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Land of a thousand Lights

We land in Marrakech and quickly are swept away by a complete stranger holding up a sign that reads “Knecht”. My research on the camel trek was sketchy at best. I am not that big on details when it comes to adventures. Sometimes, it’s best not to know and just “go with it”. I did, however, review the itinerary and noted the need for warm clothes in June (which was not needed). The drive through the Atlas Mountains takes 5 hours and is mired in near miss car crashes around mountain corners, construction, police stops for speeding along with some language barriers about why we needed to speed. We are dropped off in the middle of the desert. In the distance I can see the camels and the nomads. Oh, the nomads, what a wonderful breed of maleness. I ask one “Where were you born?” He points off into the distance,”There”. I look confused, he clarifies “I was born in the desert”. “Ah,” I sigh. So amazing.

There is a brief tutorial about how to get on the hump and we are off. I pinch myself because I can’t believe this is real. I am riding on a camel in the north edge of the Sahara desert. It never occurred to me that the ride would quickly become uncomfortable. These are dromedary camels (only one hump) and you are sitting directly on the hard substance bouncing up and down over uneven terrain for over 2 hours. It was breathtaking, magical, but my female parts were ready to descend when we finally got to the camp. The lowering of the camel was like a lift going down. The height of this magnificent creature is staggering.

We were assigned a yurt and went to clean up for dinner. Dinner was a variety of Tangine foods. This means food cooked in clay pots and consists mostly of root vegetables, lamb and spices. It goes dark quickly as we emerged from the dining tent. Our jaws dropped to see the sky. They don’t call it the land of a thousands lights for nothing. The night sky was breathtaking.

A fire was set up and the nomads began to drum and sing for us. They encouraged us to try our hand at the drums. I was in heaven. Much later we drifted off to bed in our Arabian tents. A gust of wind caused our door to swing open about 4 am. I felt it and was awakened. I got up, quickly dressed and made my way up the nearest sand dune to watch the sunrise. The camels were hobbled half way up the dune and I stopped to sit and hang with them for a bit. It’s a moment I will never forget and have used to help me transition from awake to meditation on occasion.

We come from the earth. The berbers of North Africa have something subtle in the way they move and exist. It’s a sense of being content that I am not sure I have ever experienced before or at least noticed. They live in a mystic world and I am so grateful I got to experience it for just a moment.

It’s more a Life guide than a religion…

Life long discipline of practice

I grew up in an extensive Mormon family with a mom deep-rooted in the beliefs and a dad willing to go with the flow as long as he could research genealogy. The religion is fine and does teach some useful values on how to raise kids and stay humble. What rubbed me was the definitive roles of men and women. I am not going to explain this deeper right now (maybe in another post) as it doesn’t pertain to this conversation. I would call myself agnostic as I believe in energies, karma and connections to the universe. Through my searching, I came across Shamanism and signed up for a weekend workshop. As I sat in the opening circle with 13 other people, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation. The workshop was being hosted in an annex connected to a Catholic church. There were pictures of popes lined up on the walls. Here I was an ex-Mormon in a Catholic church about to experience journeying with a shaman practice that predates Christianity. Hah! The universe has one hell of a sense of humour and the irony wasn’t lost on me.

I love the fact the word ‘shaman’ some say means ‘he or she who knows’. It’s actually a practiced discipline instead of a religion and has many variations depending on the culture and country. The workshop I first attended was a contemporary western version. Which, in short, is a type that tries not to be too specific about meanings or practice. That way, you can experience the discipline before getting detailed protocols based on culture and beliefs. Our first journey involved a quest to find our spirit animal. For non-believers it seems a bit strange to lay down on the floor, cover your eyes, listen to the sound of the drums and focus in on your cleverly crafted question of what animal will guide you as you start this trek. I consider myself an intuitive person. I meditate on occasion and sign up for workshops that will push me into all sorts of uncomfortable situations.

This was different for me though. As I took some slow, easy breaths and listened to the instructions, I had the feelings of rightness. The spirit animal was waiting for me as I opened my mind and the animal was not what I expected. I always assumed I was a deer or grizzly kind of being. Nope.

Spirit allies in animal form (The Shamanism Bible by John Matthews). I like that explanation of what a spirit animal is. As I grow in my practice and partake in many journeys, I have gathered quite a collection of -not only animals – but guides that help me with various challenges and questions I can’t seem to figure out on my own. It’s been a life saver for me in many ways and has helped me get through some very dark moments in my life.

If you are curious about learning more on the practice or the subject, here are some suggestions to explore:

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Calgary Chapter

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Main site

O Holy Night

The promise of peace

It’s the early part of December 2015. I am sunk down into the cushions of my sister’s couch, side-by-side, we are holding hands as we admire her Christmas ornaments in a dimly lit room. The lights twinkle and glow with promise and hope. She confesses, almost whispering, that she is terrified of the coming year. Our grip tightens and we hold onto the moment, sinking deeper into the abyss. I can’t help but remember the panic because the year before her husband died of a stroke on December 25, 2014. My sister passed away of cancer January 2016. I won’t say she battled it because there wasn’t time to even armour up before the war was over. I couldn’t put up a tree or set out a single decoration for 4 years without bursting into tears. So I didn’t try. I still bought gifts for my adult kids but, other than that, I tried to keep Christmas very low-key.Then COVID hit and I had nothing but isolated time to think about connections, relationships and navigating through tough times. Don’t get me wrong, the flood is still there just waiting to burst open. What’s different? I have learned that I need to feel my sister’s joy and childlike enthusiasm for the season. Christmas maybe cancelled in many ways this year, but I will be darned if I am going to shut it down completely. So ,as I watched my neighbours add more and more lights to their yards and get excited about looking forward to something more than a vaccine in 2021, I decided to get into the spirit once again.

Now, I look at my ornaments and blinking lights and I can feel my sister with me. We are snuggled together and once again holding hands and hearts. Such a simple thing and yet it brings me comfort when comfort is all we have to look forward to in times like these.

Merry Christmas to you all. If you are separated from your loved ones, whether they are alive or passed on, I hope you find peace, joy and heartfelt connections.

Coming back to being in the season

Middle of Chaos

Chaos

“If you think about it, we are always centred in the middle of chaos. It never goes away.” (Melanie Iglesias)

Wow – such a true statement. You’d think by now, being midlife, life would be less chaotic, yet nothing is further from the truth. I’m starting to believe I thrive in chaos, which is probably a good thing, given the circumstances of my life.

In the past year, I’ve started online dating. Do you know what that’s like at this stage of life? Ugh. The reason I’m dating is because my third marriage is ending. We are trying to live “separate but apart” in the same house. Why? Because we both love the house, yard, and neighbourhood. Financially, it makes sense. Also, there’s still an eighteen year old at home, as well as my 82 year old dad who needs a caregiver. There are two dogs. I don’t know if I’d be able to find a place that can accommodate my visually impaired father (who gets lost in this house after living here for three years), my son, my Rottweiler, and the resident mutt.

To add to the chaos, I was laid off at the end of September due to restructuring. Just when I thought I was finally in a place where I’d stay until retirement, I find myself looking for work. I’ve learned virtual interviews are akin to online dating. Who knew?

I’ve also had a yearning to write; to share myself with others. I’ve tried journalling, short stories, nothing seemed to “scratch the itch”. As if there’s not enough going on, I need to keep my mind stimulated and have an outlet for all that goes on in my head.

So, here I am. Midlife and once again rising above the chaos – stronger, more resilient, and excited to see what the future holds. Vanee has been part of this chaotic journey for the past five years and has her own stories to share.

How do we do it? What keeps us motivated? What keeps us up at night? What aspirations do we have, both personally and professional at this stage of midlife? We will explore these questions, and many more.

We invite you to join us.

Stuck in the middle with you

This is my 10 year old goldfish name Beethoven.

What a year! Am I right? Not turning out quite like I had planned in January 2020. What a brilliant plan all laid out on a vision board, color coded with a timeline attached. Full of travel, intrigue, working abroad, spiritual journeys with healers, guides and gurus. It was the year of transformational work and life experiences. As each trip was cancelled, each concert postponed, the year began to get darker and darker. More layoffs came about, more downsizing occurred, less work was created for everyone while co-workers scrambled to set up their “home” offices. That wasn’t a huge change for me as I had been working from home, as a learning design and developer, for several years already. What did impact me was the layoffs. 15 minutes on a video call ended over 32 years of service to one company.

As I focus now on why midLife Arises, I am becoming more in tune with what I really want to share with you and the community we build..together. I can’t help and wonder….”Why now?” and “Why me?” and “Why us?”

I am a huge believer in timing, synchronicity, karma and intuition.

Does anybody out there really care what I have to say about life, leadership, or career options for the over 50, juggling motherhood and 35 years of marriage?

Maybe you do and then again maybe you don’t. If you then I am encouraged.

Join us in our adventure. We won’t promise we have everything figured out. We can offer you some advice and insights, based of course on our experiences. When you cross paths with some “clowns to the left of you” and “jokers to the right” remember we will be right here….

Stuck in the middle of midLife with you