Tag Archives: Depression

Redemption Interview on Rogers TV “Daytime Ottawa” May 22, 11am – noon.

First questions taken from Tiferet Interview with Melissa Studdard:

Tiferet Journal is at the nexus of literature and spirituality. It publishes high-quality poetry, prose and art that further meaningful dialogue about what it is to be human and conscious in today’s often divisive world. http://tiferetjournal.com/

MS: Redemption the manuscript has been on quite a journey. It was written in 1975, lost for decades, rediscovered in 2011, and published in 2014. In what ways is this journey relevant or parallel to Redemption’s plot? What do you hope will be the next stage of this book’s journey?

IP: In 1975 I was writing way over my head and lacked the maturity to understand the deep nuances emerging from my pen. The book was writing me and it is fitting that it was not published until 2014, as the time lapse allowed me to grow into the insights and revelations writ large. I was a total mess in 1975 – with a failing marriage in the Hebrides and trying to keep my career intact as a young professor at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. The surprise for me in 2011 was how could I have written such a powerful book while in a desperate state of mind? The themes of mental illness and alcoholism are writ large in this deep and turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation. Redemption is an allegory for the depression and life difficulties I once experienced, though I did not realize it at that time.

Redemption front cover

MS: Speaking of the Hero’s journey, can you say a bit about the connection between Redemption and Trailing Sky Six Feathers and why the Hero’s journey works so well to convey your ideas?

IP: I consider Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as an underlying template for all great books and weave its threads through my writing. Redemption is the first book in a trilogy that has Trailing Sky Six Feathers as the second book. They are companions – but the reader may not cotton on to that until they read the final chapter of Trailing Sky Six Feathers. Chapter Nine is titled “The Circle Closes” with a return to memories of the insane sea journeys I undertook in the Hebrides. That chapter is quite an “AHAH” moment. The final book in the trilogy (under construction) takes characters from both books, placing them in the future on a new planet. From the 18th century, Rising Moon (daughter of Trailing Sky) is hurled by shamanic means to the new planet. From the 21st century Tom and Sian Hagen with their daughter Catriona get there from a failing spaceship. Life on the new planet permits a beginning anew for our species – A Hero’s Journey to reconstruct a society based on ecology, sharing and caring.

But there are calamities to endure – a brutal abduction and rape, a militant group hi-jacking a spaceship in order to take over the new planet, the desperate loss of pioneers in an exploding spaceship. I do not shy away from the reason for finding a new planet and place in the mouth of Dr. Tom Hagen a speech to the UN that I would like to give from the future. It is about the willful ignorance displayed by corporate and government cabals invested in the carbon/oil complex, while eco militias murder in the streets and social disorder is a norm. The first chapter of the final book is a lyrical and dangerous meeting on the new planet between Catriona and Rising Moon. Instead of killing one another they become blood sisters. The second chapter is quite dark about the perilous destruction of the spaceship and safe departure of some of the travellers. Chapter three is a love story. Chapter four and five are dark yet permit the human spirit to prevail. The end game is a philosophy to endure and not repeat the mistakes of the prior civilization on Planet Earth.

Part Two: Melancholy Memory, Brilliant Book

Xlibris author Ian Prattis once hit rock bottom, but he used this to gift readers with a moving story about depression. Read on to discover more about his novel Redemption, which in a sense has become his own redemption.

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More about the Xlibris book

Callum Mor’s bleak solitude is broken when a family with a small girl seeking refuge from a storm come to his house. Slowly, he edges away from his self-destruction. He saves the girl’s life in a blizzard. The glimmer of awakening dawns in him, and this sets the stage for the final drama that illuminates the resilience of the human spirit.

 

From the rhapsody of an idyllic childhood through traumatic tragedies to the derelict zone of alcoholism and then to a state of awakening – I depict the stations of a personal Calvary that ultimately leads to “Redemption.”

 

The book is a lyrical and moving tale of struggle, love, loss, transformation and hope. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and human nature. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world, and its rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with complex interpersonal drama.

 

The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor – the epic main character – but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material; their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional moments. The story arcs of other characters in the novel offer particularly beautiful and interesting counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. Their hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a sad and realistic tapestry of human existence.

 

The narrative’s tone is generally quiet and introspective, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical.  Callum Mor and his people face many conflicts throughout the story, from poverty, mental illness, unwanted pregnancy, and battles with nature itself – to sexual assault and violent physical confrontation. All of this provides the tapestry for the deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith to carefully unfold.

 

A gift to readers

 

I dedicate my book Redemption to the millions of people who suffer from depression and alcoholism, and I stand before you as living proof that it is possible to come through and be whole.

 

I would like to close by thanking Bruce Haring and his staff for creating this wonderful Florida Book Festival. I am deeply humbled and grateful that they chose my book Redemption as the winner of General Fiction.  They confirmed for me that:

 

I WAS NOT DREAMING!

Available at www.Amazon.com  and www.BarnesandNoble.com   Autographed Book – Order Through: http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html

Melancholy Memory, Brilliant Book

Maricel Alacantra wrote the two blogs below for my publisher – Xlibris. This was after Redemption: A Novel received the Gold Medal in Fiction at the 2015 Florida Book festival. Well worth the clicks!

http://blog.xlibris.com/author-blogs/ian-prattis-1/

http://blog.xlibris.com/author-blogs/ian-prattis-2/

Redemption front cover

A Tale of Two Books

I recently offered a talk on my two books published this year – Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse and Redemption – beginning with an excerpt from the Blue Ink Review of the first one.

“In this spiritual exploration, a highly educated man becomes a humble seeker, works painstakingly through the events of two fascinating lifetimes, and emerges with a message for humankind.

Prattis, whose childhood was marred by sexual abuse, set out to comprehend his present life through his study of religious beliefs of indigenous peoples. This led him to encounters with contemporary Native American sages who forced him to drop his intellectual approach and accept his lustrous spiritual experiences as real, not dreams or self-induced visions. The merging of the parallel spirit world of Native American religion into his current incarnation put many disparate elements of his life in perspective and facilitated his reunion with Trailing Sky Six Feathers, “the greatest medicine woman the Southwest has ever known.”

Though this fantastic tale leaves room for skepticism, most who read Prattis’ latest work will be swept up in this saga of self-examination, revelation, and indeed, exhilarating global adventure. Prattis writes with erudition, charm and humor, ridiculing his own blunders as much as he praises his teachers. Prattis presents a unique viewpoint hewn from hard-won exploration of traditional wisdom, offering all of us the overarching advice to “awaken spiritually” so that we may “create a stable economy and way of life” on Mother Earth.”

Singing Pebble 2

This book follows my spiritual journey as I travel across the globe throughout the course of two lifetimes. It illuminates issues that will impact the human race for generations. I believe that our culture needs to awaken spiritually in order to ensure survival. The darkness before us does offer an opportunity, a chance to remake ourselves by transforming our minds. Instead of being eaten up by the abyss we can choose to Awaken Spiritually, for that transforms the one thing we can control – our minds.

There are two main characters that open the book in 18th century Arizona – Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker. When readers encounter Trailing Sky Six Feathers, my Muse from the past, they meet a powerful, relentless woman who transforms my life in reality in the 21st century, not in historical fiction.  Eagle Speaker is her husband and also my transformation vehicle. He dies cradled in her arms in a medicine wheel in the year 1777. As he takes his last breath, Trailing Sky whispers to him:

“I will find you my husband, I will find you.” And she does 231 years later, though not in the manner that a romantic may anticipate!

The story is a bit like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. It shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century.

My challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed. The internal battles are over and I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

The other book – Redemption – was a novel I first wrote in 1975.  It was soon forgotten, as back then, I did not know how to get published. The manuscript was rediscovered by accident in 2011. I found it in an old filing cabinet where it was gathering dust. I could scarcely believe it was such a good read. I requested my wife and a couple of friends with critical eyes to read it through, just in case I was dreaming. One friend cried all the way through, the other mused about the film to be made. Modern technology enabled the yellowing typed manuscript to be transformed into a computer-ready document.

Redemption front cover

It required attention ranging from spelling and typos to small additions from my writer’s eye some forty years later, yet stands pristine as when first written. The story is an allegory for the life difficulties I experienced at that time, forty years ago. The surprise for me was how could I have written such a book while in a desperate state of mind? I was a total mess with a failing marriage in the Hebrides, Scotland, and trying to maintain a career at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. It was also laced with insights that I did not cotton on to until much later.

Presently, almost 15 million adults in North America suffer from some form of depression, enhanced through alcoholism and other mental afflictions.  I believe that the power of inner strength can help such wounded individuals overcome their worldly crutches. It took me a while to come to these realizations and the avenue was through this book I wrote some 40 years ago.  Redemption is in fact an allegory for depression and life difficulties that I once experienced, though I did not realize it at the time. The themes of mental illness and depression are writ large in this book – a turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation.

This novel is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the main epic character Callum Mor, a gifted child, master mariner, derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. He enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity, he survives in a bleak solitude. Until a family with a small girl seeking refuge from a storm come to his house. Slowly, he edges away from his self-destruction. He saves the girl’s life in a blizzard. At this point, a glimmer of awakening dawns in him, and this sets the stage for the final drama that illuminates the resilience of the human spirit.

Laced with grim humor, the story has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings. It applies universally to human suffering in a chaotic world. The triumph of human decency provides Redemption rather than giving up. Awakening transforms everything.

 

These books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Xlibris websites. All Order options are on my website www.ianprattis.com

Callum Mor’s Awakening

 

Excerpt from Redemption                Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html

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Callum Mor walked directly to the edge of the fell. He did not look for the child but for the direction animals would take for shelter. He was very still. His keen sense of nature’s rhythms directed him. He searched for signs of sheep, tracing their paths to shelter, knowing Catriona would have followed them once she saw her danger. He plunged into snow drifts and struggled painfully out of them. He strained every sense so that he could hear and feel. He found several sheep huddled together in numerous places but no Catriona. He stood and wondered and thought deeply for a sign of the child. His eyes were drawn to a lie of the land beneath the snow that he instantly saw Catriona would take. He walked steadily to it, feeling drawn by his senses and then he found her track, in concert with the steps of a sheep. He found them together, the child and the ewe, in a shallow cave overhung with rock and turf.

She was blue with cold and the exposure to nature’s indifference. He knelt beside her and felt fear at her lack of recognition of him. He blocked out the snow with his strong body and willed life to the child. He offered up a prayer of gratitude for the finding of her and crooned softly to her in his own language, singing Gaelic lullabies to her. He must not lose her. The ewe stared balefully at Callum and stamped her foot. He spoke softly to the creature, knowing that he would need her if they were to live. His voice came softly through the layers of fear and cold that entrapped Catriona. “I told you I would be waiting for you little one.” She heard his gentle voice and stirred a little. He sat beside her, noting her dullness of response, slowly warming her hands in his, gently rubbing her thin knees that were cold, so cold. Then he dressed her in the additional clothes of hers that he carried in his pack. The snow was whipped into a whirling blizzard by a wind with no mercy. He knew they could not leave their shelter that night and they must live. His jacket and coat were wrapped round the huddled pitiful form of the child and he held her to him for warmth. The ewe was impatient to leave for fear of them but feared the blizzard more. Callum Mor talked to Catriona about what they would do. They must live. The ewe would give itself to them so that they could live. She must understand this. Catriona nodded while he explained to her that he was going to kill the sheep and then gut it so that she may be placed inside for warmth so he may have his jacket and coat and not freeze. She nodded with the wisdom of a seven year old, concerned only that the sheep would not suffer. “No, my Catriona, the ewe will not suffer.”

He spoke softly to the animal and touched it gently at the ears. The ewe ceased its trembling and relaxed and while he talked to her he took his fisherman’s knife and swiftly cut its jugular. While it died, his own numbed hands were restored to life by its warm blood. He gave thanks to the ewe for her life. After gutting the animal, he slit it open from the breast bone to the tail. He placed the child inside the dead carcass and she was insulated from the freezing tendrils of the blizzard. Mercifully she slept. A sleep of one who knows they are to be delivered. He sat with his jacket and coat loosely about him, creating a pocket of warm air that would resist the freezing will of the storm. He breathed slowly and deeply, using the least energy as he sat there.

His life went before his eyes and he smiled gently as he saw his childhood and island nurturing. He recalled his family at picnics and peats, the joy of dancing competitively with Moira and rabbiting with Donald. And his teacher, Rachel MacDougall, was there in his mind’s eye. He smiled in gratitude for the freedom she opened in his mind. He had received so much. His expression did not change as he thought of his father, Andrew, driven to madness by events he could not overcome. His heart welled with love for his father. He knew it was love that had driven his father to such lengths. He recalled the patient love of his mother Annie and the winter expeditions to the mail boat as their major weekly outing. He understood the warring factions in Brett MacVicker and felt grateful that this man, who killed his brother, should have shielded his darkness from him. His thoughts drifted and rested with his mother as she aged. He gave thanks for this child – fast asleep and warm within the insulation from the dead ewe. He offered respectful thanks to the ewe for enabling his little Catriona to live. He grieved at the wreckage he had turned himself into with drink, not for what he did to himself but for the pain he had inflicted by rebuke and indifference on people who only loved him. He dozed in the cold for only a moment. His mind kept him awake as he thought of the child Catriona and her mother and father. In the knowing of them they were as gifts to return him to himself. As morning light shafted through the darkness, he lost his self-contempt and saw compassion as the saving grace of both himself and his fellow man.

In that long night of freezing cold and driving blizzard his mind led him to these and many other paths and levels of his life. His suffering dissolved as his compassion grew. By morning he arrived at full self-knowledge – a state of enlightenment that he remained in for the rest of his days.

Mental Illness, Alcoholism and Depression

The greatest gift one can receive is that of finding one’s true nature. The human spirit is resilient and can triumph over tragedy and psychological dependence. Learning to find our inner strength can conquer mental illness, alcoholism and depression. It is one factor in the complex reality of modern day suffering. It is essential to have a good physician and social support as well as the tools of mindfulness to nourish inner strength. The reality is that almost 15 million adults in North America suffer from some form of depression, enhanced through alcoholism and other mental afflictions.  I believe that the power of inner strength can help such wounded individuals overcome their worldly crutches. It took me a while to come to these realizations and the avenue was through a book I wrote some 40 years ago. This novel – Redemption – is in fact an allegory for depression and life difficulties that I once experienced, though I did not realize it at the time. The themes of mental illness and depression are writ large in this book – a turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation.

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The novel illuminates startling cycles of maturing and downfall experienced by the book’s main character – Callum Mor – a gifted child, master mariner, derelict drunk, who finally gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. His failings and misery are ultimately conquered when he saves the life of a young girl and comprehends the fragility and beauty of human existence. “Redemption” was a “lost” manuscript, first written in 1975, forgotten until spring 2011. The narrative was vivified and refined with hindsight forty years later. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and of human nature.  Callum Mor takes the reader on a deep Hero’s Journey. It opens with his childhood in the Hebrides. He draws wonderful mentors to him; his schoolteacher, who lights the spark of a bard in him, animal friends such as an otter, a brutal fisherman who shields his darkness from the boy as he matures. Callum Mor thrives despite the poverty of his home in an island nurturing with gentle humor and adventure.  This novel moves from the rhapsody of Callum Mor’s idyllic childhood through tragedies to the derelict zone of his alcoholic drowning out of pain and suffering. His father, a seaman longing to be at home, is driven to madness by his inability to create a place for himself on the island. His brother is murdered on the docks at Montreal. So Callum Mor stays with his mother and forgets his yearnings to be a writer. He becomes the best fisherman in the region before grave misunderstandings tear his love, Catriona, away from him. This displaces his gifts as he drives himself and his crew to the very limits of endurance. The manner of his mother’s death is the final straw.

Callum Mor’s sensitivities and mind snap, as he enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity he survives in a bleak solitude.  Until a family with a small girl seeking refuge from a storm come to his house. Slowly he edges away from his self-destruction. He saves the girl’s life in a winter blizzard. The glimmer of awakening dawns in him while sheltering in a cave with the child warmly ensconced in a gutted carcass of a sheep he killed to keep her from freezing. He sees his life pass in front of his eyes and this sets the stage for the final drama that illuminates the resilience of the human spirit. “Redemption” is my fourteenth book and first novel, though actually the first book I ever wrote.  In 1975 I was unable to get it published.  I found this “Lost” manuscript in an old filing cabinet, read it through and could scarce believe it.  I requested my wife and a couple of friends with critical eyes to read it through, just in case I was dreaming. Modern technology enabled the yellowing typed manuscript to be transformed into a computer ready document.   My wife thought it was incredible; one friend could not put it down and mused about the film to be made; the other friend cried through most of it.  All of which encouraged me to bring “Redemption” to life. I was tempted to leave this gem from 1975 in its pristine state, but realized that my insights some forty years later could enhance the narrative and flesh out “Callum Mor” into a character of epic proportions.

The story is an allegory for the life difficulties I experienced at that time–40 years ago. The surprise for me was how could I have written such a book while in a miserable state of mind? I was not in a good place physically or mentally – with a failing marriage in the Hebrides and trying to keep a career going at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. Publishing this book in 2014 was an imperative for me, as a necessary part of my own life- journey. It is a companion to Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse-also published in 2014.  These books are writing me. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Xlibris websites. Check out: http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html Book video: Youtube: http://youtu.be/9ohImbVX57g Redemption Interview http://toginet.com/shows/xlibrisonair Find Recent Shows 10-19-2014

Cyberbullying in Schools and Teenage Suicide

Cyberbullying in Schools and Teenage Suicide

The triggers for teenage suicide were brought to my attention through a drastic and dangerous situation with one of my young friends. He had slipped into a deep depression caused primarily by being bullied at school and was seriously contemplating suicide. His father had phoned me in alarm and I suggested that his son come and stay with my wife and I for a while. This would take the heat out of the situation. I also had a long conversation over the phone with the young man without mentioning the word “Suicide.” I talked to him about our kayaking adventures and other things that I knew would bring some joy and happiness to his mind. These were the first steps to transform the hurricane force of his strong feelings and emotions that led him to consider suicide. Over the phone I also taught him a simple meditation about being a tall tree. He was open to Buddhist “stuff” through my and his dad’s practice and somewhat curious about both of us! The analogy I used for the meditation was that of a storm of strong winds coming up and shaking the tree tops and breaking branches, while the bottom of the tree trunk stays solid. So that when something arose like a strong wind to hurt him, to think of these things as the tall branches being damaged by strong winds. If he placed his hands on his tummy and breathed deeply in and out to this trunk for ten breaths, then his distress and anger would slowly calm down. He then accepted my invitation to come and stay with us. I also learned over the phone with this youngster that what destroyed him the most was cyberbullying from anonymous sources.

I had no knowledge or insights about cyberbullying. Before he arrived in Ottawa, I consulted with savvy school councillors across the country. I learned that cyberbullying was now an everyday reality for teenagers in schools. I was shocked by the ramifications of the dark shadow of cyberbullying and by the fact that a whole generation of school children had grown up with it. Most adults were as ignorant as I about the intensity of hate and cruelty crashing through the virtual world of cell phones, twitter, chat rooms and email. Cyberbullying had become an everyday mosaic in the life of teens. The field they played in was a free-for-all virtual reality for immature minds to vent their spite, malice, hatred and cruelty without restraint–simply because they could-as they hid behind a veil of anonymity. The impact on victims was very severe leading to breakdown, depression and sometimes to death through suicide. I learned from multiples sources that cyberbullying, mental issues and depression were a huge issue in most schools across the nation. Parents and teachers were often completely unaware of this odious shadow playing out in schools. With this new and alarming knowledge I knew I had to present to this young teen some simple practices, even if their source was complex.

This prompted me to think deeply about what Buddhist practices would be useful to ground the troubled minds of teens so they could resist cyberbullying and prevent being pulled into self-hurt. I had to be selective and intelligent about mindfulness practice. Strategic too, so that it would be readily grasped by a young teen. It was clear to me that cyberbullying was a malicious enhancement of unworthiness and hate. Many teens played both sides of this virtual reality, victim and bully, so rampant and vicious was this spectre of hate. I started to talk to my young friend about foundation practices I used every day and how they might help to calm his mind when he was troubled. He really got the Two Arrows Teaching from the Buddha. In a nutshell this teaching is about a man walking along a path when suddenly he is hit by an arrow fired by a hidden and unknown attacker. The pain was terrible. Then a second arrow was fired into the same spot and the pain and suffering became unbearable. I asked him if he knew who fired the second arrow. He slowly nodded his head and said: “That would be me. All my fears and insecurities would come up to inflame the hurt of the first arrow.” I was very impressed. I told him that he was exactly correct, that our fears, anxieties, exaggerations and dramas inflame the first wound, causing a small ember to explode into a raging forest fire. The point of the teaching was to assist him and me to come to a STOP, to calm the mind and body. Then find a way to NOT fire the second arrow into a trigger that had hurt us. Buddhism was not such a drag after all.

My wife and I had picked him up from the airport in Ottawa and made him completely at home. At first there was no mention of his depression and strong urge to commit suicide. My wife fed him with mounds of food. It seemed that he emptied the fridge at least twice a day. He could sleep in as long as he needed to and rest. On occasions he would join me in the meditation hall in the basement of our bungalow. He was curious about my practice, so I taught him how to make good friends with his breath, concentrating on the whole length of the in-breath and the whole length of the out-breath. That if he would do that ten times without distraction he would feel calm. He also joined in when I did walking meditation. Here the breath was co-ordinated with each footstep and a simple mantra to follow each breath.
IN – OUT, with left foot and right foot.
NOW – WOW! With left foot and right foot.
He smiled at that. Furthermore, when I added the final concentration of being aware of how our feet touch the floor-heel/ball of foot/toe-he could in fact align himself with Earth Energies. I told him that this part of walking meditation was very important, as it was the catalyst for the strong earth energy already inside his mind to come to the surface. And that this energy was stronger than his troubled feelings and emotions. He looked at me quizzically as I provided a demonstration. Then when he practiced it, he found it to be OK. He related, much later, that walking meditation was the best for him, as he felt a sense of steadiness and of being refreshed. Over the two weeks he stayed with us his visits to the meditation hall were intermittent but by the second week he came down every morning in his pyjamas to keep me company in the meditation hall.

Ian at Pine Gate

Once he got dressed each morning and after a late breakfast, I would take him to the various science and technical museums in the city, as that was his passion along with First Nations culture. Fortunately in Ottawa I knew several curators, one at the Aviation Museum and one at the Museum of Civilization, which had the Grand Hall of North West Coast Cultures. My friends in the museums kindly gave him individual tours. I could see his sense of self-esteem rising with the tours and kindness. He was over the moon about receiving such special attention. We were gladdening his mind – a vital point that arises later.

We played board games, charades and kept on gladdening his mind. This was a vital step in the Buddha’s teaching on mindful breathing. He meditated with me quite often and each time we would do the Tree Meditation together. When the time felt right I asked him if he would like to talk to me about what was going on. He told me about three boys who bullied him at school. He also felt that they were behind the cyberbullying, though he had no proof. Also, that neither of his parents really listened to him. I listened quietly until he finished talking. Then I picked up the telephone and found the number of his school and talked to his vice-principal for a while. She was very open and supportive and had already taken steps to separate the three bullies, keeping two in detention during every recess. I also telephoned his parents and reminded them about deep listening, which they promised to put into practice with their troubled son. This boy had listened to the phone calls and was amazed at the support for him that was being galvanized right before his eyes.

I also brought to his attention that his father and mother were deeply worried and doing their best for him. That if he decided to “off” himself, his father, mother and little sisters would be devastated. He genuinely did not want any of that to happen. We also talked about emotions and feelings overtaking us. He totally understood that he was letting one or two strong emotions get him down, when he had so many others to choose from. I managed to convince him that his feelings and emotions were not fixed. They are self-created in his mind by triggers. That in fact we sort of make it all up as we go along and often increase the impact of triggers. The trick, I told him, is to notice when we are getting stuck on one or two heavy emotions. Then we ask ourselves: “Do I want to go there, knowing what it will lead to?” I repeatedly emphasized that with this kind of awareness we can begin to stop the process of causing harm to ourselves. He really got this. His understanding was that triggers such as cyberbullying were a spark. He could either stamp it out or create a raging forest fire. He had turned the Two Arrows teaching into a personal tool and clearly understood the difference between responding rather than reacting. He was a smart teen.

I introduced him to parts of the Buddha’s teachings about the mindful use of the breath. The focus was on his feelings, emotions and mind. Keeping it simple, I outlined the sixteen breathing exercises that focus mindfulness, concentration and insight first on the body, then on feelings and emotions, then on the mind (mental formations) and finally on objects of mind (perceptions). The Buddha starts with the body where the brain and consciousness are located. The point of this teaching is to take us through each avenue of investigation so we grow stronger and gain some control over our emotions and thoughts. Then we can begin to recognize the triggers that can cause harm to us. The exercises were a systematic package to retrain his troubled mind. There were two aspects of the teaching that I brought to him – that was enough.

The second group of four breathing exercises provided an intelligent focus for his feelings and emotions. We studied them for a while.
5. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of experiencing joy.
6. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of experiencing happiness.
7. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of my painful feelings.
8. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of calming painful feelings.
Then we spoke at length about how we all love our dramas and allow ego-distortion to run rampant with our feelings and emotions creating all kinds of out-of-control reactions. However, if we can catch our dramas fuelled by painful mental formations, we can do an end run around our suffering by NOT firing the second arrow into our pain. We can go deeper and learn how to respond rather than react. We see how our feelings actually condition the mind. Feelings are totally normal. It is simply a matter of having the stability of mind not to be overwhelmed by them.

I showed him that he could skilfully use his breath to focus in on the experience of joy and happiness (Exercises 5 and 6). That deeply nurtures our feelings and emotions, creating a steadiness within, providing a foundation to bring awareness and calm to his mind. Exercises 7 and 8, recognizing and calming, provide a preventive measure to transform the hurricane force of strong emotions, a very important message to send to all young people contemplating suicide. The first two exercises nurture and sustain our positive feelings, so we can realize that we are much more than one feeling. So why allow one or two feelings or emotions to take us down into the hell of despair, loneliness and suffering? I asked him to write down the main feelings and emotions that drove him to think about suicide. There were three. Then I asked him to write down all the other feelings inside him. He took his time and wrote down thirty. Then I showed him the two figures, three versus thirty. He nodded his head and remarked “I get it. It’s an absurd decision.” I told him that feelings are just one thing focussed upon by the Buddha to show that the methodology of the sutra works. And that a good strategy is to use Exercises 7 and 8 to bring relief to being overwhelmed by strong emotions.

If the reader understands all of this and puts this understanding into practice then he can see that the particular emotion that is overwhelming him, making her dysfunctional, is just one emotion in their vast ocean of consciousness. This insight undermines the predisposition to be totally crushed by one or two emotions, as there are so many positive emotions we can play with. This is important for young people to know about, as they can quickly go into despair and even suicide when overwhelmed by emotions of fear and unworthiness. There is another group of four exercises that I felt were very important. They dealt directly with what was in his mind.

9. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of my mental formations.
10. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of gladdening my mental formations.
11. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of concentrating on the nutriments that feed my damaging mental formations.
12. Skilfully training myself – breathing in and breathing out, aware of liberating my mind by not feeding damaging mental formations.
This is what I told him after he had read through the four exercises with me. In Exercise 9 we use our breath to recognize, and then look deeply at thoughts arising in our mind. Exercise 10 gladdens the mind. This is a wonderful exercise as we deliberately provide the mind with nourishment to become stronger. Deep in our consciousness there exist many positive and wholesome seeds of potential just waiting for an opportunity to manifest in our mind. So we gladden the mind by taking conscious steps with our thoughts and intentions to water the seeds of Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity and other concentrations, so that this good stuff occupies the mind. Furthermore, we take positive action by organizing our everyday living so that external circumstances further the nourishment of the wholesome seeds latent in our deep consciousness. I stressed that we become very attentive about not dwelling on unwholesome seeds like hate, cruelty, despair, anger, jealousy and greed. In effect we are re-writing the programs in our consciousness that can be activated by ego to take us into the realm of suffering and harm.

Nothing survives in our mind without our allowing the flow of nutriments and energy to feed whatever occupies our mind. In Exercise 11 we investigate the nutriments that fed harmful notions in our mind, seeing them as an energy that requires some serious surgery. It is like cutting the affliction away. Once we become aware of the causes that feed our negative thoughts we can immediately reduce their potency. We first of all recognize the triggers that kept the affliction in our mind alive. And we realize the negative affliction is there because we are feeding it. This is followed by Exercise 12, liberating the mind whereby we choose to cease feeding the harmful mental formations by cutting off the nutriments that fuels them with energy. We stop feeding our demons – and they become afraid because they realize that you have got their number! And it is Number 12. There were lots of questions which I answered in his form of language. He eventually understood these weighty concepts..

This quartet of exercises played a big part in in this young teen’s rehabilitation. The focus by my wife and I on gladdening his mind was vital for him to eventually see that he could change the internal CD’s he listened to. We had listened carefully to him in order to identify the nutriments that fed his impetus towards suicide and then did our best to encourage him to eliminate them, so he could stop feeding the nutriments that inflamed his damaging mental formations. After emptying our fridge one day and finding it bare he started to laugh and said – “Nothing survives without food!” He got it and I was very proud of him and told him so. He had learned very valuable tools from this teaching and found some balance and steadiness.

The “treatment plan” from my wife and I was not in any way codified or formalized. In fact, we did not really have a plan per se. On reflection, I saw some key factors that are useful to highlight. They are not offered as a recipe for all situations of potential suicide by teenagers in schools. The causes of the desperate contemplation of suicide are complex and each situation has to be dealt with uniquely. Nor do I think it is always possible for the components of the adventure with this young man to be replicated in other circumstances. This young man had a prior exposure to Buddhist practice that helped him to be open to methods of breathing and walking that a street kid would find somewhat alien. Cyberbullying is a new phenomenon for our times, scarcely twenty years old. It affects all strata of society, not just teens, through online forums, listserves, social media and other internet vehicles that provide a semblance of anonymity for the perpetrators. The explosive birth of cyberbullying coincided with the ramification of distraction technologies. Cell Phones, chat rooms, ipads and the internet created an ecosystem of interruption technologies that many teens have become addicted to. They crave a global interconnect directed by this virtual world, yet rarely know how to use it responsibly so that harm is not done to others. In less than a generation the world has been fundamentally changed by this virtual reality and we have yet to catch up with its consequences. Nor are there sufficient failsafes and regulations for curbing cyberbullying. Parents and councillors are scrambling to deal with it and parenting skills have to adapt radically in order to protect our young children. Thankfully, an organization of dedicated educators-The Mindfulness in Education Network-has taken huge strides over the past decade to turn the tide through the development of mindfulness education programs for all levels of the school system. Their reach is expanding across North America and the planet. My fervent wish is that their efforts are not too little, too late.

 

The bottom line, however, is that distracted people do not realize they are in so much danger. I am reminded of a terse view from Rumi:
“Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.”
Neuroscientist Nicholas Carr in his book The Shallows (2011) documents a vast amount of scientific evidence that excessive use of the internet impairs precious human mental capacities. Margaret Wheatley (2013) writes:
“We have made this world into an unpredictable monster because we’ve refused to work with it intelligently. And the ultimate sacrifice is the future.”
There are many other reputable sources bringing attention to an issue that is overwhelming. We need many antidotes, especially as young people see before their eyes on a daily basis many forms of systemic cyberbullying – from Negative Political Attack Ads, Facebook rants to brutal Twitter attacks. Are these aspects of modern society any different from the anonymity of sitting behind a computer spewing out violent malice, simply because they can? Think about it.

This is why I refer to our cobbled together “treatment plan” because it worked. It evolved on a daily basis and I think it was effective for several reasons. Having this youngster leave a troubled environment was a great start. Consulting with his parents about his home situation was crucial. Surrounding him with love, attention and deep listening was a vital key. Teaching him how to be calm, in control of his feelings, and taking back his power through the teachings was an effective strategy. It worked well, as he has grown into a mature, thoughtful and caring young man. He was prepared to notice the behavior of cruel distractions that devastated him and then take steps to try something different. I pray that other teens suffering from cyberbullying will be so open.

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Leonard Poole and Catherine Cosstick for their critical eyes on this essay. And to:
Carr, Nicholas, 2011, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Minds.
Wheatley, Margaret, 2013, Living in the Age of Distraction. Shambhala Sun May, 2013.
Mindfulness in Education Network: MiEN@yahoogroups.com

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.