Friday, October 30, 2015

Dreaming with the Ancestors

Often I do an Ancestor Speaking ceremony at this time of year- the time when many of the meaning-making stories of some cultures say the veil between the worlds of the living & the dead is the thinnest. I call on the ancestors who love me (always a good qualifier :-) ) to speak to me and guide me, offering gratitude for their lives and for their presence now. This year I am going to focus on the Grandmother I did not know about for most of my life.

Years ago, I sat with and learned from a Midewin elder. The second time we met she looked at me and said, "You are one hand from the full-blood in your family." Honestly I thought maybe she just could not believe that the blonde blue-eyed young woman in front of her was willing to spend so much time alone fasting and praying in the bush. But I was wrong.

A few months later my mother (unprompted) said, "Maybe you do all this weird native stuff because Grandpa was native."

Yep, turned out the racism in the family had buried the story that my mother's grandfather's mother was First Nations.That would make her and I one hand- or five generations- apart. I went back to the elder and told her. She just smiled and nodded.

Lately my thoughts have turned toward this Grandmother, wondering who she was and what she might have to teach me now. So this weekend I will ask to dream with her, to learn from her, to know how to honour this heritage by supporting First Nations people here, now in my own country in their quest for justice and self-determination..

May your weekend be filled with the joy of connection- whether with ancestors who love you or with trick-or-treaters. ~Oriah

(Love this picture from Karen Davis at​ - makes me think of the crack between the worlds where we can meet and dream with those who came before us)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Instead of Discipline

So, I've been thinking about discipline- you know, the thing we think we need to find if we are going to do the things we know are good for us (like eating well, exercise, daily meditation etc.) I can clamp down with my will and pick up those aspirations daily- but at times it just feels like endless work, and sooner or later I run out of steam.

So lately, I've been trying something different. Instead of berating myself and insisting that today (or tomorrow) I will dig deep and find the necessary discipline, I've been thinking about giving myself gifts.

As in- today, I'm giving myself the gift of taking a walk in the autumn leaves, of taking my time in prayer and meditation, of making a wonderful stew for dinner. If I can keep my attitude in the range of doing something kind for myself (as opposed to doing something I think I "should" do) not only is it easier to create good self-care, it becomes about receiving that care with gratitude.

And that's just a more enjoyable way to receive the gift of this day. ~Oriah

(Photo of spectacular fall colours from Paul Bardis.)

Friday, October 23, 2015


On one level, it's been a challenging week. On three different days, plans to meet with friends from far away (and have reunions with local folks I have not seen in years) had to be cancelled- the spirit was willing but the old body was seared with a pain that would brook no opposition. I was disappointed. And, lying in bed, I had lots of time to think about my disappointment- to watch it, feel it shift and change- get lighter and then heavier.

We all know the old maxim about avoiding disappointment by not having ANY expectations. As a human being, I don't find this particularly helpful. If we don't make a plan to meet there will be no disappointment when it does not happen- but then again, we will not get together.

The "trick" seem to be holding our expectations lightly. I was doing well with that at the first cancellation I had to make- these things happen, it's not in my control, deep breaths of releasing. . . .

The second cancellation was harder, in part because it was something I was going to do for someone- and I really really really wanted to do it. (I am sure you can hear my attachment in that "really, really really.")

Having to cancel a third plan. . . .well, let's just say I was beyond disappointment and into gloom and doom. You know, the stories of this will never change, my world is shrinking, I will have no friends left at this rate. . . . . .

Not good. Not helpful. Not necessarily true.

So, my question was- why is my mind so eager to go here? Assuming I am not masochistic (I am not) why would my mind want to race to worse case scenarios?

And I got it- to avoid disappointment. If I expect to be too ill to ever go out and meet friends, I will never be disappointed.

And I suspect this malformed strategy has to do with my dislike of the feeling of disappointment. Why? Disappointment isn't death. It's just disappointment. What if I focus on holding expectations lightly. . . . and holding disappointment with a little tenderness when it arises? This too- like all else- will pass. And if we let it, if we don't get caught in the mind's stories we cannot know are true, disappointment can remind us of what we love and prompt us to fully enjoy the taste of these things when we are able.

And today? Today I am meeting a friend for late lunch!

~Oriah House (c) 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Risky Moves

Walking across a busy street in downtown Toronto, I pass in front of two vehicles stopped at the intersection, side by side. The men in the drivers’ seats are yelling at each other through open windows- angry, swearing, name-calling, accusations of being cut off, of giving the other “the finger.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Who do I think I am? Who do you think you are, ya, jerk!”

I keep walking. As I get to the other side of the road, I look back. One of the men gets out, runs around the front of his vehicle, and yanks the driver-side door of the other car open. He screams at the man inside to, “Get out and do something about it, big shot!”

Everyone on the sidewalk freezes.

And then, the door to a vehicle behind them opens. A young man gets out and rushes forward. My breath catches. He is young- late twenties or early thirties- the age of my sons. The other two are heavier, older by fifteen years or more. The young man does not hesitate. He throws himself between the two men in front of him. He looks up into the face of the man who is trying to pull the driver of the other car out of his seat. He puts a hand on the bigger man's shoulder.

And all the time he is talking, looking first at one man, then at the other, touching their arms, grasping one of their hands in one of his own. His voice is urgent, fast and confident, but he does not command. He appeals.

"You don’t want to do this. You really don’t. This is not going to work. You don’t really want to hurt someone. You'll regret it if you do. This is not who you want to be. If you take the next step, if you hit each other, it will all get out of control. You don’t want to do this. It won’t work. This is not who you are. This is not what you want. . . "

He never stops talking. The rest of us stand and watch and listen. There is no judgement in his voice, no accusation. There is, beneath his words, some knowledge of regret, an understanding of how good people can behave badly at times, of how things can and sometimes do get wildly out of control and real harm is done. Everyone on the sidewalk is very still. We hear the young man’s words reaching out to the men, asking them to remember who they really are.

The men hear it too. They slow down. They stop. The man who’d gotten out of his car looks around as if slightly baffled about how he got here. He looks at his hands for a moment, and then says, “Okay,” and walks back to his own vehicle.

The light changes. And everyone drives away.

I can hear a collective exhale where I and others stand on the sidewalk. I blink back unexpected tears and whisper, “Wow!”

Beside me, a  middle-aged man in a grey suit carrying a leather briefcase speaks.“You can say that again. That young man is one hell of a human being.”

The traffic flows, pedestrians walk on, the city around us buzzes back to life.

And I say a prayer of gratitude for the young man, with each breath offering back a thousand times the blessings he bestowed on the two men in disagreement, on all of us who were there to witness. Oh I know it could have turned out differently, that he was taking a risk of being hurt himself. But he led with his heart- you could hear it in his voice. That’s always risky, but often a choice worth making.

~Oriah House (c) 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015


Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. I am so grateful for your messages of support- am still largely offline, finding strengthening health each day & appreciating the unfolding of autumn. Mulling this morning if I can allow my gratitude to be big enough to hold it all: the pain & the relief when pain eases; the depletion that flattens & the moments of energy & strength; the fulfillment & the letting go of plans. After all, the harvest (the gift of this life I have) is a result of all that comes, all that is wrestled with & accepted, held tenderly &. . . sometimes, not-so-tenderly. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. ~