Would You Be Willing... To Live Life in Truth!

My Stories

The Coping Game: Bet Diening-Weatherston’s Healing Journey

Contributing Author to “Living the Journey” by Brandon Bays

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“I’m sure glad we cut that mole off, Bet,” said my doctor, “because you’ve got melanoma!”

What??? !

How does a person who is surrounded by a loving family, who lives in the most beautiful place on the planet, who eats organically and who is physically active, get such a life-threatening form of cancer?  I’m the one sitting in the shade with a hat on for God’s sake… it makes no sense at all!

Until I looked at the way I stuffed my emotions…

The fierceness of emotions has always taken my breath away.  Emotions overwhelm me – it’s as if the circuitry in my body and mind blitz out, clamping my throat shut, stealing my words.  Having control over my feelings meant I just might not fall apart in public, or in private for that matter.  And my gut knew that I couldn’t go on living this way.

One of my mom’s mantras was, “Make somebody else happy so that you can be happy!”  I remember feeling that it was my job to keep everybody happy, all 6 billion of them, so that I could rest, feel peace and reassure myself that life wasn’t too scary to experience wholeheartedly.  It felt like an impossible job – and yet I took on this task with such passion and conviction that it took melanoma smacking me over the head to make me  pay attention… to me!

My dad, on the other hand, reminded me that for me to take care of my needs was “selfish and there are enough selfish people on the planet, thank you very much!”  So, as you may appreciate, the double whammy set me up for running around hoping to save all of humanity – except, of course, myself.

My parents are beautiful people, well intentioned, conditioned by their birth families, society, life, and they truly felt that they were guiding us to our highest and best.  Unfortunately, I never questioned the truth of their words, nor their impact on me and others, until I stopped long enough to notice what I was really experiencing at the core of my being.

I was born December 15th, 1960, the last of eight kids, to a recently immigrated family from Holland.  My mom was five months pregnant with me when the entire entourage packed up their belongings and moved into a two-bedroom bungalow in Don Mills, Ontario.  My parents felt that Canada would be the proverbial land of opportunity for all of us children.  I’m pretty sure that my experience of this move-while-in-utero was a chemical soup of fear, anxiety, sadness, excitement and overwhelm.  It seems to me that I was born scared, with a visceral need to take care of everyone else so that I would start to feel safe and connected.

I remember at a very young age being absolutely petrified of not being able to figure out time’, where the universe began and ended, what the purpose of being born was. Who was God, and fundamentally who was I?  Whenever I read a book that had the word God in it I would put my finger over it (I’d already read it, though!) so as not to start this obsessive thinking again and again.  The mind is a master game player, and mine was on overdrive.

There are some Dutch expressions that are relevant to the strategies I adopted in order to cope with this terror, since being this afraid was not tolerated.  (The Dutch are good at this coping game.)  The gist of the messages I learned from my culture was basically to get over myself and to accept that there were no definitive answers, no matter how hard I tried to figure this all out.  Not that this advice helped at all. I would still lie in bed, eyes wide open, in a cold sweat, trying not to feel the phenomenal vastness of the universe, which scared the soul out of me.  I even made a deal with my sister that as long as she would groan out a response now and again, I would keep talking until I fell asleep. It never worked; she was out cold by the time her head hit the pillow and I was forced to face the terrifying abyss alone.

I remember asking my Dad, asking a priest, asking a minister, asking just about anybody I could engage with, to give me the answers… I needed the answers… I was desperate for the answers… so I could get some sleep.  Nobody had them.  How could this be?  The question haunted me.

Stubborn, and determined to get some relief from the terror, I chose another way to cope: as well as a seeker, I became an athlete.  I figured out that when I got myself so unbelievably tired that my body would crash out in exhaustion, my mind would be robbed of any opportunity to engage in this game called, “Who Am I?”  By now I was about seven years old and had already created a plethora of strategies to avoid the intensity of emotions.  And soon after that I applied the best strategy of all:  I became an observer of life and a voice for others, not myself the one who has it all together and can look on from the sidelines with a faint smile of superiority on her face…

I learned that it wasn’t safe to feel, that feelings set me up for ridicule, and that meant there was no way in hell my emotions were going to come to the surface for all to see. Except of course when I got embarrassed and my face would turn beet red.  I learned that my body had a mind of its own and would expose me to others, and expose my game to myself, without my permission… it felt like a traitor.  I was so keen to control the inner workings of the body, so that the world would buy my façade of having it together.  What a joke!

I also learned to use humor to cope. Some of the best guffaws I’ve had were during the most intense moments, when the emotions I felt were over the top.  Laughing life away seemed to shave the pointy edges off, making existence more palatable and ultimately safe.  Humor, tinged with sarcasm or mixed with a flavor of self-deprecation, helped keep me believing that I was at the helm of my experiences, and not at the whim of life’s cruel jokes.

I learned that I cared too much, loved too much, worried too much about things I had no control over.  It was an exhausting way to experience life, as I was constantly stuffing down how I truly felt in the hopes that I wouldn’t have to experience it fully.

One of my other jobs in life was to fix everybody, as it was clear in our birth family that we had our act together and the rest of the world was broken.  Now, please remember that our family was working with the best tools we had at the time, and it never occurred to me that this concept was completely flawed.  So I set about fixing the world, having noticed (from the sidelines) that there were patterns that constantly repeated themselves.

Imagine how happy people were to learn from me that they could use some tweaking… if only they could see how much better they’d feel once they’d changed!  I remember a boss of mine, exasperated, stating once, “Sure, you can quit working for me and go someplace else – only to meet another ‘me’ at your next job and set up the same problems”.  It was the classic example of, “No matter where you go, there you are!” Finally I began to realize that the common thread to my problems and conflicts was me.

Good intentions be damned… I was at the core of my own upheaval.  I began to realize that perhaps the Diening way wasn’t the only way, and probably not the best way, to be.  Cam, my husband, is a patient man, and over the past 26 years has been trying to point out that maybe, just maybe, there are other opinions out there that work just fine. That it’s none of my business how the rest of the human race is doing, nor is it my right to advise humanity on how to get its act together.

I sometimes cringe at my own arrogance. I am thoroughly embarrassed and it makes me blush to wonder how many people I have railroaded or derailed in life.  Thank Life for Forgiveness!

Soon after acknowledging that it was me causing me my own grief, and after learning that I had “in-situ” melanoma, I was introduced to Brandon Bays’ book, The Journey.  It intrigued me and pulled me in… and being an experiential learner I decided to travel to Ottawa to join a small group of my family members at this enormously, overwhelmingly, phenomenally emotional Journey Intensive.  Holy #@$!.

My first process had me matched me up with a gentleman who had experienced my worst nightmare… the death of his child 16 years before.  I choked my way through “his” process, clinging to the script like a lifeline to hope… hope that he would not be destroyed by the experience and hope that I wouldn’t implode.  It baffles me to this day how we sobbed our way through his pain, his loss, his guilt, his unbelievable grief, to peace and acceptance… gifts unfathomable to me.  I was gobsmacked by the transition that I witnessed and co-facilitated: from utter despair to elation… in a matter of maybe two hours.

My second process taught me another invaluable lesson.  The partner that I had for round two was completely disengaged from the experience, and I thought, oh man, this is going to be awkward –  me with an aversion to being emotionally exposed, sharing an intimate experience with what felt like a fence post.  And I learned that it really has nothing to do with the other person.  That it really is all about me… nobody else… and that not only is that okay, it is necessary to acknowledge that I am responsible for only my own wellbeing.  What a relief.  I just shaved off 5,999,999,999 other people off my to do list.

My third process that weekend offered me yet another ‘Aha moment: discovering that at the same time I had been emptying out my unfinished business with my mom in my process, she was having an almost identical conversation with my sisters around the breakfast table in British Columbia. How could that be??  I used to joke that if there were ever any ‘thought police’ I’d get arrested… What a lesson to realize that not only do our thoughts travel energetically (5000 kms), but even the content of the story can be available to the one we are connecting with internally.  Yikes!

And so I was hooked, in a good way, on joining The Journey Practitioners Program.

During the Practitioners Program, one of the most profound processes I experienced exorcised an inner vision that had haunted me for almost a decade.  About eight years previously a friend of mine had asked me if I had ever meditated before, and I had said that my attention span didn’t allow me to sit long enough to relax.  Deep down I knew that meditating would encourage me to feel and see things that I had put under wraps.  On that occasion eight years before, though, for whatever reason, I agreed to give it a try.

It makes me weep to this day remembering the vision that had appeared when I got still:  A little two-year-old boy, dressed in a white shirt and dungarees, is swinging his arms like he is an airplane; and I know that he dies in the next scene.  In my absolute heart of hearts I know that if I swivel my head to the right, I will see some catastrophic vision of innocence being wiped off the planet.  And I can’t force myself to face it. 

I finished my meditation sobbing, not being able to articulate what had just happened.  When my friend, connecting with my devastation, said, “I know, I know!” I choked out, “Know what?!  What was that and who was that little boy?” And I broke down.  Though no such event has occurred in my present lifetime, my gut knew that he was my son in a prior life, and that it was my fault that he died that day.

Not until The Journey process some eight years later did I visit this scene again:  I plunge into grief and sadness as I am invited to turn my head to face what’s there.  My son, floating with his blond hair, face down, in a pond, dead!  It was on my watch that he died. I didn’t protect him from himself and he drowned.  To this day it makes me shudder, the wail that escaped from my soul as I went into the pond and picked up his soaking wet body and begged him for forgiveness.  I moaned out that I was so sorry that he died alone, in cold water, while I sat on the grassy hill watching him play.  I hurled curses at myself for robbing him of his life due to my negligence  it was my fault that he was gone… my son…my beautifully gorgeous son.

Is this memory real?  Who knows? Who cares! It feels real! It was definitely a part of my story and it explains so much about how I have raised our two sons.  I have smothered our boys and kept them close by just in case’.  I have said a resounding “NO!” to so many opportunities so that they are nearby and safe.  I have controlled their lives so that I can feel like everything’s going to be okay, because I wouldn’t want to be me if they died.  I couldn’t go through that experience again.

By the end of this process I had showered myself with forgiveness and could breathe a little more easily, having let go of the stranglehold that pain had had on my heart.  After I left that course, I mourned the loss of this beautiful little being and honored the short time that we shared together.  His name was James.

And so, I put out a fierce intention to turn and face whatever else lay lurking under the radar, now knowing that there must be more that I had stuffed away.  Wow… what an invitation to the Universe.  That invitation has been fully answered, I have continued to find and let go of the hidden pain running my oh-so-safe, oh-so-vigilant, observing-from-the-sidelines coping game.  And now I no longer need to be a spectator in my own life.

Now I am free to be who my soul has wanted me to be. The clarity of my life’s purpose, discovered and unraveled during the final Practitioners Week, has helped me finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up!  I want to be a being who explores and shares Truth with humility, forgiveness, laughter, love and hope.  I have a desire to share these qualities with whoever feels called to clear their stuff so that they can live life fully. I want to hang out with those folks who feel the same way I do.

I now am so willing to help co-create a major shift in consciousness for all of us – so willing that it makes my head spin.  I have a passion to share these Journey tools, especially with the First Nations Peoples all over the world, most specifically in Canada.  I hope to empower others to be their own voice, to laugh more, to play full on and have fun. That’s what I want to be/do as I grow up. Finally, I’m not afraid to live anymore.

And so I began to show up…

As part of the Practitioners Program, we are required to do 45 case studies.  I remember two very profound experiences that have been etched into my being.

First, I worked with a woman who was terminally ill with cancer.  For me to actually step into the room of a dying patient is a testament to this work in itself.  I would never have dreamed that possible for me, to welcome this kind of shift to occur…

I started by sharing with my client that death scared the heck out of me and that I was willing to work through my own fears with her.  I asked her if she would be willing to allow me the honor of being with her as she turned and faced her fears.

We shared four lovely sessions together before she died, and this is what I learned: she was brave; she was curious to discover what gifts lay in the tumors; she did not give up hope; she was incredibly grateful for our times together as she completed emotionally with family and friends, opening doors that had been previously shut; she died peacefully in the company of her family, from whom she had been estranged.  At her deathbed I noticed that she wore a thumb ring, and it struck me that there was a way to honor her and to remind myself to be grateful for all that life has on offer.  So, I too, now wear such a ring.

This is what I learned about myself: I showed up, four times, and once more in her palliative care room, two days before she passed on. I was at peace with myself, with life and especially with the little boy who drowned. I realized that I had an inner strength that I hadn’t credited myself with and I knew that I’d be okay… that our sons would be okay… that 6 billion people on the planet would thrive, even without my help.

The other incredibly profound experience I had while leading a Journey process was when I seemed to step viscerally into a client’s memory.  The scenes were vivid, the emotions unbelievably intense, and the terror breathtaking. All I could do was be a witness to this event.  It was like being part of a movie and not being able to do a thing to stop it, change it or to be protected from the battle that ensued.  My whole body engaged in somebody else’s life story, albeit from the sidelines, and bore witness to the atrocities of their memories.

My client moved through her memory only to experience many more during our session together.  It felt like we were on a scavenger hunt, collecting up meaningful lessons that could be applied, with clarity and assuredness, to this life stream. To this day, she remains focused and joyful about her contributions to society.

And still I knew there was more…

When Kevin Billett, Brandon Bays’ husband and CEO of The Journey worldwide, announced that he was going to start a Visionary Leadership series, I misunderstood and thought that he was going to target companies and corporations, which held no interest for me whatsoever.  The part that I misunderstood was that it held no interest for me.

I remember peeking through the crack of the door during their first introductory meeting and wondering when the meeting was going to be over so that I could play with those in attendance.  My gut kept saying, Bet, you know you should be in there”, and I tootled off smugly telling my gut to take a rest.  Enough with clearing blocks and limiting beliefs already… What about integrating the past yearandahalf’s experiences and just coasting for a while?

Nope, not meant to be!

I can’t clearly remember how I ended up sitting in the audience at the first Visionary Leadership course; and somehow my body and being knew to show up.  Of course, once you start something, you may as well go whole hog and so I bounded into the whole four-part program.

Here’s where I learned: that there is no room for hiding out from yourself or your audiences, as you stand in complete exposure on stage, speaking from passion and Truth.  At one point I remember using humor to deflect how I was really feeling during my soliloquy in-front of 20 plus people, and Kevin had me stop and start again.  Geesh!  It’s amazing how the body knows to stay put, to try again, to honor itself in the name of leadership instead of bolting for the door in shame.

Partway through the Leadership series, Kevin offered five one-day sessions for anyone interested in sharing a day with him as coach.  It was like somebody had catapulted me up onto the stage and before I could stop the words from spilling out of my mouth I asked him if he’d be willing to share one of those days with me… the eighth of eight kids… the little one – and he said, “Sure, I’d love to!”  And, ever the eloquent speaker, I said, “Really!?”

Now I’m not one to go goo-gaa over other people, and I had a hard time figuring out why he’d said yes.  So, I dove into my Journey tool kit and did some process work on not feeling good enough, not screwing up, not wasting anybody’s time, making the most of the opportunity and whatever else I could think of that would honor his generous gift.

It changed my life…

We met and had coffee at Starbucks, where Kevin gently elicited what was going on in my world at the time.  My friend’s husband had just passed away. I was incapacitated by her grief, as I was witness to the love they so openly shared, and felt their overwhelming sadness as his body gave way to cancer.  I knew that this love and sadness were not theirs but my own.  I also knew that I wanted to face this grief so that I could be of service to others who faced the same intensity of emotions.

During my day with Kevin, he asked me if I was good at asking for help and I snapped my head up and said, “Nope!”  “Okay,” he responded, “Would you be willing to make a ‘Can’t List’ of the things you can’t ask help for, and who you can’t ask this help from, and then go and ask them?”

I thought, are you serious?

During our conversation over coffee I shared some of my teaching history and how being in the Arctic had been an everything experience.  Some of the life lessons I had learned while working with the Inuit were profoundly simple to me. Kevin, moved, said I had inspired him to suggest that I become involved with the Social Certification Program in Canada.  My tongue and mind got all twisted up; very ineloquently I announced that I didn’t want him to be inspired and me dependent on his inspiration, as he was then in control of whether or not this opportunity would come to fruition. I wanted to be inspired by inspiration itself and by not a human being!

Oh boy… did I stay awake that night.  I was completely embarrassed by how ungracious I’d been to him.  He had just given me a day of his time to coach me and here I was negotiating with how I wanted the gift to appear.  And I couldn’t talk to him about it – I just couldn’t. I was too ashamed to talk to him and hear his answer. Then I realized that he was the first person on my Can’t List.  So I decided to show up.

Meeting up with everyone for breakfast the next morning, I asked him if I could walk him to the elevator. I wanted to know if he felt that I had offended him in any way and he immediately said, “No! Of course you want to be inspired by inspiration!”  End of story… No story… No waste of energy wondering if… what a relief!

I have used this Can’t List tool on many occasions and it has opened up countless doors and opportunities for me. It is only our perception that we couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t possibly be able to… whatever!  I urge you to try it.  In some weird, twisted way it’s kind of fun!

Since May 2009 I have been blessed with many opportunities to be “lead trainer” (coordinating the logistics and holding the energetic space for the presenter) at various Journey and Leadership events in both Canada and the United States.  At the first such event, I gulped and said, “So does this job come with a manual… a how-to?” and was gently told, “Nope, just open to what is needed in the moment”.  And so I did.  And I have loved every experience so far as this work continues to evolve, allowing me to connect more of the dots together in deeper realizations of Truth.

One of the newly created Leadership processes is designed to slice through, with laser sharp accuracy, a set of stacked limiting beliefs, which rest on a core belief.  At the heart of this belief is likely some phobia or plain fear around (you fill in the blank).  Mine was death.  For my entire life I have been phobic about death… mainly others’ deaths, as I was afraid that I would plunge into such profound grief that I would stay stuck in this living nightmare. As a result, I have spent 49½ years strategizing to keep myself, my loved ones and the rest of the folks on the planet safe and alive.

During this process, my partner invited me to feel the enormous terror of death, and immediately I became that seven-year-old little girl again, lying in my bed in a cold sweat. At some point it felt like I was floating out in the vast universe, when my partner asked, “and Who Are You in the vastness?” Off to my left, I noticed a fireball of light which had little sparks of light coming from it. Suddenly I knew that this exquisite globe was love itself and that the tiny sparks were beings headed off to earth as messengers of this Love… and that I was one of them.

I had feared death all of my life, yet what I came to realize is that it’s not death that I am afraid of, it’s the fierceness of love that has had a stranglehold on my heart.  When someone or something dies, it is the absence of their love that I fear… not the death itself.  When I turned to face this Love, it obliterated me, shattering me into a million atoms.  And I felt peace like never before.  I am Love. You are Love… That’s really all that matters.  Everything else is simply a game of pain, separating us from that which we are at our core… LOVE.  No wonder I love my family so much and animals, and the planet.  It’s a love fest!!!

So, back to where we started, with the melanoma.  Even though it’s true I burn easily because of my skin type, I believe that at the core of this cancer, for me, was a disconnect from this all-encompassing love… the fear of losing this love through death… or of being consumed completely by its ferocity.

I have no intentions of broiling my body with baby oil out in the sun to test this theory, and where the melanoma was found has never seen the light of day… so, you decide.  In any case, I got the growth surgically removed, and felt extraordinarily blessed and mightily relieved that the cancer was contained and the operation a full success.

A very wise practitioner said to me one day, “Bet, you know why you got melanoma?”  Sheepishly, I said “No”.  She said, “You got melanoma because you need to make friends with the sun, you need to tell the sun you love her… and spend ten minutes a day facing the sun and absorbing her energy”.

How true these words are… I choose to turn and face me, tell me I love me and spend at least ten minutes a day celebrating my life, in love and in service.

And, so I do… I show up in life, I use any and all the tools I can get my awareness connected to, for myself and others.  I run through the trails, I crank up the tunes and dance like nobody’s watching. I say outrageous things to make myself and others laugh… laughing is so good for the soul, I believe it heals all.  I make dates with my husband, my sons Jorin and Connor, and I celebrate… I live in gratitude even when I’m in a pissy mood, because that too is welcome.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of spending a week with Jorin (18 ½ years old) at a cattle ranch in the interior of British Columbia.  He’d been studying in Ontario for the past year, and I realized that since he was born we hadn’t spent any just-Mom-and-Jorin alone time.  So I made this date with him and it was beautiful.

We were making dinner together when he decided to let me know that he felt that I was abandoning Cam and Connor with all of the traveling that I’d been doing.  He expressed quite vehemently that I wasn’t there enough for Connor like I should be, and that I needed to go back to how I used to be.  Tenderly, I asked him why.  He burst into tears, saying, “I miss my Mom!” and it broke my heart one more time as I was sitting right there next to him. I hugged him and said, “I’m right here Jor, I haven’t gone anywhere… it’s still me.  I’ve just changed in that I am no longer that controlling, crazy lady that you used to know, and it’s giving both you and me a lot more freedom”.  So, he expressed how he missed the influence I’d had in shaping his life and was concerned that that guidance wasn’t going to be available to Connor.  I told him how I missed being the mom to a younger him, and how much I had loved that role in his life. By the end of our conversation he realized that my cutting the stranglehold of control over both my sons actually gave us all more authentic freedom than the games I used to play.  He thanked me and honored how happy I am now.  I expressed how much more breathing space was available to everyone now that I had worked through major clumps of my fear.

The next morning the Universe would provide us with a concretizing lesson on how this shift played out.

I was reluctant to leave him all alone up on the ranch, in the middle of nowhere, with nobody looking out for him, in the heart of cougar and bear country.  Not only was the location dicey but his job required him to go into the fields to run the irrigation pipes and motors as well as traveling by ATV through vast tracts of land.  Oh boy… nothing like pushing Mommy’s buttons… so I tentatively asked him if he’d like me to stay a few days longer so we could continue enjoying each other’s company and so that I wouldn’t have to worry about him.

Jorin proudly announced that he was going to go it alone and that it was okay for me to go back home to be with Cam and Con.  Now, normally I would pretend that everything is fine, that I’m good, and that life is ticking along beautifully… no matter how I really felt.  This time, the floodgates opened up as I choked out that I would miss him horribly and that I wished him a safe time.

I could hardly see through the tears as I drove down the switch-backed mountains headed for home.  I cried for a good half hour, sobbing my way down the mountain as I felt the umbilical cord stretch to near breaking point, when I noticed a message on my cell. “Mom, if it makes you happy, turn the car around and come on back!”  Man, was I tempted, but  my gut knew that the best thing for the two of us was for me to hit the gas pedal and to keep heading for the coast.  When I spoke with Jorin I explained that this was exactly what I was talking about.  The old me would have raced back and held him tight out of fear and love.  Now, I was able to continue towards home out of freedom and love.  He got it. I got it!  And we both survived to learn that in honoring each other’s wishes, the world has so many rich experiences for us to learn from.

I asked Connor how he and I could spend some one-on-one time, and he invited me to read a book to him every night… just like we did when he was younger.  It’s amazing how much room a 17-year-old kid takes up when lying together compared to when he was tiny… and it warms my heart to know that this connection of love still exists, actually never goes away and is constantly available to be shared… when we remember.

Cam continues to be unbelievably supportive of my adventures. We’ve had many a conscious conversation about how he feels in my absence, and like the boys, he has noticed a fundamental shift in how much happier I am.  He misses me, I miss him and that’s perfectly okay.  I recognize that it is not my responsibility to make him happy either, and it’s my pleasure to grow old together with him as long as life offers us the opportunity.  These powerful tools that allow a mom like me to love my family without fear of losing them are a gift beyond measure and one that is a pleasure for me to share with anyone willing to show up in their own lives.

And, so life goes on.  Every day is a surprise, a gift, an opportunity to choose to live life in gratitude.  Some days are more fun than others and each day is perfect.  The tools that I have learned by becoming an Accredited Journey Practitioner and a Conscious Leadership Coach serve me well.  It is my wish to share them with others.

It’s a beautiful thing, this Freedom is…and it’s an invitation for us all to actively choose what we want to experience and offer in life.  So, what do you want, really, really want, to experience in life? These tools will help you clear away misconceptions and limiting beliefs, allowing you to realize that the best gift in life…is you!  You are what you seek. Call the search off.  You are IT!

Bet Diening-Weatherston, her husband Cam and two sons, Jorin and Connor, live in a self-built timber-frame home in the rainforests of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.  When she is not travelling throughout North America as a Lead Trainer and Visionary Leadership presenter for The Journey and Conscious Company, Bet teaches a two- week seminar called “The Leader Within” for Employment Canada, inspiring clients to get passionate about their livelihoods.  Visit her website at www.wouldyoubewilling.com.

 

 

Natuashish, Labrador…Home of the Mushua Innu

Innu

… meaning ‘human being’ are a group of approximately 2200 indigenous people, known as the Innu of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish (previously referred to as the Montagnais and Naskapi/Mushuau tribes respectively) of Labrador, NFLD, Canada. Sheshatshiu Innu reside predominately in Sheshatshiu while the Mushuau Innu inhabit the settlement now known as Natuashish (formerly located in Davis Inlet). Other pockets of Innu settlements can be found scattered throughout parts of Labrador, on the main island of Newfoundland and throughout areas of eastern Quebec. Living in such isolated areas of Canada has provided the Innu with both opportunities and hardships as these nomadic people have shifted from a more independent, traditional lifestyle to one of co-dependence.

For thousands of years, the Mushuau Innu, (“people of the barrens”) were a nomadic people who lived off the land following the migratory routes of the caribou throughout this region. The caribou, considered to be the most important of all spirits in the Innu religion, provided them with food, clothing and spiritual meaning. By the early 1900’s the European traders, the Catholic Church and the Canadian Federal Government had greatly influenced the lifestyle and location of these people.

Diseases, brought to these isolated areas through outside influences, decimated much of the population leaving the Innu vulnerable and weak. Over trapping of the wildlife by the non-Innu hunters left little for the locals to use for food, shelter and tools. The goal of the missionaries was to ‘civilize’ these people by converting them to Christianity and by purging them of their traditional beliefs and language. Building settlements, paid for and encouraged by the Canadian government’s desire to mainstream this group into society and to show a Canadian stronghold in the North, created dependence so profound that traditional ways were all but lost.

By the 1940-50’s the Innu were desperate; they gave up on the traditional nomadic lifestyle and lived in settlements. Utshimassit-more commonly referred to as Davis Inlet, is the classic example of what can and did go awry with the Mushuau people.

Loss of purpose, increased frustration, boredom and a crumbled dignity were only some of the factors that contributed to the rampant dysfunction. Subsistence living, welfare, homes without running water or flush toilets set the stage for abuse, abuse that would continue from one generation to the next. Alcohol and drug dependency clouded and numbed out the pain as the lives that they had known for centuries faded away. The situation became abysmal.

By 2002 the Canadian Federal Government, at the behest of the Innu Nation, made a decision to move these folks of Davis Inlet, 17 kilometers west, to the town now known as Natuashish. This move was meant to restore health, wealth and dignity to a once proud people.

It was quickly realized that moving them from one settlement to the next may have provided for their physical comforts but did nothing to help heal their emotional scars so profoundly ingrained and habituated. These emotional needs would eventually bring them to their knees.

The Canadian Federal Government has since spent millions of dollars attempting to ‘fix’ the social problems of the Innu with little success. Suicide rates are amongst the highest in Canada, abuses of self and others are common, success within the education system is marginal, and the morale of the town’s people remains bleak. Taking the initiative, the previous chief decided to make some changes that continue to be of influence on his peoples’ wellbeing and their hope for the future.

Former Chief Prote Poker, shared how he had been moved by the children’s plea to help make their homes and streets safe and nurturing once again. Declaring the town to be “Dry” (no alcohol) was met with great anger and hostility and yet he persevered. Calling his friend and colleague Patrick Bernard, they decided that using Journey processes and Conscious Leadership skills could catalyze enough of a shift to swing the healing pendulum toward positive change.

Patrick and Betty Bernard, two Canadian Aboriginal Journey Practitioners and Conscious Leadership Coaches, have since helped introduce Journey skills to this community.

The Journey, founded by Brandon Bays, “has helped thousands of people worldwide free themselves from issues like fear, anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, chronic anger and rage, physical illnesses and disease, and those relating to addictions and unhealthy behaviours, sexual abuse, relationship problems and career performance.

Using The Journey methods ordinary people achieve extraordinary results, no matter their age, background, culture or upbringing. The Journey is hailed as a universal teaching, the only one of its kind. It’s practical, user-friendly and down-to-earth – and it gets the deepest of results!” Brandon Bays

For months, Patrick and Betty had gone to Natuashish and had worked both one on one and with small groups empowering the local Innu with these healing tools. Once there was enough interest amongst the community members, a group of Journey Practitioners were invited in June and then again in November ’09 to support a Journey Intensive, an Advanced Skills Day and a Liberating Your Child’s Shining Potential with the residents of both Natuashish and nearby Sheshatshiu. Skip Lackey, senior practitioner and trainer for North America, was supported by a cast of Practitioners: Patrick and Betty Bernard, Bob Levy, Marie-Sylvie Roy, Mireille Pelletier, Debbie Clarke, Annette Nolan, Lesley Strutt, Colby Tootoosis, Lara Sohrweid, Lori Beatty and me, Bet Diening-Weatherston, for the various weeks’ experiences.

In June over 75 members attended, approximately 10% of the population for, most or all, of the four-day event. A kaleidoscope of emotions came into the arena as the delegates sat in anticipation of what we had to offer that would assuage their suffering. Skip chose to deliver his messages wrapped in the safety of humour so that the lessons and teachings would be received and integrated. We laughed, and giggled; we took risks and trusted that this work would act like balm on wounds so profound and deep that even the most stoic of people would cringe. Pain stored deep within their bodies was vomited up and out. Wailing reverberated throughout the vastness of the arena’s walls and ceiling. We invited the Innu to make use of every ounce of their emotions by encouraging them to hold the energies inwardly and to let the feelings burn through. It was an inspirational experience not only for the locals; the humility with which the Innu dove into their own healing was stunningly beautiful.

In early November we returned to Natuashish to continue supporting the Innu with similar and more advanced Journey skills. Of the 80 or so attendees, approximately half of the people were new to this series of workshops. This provided a wonderful opportunity for them to match up with those who had already integrated some of the tools from our June experience. As trainers we mentored a handful of Innu to learn how to do the jobs we had come to do so they could become self-empowered and self-realized as leaders of this work. The local trainers thrived, they filled in where we could not…as translators, as compassionate beings knowing the nuances of their culture realizing how best to support their community members in empowering and selfless ways. Colby Tootoosis, First Nations Youth Representative of the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council, was brought to tears when he saw both former Chief Prote and Grand Chief Mark Nui processing with their people, one on one.

Since it is the intention of Prote to bring Journey skills into the school curriculum, the teachers were invited to join the program so that they too could support the healing of this tiny community. During our four-day workshop many of the teachers personally experienced what is it like to sit in their own emotional soup and to realize that Innu pain and other nationalities’ pain is the same thing. Pain is pain. In order to create a bond of trust, openness and connection, each of us was called to honour our emotions so that compassion and understanding became the link between us.

This past February we returned once again to Natuashish sharing the more advanced skills from both Manifest Abundance and Healing with Conscious Communication courses. These teachings are part of a Social Certification Program created by The Journey and Conscious Leadership. This unique program is already in practice in South Africa with huge success. Students’ grades in Africa are improving; teachers and health care professionals are more effective in their roles as care-givers/leaders due to the skills set being learned as the staff is trained to work more effectively/deeply with their students and clients.

Twenty-five Innu attended Manifest Abundance and H.C.C. last month and it was noticeable how much more laughter and joy filled the room. Over the eight months period the amount of pain and suffering that had been cleared truly helped set the stage for deeper freedom. These folks get it! They want to be happy and are willing to do what it takes to manifest this for them-selves and their community members. There are no pretenses here…they are willing to splay themselves wide open in vulnerability, exposure and emotions so raw that it is inspiring to witness the determination and commitment they have for wholeness.

Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN) coincidentally was in Natuashish at the same time as our visit last month. They captured, on film, the beauty of the group’s tireless desire to clear any emotional traumas preventing them from feeling joyful. The filmmakers’ comments about their experience working with the Innu gave objective confirmation of the healing that has and continues to take place in Natuashish. Testimonials from some of the delegates brought the film crew to tears… it truly is humbling to be in the presence of such bravery while in the throes of fear and grief. I believe that this half hour film, called “Close to Home,” will be aired at the end of April of this year.

We want to continue supporting the Innu of Labrador in their healing. In order to complete the Social Certification Program the 25 participants are invited to complete the Practitioner’s Program which will require another visit by us to continue with the training. This certification will help prepare the delegates to work one on one with their clients, friends, family members and students to concretize the shift in healing more fully. The Innu have taken it upon them-selves to become leaders in this shift of consciousness. I have heard it spoken amongst some of the delegates that they intend to become instruments of change. So inspired are they by their own experiences that they would like to ignite the wellness in others, most specifically within their children. As the saying goes, “It takes a community to raise a child” it may just be the children that help heal the community.

I asked a variety of people what kinds, if any, shifts they had noticed from June ‘09 to February ‘10. Comments like, “we’re happier, we go out on the land more, we’re talking to each other in supportive ways, we’re sober, we express our love for each other openly…” were just some of the changes expressed.

Having experienced these tools personally and on many occasions Mark Nui, Grand Chief of the Innu Nation, stated, “If there was an instant social healing package out there we would be the first to grab it. The Journey Intensive has got to be the healing for us. It’s the closest thing to an instant healing package.” Mark Nui

Bet Diening-Weatherston:
Internationally Accredited Journey Practitioner/ Conscious Leadership Coach *some cultural / historical background information retrieved from www.innu.ca Article written March 2010

 

 

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