Monday, November 22, 2010

North Pole Journey - Day Two, Part Four - Lisa and Louisa

Day Two: Friday September 24, 2010
Part Four

LISA AND LOUISA: Spiritual Healing

A Surprising Question

Meghan and I meet with the Inuit elder and healers Louisa and Lisa on the second floor of the inn on the soft chairs and sofa in the comfortable lounge. After a couple of minutes together, Sunanda and Rishi join us.
I feel an immediate, deep connection with these two women. I easily open a conversation about spirituality. I am here with sincere openness and receptivity to find out more about the Inuit spiritual traditions that honour the Earth, acknowledging Her as a force that runs through all things. For years shamans have been teaching me through my sleep, guiding my journey through the unseen. Now I am at shores of the Arctic Ocean where the culture has been driven for thousands of years by the ways of the shaman. I am so grateful to be here. I know that the Inuit traditionally have an Angakok or medicine man known to change the weather, effect cures and see things hidden. I wonder what Lisa and Louisa will be able to tell me about these ancient ways.

To my surprise, when I ask them about shamanism and the Inuit spiritual traditions, Louisa responds with a question: “Have you accepted Jesus into your life?” I pause for a moment and take a few deep breaths. I feel stammered by the unexpected. I feel like I am experiencing the effects of Christian missionaries in the Arctic who uprooted the traditional Inuit spiritual practices. This feels like an ironic turning of the tables. Born and raised a Christian, now thousands of miles from my birthplace in the land of the Inuit, I am being asked about Jesus when I seek to know more about their spiritual traditions that pay homage to the Earth. Here in a high Arctic desert, I feel I have stepped into what feels like an age-old gap between western religion and nature wisdom. With a spiritual resolve in my life to practice “non-resistance to what is”, I allow myself to settle in to this moment and let go of preconceived notions of how I think things should be. This, I guess, is the perfect place to be. I feel I have been guided here for a purpose, so I remain open.

Remain Open

I proceed quietly, practicing what I learn in my daily meditation practice about being still and receptive. I intuitively feel deep in my gut that the light that these two women have touched through God the Father and Christianity is the same light that has guided me here on this journey and the same wisdom that traditional cultures find through their connection to the Earth and celebration of Goddess. I know in my heart that there is no separation between us, though the human ego-mind wants to create division. It seems, at this moment, that I must be sensitive to our potential limits in perception. How easy it is to find division when we seek to touch the infinite. The ego-mind only knows how to create separation. But I know, in essence, we are one. I focus on that and allow my intuition and sincere heart to guide this conversation.

I share with these women that I am raised Christian and worked for a few years at the United Church of Canada as an assistant lay-minister. Still their question persists. Have I accepted Jesus into my life?

Rather than closing down, I receive their question as an effort to reach out and touch the sincerity of my heart. Jesus, the Light of Christ is to me that which is the flow of pure consciousness through all living things. I have been graced to know this place. In my heart I feel I have accepted Jesus, the embodiment of pure consciousness, into my life. I cultivate a relationship with pure consciousness daily in my sitting meditation and contemplative prayer practices. This light is the light of life. It is everywhere and in all. I share these feelings with Lisa and Louisa. I also add that I feel we all can know the Light of Christ when we are willing to be open and see clearly, without the tainted view of wanting and egoic attachments.

The mention of egoic attachments is a segue for me to touch upon what I see as the perils and promise of religion. I gently go deeper and voice that though religion can provide an essential framework for spiritual practice, I feel it can also become an obstacle to truth, when people get overly fixated on dogma. I share an analogy that I use often to illustrate this point: spiritual truth calls us to look through the window, not at the window dressing. Often to me people can become overly stuck dressing up the religious window and forget to see the light that is shining through it. At the heart of all spiritual practices, I feel we are called to celebrate the reality of universal light or unconditional love, a pure form of conscious energy that is called many different things to many different people in many different languages all over the world. I reiterate that I am here because we are one people, one family of the same mother, the Earth, animated by the same source light of pure consciousness.

There is a softening in everyone in the room. Our connection deepens.

Sedna and the Holy Spirit

Louisa speaks about the Holy Spirit working through all, through me. She wonders if I am aware of such. I inquire to find out more about what she means by the Holy Spirit. I hear in her words a description of the very same place that moves me. She and Lisa describe how the Holy Spirit is in all living things, in the snow, in the rocks, in the animals, in the air and in the water. Through their words, I hear the unstoppable force of their Inuit traditions, the voice of the shaman who has shape-shifted into that which is now called another name. I feel an expansive warmth run through my heart. I enjoy how for these woman, the traditional Inuit ways have found a way to express themselves through the teachings of Christianity.

Something in the room has changed, as though matter which was suspended above us while holding one’s breath gently released and touched the floor on an exhale. It seems we have arrived through the meandering of our spiritual candour to a place of communion, union through communication, where we touched a luminous place of truth in the still, quiet place in each other’s hearts. This conversation seems to be a continuation of something that began long ago. It feels to each one of us that this is not the first time we have met.

Louisa, the elder and mentor to Lisa, encourages Lisa to recount the traditional story of Sedna. “Long ago, a young girl Sedna refused suitors from her clan choosing instead a mysterious lover who turned out to be a sea bird in disguise. Her father set out to rescue his rebellious daughter. Collecting her from the nest of the Sea Bird, the father and daughter began the journey home in a skin boat. The angry Sea Bird made a great storm to stop them. Fearing the Bird’s power, the father threw his daughter into the sea. She grabbed the side of the boat, but fearing for his own life, he cut off her fingers. Her fingers became whales, seals and polar bears. Her nails became whalebone. As the girl sank into the sea, she transformed into the mystical being known as Sedna, Mother of Oceans and ruler over all life in the Sea.”

Though the story is gruesome, it illustrates the power of nature, the folly of humans and the transcendent relationship between nature and man. Inspired by the riches in this connection and conversation, Rishi leans over to reach for his video camera. But I motion to him to put it down as I notice Lisa shift in her seat, seeing the camera. It is too soon for such. We still need to develop more trust. We are all very open and raw. There seems to be a deep healing that is unfolding as we share our inner truths.

A Blue Whale is Calling

Everyone in the room takes a deep breath. It feels like we are moving into a place of understanding, of commonality, of one heart. And it does not feel like we are alone. Though I can see nothing physically, I sense mysterious forces that are much greater than us at play. We have come together for a reason. The fluorescent lights that shine above us and the acrylic plaid couch and chairs that rest on synthetic industrial grey carpet, seem to disappear into vapour. There is a mystical force in this room of which we are all palpably aware.
As I lean over to Lisa and Louisa, I share my purpose and visions, why I feel I am here. I explaining how I have literally felt called by the Earth to go to the North Pole to do healing work there. This has been a natural, spontaneous arising through my daily meditation practice. I voice the shamanic call I feel to help heal the Earth that comes through the many dreams that I have had over the years. I share one particular dream I had the night before we left to begin this journey to the North Pole:

A huge, blue whale was swimming below the ice at the North Pole. It was calling me through sound. It knew I was coming to offer healing to the planet, this living being, our mother. I lay down on the ice and went deeply into trance. My body merged with the whale that guided the healing journey. I woke up from this dream knowing that Nature knows I am coming.

Louisa, the elder of the two women, shifts her body weight in her seat and looks at me with her penetrating, deep, dark eyes. “I knew you were coming,” she says. Chills run all through me. “I had a vision that someone was coming to offer healing at the top of the world. This person, I know, is you.” The shivers continue to run through my whole body and seem to undulate into the entire room. Everything I see seems to shudder and ripple, like the world around me is a vibrating bell, struck by a resonant truth.

A Healing for Sunanda and Rishi

Then Louisa turns spontaneously to Sunanda, who has been quietly observing this conversation unfold, saying nothing, seemingly shy. Louisa begins to reveal in this healing space the core of Sunanda’s pain, wounds she carries from her religious upbringing, the doubt in the light that becomes an obstacle to her evolution. Shaken as though from sleep, Sunanda perks up attentively and also becomes more suspicious. Who is this Inuit woman who reads me like a book? The two engage each other and go deeper. Louisa workshops Sunanda’s wounds with the persistence, care and attention of a loving, wise mother. Soon, Sunanda melts into tears, more receptive now to the depth of truth that is revealed. Meghan then begins to share that she too can relate to Sunanda’s journey. Religions can heal. Religions can wound. It seems the folly of human ways will find ways to distort truth. Yet truth and healing will come, when people are open. Through this honesty, we can all share elements of our past and more about the depth of the resistance we can all have to the light. We share how tricky energies can intervene with the work of spirit. We all know that there is only one way: absolute purity of heart and absolute faith.

Louisa then stands up and turns to Rishi, who is his usual buttery self, bursting with joy at this healing sharing. Standing in front of him yet just barely taller than Rishi sitting on a chair, Louisa puts the palm of her hand on his forehead and presses his head backwards. She closes her eyes and sinks inside herself to listen. After a couple of minutes, her eyes pop open with a tinge of confusion. She shares what she hears: Rishi must go deeper, and deeper still. Louisa admits that she does not understand what this means. Rishi beams. He knows exactly what this means. Before he left, he met with my guides and received the same spiritual direction. He must go deeper and deeper into releasing that which resists evolution, deeper into awakening who he truly is. The spiritual demands of this journey are profound. He must not remain as the cameraman looking out at life through his lens, but be the spiritual seeker he is with the capacity for profound spiritual transformation. Louisa, satisfied with the healing, returns to sit beside me on the sofa.

This setting has become what I call “hyper real”, where what I see seems to shift from monochrome to technicolour, as though the windows of perception suddenly became squeaky clean. Truth revealed touches archetypal, transpersonal proportions. The energy in the room is huge. We are not the doers, but mere instruments of a much bigger flow.

A Plane Crash and Discernment

I turn to Louisa and Lisa and tell them that I am aware of the dangers we face on this journey to the North Pole to provide healing for our mother, the planet. There are many energies seen and unseen that do not wish for change, healing and release. I tell them about the plane crash vision I had after a long meditation sit when back at my shrine weeks ago in my meditation room. I know that there is a real danger of a crash, so I ask for their prayers.
Louisa looks at me sternly. She too saw the crash in her vision. She knows that it is a true possibility. With the wisdom and potency that only an elder can have, she says: “Now that it is spoken, it has no more power.” Again, a ripple of energy runs through my body now tingling.

Then Louisa changes her sitting position on the sofa so that she can gaze directly into my eyes. She reaches out and takes my hands. With the warmth of our hands merging, it feels like it is just the two of us sitting alone on the sofa. The rest of the world falls away into nothingness. Our eyes lock and an immense space opens between us. In her dark, Inuit eyes, I see my Guru, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, looking straight at me. I inwardly melt, faced with this force, and receive what feels like a shower of Grace from above the crown of my head and right into my spine. The tingles keep coming like rays of rainbow light from beyond. Louisa and I giggle as each wave flows through my spine. “Download”, I say. Tears roll down my face. I feel immense expansion. There is a huge, multi-dimensional energy here and a presence coming through this exchange that to me feels like Amma’s darshan. I feel open, loved and receptive to the powerful healing taking place here.

The energy then shifts. Louisa utters that I must be very careful. I must be discerning. She says that which seems like light may not be. I wonder why she says this. If anything, I err on the side of cautious. Discernment has been a good friend. I sense that perhaps it is her Christian conversion speaking, questioning my interest in what could be judged as the dark ways of shamanism. She speaks of being careful when listening to dreams, leaning to know what is the Will of Jesus and what is temptation. Though I would phrase it differently, I fully agree and know this to be true, which is why the practice of discernment is essential on the spiritual path. So I ask myself, why am I hearing this now? Her particular words do not resonate much, but something shared through them does. I know that there is some kind of discernment I must have when faced with the risk of this trip to the North Pole, the risk to my life and those I love. There is something I have not yet seen. I do not understand but consciously decide to let it be. Whatever it is will be revealed when the time is right. Of that I am sure.

The loving warmth in the room envelopes each one of us. We stand up and hug each other, giving thanks for what we have shared and for the bond of newfound friendship. Louisa tells us that she feels she has gained new children. We all feel a familial closeness with these two beautiful, gifted Inuit healers.

We end our meeting with a group prayer, asking for grace for one another, asking for grace for the North Pole journey. As the group parts ways for the night, Sunanda, Rishi and I go to my room. We share the same awe at what just transpired. Each of us independently felt that our Guru, Amma, had come here to this inn in Resolute Bay to give us darshan. Teary-eyed and humbled, our spirits have been renewed and souls filled.

Yet I am left with a gnawing question. Both Lisa and Louisa seemed to be accurate in their intuitive perception with everyone so there must be truth in the request for me to be discerning. What am I not seeing?

To Come or Not to Come, That is the Question

Like a flash of illumination, I suddenly see that what Louisa was sensing was my inner conflict about the outstanding decision I have been carrying. We met a wonderful healer who has been moved by our trip to the North Pole and wishes to join us for the last leg of our journey. With the powerful skills of a mantra yogi and healer, I know that his presence could literally save our lives and avoid an untimely death. Yet, Sunanda, Rishi and I have already contacted the unseen, worked with the Nature Devas and asked for our Guru’s Grace, which we feel more than ever we have. We have acted exactly as we have been called to do, willing even to risk our lives. Do we stay on course or do we now include this friend as well? Is this Grace or is it distraction? The stakes are very high. The decision has been weighing heavily on me. We speak not of a fun-filled adventure, but of a journey that could cost us our lives.

With just one day left before we make the last leg of our journey to the pole, I feel an urgent need to go inside and listen more deeply for guidance on how to proceed. I find a quiet place in my room and move into a deep place of listening to invoke guidance. Sunanda and Rishi join me. I want to know what we must say to our friend who so wants to join us. Is it in Divine Right Order that he comes? Or is it not? This journey is in service to energies so much bigger than us. We are in service to Grace unseen. So what does Amma, Grace, unconditional-love, the light of the Christ wish for us to do at this time? After a long time in deep inner listening, allowing for an open, unrestricted field of possibility to expand through me, a resounding answer arises and spontaneously spills from my mouth: “No.” Sunanda and Rishi, who are meditating nearby, look over at me with stark seriousness. We nod to each other, all in agreement. In less than 36 hours, the three of us will board a tiny sea-otter plane, charged with prayers and purity of heart, and go to the North Pole on our own.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

North Pole Blog - Day Two, Part Three

Day Two: Friday September 24, 2010
Part Three

Resolute Bay, Nunavut


Feeling fulfilled by the experience meeting the children at Resolute Bay’s Qarmartalik School, Rishi, Satish, Sunanda and I move to exit the building and face the Arctic frost. Suddenly out of nowhere, Rishi pulls out his back. We grab the nearest chair, sit him down and are immediately present for him. With a back in spasm, he cannot move much and his breathing feels laboured. Slumped over the chair and wincing, he quietly closes his eyes, tunes into himself, going within to find a healing space that may perhaps bring him some relief from the pain. 

After a few silent moments, he says he feels that his pulled back is a reaction to shooting video in this deep cold. He is used to neither shooting video for such long periods nor to such extreme weather. We encourage him to take it easy for a bit. As I watch him relax and soften, I get a sense that Rishi’s back speaks volumes about the burden we see here on these Inuit children, the difficulties they face with broken families and a broken culture; the burden we put on our planet due to our ignorance; and the immensity of the global ecological problem that we are now seeing first hand on this journey to the North Pole, as we face the seriousness of quickly melting polar ice. 

We speak a bit about what we just experienced in the classroom. We all feel the same. There is much need in these children. As the grip in Rishi’s back seems to lessen, he says that he just wants to lie down and rest. So he and Satish decide to walk slowly back to the hotel, leaving Sunanda and me to go to the health clinic for a tour with nurse Jackie from Barrie, Ontario, whom I met on the plane ride over from Iqaluit. 


After a two-minute walk from the school, we arrive at the doors of the clinic. Jackie and her co-worker Pat are pleased to see us. We bring warmth and social interest to what is perhaps otherwise a routine day tending to the health needs of a remote village on the Arctic Ocean. Pat has been the main nurse and Jackie the relief nurse in Resolute Bay for years. Currently there are no patients at the clinic, so we are free to take off our heavy winter footwear and coats and start a tour down the halls of this medical one-stop shop. 

The clinic is equipped with a comprehensive array of modern tools, technology and medications. The nurses live above the clinic somewhat like doctors on call in a mini hospital. The main-floor facility is geared to handle most emergencies, from birthing to severed limbs. Air ambulances are available to fly people in to Iqaluit, but that is over a three-hour journey. This clinic is the local personal therapy center, eye doctor station, baby delivery room and emergency ward. Equipped with satellite access to doctors on call, they have relatively easy contact with specialists as required.


When Sunanda and I return to the hotel, we find Rishi resting, healing his back. He is beginning to feel better. He just needed rest. 

While we were at the clinic, Satish was with Wayne Davidson, a weather scientist at the airport. Satish is keen to share Wayne’s interesting insights. We open a discussion about Wayne’s research and global warming with Silas, a weather observer who works in Resolute Bay now visiting his friends, our inn keepers, Meghan and Chris. Neither of these two weather specialists has any doubt about the reality of global warming. Wayne spoke earlier and Silas speaks now about the rapidly thawing ice in the Arctic and the impact this is having on the locals and on the rest of the world.

Meghan and Chris bring out dinner. We happily refuel with warm food. I am surprised at how I can pack it in. The serving of traditional poutine from my homeland Quebec, a massive plate of French fries and gravy, is a welcome sight in front of me, which is quite odd since I would not normally eat anything so heavy. But I am ravenous. I figure that simply keeping warm in the dry -10C cold is taking a lot of energy. At this point, a plate of lard would seem perfectly fitting. I think of the Inuit who traditionally eat whale blubber. That seems now like the perfect food up here, much more fitting than the broccoli, milk, pop, Doritos and other Western foods that area flown in for regular household consumption.

At dinner Meghan tells us that we will be visited this evening by her friend Lisa and her mentor and elder Louisa. Both are Inuit healers. We are very pleased they are willing to stop by and share with us. They are coming in response to my request yesterday when we arrived to meet local elders and healers that remember the old, shamanic Inuit ways. I eat up my fries and gravy and look forward to meeting these two women. There is warmth growing within my belly and an unexpected sense of home, familiarity and perfect comfort here. For years I have dreamt about meeting Inuit healers. A wave of light moves through my body/being. It feels like here in Resolute Bay, dreams and reality are converging.


Lisa and Louisa

I walk downstairs from our room to see if Louisa and Lisa have arrived for our evening sharing. The front doors open and icy winds pour in to invade the warmth of the inn. Lisa is already in the dinning room, chatting with Meghan. It is Louisa who has just arrived. I feel my whole body open with excitement and receptivity to these two who I know are dedicated to spiritual healing and have come to share. I sincerely wish to learn, receive whatever wisdom they wish to offer. I know that the ancient traditions that honour and listen to the Earth have so much to offer us culturally as we face the devastating effects of our global disconnect with Nature.

Lisa is younger than Louisa. She could even be, perhaps, her daughter. But both women clearly show signs that their lives have been full. They seem to carry with them experience, pain and wisdom gained from living through challenges. In them, I see myself and other women I know. All humans understand pain. Women have faced and still face much suffering through other’s misunderstanding the gifts we can have as healers. Women have been tortured, silenced, shamed and killed through the ages and still in some countries today for their wisdom and healing talents, for following intuitive guidance, for understanding Nature connection. These are inherent powers that established religions and governments have found threatening and beyond their control. We cannot control Nature. We must work with her. Establishments may try to oppress the Earth and silence the wisdom she offers, but they cannot stamp these things out completely. Nature revolves around cycles of life. That which dies is reborn. That which is born out of ignorance will breed ignorance. That which is born out of wisdom-compassion, will cultivate love, interconnection and expansion.  The compassion and unconditional love Nature offers is evident in all of life. We are made of the very same matter that makes plants, trees and animals. We are literally connected to her.

Yet there is an attempt to silence the knowing. Through my teens and twenties I could not mention the burning of women at the stake without breaking into sweat and rashes. I have had to process and come to peace with in my own therapeutic healing journey the many memories of being tortured and killed for what I know. Now upon the seedbed of fierce, uncompromising and fearless peace within myself found through listening within, I see Divine spiritual guidance and the wisdom of healing reflected through Nature and all of creation. I move out into the world not on shaky ground but on supportive, fertile soil upon which the fruits of this journey may grow. In this Nature tradition, I feel these women and I are part of a much larger women’s knowing family. We are those who listen to Her, the Healer, the Wise One, the Earth, the Grace of Spirit in the land and in the sky that exists through all.

As I look deeper into Lisa’s face, her brown eyes show signs of sorrow and deep compassion. An awkward tension in her mouth shows me her long-standing need to be heard. There is a wounding in her eyes, which make them a bit cloudy and pale. But behind this cloudiness a deep light shines. Her short hair cut is both contemporary, fun and practical, speaking of a woman who is creative and has little time for herself, bound to motherly duties and in demand by many.

Louisa’s straight, long black hair, pulled back into a ponytail is striped by streaks of grey. Cheeks still flushed from her cold walk to the inn, she is wearing a traditional Inuit coat. Her dark, almond eyes are sharp and penetrating. The taut corners of her lips show signs of discernment. Her open smile is warm and inviting. 

I sense that both of these women are trying to figure me out. (Who is this blonde woman from the South who asks about Shamanism? Is she just another New Age flake? What suspicious forces in her would draw her here?) I reach out to welcome them. I want to hug them, but realize this may be overly familiar, a bit premature. So I warmly shake their hands and meet their eyes. I feel immediately comfortable with them. I know we have met before. My intuition never lies. I am keen to head up to the lounge where we can dive into deeper sharing. What surprises lie here in this encounter, with women that I have anticipated meeting for years?

Monday, November 8, 2010

North Pole Blog: Day Two, Part Two - Resolute, with Satish Sikha

Day Two: Friday September 24, 2010
Part Two


After about fifteen minutes on the gravel road driving out of Resolute Bay in Meghan’s dusty, grey van, we arrive at the ice on shore of the Arctic Ocean. Rishi jumps out of the warmth of the vehicle and into the harsh wind, video camera in hand, as Meghan, Sunanda and I step onto the rocky beach, each taking a piece of Satish’s long, green, silk fabric. Satish Sikha has traveled for the past two years and nine months all around the world collecting ecological messages from dignitaries, politicians, scientists and movie stars who signed this piece of eco-silk I now have in my hand.

Inspired by an inner call to do more for the planet and funded by his own pocketbook, Satish left his thriving fashion and restaurant businesses in Toronto’s affluent Yorkville area to help give children a better future by sharing this global eco-message on the world’s longest piece of silk. Being at the Arctic Ocean is the first major step toward the completion of his project. It is here that he has promised to first showcase this silk to the world. Following this, he will travel to schools around the globe to share the messages he collected. His final destination is Antarctica. This is a labour of love. This moment marks a significant turning point along his journey.

As Sunanda, Meghan and I struggle in the fierce, icy wind to outstretch this lengthy piece of silk so that Rishi can video tape it, I watch Satish from the corner of my eye as he walks pensively towards the water to pray. I can feel the sincerity of his heart as he quietly stands on the iceberg looking out at the vast ocean. The wind blows through his tussled, thin, black hair. He is sheltered from the elements only by his dark-grey parka and a soul full of mantras and prayers.

Showcasing the Fabric on the Arctic Ocean

After a private, contemplative few minutes, he turns around and grabs a piece of the fabric. Satish, despite the frigid temperature, looks radiantly warm. His inner light is evident. Rishi walks up and down along the length of the fabric as it pushes and pulls with the energy of the strong wind. It seems as thought the fabric is breathing. Rishi captures through his lens the flutter of the silk marked by thousands of people’s messages. The voices represented in text and through our presence unite at the Arctic Ocean that has become the dumping ground for our world’s pollution. Here our combined voices seem louder, floating across the water, carried across the land and out into the world by the uncompromising wind.

Rishi steps a few feet back to capture our group of four holding onto what now feels like a kite, silk fabric seduced by the strength of the wind and pushing us backward into the icy ocean. As I firmly lean into the fabric to push against the force, I notice that I am holding the very part of the silk that I had signed. I read my words upside down: “We are wealthy when the world is healthy.” I think of the sunny day I wrote on the fabric in my mother’s back yard in Toronto less than two months ago, soon after I first met Satish, miles from where we now stand. We have come so far. So much has happened in such a short time. I was about to go on tour to promote my current album and show Yoga In the Nightclub. Now I stand on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, 1000 km from the North Pole. I feel happy and honoured to be in Resolute Bay to support Satish’s important project, whose philanthropic vision and creative fuel are akin to my own. We are kindred spirits, each with our own unique expression of a similar Earth-conscious mission, his brought to life through fabric, mine through sound. In service together we create a stronger voice on this immense planet.

Soon Rishi gives us the sign that we have the footage we need. Even though Satish has waited for this moment for the past two and a half years, he, like us, is keen to keep this short, faced with the simple reality of this harsh, Arctic cold. We promptly fold the fabric back up, tuck it in its home, a jute bag from India, and quickly make our way back to the warmth of Meghan’s van. The fabric has now been officially showcased. Satish is quiet. It feels like he is contemplating what just happened. Perhaps too he is preparing for his next step along his journey, bringing the fabric to schools all around the world. Our next destination is Qarmartalik School in Resolute Bay, where we will showcase the fabric to schoolchildren for the very first time.


At the School

The warmth of the van is a welcome relief from the Arctic Ocean’s sharp wind and biting cold. All aboard, we move onto phase two of the day’s plan. We drive back to the inn in Resolute Bay, where we leave Meghan to prepare the next meal while Rishi, Sunanda, Satish and I walk over to Qarmartalik School, the only school in town, to showcase Satish’s fabric to the children there. Satish had spoken to a teacher at the school who is expecting us.

Like all the buildings in Resolute Bay, the school is raised on what seem like thin, metal stilts so that the building looks, from a distance, like it floats above the ground. The ground, made of shale, is not stable. This metal scaffolding base helps the building cope with the extremely cold weather here and shifting soils. Above the double glass doors, in Inuktitut geometric letters and in English I see the words “Qarmartalik School” that mark this location.

We walk along what seems like a typical Canadian school hallway, vinyl flooring under my feet and fluorescent lights on the ceiling. The walls are coloured by children’s collages, layers of text, drawings and photocopies that bring to life their Inuit heritage. At the end of the hall, we are at the classroom that awaits our visit.

In the Classroom

As we walk into the small room of perhaps ten Inuit students that range from age eight to twelve, the children are shy. I suddenly feel too tall, too big and overly aware that with my long blond hair and blue eyes I do not blend in at all. I smile at the children to make contact, to reach out. I can feel that beneath their shy exterior, there is a fascination as to why we are here. I feel received.

With no reflection of the obvious sincerity, skill and dedication of the teacher, I am immediately struck by an awkward and painful feeling of soulful despondence in the children in this multi-grade room. My eye is drawn to the unusual site of a child lying face down on the floor under his desk. What is he doing there? Another child seems to have a disability. He has a cheerful face with keen eyes that welcome us, yet he is covered in drool, which seems to incessantly run down his chin and chest. This is an unusual array of children, which seems to range in this small group, between those who are actively present and those who somehow have completely switched off. I feel I am witnessing another illustration of the pain I felt intuitively in the atmosphere when I woke up this morning. I can only wonder, would children who were fulfilled within themselves, at home and in their environment be like this? I feel I have stepped into a place where there is an obvious need. I feel ill equipped to provide much. We are here to serve in whatever way we can.

Satish and his Green Silk

With little time for Satish’s presentation, we get right into pulling the fabric from its jute resting-place. Sunanda and I each hold an end of the silk and begin to walk the piece around the perimeter of the room. As we unveil the electric-green silk, the energy in the room begins to shift. The vibrant colour of the fabric alone seems to bring the room to life, like a shiny green leaf in the dead of winter. The children are clearly touched. “Wow! That is amazing!” they cry. Rishi’s video camera in hand naturally ramps up the children’s excitement levels. Several ask, “Are we going to be on TV?” This is a perfect segue to begin to explain more about why we are in the Arctic.

I begin to talk about Satish’s project, the travels he has made and his desire to serve children by going to schools around the world with an ecological message. I share how I am on my way to the North Pole to sing there and help bring healing to the planet, how my music helps people remember and celebrate the gift of life. We enlist the children’s help to hold the world’s longest eco-message. We open a discussion about global warming, asking the students what changes they notice in their environment. We all share thoughts about what we can do to help Nature and how we are one global family. Most of the children perk up. A good discussion follows. It feels like we are able to bring a little light and warmth to this Arctic classroom.

Sharing Art

Before we leave, I share with the class that I will be performing at the inn after I return from the North Pole and I would love any one of the students to join me either as an audience member or as a performer to sing a song, do a dance or share whatever artistry brings them joy. A couple girls share that they throat sing and would love to come. I encourage the students to tell their friends to bring their drums, voices, dances, anything they want, so we can share through music in a couple days time.

One of the girls tells me that she loves writing poetry. She asks me if I would read one of her pieces. I encourage her to read it out loud herself, but she insists that I must read it here and now. As I start into the poem, the children gather around, hanging onto every word. I enjoy the dynamic range in the spoken sounds, the interaction between the poem, the children and myself. There is an intimacy here. I immediately can see that historically, the Inuit share their culture orally. There is something in stories that brings these children to life.

As I read on, I understand that the poem is an expression of her first romantic love, but that the author, this young girl, does not feel self-love. I feel loneliness in her words. I feel her reaching out to me through this gesture to be seen, to be heard, to heal. I am present with this child for a few minutes and encourage her to speak about what this poem means to her. She reveals little, but there seems to be some freedom for her in having heard it voiced. I encourage each of the children to follow their dreams, sharing that I need to follow the joy in my heart. Joy is the light that keeps me on track in my life. It never lies. I must be willing to listen to it and honour it. Each one of us is unique. Each one of us is called to be ourselves and shine. As the children and I share, I can feel that these young students inhale my words. I do my best to be present with each one of them.

Our Future Written on the School Walls

The bell rings. It is the end of the school day. Several children disappear from the room with the speed of vapour escaping from an open jar. Some linger, hanging on to our presence like bees to honey. We thank the teacher who clearly is gifted with deep vision, patience and compassion.

Soon we find ourselves with the time and solitude to walk slowly down the halls and read in more detail the Inuit stories and culture recounted by the children on the school’s walls. I am fascinated by what I see, descriptions of unique Inuit art, healing and games, traditions for men, women and children. I feel happy that despite the new style of teaching now in schools, the Inuit living in modern houses, eating mostly flown in food rather than hunted game, the children here are learning to honour their unique and valuable cultural roots. These children must have the skills to deal with the fallout of the ecological mess we are creating today. They live in the wake of our actions.

The Inuit have lived for thousands of years in this fierce and inhospitable land. Only a very adaptable, Earth-wise people could survive here. I feel little sense that the Inuit won't survive the change in environmental tides, other than a concern and care for the wisdom of the culture being silenced by the rubble of our self-serving, greedy culture. The Inuit have survived for millennia. It seems if any people on the planet will survive, they will. Instead I feel more aware of the other races on the planet that cannot live without running water, central heat, supermarkets, cell phones and cars. What happens when the ice completely melts?

As I look at the cultural images these Inuit children created on these school walls built by white men, I think of the future of the human race as a whole. As we face the consequences of our ignorance and its effect on Nature, it seems it is time we listened to the Inuit for guidance on how to adapt and respect Nature so that we all may survive. By honouring our unique inner voice, by listening and respecting each other and Nature, we could become a wiser, more evolved species than ever before in recorded history. We could stop living to get “now” and learn to build a balanced, lasting world. These are choices each one of us is to make not tomorrow, but today, in all our action. Each of our choices has the extraordinary power to change our world.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

North Pole Blog: Day Two, Part One - Resolute

(continued from Day One, Part Two)

Day Two: Friday, September 24, 2010



I open my eyes and notice that the bed sheets don’t feel like my own. I am not at home. I am in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. I am on my way to the North Pole to sing and offer healing to help raise awareness of the melting polar ice caps.

I start to peel myself from the warmth of the bed, when I am overwhelmed with tears. What is this heaviness? Sitting myself up on the edge of the mattress, I allow myself to be present with the feelings. I feel grief, an overwhelming feeling of grief. My chest is heavy and my breathing tight. I feel puzzled. These emotions feel so deep, so burdened. Where are they coming from? What are they telling me? What am I grieving? Positioning myself into a cross-legged position, I allow my morning meditation practice to begin here, on this bed in a hotel in Resolute Bay with these raw, available feelings. The grief grips the edges of my lungs. My ribs feel tight. It is hard to breathe for the tears that have congested my head and throat. With my eyes closed and my mind inward listening, my awareness gently rides along the layers of emotion to hear more fully what they are saying. An image flashes before me. I see the land. I see the people on it. I see the division between people, the culture, the land, our mother. I feel a split, like two lovers broken, longing. This grief speaks of the tragic disconnect between our world today and the land, between the proud ignorance of modern culture and the wisdom of our ancient planet. The feeling of grief moves from my chest to my whole body. I am this planet. I am the people here. Inside my heart and soul I feel the seeds of a baby Inuit growing, restless to be born.

I remain present with this for some time, until my rumbling stomach begins to pull me out of the expanded vision and signals that my morning meditation practice is coming to a close. I am hungry, so I get myself washed and dressed to go downstairs for breakfast. Meghan is there to welcome me. As I sit down to eat, I share with her the grief I am feeling. I ask her if there is a lot of sadness here. She looks at me surprised, as if I had revealed a secret. She said last night there was the conclusion of a messy and tragic rape trial. A family is grieving the loss of unity. A father is no longer allowed to see his children. I hear her and feel the part that this story plays in what I am feeling. I also know that what I am feeling goes much deeper than the grief of one family. This is the grief of the Earth for her children.

As I look out the eating room window framed by frosted condensation, the grey sky seems to merge with the freezing ocean about 50 meters away from the inn. The gravel ground that extends in all directions is both beige and dark grey, depending on the way the sun shines upon it, adding some subtle variety to the colours of the land. Icebergs float in the bay in the distance, like ghostly visitors at port. Sled dogs are small dots of dusty grey, tied by chains and huddle at the shore for warmth against the Arctic winds that travel across the icy water.
Meghan tells me that there was a polar bear in the village this morning. They are hungry and coming into town more and more these days. The bears are restless and want food. I feel a rush of excitement flow inside me sensing that I would like to see one. Then I remember that these bears are fierce and dangerous so I think twice about what I wish for.

Sunanda comes to the breakfast room already with news about our lost luggage, gear for my North Pole performance. She reports that Air Canada says it is scheduled to be on the plane to Iqaluit today. This is great, but unfortunately there are no planes today from Iqaluit to Resolute. At least it will get to Iqaluit. We will need to check tomorrow about its delivery to Resolute.

Soon Rishi and Satish join us for food. Satish is full of energy as I know him to be, like the Energizer bunny, seemingly always ready to go. He tells us that he has been up since dawn, when he dashed past the polar bears to “take a bath” in the ocean. We all look at him, shocked. Polar bears? Ocean? It is dangerous to be out alone at dawn and the water is icy cold. My imagination immediately goes to an image of his skinny little arms and legs turning blue as his jaw chatters until it clenches, frozen shut in this ritual bathing. He encourages us all to try bathing this way, saying it is sacred to greet the water when one arrives in a new location. I fully agree with this outlook and have been feeling the inner calling to do so, but my idea was to touch the water and give reverential thanks for being here, not to swim in it. I prefer to save swimming for warmer days. We all share a good laugh and are happy to be together.


Over a breakfast of hash browns, oatmeal and toast, Rishi tries to open up last night’s topic about Satish coming with us to the North Pole. It seems the time is not right for Satish to reopen the discussion, as he quickly says "Not now." It seems his hash brown sandwich has fully captivated his attention. He very much needs to refuel after his icy dip.

The four of us and Meghan begin to make plans for the day, in particular, how to showcase and film Satish’s fabric on the Arctic ocean and then at the local school. After planning to drive out towards the airport so we can walk on the icebergs, the four of us move back upstairs to our rooms to get ready, while Meghan prepares the van.

The drive is bumpy and brittle. The roads are uneven gravel and the cold makes the metal van crack and shift as it waddles and jerks along. None of this bothers me. I feel so grateful to be safe and warm with people I love.

During the drive, Meghan shares how Resolute Bay came into being. Named after one of the ships that was sent there to search for the Franklin Expedition, Resolute was first a weather station and air force base after World War II.
In efforts to assert sovereignty during the Cold War, in 1953 the Canadian government forced a group of Inuit of North Quebec to relocate here, promising homes and game to hunt. But when the people arrived, they discovered no buildings, very little familiar wildlife and an extremely different climate. When the promise to return home in a year was withdrawn, the Inuit were forced to stay. They survived by adapting to beluga whale and polar bear hunting. Inner conflict arose between the Inuit who knew how to hunt and those who did not. Evangelists uprooted the Inuit culture even more deeply by attempting to covert the Inuit from their historic, shamanic traditions to Christianity.

As Meghan speaks, I start to understand more fully the grief I felt so palpably this morning. We experience all over the world the consequences of a problematic and profound disconnect from ourselves, from each other and from the planet. As I listen inwardly, I hear that this disconnect is the source of our problems of greed, short-sightedness, global warming. These people here are living the result of greed and fear imposed by the modern world. It seems that at least in part, the grief here is a reflection of that disconnect. Yet their ancestral culture is Earth-wise. They are listeners, often alone in a formidable landscape, needing to respect and communicate subtly with nature for their very survival. In the Inuit, I sense there are answers to the current ecological crisis and alternatives to the ignorant choices driven by modern culture. I feel a growing respect for the quiet, humble richness of these people.

Once at the Arctic Ocean shore, we walk past the fresh carcass of a beluga whale, caught by local hunters for its meat and skin. Just the bones lie there with streaks of blood where there once was flesh. All but the bones in this animal’s body have been used. The red stained carcass stands out boldly in contrast with the light grey rocks on the shore. I do not feel sadness in seeing this dead animal, but respect for the cycles of life. I also respect the way the Inuit hunters so carefully extracted all they could from this one life to feed many more. It feels resonant with the energy that is calling me North. There is an ancient knowing here. There is a balance in this death that gives life. This whale reminds me of Nature’s immense generosity, which we in the modern, ‘civilized’ world, take for granted and exploit, but that this hunter intelligently relies upon.

To be continued...