I am so grateful for the opportunity that the Bush Foundation has provided me in creating a personal learning journey, unique to me and my community. My learning journey consists of an Anishinaabe traditional education including Ojibwe language immersion, one-on-one with elders, being present at ceremonies, traditional parenting practices, and engaging with nature and our traditional food practices.
My main goal is to immerse myself in Anishinaabe traditional educational spaces and to bridge the teachings that come from our Anishinaabe ways with my training and education in social behavioral health research. Even though I have been connected to my community and culture, Western education and Western environment has undeniably overpowered Anishinaabe way of life. Through this fellowship, I am being purposeful about learning Anishinaabe teachings and breaking up that contemporary, Western cement that has laid a foundation over my Anishinaabe soul.
Even more necessary in my learning journey has been pairing these practices with silence, meditation, reflection, prayer, and clearing the clutter from my mind and my physical spaces. As a fellow, I have been able to relieve myself from strict responsibilities and breathe into each moment to decide with a clear head, heart, and soul: does this opportunity serve my purpose? Does this thought come from a place of love or does it come from an external need to be seen or external need to contribute? If I breathe, relax my shoulders, and silence my mind, will these words/thoughts/actions/reactions return to me in the same way? How will I act/speak/feel if I filtered my reality through my own spiritual bliss living inside me instead of through the filters of trauma, societal values, community norms, family voices, and self-doubt?
So far on my learning journey, what I have found to be right for me is to work less, declutter, breathe, yoga, be out in the woods with my family, rice with my sister, dance with my nieces and nephews, listen to elders talk in the language, immerse my children in the language, enjoy the cold, be grateful for all my blessing (even the ones that came to me in disguise, maybe especially those ones), write it all down, read, do nothing at all, sit in silence, play undistracted with my children, play undistracted with my partner, and breathe some more.
This process is not all bubbles and sunlight; this process and coming to these conclusions about what I need for my own leadership development and what my community needs from me, has not come without a fight. I fight quite regularly with the voices (in my own head) that tell me, “work harder, work faster, give more, take less, know more, speak more, be seen, etc.” What I have been learning is tools and skills to work hard on listening to my own spirit for guidance, reflecting on where these other voices come from and quietly saying, “thanks for trying to protect me, but that’s not helpful”, and by rewiring my mind to listen inward instead of outward and that includes those outward projection that often are not even reality.
And what about my community impact? You, reader, might not even be asking but I am surely assuming everyone and their grandmothers want to know, ‘how the hell is Miigis going to help her people?’ And to that person or to that voice inside my own head: Gently. Because I am a gentle soul. Quietly. Because I am a quiet soul. And lovingly. Because I am a loving soul. And to be sure, this gentle, quiet, loving soul requires a bullet journal, calendars, several colored writing utensils, and pretty little organizing boxes and bins.
I have had many opportunities to be in the presence of elders, with my eager ears open trying to remember to breathe. Some of these elders are Anishinaabe royalty, famous, known throughout Ojibwe country for their wisdom and contribution to our language and cultural revitalization. Hence, the remembering to breathe. One moment in particular has been sitting with me. We were talking about child-rearing and one of these all-so-awesome elders said that she did not work while raising her kids. Of course, the conversation was not about working or not working while parenting but this tiny bit of information stuck with me. What a mind-blowing thought to not have to bust my butt to try and do it all. She spoke to her children in the language, taught them how to hunt, snare, and fish, taught them how to cook and take care of the home, and led them to be kind, gracious, and helpful to their neighbors. She did not teach her kids in order to save our communities; she taught them because that was simply what she valued and what was presented to her. This woman taught her children and eventually, those teachings permeated through our communities in an era of great cultural, spiritual, and language revitalization.
I do not want to wake up in a year and a half, this fellowship time is over and I have checked all these boxes of what I accomplished without giving myself adequate time for reflection and integration. Reflection and integration are necessary in order for my acquired experiences and teachings to become a part of who I am on a conscious and sub-conscious level. What I want, what I believe my family and community needs is for me to integrate my Anishinaabe teachings so they become second nature, reaching my soul. And they cannot even reach my soul if I am not taking quiet moments to allow these teachings to penetrate beyond my Western conditioning. To listen to a voice inside me that is not my gramma’s, my mother’s, my sister’s, but my own. Because even these voices get filtered through my own conditioning and in addition, we all have our own interests, goals, values, and purpose. Instead of aligning myself with the path of others, I need to sit in my own silence in order to align with my own. It is this silence that drowns out the noise of Western philosophy, values and education and grows my connection to my personal intuition for life, love, health, wellbeing, and happiness.