I sat today in reflection with Serena Olsen practioner of Inner Dance about the experience of living in NYC while on my path of finding clarity and connection to a sacred calling working with and through spirit. New York has been difficult to root myself fully here- my spirit often feels exhausted, my heart often feels heavy and my mind often feels like it does not have the capacity to hold all the thoughts feel like they are racing. And yet I remain in New York because something inside me repeats the messages that “You are here for a reason. You need to be here. You belong here and have important work to do here.” I breathe through these messages with understanding despite the difficulties I have faced in my time here.
Serena and I reflected on the construction of New York City and how it makes work with spirit so much more difficult. This is a place where the constructs are ever vertical, layering, building upon building because a majority of the vertical has already been covered. New York destroys memories with each construction, and these are raised vertically more and more with “success” in the monetary/capitalistic sense of what that is.
Just the same the notions of goals, purpose and path are all vertically driven, to better you must be better than the other- competition and hierarchical structures are the way we are taught to function. There is very few spaces where we are looking to be in communal exchange and see the benefit of self being connected to the benefit of all others. The way we move is with the intention to move toward our “success”- and NY’s choices are rooted in just that- we say “Yes” when we feel achievement and success will be welcomed. We say “No” when the possibility of failure is present.
And when we feel what has been constructed is not worth consuming or is no longer with the flow of the popular, the current, the mass appeal we build over it. We layer over what was once there. The ancestral land has a building built upon it and then that building begins as possibly a family owned shop, then becomes a start-up, then becomes a condo and a high rise and so on. Layering over and over erasing memories of what was once there. And the land continues to absorb the destruction, it holds all these memories, and we choose not to listen to its pain-we forget it’s messages and the way it holds foundational roots of ancestral knowledge and spirit.
I see this being similar to why living with a goal of connecting to spirit is so difficult here. The same layering is happening to our beings. We layer over our wonder the conditioning, the conformity, the fears cloud the ancestral roots of our spirit that experiences with wonder that embraces all as same as self, that allows us gratitude and understanding of the importance of all beings and things in a place of service to each other. Layer after layer we become what someone, what the constructions around us, tell us we need to be. From childhood we are being taught in these metropolis environments to build upon the raw, wild and free self, ever in wonder- into individuals who are driven by “achievement” and constantly avoiding “failure”- based on conditions and standards that are made up, that are false.
The journey I have been walking to go deeper and deeper, to lift the veils, the masks, the layers- to reveal the memories, the roots of knowledge that connects us to ancestor and spirit I feel is never ending and the more that I accept and say yes to that uncovering, the more I feel alone. I have experienced many of my relationships in the city end in a way where we experience deep rooted moments of spirit exchange, of healing and looking at traumas and wounds and then following that experience there is lack of investment to go deeper, to do more delayering, to uncover the roots and ancestral, spirit knowledge that has been built over and often destroyed. The deeper I have gone, the more fear and ego have persisted in their attempts to stop me- the messages that say “Don’t continue in that path, you are crazy, naive, unreasonable, you will end up poor, outcasted, be reprimanded, disregarded.” “The material and physical recognitions, the acclaim, the fortune are what we all want- the liberty to live fully only comes with investment in what has been constructed, there is no use in trying to have else.” Its everywhere I walk.
Today I traveled through 14th St from 8th Ave to Union Square and I saw these messages everywhere and I heard the messages to enter stores, to be dressed in the latest apparels, to indulge myself in costly foods and treats, and even passing stores that were feeding the “metaphysical” were fully commodified- people paying to have more knowledge and more relics that connect them to spirit. The more we layer, the more we show our status of knowing, of having more material items, more means of luxurious living, having more knowledge, having more spirit. All the ego screaming at me. I tried to balance all the chatter that was speaking to what Serena described as seemingly an investment in the Crown and Root Chakra- the want to Achieve in the form of the Physical, but all that is in-between is being neglected and unbalanced. This creates the need for Financial Wellness to be a part of the balance of Mind, Body and Spiritually being well.
And so in a place like NYC when we make decisions about what we want to create, who we want to grow with, what experiences we want to invest in, we are lead by these notions of achievement, notions of what you will gain that is going to feed the physical/material/ financial wealth of your being, and in a way that will serve your “success” and being “recognized” for it. And when things are limited to only a few, we want it even more, because it greatest achievement to have what others do not, and cannot have. I see all these creations that reflect human progress and advancement and we are not all given the opportunity or capability of accessing it, because that would not serve these constructions that have been created. Could you imagine a world where everything that was created was accessible to every person? How rich the human experience would be, how we could advance and grow and create so much more with collective, unified elevation and evolution, where no one is left to suffer not having what others have, what only a limited, elite, “successful” have worked to “achieve”?
When we begin hearing the messages beneath all of these constructs, the deep under the buildings, in the ancestral land type of knowledge that says “What you are letting lead you are constructions, buildings, illusions, and you can build something else, something that serves us all,” it creates disruption and it is frightening and it feels like there are not enough who will follow in that- that are willing to abandon the constructs and create something new- and something inside of you says- “Maybe I’m not willing either.” And thus it continues. And is the reason I know I have had to release many relationships in my life, because I cannot accept that this world that has been created based on patriarchy, capitalism, hierarchical structures, guilt, shame, fear is the ONLY one that we can live in. I see, hear and feel past all these things the further I say “YES” to the path of spirit and ancestor speaking to me- when I listen to the trees, to the water, to the skies, when I listen deeper to the longing in people I meet to have a world that is invested in every individual’s belonging and elevation and ability to just live- and live well. A world that is invested in every person being given the right to food, shelter, and living life fulfilled- where every creation made by human innovation and progress is meant to be utilized by everyone and is meant to last because it is not just being constructed to feed constructions that value one persons ability to live fuller over millions and billions of others.
I’m searching for community in this, in particular in the Pilipino community, but here in this city, it is so difficult to find the circles that are willing to say “YES” to the deconstruction, the delayering, the deepening of the listening and seeing that feels so unknown, to the invitations to not live in the constructions of division, of competition, of the want to achieve above the other. I’m searching for you to exchange with me in this, in this city. I believe that is why I stay. Because I believe that this place needs more individuals inviting us to listen to spirit.
I have been cultivating my self practices for healing daily and have been seeking spaces to grow community that are in NYC, that I don’t have to feel so distant from, that will ground me in my path and elevate my existence as I become my greatest self and that I can exchange with in return, I’m still here because I believe in the possibility. I am here. I am listening. I invite you to listen and exchange and learn and practice with me.
Thank you Serena for reflecting with me. This obviously is still being unpacked. And is continuously something I am struggling through. I am always open for communication, I am always searching for shared experiences and shared opportunities to overstand.
Sunday, October 16, 2016 is the one of the last days of Serena’s visit offering Inner Dance experience in NYC this run before headed to the Bay Area, West Coast and then possibly returning back to the Philippines. Don’t let cost turn you away, she is offering discounts for all to be able to attend. Remembering it is all energy exchange.
Cognitive Resonance -(Cognitive Resonance is a psychological model emerging from within the Inner Dance process) Cognitive Resonance gently explores expanded states of perception that leads to healing and transformation. It serves as an accessible opening to those dealing with depressive states, addiction issues, and psychosomatic mind and body di…
I am currently working on bringing others who I have exchanged with from across the globe to teach us their spiritual and ancestral practices rooted in Pilipino cultural learning. All are always welcome, the invitations are continually meant to bring us closer to each other in a way where we can see beyond a world that has been constructed. I hope to continue peeling past the layers.
My name is Jana Lynne Umipig, daughter Godofredo and Rosemarie Umipig, granddaughter of Anacleto and Cristina Umipig and Santiago and Nena Caldetera. My family comes from the regions of Ilocos Sur (Sta. Maria) and Ilocos Norte (Pagudpud). I am a proud yet humble Core Member of the Center of Babaylan Studies.
In our time gathering for the Third International Babaylan Conference- Makasaysayang Pagtatagpo (Historic Encounters): Filipinos and Indigenous Turtle Islanders Revitalizing Ancestral Traditions Together many lessons were amplified and much clarity was brought to the surface to guide us all in our individual and collective paths connecting to spirit and honoring our ancestry.
The most important of the roles I was called to rise in during this time, was the role of Witness, shared with us as a sacred native tradition by our hosts from the Coast Salish, Skwxwú7mesh Territory on the Sunshine Coast of Vancouver. In my understanding of the tradition, when tribes/villages gather in a large convening there were witnesses chosen from each village who would bare the responsibility of observing, listening and holding space for the messages and truths that would unfold during the exchanges that would transpire during the time the tribes/villages were in communion with one another. At the closing of the convening they would be asked to share with the elders of the tribes and with the community in attendance what they gathered from their deep listening. This is the written account of my reflections on a moment in this living where I was given the invitation and duty to Listen deeply.
The first days at Camp Elphinstone were filled with so much anticipation of our guests, with much movement to make every detail attended to, to the best of our ability as an organizing team of the Center for Babaylan Studies and Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society. I followed with humility the lead of my sisters and brothers, and I sat with them in deep gratitude for the attention to those details as we stayed up late into the night on that Thursday evening assembling nametags and satchels of seeds to gift as offering to those joining us in the next coming days and preparing the registration materials to welcome our guests upon arrival. As a Core Member of CfBS, I feel my witnessing began the moment I was accepted into this circle of Sacred Work. I want to take this beginning moment of my report to recognize my sisters and brothers and what I learned from each of them in our communal work of manifesting this convening together.
In reflection of the teachings from our Kapwa in Kathara I thank Claudine for her teachings of Lifted Energy, the way that she awakened us all with her presence and warmth. Like the lessons of the sun she was continuously giving of warmth, of liveliness, of light from the very last moment of her departure we all felt the rising of our spirits as you rose in yours with every exchange. I thank Babette and Sobey for the teachings of respecting sacred exchange; they taught the arduous and important work of building relationships with our Native brothers and sisters and how much humility is part of every encounter. Sobey taught me the importance of patience and steadiness in communication and was balanced by Babette’s way of dancing in exchanges, leading with her heart and with her mother womb. I thank JR for his leadership and his joy. JR taught me presence, particularly the importance of being in presence of self for the support of others – he walked with us every step of the way and was often the key communicator between us and the community in Vancouver. Because of you all, I left the conference truly understanding a call to reconcile a relationship with the Natives on the land I settle on in New York, and what it will mean to begin that relationship in a good and honorable way.
The teachings learned along the way from my Core Family are so tremendous. The largest of those learnings is how there is a life investment when you exchange in creating relationships centered on spirit. I had not lead my relationship-building so intentionally in spirit until I was invited into this circle; it was something that was unspoken of, but with my sister of CfBS that is what roots us in our Sacred Work together – our deep commitment to the upliftment of our spirits in connection to the spirit of all.
Ate Maileen, I am always in awe with the way you see moments with Light. I learn from you the beauty of observance and how profound it is to focus on awareness of what is conspiring around you. I believe this is where your mastery of photography comes from; it is rooted in a deeper way of being humble to moments and being silent to what you see, it is prayer in observance.
Ate Inday, I am in awe by your way of moving with grace, just as your name amplifies, I learned from you to listen from within and to do this lovingly and with patience. Your Love and Care is so profound, they illuminate and bring clarity through your words, actions and even stillness. I am humbled to have you act as a guide and model of upliftment in my life.
Sis Jen, you have taught me the truth of feminine power, the way you hold space with the desire for the goodness of all, and how you give so tremendously of your wisdom with each exchange. You are fierce in the way you hold yourself in connection to spirit continuously. I see you move like Water sister, gentle and healing and so powerful in this way, I learn from you to be a Warrior Womxn always rising.
Sis Aimee, I am humbled to have you in my life and to follow you in your tremendous leadership – I want to honor you in the way you were the weaver of our entire community in this process of creating this convening. You held us all accountable to roles to lift this sacred work and you always did it with such genuine joy and with so much wisdom of organizing. I learn from you to Lead, and I am so thankful for how you gave of your entire self to all of us in every breath you exchanged.
Ate Lily, thank you for being a gentle storm, that teaches me to be brave in my movements and to do so with ease and grace. I learn from you the power that can come from compassion and Love being held in every intention no matter how it disrupts and creates chaos. I learned from you that at all moments we will return to Love if we push forward with that intent. I learn to stand up for what our heart speaks to us and to see the beauty in the challenges that we rise up against.
And Ate Leny, I learn from you to live in vision. I listen deeply to the way you SEE. You are a seer, you understand when we lose sight, you pause when we get caught up in movement and you invite us to join you in each moment to move with more awareness and knowledge. I thank you for this, and I thank you for seeing all of us on our paths toward and in seeing us, connecting us together, initiating unions that are rooted in spirit and ancestral learning. You are so powerful.
I begin my reflections in my witnessing in this way because it is important for me to recognize the individuals who answered a call from spirit to create our convening. It is important for me, because we did not get a chance to do so in the presence of those that attended the gathering, to honor those that took care of every detail before, during and are still working to take care of details here after. We were faced with many challenges,and because we were the powerful collective of human beings that we were, who volunteered to rise in this sacred work together – we, together, were able to transform each moment into lessons. These individuals throughout the conference held space for almost 150 other learners, giving of their time, energy, presence and spirit to care for those we invited to walk with us. It is always unseen how much is done to create these types of sacred spaces, and I am humbled to have borne witness and to have contributed beside all of you in this creating.
Now I reflect on the conference in whole and what messages were heard and processed in my time as a Witness. Every lesson I share here, comes from the teachings of all of you. Many of you sat in exchange with me and I believe did so in connection and in echo of others in our community. I received your sharings and I listened deeply to what lay beneath these messages and I am still in this moment listening to what was shared with me and I am still processing deeper and deeper what is beneath the surface words that were exchanged. Every lesson I share here comes from our communal teachings in exchange.
I pray you all know, that it has been difficult to write these messages, because I have experienced, even post conference, how many have left not looking deeper at our learnings with Love and humility.
The greatest message I learned in our time together was that “We are all learning. We are ever learning. Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings.” I hope this message can echo throughout my reflection and my sharing for myself, for you and for any other individuals that come to your mind in reading my words ““We are all learning. We are ever learning. Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings.”. In our journeying through this life, we can get caught up in messages of colonial mentality that urge us to KNOW. The purpose of our gathering was embedded in its title: “Revitalizing Ancestral Traditions TOGETHER.” Colonial teachings create emphasis on the INDIVIDUAL, and raise our ego to take precedence over our humility, our gratitude that allows us to find continuous wonder and gratitude for our living. As Greg Sarris shared in his talk: “Wonder makes us humble.” How unfortunate that we have forgotten so much of what it means to live in wonder. We are all still learning and we will ever be learning about this life. Now is a time to be in wonderment as we have all experienced deep exchanges and newness in our circles on similar paths toward knowing spirit.
Lessons learned to begin: Be humble in your misunderstandings and the misunderstandings of others. Draw away from shaming yourself, from shaming others – take moments to express truth as you have learned it and offer it to others with humility; those teachings are universal learnings that were meant to be shared with care and not with ego. We need to work more to invite each other with compassion into conversations of learning and to approach one another with the intention of Love and the genuine want for us all to be better in our paths and to speak and act in a good way with all our relations.
In reflection of our misunderstandings of protocols and ceremonies and what transpired in our raising of spirit, I invite you all to have forgiveness to self and to each other. And to ask yourself continuously in your choices, your movements, your actions in furthering your connection to ancestral learnings, learnings of the land and the waters and your learnings of spirit: “What is my intention? Is it coming from clarity in my heart and the ability to walk with Love?”
As the Core has reflected on since our gathering, we did not prepare the participants we invited to gather fully on how to enter exchanges in ceremony. On our first day together when we were leaving to the water, I invited everyone to make their walk to the water in silence and to allow ourselves to fully “Arrive.” Invitations are just as they are, they are not mandates, they are gentle reminders to be aware of how we treat our journey and our exchanges. I have learned in our gathering how difficult it is to break away from colonial rituals. We are more accustomed to these, than those of our ancestors (the reason why we gather, to remember), and many times because there are insidious attachments to Colonial rituals we are not aware of the importance of being mindful, or how impactful it really is to be present to experiences with all our senses, especially in connection to ceremony and ritual inviting spirit.
Many who stood on the shore for the tradition of Canoe Ceremony, shared by our Coast Salish hosts, may not have experienced how present spirit was at that moment and how much they were asking us to be still, to listen. The mist that carried the canoe to the shore holding our dignitaries and representatives of our communities was the presence of our ancestors and a call to us to remember the journeys that have been taken through water to arrive on land to commune and exchange by many peoples including our own. These journeys have been covered, masked and forgotten- and to remember fully, to truly hear the voices of those that have journeyed is painful. They were there with us, in the mist, in the water, on the land. Remember the message “We are all learning. We are ever learning. Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings.”
I felt the uneasiness of those present on the shore, many were anxious, many were unsure and confused, many felt the want to invite others to act and be present in the ways they have learned, and drew back. I breathed through my own moments of wanting to tell folks to be quiet, to listen. I felt my own discomfort and breathed through it, pushing myself to be present as the rain fell on us.
I watched as Babette and JR submerged themselves into the water in service of ceremony, I listened deeply to Lagitan’s song and the Song of our ancestors and I saw many spirits in the fog waiting to be welcomed on to the shore by Chief Ian and Mandy.
I heard them say “We are here. We have arrived. You all have not arrived yet.” I felt the same, we all had not arrived fully yet to this moment together.
In that moment I recognized that it is not us who invites one another to be in these spaces, it is our ancestors. They speak to us to commune in exchange of understanding this living, they ask us to impart their messages and teachings in every moment, they invite us all to experience together because they understand the power in this. Our ancestors smiled the moment we heard their invitation to gather. Ate Leny and JR could not remember who invited who to create this conference, it was our ancestors who invites us to create powerfully TOGETHER.
They want us to all listen and to learn in union. And the Canoe Ceremony itself was a lesson in how long and difficult the journey of returning to each other has and continues to be, and how we have to honor one another in our readiness to accept the invitation to be in union. We are not all ready to accept how much we belong to one another. As the boat arrived Chief Ian shared with us a creation story and I heard Chief Ian’s voice bring lightness to his storytelling- because he knew, we were learning and we were all there with purpose to learn. And levity helps to ease these moments where spirit is present. “We are all learning. We are ever learning. Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings.”
Through the canoe ceremony- we asked permission in exchange through song – and song being the voice of ancestors vibrating through our vocal cords. Song is spirit expression just as dance is. And the asking of permission was elevated in this way. We ask permission because of a respect for one another, because of an understanding that we all must be willing for genuine and equitable exchange to be upheld in our communion. This is not how we are taught in colonial teachings, it is often more about what we receive for ourselves, how we as individuals gain, what the value is for self before others. Our ancestors ask us to consider, to have recognition and to hold the betterment and goodness of one another in every exchange.
Ate Diveena spoke of the way the world we live in has been steeped in Colonial teachings, but we have our ancestors within us, around us, above us and below us, and they are continually reminding us in messages that we have the power to live in a way that is good, that is just, that is connected to them and Great Spirit. It is not easy to walk the path of re-membering and re-becoming. The learnings of what it means to create home again on this earth when we have been told that it is not ours to live on, that it comes with a price tag- that the lands our ancestors walked on cannot be cared for by us, but it continues to be destroyed by others who have purchased the right to do so, the land cannot be exchanged on in spirit by us because of our acceptance of colonial doctrine and ways of living. These false teachings have told us to fear and that we cannot act upon what we learn by and of our ancestors that the land belongs to us, that we belong to the land. “300 years of Church and 30 years of Hollywood” as spoken by our guest from the Philippines- their teachings tell us to be divided. But our ancestors are continuously trying to remind us and our hearts are continuously reaching out to re-member.
After Canoe Ceremony, I took a moment to ask permission from the waters to be with us, central to our Dambana (altar). I asked Chief Ian, how to approach the Water in a good way, to receive her presence and listened to her welcome me to gather a part of her to bless our sacred space. Water is sacred. Water is life. He helped me pray and I listened to her give to our gathering. The water spoke throughout our time together, she was helping us to clear and cleanse. The rain fell throughout the days we spent on Mt. Elphinstone, another invitation from spirit, from water to be present, to be aware, to find moments of stillness and to see what needed to be made clear. Like the Sea Lion made from fire and cedar and submerged in the waters as told by Chief Ian in the creation story of the Coast Salish- we were being submerged in waters of spirit throughout our time together.
Re-creation is just as arduous as Creation, and possibly much more painful. Ate Lily invited us to listen deeply to the process of re-membering after we have been “separated from our indigenous souls” for centuries. The process is repeated again and again, “Gather, Hurt, Grow… Abundance must be labored” “We are all learning. We are ever learning. Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings.”
In the Queer, Twin- Spirit Circle gathering Ate Lily also spoke of the pains of not having a village to usher us in our healing.” I reflected on this in our finding of one another- How we have found circles to hold us in our healing, to share in strength with, to lift sorrows and traumas with, to remember compassion of self and other with, to rediscover joy with in laughter and love- I heard in this gathering and in our entire convening that this is our village and this village will grow, and as we grow, we will learn and know each other- we will learn and know of ourselves, we will free ourselves with every exchange, we will plant seeds for the future. Grief and sorrow is beautiful when held in communion. When we bare our broken souls to each other. We find in our Kapwa pieces of ourselves being filled- every crack and hole being filled with Love.
And also I learned and heard that we do not only have to Mourn in our process of remembering, because every time we hear, and see our ancestors and we reclaim their teachings in our lives they celebrate us. “We are the dreams our ancestors dreamed would free them.” A message I have repeatedly shared in my artistic expressions, a message of universal truth I found within myself in my exchange of learning with others. Our ancestors breathe, speak, cry, stand, walk, run, dance, fly through us.
This brings me to reflection on Saturday and what it meant to be Witness in that moment of living and experiencing spirit together. I have been gathering and learning and processing and crying and feeling so moved by what took place around our Dambana at the conference. I look deeply to Lagitan, to Nati and to our elders for guidance as all those who were present were opened up to a tremendously transformative experience. We all left that moment changed in our path toward remembering and communing with ancestors.
The Dambana, the place where we invited our ancestors to join us in convening, where we laid down medicines from our Philippine Traditional learnings and unified them in bridging with our Coast Salish relatives. I recalled the care that was taken in configuring that sacred space, in an honorable way, in a way of following what has been learned and hoping to deepen that learning in the future. Such a powerful exchange I was honored to have with Biyaals in silence, in patience. And as she smudged with the room in the beginning before anyone else stepped into the space, I knew powerful happenings would emerge from our gathering. The Dambana itself was a representation of a bridge we were building not only between Indigenous peoples, but between us and our ancestors and Spirit.
The moment we shared on Saturday evening of the event brought many learnings. It was the moment when we needed most to listen, but many could not because they were not prepared to listen in this way. And so we convene in many circles after departing from Elphinstone to make sense of the messages that came to us in that moment:
“You have a dirty heart”
“You are not following your path”
“Give me us your voice”
“Pray for the grieving women.”
I sat with these messages myself throughout that evening as I sat in reflection with our community in intimate spaces and I recognized for myself how much we all may have received these messages in ways where we blamed, shamed and condemned ourselves in the presence of community. I don’t believe that this is how these messages and learnings can serve us. To Listen, to fully and truly Listen, takes patience, it takes deep compassion, it takes us moving beyond just feeling. Because we have not been taught to do this, we may not have heard what the root of what was communicated to us was really offering us to move forward with. I invite us all to receive these messages not with fear, not with ego, but rather to receive them with Love and with Kindness.
There was so much I heard throughout the conference of judgment of one another and of our selves. I heard recognition and claiming of division. I heard messages of shame and feelings of unworthiness. These truths are not ours. “We are all learning. We are ever learning. Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings.” We must fight for Love and Kindness to persist. Even through spirit and how we commune with them. We must do as Water and Fire do, clear things away and allow for us to truly see. To Listen. To recognize what roles we play in honoring the life we have been given and the many lives that are living in communion with our own. Prayer is important, that is the exchange between us and spirit and the way we communicate to them that we are listening and prayer comes in many forms. We all have power within ourselves and gifts that we carry that we must learn to use these gifts as prayer and live with all our relations honoring what they contribute to the whole in good and honorable ways. This is what I heard in the messages. And it all came back over and over for me about the value, the importance and the purpose of learning.
Seek teachers, see the teachers in each other, share as a teacher to those who appear in your life for learning exchanges. And know that these teachers are not just people, they are the animals, they are the land, they are as I spoke of earlier, the Water, and the Fire as we heard throughout from Lagitan and Corrine and its many keepers, our teachers are all around us, and they are within us. Our teachers are also our children- we should look more to them to remind us what has been forgotten and we must protect them in their growing in this world so they can hear spirit as clearly as we are working to remember how to. It is our duty to see them as our teachers and to listen to them as we listen to the Water, the Earth, the Wind and Fire.
All our relations are rooted in learning, and those learnings are what will grow us, and will propel us in living purposeful and full lives, guided by goodness and Light.
I give thanks in closing to our hosts of the Coast Salish, Skwxwú7mesh Territory. We follow in your teachings as we are all still learning. I thank Chief Ian and Mandy and their relatives for receiving us with joy and for seeing the connections between our people right down to the fiber of the cloth that we exchanged with them similarly draped over our hearts and uplifting our minds. I thank Chief Willard for sharing teachings of justice and honoring and what it means to live to fight for your peoples and your traditions that connect you to ancestors and spirit for the well being and protection of all our relations. I thank Biyaals for being a deep example of teaching and bearing truth like the Bear and balancing it with gentleness and Love like the Deer, it was powerful to see the exchange between you and Lagitan in holding all of us and holding spirit.
I hope we all can reflect in a way that what transpired in our gathering was an invitation to continue in our learnings. This conference, this convening, this gathering- was always about learning. We heard the importance of learning from our teachers and most importantly we heard it within ourselves the moment we made the commitment to attend- we all arrived in common place to Learn.
To decolonize is not about ownership in reclamation, it is about remembering and learning that we belong to each other. As I sat in reflection I heard spirit speak to me and I wrote this-
You cannot own spirit.
You cannot own the land.
You cannot own the waters.
You cannot own what is wild and free.
You cannot own us.
We belong to all things
As they belong to us in exchange-
Ownership is not communal,
Re-member what it means to Belong
Belonging allows us to have a space,
In this larger sacred space of Life,
That is rightly ours,
In the scheme of all things,
In the weaving of life-
We belong to Spirit
We belong to the Land
We belong to the Waters
We Belong to all that is wild and free
We belong to each other
We are all learning.
We are ever learning.
Be kind to yourself and to others in our learnings
Continuing the Journey Toward Financial Wellness and Freedom:
Reaching out to community for monetary support is something so humbling. It could easily create insecurity and feelings of discomfort, but for me that is not the equivalent of the humility I feel.
To me, the feeling of being humbled is a deep gratitude to those who see a sense of worth in what I live in this existence and it doesn’t need to be monetary exchange of course not. But when someone offers you monetary givings it is giving of a piece of what sustains them in this physical world given to support you in yours. Their giving to you does not hinder them, but rather as they give there is recognition that they your work in this living to be more valuable than a dollar amount- that it will bring returns for something more life fulfilling, nurturing and healing than the constructed value of a dollar or two or ten or fifty or a hundred.
I have always had the mentality of “If I can then I will.” A mindset that has allowed me in the past to aide my own friends for a meal, or for a place to sleep, or for an opportunity to have a day or evening to enjoy an activity of leisure away from the stresses of being without money. “If I can then I will,” helps to be present in ability rather than living with anxiety and depression of scarcity, and it invites others to give in exchange of what they have to support what you may need to elevate.
Any work I do in this living, when being offered a monetary check, is received with thanks that the energy and time and knowledge and talent I have offered gives to emotional, spiritual and mental wellness of others and in return my physical life wellness is provided for.
I say all this to offer a shift in the way we think of our monetary exchanges. I say this to create more exchanges of acceptance when someone offers you a monetary exchange and more willingness to give of monetary exchange. I say this so artists and cultural workers and others who work so hard and give of their talent and of their living for very little monetary exchange can feel the peace in truth that they can ask for more. I say this because o believe this. I say this because I have been humbled by a current experience of asking and receiving in abundance. I say this with deep, genuine gratitude.
I seek to live forward with the support given now in this moment of need and throughout my life past and future- to create through my sacred calling, holding true to my value for self and the world, and honoring the value of others in exchange spiritually, mentally and physically inclusive of monetary exchange.
Financial Wellness does not mean that we live luxuriously. It doesn’t even mean that we live to our basic means (i.e. Pay your rent, handle your bills, fill your fridge)
I’ve been learning more and more that Financial Wellness comes from shifting our relationship to money.
Removing the stress, removing the anxiety, removing the depression connected to money, can only happen when we remove our attachment to it- when we begin to see the beauty of how Financial “hardship” strips you down to live in-
Find the joy and magic of this- it is medicine. Taking my doses everyday; letting it help me learn survival detached from the need for money, learn to thrive detached from the need for money.
I know how difficult it is as an artist and a cultural worker to ask for monetary exchange. It is something that does not always feel appropriate.
I know that many times over I have felt thankful for just the exchange of feeling an individual’s spirit uplifted by my work- felt their heart open up, felt them discover clarity and truth in our exchanges. I think of the artistic works I have created and birthed into the world and how often I have not asked for monetary exchange, and usually when I have it has been to support and give to others who had contributed and given of their talents, time and energy to the manifestation of the workings.
I am reflecting deeply on this. I understand that Money is not something that should drive our work- that it should not determine the worth of what we create in this world. I want to make exchanges yes, that will sustain my physical living, and also… I want even more to make exchanges of my work to sustain my spiritual well being. I want to feel heightened integrity in what I ask and what is asked of me in exchange.
My sacred work that I have been called to do could not be more important at this time when the world needs more room to not be driven by Monetary needs. The gap is widening between those who are pulled into poverty and those who are living in mindless luxury. And as I realize this more and more I am working to find out how to navigate my counter beliefs in a world that wants me to believe I cannot survive unless I play the game and walk the path that capitalism has created to oppress and degrade those that create spirit medicine in this world.
I have experienced and watched anxiety, depression and so many other ailments occur because of the power given to money. As I am living in a present moment where I am faced with money being able to have a stronghold on me again, I pause and I look at the beast in the eye and I know in my heart that the medicine I have cultivated to hold and protect my spirit is stronger. I’m seeking ways to shift the monetary paradigm in my own life, and I am inviting us all to take a look at ways to find freedom from financial hardship.
To all the artists and healers and cultural bearers who connect with me on this- we are together.
I am taking pause to survey the lessons that are being presented in this time of uncertainty.
I am sifting through my lived experiences, the ones that have fulfilled me and made me feel connected to my purpose and also those experiences that challenged me, made me feel uneasy and understand that they have also helped me to hold true and not give up on that purpose. I am hearing the No’s and understanding they are making way for the Hell Yes’s!
I’m letting myself be told that “there is something else…something better…something meant for me… And that something may not yet exist and I have the power to create it.”
I am reminding myself that telling myself these things is not cliché, they are simple mindsets connected to truths to live in-that help me see how important my role in this world is. I am working to value the worth of what I am here to manifest and create. I am ready to serve, using the gifts I have been granted and have been growing to master throughout my living. I am making a list of that catalogue of skills and talents that are so powerfully mine and I am offering my service to the community and the world.
I am looking at true relationships and points of deepened connection that have offered me lessons- I am reviewing what I have learned and have adopted and looking back at what I may have missed or denied as a teaching that would serve me and I am accepting all of the teachings fully now. I am aware that I have to evaluate which relationships I should keep closest- that are of true betterment exchange.
All these things are healing my wounds of lack of self worth. It is helping me shred my invitations to the pity parties that my subconscious has been planning.
I am letting myself be present to current experiences that have jarred my existence and cleansed me of life expectations. I am sitting in them in stillness.
I am listening.
To the land
She knows what healing we need
And grows it
For us to
For our ailments
I sat in the Park
In pain from living
And the plants
Made their abundance
Known to me
Awareness of how
So they could
Speak to me
of their medicine
I am here
To ease your
The swell of the bites
That you have been told
I am here
To support your breath
To lift the suffocating toxins
From inside your chest
From the lining of your throat
In the crevices of your mouth
And on the tip of your tongue
That you have been told to get used to
I am here
For your re-membering
To help you
Put back together
That were your ancestors
That is your community
That will be your children
That is the You
That you have been told to forget
And I let their
Speaking of medicine
Of what I have
To live with
I sat in the Park
I was not alone
I was with
And she invited me
to be held by
I am here
To give you your medicine
It is time for you to take it
My spiritual path is not just about prayer and connection to the divine- it is about learning to heal. It is not just about healing self, it is about healing family, community, ancestry and the earth we have been given to live upon. It is not just about healing, it is about re-learning cultural teachings of survival that have been stripped from our communities so we can not only live, but thrive.
A society centered in capitalism, patriarchy and white privilege does not support a society centered on spirit, because when we look to spirit we value all life, we understand that we have everything that all of us need in order to live together on this planet equally, we respect natural order and seek permission of creation for its gifts and medicines and only take when we need, we look to our elders for wisdom and to our children for guidance toward elevated learnings and value their presence in our everyday living.
When we live centered in spirit we see one another as spirit first and foremost and we see our interconnectedness- we see ourselves in one another. Spirit centers us as humble beings who see the value in everyone knowing how to grow, utilize, connect to and Love everything that has been created by a greater source.
Life is a spiritual practice. No religion, or doctrine needed.
I believe that the center of every Revolutionary Movement is the Youth, that when Young People rise up that is when the fire of the people is fully ignited. It is important that youth educators take the responsibility of supporting the growth into consciousness and understanding of the injustices in this world of our young people, and we must do this by first and foremost helping them to recognize their power and ability to make change. In the wake of the people’s rising in continued response to the most recent killing of one of our Black brothers and sisters- we as a people look deeply at the rampant Racial Injustice that still thrives in this country. We are in the midst of historical happenings as the people demand justice for the stolen lives of the multiple Black and Brown people, by Police all over the United States.
This is not new to the discussions we have had to have with our students. Youth Facilitators across the nation working to combat Police Brutality and Murder, Racial Injustice, and Institutional Racism continue to face our students, staff and their families addressing and holding sacred space for their feelings of pain, anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, hopelessness and the fear that begins to arise with these happening. Our goal with any action steps that we take should make sure our youth and community feel held- that they feel community around them that is ready to help them rise. It is important in these moments to allow each other to feel what we need to, to mourn, to cry, to take the time to speak and also to the silent- and then we need to urge one another to act. Action being as simple as conversation, and as impactful as teaching our young people how important it is for them to create elevation of the issues that impact them through their talents and artistry, through organizing as youth.
The following is a toolkit compiled to help Young People process and connect to the issues at hand, and to find ways in which they can take action:
YOUTH ACTIVISTS AND YOUTH ARTISTS ACTION STEPS (REVISED) IN RESPONSE TO THE DEATH OF #ALTONSTERLING AND #PHILANDOCASTILE IN THE WAKE OF CONTINUED POLICE VIOLENCE IN OUR COMMUNITIES
Get Educated about the larger picture- get Informed, Research, Read, Watch, Listen and gain as many diverse perspectives as you can to learn.
Institutional/ Systematic Racism
5 Examples of Institutional Racism in the US (Race Relations)
Make sure you have a conversation to hold yourself and the adults of the space prior to holding space for the youth whether it be at home, school, community center
Let yourself be held. Let yourself be heard.
Create Common Ground
Create a set of guidelines with the youth you are addressing to talk about what they need in order to feel safe in a conversation around the occurrences with #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile and #BlackLivesMatter
Make sure that creation for clear Communication, Ownership of Experience, Listening, Respect and Compassion are included
Give Students the opportunity to share what they know
Before giving them all the facts, and your knowledge, allow the students to relay what they are on he ground and privy to- through their social media, the news, conversations at home, on the street, etc.
Clarify the Facts and the History
Allow yourself to be privy to the accounts of what happened in the incident that you are addressing
Be aware of the laws and history- help your students understand those laws and the history of this country as well (see education)
Be vulnerable to your experience,
Know that your students/children and community are there to hold you- give them the opportunity to humanize you. If you aren’t willing to share, there should not be an expectation for them to share
Do not be afraid of Silence
Give the students moments to be silent, they may not have been addressed this way before, or they are unsure/unaware of what is going on
Address the Trauma- Taking Care of Oursleves
Talk to the students about the feelings that arise from these repeated happenings especially for People of Color Communities- give them tools for self care and remind them that you have
Self Care For People of Color After Psychological Trauma
ALLYSHIP (For Non-Black POC and White People Connecting to the Movement)
The Question posed by so many outside the Black community in solidarity has been what can I do to help. Although POC share similar struggles it is important to understand what it means to be an ally to #BlackLivesMatter. This toolkit is greatly geared toward creating clarity on how to do that, but these are great articles, toolkits and videos that arespecifically geared to inform Non-Black POC and White Allies.
Ongoing Action: Join a Local Youth Organization working to combat Racial Injustice
Read about and watch videos on police brutality and the struggle for justice across the nation facing police violence. Discuss them with friends, family, and organizations. Check out these links that are centered toward how police brutality effects Youth of Color all of the US:
BET: Stay Woke- The Black Lives Matter Movement Documentary
As a Arts for Social Justice Rights Organization we know just how powerful Art is to a movement. Below are sharings of Music that Artists have created to support the conversation for education, awareness and the connection of self to community that we seek to build with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.
El Puente- Leaders for Peace and Justice, Brooklyn, NY “#HandsUp, My Skin Color is Not a Crime” Campaign Ongoing Photo Campaign
Student Protesters on the front lines in Ferguson chant the powerful words of Assata Shakur in front of the police “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to loose but our chains.”