My trip to Ecuador during my 2011 summer of travel offered me a much needed reconnecting with my family.
It also offered me, though I did not fully recognize its significance at the time, a reconnecting with my heritage.
And an opening up to pieces of myself too long ignored.
Record keeping being what it was (or rather, wasn’t) I have no confirmation of the precise details of my Ecuadorian ancestry. I seem to recall seeing a photograph of my Great Grandfather once, and remarking upon the fact that he was Black (though probably mixed?). However, other than this detail, and my father’s occasional references to it, mostly I just know that like most Ecuadorians we’re likely more Indigenous than European . . . though due to some well ingrained internalized racism, like most mestizos, for a long time my family didn’t really acknowledge this.
I had this complicated history running through my head on the cool, August afternoon that I found myself sitting in this small examination room in the Jambi Huasi health clinic in the mostly Indigenous populated city of Otavalo.
My UN employed cousin had brought me to the clinic when I told her about my then job as a government policy advisor working in Aboriginal health. After a brief tour, I was offered the incredible experience of sitting in this exam room while an Indigenous midwife treated one of her patients.
Trying not to stare at the young woman during her exam, I read and then re-read the odd mix of health promotion posters, religious symbols and calendars from what seemed like every year but the one we were in as the petite midwife made her diagnosis. In between my scans of posters and calendars, I took peaks of the midwife as she as she passed a fresh egg over her patient’s body several times before cracking it into a small metal pan and reading the results.
As I sat there listening to the women discuss the diagnosis and treatment in Quecha (the language spoken by millions of Indigenous people descended from the Andes regions of the Americas), I found myself thinking:
This is my heritage.
I am descended from people who knew these or other ancient healing traditions.
We have lost this knowledge.
We have forgotten how to heal.
The subject of healing has been particularly important to me over the past two and a half years.
A time of tremendous trauma.
Of incredible change.
My healing journey during this time period has been complex.
It began with me reclaiming silver linings during my summer of travel in 2011. Saw me challenging myself to be more mindful of the present moment as I said goodbye to a year that had focused entirely on “what’s next,” and began a 2012 in which I taught myself to focus on “what’s now.” To better understand myself and my heart. To do what I love.
Throughout this journey I have thought often of my experience in that small examination room in Otavalo.
As I cognitive behavioural-ed my way through my actions and emotions, and what lies beneath them, with my amazing psychologist. As I shared my stumbles, successes and entertaining screw ups with you, my blogging community, while at the same time learning from the stories you shared with me. As I began to explore healing in new ways, such as my spring 2012 experience with craniosacral massage therapy.
Based on the theory that we hold the memory of our injuries, both physical and emotional, in our bodies, I was not surprised when images of a past trauma surfaced as my craniosacral massage therapist applied gentle pressure to the right side of my lower back during my second session with her in the Spring of 2012.
I was, however, a bit surprised by the images that came to mind. I had been carrying around more trauma than I had realized. Wounds I thought long ago forgotten had taken up squatter’s rights in my body, having never been properly healed. Tears fell slowly down my face as I connected with the wear that the carrying of these wounds had been having on me as lay still upon the massage table in a small therapy room in Ottawa.
Though my experience with craniosacral therapy ended after just a few sessions (during which I achieved astounding reductions in the pain that had led me to try it), it awakened in me a desire for a deeper examination of the the mind-body-emotion connection.
It pushed me to recognize that not only have we forgotten how to heal, we have lost touch with what wellness really means.
Which brings me to now.
This past weekend, actually.
I spent the weekend immersing myself in healing movement, talking about the need for balance between the elements of the mind, body, emotions and spirit, and connecting with amazing people who shared insights from their own journeys to healing and wellness.
There are no words for how elated I am over my experience this weekend.
The retreat confirmed all that I have been working towards in my search for wellness these past two years. It introduced new ideas around how care for my body by giving it what it needs to be well. How to manage my emotions by putting my heart’s energy into giving love, and by not letting my emotions be overtaken by my mind’s immense capacity for judgement. It gave me a new appreciation for the fact that what I love, what lights me up, is another word for my spirit. And I must continue to stay true to it.
I turned a new corner in my healing and wellness journey this weekend.
I can’t wait to see where it takes me.