One of the hardest things about healing from trauma is changing our perspective.
As a society our perspective on trauma is that it is bad and needs to be stopped. However the word trauma really comes from the root word injury which comes from the Latin word that means – a wrong. This denotes that there is a wrong and a right way of being.
When we are living in duality, we are living in world where momentum and awareness are created by friction. Life happens in the moments… moments are accumulations of different energies interacting.
Society usually says to experience life and decide IF it resonates with us. Instead we should be questioning HOW it resonates with us…. what it’s trying to show us? What treasures can we uncover from the experience? What learning can be gained?
Most people see trauma as such a horrible thing. When really it just wants to be loved. To be seen for its true essence…not how it makes us feel. Our emotional response to trauma is a signal to really sit with it and question it. Reflect and realign. Our emotional response is our responsibility, not someone else’s fault.
That’s hard for most people… because we feel like that other person should pay for what they did to us… or we feel like we didn’t deserve the bad thing that happened to us! The Anishinaabe say – never say sorry to someone for what they’re going through… that is like saying they are not worthy of their journey. That they’re not worthy of the beautiful treasures and gifts waiting to be received. Each experience has a gift to help us grow in our awareness of self!
Changing how we view trauma is the answer to healing. If we can say, I love and appreciate ALL parts of my journey, and truly feel it… we are healed… because the experience is no longer being seen as wrong, but rather we have found the gifts and treasures in it.
It takes compassion for yourself and others. Unconditional love through gratitude and trust. Realization that your higher self is aligned with your deepest passions and desires and is simply waiting for you to resonate with receiving them!
There are times in our lives where we need the point of view of an “other”. When we are so far into our own set programming, it is vital to have an opposing force that generates the movement of energy. And once the energy is stirred…we can filter through the programming…and redirect that energy intentionally in a way that is aligned with our truth.
The only way to know when are aligned, is when you have intentionally made choices that lead you on the journey to uncover and remember your truth… and then the universe speaks to you through sycnronicities, and signs… bringing people into your life you could’ve never dreamed existed.
There is strength in the awareness that contrast is necessary for expansion, learning, growth, and manifesting a life that you are satisfied in.
Indigenous communities were great representations of this… There were ceremonies for when young men and woman reached puberty and really dived in deep to find their purpose…. though ritual and ceremony with themselves, with no distractions… with intention to know thyself more fully.. and to continue to learn about one’s self through every experience. Each having their own path and each person in the community respecting and acknowledging the other’s path.
When we are all aligned with our truth, we can assist the others in seeing their truth more clearly. We reflect their being back to the other more clearly when our mirrors are polished from within.
Let’s create a cultural dynamic where we seek out one another for our differences in a positive way. To learn and grow and support the awareness that we are all different, and possess different gifts that are vital to our ability to survive and thrive.
It also helps us to see one another and respect each others being. Like the total embodiment of Namaste. We are all connected.
We are ALL connected…. each of us. If no one shares their stories and teachings and thoughts and ideas with each other, then no one will grow or change. We are meant to be here for each other…. and not just for those we like.
ALL of us are ONE.
People are here to show you all something about yourselves, like you are meant to show others about themselves…and how do we best do this… by first being grounded and centered within ourselves and our OWN connection to creator… and not letting things knock us off center emotionally but rather seeing all things as a challenge to grow and learn from. By polishing our own mirror.
When people just want to hold on to the old narratives, the energy tends to vibrate at a lower frequency. If we aren’t moving through the past and becoming more present, then we will never create a future we truly desire.
The mindset has to be shifted.
Treat others how you want to be treated. Period. Not treat others how you want to be treated, until they don’t treat you how you want to be treated.
I had this conversation last weekend about the IGGY culture, and how there is this idea that when someone presents us with something we don’t like, that we do not have to “take” it and can simply block or ignore them. Those people are VITAL to our learning about the deepest parts of ourselves. We should be examining ourselves and the things people do which trigger us so bad that we want to ignore them. Finding out where those feelings come from… where are their roots… questioning ourselves deeply, and recreating our responses rather than simply reacting.
I’ve always felt that things that are the most challenging to do or begin, usually have the greatest gifts in the end.
So this means we have to sit with our shadows, and really listen for and to our intuition. Meditate. Have faith that what you feel and hear is truly aligned with your highest good, and for the highest good of all.
This is the meaning of true unconditional love. This is the living example of love… and true awareness that we are all connected. Love all ways.
The Anishinaabe see respect as an awareness that we are all part of creation and so what I do to you I also do to myself… the ultimate respect is to know that others are embodiments of the great mystery and we are all connected.
Gratitude comes from the root word for Pleasing and Thankful.
I am so grateful for the ability to have gratitude in every moment. To find things about every experience that are pleasing and that I can be thankful for.
Its so important to always find things to be grateful for. Living a life of gratitude is the way to true happiness.
Grateful for the little things
There are so many things to be grateful for, but most recently I have to say I am grateful for the ability to share my story with the world. Being able to travel to South Africa and work with the people there has really been such a blessing.
Being apart of the TAI 5th Annual Artizen Conference on Art for Social Transformation has created new whole new perspective to my reality. It has shown me new ways to interact, and to help others to create and share their stories.
Simply spending time in another country has given me deep gratitude for all of the things I have been blessed with in America. Even though my ancestors have been through trauma and are still healing… I have a deeper appreciation for all aspects of the journey and for where I am blessed to be today.
Since being home I’ve found myself grateful to be able to simply walk outside my house and see the street from my yard. To not have gates and barbed wire fences all over my community. To be able to have consistent electricity and water, as South Africa participates in “load sharing”. Load sharing is when certain areas have their electricity and water shut off for hours, sometimes days at a time. A lot of people in America take for granted things like this.
Grateful for Partnerships
The trip to South Africa has opened up many doors to new partnerships! I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Disele May Foundation to help woman who are survivors of gender based violence.
I am also excited about partnerships with a few others where I will help translate a book of poems from Tanzania to English, have my students in Maryland work with schools in South Africa, and work with other artists to share Indigenous knowledge through creativity.
I am also grateful for the relationships that were created while on the trip. Being able to problem solve, build and teach with so many amazing individuals really develops a strong bond.
To the ladies on my team…. Jennifer, Linda, Raisa, and Shanna… I am so grateful for your being. I really feel we have created a strong bond that will will only grow as we continue our work together. Great things to come for sure! I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me, about ribbon skirts, the medicine wheel, and performance art! I am better because I know you and have spent time with you.
Thank you TAI
Thank you Teaching Artist Institute… for all the hard work you put into facilitating this opportunity. Thank you for being steady, centered, grounded and flexible. For being a beautiful example of how to handle things when they don’t go as planned. Your ability to remain focused on the mission, in light of whatever came your way, is an example of authentic and true leadership.
Migwetch to all who supported the trip
Migwetch is Anishinaabe for “I am grateful for you.”
The trip would not have happened without the support and love from my community, friends and family. Thank you all for your continuous generosity! Together we can do amazing things…we can change the world.
On November 4th we arrived in Johannesburg South Africa. The day we had been planning and fundraising for was finally here! The airport was big and gray, as thunderstorm rolled in. We met with our fellow Artizens, the Tanzanian Magomamoto Theater Group, along with a new friend Bonface from Kenya.
The drive from the airport to the hotel was a beautiful sign of the power of the arts to bring people together. We shared songs and drums, and sang together in our different languages.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by two local South African women who just so happened to be at the hotel for breakfast, which neither had ever done before. The universe brought us angels to help us accomplish our tasks! The one woman Hanna, my newest friend, assisted us in so many things…. from finding a local woman to purchase fabric from, to taking us to the store two days in a row to gather materials for our workshops. She even took me to the airport on my last day.
Artizen Conference Day 1 – Creation
Our first day of the Artizen – Art for Social Transformation conference was amazing. Jennifer Foylan presented the keynote speech about her journey through the life cycle of the butterfly. While she shared her story, I created a live intuitive painting for her, in front of the group. This was a powerful time to show how art can express our experiences and emotions.
I was apart of the group that presented on the birth of the caterpillar and the transitional stage in the cocoon. Linda M and Raisa J were my team mates, and we each shared pieces of our indigenous knowledge with those who attended.
Day one was the birth of the caterpillar, where Linda shared the creation story and the medicine wheel knowledge and Raisa presented the tradition of ribbon skirts and how each is connected through creator. I assisted the students that attended in creating a mandala based off of a workshop Linda does through her art therapy presentations.
The mandalas were a collaborative group project that started with 4 questions:
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where and I going?
Participants were asked to create a visual representation of their answers to these questions using the mandala template that was pre drawn. Each group member had a task of completing a section, while they worked together on the meaning. After the students created their mandalas, each group shared what it meant to them.
This was powerful because students in South Africa do not get the arts in school. This showed them how powerful of a tool art is to help share your stories and connect with one another.
Day 2 – Begin Ribbon Skirts
Day 2 of the Artizen 2021: Turtle Island to South Africa conference we traveled, with our new friend Hanna, to find fabric, ribbons and sewing machines for the ribbon making workshop we presented for a group of women from South Africa who are domestic abuse survivors.
Along the way we met a beautiful soul at Spirit of Stone and were gifted amazing stones and medicines. Stuart does amazing energy work in South Africa and I look forward to returning again soon to participate in experiences with him!
We were also so blessed to have found a local woman who had traditional fabric from Kenya, Mo_Fabrics_More. It was such a blessing to purchase fabric from her and support a local small business entrepreneur.
The workshop was wonderful. It was at the Turquoise Harmony Institute. Jennifer shared her story and journey through domestic violence and sexual abuse, and Raisa discussed how ribbon skirts are a form of traditional art that is healing. Even though we weren’t able to begin sewing the skirts, we had each woman pick a fabric they wanted to make their skirt from, and we measured and cut the fabric to prepare for the next day, when we worked with the women to add their ribbons and sew their skirts.
We selected fabric with the color purple intentionally, as is the color for domestic violence awareness. The women who were participating in the workshop are survivors of gender based violence, and sexual abuse. They are working with Disele May, who has created the Disele May Foundation to help women overcome these struggles.
Constitution Hill Gala
After the workshop we attended a gala… all I can say is… amazing powerful work was being done there… doors opened… and I am ready. The gala was held at Constitution Hill in the old women’s prison. There were speakers from the beginning of the apartheid, and those that worked to bring democracy to South Africa. The speakers were powerful, the performances were divine, the food was delicious and I was asked to share about my White Buffalo painting “Hope”, which was donated for silent auction. Our day even included another rainbow! Our work is blessed… as we remind each other through art that we are all connected.
Day 3 – Performance Art and Sewing
This day began with a beautiful tour of the only constitutional court in the country of South Africa. It was amazing seeing the structures of the holding cells for the jail used during the apartheid. Getting to spend time in such an historic place that was FILLED with art was super inspirational. It reinforced the need to tell our stories through art to heal past traumas.
After our tour we participated in the keynote speech, and addressed students from another school. Linda, Raisa and I shared our teachings and stories with the students. And they were blown away by our spirit names.
After the keynote, we continued to work with the women who have survived domestic violence, to create healing ribbon skirts. They LOVED it!!
After completing day 2 of 3 for ribbon skirt making, I participated in a performance with Shanna and 12 other amazing artists. It was such a powerful experience to dance free as an Indigenous person from Turtle Island on the land of South Africa.
Lastly there was an art tank competition, where Teaching Artist Institute awarded one local artist with a small stipend and free business coaching for a year. It was amazing to see all of the local talent. Arie Squires also was apart of the conference and she selected one young woman to personally mentor in branding and business!
Day 4 – The last day of the conference
Before heading to the conference, we visited the Tanzania Embassy with our new Tanzanian friends of the Magomamoto theater group. It was the first time Indigenous people visited with the Ambassador. We made history! We sat and talked with the ambassador about using art for social transformation, and we even got to sing the Tanzania anthem together!
After the embassy, we ended the conference at Amajika Performing Arts center. The ladies from Disele May Foundation were able to complete their skirts. It was so powerful to hear their stories and witness the beginning of beautiful transformations, from victims of gender based violence to superheroes reclaiming their power! Thank you Disele May for following your heart so others might thrive.
Shanna taught performance dance to the kids and women there. It was powerful hearing them sing and seeing them do their traditional dances!
While there I created a flower of life community mural to symbolize the connections we all have to one another. Art to remind us we are all connected.
The kids who attend the art center on Saturdays painted it in! Children in South Africa do not get art in school, so Tu Nokwe has different art lessons for them at the center on Saturdays. The children love it so much, they try to come other days as well! It was such a blessing blessing work with them and hear them say how soothing and fun it was to paint! So blessed to bring Creative Balance to South Africa!!
Thank you Kim Poole, Haki Shakur Ammi, and Firdoze Bulbulia for organizing such an amazing event. This was history in the making and I am so excited about the partnerships we’ve created and what change will come from them.