Blog

Honouring My Mother: A Twenty Year Relationship with Death and Grief

My Mother, Marion Bernadette Philomena David Barber, died twenty years ago today. Sunday September 17, 2000. Today I honour her and the life she lived. The risks she took being an orphan and seeking education, her passion for living life; for food, for travel and for her family. I honour the lessons I’ve learned from witnessing her life. I am thankful for the gift of life she gave me and my siblings, for bringing us Earthside, safely and empowered. For always putting us first and teaching us to love life, be kind and have faith.

Mom passed away in 2000 – let’s roll back twenty years. Before 9/11, before high speed internet, before smartphones and the birth of the digital age. I often wonder what she would think of technology – and a million other things! I wonder if we’d ever shop like mothers and daughters do at the mall or if that wouldn’t be our thing; if we’d go for coffee or if she’d stick to her very sweet and spicy Pakistani chai. I wonder if we’d ever go to a yoga class together or if she’d judge me and the life I live now. It’s taken me years to realize that it doesn’t matter what she thinks and that I am here and who I am, because she is not here. I suspect I would be a different person if she were alive and had control over my youth and adolescence – and if I wouldn’t have been given the opportunities I have been since she left us. 

I sat in my pity and grief for many years, questions “why” God would do this to me, why my mother chose this, and why it wasn’t my father who died instead – so many whys, so much sadness, anger and questions seeking answers. 

My journey of grief has taken me into a world that I might not, or ever explored if I hadn’t lost my mother. Her death opened doors that may have never opened. I cried for many years on her death anniversary, wallowing in the past, in the memory of the pain and her absence. Being angry for choosing to do homework, rather than sit with her at the hospital in her last hours. So much guilt and anger! Twenty years later! Still processing…but each release feels easier, and my soul feels lighter. Of course I know that a mother would only want their child to experience joy and not be burdened with pain…especially not for twenty years! 

Yes, not having her alive, right now in my life, I sometimes feel a sense of absence. However, is it my memory of her that brings me to feel this absence? Or does my current presence in this moment, allow me to see the beauty in this moment, not having the awareness of absence. 

My journey with grief presented many paths of coping – I was never one to use substances in any degree for pleasure or to numb pain – it just never seemed logical to me. My soul has sought other ways to find answers to why this grief has such a powerful shadow over me. Is it just a human thing, or do we ever find a sweet spot in our relationship to grief?

I looked to other paths of religion and spirituality – again seeking answers, seeking truth and connection to Mom. I explored different forms of meditation, beliefs in reincarnation, Tarot & palmistry, talking to brujos in Mexico, shamanic journeying, Earth-based religions, yogic philosophies, bodywork,  and sound healing. Each provided their own medicine to my open, healing heart. Over the years, there have been some impressionable moments that were keys to my greatest healing.

One day my path took me to a bookstore here in Halifax, Bookmark II – where I saw on the shelf a book called Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. I began reading the first pages and it felt like the writer had opened my heart was was reading it out loud! After over ten years of feeling alone and unheard, this book gave me so much peace in those few moments. At the time, I didn’t have a lot of money and even though the book was only about $20, I could not afford it. When I went back two weeks later, it was out of stock, so I had it ordered in. I waited patiently for the call that my book had arrived. And once I got it, I began reading it. To this day, I have not made it past the first three chapters. The grief was real, everything that she writes is so true and so real for me that I exhausted myself crying. My ex, even being the sweet and kind soul he is, at the time, he was also not able to hold space for me to process what I was reading. Since then, I’ve been on a different soul mission, so I haven’t picked up the book yet, but I’m sure if and when I do now, it might be easier to process and get to the end! I am a true believer of “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” and so goes for books. That book appeared when I was ready to accept its wisdom and comforting words. There are many of my shelves that have called me, but in their right time, I will open their pages. 

Another powerful healing moment was when another ex went to see a medium, who was able to channel his mother who had passed on early. She told him that she was happy being on the other side, happy and free; travelling the world as she had always wanted to do. This opened my eyes to another world. My upbringing in the Roman Catholic tradition had me wearing tight blinders for most of my life, including up until that point with the medium. I took this as medicine for my child heart, to bring peace to the unknown of my own Mother. To know that she was free, flying above and beyond what her human body would have granted her, gave me the greatest joy for her. 

Many years later, one of my closest and dear friends invited me to a Buddhist ceremony to honour a friend who had suddenly passed away. A ceremony to allow her spirit to move on from this lifetime, and reincarnate if they choose. Honestly, this particular ceremony, so beautiful and powerful in what it does for those who are left behind and for the spirit that has finished their time, gave me the most peace. It meant that Mom’s spirit moved on, completed its mission and perhaps moved on to the next lifetime. I became fascinated and relieved to hear of such things, so I began to explore life after death.

Here in Halifax, I am often asked where I come from and what brought me here. After some, what I can only describe as divine guidance, I can say, that my Mother brought me here. This story goes back twenty years when I was in Grade 10 English class, in Hamilton, Ontario. We were reading short stories from Canadian authors and of course, being asked to analyse them. Of all the stories, the one I chose was about a young mother back in perhaps the 1960s/70s – time when women were rediscovering their power and still struggling to get an education. The protagonist had a young daughter. Being inspired by the book she was reading, The Feminine Mystique, she wanted a different future for her daughter. She wanted her daughter to have more opportunities than she had. So she takes her daughter for an outing to the campus of Dalhousie University to show her that she has options, other than being a “good housewife.” A few years later when I was applying to universities, Dalhousie crossed my mind. And although their tuition was/is the highest in Canada, the program I was interested in was very well established at Dalhousie. I turned down a scholarship to Carlton in Ottawa to go off to Dalhousie. To this day, my father doesn’t know about the scholarship. Later in a session with a psychic medium, I was given this insight which certainly spoke volumes: the reader shared that my Mother’s energy was extremely strong here on the East Coast – like she had called me here like a beacon waiting for a response. Reflecting back at the short story, I wonder if it was just coincidence that I chose that one, or if it was a divine message from my Mother who had recently passed on. 

In more recent years, my life path has me exploring the quantum world. This area is vast and sometimes challenging to describe in words. I must say that all the lessons from previous encounters certainly gave me a strong foundation to receive the wisdom and knowledge of the quantum approach. The wisdom of Matt Kahn, Carolyn Myss and others, have affirmed the truth I feel deep inside. To see my life, the world, the Universe as a bigger picture, has given me the deepest healing. To understand our sacred contracts and the divine plan – so perfect and that nothing is left to chance.

I acknowledge the life of my mother; that she was the vessel to bring me into this world and for all the love and nurturing she gave me – potent nourishment for the years when I would be without her. I acknowledge what her death has meant to me so far and what gifts have come of it since.

I thank the angels who have stood alongside since my birth, since I lost Mom, and who are here with me always. I (like many of you) have done some extraordinary things in my short life, going on adventures, encountering new experiences, putting myself out there – and in many moments, taking risks that in hindsight, realizing that those sketchy situations could have ended in so many ways! However, I always felt protected. I had and have a trust in the divine that had been nurtured from my Mother. Her faith until her last breath has been my greatest teacher. Let me be clear that faith and spirituality are not contained by what we have created as religion, however, they are so much more vast than the smallness of religion. My Mother taught me faith, or you could call it trust. To trust. A skill that we are often not encouraged to cultivate and nurture. Until my pregnancy did I realize how important this “skill” of trusting myself, my divine human and the divine Source of us all, would be. 

I am thankful for all the angels and people that have cared for me for the past twenty plus years – through my Mother’s illness and darkest moments, until today. All the mothers that have mothered me, held me, fed me, shared words of wisdom as they would to their precious child, paid for things or lent funds to get me out of a stressful situation, or called to check in…all the parents, friends, sisters, tribe, that have stepped into that void of feeling the absence of my Mother, to each and every one of you, my soul, my child heart, thanks you with such grace and honour. You’ve kept me alive, literally by feeding me, emotionally and spiritually by sharing your wisdom and holding space, and helping me grow, so that I may realize and fulfill my purpose. 

I am thankful for all the divine synchronicities that have reassured my faith and trust in the bigger picture. The “too-good-to-be-true” encounters, the divine timing of meeting certain people or things happening…call it what you like, but I am a believer in this grand plan, and my trust has certainly allowed it to keep unfolding its mastery. And in that unfolding, allowing me to heal from deep within. 

It is said that “time heals all wounds.” I believe this is true for when we are truly present, that we allow the past to dissolve. And when I say the past, I mean the memory and the emotions we associate to a memory that we consider in the past. It does not mean that we forget that an experience happened, but we have grown out of seeing it in the past and the painful emotion that it carries. I am present right now in this moment, as I type. Now. Now. And Now. In this moment, there is no past. And so, I cannot dive into an emotional memory, because it just simply does not exist. Thinking of time as each year has gone by, has made me question more and more, “what is time?” Is this why September 17, 2000 feels like it just happened? Or some years, it has felt like that was a lifetime ago and that’s why I don’t cry anymore? Or have I grown? Have I forgotten? No. I know in my heart, I am healing that wound. And as I heal, I create a distance from that “past” moment in time. The quantum world may seem like a whirlwind when it comes to understanding timelines, however, I have found my peace with this particular life event because of it. I feel that I have found the missing key that helps me to unlock the bigger puzzle I’m in and free myself so I may truly live my life; shame-free, guilt-free, pain-free, and above all, have a healthy relationship with one of my greatest teachers, Grief. 

 A whole lifetime has passed, in the blink of an eye, yet when I slow down the years, the months, the days, the hours, the minutes and seconds, each moment is a lifetime, a timeline in itself. A moment where I had a choice. A choice to live and experience for its gift of beauty ~ a choice to appreciate the gift of another moment of life; to appreciate the opportunities at hand. 

Today, I honour my Mother Marion, with red roses, the tunes of Simon & Garfunkel, with loud belly laughs, indulgence in tasty food, and remembering the power of trust. I am her daughter, and I am a daughter of the Universe. I honour her life and death by sharing the blessings and lessons I have been gifted by her, rather than just focusing on her absence and grieving.

We all walk different paths; we are all on different timelines. This is my story, my experience. May you find your own peace, joy & happiness in yours. 

I dedicate this piece to all the children of all ages, generations, timelines, who feel alone since the passing of their mothers or caregivers. May you remember that you are not alone. Your mother would never leave you alone – she left you with a family of angels to protect you, guide you, nurture and nourish you, support you in every way. When we begin to remember, we see “all the little things,” all the signs, all the pieces of the puzzle. We realize that she never left us. 

My thoughts on death need to be honoured on their own. Stay tuned. 

And Now? Be the Change.

Artist: Sousa Machado

When I originally sat down to write this, I had more frustration and sadness in my heart. I sent my writing to a few friends of colour and while they might have supported my thoughts and writing, it still didn’t feel right to share something from a place of rage, frustration and blame. I knew deep down that it’s not in me to perpetuate this kind of behaviour, so I gave myself space from my writing, and from social media. Time and space to clear my mind and look at this from further back.

I know that trying to send a message isn’t always easy when we have heaviness in our hearts, so I’m sharing this with you because this is the best way I know how: through story. We ALL have stories. Here are some of mine. I know there are a lot of solutions being put out there, however, I would like to say that before we can make fundamental changes in our psyche, in our behaviour and in our actions, there needs to be a true connection. And that connection, for us humans, is through story. 

I am a brown skin woman. Born in Pakistan. My mother radiant like chocolate and my father, golden like toffee. I came to Canada in 1988 when I was 3 and my brother 18months. We settled in Hamilton, Ontario – predominantly Italian and Portuguese…and well, during a time when assimilation was cool – not guarding your culture and being proud of it. 

Here are some KEY moments in my life of thirty-four years: 

  • Being called “blackie” by my classmates when I was four years old. FOUR. One girl was a Black girl! Lighter than me – and so it confused me even more! 
  • If my brother and I got darker in the summer months, often my parents would suggest that we weren’t scrubbing ourselves hard enough…especially our knees and elbows. 🙄 My mom being a nurse, I’m surprised she didn’t just look to anatomy…where we have more skin there. But again, this is deep, post-colonial, cultural issue…stemming from white supremacy
  • My parents using chickpea flour, called besan, to give us full body scrubs. Apparently besan helps with whitening skin, not bleaching, but lightening skin. 
  • Going to the bank alone: I get “I’m sorry, that’s our policy, I can’t do anything to help you.” Even when pregnant and hand on belly. 
  • Going to the bank with Siggi, my white partner: “Let me see what I can do.” 
  • Going for a skincare appointment, with always a white aesthetician, “I used ____ product on you. It’s great for hyperpigmentation. You could try that for a while to even out some areas.” (I get that this is larger issue in our world of beauty ideals)
  • Never finding a makeup artist that knows how to apply makeup for my skin colour and always chooses the lighter foundation…making me look ashy. And when I ask for a darker shade, they are so wide-eyed I sometimes want to punch them. 
  • At 20 years old…it was the first time I my whole life that I appreciated my skin colour. I was on exchange in Cuba. Yes! Twenty years of not loving my skin colour. It took leaving a country that “accepts” all cultures (Canada) and going to a small island to BE SEEN. Fuck. To be adored for the beauty of my skin colour. It confused me! And maybe that’s why it was hard to leave. Going back to Canada where no one acknowledged me and it was hard to embrace my nature. 
  • Being confused by white people tanning. W T F. First you don’t accept us and respect us, then you tan? Yet you whitewash us, offer whitening products (even if natural) and use our cultures to market as your own? 
  • My own brother having racist after racist act committed against him. A coloured person can’t have nice clothes? Can’t have a dog and walk around? Can’t have a white partner? 
  • Questioning every job I’ve been offered…was it to fulfill the minority quota? Often times I have been the only person of colour at a workplace. 
  • My entire life always trying my hardest to look clean, proper, better, follow the rules, say the right things, to BE ACCEPTED. This may be the story for many BIPOC – to be accepted in a society that has discriminated against us for so long. The best we (my ancestors, my parents, my family and friends), can do is to “look” and “act” our best to try to fit in and be accepted. 
  • Being followed with suspicion in several stores at both Halifax Shopping Centre and MicMac Mall while I shopped OR I get the silent, “you’re invisible” treatment, yet if a white customer walked in, the retail employee suddenly comes alive to help 🙄
  • When I go to a potluck or gathering, I just look around…maybeee there are few other coloured people, but I just wonder, “Where are the BIPOC mamas?” or “Why am I the only coloured person in this Irish pub or North End potluck?” I am not dismissing these special experiences, and honoured to be a POC present. I just look around and this is what  see.

I’m not asking for you to feel sorry for me. I’ve made my peace with a lot of what I have experienced. It took until this most recent phase in my life…my thirties, to really work through a lot of that trauma. Like, I wonder what kind of strong woman I could be if I was loved and able to love myself fully from age one, age four, age twenty? And not be hit with racism, inequality, and disproportionate opportunities every time I tried to stand up and live my life just as any white person. I no longer see myself as a victim and see those experiences as in my past. I am bringing them up in this present moment to share and educate. However, it’s hard to fully put those things in the past when they CONTINUE HAPPENING. I personally haven’t experienced violence of physical abuse because of my skin colour. I have however, felt the real pain of my brothers and sisters near and far. This is why I am doing this work. 

What has empowered me to get past that victim mentality? My “no excuses” mentality – probably perpetuated by having to be resilient and work extra hard to just “get on with it” and be like white people want us to be. I also believe that the dark parts of our story, make us strong and maybe that’s why I am here now? Just like we have NO EXCUSES to have to do well in school (to fight for those scholarships), or stand out as entertainers or artists, as good parents, as good humans… I have to say that white people, there are NO EXCUSES for you to be ignorant any longer. 

I am happy and empowered to see that in my thirties there is finally more than a few shades of brown in the makeup section. I’m thrilled to see Black ballerinas and Black supermodels. Black Barbie is really a Black Barbie, finally. Black princesses. Black heroines. Black and brown Emojis. Black business owners. Black opportunities. And I am honoured that people seek me out because I am a coloured massage therapist!

So friends, fellow humans. I don’t have all the answers. I realize that with something so big, so fundamentally wrong with our everyday life, it is difficult to know where to begin, what words to say and how to go about correcting it. And I know some solutions might be more effective for some scenarios. And I am aware this is centuries of beliefs and  behaviour. 

I ask that you wake up. So many little things that you might not think twice about because the world is catered to you…that BIPOC have to consider and reconsider…or the thing we need is not even existing for us. 

But friends, business owners, fellow consumers: 

Do your outreach activities include your local BIPOC community? That goes for dance classes and sports teams, mom’s groups, market days, play dates,  spiritual activities like meditation and yoga sessions, holistic health, alternative child care…the list goes on. Are we welcome to fully experience these facets of society?

Where are the Black aestheticians in the luxury spas? BIPOC bankers? Black schoolteachers? Black beauty promoted far and wide? Black artists respected and paid fairly.

I know the past few weeks, months, years and centuries have been struggle after struggle, violent, hateful act after violent hateful act. Injustice after injustice. 

Will you allow it to continue? 

I am aware that there are several avenues for re-education, undoing and correcting of beliefs, behaviours; that there are several avenues for being in solidarity and rising up with our Black communities, and I am aware that there are several layers to this entire unfurling of truth. And I see that people are finally waking up and answering to the longtime cries of people of colour. 

What will you do from here? Many of you have shown a lot of support this week. Thank you for having the courage to speak up and dedicate the time and energy to posting what you could this past week. I get the #blackouttuesday but I personally believe that it’s not enough. I know some of you didn’t and don’t know what else to do but post a black square. I encourage you to speak to the BIPOC people in your life. Support your local organizations and change at a fundamental level. We need action. Please, use what you’ve learned through social media and apply it. It’s useless to the global BIPOC community if you don’t actually change.

For me, actions speak louder than words. Can we stop attacking each other over semantics and change from within so we can act?

  • Speak up against that racists family member and draw those hard boundaries.
  • Speak up with your friends, employers and coworkers. Stand with us, but stand with integrity.
  • Acknowledge your privilege yes, but we need to do better.
  • You have a choice of supporting gentrified neighbourhoods. 
  • You have the choice of changing your past prejudices. 
  • You have the choice to support local white-man politics or create the community you actually envision in your heart. 
  • Support the dismantling of all systems of oppression – this might be a tough one for many of us because it’s entangled in many aspects of our daily lives, but aren’t you just lucky you’re not systematically more vulnerable to those systems? IT’S TIME for these systems to change. Not just the policing system, but education, healthcare, entertainment, sports, arts and culture. The brutality and oppression can’t be undone if these fundamental aspects of what makes us human can’t be addressed first! 

Undoing the racism isn’t going to happen over one day or week friends. It’s actually going to require an undoing off all the systems, actions, behaviour built on racism. Are you, we, ready for that? Are you ready for taking responsibility and actively engaging in anti-racist actions? To dismantle white ideals of beauty? To have more unprejudiced opportunities for black families to live in your neighbourhood? To undo the layers of prejudice that exist in our education and health systems? To not follow a BIPOC around a store? To not see them as working the hard labour jobs?  To dismantle ALL systems of oppression? All of this and more! Are you ready? It’s been happening and it’s going to explode right now. So yes, take these days, re-educate yourself. Prepare yourself. Start with awareness. Start with conversation. Colourism and racism have walked a long road and are so deeply entangled in every single facet of our lives. Yes, we may come from the same source, but we are not in a world that collectively acknowledges our oneness without looking at our skin colour. Our beauty ideals, what our systems have promoted as pure, and worthy, give no power to supremacy when we truly see ourselves as one. But, it takes dismantling the behaviours and standards we currently have in place. Don’t let fear prevent you and don’t let those cute little social media posts make you think that you’ve done your work. They help. They are a start. 

And it’s not a question of what CAN you do. What WILL you do? 

When you’ve spoken to all the BIPOC people in your life, looked into their eyes, heard all the ranges of their stories (ranges of skin colour may have different stories unfortunately), then maybe you might have an idea of what it’s like. But friends, with all respect to those who are even awake and true supporters (I don’t even want to encourage the word anti-racist, because it’s more than that too!), to those who have done the work, who have taken the time and energy to relearn and understand, I admire your courage and strength, your love and compassion. Unfortunately the truth in this lifetime is, you will never really know what it is like to have coloured skin, dark skin. I don’t say this to reject and dismiss your effort and growth, but to say it as it actually is. So. Please, keep doing the work, keep standing by our side and being the full love that you are. We need you to keep going! It is important to have you in our lives and reduce the divide.

It all comes down to respect. It could be that simple.  But unfortunately it’s not because our global socioeconomic systems are created to oppress, and specifically to oppress people of colour. We are not ready as a global collective go collectively acknowledge at we are one, that we can respect each other. 

Respect looks like: 

Not having any of the skin colour biases that have been engrained in our brains for generations, and seeing a person of colour as a fellows human, as you. Until our systems can reflect this, we cannot stand behind “we are one”. We need to grow through the thick hate of centuries past to truly embody that level of respect. 

Black lives matter. Every. Day. Not just on social media Tuesday, not just a week in June. Every day. We can’t choose not to have coloured skin one day just cuz. It’s everyday. So, friends. This is where it starts. You gotta step up everyday. In all the little things, not just the big things like protests, donations, petitions and social media. It’s the day to little things that need to UNDO the systemic racism that is in every aspect of our lives. 

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

How many more black people must suffer a tragic murder before it stops? How many more mothers, families, communities need be broken before it stops?

I am hurting. I am grieving. I am ENRAGED.

And this is not isolated to the US – this happens everywhere – colourism has its own racism, prejudice, discrimination and oppression. We continue to torture the human body and spirit. Day after day, century after century.

BIPOC! Our ancestors, as slaves, as the colonized, as the oppressed, built this world that we live in today, and we perpetuate it by allowing all the covert oppression, racism, and death of our cultures. No more! We must continue to demand respect and justice.

Justice, like all our systems, is broken. Justice will be won. We won’t let it go on like this any longer. We can’t. We must rewrite justice to serve the humanity and livelihood of all people, to include justice for people of colour! Not the “justice” we see that serves to protect murderers.

We must rewrite justice to serve the humanity and livelihood of all people, to include justice for people of colour! Not the “justice” we see that serves to protect murderers.

If you’re just waking up now, it might be a cruel and painful awakening, but what matters is that you take off those racist blinders – those centuries of oppression and make a different choice! Choose not to lay silent! Stand up in solidarity and take action! Silence is complicity. Silence ensures that the violence against black people and people of colour will continue.

I am you.

You are me.

We are one.

When we hurt each other, we hurt ourselves. When people in authority exercise brutality over another HUMAN! They hurt all of us.

Divide and conquer. It’s been that way all along. Even for POC. Are YOU aware? Do YOU see it? Do you see it in every f**king thing in your life? You vs. everyone else. Survive. Be better than ___. Have more and do more than ___. And why do we feel this way? They’ve made us feel like we are not enough. And that exercising more control (in all its forms) over another human is the way to win this life! That illusion is sickening, yet many people have yet to wake up out of it!

I am finding some solace in seeing white people standing up, speaking out and protecting. We need your support now more than ever. Yes, educate each other – become aware of your privilege and call each other out! When people get corrected, they feel shamed and then they get defensive. I ask that we approach each other with compassion and understanding that this racism and privilege runs generations back and so does that defensiveness.

Are you, me, we, willing to change? Are we willing to stop the ways we’ve thought for centuries, the privilege that runs in our blood and see that we are all one? I sometimes struggle to get out of my oppressed, victim mentality when the privileged continue with the oppression.

I sat in my little garden patch today and observed the lesson from the Bleeding Hearts (picture). Some were starting to wither and fade, fall apart and off the stem. In my small garden, nature speaks, giving her wisdom. Even Bleeding Hearts don’t last forever.

#blacklivesmatter #justiceforgeorgefloyd #justiceforregis #restinpower #enoughisenough #racismistherealvirus #silenceiscomplicity #blackisbeautiful

Grieving the Loss of Touch During Isolation

In this time of great separation, isolation and restrictions I struggle with not being of service in the best way I know how – offering healing, caring touch and empowering wellness. My hands are grieving the people who may need touch right now: those who aren’t dealing with the current global situation in a positive way, those who are home feeling more overwhelmed, stressed, trapped and stagnant than ever.

As a global community, when we have experienced struggle through economic crisis, political dilemma, environmental disaster or cultural shocks, people turned to the healers, the medicine people, the body workers, the spiritual leaders to provide relief and healing. And now, we cannot step in to serve our communities.

I am in this too. I miss my body workers, my tribe of healers who nurture my healing. I yearn for giving and receiving hugs! I crave social dancing with my community!

How have you been coping with the lack of touch in the last few weeks of this upturning and sudden halt of our community’s physical connections?

Do you miss h u g s ? Handshakes? Holding hands? Gentle back rubs when a friend embraces you? A squeeze to your forearm or shoulder? Forehead to forehead? Nose to nose? A kiss on one cheek? Two kisses? Three? 20 second hugs to let that oxytocin flow? Those long, warm hugs where you can both take a long, slow deep breath together?

People in new or old relationships (of any kind) – how are you doing with the lack of intimate touch with someone you have just met and were excited about getting to know them in a more intimate way? Current relationships, has your touch changed? Are you so stressed that you don’t share hugs and intimacy as before or has this opportunity to rest, breathe and be together been positive in giving your partnership more time for touch and connection?

Those who were on the path to recovery and healing, how are you doing with the sudden halt of your healing or physical therapy sessions? Do you consider other options of rehabilitation? A form of energy work? How do you feel about not receiving the kind of touch that allows you to surrender and receive healing?

Social dancers, I know many of you fulfill your touch needs and connection through partner dancing. How are you doing with not taking classes weekly and gathering to dance regularly? Dancers, do you miss your teacher making corrections to your posture or technique – bringing awareness to where you can improve? This is all touch. Do you feel it in your body now? Your body stores that touch. Take a moment and reflect.

I know there are many other situations where touch is no longer present. It is different for each of us since we all have different levels of comfort with touch and are grieving its absence in our own way.

What are ways we can increase touch during this time?

Self-touch in all the ways, for all ages and genders:

* Indulge in taking your time to apply a body oil, touching every part of your skin, face, hair…

* Self-massage

* Wrap your arms around yourself for a good, long hug!

* Body talk – while doing any self massage or applying oil, talk to your body, thank your body

* Incorporate some movement into your day – through dance or yoga or an activity that you can slow down and practice greater mindfulness of your body

* If you have access to other people through your living situation, take the opportunity to give more touch (given that you have consent to do so). Check in. Cuddle. Rub each other’s back, hands, feet or play with each other’s hair (didn’t some of us enjoy this as children?)

* Through meditation and breathwork, listen to your body – where are the areas of tension, trapped emotion, or longing for touch – when we work on releasing that which is trapped, our needs shift

Ultimately, nothing may replace receiving human touch from someone else, but we can do our best to practice S E L F – L O V E and initiate whatever healing we require, from within.

~

We are being asked to stop a lot of the interactions that our social human nature needs to thrive: community, being in nature, creating an impact through our work/vocation and, t o u c h.

Perhaps we are being asked to each go within. Healers included. To go within, find quiet, find stillness, and listen to what our body and soul are saying to us. Now that some of the noise of our lives is slowed or stopped, there is space for us to hear what our inner self has to say.

May we listen.

May we use this time to make the necessary shifts being asked of us.

May we shed the old skin of fear, of distractions, of unhealthy habits.

May we enter the post-trauma period as a new person, honouring our highest self and our highest purpose.

Will we cross through this portal and transcend from the needs of our physical bodies to that of our soul?

May it be so.

Blessings, Love & Light,

Audrey

10 Moons ~ 40 Weeks Part 2

10 Moons ~ 40 Weeks Part 2: Conscious conception, a profound journey and becoming a portal for this sacred being’s birth.

40 Weeks of Transformation

I grew a human! I. Grew. A. Human. I’ve had to repeat this to myself constantly. With Milo being Earthside, it’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around the enigmatic truth that he was once inside, growing – and together our bodies, knowing what to do, grew him.

I have always loved biology and human anatomy, learning about nature and the nature of things, how things work. Studying human anatomy and understanding just this little bit of our incredible design (because there is so much that we don’t know, so much that is intangible and un-studiable) certainly increased my awareness and fascination with our amazing bodies. And now, going through the most powerful physical expression of human potential, creating a new life, absolutely blew my mind. I have gained so much more respect and admiration for our body, but more-so, the female body. Our unequivocal ability to expand, grow and house another human for this gestation, is an experience like no other. It deeply connected me to my body and purpose. 

During my pregnancy, I was awe of how my body was expanding and transforming to create home for a new being, and also growing a human inside! It does take a certain amount of conscious thought to wrap your head around. Often, on the outside, it seems so abstract until the baby “comes out” – but to actually hold for a moment, the thought that our body is actively growing a human, can blow your mind. 

It was really exciting to watch and feel my body grow! I remember at 13 weeks, I could feel him move! We were in Germany, and I could feel little tickles in my lower abdomen – a gentle popping sensation! It was absolutely incredible! Not having any ultrasound or prenatal screening, and giving full trust to my body and baby, and then feeling these movements, made it all so real and powerful in that moment! It was no longer this abstract process of growing a baby, but that it was really there! And doing well enough to move! I thanked my body and my baby for giving me the awareness to feel so early, and for communicating to me that “hey! I’m here!”. Any days when I wasn’t aware of movements, I’d take a moment to talk to my baby, and ask, “Is everything ok?” And soon enough, I’d feel a little flutter, or a big kick reassuring me that all is well and maybe he was just taking another nap. 

I think about Milo’s birth constantly, almost every day. So many moments, making up the ‘big’ event, yet, so easily I forget how it felt to be with a belly, thirty pounds heavier and massaging or dancing; the discomfort of those last few weeks of trying to sleep but dreading nighttime and only really enjoying my naps; never feeling completely comfortable, but always feeling grateful and happy. I took many pictures and wrote a lot of reflection so that I would remember all the cool things my body allowed me to do during those transformative forty weeks. I respected it, and it gave me back so much! Now, I look back and feel “yeah! I did that! – I can do ANYTHING!” 

I am so thankful for my tribe. I am who I am because of my tribe. For the support, the wisdom, the encouragement and sisterhood. 

Check out my previous post for the story of my journey through pregnancy.

I know that many other mamas who have experienced birth might relate – and that we each have different experiences, however, I just knew it was time to share these words from my heart. Thank you for listening.

~

Love & Light, 

Audrey

10 Moons ~ 40 Weeks Part 1

Part 1: Conscious conception, a profound journey and becoming a portal for this sacred being’s birth.

Pregnancy and birth aren’t just about giving birth at the end of this 10 moon cycle. It’s a journey during these 10 moons. Often we get asked how the birth went, and then, as time passes, the focus changes to the baby, forgetting how mama is doing (not my situation, but for many). Most women like to share the negative aspects of pregnancy – of how they had horrible morning sickness and their body grew and they gained weight…all the discomforts. I CHOSE not to dwell on those, very natural, very expected, minor discomforts. I CHOSE to talk to my body, my mind, my baby, in the most honourable, loving, respectful way – thanking nature and the universe for giving me the opportunity to create a home for a being, surrendering to what is most natural for my body to do, and embracing all the changes along the way – to show respect and admiration for our fascinating design and functions as human women!

I know each of us and our babies are distinct, and thus, our pregnancies and births – this is my story. Just that. I am not seeking to compare or suggest, just share, what has been my journey and only mine.

So, here is a little story, honouring my pregnancy, birth comes after. I’d like to share my pregnancy story. Of how I got to the birth, of how I got to the right moment for my baby to decide it was time to join us Earthside. The journey of birth and motherhood really starts as a journey of a womyn, many moons before birth.


My pregnancy was full of me being me – doing all the things Audrey would do, while, listening to my body, my baby and doing all my inner work in preparation for this transformation into a mother. I know that there really isn’t anything you can do to be fully prepared for life or motherhood, but there are ways to prepare as best as we can. With the guidance and inspiration of the wimyn and tribe around me, I started this incredible journey.

I experienced my journey dancing, travelling, performing, massaging, learning, teaching dance, meditating, yoga, taking courses, reading, hiking, writing, Pilates, reflecting, praying, talking to my baby, talking to my ancestors & guides, swimming, staring at the moon, kissing, cuddling, eating, making meals, spending time with family, getting a massage…did I mention dancing?

My journey took me through many emotions, mostly blissful, being in awe of my growing body and having deep gratitude for my extremely supportive partner. I spent much time meditating, continuing to nurture the connection to my body and mind, knowing that this is where my power was and ultimately, knowing that this would be how I could embrace any doubt and fear, and transform them into tools of my consciousness; to be aware of what might arise during the birth process.

I spent many, many hours reading – so much pregnancy prep and birth prep. I meditated, did gentle yoga, and prenatal Pilates, explored new boundaries as my body softened and stretched. My doula and birth keeper were two fantastic wimyn who nurtured me to rise and embody my power – they provided a profound support and made me feel safe with any doubt that crossed my field.

Above all, which is hard to capture in a picture, I rested. I cut my hours at work during my first trimester. I allowed my body to surrender to the needs of my growing baby. I worked, I ate, I came home and napped hard. I took time to meditate and rest my body. I would get so tired after a meal that I would crash hard for a few hours. And then, as my belly grew, I couldn’t eat the same portions, so I could eat less but frequently and rest more.

I ensured to keep movement and hydration a great part of my day, as well as seeing my chiropractor every two weeks until my 38th week. She was a vital part of my pregnancy and I am so thankful for her work – and my trust in her. I did receive massage therapy, however, I saw my chiropractor more regularly to compliment all the changes in my body.

Each day one step closer. One step closer to the known unknown. We know there is an end point, when this being takes it’s first breath, to then become the starting point of everything else. However, until that point, I remain in the unknown. As an adventurer, I enjoy being in this familiar place, awaiting the unknown, embracing it. This time, it feels a little different.

I never got to a point of being “too pregnant” – wanting the pregnancy to end. I surely I felt a lot of anticipation towards the end, but never a sense of “Ok, I’m done and I want this baby out!” I never felt like this. He came when it was just right for him to come. I accepted since the beginning that this was his journey, not just mine. I am the portal, so I accept whatever path it takes, however long or short it is. This acceptance made the entire process so much easier, lighter, and gentler.

It is a skill to listen to your body. To create and nurture this unique relationship. It didn’t come just during the pregnancy. I had to foster this for years before – and yes, pregnancy allowed that relationship to become more profound, but it never ends, I continue to learn about my body (all 10 realms of it) and I continue to go deeper, understanding the physical and metaphysical to truly honour it. Pregnancy and birth have shone light over this other superpower we have as wimyn, that only gets unlocked and used when we enter the pregnancy and birthing process. The whole experience connected me to this entire other aspect of my being, this magic and wisdom!

Pregnancy and motherhood has been a lot about acceptance, a better word, embracing. Having an awareness and deep connection, but also embracing as the journey unravels. My inner guidance has given me so much strength, clarity and motivation, that I felt strong – of course knowing that I “didn’t know what was to come” but having trust in my body and baby that they would do what is natural to allow birth to unfold, and the unknown no longer feel like I needed to fear it. And now, each day, having some idea of what to expect, but also being open and embracing, the “not knowing” what’s to really come.

Birth is a culmination of everything prior to that very special moment that our babies take their first breath Earthside. Birth has been this entanglement of my inner work, my self-love, the physical nourishment, the rest, the interactions, the mindset, the openness, and being surrounded by loving support. We as mothers are the portal, alone in our path to bring a being into the world, however, we are not alone on that journey to get there. We get there because of our tribe.

The strength and courage of my friends, having home births, listening to their natural cycles, honouring their bodies and babies, had a profound impact on my own path. I found myself at the Womyn’s Summit in 2018, learning about my monthly cycle, about being a womyn and living amongst a community of wimyn, my tribe. This gave me a lot of inspiration of how it is possible to live differently, in harmony together and foster this in our cycles as wimyn. Over the years as I witnessed the wimyn in my tribe transform into powerful mamas, as I’ve watched other dancers embrace the changes in their bodies and continue their path, while taking on this new layer of life, as a mama. It gave me the inspiration to think, yes, I can do this! I don’t have to fear sacrificing my freedom as a womyn; I can be me and also be a mother. I want my child to know I am happy, healthy, living my passions and listening to my heart and soul’s calling. After much deep reflection and sweet talks with Siggi, my soulmate and loving partner, we made a conscious choice to invite a soul to join us. I have lots to say on our conscious conception and choices – so please read more in my next blogs. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story! <3

~

Love & Light,

Audrey

One Year into my Journey

AudreyAs my first year of being self-employed comes to an end and my second year begins, I am feeling a lot of feelings as I reflect upon this last year and the beautiful journey it’s been. This year has been filled with a lot of moments of overcoming fears, learning new skills, outreach, exploring my capacities as a business owner and massage therapist. 

I am so grateful for all the people in my life who have supported me during this first year, friends, family, clients and of course, my dear Siggi – my life-partner and greatest support. You helped me get started with my website and purchasing my first linens and still drive me to do my laundry, while always giving me so much patience while I work on my website, or client files  and keeping me nourished and showered with affection when I’m deep in my work! 

To my family, friends and clients who have shown your support through words of encouragement, referring clients and helping me grow! To fellow RMTs who have given me advice, shared ideas and best practices, you have really helped me – serious shoutout to Whitney Anne – you have such a big heart! Thank you all! You have given me the courage to do what I love, and know that I am supported to continue along this healing path. 

Thank you to all the clients that have come for a treatment – your commitment to your health and well-being, really allows me to continue doing what I am passionate about. You inspire me to learn more, grow as a healer, and want to explore new ways to help you along your journey. Thank you for trusting me with your health and feeling safe in my care.

As I reflect on my first year, one of the most impressive aspects of growth I’ve noticed is all of the new skills I’ve had to learn, like building a website, accounting, writing blog posts and social media, booking my own clientele, doing way more laundry than I ever imagined, and accepting all the tasks that come with running a business – while maintaining my values and staying aligned to my purpose. It has been challenging at times, however I find a deep fulfillment in doing what I’m doing, finding my way of doing things. My most important value is to respect my truth and express my authentic self. 

I know this journey is just getting started and that it’s a process, but a deeply fulfilling one! I have some really BIG ideas that with each day, are getting closer to being fulfilled!

With deep gratitude and honour to provide my services to you, 

Audrey

What’s coming next?

This July I will launch three new services, Thai table massage and Thai Foot Reflexology, as well as Jade Stone Massage!

Mid July, I will an Ashiatsu (barefoot massage) course in Ottawa – great way to spend my birthday! Ashiatsu has been something I’ve always, always wanted to learn, and now I am excited to finally learn the skill and technique! 

Also, being inspired by some of my awesome clients, I’ve dedicated a page to success tips, best practices and advice from that has worked for them on their path to improving their health, living a pain free life and increasing their quality of living. I know self-care practices are different for everybody, and what works for one person, might not work so well for another, but I do want to encourage you to check out what others are doing to gain success in their lives and see if there is some inspiration there for you! Check out Inspired By You. 

I invite you to follow me on Instagram and Facebook to keep updated with any promotions and when I’ll be launching these new treatments! 

El Flamenco

Back in 2004 I lived on Edward Street in Halifax. Often I’d be on my way home from campus when I’d hear the thunderous stomping coming from Evelyn Benais’ home dance studio. Evelyn was the dancer who owned El Viento Flamenco dance company and school. She’s since moved to France, however, I did have the pleasure of having her teach me a few times. In my second year at Dalhousie University, I started my Spanish Major, where my interests in dance unfolded even more, intriguing me to take flamenco classes – not because of the flamenco art form itself, but because I enjoyed dancing and learning new things, so I thought, why not – let’s try this. I first had classes taught by Evelyn’s company dancers Megan and Maral, where I learned Sevillanas and some basics in tangos flamencos.

A friend from the Dal Spanish Society told me about a flamenco festival here in Halifax, so we decided to go. It was then that I first saw Maria Osende – presenting a guest artist from Spain, Manuel Reyes, at the Dalhousie McInnes Room. It was my first real flamenco experience. I had never seen a performance like that – and especially by a male dancer! I had never seen such strength and grace, expression and emotion like what was transmitted by his powerful performance.

I started taking classes at Flamenco Dance School Maria Osende soon after that, hopping into her intermediate class, two weeks into the term…which means I had missed the first two weeks of choreography. I remember that feeling of never catching up, but loving the challenge. We were learning an alegrias. I remember how tough some of Maria’s steps were, but looking back at the choreography years later, I see how much I’ve grown – and how much my confidence and posture have improved!

I’ve trained with Maria Osende for over eight years – some years taking more than one class, some years missing those first two weeks of class or months at a time from travelling; but coming back to her class was like coming home. And flamenco, certainly has a way of calling you…and not just for the footwork – it resonates with our deepest emotions.

Flamenco is a complex art form; its musicality and structure vary from rhythm to rhythm, and requires dedicated study in order to embrace and present a genuine artistic expression. In flamenco and in life we are all students. There are always so many more layers to learn: styling to add, steps to create and play around with, masters to learn from, emotions to uncover…it is a constant exploration of our souls. Practice and an open mind can lead you down that path – however, the true essence of flamenco, in my opinion, comes not from studying just the steps and the compás (rhythm), but from listening to the music, diving deep into your soul, letting it feed your emotions, and bringing them to surface, then releasing them through your feet, your hips, your arms, your head, your eyes, your mouth…transcending your physical body and unleashing that emotion to the world around you. That is flamenco. That is the rawness of this art form. It connects you to this raw, open place – where you cannot inhibit yourself – you must release it. You can only share your emotions fully, truly and honestly – there is no faking it, or half-assing it – it’s an all-or-nothing art. This is where the studied performance becomes true art.

I am a bilingual English-Spanish speaker and I feel that expressing myself in Spanish has introduced me to a new dimension of flamenco, allowing more curiosity and interest, and above all, a deeper understanding of this art form. The cante (singing) is the foundation of flamenco; it gives life to the dance. I started exploring flamenco as a dancer, and over the years, I have become interested in its musical expression, cante. While in Spain, I took every opportunity to attend performances and classes to begin my study of flamenco cante. Being fluent in Spanish has allowed me to enjoy and explore the art of flamenco cante, as well as create connections with many teachers, artists and locals, further broadening my knowledge of this complex art form.

Initially, as I mentioned earlier, I started taking classes as a hobby, but little by little, this art became a process, a path to unpeeling my layers, uncovering my truth (shyness, quietness, bad posture and all) and making me face my fears (in front of the mirror, in front of my teacher, of my body and self-esteem), to embrace who I really am.

Flamenco forces you to see these things, if you want to or not. In the end, a student can choose to remain in the realm of seeing how pointing out all the imperfections makes them uncomfortable or, they can use their unique story and imperfections to express themselves fully. Flamenco allows you to be fluid and proud, yet grounded, heavy, sassy and emotional. Of course like any other art form, it requires practice, commitment, and above all PASSION to go from the student who doesn’t use this information, to the amateur or artist that embraces what life has served.

I never thought that this hobby would take me down this path. I am a Pakistani-born Canadian citizen, and although as a Pakistani woman, it is unlikely that I would embrace this art form (due to the conservative nature of eastern culture), I’ve been dancing for ten years now and peeling back all the layers of culture, history, suppression and anti-sexuality to embody my true essence and transmit my self-expression.

Aside from my inner courage, I have to acknowledge and share my deepest gratitude for my teacher and mentor through all these years, Maria Osende. It takes a true artist and teacher to see the potential in their students and nourish them with drills, constant pep-talks, studio time, private rehearsals, performance opportunities, teaching opportunities and an understanding that everyone is on their own path, but that they, as teachers are there to support and help you grow, no matter what.

I have had several opportunities to dance at local festivals, student fiesta nights, flamenco nights, fundraisers, community events, Spanish-themed events and even weddings over the years. This wild art form can captivate such an array of audiences because it taps into our emotional core, connecting experiences we all can relate to.

I began this journey over 8 years ago, maybe even earlier without knowing it. I have been a late bloomer in life, however, flamenco is an art form and lifestyle, that has no age or generational obligation. Yes, the younger you start, you have more time to develop technique, learn all the songs, fine tune and evolve. However, being a foreigner to this art, it has been welcoming and insightful to my personal journey – allowing me to break free of some cultural shyness and empower myself. Flamenco has unearthed some part of my identity, and guided me, opening doors along the way.

| Valentina La Morena |

The Roots of My Rhythm

I think my first dance memories come from my Mom and I singing and dancing around the house to Pakistani music. I only have a shadow of these memories, but they are still there. Hopefully, one day I can unlock the full picture and more. Other times include when my parents would dance to the Lambada by Kaoma – obviously they didn’t dance a lambada as they would in Brazil, but they did their own version of feeling the music and enjoying it. Growing up in Southern Ontario, I remember my dad taking my brother, sister and I to a Pow Wow on the Six Nations Territory in Caledonia – the powerful rhythm of the drum and each step of the dancers, resonated so deeply within me.

In elementary school and high school, air bands were a popular aspect of my dance nurturing. Between the Spice Girls and the 90’s boy bands, we were never in shortage of choreography and songs to learn, dress up and perform for our classmates or entire school. So, early on, I got a taste of how much I love dance and choreography and the challenge of keeping up. In high school, I had a longing for being a part of the Step Squad, however, internal forces like my own shyness, self-limiting beliefs, and external pressures like only “cool kids” got to audition or be part of it, or that I was still a visible minority (but not the cool kind) steered me away from taking a stand and going to an audition, plus my own self-image and dealing with my mother’s death, kept me focused on what I was good at: school, and community service.

However within all of that, I have very fond memories of going to all ages nights with my bestie throughout high school, or rockin’ it with my glow sticks at a high school dance or at the Toronto Caribana Festival every August. These experiences allowed me to embrace the rhythm and flow of energy through my body, slowly awakening my essence.

Live. Learn. Be Brave. Find your Path.

I don’t know if it’s my Pakistani roots, a past life…or just the true essence of my soul, that I am born to dance. I come alive from hearing percussive sounds, and fill with joy when I feel the bass in my bones, or a song that resonates in my depths.

Although as a child I felt this urge to dance, my parents put me in piano and soccer lessons – where I was to focus on those skills. Being from a submissive culture, where there is no room for being open minded and where you don’t challenge what your parents think is good for you, I never explored my feelings about dance and succumbed to being shy, quiet and introverted. I remember taking a jazz class just once during the summertime – a program put on for low income communities, and I seemed to enjoy it very much. However, I’d say that cultural and religious pressure kept me focusing on my academic path of “doing well in school” so I could make my family proud and get a good job…like be a doctor or a UN ambassador someday (true aspirations).

I wish so hard that I had had a way to nurture my dancing soul and let it shine, so I could show that potential to my parents. But…as it appears, artists in my family are not common, and definitely not supported…so even if they had the potential, they would have never blossomed into an artist for me to see it.

My brother has a lot of skill in sketching since he was a little child, and welcomed teenagehood, teaching himself electric guitar, and then acoustic! My dad never supported him once, or acknowledged the talents of his son! Just complained of the “noise” my brother made with his scratchy amp…and instead of giving up a case of beer once in a while to gift him some good sound equipment, he constantly put him down and made him feel like he wasn’t enough. My mom, seeing the beauty of her child, was very open to my brother’s artistic talents, but I still feel that deep in her heart, she still wanted him to excel in math and English so he could “do well” in school and then get a good job.

So, is that all parents care about? Good grades in the institutionalized education system we have? I know since the 90’s things have changed, however, I believe we really need the unconditional love and nurturing support of our parents to have that open door to explore our heart’s desires, without them questioning or steering you off of it.

Back to me. So…wishing hard doesn’t really change your circumstances – you just have to create the life you want. Yeah…how? Your strict, immigrant, low-income, Catholic parents don’t have or give you the resources to show you how. I will come back to this later. I only realize now that I am where I am because of the decisions I’ve made – so yes, because of my circumstances my path has been maybe more windy than some others, but at least I have listened to my heart and steered myself back on course. So, I don’t blame my parents anymore. I’m learning to be grateful for my struggle and embrace my dance story; that it’s unique and solely mine…all obstacles and opportunities included.

The seed was planted, but how did I grow?

I was a dedicated student and member of my church and local community throughout my childhood and adolescent years. Losing my Mom at 15 really woke me up to the realities of life and many other things. I learned how to live life with a big grain of salt. And although my naivety sticks with me in tiny amounts now…it took me years to really wake up and smell the bullshit, hypocrisy and ingenuity of most people, and replace it with courage, strength, love and light. I realized, I only have me, and I have to follow my heart – no one else is going to do it.

My childhood passions for social justice, community development and language really allowed me to listen to my heart and explore the world through music and dance.

Merengue in El Cacao and Sundays in La Habana

I would say that I didn’t really have my first “dance lesson experience” until I visited the Dominican Republic during the last two weeks of my summer vacation after graduating high school…just before heading off to university. I was staying with a family in the mountains outside Santo Domingo in a small coffee-growing village called El Cacao. It rained heavily for a few days as we were approaching hurricane season. As the mom prepared a big lunch for the homecoming of her son from studying in Cuba, the two young girls in the family, maybe 9 or 10 years old…put on some music and taught me how to dance merengue! It was amazing! Merengue is just like walking on the spot, but with the right flavour, you’re dancing! The son Eli, came home and danced with me a little and showed me a little more…and then taught me the basics of bachata, the traditional dance of the Dominican Republic…it was like a door opened and dance just flooded through.

That evening, to celebrate more, Eli took me and the other volunteer to a bar in the village where I didn’t get a chance to sit much as many of the guys kept grabbing me for a dance. I could see Eli noticing my hesitation after one guy wanted to hold onto me for more than two songs…and a merengue can last ten minutes sometimes! He told me not to worry and tell the guys “solo un baile!” (Only one dance!). What an experience! It was an exciting time to experience this – the cultural exchange and hunger from the locals but also the reality of what traditional social dancing and dance culture (outside of the Western dance institution, theatre performance, or clubbing) is about. I must add that I was still an innocent, naive young woman…who was just starting to explore the world in person…rather than through books, news and movies.

Coming back to Canada from this trip and entering university I felt curious about Hispanic culture and dance. I had a Cuban housemate during my first year of university, who showed me some basics of Cuban salsa, and it was only in my second year at Dalhousie that I started taking salsa classes with Cindy & Danny at Halifax Salseros and flamenco (Read More! link to Flamenco post) with Evelyn at El Viento Flamenco. At first, I enjoyed learning new dance steps and styles because I enjoyed the rhythm and music. I suppose we call this self-expression. Dance was and is the way I express myself.

In 2005 I went to Cuba for a three month exchange as part of my International Development Studies program. Although I didn’t take any dance classes there, I did enjoy going out to as many live music shows, dance parties and clubs which offer such lively, exciting ambience and a true local experience. The Afro-Cuban worship at Callejon de Hamel every Sunday in Centro Habana is an unforgettable experience. The rawness of the Afro-Cuban percussion and singing to the Orishas, calls to a place deep within you and plants those rhythms there for you to carry on.

Returning to Halifax from this exchange, I continued with salsa, African and flamenco classes. Each dance form bringing out different emotions and parts of my personality. Salsa is fun and social; African, earthy and liberating, especially for me who is shy (but I never went in the centre of the circle in those beginning years); and flamenco, for many reasons – challenging footwork, confidence, beautiful, feminine outfits, and raw expression.

Dancing from the Depths

Each dance has taught me, shaped me and helped me grow as a person and an artist.

So, after all that I feel, and after all that I have learned, there are many questions about where I go from here? And…who am I really? Am I a dancer?

I am not what is called, a “professional dancer,” or a “trained dancer.” I have a lot of respect for the beautiful souls who have dedicated their lives to the art of graceful movement, and so don’t consider myself a dancer in the institutionalized form.

I might not have much turn out or flexibility, but I’d say I have an inner fire and exceptional rhythm, that stand with their own unique purpose.

So, I can only express myself: I am a dancer. I am a mover, a feeler, an interpreter.

Today, although I am most passionate about flamenco, my soul likes to dance to different rhythms. So, I also dedicate my time to bachata (traditional), kizomba and salsa, while still learning about many other styles of dance and movement. I’ve explored ballet, barefoot ecstatic, belly dance, African, samba, tango and many Latin American folk dances (Peru, Mexico, Colombia) to enrich my style and expression.

I have been a very shy person for most of my life, however, through dance, performance and exploring my own self-limiting beliefs, I’ve been able to let go of some of that shyness, and embrace my true self-expression – being proud to share my expression, without letting ego take over.

We all have a story. There are hills and valleys, and some serious mountains to climb; then there are all the beautiful encounters that paint the journey with colour and energy! We are a sum of every moment until now; life is dynamic and vibrant – teaching us, pleasuring us, and opening doors to all the possibilities.

|Audrey|

The Brave Hummingbird

 

Rosas en el Gran Retiró, MadridWhy colibrí?

In Spanish, colibrí translates to hummingbird. I admire the hummingbird. They are petite yet have an impact with their speedy little wings and silky colourful feathers. They are fierce fighters (when need be), but also have deeper representation in the animal and spirit world.

I have been inspired by the hummingbird since many years ago when I first came across a short story, which finds its origins with the Quechuan people in South America: Flight of the Hummingbird: a Parable for the Environment by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.

Kenyan Environmental Activist Wangari Maanthai tells the story here: I will be a Hummingbird.

We are constantly being bombarded by problems that we face and sometimes we can get completely overwhelmed.

The story of the hummingbird is about this huge forest being consumed by a fire. All the animals in the forest come out and they are transfixed as they watch the forest burning and they feel very overwhelmed, very powerless, except this little hummingbird. It says, ‘I’m going to do something about the fire!’ So it flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire, and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can.

In the meantime all the other animals, much bigger animals like the elephant with a big trunk that could bring much more water, they are standing there helpless. And they are saying to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too little and your beak is so small that you can only bring a small drop of water at a time.’

But as they continue to discourage it, it turns to them without wasting any time and it tells them, ‘I am doing the best I can.’

And that to me is what all of us should do. We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet goes down the drain. I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can.

This story has always inspired me to never give up and do what I can – no matter how “little” I think I am or how little I think I am doing – if we all bring our own drops of water, it will put out the fire.

| Audrey |