(Hendry’s Beach, Santa Barbara, CA – 4 days after returning from Rwanda!)
We are all the subjects in the experiment called “Life”. Each one of us with our own version of “normal”. Not one single person can have the exact same view of “normal” as the other because we all interpret the world around us in a unique way based on our experiences. As I learn more about my “norms”, I embrace some of them but for the most part I work very hard to change them into choices. I don’t like being the victim of unconscious patterns that direct my speech, thoughts, actions and the path of my life. The work I do is all about being more conscious and aware of myself so I can make changes to live a more positive, satisfying and authentic life for me.
Each one of us has the right to live the life we want to live and we need not justify it to anyone. Even when I was living a life that created a person filled with anger, resentment, and fear, although unconscious at the time, it was a consequence of my choices. Now I think about my actions on a level that tends to separate me from most people I meet and has separated me from my family.
I am willing to do this because this is the life that has allowed me to Heal. I do not do it to make others happy or even with others in mind. Any response to how I live my life is for the person doing the judging to learn from. Seeing as I have experienced everything from people thinking I am insane and telling me they hate me to people who love me so intensely it is almost unfathomable, I cannot be attached to either one of those extremes or anything in the middle. I get pulled out of my own life and into the energy of the other people when I choose to give up my power in that way. I found a way to give myself meaning, fulfillment and purpose in life everyday and with this comes an intensely powerful feeling of what it is to truly live my life.
(California and “Hendry’s Beach” became my “Norm” when I was 27 years old. Coming from a remote Northern community, growing up places like this were but figments of my imagination. I have always been drawn to California and because of stepping into my fear it is now a place I call “home”!)
My thoughts, most of which I realized were not mine once I really broke myself down, were telling me that my life was not something I wanted to live or that I had to do it in a certain way in order to survive or even be happy. When we live unconsciously, we are but a consequence of many layers of “brainwashing” from a variety of sources that mainstream society is bombarded with on a constant basis. From food choices to sexuality; Education, radio, TV, movies, advertising, internet, family, friends, careers, money, government – you name it, there is a message behind all of it that seeks to keep us under control. In my life, some of it well intentioned, some of it seemingly positive but underneath it all lies control. Even deeper underneath there is a thick layer of Fear that drives it all (if we let it!)
(What is there to be afraid of in my life when this sweet boy, Mohammed, has no food in his stomach and no mattress to sleep on every night! Survival is the deepest root of Fear and even though he is barely surviving, he demonstrated a spark for life that captivated me. I am sponsoring him to attend school and I am committed to take him as far as he wants to go, even though I have no “Job” or steady income right now, I have a deep knowing and trust that I am more than capable of providing this gift to him. He in-turn motivates me to move through my Fear and be my most authentic Self! Urakoze Cane Mohammed.
Oh, and that sweet little man behind him with his finger pointing at Mohammed is “Issa”! He received a mattress and a fluffy blanket, for his family of 6, from the work we did together to raise money by Dancing!)
We are all subject to these influences in some way, at some time in our lives. Once I started to understand my mind and see how it was running all the time, like a freshly wound time piece without any control from myself, I realized that I was a simply acting as a puppet and handing over the control of my life. Something that was easily manipulated to fit into a system, a system that I did not want to fit into. I don’t really feel any of us fit into this system as it is so far removed from what is natural to humans beings. Since coming back to The Pas, I relate to the Aboriginal culture in a very different way and it was Africa that helped me see this culture through new eyes. Again, stepping boldly into the face of fear allowed for growth that changed the way I viewed the world around me.
(I have walked this path, which has changed now into an actual path and is no longer just a trail through the bush, many times before. It is the path I took to walk to Junior High, High School, and College! Needless to say I have seen this path many times but this time around I have a deeper appreciation for how amazing it is that I was/am so surrounded my Nature in my life.)
Everyone doing the same, all thinking and acting alike, even looking alike so that we all feel safe and comfortable in the world around us, which speaks to an innate survival instinct that we all have, can hold us back from living our lives authentically. I feel that any thought can be put into someone’s head if done repeatedly and from a variety of angles. This leads to unconscious behaviors that then draw us further and further away from our true selves. If we are all lost together then at least we can feel safe in that fear. To be one of the few who chooses to go against the grain, against mainstream and go with the flow of their own life is a very challenging road to choose. When I am immersed in a place where I feel I am greatly outnumbered it is even more challenging. Now here I am again, in my hometown surrounded by the same people and energy I had growing up, yet I am able to see it as a gift. What I see and what I know I was drawn here for is the potential that lies within this community for change both within myself and those around me.
(Rwandan people are deeply connected to the earth, which is demonstrated in their language, body movements, gestures, dance, art, communication, spirit and daily lives. It was through this that I was able to understand the Aboriginal culture that I grew up surrounded by in a new way. I returned with a deep appreciation for both cultures.)
Who am I to waltz into a community and say that it needs to change or that this is right or wrong? I am not doing that. I am simply noticing the habits, the patterns, the energy and how it feels to me. How do I want to feel while I live here and how can I create a space for myself within this community that feels positive for me? How do I make it a healthy place for me to live? For me it means consciously connecting to the culture and embracing all that it has to teach me, along with taking whatever next steps are presented to me while I am here. This is a practice that comes with me whenever I travel and is a very valuable tool to helping me be well in any setting.
I practice being conscious and aware of my thoughts, actions, speech, body and mind constantly so that I can make choices that are authentic to who I am at my core. I see the old patterns play out very clearly, especially now that I am back in my hometown where I was in many ways a completely different version of myself. Its not a coincidence that people that live together look alike, talk and sound alike, walk alike and relate to each other in a way that they are all familiar with. This is the power of community influence and it can be used to make positive change. I miss my community in California, The Kootenays and Rwanda very much but feel extremely grateful for having created them in my life. Knowing I have them to go when I need the kind of support they offer is such a blessing. I also see that there is a richness to my childhood home that I have long taken for granted. I am here to make peace with that within myself.
(My best friend and I, age 13, were both born and raised in The Pas. I moved around until I was 11 years old, then returned. We both had a challenging time as teenagers and left before the age 20. Somehow we are now both back here, living together, supporting each other and healing what needs to be healed – together.)
By striving to create a space that feels positive for myself, I can also create an environment that is open to others who are drawn to feel that same energy. This is not about implanting another form of brainwashing or manipulating anyone, it is about offering myself as an example of change and anyone who wants to join in can and will. I am the holder of the space. I hold the space within myself and it radiates out in my work, my life, my speech and my actions. This is how I attract those who want to learn more about how to hold that same kind of space within themselves.
Even my time at the Ashram can be seen as a form of brainwashing except there is one HUGE difference, Choice. It was like I was handed the strings to the puppet called My Life. I was never told anything, no question answered only asked more questions. I was given control and that was very unsettling. Since when do I get to make my own rules? Can I really say what I feel and ask for what I need? When I do or say something and I clearly hear a tone or feel an energy that is not authentic to who I am, I can change it? I was given back my power by being given the space to think autonomously.
(During my time at the Yasodhara Ashram I gained 35 lbs, found my Spirit and my Will to live, let go of emotional baggage that was causing me physical pain, and truly began to Heal myself! It was both my refuge and my launching pad!)
In many ways it was the ultimate “Brain Wash”, I literally cleansed my mind from the negative thoughts that held me in unhappiness and pain. I felt “washed” and like a clean slate coming back into the world. Everything seemed so harsh, so rude, so sexual and people even looked like robots to me at times. I got to see the world from the eyes of a new born and now am learning to keep out the things I do not want to expose myself to and consciously allow only what I do want into my life. No more wasting energy on things that do not feed me.
(On my way to meet with Bunny from the Self-employment program that I am hoping to be accepted to!)
Knowing full well that the only person or thing I can change is myself, I step into this next phase with a confidence and strength that comes from experience and knowing what works for me. My life, My way, My Self!