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Friday, 13 May 2016

Life is Like a Tray of Appetizers - Part 2

After the two homestays, spread out over three weeks, I gave myself a well deserved weekend.
I attended Tribe Festival, held on the edge of the Rockies, just down the highway from Calgary. I enjoyed various activities such as drum circles, yoga sessions, singing bowl meditations, frisbee, lake swimming, and just relaxing in the field and enjoying the nice weather.
But the highlight of the weekend was a magic mushroom trip that ironically took a scary turn. At one point, I panicked and ran out of the dance hall into the dark field, and nearly got swallowed by the forest and the night. I got a grip of myself in time to turn around and return to the safe, though overstimulating, walls of the dance hall.
As I regained control of my mind I eventually found my happy place, and hit the dance floor with a resurgence of energy. The night was capped off wonderfully by a stunning appearance in the night sky of the Northern Lights. I stared silently at them the rest of the night, soaking in all that happened. The next morning I found my voice, and shared warm hugs and meaningful conversations with new friends about our respective journeys on that special night.
Northern Lights the night of my mushroom trip. Photo credit: Bert Crowfoot
The festival ended on an appropriate note, with a workshop discussing psychedelics, their role as healing substances, and why they are feared and misunderstood by our culture. The facilitator discussed illuminating work by Canadian doctor Gabor Maté, treating and healing drug addicts in shady Hastings, East End, Vancouver with psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. She also talked about other psychedelics such as LSD (acid), and DMT (di-methyl triptamine), the active ingredient in a potent visionary plant called ayahuasca, administered by shamans in the Amazon. We all have DMT receptors in our brains!
I could talk quite awhile about psychedelics. Crazy as it may sound, I am a strong advocate of them. I don’t consider them “drugs” like other banned substances, most of which are actually addictive and destructive to your health. Yes, they can be misused but, done responsibly, they have incredible healing and consciousness-expanding powers.
Psychedelics bring your subconscious to your surface, revealing your inner desires and/or fears, depending on how you feel the day you take them. My own experience reflected the journey I'm on which has involved plunging headlong into the unknown, often running away from the comfort and safety of the known. The adversity and tension I’ve experienced this year due to constant change, it all bubbled to the surface in the past week, activated by the mushroom trip. Though the trip was scary, I was able to bring those fears to the surface, face them and lay them to rest. I recovered with the support of amazing people who had gone through the same experience.
Since Tribe Festival, I've been on an emotional high. I made one more short visit to Calgary, bonding and reconnecting with friends, including my best friend, who I haven't seen in years. We had deep, intense conversations. I laughed, cried, smiled and spread my joy. One of my oldest friends in Calgary recalled something I told her years ago, after quitting my job: "I'm searching for something, I don't know what it is, but I have to go out there and find it."

Sounds crazy, right? Like some ridiculous movie quote. But my life sure has played out this way. And while I am still searching for that something, I'm a lot closer than I was when I first started.
My real life movie transitions on to its next chapter, and I feel ready for my greatest challenge yet: going mushroom picking for the summer. No, not the magic kind - morels!
After morel picking, I hope this movie winds to its conclusion. I hope to pick a place to settle down, and stop moving around. I thought I moved on from Calgary awhile ago, but Tribe Festival proved that the community I seek is here too. Calgary, I may not be done with you yet.
My tipi crew at Tribe Festival, near Exshaw, Alberta
Thanks for the memories, Calgary!

PS. sorry I don't have many pics from Tribe. Same photo link as previous blog: Click here

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Life is Like a Tray of Appetizers - Part 1

Change has been one of the constants in my life, but it seems like change, along with my emotional gauge, has been dialed up several notches as of late.
Nearly one month has passed since leaving Lake Louise, and in that month I did two separate homestays and attended one festival, sprinkled with brief interludes in Calgary. The homestays were more specifically WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming) arrangements, working in exchange for accommodation and food.
The first homestay was in Turner Valley, just south of Calgary by about 1 hour. My hosts were immersed in the flourishing permaculture movement of the '80's in Australia. Learning permaculture was my primary goal for being there, as it aligns with my future long-term goals.

However, I simply came at the wrong time - there was a gap in their work schedule, and not much gardening to do. I spent just under 2 weeks before moving on earlier than planned. Despite this I did learn a lot and had some cool experiences.
Turning the compost over into the adjacent compartment
I helped my hosts slaughter their 5 chickens, as well as pluck and gut them. The family had grown close to these chickens, which they kept for 3 years, significantly longer than most owners normally do, since hens’ peak egg laying age is just around 6 months. Thus, it was a heavy emotional event for all involved, including myself. I held their bodies while their heads were decapitated, and cried a little as I felt their lives draining away, and their souls escaping. This was a difficult but necessary experience in my mind, because I have always wanted to take responsibility for the meat I eat, instead of living in the ignorance that buying ready meat affords me. Being part of the slaughter, I felt like I honoured the chickens’ lives. And in return, they gave me healthy nourishing broth and meat.
The family also owned 5 meat rabbits. Much of my daily work revolved around the rabbits and chickens - feeding them twice a day, and scooping a lot of poop! My other tasks included raising seedlings in the greenhouse to eventually plant in the ground - a symphony of squashes, tomatoes and decorative flowers.
A two-headed chicken!
Oh, and there was lots of weeding. And jumping on the trampoline with the two rambunctious kids.
The second homestay was with another family who ran a yoga studio and retreat centre. Their ranch was nestled in the gently sprawling Rockies foothills, and they owned three horses, around 15 chickens, 3 dogs and 2 cats. Sadly it was only for a week, as I had a great time and the family was generous and fair. I gave back equally in effort, putting in hours of weeding and preparing garden beds using techniques such as sheet mulching, which kills the weeds and provides fertility for future plants. My favourite task by far though was collecting honey from last year’s beehive, by setting the hive frames in a hot oven to melt the honey, separating the wax, and straining it into jars.
A frame of honey being melted in the oven
The weekend I arrived on the ranch, a retreat was held there by a group of people to do ayahuasca. While I couldn’t participate in the ceremony, this was an omen, because my curiosity for psychedelics was mounting and I was eager to debunk the myths surrounding them.
More on this in Part 2... stay posted!

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