Monthly Archives: December 2013

Notes on Completing the Manuscript

The final brush strokes adorn Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. My diary and scribbles about completing the manuscript provide a glimpse of the work. In 2014 the hard work begins – finding a publisher and agent to bring this memoir to life, so it can be shared.

 DCF 1.0

Carolyn and I journeyed by car to a secluded cottage on a beautiful Ontario lake in the summer of 2010 so I could at last begin the work on this manuscript. In the solitude gracefully offered, a first draft about four centuries of my consciousness began to emerge. How do I write about The Muse – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – my Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777? That is what I was about to find out.  She vows to find me in a future time, despite the overwhelming resistance from my intellectual mind to remember her.

Past life memories collide head on with my present life, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse from the 18th century brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone striving to overcome the darkness of their past. In 2010, after an intense internal dialogue with Trailing Sky Six Feathers, I asked if I should write her story. I heard her affirmation. This first mapping is to examine my notes and rough outlines of chapters to see if I am capable of writing this story. This book had been percolating in my mind for over two hundred and thirty years. No doubt it will simmer for a few years more. My time at this remote cottage was set within the discipline and compass of meditation. I kept a diary that may sound like a Star Date log.

March 2010

In the spring of 2010 the first line was written in the Zen room of my son’s house in Nanaimo:

“Put your weapons down, my husband,” Trailing Sky said quietly with steely insistence.

Then I scribbled a few chapters in longhand with my gold plated fountain pen. How archaic can one get?

August 2010

Secluded Cottage set on a high rock bluff overlooking the northern arm of a long lake.

Purpose: Completion of first draft of Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Friday, August 6, 2010

We arrived late in the evening at the cottage, which invited us in immediately. It was at the end of a long solitary lane and stood on a high rock bluff overlooking the lake. Mixed forest surrounded the laneway and sacred cedars formed an amphitheater of trees to the north of the building. A dock for canoes sat quietly bobbing by the lakeshore.

Moksha, our goofy six year old standard poodle, demonstrated that she is growing up at last. Most dogs are mature by then, but Moksha prefers to remain a puppy for as long as she can. Moksha is Sanskrit for “Liberation,” an appropriate name for a dharma dog.  But in her first six years of being a wrecking ball “Tsunami” would be a better descriptor. Perhaps she is growing into her true name, as she behaved beautifully in the woods and by the lake. She came when called and would constantly check in to see that we were OK while she patrolled her new territory. After unloading the car and meditating by the lakeshore, we placed our bed on the screened deck overlooking the lake. We listened to the night sounds – the soft call of the loons and the occasional hoot from a long eared owl before sleeping deeply. Moksha detected other beings with various woofs and growls – to no avail – as they, and we, totally ignored her.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Carolyn noticed the previous evening that I had entered a “zone” of concentration – a natural unfolding into the stretching tendrils of meditation practice. It aided my first documentation of memories that constitute this book. We woke up to the early morning dancing light sweeping across the screened in deck. Moksha was still snoozing at the foot of our bed, dreaming of all the rabbits and ducks she would chase that day. Moksha had her usual breakfast – half of whatever I was eating, usually sharing a slice of toast with cheese and jam on it.

Working meditation brought attention to cottage chores, food preparation for the day while tuning in to Mother Nature. She was in splendor.  Lazy flights of mergansers were chased away by blue jays. A slow moving porcupine was having breakfast in a tall alder tree, ignoring the squirrels who scurried quickly by. No sign of the loons who had serenaded us to sleep, but several downy woodpeckers were busy hammering insects and grubs from the bark of the surrounding trees. Then Qi-Gong exercises on the outside deck. Three sets of this ancient Chinese system of health care: first set to warm up, second to balance the body and mind and a final set to boost the immune system.  Walking meditation with Moksha with compulsory frisby throwing for her swift pursuit. This continued until one mighty throw from Carolyn saw the green frisby curl slowly over an inlet and plop into a marsh – beyond recovery.

Manuscript meditation. I focused on the rough outline of the final chapter: The Circle Closes. I recalled to mind the insanity of sea voyages in my small clinkered boat off the Hebridean Islands, jagged emeralds in the North Atlantic. I also remembered the difficulties and suffering in my life at that time some forty years ago. It was a miracle I was still alive. I shook my head in disbelief at some of the memories, as I did not possess the skills or knowledge to navigate through storm laden seas. Nor did I like my graceless oblivion of sliding into alcohol and depression. Such mental dwelling was abruptly interrupted by the joyful arrival of my friends Joe and Helen to spend an afternoon with us at their cottage.  I discussed the book with Joe – he had seen an overview and was enthusiastic about my work.  Talking to him about the work remaining helped to clarify matters in my own mind.  We toasted their recent wedding – a lovely union for their latter days in life. Carolyn prepared a wonderful dinner and played her Celtic harp afterwards.  A meditation in itself. Joe and Helen returned to Ottawa after supper – leaving us with all kinds of goodies to eat and drink.

I had the cleaning up chores as Carolyn had cooked. While washing up the dishes I talked to her about the last chapter, with a number of questions in my mind. Once the chores were done, I settled down to rework the notes for the final chapter from the hard copy that had Carolyn’s comments and suggestions. I had my “mini-mee” computer with me.   All the files I needed for the book were on a memory stick. The joys and benefits of modern technology were now in the hands of a techno-peasant.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wake up and rise at 6.00 a.m. Coffee and Silence. Deep appreciation for breakfast. You already know what Moksha had. I would test her with melon, oranges and other foods she did not like. But at breakfast time it was always half of whatever I was eating. Without fail. While Carolyn attended to the chores and her own harp practice I began work on the manuscript. It was lovely to listen to her playing the harp while I concentrated. On the screened in deck overlooking the lake from high on the rock bluff, I set up a small table and a comfortable chair. I plugged in my computer and slipped the memory stick into its socket. From this vantage point I could enjoy the vista of lake, rock and harp during respites from writing. The last was first. I carefully pulled together the notes for Chapter Six: The Circle Closes, not realizing then that I would later split it into two chapters. This dissection of words was eventually applied to Chapter Four: Remembering and to Chapter Five: Healing and Transformation.  Then to the beginning – Chapter One: The Raid – set in 18th century Arizona before contact between indigenous communities and the Spanish and Americans. The opening chapter never fails to move me deeply, though there were clumsy passages that I rewrote.

Carolyn’s voice gently called, “Lunch is ready.” I had no sense of time. Lunch was followed by walking meditation with Moksha. It sounds better to translate the Sanskrit to English to make it: “Walking Meditation with Liberation!”  Only this time without her green frisby sunk into the marsh. Before returning to the manuscript I did Qi-Gong exercises on the outside deck – three sets.

Manuscript meditation. I progressed steadily with editing the draft files of Chapter Two: Renewal and Chapter Four: Remembering. I knew Chapter Four would be difficult – and it was, as this was the transition between time frames. Carolyn brought my supper out to me as she could see how engrossed I was in this task.

Torrential downpour ensued – almost like a monsoon. Carolyn had packed her harp and other gear, as she had to return to Ottawa for work next day. She took Moksha with her, as I would likely forget about the dog’s needs. As the rain intensified I wondered if she would get out of here before morning. But the downpour relented. I found some rain slickers in one of Joe’s cupboards and quickly packed up the car and Moksha. After a hug and lingering kiss – Carolyn waved goodbye and drove away to Ottawa. She would be back to pick me up on Tuesday evening.

The silence in the cottage was palpable, yet full of resonance. I had moved my computer and documents inside to protect them from the incessant rain. On Joe’s CD player there was a disc of Pine Gate Meditations that Carolyn and I created some years ago. I relaxed for a while with the sound of Carolyn singing chants and my voice speaking the meditations. I enjoyed our creation. But there was another creation that was crying out for my attention. Hours later I released a contented sigh. I came to the end of the first review of the notes and scribbles for the manuscript. I was tired but satisfied. I knew I would have to return to Chapter Six: The Circle Closes and especially to the chapter on Remembering, as that is the pivotal cog of the book. Plus some attention to the discussion of Jung, as my views on his work have changed. A decision had to be made about the title of the book. It was not until three years later that I hit the right button with Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I had slept in! I smiled at that. No early morning coffee from Carolyn’s gentle hands. The weather had calmed, though it was still overcast. The lake was still. The screened deck would need a mopping up so it could dry out and make way for my writing table. Breakfast, coffee and toast in delightful silence. Deep Appreciation. Once I was dressed, my thoughts were at a temporary rest as I took on the task of weeding the stone patio outside the cottage. I think the stones had received little or no attention for forty years, so I was happy to weed it little by little and let my mind be still. I weeded and pulled up invading shrubs, noticing the generations of bugs that had been there. Quite a meditation of sorts as the stones had soaked up the history of the place and they were walking me through it as I patiently pulled up weeds for the compost.

The hot water was not working, so I made a few trips to the lake with large buckets. I decided to leave all the day’s dishes in the sink until evening and wash them up in one go. I needed a shower, though there was nobody around to smell me. I filled the large iron pot on the wood stove. The luxury of warm water using the bucket and rinse method I had last experienced in India was sweet. Two great blue herons flew stately past while I was fetching water. They are always a good omen for me. Very few boats on the lake this morning – indicating the weekend is over. But not for me. While the bathing water was heating up, I cleaned the deck and took the compost out and completed the few cottage chores that were essential. I thought a clean fresh Ian may be a good presentation to the manuscript. Two blue jays in the tall cedar in front of the cottage squawked in agreement.

After the delicious bath that took me back to fond memories of India, a clean, non-smelly me worked on the final chapter. I noticed with surprise that it was now noon. I decided to complete this review before making a simple lunch of cheese and homemade bread. The edit and re-write of The Circle Closes took longer than anticipated. As I got up from typing, another great blue heron flew lazily past. Time to relax, for a little while anyway, before the re-write of a section in the Remembering chapter.  This key chapter provides the transition from 18th century Arizona to present day Canada. How can I best sculpt the transition between time frames and the shamanic training that made it possible? Three years later – I had the inspiration to begin the chapter with a description of one of my shamanic journeys. This was the ideal transition vehicle across four centuries. It offered an elegant bridge between time frames.

I had my simple lunch and coffee on the wooden chairs placed on the outside deck. The weather beaten planks tell the story of who has walked here – human, animal and insect life forms. I enjoyed my lunch of cheese, bread with grapes and cherries, even finding a chocolate bar that was sheer heaven. Carolyn had left me with such  delicious supplies and surprises. She knew I was basically a twelve year old at heart! Since she left for Ottawa I realized that I had not moved from the environs of the cottage or the screened in deck where I am writing. The solitude is exquisite. Perhaps magnified by my occupying a zone of concentration to complete a preliminary draft. This is more and more a descriptor of my everyday life. It is not so much the place I occupy but the internal place that occupies me.

With the dishes conveniently piled in the sink, attention is once again on the chapter about Remembering, with further alterations to be made to the opening chapter. After which I did a long and slow series of qi-gong sets. The Remembering chapter is the one I keep coming back to – over and over again. Thunder Beings are announcing their presence – sounding like not so distant drums. Very big drums. I always welcome the Thunder Beings for the pouring rain and lightning they bring. There is acknowledgement with their presence. The rewrites in Chapter Four and Chapter One are  complete, for now anyways. Time for qi-gong, though it has become very hot. Better wear my headband and remove my shirt. Definitely a call for a later swim in the lake.

Indeed, swimming in the lake to the accompaniment of loon calls was delicious. I swam out from the small dock below the rock bluff and then floated on my back looking up at the sky. I saw the dark clouds racing in as the wind picked up. Thunder still ominous in the background. The lightning could surely not be far behind. I swam quickly back to the dock – much faster than the outward journey – and waited for the lightning to strike. Five minutes later it flickered across the horizon, behind the island right across from the cottage. I took a photograph in a pause between lightning flashes and captured six vertical plumes that looked just like feathers. My Muse was checking in, along with the Thunder Beings.

Sacawajea

I noticed it was 9.00 p.m. How did it get to be this time? My tiny computer is getting hot – it needs a rest and so do I.  Thankfully Carolyn had prepared vegetarian lasagna for tonight’s supper, so my culinary skills, which are close to zero, will not be challenged. The threatening weather seems to have passed, leaving behind a haze for the waning sun to poke through as the overcast sky lifts a little. Now that I have stopped working on the manuscript, I realize just how tired I am. This evening is a respite, as I warm up the lasagna. There is still some bean salad left and a very large piece of rhubarb and apple crumble. Perfect. In the far distance the sound of a train can be heard, stretching its long haul across Ontario. The loons must have been alarmed by the lightning strikes. I can still hear their distress cries. It makes for a marvelous symphony as the delicate drops of rain from the trees patter gently on the roof of the deck. Tonight I partake only of this symphony composed by Mother Nature and the train. The remaining work on the book can await morning light. Ha! – the timer has gone on the oven for the lasagna! I look forward to my late supper.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rising early I had such deep appreciation for bird song. There is nothing sweeter than a hedge sparrow’s lilting tones to bring in the new day.  Lying in my bed on the deck I glance at the first light appearing through the cedars, driven by a gentle wind rippling the lake to shore. I listen in to the morning calls of the small birds, the chatter of squirrels and the distant drone of an outboard motor. Then breakfast.  Aaaah – that first sip of good black coffee. Toast, black current jam and cheese, which I miss sharing with Moksha. I decided that after qi-gong – a moving meditation for me – I would clean Joe’s cottage and finish weeding the stone patio. I like to leave my temporary home more beautiful than when I found it. No trace. Slow, abundant qi-gong this morning. The movements are very full as I co-ordinate them with in-breaths and out-breaths.  Feels as though the movements are pregnant. A new vibrancy, perhaps reminding me that this beginning sojourn is settling in. I was tempted to do the qi-gong sets all over again.  I refrained – the dishes in the sink and the bathroom were calling for a thorough clean. I keep hearing the call of an osprey though have yet to see this beautiful creature.

I started the cleaning in the kitchen. Bagging the garbage to transport home. Cleaning out the compost bin, as ants just love to find remnants. Soon the kitchen is sparkling. I moved on to the bathroom to take the shine there. A thorough vacuum and sweeping of bedrooms – even the ones not used. Joe’s cottage began to take on a pleasant hum. A small token of my gratitude for the time here to complete the beginning of this work. The cottage and deck is fair sparkling from the cleanup. A slow moving skunk walked past while I was cleaning the small carpets outside. He stopped, looked at me and dismissed me, before ambling on. I wondered what he was doing out at this time of day, as skunks are mostly nocturnal creatures. I know that when Carolyn arrives later today, the first thing she will do is inspect the bathroom. If I am lucky I may get a passing grade. Looking forward now to that second cup of coffee and a large mango that I will slice up. Weeding is over and done. I think Joe will be astonished at the appearance of the stone patio, released from the grip of weeds and brush. It is cool today with another overcast sky. Just a surface ripple on the lake at present, from a breath of wind. I set up my computer and chair on the glorious screened deck and resume concentration on the manuscript. Complete solitude.

I must applaud the splendid outhouse here, which I much prefer to the toilet in the bathroom. Sturdily built with a comfortable seat, with nobody around the door to the outhouse can be left wide open. What an incredible view while going about one’s business. Resumed work on the book. This piece of writing is an unfinished symphony for me. All my books – including the university texts – are about different facets of consciousness. This book stretches the boundary further and may cast a light of understanding on everything else I have written and done in life.

Completed the refinements necessary for this stage of creation. It was very hot – even on the shaded deck. I placed a mattress on top of the wood box on the deck and rested there for the next few hours, very content with the initial progress made on the manuscript.  I knew I would make further edits on arriving home – with attention to details of formatting, paragraph length and so on, but felt that the first stage of mapping was done.  One step at a time – there is no rush with this piece of work. I estimated that Carolyn would get here around 6:00 p.m. so left sufficient time to clear the cottage of my belongings.  I did this just before she arrived with Moksha.  I was sitting on a rock admiring the shoreline when I heard the unmistakable sound of our Volkswagen’s diesel engine. And there she was with Moksha – both delighted to see me.  On inspecting the cleanup, Carolyn did give me a passing grade on the bathroom. The convection effect of the day’s heat was at work as we drove home through a severe downpour. Removing all trace.

Spring 2012

It was also the removal of “all trace” of me from the manuscript for a while.  I knew this first draft had to sit until it felt just right to return to it. Two years passed by. In the spring of 2012 I returned to the manuscript, which has its own time about when it will be told.  I began to absorb what I had previously written and transmuted it to another level. This is a process I have learned to respect, as this memoir will not be completed on my timetable. Trailing Sky Six Feathers will dance in the daylight when she sees fit. She is The Muse, after all! The 2010 work was simply an initial template that I was laying out. In 2012, I could see a distinct lack of elegance in chapters that were too long. Three of them were easily chopped in half, turning the book of six chapters into nine chapters. Nine feels much better.

Canadian Thanksgiving October 2012

The threads were picked up again in the fall of 2012. An invitation from my generous friend Joe once again made his cottage available to us for Canadian Thanksgiving. The fall was in its later stages of brilliant foliage, as the trees prepared for winter’s embrace. But not before we got to enjoy their startling colors of bright gold, shimmering red and amber. The leaves were breathtaking all the way into the lake. Moksha could hardly wait to get out of the car and gallop all over the terrain, revisiting what she remembered. Carolyn and I unloaded the car while Moksha ran like a swift stream flowing down a mountainside, checking in every so often to see that we were still around. Then she would dash off to seek phantom bunnies and errant squirrels.

Carolyn once more had her travelling Celtic harp. Normally I would be impatient to get the job done, but I know this book has its own rhythm. Nightfall came quickly as we sat on Joe’s new deck. We wrapped up warmly as it was a cold October evening. Watching the sunset take its time until the first loon call ushered us inside. Carolyn’s harp was set up, tuned and played gracefully – hauntingly beautiful – as is Carolyn for me. Her concentration at the harp helped my concentration on two particular chapters.

I expanded the book from six to nine chapters and restructured it into three parts:

Part One: The Muse – with three chapters locked into 18th century Arizona;

Part Two: The Man – four chapters that map the transition to my life in present time, charting my healing, transformation, and radical compass change;

Part Three: The Unity – has two chapters that bring the Muse, me and Consciousness full circle.

The two chapters I focused on intensely were Remembering and Transformation. Carolyn and I discussed them during our car rides for daily lunches. Lunchtime was my turn to prepare food and so I conspired with Carolyn to drive each day to the Fall River Restaurant nearby, where my sous-chefs were waiting! I would read out loud while Carolyn drove and I noted her comments about language and emphasis.

We had both forgotten our watches, so we depended on Carolyn’s iphone for time whenever it felt necessary, which was rare. We actually woke up at 5.00am on the first morning, made a coffee and immediately went back to bed once we recognized how early it was. The rain was steady, drumming on the roof of the cottage with a rhythm of soft percussion. The second coffee with dark chocolate and toast was the prelude to work. Carolyn tuned and played her harp while I turned my attention to the chapter on Transformation. I had to somehow show that all the inner work, suffering and travail had led somewhere. This meant weaving in my 21st century activism for planetary care, peace and social justice and show how it relates to my intensive spiritual journey. These different threads were all of one tapestry. I just had to create the words to weave it together. This is where Carolyn’s clarity was so helpful. She would note where I was getting too academic or preachy and so pages written were reluctantly relegated to feed the fire.

So engrossed did our conversations become that we succeeded in getting totally lost one day on the drive to the nearby restaurant. We saw a lot of surrounding countryside that we had no intention of travelling through, yet enjoyed the sunshine playing with the fall colors on the trees and hedgerows. We continued to discuss the rewritten chapters. Moksha enjoyed many walks, though had to slow down a bit for me. I had torn my right calf muscle quite severely several weeks earlier and was still in recovery. Moksha patiently observed my daily leg exercises but did insist on placing her new frisby at my feet for many a throw.

Both evenings I built up a good fire to keep the cottage warm. The flames and crackle of the logs allowed things to simmer with the chapters I was re-sculpting. No-one else was on the lake at this time of year, yet time flew instead of slowing down. Meditative silence, qi-gong exercises, car rides, plus deep concentration on writing and Celtic harp filled each day. In the evenings Moksha snored on her cushion placed right in front of the fireplace, obviously worn out from her walks and uninhibited freedom.

I released a breath of accomplishment with the final cup of tea late on Saturday evening. Before sleeping I heard the last cascade of Carolyn’s harp. The next morning the sun had come out, but the temperature had dropped radically. We wore all of our clothes in multiple layers to stay warm. After breakfast and cleaning up Joe’s cottage, I paid my honorary visit to the most splendid outhouse in the county. Door wide open with Moksha playing in front, the dazzle of a cold pre-winter day reflected in the lake. We enjoyed the drive to once again applaud our sous-chefs at the Fall River Restaurant before heading home to Ottawa.

Sedona, Arizona, Spring 2013

In the spring of 2013 the lure of a writer’s retreat in Sedona was irresistible. My companion writers arrived as strangers and we left as a tight knit family. Their talent and bravery to bring forward deeply personal issues in their writing impressed me. As did our day together on the land with a gifted guide, culminating in a medicine wheel ceremony that deeply affected every one of us. For me, that ceremony was a confirmation for both my journey and this book. On returning home to Ottawa with my revisions, experiences and copious notes – I did a major overhaul of the entire manuscript. I deleted text, rewrote entire chapters and my writing took on the incisive depth that I had felt was missing. I added a chapter that demonstrated what all the pain, suffering and inner work had led to.

I benefited from my fellow writers who bared their souls in beautifully written and courageous prose. I could do no less. The keen editing eyes of the brilliant facilitators – Lisa Fugard and Julie Colvin – led me to cut prose that I liked, but did not need for the story. In the rewrite I introduced, where necessary, a harsh and somewhat ugly honesty that brought the missing edge to the adventure. Throughout the manuscript the footprint of Trailing Sky Six Feathers dances lightly. Though sometimes she needed heavy wooden clogs on her feet to kick my backside so I would wake up to her presence.

Sedona, Arizona, Fall 2013 – Confirmation

I also attended the fall writers retreat in Sedona to create the final refinements to my book. It was a privilege to share excerpts from the work with gifted writers and facilitators. My personal journey through four centuries of consciousness seemed to strike a chord. That insignia continued once the retreat finished, as Carolyn joined me for a further week to explore the extraordinary terrain of Red Rock Country.  A gifted guide, Clint Frakes, takes us to Cathedral Rock – walking in from Red Rock Crossing. We climbed a vertical cliff to a hidden space where a sacred ceremony was conducted for us in front of two soaring slabs of pictoglyphs – painted and carved. Clint gathered red rock dust from that sacred location and placed it in a container for Carolyn to take home. Lest we forget. We leave hours later – transformed. We are windswept at Rachel’s Point and Mystic – they provide a timeless vista to all Universal directions.  Boynton Canyon with the guardian Kachina Woman brings the goddess energy to us both. Walking the land evoked the latticework of vortex energy, challenging us to be the best we can. Clint takes us through an awesome medicine wheel experience. He had re-built this wheel many years ago and before we left this sacred place he took out a stone, the size of my hand, from the medicine wheel and gave it to us to take home to Canada. Gifts to call us home to the awakened self that has been sleeping.

Rachel's Point 2 (2)

The integral person of my book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – was everywhere. Nowhere so strong and beautiful as on our final day in Sedona, when Carolyn perused the Kopavi Gallery, just across the road from Tlaquepaque – Sedona’s most exotic market. In the Kopavi Gallery, Carolyn was shown an eagle feather pendant in 18K gold. It was intricately hand carved by John Coochywpten of the Hopi Tobacco Clan, a master goldsmith who blessed each of his pieces with prayer and ceremony before they went to market. The pendant was small, approximately one slim inch long. The foundation was a beautifully crafted eagle feather in gold. John Coochywpten placed a medicine wheel at the top of the feather and rested an eagle head with an all seeing diamond eye upon it. The two diamonds at the bottom of the feather depicted two travelers through time. The pendant had a simmering power to it that Carolyn felt deeply. She gasped with surprise the moment she saw it, as it was a symbolic reflection of the book I was writing and the modern day adventure she and I were exploring. She told me later that she had meditated the night before during which she asked for a sign that confirmed our adventure through four centuries. This pendant spoke of Trailing Sky Six Feathers’ legacy to the two modern day adventurers in a manner beyond speaking. We are forever changed by this gift.

While Carolyn was upstairs in the Kopavi Gallery, I had been sitting outside on a wooden bench, taking in the sky, moving clouds, the sound of Oak Creek with traffic as a background hum. I was inadvertently ready for a sign, which came in a totally hilarious manner. I meditated and after a short internal dialog with Trailing Sky about my next steps, I opened my eyes. I saw a white utility van slowly approaching the round-about right in front of me. Emblazoned in bold, red capital letters on the side panel was the logo “YOU GOTTA DO IT!!” I laughed out loud at that and later wondered how Trailing Sky had managed such perfect timing. I went upstairs to join Carolyn in the Kopavi Gallery. She was telling the manager of the gallery the story of my book and why the Eagle Pendant had spoken so deeply to her. Both women looked at me as I entered the door. I could see how elated Carolyn was, with that secret smile she saves for rare occasions.

She said she had something to show me. And there was the talisman of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker in minute detail and provocative power. I looked at it for a long moment. I felt what Carolyn had experienced when she first saw it. She softly asked me if I saw and felt its resonance. There was no hesitation on my part. After all, I had just received the message “YOU GOTTA DO IT!!” Carolyn was seeking a confirmation about the pendant that so symbolized my book and our 21st century adventure. She did not expect me to buy it for her, yet I simply trusted the logo on the white utility van. I told the manager of the gallery the story of how Trailing Sky received her full name.  She got goose bumps all over. I was almost in tears as I spoke the story to her. Afterwards, Carolyn and I walked over to Rene’s – the finest dining place at the exotic Tlaquepaque. This upscale Parisian style café celebrated the two of us.

We were glowing with confirmation.

 

Swooshing at New Year’s Eve

“Swooshing” anyone?

At Pine Gate on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 9pm – midnight

“Swooshing” is a technical term for Renewing Buddhism.  For New Year’s Eve at Pine Gate there is homework.  Write down on a piece of paper all that you wish to leave behind and where you want to move to.  This can be personal, global, or both – just as you choose.  After the recitation ceremony on Tuesday December 31 we go upstairs for snacks and fellowship. The fire will be lit and then you place your homework in the fire and “swoosh” – it burns and goes up the chimney taking your intentions out to the universe.  You can read it out if you wish or just “swoosh.” Fake champagne is served at mid-night!

“Swooshing” means letting go, releasing stuff, establishing good intentions.

With community support for all of the previous.

Remember it is a matter of – LET GO OR BE DRAGGED!

You are invited to the most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in Ottawa. On New Year’s Eve there is a special tradition at Pine Gate.  We welcome the new year of 2014 with a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. (See below) This is a complete map of ethics to navigate the difficult times we are in. The trainings are a guiding light to pierce through the darkness that threatens humanity and the planet. How do we choose to behave towards one another when things begin to collapse? Will we be steady and generous or think only of ourselves?  Pine Gate’s response is: ” Enter The Bodhisattva. ”  There is homework – write down all you wish to move on from and what you wish to move to. Then swoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

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Date: Tuesday December 31, 2013.

Time: 9.00pm – midnight.

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall.

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2014.

Program: Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm.

11.00pm: snacks and swooshing homework into the fire.

Mid-night: Auld Lang Syne and fake champagne.

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The Buddha practiced Socially Engaged Buddhism giving dharma talks to people in society.  His first dharma talk emphasized the Four Noble Truths, the Middle Way and the Engaged Nature of mindfulness practice.  He formulated the Five Wonderful Precepts for lay practitioners, which evolved into the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

In the 4th Century AD in India, the Brahma-Net Sutra (Sanskrit: Brahmajala Sutra) was recorded.  It was known as the “Moral Code of the Bodhisattvas.”  It was translated by the Indian monk, Kumarajiva, into Chinese during the 4th century AD and contained 3 groups of precepts:

  1. Do not what is evil (Do not create suffering)
  2. Do what is good (Do wholesome actions)
  3. Do good for others (Help all sentient beings, be of benefit to all sentient beings)

Contained within the Brahma-Net Sutra are the10 major precepts of wholesomeness and 48 minor precepts.  This was practiced in China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea as an early expression of Socially Engaged Buddhism

In 14th century Vietnam, the Bamboo Forest Master (formerly King Than Nhan Tong from 1258 – 1308), went from village to village teaching the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the 10 Wholesome Precepts derived from 4th century India, strongly influenced by the Brahma-Net sutra and the Buddha’s initial dharma talk. In the 20th century, Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam and extended to the West.  Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first 6 members of the Order of Interbeing in February, 1966.  The 14 Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing contain the 5 Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts.  Thich Nhat Hanh brought them up to date to be in tune with our times, in step with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments yet resting on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.  They are Thich Nhat Hanh’s gift and guidance to mindfulness practitioners.

2013 Friends for Peace Day

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2013 Friends for Peace Day                                                             

 Koozma Tarasoff wrote this article as part of his report on the two week Peace Festival that preceded the Friends for Peace Day. He received a Peace Award in 2012 for his long term activism for peace issues.

 

The 11th Anniversary of Friends of Peace under the leadership of Ian Prattis and his team from Pine Gate Mindfulness Community, was an outstanding event. With a coalition of 50 organizations in the Ottawa area, Friends of Peace has been an integral part of the Annual Ottawa Peace Festivals.  There were peace and environment booths along the periphery of the hall, a food court at the back, a long set of tables on which were items for the Silent Auction, and the stage at the north end. Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso had a booth publicizing their European-Asian Walking for Peace: An Inner Journey, about their 5000-kilometer, 13-country, 13-month walk for peace from Rome to Jerusalem in 2001.

The OrKidstra Kidplayers, in the photo above under the direction of Tina Fedeski, and Kidsingers directed by Margaret Tobolowska, Jeannie Hunter, and Jennifer Martinez, were excellent. Among the songs in the half-hour presentation was ‘Ode to Joy’, with some 35 instrumentalists and 20 young children.             

 

Dandelion Dance Company, directed by Hannah Beach, brought forth some 11 young lady actors, dressed in black, up to the age of 18. With their passion for nonviolence and the basic rights for people, the Company presented four themes designed to build a better peaceful world: (1) We have a right not to be bullied and harassed; (2) We have a right not to be hungry; (3) We need to deal sensibly with a ‘cash, credit, and debit’ society; and (4) A poem on our hope and dreams that we want for our society.

The Big Soul Project (some 50 people as singers and a 4-piece band), headed by Roxanne Goodman, Music Director, has appeared at the Friends for Peace every year, on this day for the 11th time. They were excellent in fulfilling such numbers as ‘What are we going to leave behind when we leave?’ Its message: ‘Now is the time, will you be able to say I was here?’ ‘When I leave this world, will I make a mark that I was here?’ The implication is that what we do today will affect the quality of life tomorrow.

 

The Metis storyteller Robert Lavigne titled his talk ‘Idle More More’ to highlight the urgency of dealing with the misdeeds of the Canadian government with the Native population in the country. ’Enough is enough. It is time to act now!…This is a movement of awareness. Remember 99 to 1 percent? This formula does not work. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And the environment is being destroyed….This is part of our Spring.’

Ian Prattis presented the annual Peace Awards. The first went to Douglas Cardinal, ‘a visionary world master’ who was the architect for the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Born to a German – Native family, Cardinal said that all of Nature including human beings are interconnected. ‘Life springs through every being and rock in this life. This is a symbiotic relationship of life and nature. Each person has divine creation in them….Each person is a God….We are Gods on this land. That is our legacy. We have the capacity to create as well as destroy….Elders trained me to honour culture as the peacemaker. We come from a society where everyone is noble, unique and responsible.’ Ian Prattis then turned to the second recipient of the 2013 Peace Awards. This was to Amber Lloydlangston, historian at the Canadian War Museum and the key person who developed the Peace Exhibit there. Ian praised Amber for her excellence in producing such a unique exhibit, beginning with the Aboriginal Six Nations story. The exhibit officially ends in January 2014. Ian remarked: ‘Let’s help to make this a permanent exhibit, so that peace remains as an integral part of the war museum.’ After receiving her Award, Amber Lloydlangston said that she was humbled in being present with such a candidate as the renowned Douglas Cardinal. In the Peace Exhibit, she said that she and her colleagues wanted to show to Canadians what peace means in the form of diplomats, soldiers, peacekeepers and humanitarians.  

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Lucille Hildesheim’s performance on the Celtic Harp was outstanding.   The closing Friends of Peace Band from Montreal, led by Sonja Ball and friends, was very lively, with a focus on how lucky we are to be alive. ‘This is about being happy and our right to be happy.’ That was certainly the feeling at the end of this magnificent day. The diversity of citizens who came to the Friends for Peace Day laughed, danced, cried and went home with confidence and solidarity.

Peace, Planetary Care and Social Justice are alive and well in our northern city. A Circle of Nations no less.

 

 

 

Nelson Mandela: Tribute to Madiba

Nelson Mandela – Inspiration                                                                       

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s passing leaves a huge hole in the universe, as though a grand powerful oak tree has fallen in the forest. Yet he has not gone from us, he is with us still. Everyone who was inspired by his example carries “Madiba” into the present and future. His extraordinary life gave meaning to everyone’s life journey. After prison, persecution and suffering, he was a man without bitterness. His astute and discerning leadership skills provided the ability to reconcile with people who persecuted him. He astonished both his admirers and his antagonists with this rare streak of equanimity.

An exercise for our times is provided by Rick Stengel, who worked with Mandela on “Long Walk to Freedom” (1994).  When beset with life’s difficulties and cruel curve balls Stengel would always ask himself “What would Nelson Mandela do?” This mantra is one to do when facing adversity – to find compassion in the face of anger and fear. Mandela gave to the world the meaning of “Ubuntu” – a person is a person because of other people. This is the essence of interbeing and non-discrimination. Nelson Mandela on his release from prison, never once parted ways from his dignity, never gave in to despair and bitterness no matter what crisis faced him. He provided an example during his life that will perhaps be even more meaningful in his death.

His message to all South Africans was about reconciliation, renewal and transformation.  He stood as a true parent to everyone – black, Indian, white, mixed bloods – and was an inspiration to the world.  In the twenty-seven years Mandela spent in prison, the connection between truth, ethics and leadership became very clear to him as he matured as a skilful and astute leader.  There is no political leader like him in the modern world and he inspired the world with the quality of leadership that brought down the South African system of apartheid.  He forgave his oppressors because he knew he would be destroyed if he did not.

Mandela was the closest thing the world has to a secular saint though his gift was certainly not dharma or religion.  It was an astute and skilful use of understanding, compassion and insight.  Mandela was a master tactician and strategist.  These qualities were sculpted and refined during his incarceration on Robben Island where he often feared for his life.  He endured with great fortitude and emerged as a mature statesman who knew what to do and how to do it.  He knew he had to inspire – fellow prisoners, South Africans, the world – and serve as a role model.  “Invictus” is a short poem written in 1875 by the English poet William Henley.  Nelson Mandela kept the poem in his prison cell on a scrap of paper during his long incarceration. Invictus is also the title of a 2009 movie directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.  Well worth seeing, especially as Morgan Freeman plays the role of Nelson Mandela superbly.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeoning of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

Mandela was aware that negotiations with the South African government were not just about principles, but a question of tactics.  The most pragmatic of idealists, Mandela saw the world not in simplistic terms but as infinitely nuanced and complex.  He led from the back – not entering debate too early – persuading people to do things and think it was to their credit.  He knew to keep his friends close and his rivals and enemies even closer.  He studied the language and mentalities of the latter.  The past caused him to suffer greatly, but he let it go and did not refer to it publicly.  Upon his retirement from politics in South Africa, he championed worldwide awareness for the problem of AIDS in Africa – the forgotten continent.  His star shone brightly wherever he spoke and he was a lightning rod for reconciliation between racial and cultural groups in his own country and worldwide.

At the present time, only a few leaders of such quality exist in political, corporate, bureaucratic and religious domains of life.  Leaders who root themselves in a deep spiritual understanding and knowledge of themselves are in a position to bring peace to their nation and to the world, for they will see deeply into the morass of the world’s crises.  Like Mandela they will search for the solutions that balance the existential necessities of life – body with spirit.   Their leadership can guide us to happiness for they will have the wisdom to show everyone the pitfalls of ignorance, racism, greed and neglect. The prayer to hold close to our hearts is that Nelson Mandela lives on in the hearts of world leaders.

Wolfie’s Life in Death

Wolfie in Kingsmere

Our first meeting was outside a cabin, close to Mt. Currie. He was standing in the shadow of a tall spruce, inspecting me. I noticed distinctive white markings on his head, chest and forelegs. He moved silently like a wraith to gain a different vantage point. I went inside and opened a tin of salmon, placing the contents outside on a stump. He stealthily came up to it. His fur was a reddish brown color and he was big – around ninety pounds. The salmon offering was soon gone and he retreated to the surrounding forest. I opened another tin of salmon, putting it on the same stump. He consumed this offering then disappeared as silently as he had appeared. That evening after turning in to bed, he came up the steps and settled on the verandah. He was nowhere to be seen in the morning, though fresh strands of his fur were caught by knots in the wood. The same ritual occurred the following evening. I was out of canned salmon, but did have a large box of Arrowroot cookies. Placing them one at a time on the stump – he delighted in snatching them up and burying each cookie at the edge of the clearing. He kept his nightly vigil on the verandah.

The next occasion I took refuge in this mountain cabin, he turned up within minutes. He made it clear that I was to follow him. He ran to the edge of the clearing then back to the cabin steps – several times. I laced up my boots and took my small pack and walking stick. He took me on a tour of his territory – through thickets, over hills and forest until we came to a wide mountain stream in a high pasture. He swam across and waited to see what I would do. As I was indecisive, he plunged back into the chilly stream to where I was standing and led me further downstream to a shallower crossing. I took off my boots, socks and trousers and carried them above my head, entering the icy cold water. Once we were both across he showed sheer delight. Bounding along the bank, running circles round me – if he could turn cartwheels he would have done so. This beautiful creature then sprawled beside the stream – studying me very closely. He stayed there, prone on the grass for a long time. Suddenly, he bounded away. I slowly retraced my steps. By nightfall I was back at the cabin, tired, scratched by thickets and thorns. There he was on the veranda.

His thoughts registered once I was home in my hermitage in Gatineau Forest Park in Quebec. I had vivid dreams about him – all located in the forest around my home. Perhaps he was dreaming me so I would bring him there. And I did. Some months later I arranged for my son, who was living several hours away from the cabin, to pick him up. There was a family that occasionally put out food for this lone wolf. Their home, near the cabin, became the rendezvous. My son drove in his pickup truck – wondering why his dad was going to so much trouble. He had collected the strong crate I had purchased in Vancouver. The lone wolf was there – patiently waiting. The journey to Vancouver Airport Cargo started with the wolf in the cage resting in the back of the pickup. By the time they arrived at Vancouver Airport, the wolf was on the front seat sitting next to my son. I had also sent my son a sedative from my local vet to calm my friend on the cargo flight to Ottawa. The sedative pills were spat out and this magnificent creature quietly settled into the cage. He knew where he was going. My son told me later that he was reduced to tears about the departure of a creature that had captured his heart.

I gave my new friend the highly original name of “Wolfie!” I hope he forgave me for that. My small hermitage in the Gatineau Forest became his new home. I made the mistake of trying to train him – realizing how totally redundant this was. He could read my mind and would always respond. Obedience training was not part of the deal. Wolfie was instrumental in getting Carolyn’s attention. She and I were taking ballroom dance lessons at a community centre in Ottawa – quite separately. In one class I asked her to dance with me. At the end of the evening I said to her, “Would you like to see my wolf?” I immediately felt she must think this was the worst pick-up line in history! But she consented and came out to my truck. There he was in his splendor. He placed his paw on her shoulder and licked her cheek. Carolyn fell in love with Wolfie first of all. And decided that anyone who had a creature like this could not be too bad. So began our wonderful togetherness.

I was down in Arizona a few years later and met up with my friend Dawson for further training in medicine wheels. A sweat lodge he conducted proved to be pivotal. He introduced the third round as the round of the Red Wolf. During this round I suddenly felt Wolfie’s presence. My neighbour Lisa was looking after him at my home in the forest. That evening she left a message where I was staying, with the news that Wolfie had died. I was stunned and devastated. When I phoned to Lisa in Canada, I learned that the timing of Wolfie’s death in Canada coincided precisely with the timing of the Red Wolf round. I knew I had to talk to Dawson. I put on my jacket and picked up the car keys and opened my cabin door. Dawson was just pulling up in his truck.

In characteristic manner Dawson came straight to the point. “Something strange was going on with you during the Red Wolf round in the sweat lodge.” I gasped and burst into tears, as Dawson put his powerful arms around me for comfort. Through my sobs I told him what had happened. Dawson was quite gentle but firm. “We must do a journey for this one Ian. I took the precaution of asking my fire keeper to prepare the grandfather stones for a sweat lodge. That’s where you can journey and find out just what happened. And don’t tell me you don’t journey, for I know different.” On the drive to his home near Cornville, I related the story of Wolfie. By the time we arrived at his sweat lodge I was in a suspended, yet clear, state. There was only Dawson, the fire keeper and me. The opening round was for chanting to the animal powers, the second – prayers for the Earth Mother, the third – the round of the Red Wolf, though with a difference. Dawson had me move to the West door of the lodge. He was at the East door. He took me through a long session of deep breathing, using drums and chants to take me into an altered state. My journey was to visit Wolfie.

Dawson guided me with visualizations by trek and canoe to find a stream deep in the mountains. I paddled for a long time until my arms felt very tired. Turning a bend in the river I came to a clearing straight ahead. There stood Wolfie with a female spirit guardian behind him. I beached the canoe and knelt before Wolfie, putting my arms round his strong neck while he licked every part of my face. I asked Wolfie, “Can you tell me why you died when you visited me during the Red Wolf round?” It was the guardian who replied, “This creature so loved you that when he tuned into energies that could harm you in that Red Wolf round, he placed himself in their path so you would be spared damage. That is what took his life.” I received this news in silence, placing one hand on Wolfie’s back. We just sat side by side watching the flow of the river. The guardian gently spoke again, “It is time for you to return.” I took my leave and did not look back, as I could not bear to break down. I pushed the canoe off the beach into the grip of the river. Wolfie bounded across the clearing and jumped into the canoe. “He will always be with you in spirit form – protecting you still.” As I began to paddle away I felt the female guardian also step into the canoe. She had sent Wolfie to provide me with protection. I came back from the journey in the sweat lodge when Dawson splashed some water on my face. The final round was a thanksgiving round to keep Wolfie and The Guardian in my mind and heart. Dawson smiled. I bowed deeply to him.

Indigenous Elders Statement

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Indigenous Elders Statement

This statement reflects the wisdom of the Spiritual People of the Earth, of North and South America, working in unity to restore peace, harmony and balance for our collective future and for all living beings. This statement is written in black and white with a foreign language that is not our own and does not convey the full depth of our concerns.

The Creator created the People of the Earth into the Land at the beginning of Creation and gave us a way of life. This way of life has been passed down generation-to-generation since the beginning. We have not honored this way of life through our own actions and we must live these original instructions in order to restore universal balance and harmony. We are a part of Creation; thus, if we break the Laws of Creation, we destroy ourselves.

We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, have no choice but to follow and uphold the Original Instructions, which sustains the continuity of Life. We recognize our umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival. We warned that one day you would not be able to control what you have created. That day is here. Not heeding warnings from both Nature and the People of the Earth keeps us on the path of self-destruction. This self-destructive path has led to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Gulf oil spill, tar sands devastation, pipeline failures, impacts of carbon dioxide emissions and the destruction of ground water through hydraulic fracking, just to name a few. In addition, these activities and development continue to cause the deterioration and destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life.

Powerful technologies are out of control 

and are threatening the future of all life

The Fukushima nuclear crisis alone is a threat to the future of humanity. Yet, our concern goes far beyond this single threat. Our concern is with the cumulative and compounding devastation that is being wrought by the actions of human beings around the world. It is the combination of resource extraction, genetically modified organisms, moral failures, pollution, introduction of invasive species and much more that are threatening the future of life on Earth. The compounding of bad decisions and their corresponding actions are extremely short-sighted. They do not consider the future generations and they do not respect or honor the Creator’s Natural Law. We strongly urge for the governmental authorities to respond with an open invitation to work and consult with us to solve the world’s problems, without war. We must stop waging war against Mother Earth, and ourselves.

We acknowledge that all of these devastating actions originated in human beings who are living without regard for the Earth as the source of life. They have strayed from the Original Instructions by casting aside the Creator’s Natural Law. It is now critical for humanity to acknowledge that we have created a path to self-destruction. We must restore the Original Instructions in our lives to halt this devastation.

The sanctity of the Original Instructions has been violated. As a result, the Spiritual People of the Earth were called ceremonially to come together at the home of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle. These Spiritual Leaders and those that carry great responsibility for their people from both North and South America came together with the sacred fire for four days at the end of September 2013 to fulfill their sacred responsibilities. During this time it was revealed that the spirit of destruction gained its’ strength by our spiritually disconnected actions. We are all responsible in varying degrees for calling forth this spirit of destruction, thus we are all bound to begin restoring what we have damaged by helping one another recover our sacred responsibility to the Earth. We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, offer our spiritual insight, wisdom and vision to the global community to help guide the actions needed to overcome the current threats to all life.

We only have to look at our own bodies to recognize the sacred purpose of water on Mother Earth. We respect and honor our spiritual relationship with the lifeblood of Mother Earth. One does not sell or contaminate their mother’s blood. These capitalistic actions must stop and we must recover our sacred relationship with the Spirit of Water

The People of the Earth understand that the Fukushima nuclear crisis continues to threaten the future of all life. We understand the full implications of this crisis even with the suppression of information and the filtering of truth by the corporate owned media and Nation States. We strongly urge the media, corporations and Nation States to acknowledge and convey the true facts that threaten us, so that the international community may work together to resolve this crisis, based on the foundation of Truth.

We urge the international community, government of Japan and TEPCO to unify efforts to stabilize and re-mediate the nuclear threat posed at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. To ensure that the Japanese government and TEPCO are supported with qualified personnel and information, we urge the inclusion of today’s nuclear experts from around the world to collaborate, advise and provide technical assistance to prevent further radioactive contamination or worse, a nuclear explosion that may have apocalyptic consequences.

The foundation for peace will be strengthened 

by restoring the Original Instructions in ourselves

Prophecies have been shared and sacred instructions were given. We, the People of the Earth, were instructed that the original wisdom must be shared again when imbalance and disharmony are upon Mother Earth. In 1994 the sacred white buffalo, the giver of the sacred pipe, returned to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people bringing forth the sacred message that the winds of change are here. Since that time many more messengers in the form of white animals have come, telling us to wake up my children. It is time. So listen for the sacred instruction.

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All Life is sacred. We come into Life as sacred beings. When we abuse the sacredness of Life we affect all Creation

We urge all Nations and human beings around the world to work with us, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, to restore the Original Instructions and uphold the Creator’s Natural Law as a foundation for all decision making, from this point forward. Our collective future as human beings is in our hands, we must address the Fukushima nuclear crisis and all actions that may violate the Creator’s Natural Law. We have reached the crossroads of life and the end of our existence. We will avert this potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster by coming together with good minds and prayer as a global community of all faiths.

We are the People of the Earth united under the Creator’s Law with a sacred covenant to protect and a responsibility to extend Life for all future generations. We are expressing deep concern for our shared future and urge everyone to awaken spiritually. We must work in unity to help Mother Earth heal so that she can bring back balance and harmony for all her children.

Winter Study Session at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community

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Winter Study Session at Pine Gate  Mindfulness Community                               

Pine Gate is a meditation community practicing Engaged Buddhism inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and Sulak Sivaraksa – great teachers for our present times. It has created an engaged expression for peace, social justice and planetary care, as the community is the nucleus of Friends for Peace Canada, which now has a page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/friendsforpeacecanada  The coalition, with Pine Gate at the core, has created annual events to celebrate peace, social justice and planetary care. Fierce Light of Engaged Buddhism in practice.  Pine Gate is also on Facebook – check it out and click “Like” if it appeals: https://www.facebook.com/pinegatesangha  On YouTube there is a new Pine Gate Channel. http://www.youtube.com/user/pinegatesangha  

 

I am the resident teacher at Pine Gate and founder of Friends for Peace. I now prefer to stay local to help move things just a little bit, so that good things continue to happen spontaneously in my home city of Ottawa, Canada. With lots of help along the path. I am a poet, scholar, peace and environmental activist.  As a professor at Carleton University from 1970 to 2007 I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Globalization and Consciousness – reflected in the 2008 book: Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves.  As a meditation teacher I encourage people to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed.  I have trained with masters in Buddhist, Vedic and Shamanic traditions.

 

Pine Gate, located in the west end of Ottawa, had very modest beginnings.  Inaugurated in 1997 following my return from teaching meditation in India, early gatherings featured my wife Carolyn, me and our pets – Nikki the dog and Lady the cat.  Since then the sangha has grown in numbers and depth.  In the summer of 2001 major renovations took place to the lower level of our home.  A new meditation hall emerged from the dust and knocked down walls – the Pine Gate Meditation Hall – named after Thich Nhat Hanh’s story in the book: The Stone Boy and Other Stories. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh provided a gift of calligraphy, naming The Pine Gate Meditation Hall.  This now hangs on the wall for all to see.  The new meditation hall has become a source of sanctuary for many friends,

There are regular meetings for meditation and study every Thursday evening from 7.00pm – 9.00pm.  The first Saturday of every month has a Mindfulness Gathering from 5.00pm – 8.00pm for dharma and a mindful meal. Duong Sinh – Bamboo Stick Qi-gong classes, known as the Life Sustaining Way of the Heart, are offered in addition to regular qi-gong classes throughout the year. Potluck vegetarian suppers, Hikes, Sweat Lodges, Pilgrimages, Days of Mindfulness, and Meditation Retreats are organized on a regular basis.  There are three seasons at Pine Gate – Fall Study Session from September to December: Winter Study Session from January to May; Lazy Days of Summer Session from July to August.

“Our engagement with society and the environment rests on our quality of being. When that quality is rooted in stillness there is a different ground for subsequent actions and so events take a different course. We simply go home to our true nature. We are very active in this way and bring harmony to those we interact with. The most significant interaction is with our true nature. To connect to its boundless quality in daily life, and then to connect to others and the world in the same way is surely the ticket to ride!”

In 2014 our program continues with the “Fully Alive” retreat by Pema Chodron as the main study of the Winter Study Session beginning on Thursday January 16, 2014, 7.00pm – 9.00pm. The Fall Study Session provided some deep and pithy dharma from Pema Chodron. It was interspersed with talks from me on Engaged Buddhism, Consciousness, Judgement, The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Be Alone and the Science of Mantra.  Deep Relaxation with Carolyn and a Five Mindfulness Trainings Recitation rounded things out.

The Fully Alive retreat is on 2 DVD’s and totals 5 hours. We begin the Winter Session with Talk 4. The book – Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron – is the text. Folk are encouraged to get a copy – either from Singing Pebble or Serendipity bookstores in Ottawa.  The second DVD and discussion sessions will be interspersed with the Buddha’s Foundation Teachings, plus important ceremonies such as a Tea Ceremony to stir the pot of dharma. The focus on the “Fully Alive” retreat addresses the difficult times we are in. Life sometimes seems like a roiling and turbulent river threatening to drown us. Why, in the face of that, shouldn’t we cling to the safety of the shore – to our comfortably familiar patterns and habits? Pema Chodron teaches: that kind of fear-based clinging leads only to greater suffering. In this recorded retreat, based on the program “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” she provides a wealth of wisdom for learning to step right into the river, to be completely, fearlessly, present even in the hardest times, the most difficult situations. It’s the secret of being fully alive. When we learn to let go of our protective patterns and do that, we begin to see not only how much better it feels to live that way, but, as a wonderful side effect, we find that we begin to naturally and effectively reach out to others in care and support. The teachings and practices include:

1. A teaching – based on Native American prophecy – for cultivating the ability to take nothing personally.

2. A guided meditation for developing patience in the midst of irritation.

3. A curiosity practice to release your mind from old habits.

4. Tips for accessing your innate strength and confidence – simply by altering your posture.

5. Ways to make your practice the impetus for serving others.”

Meditation Guidance from Pema Chodron:
1. First of all – come into the present. Be aware of what is happening with you right now.
2. Be fully aware of your body, its energetic quality.
3. Be fully aware of your thoughts and emotions.
4. Feel your heart, place your hand on your heart. Accept yourself just as you are.
5. Go into the next moment w/o any agenda
6. Now deal with an incident that has hurt or alarmed you
7. Just be with the pain of it.
8. Ask yourself – am I going to dwell on who/what caused this suffering or am I going to take care of it?
9. Come back to the pain and just be with it
10. Ask yourself – who is running the show – all my fears, negative thoughts, blaming and judgements or the best that is in me?
11. Make a conscious choice – the best in me
12. Summon your resources of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity – The Buddha’s Teachings on Love.
13. Come back and be with the pain
13. Place Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity in a practice – Walking Meditation, 4 Brahmaviharas Meditation, Touching the Earth etc
14. Come back to your heart – place your hand on your heart.
15. Breathe and smile.

For a glimpse – take a look at the video of the talk on Consciousness and Judgement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmZoyyluTZs

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Remembering

Remembering                                                                                    

 

Deep breaths rattle in and out of my chest.  My legs are shaking and sweat pours down my face and body.  My eyes are stinging but I can’t wipe the sweat away.  If I do I’ll lose my balance and so I kept my arms extended.  I close my eyes and slowly as I stand there, suspended in time and space, my breathing calms.  My legs and arms stop trembling and the sweat is no longer coursing down my body.  I open my eyes. Several shafts of light penetrate the darkness and I realize I am standing on one strand of a giant spider web stretching across an abyss, from one side of the cavern to the other.  This strand is my sole source of support – a gift from Grandmother Spider. I can feel the fibers of the strand beneath each foot as they cradle and balance my slow progress. Eternity seems to pass and I inch along until finally my left foot comes down on solid rock. Flooded with relief, my heart pounds and I look behind me, but only for a fleeting, dreadful moment, peering into the deep, dark abyss plunging forever below the hard rock platform I now stand on. I can see around me a massive dark cavern that I could so easily have fallen into. The grip of the fibers still pulses through my feet as I stand, trembling on solid rock. I breathe deeply to steady my nerves, then without hesitation start to walk along the rocky incline leading away from the abyss. Ghouls, snakes, creatures and phantoms of all kinds move through the cavern but I pay no mind to them as I walk with determination away from the danger that had entrapped me.

The shock of sunlight.  I’m blinded for a moment until I see a verdant valley stretched out in front of me. A trail leads to a river and without hesitation I follow it and take off my clothes and submerge myself into the crisp, cold waters and all the fear and danger I carried from the abyss washes away.  I warm myself on a rock and then dress. There’s a pair of shoes in a leather satchel and I slip them on.

Walking onwards lightly and beautifully, I follow the the river in the direction of the sun  Mallard ducks preen at the water’s edge with their ducklings, and a kingfisher sits patiently on a branch overhanging a deep, still pool.  Sunlight filters through the trees and the light dances on the rocks and water like a crystal cloak, shimmering and moving with every swirl and eddy.  The river leads me to its source – a beautiful lake cradled by high snow-capped mountains where I rest for a while. At the end of the lake I can see a cow moose with her calf at the water’s edge.  In the distance wolves call to one another, and there are two rabbits beside me. A doe and two fawns walk slowly and tentatively from the forest into the sunlight, unafraid of my presence.  Skylarks hover motionless in the sky then descend to earth with their lilting song.  Being close to all these creatures fills me with a feeling of well-being, but I know I cannot remain at this peaceful spot.

As I stand to leave a huge golden eagle circles above me, my guardian. Tall pines mark the edge of the forest and I follow a path to a large clearing.  A fire flickers beside the flat rock in the centre of the clearing. And there’s a woman tending it.  She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, tall with long black hair loosely braided on either side of her oval face.  In her crafted buckskin garment she moves as gracefully as a deer. She stops putting wood on the fire and stands tall, watching me. Her dark eyes are riveting and she gravely observes my progress to the center of the clearing where I stand in front of her.

“We have been expecting you, though wondered if you would get through the dangers of the abyss. The Ancient Shaman of the West is waiting to talk to you. Take the path ahead of you and follow it to the mountain.”

I remain silent, making no reply – smiling shyly in thanks for her directions.

The path leads towards the mountains and I feel as if I have been transported to a valley deep in the Rocky Mountains.  There’s a small cedar building ahead. The heavy wooden front door is wide open and as I enter, a deep melodious voice greets me.

“Welcome Ian, it is about time that we met.”

Oil lamps cast a glow over simple wooden furnishings with animal skins thrown over them. Spears and traps adorn the walls. There’s a central fire and an altar on the east side. I smell the aroma of burning sage and feel the intense sacred nature of this abode. Standing in front of me is a magnificent old man dressed in a splendid embroidered buckskin tunic and trousers. His hair is white, as is his trimmed moustache and beard. His dark skin makes his smile all the more dazzling. He’s easily six feet tall with an athletic body underneath the bearskin robe thrown over one shoulder. All of this vitality seems at odds with his obviously advancing years, his weathered skin evidence of his life’s journey. His dark eyes penetrate every aspect of my being as he regards me for a long moment.

“Come sit with me. We will share some tea.”

I make myself comfortable on a bench by the fireplace, feeling at rest and at peace with this man and we sip tea together for quite a while in silence,

“There is someone who wishes to meet with you. She passed on to the other side many years ago. Yet she still carries a great burden of sorrow. And that sorrow has to do with you. Are you prepared to meet your favorite Aunt?”

“You mean my Aunt Ruby is here to speak with me?”

He nods and there is my Aunt Ruby sitting opposite me on another bench. She’s just as I remember her, wearing a fashionable pant suit, her greying hair pulled back in a bun to display the beauty of her cheekbones and elegant face.  But she looks troubled, sad. Ruby had been my favourite aunt. When I was seriously ill as a young teen, she took care of me and nursed me back to health. I suffered from a general malaise that my family’s doctor put down as rheumatic fever – but it was not that at all. Had I been born into a society steeped in shamanism, the elders would have seen that this was a shamanic illness, announcing that I was ready for training. But I was not born into such an alert society, and so my shamanic training was postponed until my middle years. In the meantime my Aunt Ruby healed me with her boundless source of love and incredible intuition.

It hurts, seeing my aunt so distraught and miserable. Very softly I ask her “Can you tell me why you seem so troubled Aunt Ruby?”

“Oh my Ian, there is no “seem” about it. I knew, as did your other aunties, about the abuse you endured at the hands of our second cousin, when he was on leave from the army after World War II. We all felt that we had failed to protect you and did not do enough to keep him away from you. We took some solace in that you seemed not to remember. So we kept quiet about it, keeping it as a family secret. But I have carried this deep suffering into the grave and beyond. My sisters and your parents too. I am so sorry Ian for not protecting you in time.”

I sit patiently, waiting for her sobbing to subside

“My dearest Aunt Ruby – please stop your tears. I became aware of the abuse and its effects on me as I got older. In my middle years I had wonderful help from powerful healers and shamans and was able to release the energy of abuse so it no longer harms me as it once did. I even found forgiveness for the man responsible – your second cousin. If I can let go totally of the suffering, then surely you can do the same. And your sisters and my parents can let go of any grief they still carry. None of you need to suffer on the other side.”

Her crying stops, as she collects herself and in a tremulous voice Aunt Ruby asks, “Is this really true Ian? You are not just saying this to placate me? I could not bear that.”

“It is absolutely true. The pain, suffering and violence from the abuse are no longer with me. It is only logical that it is no longer with you. Don’t you think so?  You must share this news with your sisters and my parents on the other side. Can you do that for me?”

She nods, silent for a while, pre-occupied with her thoughts and suffering. Then she looks up at me and smiles her great broad grin. “You were always my favorite nephew Ian – the little philosopher. How well I remember our conversations about insects, God and the universe. When you stayed in my home when you were so ill – that was one of the happiest six months of my life.” Her eyes light up. “And do you remember how I used to chase you and your cousins at our parties and give you big red lipstick kisses on your foreheads and cheeks? You never rubbed them off, not like the others, though you must have been embarrassed at being out run by your auntie!”

Ruby’s sorrow has been lifted and then, in an instant she is gone.

The Ancient Shaman of the West who has observed our exchange looks at me with those penetrating dark eyes, “This is what you came to do Ian. It is now time for you to go back.”

“Come back Ian.” The voice calling to me grows more and more insistent. “Come back.”

And so I travelled back. I was lying down on a bear skin with a pillow under my head.  White Eagle Woman, medicine woman of the Ojibway, sat in her armchair – very carefully observing me on the floor of her home.  It was 1985 and I had already received seven years of training with this all seeing magnificent mentor.

“I will help you stand up as you will be shaky after that journey. And brush you down with an eagle wing. Then you can sit down on the sofa and tell me every part of your journey. First – drink this glass of water.”

With one hand on my shoulder she brushed me from head to toe with the eagle wing in her other hand and I felt the strength of eagle medicine enter my body and mind, knowing I was coming to rest in a stable state. I sat down on the brown sofa and White Eagle Woman listened intently as I spoke, occasionally asking me to repeat and clarify the sequence of events I was describing. She pointed out several vital components of the journey that I had missed. She was very thoughtful once I finished speaking. I respected her silence. Then she looked at me shrewdly, as if through new eyes.

“This journey had more than I ever expected of you. Grandmother Spider rarely shows herself as a helper. Her job is to spin the threads of the Universe, yet she took time out to build that web across the abyss for you. It is only thanks to her that you could walk out of the darkness of the cavern and begin your intended journey. You were totally unaware of how much that gift means and of the other gifts placed on your journey. In time that will all be brought to your attention. But what sticks with me the most right now is that you offered gifts to your Auntie so that her suffering could diminish.”

She paused, tapping her feet on the floor in concentration, and considered very carefully her next words to me: “The Ancient Shaman of the West is very pleased with your compassion and courage. And so am I.”

With that rare acknowledgement, White Eagle Woman stomped off to the kitchen to make tea – leaving me to wonder about what else I had missed and still did not understand. This was the state of unknowing from where I began the process of remembering.

It was during a gathering of elders in 1978 that I first met White Eagle Woman where she announced that she did not like me at all! Her rebuke was perhaps well deserved, given how dense and unaware I must have seemed. My disjointed education and experience with the Native American domain of mysticism did, however, slowly evolve into a seamless pattern rather than remain as random knots stretching across an abyss.

The blunt introduction to White Eagle Woman was a prelude to a thirty year period of training and healing under her guidance. She was a heavy set woman with a round face and long black hair, but it was the air of quiet authority that pervaded her presence that immediately struck me. She rarely smiled, but when she did it illuminated the entire room when her dark eyes lit up with mirth. I was very fortunate to be in her hands.  She was the first of four incredible medicine people who provided me with shamanic training and teachings over the next three decades. White Eagle Woman directed the shamanic process of my healing from childhood sexual abuse, and this allowed the mosaic of the past to start revealing itself.

Shamans and medicine people from far and wide came to consult with White Eagle Woman. Elders from the Amazon would come to see her. She was a holder of the Medawin lineage, an unbroken tradition of medicine people known far and wide across the Americas. At that first encounter at the elder’s gathering she told me about a Vision Quest on her reserve in Sault Ste. Marie in south western Ontario. I was to be there, as she had received instructions from her ancestors to train me. That humbled me and was enough for my attendance. The eight day Vision Quest began and finished with a sweat lodge. In between were six days of fasting, prayer and ceremony in the wilderness. White Eagle Woman located me in a small grove of birch and oak trees and I had to stay within a strictly designated area. The other seven participants in the Vision Quest were located in a different part of the forest – distant and unseen. I found some level ground for my tarp and strung it over a frame built from what I could find within the grove. I placed my coloured ribbons at each of the four directions, also for the realms of above and below. One of the oak trees became the symbolic stem of my pipe. The bowl of the pipe was a clamshell with tobacco in it. As the sun moved the tree’s shadow, I had to be alert and move the clamshell in the same direction around the base of the tree.

I was very still and silent, observing my territory’s nuances – the leaves, smells, insects and the rain – all while in a constant state of prayer and thanksgiving. White Eagle Woman located herself in a trailer close by for anyone who needed guidance. She indicated that a medicine bear would visit one of us and to report that to her. Time passed in a seamless flow, scarcely existing before we gathered for the final sweat lodge once the Vision Quest was over. On coming off the land, a surprise awaited. I had to consume a half cup of blueberries and then drink vast quantities of a foul tasting concoction created by White Eagle Woman. This was a cleansing medicine to make me throw up the blueberries. It was quite disgusting. Especially for me, as it took a long time before I vomited up the blueberries. White Eagle Woman’s comment to me was terse. She pursed her lips and looked at me quizzically:

“Hmmm – you’re holding on tight to resist the truth you need to know!”

I had no idea what she was referring to. White Eagle Woman asked about the medicine bear. Nobody reported experiencing it. In exasperation she turned to me and announced that she had seen the medicine bear visit me twice. What did I remember? I recalled dreaming about a tall, gangly and somewhat goofy creature that was not a bear to my mind. I had also noticed the creature on another day, out of the corner of my eye, sitting next to the sacred oak tree.  White Eagle Woman immediately threw tobacco on the fire to absolve my ignorant gaffe and instructed me that a medicine bear can take on many forms. The goofy creature was the most receptive one to an idiot like me. Though the medicine bear had been easy on me, White Eagle Woman was certainly not. She chastised my lack of insight while we were all in the sweat lodge. Later on, in private, she quietly revealed the door that had been opened wide due to the medicine bear experience. The visit was to assess whether I was capable of receiving medicine gifts from the past.

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