Category Archives: Spirituality

Follow up: 7 weeks after my car accident

Follow up: 7 weeks after my car accident

Hello all!

It’s been a while I know….I have been struggling to write since my car accident. If you want, you can read about it and the weeks that followed here. So I thought instead of trying to find something to write about, I would just share those struggles with you. Because as much as I want to say that it has been easy, it has not. Don’t get me wrong, it could have been way worse! I was lucky to walk out of my car with nothing broken. I really was. But I think what we often underestimate is the toll such trauma takes on one’s spirit. So let’s talk about that.

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How life can change in an instant

How life can change in an instant: motor vehicle accident

Hello all!

Time just seems to be flying by recently. I know I have not written a post in a few weeks and I do apologize for that. I am normally more active than I have been in the past weeks. But I do have an excuse…..A little less than 2 weeks ago, I was in a car accident. For those on this site’s Facebook page, thank you for your support 🙂 The recovery has been harder than I thought and I am slowly getting there. The goal of this article is to share my experience of this accident but most importantly the advice that was given to me. How to use the traditional way of healing. Because that’s what I am about. How to heal using the way of our ancestors. Yes, I am fully aware it is highly improbable that any of them ever got into a car accident but bear with me…. Continue reading

Pacific Northwest Potlatch: a wonderful tradition

Pacific Northwest Potlatch: a wonderful tradition

Hello everyone!

Klallam people

Klallam people potlatch at Port Townsend

I hope you are having a great weekend. In the Pacific Northwest, we are seeing and feeling Spring in the air! The trees are blooming (you might have seen the pictures I posted on Facebook), the temperature is mild, the birds are singing. And the rain is falling….It is the Pacific Northwest after all! 🙂 Nevertheless, I would not want to live anywhere else. It is a land full of culture, traditions and the scenery cannot be beaten. Mother Earth is beautiful and I am thankful for all my relations in nature.

So today I thought I would discuss a beautiful tradition of this territory: the Pacific Northwest Potlatch. You are probably wondering what that is. So let’s get started!  Continue reading

Dreams interpretation: Follow up and some possible meanings

Dreams interpretation: Follow up and some possible meanings

Hello everyone!dreamcatcher

How is everyone’s weekend? I hope you are able to enjoy yourself and are doing good. After 2 busy weekends on my end, I am happy to be having a more relaxed one! So last week, I wrote an introductory post on dreams interpretation from an Indigenous perspective. You can read it here. Today, I thought I would write a follow up adding to what I already posted. So in my first post, I gave you an intro to dreams interpretation, integrating my background in psychodyamic psychology with an Indigenous perspective. Today, I want to go into more details about possible interpretations of certain dreams, or elements in dreams. But once again, when it comes to dreams interpretation, the dreamer knows best. So don’t take anything too literally here! I am just providing you with some guidelines. Here we go!

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Dreams interpretation: Intro to an Indigenous perspective

Dreams interpretation: Intro to an Indigenous perspective

Hello all!

at my graduation

receiving my blanket

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying yourself. I am still smiling from my graduation last week 🙂 Read more about it here. I miss those people and it has only been a week! Such a wonderful blanket ceremony and a wonderful time. So I want to continue in the spirit of that great time and share some more wisdom and knowledge and perspectives that were shared with me in the wonderful program that is Aboriginal Focusing Oriented Therapy and Complex Trauma (AFOT). And today, I want to talk about dreams. 

You see, before I went through this awesome program, I was trained in western psychology. More specifically in psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy or psychology. Yes, the Freud stuff… That was my training. And although, I enjoyed it, I did not feel like it was enough. So I kept on going. I think I will be an eternal student…But that being said, because of my original training, I also believed that dreams had meaning, they serve a purpose. They bring to the surface information that, normally, when awake, our defenses would block out. I truly believe the dreams have a meaning and a message. But how do we interpret them? Here, I will be giving an overview of different schools of thought but will not be going in depth. As that would be a very lengthy article (I can talk a lot about dreams!)…But there might be a follow up at some point 🙂 I am including some books from Amazon at the end for those who are interested (I am using them in this article).
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Religion vs Spirituality: Where does the Native American way of life fit in?

Religion vs Spirituality: Where does the Native American way of life fit in?

Hello everyone!prayer

Oh wow what a weekend! For those who follow my Facebook page, you probably have read that I officially graduated from my program in Aboriginal focusing oriented psychotherapy and complex trauma  (AFOT) certificate today!  Read more about this unique and amazing program here.  I have never experienced such a program. It has been a year of wonders, of learning, of healing. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to my teachers, Elders and classmates. Who all became my second family. I have so much love and respect for all of them. It was a crazy busy and at times painful year. And they helped carry me forward and heal.

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Great Spirit prayer

Oh Great Spirit prayer

Hello all!O Great Spirit

Putting up a quick post mid-week (well okay the week is almost over….). I decided to include the work of someone else. This is the work of a young Plains Cree man, helped by the Red Man. A young man who might be struggling at the moment. So this Great Spirit prayer of his is especially meaningful.

Edit: I realized after putting this prayer on my site that it was based on an existing Sioux prayer. The young writer adapted it and modified it but it needs to be said that it is not an original.

Nonetheless, a great reminder that we are not alone. I was having this discussion with a client today. I was telling him that he seemed to have a guardian angel and it led to a conversation about our ancestors. He said: “oh no I do not have those” (bless his heart….). So I said to him: “we all come from somewhere. You might not know who they are but they know you. And they are with you to guide you”. We walk this earth with our ancestors and the Creator beside us. So without further due, let us say to the Creator:

Prayer

Oh Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds. Life to all the world, hear me. I am before you, one of your many children. I am small and weak; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and let my eyes behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made, my ears to be sharp to your voice. Make me wise so that I may know the things you have taught my people, the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. I seek strength not to be superior to my brothers and sisters but still be fearless enough to be able to vanquish my enemy, the oppressor of my people.Great Spirit

 

Make me ever ready to come home to the happy hunting ground with clean hands and clear eyes. When this life fades, I will feel no shame. I fought the good fight and innocence still remains. I will look back for eternity and smile. It was a good day to love and a good day to die. I came in peace and made the world a better place.

Keagan Starblanket

There you have it. A great prayer to the Great Spirit that one can say daily. A prayer to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters, equals. We share this earth, we share this sky. We share the same father and mother. What I do affect others and vice versa. We all have weaknesses and strengths and we all need guidance at one time or another. I know I sure do! So I will remember this prayer when I smudge every morning. What are your thoughts on it? Comment below and I will respond 🙂

the great spirit

All my Relations

 

 

Aboriginal day in Canada

Aboriginal day in Canada: its significance

Hello all and happy Aboriginal day! Yes on this June 21, it is Aboriginal day in Canada! A day

teepees

Teepees were erected in the park I went to today

dedicated to the traditions and culture of the First Nations people. In this post, I want to explore more in depth the meaning and significance of the day, my experience with it.  So here we go!

What is Aboriginal day?

Well according to the Government of Canada, Aboriginal day, June 21, is “a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples”. As those are the three recognized groups of Aboriginal people in Canada. For more on Metis people, see this post of mine.

Each Nation, group, tribe, however you choose to call it, though, has its own traditions, stories, language and they all need to be celebrated. Thus Aboriginal day is a day of celebrating heritage, traditions, culture, beliefs and language of all Aboriginal people.

national aboriginal day

How did it begin?

Well if you ask me, it is about time there is a dedicated day of the year to the original people of the land, to the Indigenous people of this land. The ones who were there long before Canada was “discovered”. But the process officially began over 30 years ago, in 1982, when the Assembly of First Nations (then called the National Indian Brotherhood, a cool name if you ask me) asked for the creation of a day dedicated to the First Nations people of Canada. They then called it the National Aboriginal Solidarity day (another cool name if you ask me).

Following suit the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples also made a case for a day designated to First Nations people in 1995. And…. finally, the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of both Native and non-Native people asked for the same, a holiday to recognize the contributions of the Indigenous people of this country. FINALLY, 14 years after the National Indian Brotherhood made a plea, National Aboriginal day was proclaimed in 1996 by then Governor General Romeo Leblanc. A mere 14 years to come to a decision. That was quick….not

Little one at Aboriginal day

Little one at Aboriginal day

That’s all fine and dandy but why June 21?

Ah good question there! Well June 21 is the Summer Solstice and within the Native culture, every change of season is important and recognized. Especially the solstice and equinox. The Summer Solstice is when the “light overcomes the darkness”. If we think about the Medicine wheel it is the change in the south direction. The south direction is a direction associated with adolescence, growth, of growing outward, as we find ourselves. And think about everything that grows in the summer time. Mother Earth is at her fullest, resources from the Earth are plentiful, the harshness of winter is over. It is a time to celebrate. And Aboriginal people know how to celebrate!

first nations dancers

So across the country you will find events with drumming, dancing, singing, story telling, arts and crafts and of course Bannock! I went to one event today and you should have seen the line to get bannock! Holy crap, it was almost a kilometer long! But again, why was there only one bannock stand? Like really, come on people! So no I did not get bannock but got a whole bunch of cool art directly from the artist, Mike Dangeli, a very talented West Coast artist (Nisga’a,Tlingit and Tsimshian Nation) with nice west coast style tattoos. Click on his name to know more about him 🙂 I will make the office one heck of a cool Native office!

west coast style tattoo

Example of West Coast style tattoo

 

 

What is your experience with Aboriginal day? Any favorites? Or is this new to you? Share below 🙂

aboriginal day

 

 

 

The power of menstruation: Native American Moon time ritual



The Power of menstruation: Native American Moon time ritual

Hello all!

Man and woman looking at the moon

Caspar David Friedrich-Man and Woman looking at the moon

Pretty sure some of you saw the title of this post and were like: “hmmm ok, what is she talking about?” or “ewwww not reading this”. Well hang in there for a sec! It will be interesting I promise! So yes this post is about a woman’s time of the month. The power of menstruation. But from a Native perspective. Within the native culture, women’s periods are called being in one’s moon time. Referring to the monthly moon cycle. So let’s look at what that all means and the beauty that was seen in that time of the month. A beauty we have somewhat lost in the modern world.

What is moon time?

So yes, the moon time is the time of the month the woman gets her periods and it does refer to the cycle of the moon. In most Native cultures, it is considered to be a sacred time. A time of purification, of inner purification. And as a woman, I can say I understand that. In one’s moon time, there is a sense of being purified, of getting rid of some sort of energy or negativity. Moon time for a woman would be considered a ceremony in itself. It would represent the power of birth. The power of life. Hence why women in the Native culture are often called lifegivers. And that’s one hell of a gift to have! When our ancestors were alive, men would literally leave women alone (who could go in a moon lodge) as they feared their power at that time of the month! As though we turned into witches for a week 😉

moon woman

What is the story of the moon?

So why go with the cycle of the moon? Why call it moon time? Well I will relate a version of a story that I once heard. As you know, within the Native culture, natural elements are our relations. We have Father Sky, Mother Earth, Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon. Therefore, in this case, the story involves Grandmother Moon.

So a long time ago, women were considered powerful in that they held in a lot of their family emotions, their joy and happiness but also their sadness and sorrow. They were the life-force of the family. However, sometimes that would become exhausting. As taking in all the emotions and heartache would be tiring. However, the Creator had created the woman to take on the burdens of the family.

So one day, the woman went to nature to try to find help and yelled out because the burden was too much. The Raven heard her and went to see her, asking her why she was crying. The woman stated she was overwhelmed with the burdens of her family. She added loving her family but not being able to take everything in anymore. Raven said that he understood her pain, as he felt it too and went to ask Grandmother Ocean for help. Grandmother Ocean offered to wash away the pain of the women who would come to her but that she could not help those farther away. So she went to ask for help from her sister Grandmother Moon.Moon

So Grandmother Moon said that she represented the feminine power and would send the waters of Grandmother Ocean into the women so her power would reach them. Once every moon cycle, Grandmother Ocean shall come into the women and purify them. And she did just that. Every month, there is thus a time when the women embody the power of Grandmother Moon and are cleansed by the waters of Grandmother Ocean.

I don’t know about you but this story makes my moon time seems more tolerable than it is! It makes me see things from a different perspective. One in which great power comes into me and every woman, and a cleansing takes place.



 

So what should a woman do and not do in her moon time?

Good question. According to some, this is a time of inward purification. A time of prayer, of actually asking the moon for guidance and assistance. And as this is a time of purification, women have to be careful not to take in negativity. Not taking in negativity from others around them, not taking in their burdens. And well, that is easier said than done. But it needs to be. Grandmother Moon is there for guidance. Tonight, I will actually go sit outside with the moon.

Further, it is very important that women in their moon time do NOT participate in ceremonies. Including touching or handling any sacred objects such as pipes or medicine. Menstruation signifies the power of birth, ceremonies often signify a spiritual rebirth. The two do not mix. Ceremonies are also about creating outward energy while moon time is about inner prayer. A lot of ceremonies also involve the sun, while moon time obviously involve the moon. Thus moving in a different direction than the rest of the participants.

moon

And thus why I could not attend the sweat I was scheduled to attend today. As it would have been disruptive and a lack of respect for everyone else. And as I just discussed earlier, women tend to take in the energy of others. One can only imagine what one would pick up in a sweat lodge when in her moon time. I am already very sensitive to others and pick up of lot from others. So staying away from the sweat lodge, which has the shape of a womb and represents a spiritual rebirth, was the right decision. I was disappointed not to go but going was never an option. There will be other sweats.

Hope you enjoyed reading about moon time and the story of Grandmother Moon. Had you heard about any of this before? Let me know below!

 

 

 

 

Native American therapy

Native American therapy: how can Westerners adjust?

Hello all!

As you might know, I am a mental health professional trained in psychology who has worked in various settings with various populations. I have conducted therapy sessions, assessment and just helped or listened to individuals ranging from children to incarcerated adults. I currently work with individuals who have reached their last resort, oftentimes homeless, mentally ill or presenting with brain injuries or substance abuse issues. My work in jails has taught me to practice my profession in a more culturally sensitive manner. It is also something I have researched in graduate school as well. So this article will focus on some points to consider when offering counseling or therapy to Native American people. Here we go!

The importance of spirituality and the belief system

The importance of spirituality in the life of most Aboriginal people and how the practice of dreamcatchersspirituality is embedded in the Aboriginal lifestyle is something to remember. The Native American belief system is not always linear or rational and thus it requires the therapist to rethink psychotherapy, how help is provided and how one’s worldview is defined. Traditional ceremonies (including peyote ceremonies, fasts and vision quests) can also play a big part in American Indians’ lives.  However, as the world is not a linear world within the Native culture, there is not really a standardized way of rendering therapy (due to variations in experience, skills and abilities). However, there are several principles that one can consider.

Some guiding principles

So if one thinks of the Western world, we live in a very structured world, in which everything has a time limit (especially in therapy sessions). We are supposed to be done when we are supposed to be done, to stick to the schedule at hand and do the same thing all over again the next day. If one thinks of the Native world, especially before the arrival of Europeans, well it was quite different. There was no watch to tell you when to go, no GPS to tell you where to go, no phones so someone could tell you where to go. They had the sun, Father Sky, Mother Earth, nature and the animals to guide them. They relied on their relations. And they got there when they got there. “Indian time” we call it. Well maybe there is something in there that we can learn from.

Meeting the patient where he or she is

This is a principle I would apply to any clients I have to say. Imposing an agenda never works in canyonmy experience. It just leads to frustration on both sides. When working with Native clients, it might mean to be open to looking at the client’s dreams, visions or signs received. Dream interpretation, also used in psychodynamic and analytic therapy, can be so useful. As all our defenses are down when sleeping and things that would normally be blocked from our consciousness come to the surface. It does not mean that things will come to the surface in a very clear way. Some interpretation will certainly be required. The same could be said of visions.

Trance states in non-Western reality

Trance states are present in many traditional ceremonies. They can be induced by repetitive chanting, drumming or rituals for example. I have gone in a trance-like state in a few ceremonies due to the repetitive drumming and chanting. Some might say “a trance like state, are you crazy?”. But when I say, “go in a trance”, I mean a very deeply calm state. Somewhat similar to a meditative state. Images can emerge from those states and the therapist has to have the willingness and ability to interpret them. It also means that the therapist might need to enter in a trance state him or herself to understand the reality of the client in the moment (concept of immediacy: what is going on in the moment). It can actually deepen the therapeutic alliance because it helps the client feel understood and validated.

Inupiat drummers

Time limitations

Western standard 50 minutes sessions might be difficult to follow with Aboriginal clients, especially if ceremonies are involved. Or if states such as trances are entered. Therapist needs time to safely bring the client back to the reality. If you have ever been to a Native ceremony, you know that knowing the exact time it starts at and ends is basically impossible 😉 There will be a start time but you would be very lucky if it actually began at that time….However, within the therapeutic context, you might be in control of when the ceremony begins (unless it is attended somewhere else in the community). But a ceremony is a process. Placing a time limit on it would defeat its purpose.

Ritual and prayer in the therapeutic encounter

Symbolic rituals such as prayer constitute a part of many Native Americans’ life. Therapists must understand and validate those rituals. However, certain rituals, depending on the setting might feel offensive to others in the setting. Like smoking of tobacco or smudging. Nonetheless, therapists must still include those rituals if appropriate, as they can ensure that therapy is effective. It does not mean that the therapist is a medicine person though and should not act in that role. I personally smudge my office every day. The smell of sage is not a smell that everyone likes but we talk about it. I know that clients appreciate it and with the amount of trauma and negativity that is brought in that office, it needs to be cleansed! I also have my own ritual of smudging myself while praying in the morning. I think it is important as a therapist to cleanse yourself, to find ways to do so, as our work can weigh heavy on our shoulders at times.

smudging

The therapeutic use of synchronous events

In the Western culture, synchronous events are often thought of as “chance events” (e.g. coyote crossing in front of one’s car). The therapist must be willing to entertain the idea that the event might not be a coincidence. I personally do not believe in coincidences. And if we think of all our relations, we know that they talk to us, might they be animals, birds or trees. They guide us, like our ancestors. If an eagle is flying above your head, that is no coincidence. To learn more about the symbolism of animals and birds, see my pages here and here.

coyote

So what are your thoughts? Anything you would add or take out? Do you agree with those points?

All my Relations