Voices in the Moonlight

I woke up last night with nightmares about the world…. of war and famine, and the earth becoming a dessert with rivers dried up… i sat up, sweat, and tears on my cheeks. Soldiers, News reports of bombs and people’s faces in pain in torment, I kept shaking my head and trying to shake it off.

“Oh my god” I said, in a state between wake and sleep. ” What is going on here?”

My gaze fell to the moonlight touch the faces of my children and I felt so worried so hopeless, and filled with what ifs, my dreams of oceans eating the land and the pain that was to come. The face of Donald trump…. The face of every man and woman in these times who got so lost along the way…. the face of the other… that was in fact a part of me and there was nothing i could do about it.

And i as i sat and listened to the silence.
I muttered a half sentence of “Well What the hell is the point of me doing anything!”

I sat quietly…. i tried to pray. I tried to sing. I tried to just listen my breath…but nothing would shake it off.
I sat quietly and rode the wave.
I felt eaten up. I felt hopeless.I felt sucked into it all.

And out of the moonlight came a voice. ” Oh my dear one.. take a breath.”

I took a breath.
I took another breath,  then another.

And out of the stillness came her whispering voice.

This has all been happening for a very long time, sometimes people feel it closer to home than others…. but this matter is not outside of yourself, believe me or not. And until all of you begin to choose a different route and finally open the sacred chiseled wooden door of loves beauty and close the other to your fears…Until you begin to Listen to the lessons that are before you, sitting at your knees as a beggar calling out for you learn. Until you look the sickness straight in the eye and say no more…. This ends with me. Until you truly embrace what this journey is actually about…..Well until then, this may just happen for a while longer, and a while longer, and a while longer….. and a while longer

And through your time here in this while longer, you must love dear one….

Well what if i cant, i cut in, rolling my eyes groggilly. What if its just too much. It just seems to be getting worse and worse….the polar ice caps melting, the nuclear waste in the ocean, dumpsters full of food while people starve, the oil companies beating people praying and singing, the oil spills, the children in sweatshops, that make our clothes, the racism, the sexism, the pharmaceutical industry, the children being drugged up because they can’t sit still for 8 hours a day…. the pornography that has created a rape culture, the vegetables spliced with pig genes.  The darkness that seems to be eating everyone up from the inside out.

And what about my grandchildren? What kind of world will they inherit?  What will be left for them?

Well dear one, Your grandchildren will be on their own journey…. and they will likely be faced with similar choices…. and it will be up to them and their communities to learn or not learn….  But the future as you imagine is shaped by the present moment. And you are right when you say that this is happening from the inside out. As this is truly an inside job.

And In case you have not noticed, The universe is very very Patient.   : ) And patience births miracles such as planets like this.

And though there will be suffering ahead of us….. remember there has always been suffering, it’s just part of the journey for now, and it is how we face our suffering that creates a change in our hearts song. It is how we face adversity that merits this journey forward.

The quiet in the room suddenly became so loud i had to sigh. I felt restless, and confused and As amazing and beautiful as my life was. As much as i loved my path with days that i could burst with gratitude. As positive and heart centered as i tried to guide my feet. In this moment,  even with the company of angels at my bedside, I felt like giving up, climbing into a hole that i had dug for myself , and hibernating until it was all over.

Silence……

I listened quietly to the sound of my breath.

More silence…

Listen to me….

I’m listening i whispered half awake as my hands rubbed my eyes.

NO, Really listen to me….

Dear ones,Your job is more important now than ever. Go and Tell all  those it is so. Tell All the Healers, tell all the Visionaries, all the Medicine people, tell the Dreamers, Seers, Artists, tell the Prayer Warriors, the Poets, the Story Tellers, the Meditators, the radical Educators, tell the courtiers of Music, tell the Fire keepers, the Keepers of rituals and Magic, the Holders of ceremonies and Priests and Priestesses of Wisdom. Just as the farmers grow food, and the builders build houses, you will weave a tapestry of spirit for these times.

You will rise up in this darkness and you will sing your songs that touch the broken-hearted. You will hold the dying in the palms of your poems. You will heal the sickness with medicines from the rain, sun, soil and winds.You will be carriers of lost knowing and story. You will be the flags of remembrance that write on the barren concrete walls….

And you will remind your fellow human family that defeat is not an option… And that we must rise only together not apart.

All of you.

Now is your time.
Now your work begins with so many in a new way

Do not get eaten by it….that is exactly what it wants… You can feel it, and you will feel it, but do not let it consume you…..there is a war, you need to know this… and in university they told you it was capitalism, and patriarchy and neo-liberalism…. they told you this was history, and your history will repeat and repeat and repeat itself because again the lessons continue unlearnt.

You must understand that there is war on the human spirit…..

A war that wants us to hate each other. Destroy each other. Compare ourselves to each other. Compete with each other, and be so busy, so hazed in the confusion that we forget why we are here in the first place. It is everywhere.

And it is real. Know it is real, so you can be armored. Know it is real so you will see what is before you. And in case you have not learnt by now, more fighting is not the answer.
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In these times you need to stand tall, shield yourself in the ways that see through the deceptions and embrace true compassion. Carry your weapons. So that whoever throws a knife in your side, will be sliced with a sword seeded with joy and welcoming hands and Laughter.

Do not forget. You have known this since the day you came, and some of you got lost along the way. But the lost will be found and You must be resourceful in the ways of the heart.

Put away the divisiveness. Put away the judgment. Lock it up. Bury it, break it with axes made of pine and cedar branches, as they open their arms with full offering to be slain with whole purpose.

You are a part of this. You incarnated in this form at this time for a reason….. Accept it.

And well very simply your greatest calling now …… is that you must love dear ones.

Don’t mind what people think of you. Don’t mind the debate, or the over intellectual approach to solve an issue that can only be healed with the heart.

You must love my dear ones…

It is what is being asked of ALL of you….

Love can be fierce, it can mobilize masses and gather the people’s unbound…. and love can be silent in stillness of sweet peace, but love always chooses what is true. It always chooses what is right… love always chooses itself.

You must love dear ones…..love in ways that you never knew were possible

Be strong warriors….be like the mountains and know your grandness.

Give beyond measure without need of recognition….Like the rivers that carry sweet waters to quench your thirst.

Serve those who need it, and have forgotten their power.  Like the seeds in the earth that know their only duty is to grow up towards the sun.

Gather with those who remember, so you will never forget, that the dust in which makes you is from the stars.

When you feel like it’s too much. Be quiet. Be still and watch the ocean kiss the shores…. put your hands on the wet earth and sing to her. Look into your children’s eyes and see the world through their magic. Whatever happens, do not ever lose hope.

Love yourself deeply and all you are. Honour yourself as a sacred feast at the Goddesses Table.

Feed yourself, and feed your family and feed your community and all people this food.

Trust and have faith in the brilliance of the human spirit….

You must Love my dear ones… learn to love …. Learn to love in ways you never knew…. now is the time. Practice this every day. Every moment.

This is the whole reason for your existence …. You are here to learn to Love with its many faces.
This is it.

You are here to learn to Love……

I found myself listening to my own breath, I watched the moonlight, the sounds of sleeping babes and rustling leaves.

I looked around the room. Shook my head out of the daze of altered universes and voices in the moonlight.

Cross-legged. Back tall and straight. i looked out the window to the silhouette of the Forrest before me…

“Yes” I said in a whisper. Shaking my head to the subtle rhythm of truth.

Yes…. My answer is Yes. …

Ayahuasca, Death, Free Will and Great love : A Short Guide to the Growing Ayahuasca Tourism Industry in Peru

artwork by visionary artist Pablo Amaringo

Naomi Athena

This post comes in light of the recent tragedy in Iquitos, where a young man grabbed a knife and attacked his friend during ceremony. The man was 29, a year younger than me, and had gone with a friend to work with the plant medicine ayahuasca on a retreat in the Amazon jungle. As the story goes, he had visions of his friend cheating with his wife and –overcome with rage– tried to stab him. In self-defense, the friend ended up killing the attacker.

I was in actually in a medicine dieta when I heard this story, and the group of us that were together became silent and felt the sadness of what happened. I realized that things in the ayahuasca world were seriously getting out of hand. While gathering plants in my garden to make herbal medicines I felt the message strongly to share a little of my own journey, to share a perspective that comes from my own experience, my love for the medicine, my love for the great light, and my prayer for our future.

My Ayahuasca Journey

My medicine path opened up 10 years ago. I had been working with many different elders and medicine people after my family went into a major healing crisis, where it felt like every one of us was plagued with a heaviness we could not shake off. The worst of it was when my younger brother went into a psychosis and stopped talking for months, almost in a comatose state. In an attempt to save him, we flew him south, and began working with a shaman in Venezuela where my father was. Among telling me I had a gift for seeing the other world, to get my driver’s license, and to start seriously singing.  He also told us to bring my brother back to Canada to get medical help and there was nothing he could do.

I became obsessed with finding a cure for Dan, as I knew in my heart there was more to it. I knew his spirit was sick and he needed healing. I began an investigation of alternative therapies, and traditional medicine and indigenous wisdom. But what happened in my search for my brother’s cure, was my own healing and coming into myself. Some years later I headed to Peru for my first aya retreat. I was one month pregnant and so motherhood and ayahuasca have always come hand in hand. Mothering while being mothered by this grandmother plant, I began a transformational journey that I just could not walk away from. As soon as I swallowed my first cup of medicine, I knew I was being called to continue.

Believe me, it has not been easy at times. But in the end, I could not imagine walking any other path. Over the years, I continued to work with the medicine, and through many prayers and intention I found a beautiful lineage of healers who I began to sit with regularly and devoted my life to this Path and this Medicine. We packed up our house time and time again to continue our travels and studies in Peru. Suitcases and children were stuffed into riverboats down the Amazon. I have been shot at by pirates, been struck with dysentery in a tribal village hours away from any medical help, had towering snakes in my tambo, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and tarantulas as roommates. I would roll my eyes as the people in my group would talk about how tired they were and how hard it was. They slept all day after ceremony while I was up into the night with visions, waking up at dawn to take care of children, breastfeed, make breakfast, potty train, clean diapers, and try my best at the same time to be present.

Why would I do this? I don’t know. Something kept me going through the insanity of it. A profound change was happening inside of me. A light began to grow so bright I finally remembered that it was always there. I learned to listen to its guidance.

What is “Dieta

For those who are not aware, dieta is one of the traditional ways to work with the plants. It involves an opening up of your spirit body, drinking ayahuasca along with a companion plant while eating simple foods or fasting from food all together for periods of time. After one “diets” a plant, this plant is in your medicine pouch. Healers will call in specific plants and energies when working with someone. Dietas are also prescribed for certain ailments. For example, one man I sat with had severe rheumatism. He could not even move his hands. One of the Maestros prescribed a two-month diet of no salts, sugars and oils, and made a remedy of 20 different plants for him to take every day. At the end of the two months, he was completely cured of all pain he had suffered with for almost 20 years.

Last year during one of my longer dietas, I received a strong vision to create women-only spaces, and Tree-of-Light retreats was born. With a fellow mother, I began facilitating women’s retreats with Maestras in the Shipibo lineage. After much resistance, I decided to be a part of the growing industry. I wanted women like me to receive the medicine and have a positive space to do healing work without any malicious energies around, or molestation to take place, which had started to become far too common in the new “medicine tourism.” I also wanted the medicine to be treated with the love and respect that it deserves and so this labor of love came into fruition.

The Growth and Dangers of Ayahuasca Tourism

In five short years, the Ayahuasca scene –especially, but not only in Peru– has experienced a massive boom, from the fringes to mainstream news coverage, appearances in Hollywood movies, YouTube documentaries, books, blogs, magazine articles, you name it. Centers have popped up all over the place, claiming healing and miraculous transformation. In some ways, I benefit from this boom. I buy groceries and clothing for my children because of the medicine’s growing popularity. But I feel a deep sadness that it has come to this.

Below I have outlined some of the different types of people I have experienced and witnessed serving Ayahuasca over six years of commitment, the last two almost full-time in Peru both running retreats and sitting in many ceremonies. I share this hoping it can be informative for people who feel called to work with the plants.

The Fakes

I recently held a retreat with a 70-year-old maestra with over 40 years of experience. She was a good healer, and worked until 4:00 in the morning every ceremony singing through to the other side. Her grandson had studied with her for less than a year. He had done one dieta of a few months and no more than two years experience working with Ayahuasca. From the moment I met him I didn’t like him, though I tried to give it a shot as he provided company for the grandmother we were working with.

We had hired him to help with translation (many medicine people do not speak Spanish) and help with caring for our maestra during a retreat we were running. Two days after their plane landed, he left in the middle of the night with the excuse that his kids were sick. Later we learned he had been called by the last center we were working at to serve medicine as they were in need of a “shaman.”

He put on a traditional Kushma, (hand woven priest like dress) he spoke Shipibo and sang some Icaros. He was a complete fake. He served ayahuasca to people who were looking for an authentic experience and banked on his indigenous background.

Can I blame him? Not really. The Shipibos as well as many other medicine cultures are going through a cultural genocide. Their relationship with money has only been around for 50 years. They see this as an amazing opportunity to leverage their families out of poverty. Westerners looking for the ayahuasca experience are easy targets. People with fourth stage cancer come to the Amazon with nothing to lose but their wallets. The person serving medicine is not malicious, but they have little to offer. They have no skill or real experience to draw from if anything dark were to take place, such as a man being possessed and trying to stab someone in ceremony.

The Mixers

These folks, are a little more skilled than just people putting on a Kushma. They also fit into the fake category, but they step up the business a little with a guaranteed experience. When you ask any Maestro or Maestra what Ayahuasca is, they will tell you, it is a benevolent spirit that has offered itself to us to help us become well. And this is why ayahuasca is not used in the same way as recreational substances. There is no guarantee, especially if you do not have a relationship with this plant spirit.

In the course of the ayahuasca boom, some ceremonial entrepreneurs have decided that the participants should be guaranteed a psychedelic experience in exchange for their money. Since people drinking the exact same amount of ayahuasca at the same ceremony will experience a completely different journey depending on their level of experience  many times those new to the medicine will not experience any visions after drinking ayahuasca.

I know some who have gone through 10-day dietas with little experience beyond irritation. In order to ensure “satisfied customers,” these businesses promote their product in one-time ceremonies and, unbeknownst to the participants, lace the medicine with other substances (LSD or more dangerously, datura — a powerful psychotropic that can be very dark). At least two deaths in Peru over the past couple of years that were attributed to ayahuasca have likely resulted from mixing ayahuasca with datura.

The Brujos

Many people from the Amazon practice brujeria: the art of black magic through curses, hexes, and the manipulation of energies. This was really hard to wrap my head around, but I have seen more than my fair share.

Brujos will deliberately make you sick and then “miraculously” heal you. They will steal your power, your life force, your energy, and your vision. There is dark and light in this world. It is part of this universal make up. These guys are on the dark side.

A friend I know shared her experience of being deep in the jungle and began vomitting blood after ceremonies. A brujo sang to her to heal her, then brought her to an ATM to withdraw all her money.

In walking this path, I also have been tempted in ceremonies with the temptation of power. I have been in full visions with entities promising me all kinds of things: the end of any money problems, being able to give my children anything they wanted, a beautiful house on the river, recognition, becoming a famous singer, a powerhouse with people under my finger… Ya, not so interested.

The way Jesus was on the mountain, the Buddha was tempted by Mara, and he watched without judgment and just invited Mara to drink green tea with him. As my Baha’i grandmother says: “If you were not tested before you were Baha’i, you can expect to be tested once you become Baha’i.” When you devote yourself to being an ambassador of light, there will be hardships and one must stay strong and stand with integrity.

Many brujos started out with goodness. They walked the line between worlds, helped people,and put in their time into their training. But at some point the desire for ​p​ower won and the Darth Vader in the spirit world consumed them.

There are increasingly popular Ayahuasca centers that have brujos working for them. They sing well, they are powerful, and they make you feel powerful. But it’s not actually a power that feeds goodness and love. It is a power-over energy that exists everywhere, not only in the Amazon.

I recently heard that one of these well known brujos was molesting women in ceremony. I shared this information with a friend who also is in the medicine community.  As we talked, he just argued with me that it could not be possible. He had such a hard time believing such a powerful, famous person who was known as a “healer” could do such a thing.He has politicians and celebrities and all kinds of people come to him. Just because someone is famous and powerful does not mean they are necessarily working in the light. How many spiritual traditions in history have stories of abuse and abuse of power? Way too many.

The Ceremonial Musicians

I have come to recommend the musicians more than any tribal people or anyone who calls themselves a shaman unless ​I​ know them personally and have seen them work. There is so much manipulation of energy that can take place if you end up in the wrong maloka. Many musicians move into the sound and sacred and offer a beautiful space​ resulting in joyful beautiful ceremonies.

Though many of them do not have the training when really powerful energies are being released, they can provide a good space for people to meet the medicine and develop a relationship with it.

That said, I have met many people who have come to work with the medicine who want to do deep work, to release deep trauma, and did not feel sufficient support and left disappointed.

I have also seen many people who serve medicine in this way become very sick themselves, their health deteriorating over time as they take on the energies they are working around, without the support of the plants, or proper dietas, or a lineage to help them when they feel weak.

Many of the ceremonial musicians I’ve met have beautiful good hearts and a deep love for the medicine, but on the shadow side, there seem to be large elements of ego involved and a real lack of humility in some of these concert ceremonies. With more focus on the musician performing songs than on those coming to receive healing. I have also met some great ceremonial musicians who are solid healers, but in my experience they are few and far between the now thousands of musicians who are now serving medicine around the world.

The Daime, The Group Healers

I read a study about Daime years ago that followed people within the community over a period of 20 years. They found that people working within the Daime church dramatically improved in their relationships, work and reported feeling of wellness, their relationship to life in general and even their lack of fear in death. What Daime offers is what religion and church offer, a spiritual community.

Daime ceremonies use the collective energy to heal. Everyone sings and dances and calls in the energy of spirit together. There is also a very old lineage, merging Portuguese and African ancestry. The elements, the ancestors, and God is acknowledged and called in. As the biblical verse “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. “Through collective prayer for healing, love, and remembrance Daime has recorded many miraculous healings, as do born again Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’is etc.

The Daime is a church, and in that church the community comes together with a belief in spirit, and with that faith and devotion, healing happens. It has served many people and has a deep respect for the medicine. That said, in recent years it also has leaders who have been accused of molestation and rape. As it goes in every tradition, the abuse of power and the need for us is to never give away our power to anyone.

The Curanderos/ Curanderas (Healers)

These exist far and wide, including in the Ayahuasca tradition. They are the healers on the planet, of all walks and all lineages. They are the people who are willing to put the time in, to sacrifice themselves and their own desires for the healing of the planet. They work with the light. They do not compromise.

They also make mistakes and will mess up as human beings. But their purpose and their devotion is to healing the sick, helping the hurt, blessing and protecting all who come to them. There is a deep understanding that it is not them. That no healing of spirit could come from a human being, that they are simply channels for God, for spirit to move through. But how do you find them?

Just because someone is old does not mean he or she is also either wise or a true healer. Nor can you recognize a genuine curandero by a withered tan face, a traditional ceremonial outfit, and the singing of icaros.

Look for the real signs. Are people around them receiving both physically and emotionally? What is their track record? How do you feel in their presence? How do you feel after the waters have settled?

Where do they get their medicine? Do they treat the medicine with respect at all times?

Ceremony can be uncomfortable, especially if you are working with a true curandero/a. Who will sing to clean you of energies that are not serving you, and the process of letting go can at times be intense.

Coming back to the sad story of the recent stabbing in ceremony, I know in my heart of hearts that the only reason this happened was because the people involved did not have the skills to manage the situation. I am also quite sure that any screening process, if there was one at all, was insufficient. (For example, in our retreats we ask for a complete medical history, interview potential participants via Skype, and do not accept anyone who has a history of SSRI use, for their own safety.) But regardless of that, how could a so-called “medicine” cause something like this?

My Personal Visions

I recently had a vision during a short diet. After what felt like such a long road, I was beginning to feel cautious and almost fearful of ayahuasca and was seriously considering walking away. I was trying to make sense of a difficult experience, stuck in the midst of confusion, and wondering how something benevolent could be used for such harm. I sat in my seat on the earth, listened to the icaros, and had a nice long talk with the medicine.

I then heard a voice:

“It is like everything Naomi. Anything with power can be used for light or for darkness. This is one of the aspects of what power is. If it was not so, free will could not exist, and you would not actually have a choice. And without a choice, you would have no freedom, and without freedom, you would never learn. And you are all here learning; you are all here for a reason; and you also agreed to come.”

I watched the earth spin through space. I watched the cosmos birth in infinity. My view opened into a vision of a beautiful medicine woman, cutting plants from the garden with a knife. She then started to make a nourishing soup full of herbs, slicing up vegetables and plants, singing, loving. She served the soup to her children who were nourished and to someone nearby who was sick. Her children were smiling. The sick person began to feel better. I then saw someone run into the room, grab the knife from the Maestra and stab everyone and kill them. (Yes it was a pretty graphic vision.)

Then the medicine spoke again:

“Naomi, I cannot be something I am not. I was birthed from the earth as a tool to be used, but I cannot make the choice for humanity. I can only offer what I can offer. Do not be afraid. Do not give into fear, because this is how you lose your power.

“Real power lives inside of you, you were born with it, only to be taught to give it away. Do not give into the hate, and the jealousy and the comparison. Do not compromise when it comes to the important stuff. Do not give up, even when it is hard and you feel hopeless. Keep believing in people. And keep believing in yourself.

“Because as you know dear one, there is much more than things seem, and Love will always win this battle if you choose it.”

And so, there it is friends, my guide to drinking Ayahuasca with the good people. Be safe. Be strong. Follow your hearts always. Be mindful of whom you choose to sit with. Watch for the signs. Follow word-of-mouth, but beware too of the experience levels of those who make recommendations. What kind of lives are the people living who recommend a certain person and what is their relationship to them? How do these people walk in the world?

Pray and come to ceremony with humility and respect to learn from this ancient tool used for thousands of years. And as always, when you find yourself sitting in ceremony, after you go up to drink that awful tasting brew, whatever is happening, remember that love is the greatest force in the universe and that love actually lives inside of you.

Naomi Co Created tree of light retreats with a fellow visionary Mother.

Holding the heartfelt vision of women coming together in the sisterhood, to heal, let go, and be empowered to share their deepest gifts with a world that is in deep need of transformation.

Tree of light retreats offers women Ayahuasca retreats as well as a few coed retreats through the year. Working with highly skilled Ayahuasquero Healers and experienced and well trained facilitators to offer additional guidance and support along the journey.

They work in the sacred valley of Peru and the Amazon Jungle.

Treeoflightretreats.com

Treeoflightretreats.com

ayari-huarmi-pablo-amaringo-peru

 

Whispers from the great mother & black and white skunks

I wrote this post some months ago when I was visiting Canada. After returning from an exceptionally difficult time in the jungle, I really enjoyed reading and remembering this story that unfolded with teachings. I am reminded how when we are in one moment, we cannot see the thousand moments that are unfolding like a flowers petals. The flower blooming only when it has received the sufficient amount of sun and water and time to nourish, grow and open into its majesty.

naomi_athena_black_white

After some months of Jungle medicine work, simple good living in the Sacred Valley of Peru, I returned for the summer to see my family and beloveds up north in Eastern Canada.

Over the last month we grounded into the land of North America, with incredible luxuries such as hot water in every tap, pre-washed greens and berries, internet that works, and good coffee everywhere!

I have to say in our weeks back, I felt deeply grateful for the little things taken for granted.

After way too much moving around. Suitcases, motor taxis, vans, boats, air planes and much more, the lessons that have unfolded have been different from what I expected. But expectations and ideas are culprits to unhappiness aren’t they? Booby traps laid out on the ground, where parts of ourselves fall inside without escape.

So much of my personal journey these days has been about letting go of my ideas and trusting that whisper and feeling of my hearts wisdom.

Before we arrived in Canada, We again had immersed ourselves in a one month Dieta, drinking the medicine Ayahuasca in ceremony every few days, fasting from food and water for periods of time, and remaining deeply devoted to learning and letting go. To be honest, before arriving, I was dreading the dynamite of the plant medicine process, but as usual I pushed myself forward knowing it would be good for me. During one of those days out in the jungle, I began to panic that we did not have a house secured for us upon arrival, I walked around ranting how there was no way we could handle living in someone else’s space, and so to avoid living in our friends living room, I made some effort, and found some available internet, I posted a request for housing on Facebook and started to discuss with a previous landlord an almost “too good to be true” house in the hills.

We arrived to a little black house in Chelsea Quebec, the backyard running down to a beautiful untouched habitat and a river rushing through it with old growth cedar trees welcoming us.

Though the land itself was majestic. The house part of the equation was not.  It was in terrible shape. The owners of the house had not let us know that there was a major Mold problem. As in B Major ‘Black’.

I started to wake up with headaches, and a stuffed up nose and congested lungs. Within a week I was already toying with the idea of moving, but thought it would be unsettling to move again for the kids, after all the moving around. And though I was not feeling my best, were so busy, I just thought we would truck through a few months and make it work.

That was until one day I was baking some awesome oatmeal chocolate chip spelt cookies …..( mmm yummy! ), I had left both doors open on this sunny day, and as I returned from closing them, I looked in the living room and SCREAMED!! There in front of me, was a large, very beautiful Skunk. Looking right at me, with its tail pointed upwards

My littler year old baby ran into my arms and we made it to the bathroom and closed the door.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

“Hey I’m here! Sorry I am so late, traffic was terrible.” Yelled my sister wandering into her possible doom.

“Leave the door open there is a skunk!” I yelled from the window.

“What ! Oh my god!”

“I’m in the bathroom!”

She ran in quickly without creating any upset.

We slammed the door shut. We looked at each other, and then creaking the bathroom door open to peek through, there it was, a happy little skunk, meandering around our house.

And as I watched it make a bed in the living room, I knew this was a blessing.

“If this is not your sign to move Naomi, I don’t know what is.” My sister said looking me in the eye.

Kuray, my baby, gurgled and smiled at us both.

We laughed as I was definitely happy to have the company in this scenario, as we took turns carrying my 16 month old boy who was more than excited to crawl over and make friends with Mr. black and white.

skunk_in_house

“OK how about we call 911”

“Hello ma’am, how can I help you?”

“Yes there is a skunk in my house and we need your help! I have two kids in the house with me and one is sleeping upstairs.”

“A skunk…… pause. And how exactly did the skunk get in ma’am?”

“Well….it just walked right in.”

“Mmmhmm. It just walked right in did it.”

“OK ma’am and where are you located exactly. We are in Chelsea….. Chelsea Quebec.”

“Isn’t that in Canada?” As we heard a whole bunch of men laughing in the background.

“Yes that is in Canada, why else would we call you. Could you please just get over here!”

“Ma’am this is the Police Department in Chelsea Massachusetts…..” More men laughing.

“Good luck with everything now……. “

“OK. Well that didn’t work. Damn iPhones!”

“OK here are the Canadian Police.” My sister Zoe handed me the phone.

“What do you mean you don’t cover skunks?! This is an emergency.”

“ I am sorry ma’am there is nothing I can do. It is not a police matter.”
“Well if my children suffer from skunk fumes I have your number!”

“Goodbye!”

The local fire department was closed because it was Friday night. Even the animal control people said they were off duty and there was nothing they could do to help.

“OK, it says here that skunks really like nachos.”

“Oh thanks Zoe, that is really going to help us.”

“Breadcrumbs!”

She reached in her bag and lo and behold a bag of gluten-free bread.

I ran out while it was on the other side of the living room.

Then we began to throw bread from the bathroom in a pathway towards both doors.

Apparently skunks don’t like gluten-free bread…….hmmmmm.

Out of nowhere I heard a truck pulling out close by.

I opened the door. Looked at my new wannabe room-mate and ran! It so happened it was my amazing neighbours who run a wilderness school. If anyone could help they could!

Within a minute he had shooed it out with a big piece of cardboard.

“Hey Naomi would you mind if I take this Skunk scat home?”

“You want to take the skunks poo?”

“Ya I will add it to the collection for the school.” He said with a big grin.

“Please be my guest Pierre. Thanks for saving the day.”

“No worries. We were happy to help.”

Hugs and waves and settling into the moment.

Beyond elated that this was over, and no one got sprayed and no kids hurt. No to mention that big pile of skunk poo was gone too.

But after all that, I knew this meant something more.

Yes we were going to leave that moldy house. A house that came into our lives because I panicked instead of trusting while I was in the process of retreat… Yes, to listening to my heart and gut right away and not being concerned about inconveniences. All this, good lessons, beautiful unfolding.

But I also felt that this was something bigger. Call it a feeling, but that this was one of those big lessons where life in its fullest was trying to teach me and show me something in a comical and straight up way.

Hours before that skunk arrived and looked me in the eye, its colours were following me around like bright wild flowers.

All that day I had noticed black and white. I was even wearing a black and white stripped dress. Like I was some skunk mama. And yes time seemed to stop when I realized the house, yes the entire outside of the house is black, and the inside is white. After the skunk incident I felt a bit shaken in a way. It seemed like everywhere I went after this, black and white images would jump out at me out of no where. Black and White, Black and White, Black and White…. In my waking life and my dreaming one, I felt something was trying to communicate with me, and I did not know what.

I arrived at the Sundance grounds one week later. The first arrival was a complete purge. As I stepped into the arbour, I began to cry. The smell of sage and sweet grass over took me. Eagle feathers danced with elders to drums beating and old songs sung.

I began to sob. And the great mysterious light took over. I did not cry much. I was strong. I was together. And I just let go. Like a child without inhibitions. My tears had permission to pass, and after those tears fell to the earth, joy flew.

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Having such a cathartic experience, we went back again a few days later. The second arrival was slow. We were on native time.  Four hours later, we were still waiting to gather in the Arbour, and my children were getting restless.

I felt a bit trapped out there in the middle of fields upon fields. Waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Not Unlike my special time in the bathroom waiting for a skunk to leave my living room.

Then just as we were about to leave, I heard the drums beating for ceremony to begin. I hiked up the hill back to the arbour where the dancers were sitting and looking at the tree. I gathered my pipe and tobacco and thought I would just leave a little on the earth, give thanks, and sneak off to make dinner. And then, I noticed, oh yes I did notice That all the elders were wearing A black and white ribbon shirt, they had black and white bundles and a black and white shawl.

We are all wearing black and white today to talk about a very special ceremony. This ceremony is the Chi Bai Ceremony. It was a ceremony that was lost and then was reborn. The ancestors have gifted it to us to use in this time.

A Cree Grandfather began to share the incredible power of this ceremony that was lost during the residential schools period and so forth and the spirits had brought it back.

The Chi Bai ceremony that had many layers to it, a ritual of deep spirit. But it was a ceremony to recognize both aspects of this life. The Shadow and the Light. A ritual without judgement.

And one of the main focuses of this particular ceremony was for grief and it’s ails.

Grief, the energy that I knew was deeply responsible for my Lungs and my Chronic asthma.

The same ailment that I had been desperately trying to heal, and was extremely exasperated in my black and white Moldy skunk house : )

Here I was shown a beautiful ritual to deal with grief. Grief for those who had passed on, Grief for what was lost and never found. Grief buried deep down and never acknowledged.

And then the calling in. The remembering, The light. The Beauty. The understanding that opposites are interwoven in this tapestry. That duality is a reality and yet it is not. That everything has a shadow and a light. And to honour both. The heavy and the weightless. The sinner and the saint. Honouring all aspects of humanity. As I sat there and watched these elders share their teachings. I watched the light from the sky come down, I watched the spirits of horses and buffalo roam this arbour and I just felt so so grateful.

I held my heart where grief had lived. It really is quite something,  how in this journey called life, we so often do not want to look at the uncomfortable. Instead we would rather carry it around like an illness, or a way of being if it allows us to avoid or fear of pain. I realized that there was a huge part of me that was really deeply afraid of accepting the hard parts in life, not just in my life, but the world around me, the ugly parts, the heavy parts, the parts that were just so messed up. And yet I knew part of my journey was learning to look it in the eye unwavering. Watching calmly, not reacting, and believing that through all the heavy dark parts and stories of humanity, love still would reign.

We all go through cycles. There are joyful times, there are busy times, there are slow times, there are hard times. But throughout all of it, this life is playing out on a planet in space that is billions of years old. Humanity only thousands. And through it all, one of the most amazing parts of our journey as human beings, is our ability to choose. One choice, opening up worlds of thousands.

And in this space between the lines, if we are able to honour all of that which we are, the perfect and imperfect, the darkness and the Light. Our choices playing out our destiny. And even through all that, somewhere deep inside us all, We remember that all of us are made of stars. All birthed from the same atoms and heart of the universe.

And so we sit still and listen to the horizon. We open our hearts even when its hard. We believe in miracles even when we doubt. We trust that quiet voice inside of us even if the people around us tell us we are crazy. Because deep down we know that inside of each of us lives something so great it is actually indescribable. It made home in us before we were even born and it will continue to live there even past our last moments incarnate. Its called wisdom. And some days I feel it more than others……. and some days there are Skunks.

pachamama gives us all we need

Some organic farmer friends of mine at Agape Gardens in Perth Canada asked if I could write a blog post about food down south as we continue our time here in Peru.  So here we go!

“Ola Doctor, my son has been very sick.”
My brother and husband waited with me as I pleadingly looked at this man. He began to do the standard check. Lab coat, and glasses, in the busy clinic.
“Look, he has been sick for weeks now. He has a horrible rash, a fever and a cough.” I said almost with tears in my eyes.
“How long has he been sick did you say?”
“At least 3 weeks, I am wondering if we might need to give him antibiotics.”
My husband looked at me shocked.
“Antibiotics. Are you crazy. “He just turned a year old.” he mumbled

I was a sleep deprived, irritable new mom with a sick baby in a foreign country and I was getting desperate.

The man in the lab coat and glasses smiled a big toothy grin.
“I think he has giardia. Lets hold out on the antibiotics. Here is a cream for his rash, you can give him some giardia medication and I am going to give you a recipe for a really good chicken soup my grandmother used to make!”

He began to list all the many ingredients for his grandmas soup.

“You need to make sure the carrots are cut very thin.” His face dead serious as my brother furiously wrote down the recipe.

So we went home, disappointed and a little hopeful and made chicken soup. But who would have guessed it. After every homeopathic, and natural remedy known to man that I had tried. That chicken soup got my little toddler smiling in the morning.

So grateful to the beautiful earth for all her wisdom. I picked all these goodies this morning with the kids in our garden! Fresh super food herb dip coming up. Lemons hand picked by raven for good flavor and a healthy alkaline system. The earth has so many gifts for us. It really dawned on me how she is taking care of us. Regardless of our ignorance and our disconnect, oil drilling and clear cutting the amazon to make hamburgers. She keeps taking care of us. growing, offering up food, medicine and that deep love that you can only feel with your hands in the dirt.

Here in the south, as well as many places that have not fallen onto the ship of modernization, see food as medicine. But even taking it a step further. Food, the plants, vegetables and meat that we eat, still are seen for its spirit.

In most native indigenous societies there is a deep understanding that all life is full of spirit, so of course this would apply to our food.  life’s essence moving through its DNA. A circle ebbing and flowing like waves on the oceans sand.

I have recently been working with this amazing plant called Oje. My friends have made fun of me because I sound like an infomercial promoting the stuff.

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The native people in the Amazon have used it for hundreds, likely thousands of years. It’s a tree that grows in cloud rain forests and it is the most effective treatment I have found for treating parasites. (a necessity for gypsy families!) They use it to treat spiritual parasites too. Energies in your field that are sucking your life force.

I know that if I mentioned this to a couple of my friends up north, they would politely smile at me and secretly wonder if I was on medication. But here, everyone nods their head and understands easily that as human beings we are multifaceted creatures, and that the state of our spirit and heart is integral to our physical health.

Ancient cultures around the world see the body as a whole. Our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being are all intertwined with one another.

If you speak to a vegetalista, a plant doctor. Most plants will have a variety of properties that will work on different aspects of your body. One might work on your anxiety while also working on your stomach and internal organs.

When I first got to the jungle years ago, I walked down the jungle paths, and as I walked along the smells and tastes of beyond time, i could hear the plants speaking. There they were shimmering in the wind. Singing, murmuring, full of information. I could not believe how loud they were!

I remembered being at a university party and having a group of people laugh at me because I said I spoke to my plants. “Your such a hippie.” They laughed. Oh the word I despise being described as, “Hippie.” But will likely follow me around my entire life. And yet here I was so-called hippy-ing it up in the basin of the amazon where plant wisdom was the foundation for the entire culture.Where humans listened to their songs. Where plants and human beings lived in a symbiotic relationship with one another, fastened together in the wings of grace and respect.

Like the pagan ancestral cultures, here today in the south you see much of these teachings weaved into the web of life. The top of every chicha, a local fermented corn drink is offered to the earth and the Apus or mountain spirits. An offering of gratitude for all the gifts. There are songs to the quinoa. There are songs to the healing plants. Up in the mountains, Carnival, the biggest day of the year, revolves around the harvesting of the corn. A celebratory journey of life and the spiral of creation.

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Genetically modified food does not exist. Monsanto is banned from the country. Taxi drivers will pull up on the side of the road to pick some herbs for their grandmas.

Dinner time conversations on dirt kitchen floors with fuzzy guinea pigs running over your feet are not uncommon. Then roasted for special occasions at a later time. Permaculture without dreadlocks, flowing into the fabric of the everyday.

All that said, it is not perfect. And there is most definitely the shadow lurking. All over the world traditional eating and diet, is being replaced by modern unhealthy processed foods. Pesticides, cornsyrup, Fried food, White Sugar. You name it it’s here and its everywhere. Creating never before health issues.

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This carnival, Some native Quechua women came down from the high mountains who did not speak a word of spanish. In their sweet colorful  wool embroidered skirts and top hats, They set up shop amongst 25 other food vendors who were serving fried food on plastic plates. We ate a feast of greens, salads, and roasted vegetables and guinea pig,  out of handmade bowls. Cooked on fire in clay pots and sunshine. it was the most delicious meal I had in a long time. Not only was their food healthy and amazing. I could tell it was honored, respected and I actually could taste love. I laughed with these beauties as I ate and felt a deep hope in my heart that the world could be restored if everyone just ate these women’s food.

pachamama picThese women reminded me of how full life can be when life is honored. And beyond any culture or place, country, or region, inside each of us there is the understanding deeply woven into us as human beings,  that the earth is our mother.  She is alive with beauty and bounty and is so incredibly generous to us. Her spirit permeates everything.This relationship and inner knowing is in our bones and our blood. Its in the stories of our ancestors and whispers of our grandmothers grandmothers.

But we as a whole. South, East, North, West, have become very forgetful. And have forgotten how to honor her. And it really is about time we start remembering. Coming back into the rituals of our culture as human beings and healing our relationship with the land. Woven through breaths of prayers, gratitude and acknowledgment of the other worlds, and the spirit of all we eat.

I really do believe, As we come back into right relationship with the spirit of food and the spirit of Gaya,  naturally our choices will change and reflect a more balanced life.

And as our southern brothers and sisters remind us, it comes back to the everyday rituals. So if your drinking wine in paris in a circle of sisters, offer a little to the ground and say thank you. During family feasts, and community potlucks, Make a spirit plate to feed the spirits, as the ancestors of north America taught. Or just find your way, your way to walk with the great mother, sing to her, give thanks and know inside your heart that she is listening.

Like a mother with her children who have moved away from home and always forget to call. Just pick up the phone and say hello. Because it is with these small rituals that create relationship. A new and yet ancient culture rooted in a deep love and respect for what is real.

With a mouthful of gratitude and our feet in the dirt, in the garden, or in the grocery store. We give thanks to Pachamama, our mother earth. We listen to her songs, her stories in the wind, and try to walk as best we can with grace in our footsteps.

Stardust & Schizophrenia

This last week has been pretty big one. We had a friend who went into a drug induced psychosis. We were in dialogue with the family and decided to try alternative natural treatment before going to the hospital. It was going amazing, and at some point, all progress fell into the rushing river, and we were searching for this person in the cornfields as they attempted to time travel. All these years later I was swimming in memories of my brother…..

When I was 20 years old, my brother Daniel began his journey with mental illness. My brother, who had been one of my closest friends. The class clown. Had a million friends, countless girls who had crushes on him, was zipped up in his black hoody convinced the world was out to get him. He was 15 years old, was on and off the street, eventually speechless, he would spend hours motionless, in an almost comatose state.

He had come to live with me at my university collective house, and my excitement of us sharing a home together, had soon turned into a horror movie.

I did not know what to do. And as time went on it only worsened. My heart ached and I would walk the streets calling out to God for his healing. Finally after countless tears and endless conversations of what to do. We knew had to get him to the hospital.

“Listen Doctor, I hear what you are saying. But I truly believe my brother is going through a spiritual crisis.”

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Silence…….”We think that we will start him on some seroquel and see how he responds.”

“Doctor, in many traditions around the world, the ones deemed crazy were actually healers being initiated by the spirits.”

Silence….
“Look, whatever you believe is fine. But it is not going to change that he is very unwell.”

“Yes I know he’s unwell, that’s why we are here. But could we just talk about alternative therapies as well. I mean all he eats is jello, white bread and canned vegetables. He’s on so many pills he can’t see straight!”

“Well this is what is available.”

And that is what was available. Looking back, We actually were very lucky that he was at the royal Ottawa hospital, one of the best hospitals in the country for mental health.

But for me it was a million miles away from where I felt my brother needed to be.

Yes he needed medication.

Then he needed to get his hands in the dirt and start gardening. Get massaged. He needed to go to sweat lodges and sit in ceremonies and sit with old elders who had been around the block. Eat organic food. Hear stories and songs of healing before he went to sleep and start his road to healing.

But most of that did not happen. He stabilized, and became functional again. We tried as much as could. But he never came back. In the end we did not have the resources on so many levels to offer him what he needed.

And so, though this may sound like another sad story.
It is and it isn’t. 
I know there are those that will argue with me, and say its just a way to explain hardship in the world, and its taken me a while to wrap my head around this, but I really do believe there are these things called contracts. Agreements made before we arrived here on this planet earth.

The Shipibo, a tribe I work with in the amazon, say that your spirit can never be touched. Things will happen to us. People get cancer, they become mentally ill, there are wars, abuse, you name it. But beyond all we experience, Our spirits are on a journey, learning, changing and evolving through these experiences.

The journey with my brothers illness and my desperate attempt to heal him, opened up a world that may have taken me much longer to touch.  Watching his immense suffering was excruciating at times, and I would sit and ask, why him. Why did he have to go through this? Why did he have to get so sick?

Moments, minutes, and years later, I found myself sitting in a Chanupa ceremony. A beautiful old pipe carrier with wrinkled skin and a twinkle in his eye sat with a group of young men and women and shared teachings.

This grandfather pipe carrier had sat in Japan with great masters. Learning from these old Native Japanese grandfathers he asked many question. One of which he shared with us.

“Why are there so many human beings on earth”

The master looked long and deep into his eyes and said

“Because not enough people are learning their lessons.”

And then this grandfather looked long and deep into our eyes and smiled.

We smoked the pipe and sat in silence. Sage burning and tobacco smoke filled the room as did the ancestors.

I have come back to that moment many times, reflecting on its meaning and its medicine.

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And in the context of my so-called schizophrenic brother, I do have the feeling that up in space somewhere maybe during the birth of a black hole or the collapse of a multiverse. My brother said to me:

“Hey guys, So I was thinking, this time I’ll play this role, and you can play that one, as I have some serious things I have to learn.

When I sit with an old mamita whose back is collapsed from carrying potatoes, or a man who has walked 10 years in prison, or a child suffering of a terminal disease. I now try to see and respect their teachings, honor them for their suffering and pray for their grace.

I used to feel immense guilt and want to fix their lives in some way. I wanted to fix the world, and had so much anger for the injustice and pain that I saw.
But now I meet their eyes and I know that we are all on a journey together.

I can offer what I can. Maybe its a lot and maybe its a little this time around.

But pity and guilt are terrible offerings to another human being.

To act, and to act from love is a whole other way of life. And a much stronger force at that.

I know so much of my own struggles, my heartaches and pain have become my greatest teachers. Taking responsibility for our lives is an amazing  way to walk.

To walk barefoot on this beautiful earth and trust the inner wisdom of the human spirit.
Remember that all of us will go back to the sun, and whatever your religion, Your Creed, your beliefs, your story, and whatever you have been through.

When you break down our bodies into molecules we literally translate into Star dust.

So to whoever you are. Whatever your journey. Thank you for taking this seat in the tipi. Holding the fabric of  humanities story high to the heavens.Taking our turns as teachers and students in the circle of creation.

We will continue to dance this dance until the music stops playing.
Contracts and agreements. Joy and Suffering. Human beings. Another black hole collapses. Another star is born. A planet spirals among its moons and many suns and here we are.

Learning our lessons.

Solstice, Christmas, & The Law of Ayni

IMG_3955Oh Christmas !

The magical time of year that in its spirit is actually about light. Being connected to the pagan holiday of solstice. The story of Jesus and his birth is really a story about light being born on the planet. And is really in essence a story about our own light and journey onto Love.

We are living in a little village in the mountains of the sacred valley of Peru. Surrounding my home are giant corn fields, vegetation, Gardens and Mystical Mountains.

I began my day with my pipe. Prayed with the sun and gave thanks for all my gifts.  We travelled to some little ruins surrounded by flower fields.  On top of the hill was a big dome where the native people would make their offerings and receive the energy from the sun.  So there we sat, sang, made our offerings and before we knew it the sun began to set. It really was so beautiful.

This solstice season was very special, as it fell on the new moon as well.  New moon is traditionally a quieter time. A time of reflection. A time to be in the dark womb of the great mother. To sit, and meditate to plant seeds in the soil. Its a time when women who live on the land often will bleed and be in their “moon time.”  It can often be a heavy energy. A time where the shadow will arise for healing.

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Settling into, work, home and friends from around the world coming by I had been busy and joyful and really settling into the land.  But each day approaching the dark moon…. the heaviness inside of me began to grow.  I started to feel really upset.  I became frustrated with little things and felt irritable.

As I was walking back to my house after this day of ceremony. I was feeling very vulnerable and quiet. But as soon as I got out of the motor taxi, the children in the courtyard started pointing and running towards me! 

My sister visiting being a professional face painter, we had been face painting all the children in the village almost everyday. Turning little girls and boys into tigers and butterflies. This had led to very excited little people whose mothers were not very happy with us as they refused to shower. Also they were very determined to know when would be the next face painting session. Preferably right then and there.

I started pacing back as fast as I could with a little smirk on my face at the hilarious nature that I was running away from little people. But as I was almost in a sprint to the garden to catch some alone time, a little girl caught my eye. When will you paint us again, she asked with a sweet smile. My heart melted. I paused and looked in her eyes. OK I said. Today. We both grinned and I went to get my beautiful sister.

We headed to the music in the square ( in Peru there is often Music blasting somewhere) and we set up.

And then there I was painting this little girls face. And I almost began to cry. As the colors swirled into a butterfly on this little girls face, time stopped, and this little girl, who worked all day in the field with her mama, who knew hunger and way too much responsibility for a little 8 year old. Showed me in that moment, that there was so much to be grateful for, and to not take the gifts life gives us for granted.

I held her face and remembered that we are all connected to one another, and a small act of love can move mountains. And as i loved this little girl with a butterfly on her face, she loved me back and magic happened.

The law of Ayni. The law of the universe that says in right relationship there is always exchange of energy.

In this situation, I was painting a little girls face and it seemed like I was giving something to her. But really she was giving me a great gift in exchange. And so there was light.

Generosity is a flowing river, a river that washes the hands of the one who gifts and the one who receives. And so in order for a true gift to be passed down, one needs to have an open heart.

And this little butterfly had a heart full of gratitude and offered it up to me.

I have met many westerners who volunteer, or donate money and time as though they are giving something to someone in need. That it is a one way street and we are good people because of our gifts. I used to think in the same ways, But the law of Ayni says this is not walking in balance either. Because if you think that you are giving something, you will miss the exchange. And if you are not open to receiving you will miss the incredible gifts before you.

The native people of North America would often see their world in the eyes of the next 7 generations. What kind of world would they be leaving behind. For me walking this road, sometimes it can feel so huge, but it begins with the little things.

Coming back into balance. With sharing, generosity and the open heart.

Coming back to the tradition of solstice, a celebration of light and the light that lives inside of us. Because When we walk in balance, we make better choices. And through our choices the world changes.

A drop in the ocean, A leaf on a tree. Each connected and not fully existing without the other. The sacred nature of this life. A circle a cycle moving through time and space. A gift given, a gift received and a great love being born.

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May your Holidays be filled with less stuff and more love. And may your cup always be full.

Lovers, Quinoa & Doing Dishes

I fell in love with my partner 5 years ago. Six months after our first date we found out we were pregnant and nine months after that we had our first child. Three years after that we had our second.

He would bring me chocolate at work, surprise me and take me on adventures. He would play songs on the Piano that would make me feel like I was in deep space. It was not planned, but what is.

In our community we would often perform together, hold workshops, healing spaces and both of us were very devoted to our work with the plant medicines and being on the path of healing.

We were not a main stream couple that worked a 9-5 job, picked our kids up from daycare and went to soccer games on the weekend. No we did not have a mortgage. And in one year we moved houses 4 times. We would spend time in tipis. Listening to elders teachings, journey in ceremonies. We would often dance together in the morning as a practice. We lived in the country surrounded by nature. We married each other on top of Mount Shasta, just the two of us, and committed with the stars as our witness to always choose truth, to always choose love, and be married to our souls purpose first and marry each other second. He gave me a ring from the ocean. We laughed a lot, wrestled and would go for walks.

Quinoa Lovers

And everywhere we went people told us that we were such a cool family and that we were an inspiration.

But here is something people don’t talk much about when your falling in love. Marriage is hard and it takes effort and work and takes that commitment to get through the hard parts. Because in your life you will go through hard parts. Maybe you’ll feel lost sometimes, or confused or depressed, or upset, and if you are with someone long enough, they will walk beside you during those difficult times.

And if you marry someone. Very likely you will go through a phase where you wonder if you made the right choice.

And sometimes you didn’t. We all have those friends who should leave their partners, but don’t. But either way its a choice.

And then all of a sudden, years later, there I was wondering if I had made the right choice, the babies cried and the bills seemed never ending and that river of love that seemed to always be there was dried up. And the build up of resentment had built a mansion around us. Each of us locked in a room and story that was as heavy as a pile of bricks. After a thousand choices of choosing something else over each other and not making the effort to practice the verb love, the space between us started to feel empty. I mean really empty.

I realized the wall between us was so big that it would have taken a big stickof dynamite to break it down. We were at a stale mate, stressed out, tired, and uninspired.

“We have to get out of here” I said, “This is killing us !”
“Ya, I know.”
After a long pause of deafening silence.
“Ok Lets do it. Lets get out of here.” !

We smiled at each other and hugged.

So that’s we did. If there was anything that I could call personal dynamite it would be the incredible plant medicine Ayahuasca.

David Deida talks about the third stage relationship. A relationship that is choosing to be together every moment. A relationship that is devoted to the highest love, a commitment to ones personal journey and evolution and having someone walk beside you to support you in your deepest truth.

So often we get stuck on the relationship, on the other person. But the is relationship begins with ourselves.

And the beauty of working with plant medicines is you cant hide. You are forced to move to that third stage, or ship out.

We began our more than 2 month dieta, which involved fasting from food and water and ayahuasca ceremonies every other night and living in the jungle where poisonous snakes, mosquitoes, and giant cockroaches were an every day reality.

We dieted the tree of light, an incredible spirit that is so benevolent and demanding at the same time. With no space for compromise.

What can I put into words, a wordless experience. But all I have to say is it remedied us good. Why? Because we both changed.

To me this is a true relationship. Two people changing and transforming and going through the shit together and coming out the other side, stronger. For us, being who we are, we went on a deep inner journey together with our family in the amazon working with ancient plant medicines and healers. Yes I understand its not for everyone. For others, it could be as simple as a retreat 20 minutes away. But investment is not just a economics term in business. Its a foundation that all relationships need to thrive.

In investing in my own healing,I fell in love. I fell in love with life again. With my relationship to life and the Great Mystery. I fell in love with the flowers and how butterflies kiss the world with their wings. And through my deep love affair with the universe, I began to love my family in a way I had forgotten.

But I have always believed that love is as much a gift from life, it often comes to a point where there is a choice. It is a verb, an action that gets better with practice. Its not a feeling, but a commitment to Love in its essence. To the Great love. Not a habit. Not a codependent story, of staying together because its been so long and you have been through so much together, or out of fear of being alone, or for the kids. A choice to let love be a river flowing between two souls, learning on earth for a while.

The great marriage and sacred partnership is not between you and another human being. But between you and God.

Forgive. Let go of resentment and respect the process. Stay together or don’t stay together. Its actually not that big a deal. Your soul is climbing mountains, traveling oceans, flying to the stars and back and learning how to love.

So here I am now. Watching Jeremy do the dishes, while cooking Quinua. And I love him with all my heart and soul. And its a choice. An everyday one. It seems much more romantic to me, to choose my partnership everyday then to just stay together because we said we would.

And so today, another day, I choose to love him. To raise my head to the mountains that surround me. To offer my tobacco to the earth and say my prayers of gratitude and healing.

Today I choose love. I choose to make love to my life. To be in the romance of friendship and sharing. Of moments unfolding. Of walks in the dirt and sun on my back.

Thank God for love. Because whatever is happening to each of us human beings. Whether we believe it or not. Love exists. And its calling us onto her. All of us. To choose. To commit to her. To marry her. And if you take her hand and dance with her, if you let her break you open and caress your deepest parts. Your cup will always be more than full.

Being Tested in the Desert Sands and BAD Airline companies

 

Being Tested in the Desert Sands and Bad Airline Companies

What makes some days so beautiful and others full of such hardship. The mountains are singing today, the baby has a huge smile on his face and my little toddler decides that today is the day of kindness and compassion with a grin that will melt your heart. Life is full of its ups and downs, and this is part of the way beauty in this world unfolds.

Sir Porquo estas muy tarde! Why are you here so late?

We have been calling your name for the past hour.

What!?

Yes we found a lighter in your bag and our policy when flying is you are only allowed 1 lighter.

Well how many lighters are in the bag.

“Two”

“Well just take the other one out then.”

“We cannot do that. Management says you need to take the lighters out. And our plane leaves in three minutes.”

“Sir, we waited because of the rains in Puculpa for 8 hours. Then we missed our flight in the morning by 20 minutes. This is our third try. Please!”

“No Ma’am someone needs to stay with the bag or you will lose it.”The bag with all of our warm cozy clothes, Pictures, Books, Our life in a box, as we got ready to head towards mountain life and making our life there.

I was pushing 5 days. I am not exaggerating. Five days of no sleep. My little 7 month old then had caught a bad cold and had been up all night, that mixed in with ceremonies that were going until 4 in the morning and a 3 year old who woke up at 5:30 everyday, I was spent.

I had just finished a 2 month intensive retreat working with plant medicines. Fasting from food and water. Silence. Ceremonies and an intense process of transformation and was feeling extremely vulnerable, travelling without my husband who was staying an extra 2 weeks by himself in retreat for some much needed alone time. I almost started sobbing right there.

TierraVida

It had taken me almost 3 days to leave the Jungle. 5 flight changes. We arrived at the airport 3 different times, and finally when we arrived, We missed our connecting flight by 20 minutes because our organized cab did not show up. It was this and more then I can put on paper.

All these strange incidents had occurred to get me on this specific flight. The eerie energy in the air, of some great conspiracy was at play and there was nothing I could do but surrender.

My brother had escorted me to Lima, Peru’s capital, where we were catching our next flight together. As I had a huge amount of luggage a fairly young baby and toddler who was more wild then most.

“Mommy,where is uncle Adam going.

He’s going to get something. I huffed. ” He will meet us later… in a couple of days.”

Ok no big deal I thought. We’ll land, I’ll get a taxi and oh god maybe I could even sleep on the plane.

Oh to sleep. What an incredible thought.

Raven passed out within 15 minutes. Baby Kuray within 20 and just as I began to doze off, the announcement came on that we had begun our decent.

Wow that was fast I thought.

I closed my eyes and passed out for what I thought was 20 minutes, when another announcement came on. I woke up to a crowd of people standing on the plane, angrily waving their tickets, with the announcer asking people to sit down.

A guy, with a soft face and big smile, with a t shirt that read Best Hangover ever caught my eye.

“Excuse me, my Spanish is less than mediocre can you tell me whats going on.”

“Yes the plane couldn’t land in Cusco so we are now landing an hour away in ariquipa, a town known for its sand dunes and beaches.”

Hmmm… ok this was going to be a little complicated, But Ok.

After the plane had landed all restraint seemed to be let loose. People were yelling and screaming. I couldn’t even stand up in this mob of a plane and had to push my way out the door.

The airline said they could not be responsible for the weather and that people could take the bus to our original destination Cusco.

Well let me tell you about South Americans. Though they are so humble, kind hearted and will always share a piece of bread with you. They are not polite when it comes to things like this, and I was a little nervous for this lady in red flight attendants uniform.

The plane would be flying back to Lima, and those who wanted to stay behind and take the bus could do so and take the overnight bus. The tickets would not be refunded and everyone would have to pay for a brand new ticket to cover the costs of the flight. People angrily got off the plane to wait for their bags.

I started talking to the other passengers and asked if I could come with a group of people to the bus station. Hanging out, making some jokes and exchanging names, when suddenly, the plane starts to back off, and announces that it is getting ready for takeoff.

A small crate of bags had come through, but the majority of people had not received their luggage.

A mob of Yelling passengers ran to the plane and started a blockade on the runway. The wind was blowing hard and a small dust storm began.

Epic I thought. This really cannot get anymore strange.

The airline then called the police and security in.

As the men in uniforms arrived with their guns and walky talkies and told the people to move out of the way, the people got even angrier.

“You are thieves”

One man was shimmying up the airplane wheels. Another girl had stolen a walky talky from the Security and was demanding in they return to us our bags and to get ready for the lawsuit.

I just couldnt stop laughing in between the sleep deprivation and raven tugging on my dress.

I almost just left as I was sure that my bags were at the airport in Lima stuck with one extra lighter.

Finally though after about 30 minutes of attempted takeoff. The pilot seemed to realized that these passengers were not going away, backed up the plane and opened the cargo door.

And then out came every single one of my giant suitcases, including a full set of crystal bowls.

Ok here we go.

My little Pasi was drinking chicha outside after the fiasco.

“Want a drink.” a sweet little woman with long eye lashes asked me.

“Oh god please!” as I chugged the corn alcohol drink with a giggle.

A 40 minute taxi ride, 10 hours later into the night on mountain roads, we arrive at 6 in the morning, to our brand new guest house in a sweet little mountain village.

Oh but wait. There is a water shortage, and the entire town is out of water. The guest house that I had just sent my little savings into buying was in shackles. The beds were full of fleas and bed bugs and many of the agreed upon items of purchase were not there.

The kids are coughing like crazy. The babies fever is up. I still have not slept more than 3 hours in days. I am completely and utterly exhausted.

What is going on? I think. I could not have planned this if I had tried.

I say a prayer and take a deep breath.

I look up to the sky. The sun is shining, and I know in the deepest part of myself that this is my test.

That this is where all these late nights and long days of healing actually begins. Where I had spent so many countless eves working to rewire my brain, retrain myself in my reactions so that life could slap me in the face and I could turn the other check and know that there was an agreement here.

In our world today we don’t talk too much about how life will test us. But in most ancient cultures and religions there is a deep understanding that God, or the universe or whatever your beliefs are, will test you. And what is more. You actually stood in line at the university of life and signed yourself up for it.

The Bible, The Torah, the Upanishads, the Native Teachings and Stories from around the world all know and teach of the time of testing, and it usually arrives after a deep transformation and offering has taken place. The classic story of Christ on the mountain after 40 days. Or Buddha in the Garden facing Mara. It is not the way you think it will look. And it usually does not arrive in the shape of a red tailed demon offering you riches if you put down your faith. Though that flight attendant in the red uniform making announcements did have a similar flare. These are just archetypes for the million moments that make up the one moment where you are faced with the light and darkness of your own soul and the choices that will build your mansions.

Because the truth is, as much as we obsessively run around this physical world. Our souls are on a journey of their own, and contain a master intelligence.

There are times when things happen, and it may seem like a little blip in the road. In this little story of mine, no there was not a war happening, I was not violently attacked. Actually everywhere I went I knew I was being protected and I trusted as things unfolding. But there is a time where you will be tested. Sometimes its the small things that are actually more difficult to master.

We are usually stronger than we think we are. The deep strength of humanity in our bones and blood. I have been through some pretty difficult things in my life. Some would call even terrible. But in my life I had learnt that I was a strong woman, and that when I felt weakest, I actually was strongest, if I let myself surrender to the spirit of it all.

This little episode was hilarious and difficult but I knew without a doubt that this was something else. This was actually a test, and would I pass it? Would I give in, Freak out and feel sorry for myself. Would I complain and be bitter. How would I manage.

I thought of my father. Of being stuck in the Venezuelan dessert with him. Cold to the rising moon. Making a fire to starlight, with no food or water, and being so incredibly angry with him that he would get us into this situation in the middle of nowhere.

This is a test my sweetheart. And all your life you will be tested and taught. If you want to make God laugh. Tell him your plans. Sometimes God speaks through your father. Or through an old woman selling corn. Or through your boss, your colleague, Through your garden plot of oregano. or even an article someone posted on Facebook. Hell and Holy water, everything is connected and communicating with us.

Knock knock came the clattering metal door.

Hey guys. I made it. In walks uncle Adam, not a day too late.

God never gives us more than we can handle.

My brother ushered me to go to bed while he would watch the kids.

And then finally, Oh finally I slept.

I woke up with a big stretch to sunshine, sang my praise to the winds and whispered I trust you.

I trust you again and again, I really do. Life, god the goddess the wise woman hiding inside of me. I trust you

And the days pass, and tears of frustration turn into tears of Joy. Last night we feasted with friends, music and sharing. In the morning I went looking for raven and found him holding girls hands in the sheep field and riding his bicycle all day. We sorted out the guest house, and found a much better place for the same cost to run our projects.

We have a beautiful home and garden with my most favorite food in the whole cosmos. avocados.

IMG_20141119_151534I watched my partner do the dishes and totally fell in love with him again. And another day comes. Full of its trials and tribulations, its incredible joys and Bliss. And I give thanks. Because there were times where I had the world in my palm and I couldn’t see it. And now, my life is more simple than ever and I feel like a queen.

And again I am reminded its not what happens to us. Its not the story. Its how we react to the theatre of our story. Its how our footsteps touch the pavement or dirt paths down to the pastures. Because this is how we learn. This is how we change in this short and long life of ours. Like an old oak tree reaching for the heavens. We Grow.

FAMILY_IMG_20141210_132204

Hot, Sexy & Stretchmarks

I was 5 weeks post-partum, and I was saying no when people offered me something to eat as a breastfeeding mother.

I am on a diet I said jokingly!

You’re on a diet? My friends asked.

Knowing that it seemed totally out of character for me to use that language, having most likely experienced me tell them they were too skinny and vain at some point in our friendship and that they were perfect whatever they looked like. Don’t get me wrong. I am an artist, and I appreciate fashion, expression, and the innate beauty of women. I know and recognize the joy and medicine that can happen when a beautiful woman walks in the room.

But beauty as most people can tell you is never skin deep, and when someone is beautiful, at least from the way I see it. It’s a matter of soul.

Funny how things can change. How when you are that beautiful woman who turns heads you can say these things, but when you gain 35 pounds and have just had a baby you suddenly don’t feel so hot.

I was mostly watching my eating as I had gained weight during my pregnancy and it being finally hot out in the cool climates of Canada I wanted to get into my summer wardrobe.

I was weighing myself obsessively too. The more I weighed myself, the more felt frustrated with how I was not losing weight and things were still tight on me.

Having gone through feeling similar feelings from when I was going through my adolescence….. I was slightly irritated at myself for feeling these things after my 2nd child.

NAOMI & KURAY

I thought that I had healed this old wound, and yet it felt like it was searing open after I gave birth to my second son Kuray, which translates to Healer.

Here I was again healing what I began to remember was a HUGE collective wound for women.

Finally it dawned on me as I was driving with my partner. And as we sat at a red light, i began almost yelling.

“This is Crazy!”

“I cant believe how crazy this is, and that I got tricked into this insanity when I know better!”

I realized in that moment as though the divine force of the universe came down at that red light in china town and showed me how completely disconnected I was from my soul.

There was a time where all men and women worshipped the goddess.

There was a time, where every young girl and boy would learn this from the time they were toddlers until they were full adults in form that mothers birthed life and because of this beautiful sacrifice, life continues.

There is nothing more hot and sexy then a woman who has given birth to life. It is pure, raw life force. It is the arrival of a new universe on our planet. It is a miracle.

And here I am feeling frumpy. Here the culture perpetuates a real myth that this time that is difficult, full of sleep deprivation, frustration and getting through the long nights.

All that can be true. Believe me I know! But the whole energy around all of that would be very different if we did it with the deepest honour and respect understanding that our role in this moment was so Sacred and spiritual in its nature. Not just to our families, but to humanity.

If I was living in a time where the Goddess was honoured and worshipped. Where the cycle of birth and death were viewed as integral to our existence and treated as the most important Job on the planet. Where Doctors, Lawyers, and Business Executives were deemed just as Equal to the title of Mother.

I am not a woman whose full time occupation will be a mother and that be my full time job. I have dreams that go over the mountain, and I have my purpose on this planet that goes beyond just taking care of my children.

But even if I didn’t.  Even if I just raised my children and not the hundred other things I do while raising them. If I gave birth, and raised the next generation to be conscious human beings filled with integrity and wisdom. Don’t you think this would be more than enough?

Because we live in a culture and world that suppresses the feminine spirit on such a subtle level. Where the standards of what it is to be a woman, a mother and all the other things we do, have become so high, that we cannot hear the whispers of our own heart and soul. The pressures of what we are supposed to look like, how we are supposed to be feeling and what we are supposed to be doing, are so ingrained into a false premises of what is actually real and life giving.

So this goes out to all the multitasking manifesting mothers out there.

Whatever your shape and size, whatever you weigh, whether you did your hair or nails or bothered to look in the mirror and take a shower today because you were up all night raising the next generation.

I honour you. I love you for all that you do. I see you and all your hidden sacrifices, May all your dreams come True, and may you know that you are enough. You are beautiful, and because of you, life continues……

the art of distraction

One of my most favourite times in the day are when i put my children to sleep. I often make jokes with friends that i will never need to try heroine, because the rush and joy i feel when i put my kids to sleep are my fix.

I learnt with my first son the incredible nature of children, and how they are tuned in to everything. I would lay there breastfeeding him, thinking about all the things i was NOT getting done, and low and behold, he would NOT fall asleep for even longer! It was an extremely frustrating predicament. I would get so frustrated with him laying there looking at me when he was supposed to be sleeping, that i would sometimes just scream and run out of the room! I then began to incorporate my meditation practice into that time. It did not matter how long it took, but during that time, i would have the intention of being mindful. Letting it be a time full of prayer, of singing and blessing, and awareness. The dreaded bedtime became a time of devotion and love, to my children and to myself.

I just gave birth again to a little being of light again, and now here i am with 2 children demanding my attention, my focus, and my energy. I have another exuse to distract myself, to not do the things that are actually great for me or sink into old habits. Because there is even more to do, I realize in these moments that i am actually a master at distracting myself. Whether i am checking FB news feeds, cleaning my kitchen, or babbling on to my partner about my thoughts on the universe. (he is a very patient man)

But then something wonderful happens, i catch it. I catch my mind, like a child just about to run into the busy intersection. I catch my thought before it consumes me like a fire under the night sky. There is a part of us that worships our distraction, that is lazy, that is an exhausted old man climbing up the mountain with a heavy backpack with nothing to give. But there is also a part of me that wants to be whole. That wants to be healed. That knows there is much more to life than what is presented. and wants to come from a deep space of love and that this takes a different type of work altogether.  Being a mother to two little children, i have realized how much i need to mother my own mind. That my mind needs its boundaries, its focus, and it needs to be watched so it does not go down into dark alleys. Parenting yourself includes caring for your body, your mind, your emotions and your spirit. If there was an authority on this, i am sure most of us would be charged with neglect.

But when it comes down to it, there are a million little choices. Your choices. My choices. There are the big choices. your Partner, your career, your Children, how you make money,  your food, your whatever, fill in the blank.

But this is it. It comes down to little choices. Choices inside of your head. Choices that no one can see and say “wow that is so awesome that you just did that!” Or give you a high five and say “that was totally amazing! You chose to not worry right now! while you sit for lunch and eat a sandwich” Or when you spill dinner all over the floor, and take a deep breath and clean it up quietly or with a song. Or get into an argument with someone and have the humility to soften your heart even when its difficult.

Slowly, so slowly this is how it changes.

Slowly, Slowly, healing can happen. There are always cathartic moments Those moments where you face yourself. You see the divine and wake up for a little while and then maybe a long while.  Where you realize something magnificent actually exists right before you and you are a part of everything. And You are a part of everything.

But trust me, that feeling will pass. The God highs pass. The Yoga highs pass, the ceremony highs pass. It all will pass, at least for a while, until you come back to it again. And all of it is so beautiful and incredible and food for our souls, but it will still come back to these million little choices in the mundane world. How we walk, how we speak, how we listen, How we think about people, how we think about ourselves.

Its late. The baby is due for a feeding in an hour, and i will be up through the night. Praying my heart out. Facing my shadows, and catching my brain as it moves from thought to thought like a child hopping stones in a riverbed. Remembering that the big moments, are often actually a million of the little ones.

Where heroes are hidden in the patient wrinkles of those who have walked many steps and chosen love a thousand times to one.

 

Life is a Ceremony