Spirituality has been a big part of my life for most of my life. In the early days, it was in the form of the Roman Catholicism that I was raised in. Seeking a place to belong lead me to the chaplaincy at Memorial University of Newfoundland where, at one point, I thought I might have a vocation to religious life. My theoretical vocation was seriously put into question when one day my spiritual director informed me we were going to discuss sexuality as part of my process of discernment. This brilliant man changed my life with the words 'it isn't for me to say whether or not you are gay, but you should know this - if you are, god made that too and it's okay'. While this brought me a certain modicum of freedom, it also left me spiritually bereft in the context of a tradition that had little place for women, and certainly no place for queers.
As I spun and searched for another way to connect to spirit, I saw a poster for a womyn's spirituality circle. We would gather for the full and new moons to celebrate, drum and feast. Little did I know that this would lead me back to the traditions of my ancestors - both Turtle Island Indigenous and Celtic. The fire, the rhythm of the drums and the connection I felt with the land and the women I was with filled my heart and spirit to overflowing. Years later, the woman who led this circle would perform a traditional handfasting for my wife and I.
In 1992 I moved to Ottawa and my life changed again. I was given the opportunity to reconnect with the traditions and teachings of my Indigenous ancestors. In the last 30 years, I have grown into my role as a carrier of ceremony, a Helper and according to some... an elder. It is a humbling thing indeed to be acknowledged in these ways and an honour indeed to serve my communities. The unconditional love of the Elders who taught me was and continues to be transformative.
Recently I had another opportunity to connect with Indigenous peoples from around the globe at meetings for an International Research Project in Nepal. As I stepped onto this ancient land framed by the mighty Himalayas, I could feel the powerful energy of the land in my body and spirit. As I learned more about the rich cultures of the Indigenous peoples of Nepal and witnessed the fluidity of belief between Buddhism and Hinduism, I was struck by how simple it all really was. Buddhist stupa exist side by side or surrounded by Hindu temples in the varieties of their whole pantheon. It caused me to reflect on the increasing rigidity and intolerance here in the Western world - not only between fundamentalist christians and the rest of us, but also within my own Indigenous communities as the poison of lateral violence continues.
As each Indigenous group shared their own ceremonies, I was struck, again, at how similar we all are in how we connect to the land, to one another and to spirit. I felt in my bones and spirit, intentions rather than the words spoken in languages not my own while we sang, danced and celebrated together. I listened as each group noted the ongoing impacts of colonialism while focusing on the reality that we are STILL HERE and following the ways of our ancestors. As I reflect upon our time together, I feel the resonance of the power of spirit and connection that we created together and my heart is full.
My spiritual journeys have been many and varied. I have bumbled about seeking something I could never name,
always thinking it was somewhere 'out there',
in some teaching or practice not yet found.
I have sought reassurance, comfort and security
in pursuit of the 'right path'
to soothe the sad disconnected catholic within me and
give the wildly spiritual medicine person what they need to thrive.
I have studied the texts, listened to the gurus and elders,
examined the history and sought out places and people of spirit.
I continuously wrestle to deconstruct the catholic dogma lurking in my soul
dogging my thoughts,
weighing me down and
interfering with my connection to spirit.
I have learned that there is a teaching in everything we encounter.
I have learned that it is possible to sometimes let go of years of catholic guilt and shame to embrace the gift that is life, love and connection.
I have learned that all of my life is a sacred ceremony,
each step is an integral part of our spiritual path because
it is the very nature of who we are.
We don't need to strive to be spiritual, we don't need rigid rules and gate-keeping,
we simply need:
to see the mountains rising above the clouds and know that we are part of it all
to be still and listen to the resonance of our heart beating in time with all of creation.
to relax into our true nature as spiritual beings