When my classmates and I arrived at The Anvil Centre, we were greeted by a lovely Aboriginal woman performing a smudging ceremony. We were met with the scent of burnt sage and other sacred plants. Traditionally, this ceremony was performed by the First Peoples of this land to raise prayers to the spirit world. The rising smoke is believed to send messages to our grandfathers and our creator to lift away all negative energy, all bad feelings that linger, and all contrary emotions. Whatever your beliefs, I felt this ceremony was remarkably appropriate, uplifting, necessary and beautiful. This was a conference about change and to pursue radical change, one must eradicate negative beliefs and hurtful stigmas, and extinguish false notions that taint the beauty that is Aboriginal culture.
The conference began with two wonderful speakers – a father and son, who spoke with spirited pride about the marvelous connectedness found in Native communities. They talked about the horrors of residential schools, the racism Aboriginal people face in Canada, the hurts of the past and the resilience and lessons we must hold onto to move forward and reconcile. They unmasked these topics with humble and unafraid voices. Reconciliation cannot be found solely in words but it is critical to portray it in our actions.
We were told that to make change a reality, we must listen with six essential tools that we all use in our own unique ways. To listen with our two eyes, two ears, and our one mind and one heart, which create stable pathways guiding us towards honest healing created through unity.
His words resonated with me in ways that made me think about my life and the transformative change I experienced through challenging times. I grasped onto the idea that listening is not just done through hearing words with our ears, it can be a spiritual experience that enables us to cross our self-made borders and discover crucial lessons. These lessons can allow us to experience a life that is not separated by walls and doubt, but a life that is vast and fruitful.
I realized that even before fully comprehending what it means to truly listen, I used the six listening tools to enroll myself in the Community Mental Health and Addictions Worker program at Stenberg. They are the very reason I was sitting in a chair at the Anvil Centre clapping with my heart pounding beneath my chest.
Before their speech concluded, the son spoke of how we all hold a figurative basket and how we can choose what goes in our baskets when people decide to cast their stones at us. We all will, or may have already, encounter people who will throw hurtful and negative stones our way. They may hit us, miss us or fall before our feet. If these bad stones are caught, may we discard them and only hold onto their lessons, as they may be important.
My wish for all of us is that we catch more good stones than bad ones. It is also important to note that in the end, YOU get to choose what goes in your basket. If I can add a stone, and I pray you allow it to rest in your basket during those challenging days that shake your faith, may it be a stone embedded with hope.