us to live our passions starting now, because nothing else matters. Support each other. What you have together is sacred. None of this outside stuff matters.
I learned all of this a bit too late, he sighs, and sips his beer. He tells us that he knows that he drinks alcohol to numb the sadness, even if it's only for a little while. Self-medicating, he calls it. John says he's been to too many counselors and therapy and it never helped him much. He had a rough life as a youngster, including attending a residential school, and it has carried on with him through the years. My heart ached for him and for all of the native people around the world.
I finally realize how late it's getting and tell him that we have to head home. I also say that the feather is going to come home with me and that it will remind me of this great meeting. He says that his phone number is written under the base of the artwork and that if it happens to get damaged that I should call and he will try to repair it. He also mentions that he makes custom art for wedding gifts and that we should call him to come and paint a wedding piece together to symbolize our unity.
We thank him for his wisdom and he sheepishly nods his head and slips into the pub. A few minutes later he comes back out onto the patio with another beer and a big smile. I put my hand on his shoulder and say, remember the Red Road and take it easy on the beer.
Friday, August 01, 2014
Meanwhile, while I was completely immersed in my teenaged mutant ninja hermit phase, my family was sure I was going crazy (and some days I wondered if they were right...but now I know that I was totally fine!). So they took me to numerous specialists and eventually, after testing half a dozen meds, had me put on a one called Effexor XR. It numbed me to a place where I was neither excited or sad. Just a steady dullness enveloped my every waking moment. I even stopped having dreams at night for years on end. I remained on that medication for nearly 7 years. I think that while under the influence of its spell, I didn't have the wherewithal to realize that I was being totally compliant with leading a very dull and unexciting existence.
During that time, at age 22, I unexpectedly conceived with my partner. I consulted with several doctors who said that my original prescribing doctor (or any other doctor at all???) should have explained the severe risks involved with pregnancy and this medication. I was furious. I felt so uninformed and totally abandoned by the western medical system that we all accept as "normal". After weeks of strong encouragement from doctors, and with mountains of sadness and guilt, we decided to end the pregnancy. That choice still brings up many strong emotions for me. Throughout the years, I have done counseling, journaling and healing work to forgive myself and everyone else involved in that life-changing event.
THEN...eventually I had a spark of awakening and inspiration in 2007, at age 25, and weaned myself off of Effexor, which took me nearly 6 months of pulling one more micro bead each day out of the tiny capsules (my own idea). I learned what patience meant. It was very powerful stuff and the withdrawal symptoms were horrific when I tried to wean off of it the way that the doctor instructed me to. I still wonder to this day what long-term effects it may have had. Anyone know about this??
In summarizing this info, I urge you to avoid unnecessary Rx medication of ANY KIND. INFORM YOURSELF AND SEEK NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO PHARMECEUTICALS WHEN POSSIBLE. They may save lives as a last resort, but please, please do your homework before handing over that little Rx sheet. There are dark sides to many, many common medications.
Since those Rx days, which ended in 2007, I have been excitedly rediscovering my special gifts and skills as if for the first time. I liken it to relearning to walk or talk, or use motor skills after a severe injury. I had squashed them down in a deep, guarded compartment for many years and tried to pretend that I was "normal".
In fact, until a month ago, I still didn't fully realize the full extent of who I really am and what I have to learn and share with humanity. In early June, I attended a workshop that I happened to see advertised locally titled "highly sensitive children". It was geared toward parents who are raising kids with special abilities such has telepathy or clairvoyance. I knew immediately that I had to attend. All I can say is that the day was a huge game-changer for me. I spent at least the first hour in tears from a wild combination of reassurance and disbelief that there are probably millions of others on the planet who share a similar experience of life with me!
By the end of the workshop, I was full of excitement and eagerness to learn more about this human phenomena and to build connections with others from the group and beyond.
I have since been asked to host some workshops on this topic myself, which was an unexpected turn of events. I have heard numerous times that whatever our deepest hurts have been, that these are the things that we can share with others to help change the world. My calling seems to lie somewhere between guidance counseling and supporting fellow HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE.
Do you or someone you love share similar experiences with what I have described? Please pass this on to those who may benefit from reading this. I am always happy to work with anyone who is interested in learning more.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
At age 7, I was singled out with a handful of other students, tested, and labeled as "gifted and talented". By who's standards? For the remainder of my grade school years, our group met weekly to hone our "gifts and talents". I never really thought much about it though. It seemed normal enough at the time. We all looked forward to an annual convention of the G&T called Odyssey of the Mind. From early elementary and onward, we did things like build balsa wood bridges to see who could engineer the strongest one. We also wrote, acted in, and directed our own plays -soundtracks included. We practiced brainstorming, had philosophical discussions and polished up on our problem-solving skills. It was a non-stop mind challenge.
I have always had a photographic memory. It is a curse and a blessing. I can remember things from at least 25 years ago in fine detail. The good, the bad and the ugly. It was extremely useful in school when it came time to take exams. I would have a flash of the exact paragraph in a textbook where the answer to a question was. I have pretty much everything from the last 32 years of life stored in my visual memory. On a regular basis now, random moments in history pop up in my consciousness. Things that I didn't even consciously know that I saw or experienced at the time. What people were wearing, the music in the background and what the weather was like on any given day.
I was always the overachiever in the family, much to my two siblings' dismay. I was a straight-A Honor Roll student most of my 12 years of school and was always striving to prove myself to the world. Somehow though, nothing any of us did was ever good enough for our father. Why weren't the A-minuses A-pluses?? He had (and still clings to) extremely high hopes for me. He told me repeatedly that I would make a great doctor or lawyer someday. I knew he was wrong. Those things were not in my destiny. At least not this time around.
When IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) was a brand new discovery back then, I was labeled with that, too. I felt just awful! I quit attending high school a few weeks before grade 11 final exams, and I insisted on homeschooling myself for grade 12. It took a boatload of convincing but I did it, with the help of a very supportive tutor and his wife, who became my second family for that year.
My closest friends had no idea what was happening because I was really embarrassed and very confused at the time. I spent nearly the entire year of grade 12 holed up reading and writing and spending tons of time in nature. I was constantly asking myself "what is the meaning of all of this?!". I knew that my life just had to be about more than this ugliness that I had experienced so much of for those early years of life.
My search began for the answers to some really tough questions: "Why am I here? What can I do to make my world a better place? Is this the reality that everyone experiences? Is life this scary for other kids? How did I end up in this family? Am I going nuts? Will I wake up and realize that this was all a bad dream?"
To be continued...(it was too long to fit into one blog post.)
Saturday, July 12, 2014
verb (used with object) [com·mit·ted, com·mit·ting.]
1. to give in trust or charge; consign.
2. to consign for preservation
3. to pledge (oneself) to a position on an issue or question; express (one's intention, feeling, etc.)
Commitment. To people. To events. To your work. To yourself.
It's a rare thing these days. I, myself am guilty of the occasional "back-out" or avoidance of a situation that I wish I hadn't said yes to. However, I try my best to hold myself accountable to the people and events that I said I would be present for.
I have observed a few things lately that I will share about present-day humans and their commitment-phobias:
1. Texting/email/Facebook makes for (seemingly) very easy cop-outs. There is no emotion shown or exchanged, only emotions left to be interpreted via typed words. There is no disappointed faces to be seen (emoticons do NOT count, in case any of you were thinking that). No sad or angry hearts to contend with. One more huge strike against technology...in my opinion.
2. If you don't want to do something....JUST.SAY.SO. Be honest. Waiting until the last minute is much worse and frustrating and disappointing for others. Geez! For Pete's sake, stand up for your right to make your own choices- but for Pete's other sake, stick with your first instinct. Be legit. Commit. Otherwise people may start referring to you as flaky. No one wants that label, right?
4. Think before you start telling everyone what your plans are. Make sure that you are fully committed in your own heart before saying you will help someone or show up somewhere. You are allowed to say "I'll think about that." Or "Let me consider that option." Or "I'll get back to you."
5. Humans seem to be losing touch with our innate compassion for and connection to other humans. Start holding yourself and others accountable and set an example. Especially for the younger generations.
Let's stop being fickle flounder-ers and start being wonderful accountable, reliable, caring human beings again!
Ok. That's all for today. I hope you committed and read this whole post.
If so, congrats. Give yourself a high five. You are one of endangered species of accountable humans left. Hopefully they will repopulate and be flourishing again soon.
PS. I tried to partly write this post and then let myself get distracted and make up reasons in my mind why it wasn't that important. Then I called bullshit on myself. And finished the post. Yay me. Committed.
PPS. Apparently there are two ways to spell the word commitment/committment. Depending on which dictionary you are referring to. Seems ironic.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
This actually confirms something huge for me: that I was feeling uninspired which means that I was living a relatively uninspired period of my life. How sad is that? Can anyone out there relate to that feeling? Yeah, pretty much everyone? Which brings me to the topic of this post... Why aren't we all living and speaking our passions and feeling alive and inspired every single day of this short gift called life? You can try to make up a million and one excuses, but do yourself a favor and don't bother. I will have a comeback ready for all of them. There is no good excuse...just our own fears getting in the way of our happiness.
I recently realized that the job that I was working for only four short months was not getting me any closer to living my passions. Like most "jobs", it was a great way to meet new people, make a wage and keep myself busy- because that's what we all seem to think we are supposed to do. Don't get me wrong. I loved all of the people that I worked with and the connections with customers and sharing laughs and teaching and learning. And helping people. Helping people to love and empower themselves. That's what I really love to do. This may not come as a surprise to you.
The pieces of the puzzle have been showing up for me for several years but it has taken me until now to realize what they all mean. I feel like I should have realized this a year ago when I began blogging to help myself and others to live a more authentic life. Or maybe I could have clued in when I opened a used clothing store and everyday, for several years, dozens of people came in to talk, not to shop. Well it's never too late to start living your passions.
I have been working with a book called The Passion Test. It has really helped me to differentiate my passions from my hobbies and goals. I now have a clear list of my top passions as of today. Passions change. Life is full of change. So make sure you aren't stuck in that life that you wanted 10 years ago, but that isn't suiting you today. It happens too often.
The last month has been part of my cocoon phase. I have had at least 3 or 4 other cocoon phases in my life so far. It's what happens when something big happens in life that forces me to stop and look at the bigger picture.
I stop doing the things that aren't moving me closer to peace and happiness. I sift out the people who aren't enriching my life. I make more time to do the things that I love. The things that make me ME. All of these things combined creates a cocoon-like state where I can be and know myself. Unadulterated. Uninfluenced. Unwaivered. Each time, I have emerged as a brighter and happier version of myself. A butterfly. Try it. I dare you.
PS. PLEASE contact me if you are seeking some soul guidance. Even if you are across the globe, I will be happy to help you to live your soul's passions.