Sandi Boucher – I stand before you today a proud and strong Anishnawbequek

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Sandi BoucherTHUNDER BAY – Aboriginal Now – An Aboriginal heritage is not mandatory to enjoy the example and the gift of the inner strength, the resolve, the humour, the joy of the First Nation’s peoples.  So in line with one of my most cherished teachings, the Medicine Wheel teaching, I share with you now all that I am, and all that I know so that the colours of man can come closer to completing the circle …

My book, and the teachings it contains are shared with one simple purpose in mind; to remind you that you (no matter your heritage, upbringing or skin colour) are indeed a warrior who has survived monumental hardships.  It is my hope that by reading my words, by walking a mile in my moccasins, you will begin to see the strength and peace contained in your very soul and slowly you will begin to embrace and understand your abilities as you conquer your fears and emerge as the person you were destined to be!

I am not an Elder but I am a strong and proud Anishnahbequek (Ojibwe woman) who is compelled to share all that I am so you too can find the inner peace, the strength, the contentment that I experience every single day of my life.  No, I am not an Elder, one of the wise ones who has learned many things along his/her long life paths, but I was blessed to be the daughter of a very wise and strong woman.  My mother had a beautiful smile, a laugh from the soul, and a voice that hinted of the immense wisdom held in her heart, but my mother was raised in a time when the opinions of women were unheeded and the words of an Indian unimportant, yet she spoke to me and I listened…

My Mother taught me to see the teachings in every face, in every situation, in every accomplishment and in every hardship.  She taught me how to calm my soul and how to revisit my life without condemnation.  She taught me to learn, to laugh, to live and to love. So now, I invite you to walk through my life, to experience teachings as they come to me, to analyze as I reflect, to become … an Honorary Indian.

Some passages are written directly to you as if we were sitting together sharing a pot of tea.  Others are simply of me walking slowly through the days of my life.  I didn’t know who needed to read a certain passage or when; rather I just knew I had to write it.   It is my hope that as you read and see how I view my world and those around me you will begin to uncover and see the teachings in your own life and experiences.  With practice I have no doubt you will also begin to experience the solace, clarity, strength, understanding, and peace that make up my world.

Some passages I pray will touch your very soul, while others may not.  Don’t worry if this happens for as the Elders explain ‘You will hear what you need to hear at this stage of your life’.  Continue reading, skip a page if you feel the need or return to read a passage as often as you like.  Trust that the Creator will guide you to the words you were meant to read, but don’t be surprised if you gather more understanding with a second or third reading.  Time will have passed between your visits and by rereading you will come to understand that the passage hasn’t changed, but you have.

So my friend — from this moment on you are an Honorary Indian, one destined to live a life of inner strength and power in the tradition of the majestic warrior.  One gifted to learn, grow, and appreciate the teachings held in every single breath, in every face, in every day. So stand tall my friend, stand proud, and stand strong simply because you are!

Hello everybody

My name is Sandi Boucher and what I just shared with you is the forward from my book “Honorary Indian”.  I stand before you today a proud and strong Anishnawbequek.  I consider myself blessed and so very fortunate to have been raised in line with the Ojibway teachings of my ancestors.  A funny thing to say you may think, in light of the atrocities suffered by the First Nations peoples in this country, but a fact nevertheless for as I hope to show you today, the First Nations peoples strength has never been nor will it ever be dependent on another.  Encapsulated in the Women’s Teachings are the guides to happiness and comfort, inner peace and contentment and maybe, just maybe, today you can learn to embrace these guides as your own.  I leave that decision in your hands.

As I mentioned, I consider myself very fortunate, not only thanks to my upbringing, but also because I have been given the opportunity to make a living assisting others, women, men, youth, anyone who crosses my path to realize their gifts and the basis for my work, my teachings are the teachings of my Mother, a beautiful and strong Anishnawbequek, an Ojibway woman, from Seine River First Nation.

The reality for many of us is clear.  All of us here today live in a society of sickness.  It doesn’t take much effort at all to find someone who will explain to you why you are failing, why we are sick, why we cant achieve and what our limitations are … but just try to find someone who reminds you of your strengths, who shows you in detail how you can and why you will succeed.  A much harder task to be sure … and yet we wonder why so few of us are indeed successful.

And then the word itself … success.  How do YOU define success?  To be successful what do you need to have achieved, what do you need to possess, who do you need to be?  For some it is a dollar amount in some bank account.  For some it is to be surrounded by a certain level of comfort, luxuries even.  And for some it is a level of freedom to decide their own day, their own agenda, their own life yet I would hasten to say that most of us in this room are successful by someone else’s standard.

I have stated for some time now that “success is a new way of thinking when survival was all you were taught”.  I grew up in a home with loving beautiful parents … in a house without running water so to me … walking into the bathroom and flushing a toilet means I am successful.

I love to write and I have been writing for as long as I can remember and on February 25, 2010 my book came out and as I stood in my apartment holding my book for the very first time I felt truly successful.

Yes success has many different definitions but all I ask, all I pray is that it is defined by YOU and not by your father, your mother, your great-Aunt Elsie, your boss, your children or the Jones next door.  And I pray the next time you look at your neighbour, or the person who lives down the street, and wonder how they can be smiling living in that rundown place, wearing 2nd hand clothes, walking everywhere they go remember just remember that perhaps by their standards … they have more than they ever hoped for.

But enough about success, what about “value”?  Self value, personal value … what of them?

I work daily with women of all ages who have been handed some insane notion or who have adopted some crazy warped out mindset that has them believing that their value will be determined and verified by some man in a bar.  You know them do you?  Perhaps you are one of them.  These women strive every second of every minute of every day to prove to SOMEONE that they are worth it … to prove to their boss they are a valued employee, to prove to their parents they are responsible adults, to prove to their peers they are a great … whatever their career is and a great Mom and a great friend and a great athlete and and and … and they wonder why they are exhausted.

Our men suffer no less tragic fate.

These people, men and women alike, have no clue, were never taught or simply have forgotten … that their value was gifted to them on the day they were born.  You see, in line with my teachings YOU are absolutely perfect, right here, right now.  Everything you have done up to this point you were meant to do, to learn, to grow, to become the person you are destined to be IF you choose to learn from those experiences.  According to my teachings I am an absolutely perfect 48 year old Sandi (who wouldn’t wanna be Ojibway with these kinda teachings?).  I know so much more than 25 year old Sandi did, and I know nothing compared to 78 year old Sandi.  Perfect.

To further illustrate the point how many of you are parents?  For those of you who are, how precious, how unique, how beautiful is your child?  Next question – at what age does that stop?  So if the answer is never, then why do you believe it stopped for you?

One of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and in turn to others is the realization that we are unique and beautiful and intentional.  Often I run into men and women who have discovered their gift, their passion, that which makes their heart SING but they have not followed that path.  They feel selfish for even considering it yet that is exactly the opposite of what they should be thinking.  You see we each have our gifts.  The mistake is in thinking the gift is for you.

Creator gave you your gift not because you needed it but because the WORLD needed it, so the selfishness comes not in honouring your gift, but in not.  With each gift comes responsibility, we are told, and a gift not cherished is soon lost.  Think of the people, the possessions, the opportunities you have cherished and maintained and then think of the ones that slipped through your fingers.  Very wise teaching indeed.

So tonight when you go home remember someone out there will be touched by that beautiful sweater you knit, will be inspired by the sound of your voice or the power of your words, they will be motivated by your work or touched by your heart.  Someone along your path, and I dare say MANY along your path need you to be simply YOU, nothing more, nothing less and that is as beautiful as it is calming, as empowering as it is soothing and that is the power of my Ojibway teachings.

My Mother had a beautiful gift and because she shared hers, many, many others are now being motivated to share theirs.  My Mother had the ability to make each person she spoke to feel like they were the only person in the world, unique, and beautiful and important.  As she looked into your eyes you were mesmerized by her beauty and more, how she made you feel and all that knew her, loved her.

But we lost Mom in September of 2005 and as I assumed my role as Matriarch of our family I was overwhelmed with an overwhelming sense … of selfishness.  I had anticipated the grief but this caught me off guard but it didn’t take me long to understand.  You see I knew the power of my Mom’s teachings.  I knew first hand how those teachings were a small yet strong spark that refused to die inside me even during those horrid events that had me finding shelter in a home for abused women.  They kept me believing as I sold furniture for food and they kept me going through many long, cold nights.

Now I have come to realize and embrace the fact that my gift is the written and spoken word and now thanks to my gift, Mom continues to inspire and motivate and touch and influence people’s lives almost 6 years after her passing. My Mom, my beautiful little brown Mom, who would have been petrified to speak to more than two people at a time now, thanks to our combined gifts, inspires people in Europe and the United States and across Canada, every single time another person picks up my book.  Beautiful.

Yes I am honouring my gift and it is beautiful but my life is FAR from perfect.  I have my challenges, my hardships (thank you Creator) and I do make mistakes, daily in fact.  Luckily I know my teachings …

Mistakes are expected and encouraged.  Mistakes are how we learn.  Even if I make a mistake doing a task I have done a hundred times there is a lesson contained there.  Perhaps I just learned how essential a good night sleep is to my job performance.  Perhaps I learned that I must focus on the task at hand and not let my mind wander if I don’t want to have to do it again.  The lesson will be as different and as unique as you are, and it is meant just for you.  All you have to do is reflect and learn.

If there is one thing that I absolutely adore about my Ojibway teachings (and don’t get me wrong, there are many) it is the fact that perfection is never an expectation, it is not even a goal.  All that is required of us is that we live a “conscious life”.  At day’s end we are asked to review and learn.  Why did I do that?  Was that good for me?  Did it get me closer to the man or woman I want to be?  Did I handle that well?  What can I do differently next time?  What did I learn?

Presents (Feb 9)

I can feel the excitement building

The tightness in the very pit of my stomach

As much as I can feel the smile

Spread fully across my face.

The people you have sent me

So many, all of different teachings,

Backgrounds, knowledge …

Different sizes, different shapes

Like the presents on Christmas mornings

Of my Christian past.

Why are they here Creator?

What lesson do they hold for me?

Do they need me or do I need them

Or is it reciprocal?

It does not matter

And I know that will be revealed in time

But the excitement cannot possibly

Be contained in my soul.

My happiness is obvious to all!

Chi-Miigwech Creator

For my life, my loves, my pains and my trails

Thank you for each beautiful day

Whether it held tears of joy or great pains

For each and every wonderful day

Held a small piece of me

And one day the puzzle will be complete

And I have no doubt that I will be the masterpiece

You always intended me to be.

One of the most helpful, most powerful teachings my Mother gave me was simply to eliminate the phrase “Why me?” from my vocabulary.  It serves nothing or no one she would point out.  Rather I must ask “what is the lesson here?” and that practice has brought me such clarity, such wisdom, such peace that I do hope from this point on you make yourself the very same promise.  After all we cannot control the activities and events of any given day, but we can choose to empower ourselves with them, rather than adopting a victim mentality.

No matter what we do, no matter what we have done, condemnation is simply not required.  No guilt, simply reflect, and learn.  Why did I do that? What could I have done differently? Am I proud of how I acted?  Is this the person I want to be?

And then the best part…

Absolutely everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff, and in some cases especially the bad stuff.  If you have hurt someone and lost them, I guarantee you there is a lesson there, if you are brave enough, if you are honest enough to look.  If you were hurt, the lesson may be harder to find but it is there, just waiting for you to uncover it.  Did you lose yourself in that relationship?  What did you contribute to the demise?  The lesson will be different for each person having the experience.  We are all at different places on our own unique paths after all, and the wisdom is often found in the discovery, not just in the lesson itself.

A conscious life is a requirement for being an adult in our world, and being an empowered adult means we take responsibility for our part in our lives.  I have no doubt that where I stand today is a direct result of the actions and deeds of my past.  So too were my days in an abusive relationship.  To be clear I did not choose to be abused and I am careful not to pick up any baggage that is not mine but I did choose to stay and that I have to acknowledge.  It’s okay.  I learned valuable lessons there.  Thanks to those dark days I find it very easy to appreciate the sun I walk in today.  No need to beat myself up, no guilt required – simply acknowledgement and power.

But what of the things that happen to us, things that are out of our control.  Let me share with you now one of the most powerful entries from my book … it is called Fallon’s Story.

Everything for a reason – Fallon’s Story

I was a 20 year old, brand new bride when I had Fallon and I was the poster child for ‘cocky kid’.  Having a child was no big deal to me.  Women did it everyday.  Change the baby.  Feed the baby.  No biggie.

The night of October 7, 1984 changed everything for me.  I normally put Fallon to bed around 11 pm to ensure she slept through the night.  She was turning two months old the next day and hadn’t quite mastered the eight hour sleep thing yet.  I put her in bed at 11:00 as per the norm, but by 11:15 I could still hear her fussing in her crib.  I wasn’t a bad Mom, so I went and got her, and checked to see if she was hungry or wet with neither proving to be the case.  She just wanted to play.  In my mind’s eye I can still see myself, sitting on the couch, my feet up on the edge of the coffee table causing my thighs to angle up, with Fallon resting on my upper leg, looking up at me and smiling.  I played with her.  After all she was a beautiful baby.  She cooed and I giggled along with her.  But Mom’s have to be responsible I thought, so I told her ‘It’s bedtime baby girl, we can’t play all night’ and back into her crib she went.

The autopsy showed she died at approximately midnight that night.  ‘Not sure if she made it past 12:00 to her second month birthday or not.  All I remember is waking at 9 a.m. and wondering why Fallon wasn’t stirring as she always awoke at 7:00.  I think the reality set in before I even got up and walked to the foot of our bed where her crib was.  As I neared her, the stillness of the room reinforced my fears with every step.  I am certain I mentally said a hundred prayers in that brief walk until I found myself looking down at my daughter.  I reached out … and touched her still, ice cold cheek.

I remember screaming for her Father to wake up.  I remember him telling me to call the ambulance.  I remember seeing him lying on the bed with her as I waited for an answer on the line.  I remember him telling me to get dressed and not being able to even see any of my clothes.  I remember the ambulance attendant running in and then running out with my daughter.  I remember walking into the emergency entrance of the hospital only to see all the staff wiping tears from their cheeks.  I remember being ushered into a room.  I remember the doctor’s words saying she was gone.

October 11, 1985, my daughter Kazz was born.  Her middle name is Cherish, thanks to her big sister, and the Mom I was to her and her brother is a DIRECT result of losing Fallon.  Of that I am sure.  Thanks to her brief stay, I was the Mom I should have been, the Mom they deserved, and I am so thankful the Creator sent her to me.  Yes, as you have no doubt guessed, Kazz and Keith didn’t always make it to bed on time. J

Yes, losing Fallon taught me what being a Mom truly meant.  It taught me about the selflessness of a Mother’s love and it taught me that my children were precious, sacred, someone to be honoured and cherished and that I must not now, not ever assume I have tomorrow with anyone.

After Fallon’s passing, I could have lost myself in hatred for Creator, for the world, for the doctors, for everyone.  I could have smothered myself in guilt, convincing myself that Creator was punishing me for something but that is not our way.

Ojibways don’t believe in a vengeful God.  God is not out to get us, he is not sitting up high waiting to punish us.  He is a loving, supportive parent who loves us no matter what but he IS a parent which means he doesn’t rush in to save us, he lets us fall, he lets us hurt, he lets us grow in strength and our own personal power as any good parent should.

Yes death is a powerful teacher but what of the challenges of day to day living?  Are they God?  No, they are life.

Just as the boulders in the river were not put there to ruin our journey, the challenges of day to day life are not personal, neither is the traffic on the way to work.  That detour you had to take that made you late for work isn’t Creator out to get you … but maybe he wanted you to notice your dream house along that new route, or that great new store you should check out … your future mate shops at that store as well, or perhaps Creator just realized you needed a break.  There was a very angry client waiting at your desk and Creator just didn’t think you needed that today.  Whatever the case, there is a lesson there.  All you need do is reflect and learn.

Now all of this is well and good but why am I sharing this here and now at the Spirituality and Social Work conference.  The reasons are many …

We are complete and wholistic beings.  You can not separate the emotional from the physical, the mental from the spiritual and so your methods, your processes, your intentions when working with those that struggle must take into consideration all of their needs and challenges.  Our elders and us slightly younger Ojibways cringe when we see the latest medicine to treat high blood pressure, or liver conditions or whatever the case may be for they attempt to isolate and deal with one cause only.  Can anyone argue with the fact that our bodies are intricately connected?  So to is our universe.  We cannot eliminate a species without affecting an entire ecosystem and we cannot treat one organ and not have it affect another.  That is one reason.

The second reason I share is yet another teaching …

It is said that the healing of our communities will be lead by the women.  That when the women remember their strength (and please note I did not say when they achieve their strength) when they REMEMBER their strength, then the healing for our communities will begin.  As individuals working in the Social Work sphere, you deal with families and individuals on an ongoing basis that have forgotten their personal strength or have been raised by someone that had forgotten, or both.  By correcting this, the healing begins on all levels and is not limited to what transpires in your programs or during their sessions with you.

What is this teaching that can change so much?

The women were given all they need by Creator to thrive and survive.  Let us ponder that for a moment.  YOU as a woman were given all you need to thrive and survive, inside you.  Why?  Simply the women were given the teachings and the internal wisdom needed to raise the next generation of warriors.  Women were given the power to pass on teachings to our offspring, to show our children the beauty of this planet, the strength of the human spirit and how very, very important it is to count our blessings and be thankful for all we were gifted.

The women raise the next generation of warriors – it is our responsibility.  It is up to the women to teach our men to be strong, and respectful, for like perfectly aligned dominoes one woman inspires her children and her partner, and her family heals.  Then her family inspires a community, and their community inspires a region, and the region in turn inspires a country … one beautiful woman at a time.

You want to heal a family … heal the woman so she can heal her kids.  Help her to heal her partner then let the rest simply happen.

Why did this happen?  Well we are taught that Creator knew that these women had homes to tend to and children to raise and that they didn’t have time to be out learning this or learning that so he gave them the teachings naturally.  Oh how many women just cringed at that thought?  Yes, the Ojibway teachings ARE very traditional but not in some demeaning way.  That was entirely western influence.  You see I was raised with a mission handed to be by my Mother.  I was to become as strong as I could emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally because one day I would meet the man that was even stronger than me and together NOTHING could touch our family.  According to our traditions, in the same way you pick a strong player for your baseball team, a man should search for and find a strong woman.  The man has learning to do.  He has no time for a needy woman, a dependant woman and if he needs that ego boast … then he best go build his self esteem first before he goes shopping for a mate.

Yes, all they have to do is remember and trust in what we know.  We were given instinct, the ability to ascertain from our environments that which we need to grow.  What it requires is us to be conscious of our surrounding, again, to live a conscious life.

If you insist on going through life as a robot, programmed to act like this or that, do not be surprised if you feel empty.  Or worse if you go through life as a leaf, being blown here and there by the wind do not be surprised at how lost you feel, how out of control, how helpless.

Imitate the mighty oak.  Why not take off your shoes and ground yourself?  No time like the present to get close to Mother Earth.  Adopt the stance of the strong and start to feel just how strong you truly are.  Don’t wait for someone to say it, KNOW IT, it is true.

How old are you?  Let us not pretend that this is not your first day in the canoe.  Time to ponder just how many teachings you already carry.  Isn’t it time you realized and remembered them?

Further Down Stream (July 8)

You have heard me say it before, life is a river.  There are beautiful trees and calm, amazingly clear waters, rapids and waterfalls.  Rough water is not a personal attack on you, or the Creator trying to stall your progress, it simply “is” but today I realized the second layer if you will, to this teaching.

As we traverse down the river we encounter the obstacles as described, but what we often forget … is our skill level.  We are not the novice setting his canoe in the water for the first time.  Our arms are strong from having paddled a long way to get to this point.  We are skilled in steering our canoe to the right or left, as needed, as we have done it many times in the past.  Now sometimes we grow tired, and the canoe veers in directions we didn’t want it to go, but that’s okay.  With our skills and our strength, we pull it back on course and smile an how much easier it is to correct small transgressions each time they occur.

These rapids may be bigger than the last set, but they are still simply rapids, requiring the same skills and focus to traverse as the last … and the beautiful calm pool on the other side, no bigger, no calmer than the last, but perhaps a little more beautiful because we have done so much more to earn it.

This life, this river will always have its challenges, but at forty we don’t look at an unexpected bill with the panic of a twenty year old young Mom.  We giggle at the leak in the roof and shake our heads at the flat tire.  Annoying?  Perhaps.  Monumental challenge?  I think not.  We are built to handle so much more than that.

Our job is simple – pack a good canoe, rest our bones and muscles so they can deliver their best performance when required, and never, ever forget to notice just how beautiful the journey is when we believe and enjoy all God had given us.  Join the land; breathe slowly and calmly as we look at the still water.  Stand TALL, strong and proud as we hear the rush of the rapids.  We are strong!  We are not victims, we are skilled warriors and the river awaits!

No, as that entry stated this is not our first day in the canoe … and we have all survived events that have given us survival skills if you will.  We just have to recognize them as such.

Let’s play a game, let’s see how many points you can accumulate.

If you have ever failed … give yourself a point.

If you have ever succeeded at something you worked REAL hard for – give yourself a point.

If you got married – give yourself a point.

If you have ever been divorced – give yourself a point.

If you have ever been fired – give yourself a point.

If you have ever started a new job – give yourself a point.

If you have ever taken an exam – give yourself a point.

If you have ever moved to a new town or city – give yourself a point.

If you have survived the death of a loved one – give yourself a point.

If you have survived serious illness or serious illness of a loved one – give yourself a point.

Look at how many points you have.  Look at how much you have survived.  Tell me again why you don’t think you are strong?  Isn’t about time you put some faith in all you know?

Let me tell you another story … I am Indian. I tell stories.

As a child I was raised Roman Catholic.  It was after all the religion of my father and since my Mother had been taught that her teachings were “bad” it worked for her.  Each Sunday we went off to church but as my Elder pointed out to me years later, Mom could not help who she was or how she raised her children so each Sunday the same event played out.  We would climb the steps to that little country church but at the very top Mom would stop us.  She would make us look her in the eyes in that way that Mom’s do when they REALLY want you to pay attention and she would repeat the same words, “Remember when you the priest in there is speaking, if you hear something that makes you stop and think, good.  Take that with you and keep it but if his words make the little voice in your head say ‘WHAT??’ leave it here!  Creator gave you a brain.  Use it!  Do not ever have blind faith in anything.”

This teaching and this story grew in importance during my time in Toronto.  So often I watched the lost people run from one craze to another, this speaker could explain your life and your challenges, now this one can.  This one can show you how to find happiness while this one is the ONLY one who can assist you to gain personal power.  It is INSANITY and why do I say that?  Because they teach dependence.  Believe in us and you will have happiness.   Live as we say and you will be fine.  Do this and you will have all you ever wanted.  Talk about EGO!!  Talk about DISRESPECT for all that you are and all that you have learned!

I don’t know what you want or need.  I am no mind reader.  Only you have that knowledge, and if you don’t know what you want or need, isn’t it time to find out?  When I sat down to find my path I looked back over my life and career.  I looked at all the different jobs I had held, and determined what about those jobs did I like and what did I hate.  Then I added in my hobbies, what I did in my free time.  What did they give me that I enjoyed?  One common thread appeared – my love of helping others to realize just how beautiful they are.  When someone calls me to say they have made it through a dark time thanks to my book … my heart is full.  When another calls to say they need to buy another copy because someone they know “needs it”, my heart is full.  Those times I cherish … and they help offset the times a complete stranger feels the need to walk up to me and exclaim “YOU are in my bathroom!”

It took years for me to realize and appreciate the teachings given at the top of those little church steps, one of the first passed down by my Mother, and for that and all her teachings I am grateful.  I have come to realize just how beautiful and FREEING the belief in myself and my inner teachings truly is and it need not be any different for you.  This belief does not mean we do not learn from the outside environment for we do, we must.  Our instincts simply guide us, they assist us to find the teachers, they tell us who we need to know, and who we need to steer clear of, what is a good path for us, and what isn’t and the wise man or woman listens.  Thanks to that acceptance and knowledge I have had the most interesting conversations with men and women from a wide variety of cultures and religions.  I can see the similarities in their teachings and my own, and I can embrace what I learn from them.  All are pieces to the puzzle that is me and the teachers as mentioned are everywhere which is so absolutely perfect since we all have questions.

Have you ever met someone, a complete stranger prior to your meeting, that you were immediately drawn to?  How about the opposite, have you ever met someone who made your skin crawl, whose very voice irritated you, who simply got on your nerves?  All intentional my friends, all hints as to which way for you to go.

Another story … awhile back I was asked to speak at Confederation College here in Thunder Bay, in the Student’s Lounge.  Now it had been awhile since I had been in the College and of course my schedule was as tight as always so I got there with no time to spare.  I put my faith in Creator and prayed that when I raced in the back door he would give me a hint, a sign if you will, as to which way I should go.  WELL, anyone who has BEEN in the Student’s Lounge when they have a speaker will know that they use the entire 2 story wall as the screen for the projector.  As I walked through the doors THERE WAS MY FACE, TWO STORIES HIGH and I figured that might be the sign I was looking for but you know, as I pulled my papers out of my briefcase and prepared to speak I couldn’t help thinking … wouldn’t life just be so easy if everywhere we were suppose to go, there was a little sign with our picture on it?  Imagine, should I take this job?  Nope, my pic isn’t on that building.  Oh, its on that one!  Okay, heading over there now.

Should I marry that guy?  Opps, nope, he has some other woman’s face on his t-shirt.  Stay clear but ohhhhhhhh look at that hottie over there and THAT’S MY PIC!!  Thank you GOD!!

Back to the two people, one you have a rapport with, one you don’t.  One is not good or bad, in fact both are no doubt amazing people in their own right, but you are on a path to YOUR destiny and Creator sends people that carry lessons that you need to learn.  That first person you felt instantly connected with … get to know him or her.  He or she was sent to help you.  He or she HAS your pic on their t-shirt.  That second person … walk away.  Accept that this person is not someone you need to know right now.  I wasted SO MANY YEARS before I came to accept this teaching.  I would chastise myself, telling myself I wasn’t giving them a chance, that I should simply get to know them, that I was being mean or judgemental!  WRONG.  I wasn’t judging, I was or should have simply accepted that wasn’t my face on their t-shirt!  They didn’t need me anymore than I needed their teaching.  Accept, listen, learn (and watch for t-shirts).

Now how does this relate to social work?  Teach the women to believe in themselves, to their instincts.  As a First Nations woman I am reminded daily that domestic abuse is rampant in our communities and one of the first victims is our confidence in ourselves.  We are taught by our abusers that our very thoughts are wrong, that we are paranoid, that we are overreacting and it takes years to recondition ourselves and every single time a well meaning counsellor or teacher or professor points out that what we believe is an error …. That horrible self doubt is reinforced.

These women are not stupid.  You are not stupid, you are not paranoid, you are YOU and you have the right to your feelings and your emotions as do they.  What we do with them is also our responsibility so we must tred carefully here.  We have no more right to impose our beliefs on another, than they have to impose on you.  Rather the greatest gift we can offer is to give them the assistance to recognize and then freely walk their path, while we continue to focus on ours.  Accept, listen and learn.

We all know the Serenity Prayer – say it with me.  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  I giggle when I think of HOW MANY YEARS I wasted before I realized that that first part … accept that things I cannot change … yep, that meant other people.

If ONLY I could get back all the time I spent ranting “IF ONLY he would act this way or if ONLY she would stop doing this blah blah blah”.  It took me years to realize they are simply following their path, as designed by Creator and I cannot nor do I have the right to change their course.  I can only choose whether our paths will run parallel or not.  Now sometimes they may choose to adjust this or that so that their will is no longer warping out my path and that is fine, as THAT is free will but to demand another change … is to be God and I am sorry, in my world we just do not have that right.

Yes we all have a path to our own self defined success and a belief in ourselves will go far to assisting us to achieve that vision but as mentioned in my book and in many other teachings from a wide variety of cultures, it is essential for our success and happiness to make our inner voice our friend.  So often our heads are filled with negative self talk. I make sure to instruct women that this is not Creator talking, but rather every fear, every abuser, every disempowering individual or thought they have ever encountered, it is simply fear and nothing more.  But when your inner voice tells you what you know you need to do, when your inner voice is your friend, then we can truly begin to heal.

The Voice Within (Jan 3)

What if through some magic spell I could hear your inner voice for a day?  Would I be happy to hear how your inner voice encourages you or supports you; how it praises you, or would I be saddened to hear the names your voice calls you?  Would I cringe at the stinging words?  Would I cry at the abuse?

I pray that your inner voice is your friend, that it reminds you of how wonderful you are, how strong, and how unique.  If it doesn’t, isn’t it time it should?

Today I want you to say STOP; out loud if you have to, every single time your inner voice says anything less than supportive and encouraging.  It will seem strange at first; all new habits do but, YOU ARE WORTH IT!  You would never allow another human being, a child, or a partner speak to you this way so its time your inner voice learned the same respect.  For you see this voice, this condemning voice is NOT the Creator.  This damning inner voice is based on the lessons of every negative condemning person we have ever met, every doubt we have ever had, every fear that has come to life.

You deserve better and you ARE better; so today yell STOP.  I think you will be surprised how often you condemn yourself but you will be even more surprised at how amazingly your life takes off in a new and positive direction – once the inner abuse stops.

That was the January 3rd entry from my book, and I know, without a doubt that my success began the day I mastered my inner voice.  After all we are not victims, no matter what has happened along our path.  We are strong, beautiful creatures created by God and we must remember that DAILY as we go through our lives.

As the entry states, many years ago a friend asked me to do one simple thing.  She knew I was struggling with an inner voice that was abusing me long after my ex-husband was gone.  Simply she asked me to pay attention to what my inner voice was saying and then, she asked that I say “STOP” out loud every single time that my inner voice said something negative, every time that voice called me a name, said I couldn’t do something, or told me I wasn’t worth it.

Two things happened almost immediately.  One, I could not BELIEVE how often I had to say stop.  And two, I realized how utterly impossible my success was along as I carried around this voice that was telling me every 3 seconds that I was going to fail.  No one has ever won a race by telling themselves they are going to lose, and that holds true for us as well.  Stop the insanity today, and watch how your life changes.

Now we have spoken of the women, but for the men Creator had a different plan.

Men were not given their teachings upon birth but rather were given the responsibility to go out into the world and find their teachings.  They must search and learn, fall and get back up and develop the skills and instincts and the strength that will serve them in life.  Again they must be shown that failing is not wrong, it is simply a learning process and they must be encouraged to listen to all the teachers they encounter.  I personally have learned from children, from the homeless, from my friends and from utter strangers, from elders of all nationalities and from the trees and water themselves.

The men must be reminded, in a supportive and respectful way, that one of their greatest teachers will be … their mate.  A wise man seeks the counsel of his partner for she sees the world differently.  He may end up disregarding it but the wisest of warriors always considers, and listens and learns.

A simple fact, teachers surround us everyday.  They are the water and the air, the birds and forest creatures, strangers and friends, Anishnawebe and other nations for it is said that it is only when the colours of man come together and share their teachings with each other that the world truly comes together.  Just remember … when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

I pray today in some small way I was a teacher to you.  I have done so many of these speeches now, sometimes before a large crowd and once … for one solitary woman.  You see as with any gift, my words are not for me, but my faith says that someone in this room needed to hear what I had to say today just like that one woman needed to hear my teachings on that day.  Sometimes, after an event, I am fortunate and I get to find out who it was.  I will get a note or an email and someone will share how I touched them, or assisted them and for those times I am always grateful but even when that doesn’t happen I have faith.  I was meant to be here today as were you.  It is up to you now to determine why.

As Ojibways we have the Seven Grandfather Teachings to guide us but outside that there are no set of laws, there are simply guides to life, most often learned at the knee of an Elder.  Respect for those who have lived and seen much is the basis of all we know for we simply do not believe you can live, learn and reflect on a lifetime and not carry wisdom worthy of sharing.  Start gathering your wisdom but remember, listening is not enough for it is in the adoption of these teachings that we are freed to be the best we can be, so today, here and now, I do hope you were listening, not for my sake, but for yours.

In closing my friends, I must say Chi-Miigwetch for coming out today and listening.  All of the entries I shared to day are from my book “Honorary Indian” which are for sale here today.  Writing that book, knowing my Mom, sharing her with the world was an honour and I am thrilled to say I am presently about halfway through my 2nd book, continuing the legacy of my Mother and her wisdom so even more may benefit.

To close this session I would like to share with you an entry I love to use to end my presentations and then I would like to invite you to ask questions, to offer comment, to truly make this session your own.  After all I am here for you.  The entry is called …

It’s Up To You (March 15)

I believe in you

And I am willing to remind you of that

As often as you need.

I know you deserve everything you dream of.

I know you are a good person

I know that I am blessed to know you

But at the end of the day it is up to you!

I believe in your gifts but if you never use them,

If you never challenge yourself, nothing will change for you.

If you listen to my words but take no action

They will always remain just words.

If you smile and say thank you when I tell you I believe in you,

But never believe in yourself

Than your past is destined to be your future.

I KNOW you can do it,

I know you want, need and deserve more.

But it is up to you my friend.

I am your cheerleader but you are the captain of this team

And its up to you if you become the champion

You were destined to be.

All I can do is cheer and cheer I do

Every single day.

Sandi Boucher

Honourary IndianSandi Boucher is the author of numerous motivational articles. Her novel ‘Honorary Indian’ a book created to inspire and help people to find and live their own inner strength.

Sandi Boucher

is the CREATOR of ‘Honorary Indian’ the only interactive, non-denominational, cross-cultural motivational group on Facebook

FOUNDER of meno bimahdizewin consulting group and the Super Women’s Club of Canada

MASTER of Positive Thinking, Traditional Strength, and Personal Power

www.sandiboucher.ca

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Sandi Boucher is a published author and motivation speaker, born and raised in a small Northern Ontario town. A proud member of the Seine River First Nation, Sandi is introducing the world to the Ojibwe teachings of her Mother, using these ageless lessons to show others how to find and enjoy their own strengths and gifts.