A Holistic View
Crystal Charlotte Easton
Life presents challenges. No matter how well we insulate our families and homes from painful events or circumstances, at some point we humans are bound to witness a spectrum of fortune and misfortune in our lives. I think of it as a big cosmic ‘wheel of life’ turning around and ‘keeping it real’ for us. So if we are all bound to face the downers in life, what makes some of us stay down, while others seem to take it and move on anyway? Perspective, I’m told, makes all the difference.
Our perspective, which can also be viewed as our ‘Paradigm’ is the unique way we regard ourselves and our world around us. It is the story that we tell ourselves, and whoever else is asking, to explain our circumstances and it informs our habits and approach to all of our future experiences. With so much potential for transformation and growth, one would think that our parents and our schools would teach us how to work with our perspectives to improve and maintain our quality of life; rather, we’re pretty much left on our own to ‘dig up the dirt’ on creating Paradigm shifts when we need them. Lucky for us, and thanks to the Internet, there are many resources available these days to help work out a new perspective; our first task then, is to realize that we are responsible for our own paradigm, and that it’s up to us to change it.
“If you want to make small improvements in your life, change your behavior; Change your attitude. If you want to make quantum improvements, change your paradigm, your map. In other words, begin to look at life and the world from an entirely different level of thinking.”- Steven Covey
The saddest story of my personal life is also the greatest story of the ‘power of perspective’ that I can offer…I call it my ‘unsinkable cheerio’ story:
One day, it seems like lifetimes ago, I woke up at a women’s hospital, aching, emptied, and miserable. The despair I was feeling was enough to make me leave my abusive relationship, and to do so I had to appeal to a temporary residential Safehouse for women and children. I could not believe it was me going through these events. I was an educated woman, I came from a fairly healthy family, and at age 31 I had already done much advocating in my lifetime for women and children less fortunate than myself (I even fundraised and served for a short time on the board of directors for a Women’s shelter in my hometown!); but there I was, untangling myself from the traps I had worked so hard to prevent in the lives of other women. “How could I have led myself so far astray?” I asked. For the last 10 years prior, I had worked diligently at preparing myself -through education, hard work, and social connection- to create a holistic healing and learning center, my ultimate dream that I hoped would be my legacy; my gift to the world. It was tempting to wallow in the cruel irony that rather than coordinating a holistic healing center, I was now a sad and confused client taking refuge inside one. “How did I get here?” I asked again and again, and more important now was “How do I get out of here?”
“…She lifted her eyes toward a brighter dawn…” Crystal Charlotte Easton
I had to go back to my internal ‘map’ of my life-story, to get some perspective. The answer appeared in the form of my ‘future Self’…the woman I was working toward becoming. In my mind I could see her standing in front of me, strong, healthy, satisfied that her work was helping people; for her, staying at the shelter was a distant memory. I asked her why this was all happening, and although she could’ve scolded me for my poor choices in Love, (the voice of the critic is always in there somewhere) instead she said I was there to learn something important. “Take a good look around,” she urged, “this experience is GOLD.” My tears dried… she was absolutely right. To experience a healing center from a client’s perspective, one who was actually in need of healing, would eventually provide critical insights for the creation of a compassionate, meaningful and effective practice in healing others; This was also a rare opportunity to observe and learn the inner workings of a client-oriented facility. With that powerful shift in perspective, I transformed my daily experience in the safehouse… I attended to my personal healing through books and counselling sessions, and in between I took notes on how the programs, schedules and chores were administered; I also read their policy and operations manuals and paid attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the staff. Even though my heart felt broken into a million pieces, my spirit had found a way to make it all useful, and even beautiful.
Are you needing a shift in perspective?
There is no ‘life’s checklist’ for determining if your current paradigm is serving you and your loved ones, but paying attention to your emotions from day-to-day should help. Most depressions, anxieties and fatigues can be alleviated with a change in the story we tell about ourselves, to ourselves. This does not replace seeing a doctor or counsellor for severe or long-term afflictions. Shiloh Sophia McCloud, my art teacher and friend who has dedicated her 20-year painting career to healing women’s Self-stories through art, recently stated it this way in an article from the Women News Network.
“How our stories live inside of us is how we live our lives. We have found it, as a people, increasingly difficult -in any culture- to change the story that we are telling ourselves…it becomes a loop: what happened, how it feels, whats going on, we find it difficult to even get out of ourselves enough to be a part of recreating what our story might be … When we put it into story, whether its audio, video, written, image, when we bring the concept into form, it changes how the story lives inside of the human being… and from that shift we are able to clear up some space in our mind and our heart to consider another possibility…” (2013 Shiloh Sophia McCloud – Self Expression Is Your Human Right)
So what can you do to change or deepen your own perspective?
Following are a few suggested exercises for provoking a realization in Perspective…
Where are you right now?
Imagine facing a map and dragging your finger across the paper miles, to the point where you are located. How did you get there? The short simple answers come first, like, ‘I live here’ or ‘I rode the bus to work this morning’ let those ones go by for now and ask yourself again, ‘how did I get here?’ In terms of distance, you might answer, ‘I moved here from over there’ or in terms of time, you might realize, I was born here, and my parents were born here’ these answers are getting bigger… lets for a moment, expand them to the widest view, short of ‘going cosmic’… You are (at least, we know your body is) a human organism on planet Earth, alive at a point we count as 2013. Your birth was preceded by the births and livings of your parents, and their births were a result of all predating births and livings of your ancestors. Unless you are indigenous to your current location, your ancestors moved around. (Many Indigenous groups moved about too, but that’s another conversation). Human waves of movement have been flowing over the surface of the Earth for millions of years. One particular red thread of human succession, plucked from the fabric of human expression, can be traced along those millions of people and years and miles, to a point that culminates in you. YOU are the future your ancestors dreamed; Wars were fought for you; Famines were endured for you. “Somewhere in history, your ancestors kicked some ass so that you could be here today” (–Shiloh Sophia McCloud 2012) So if you think you are random or insignificant, think again!
2. “Get Out of Yourself”
Like I had done when I reached my personal ‘rock bottom’, try to imagine your ‘future self’ standing in another place, time and circumstance, and consult with her. What does she say about where you are, and what does she say about what needs to change or follow next? Sometimes when Im feeling a little lost or needing some advice I visualize myself as an old, old woman, laying on my deathbed and remembering everything that happened to me in this lifetime… I ask her, my old wise-woman self, what she did next, and how she sees my current situation.
To get creative with this exercise, experiment with drawing your own headstone, and write your own epitaph. What would you wish your life stood for?
3. Get CREATIVE about it, by any means necessary
There must be a million ways to examine your perspective through Creativity… I have found that the richest and most fun experiences in Self-exploration are available in creative networks like Cosmic Cowgirls (and others) that focus on positive personal empowerment. Below are three main avenues my colleagues and I continue to access our inner stories and create new ways of telling them:
- Write your own Legend. In the Leading a Legendary Life course at Cosmic Cowgirls University, an online and in-person school, led by Shiloh Sophia McCloud, women from all walks of life work online together to use intentional creativity to dig up, transform, express and share their lives in legendary ways. Part fact, part fiction, all FOOD for the Soul, there is no doubt that treating your life like a story has deep therapeutic benefits for the teller and for the listener. The next time you experience a thought or concept that tries to pull you down and keep you there, imagine it like a chapter in a book you just read… how did she (you, the heroine of the story) outfox or overcome it?
- Paint your other -or inner- reality – Sometimes what we see and understand inside just can’t be expressed in words… sometimes all we have to start with is a shape, or a color, or a pattern, or sometimes we just can’t see anything yet and our ‘stuff’ only bubbles forth when we’ve been painting for a while… What we ‘Self-Healers’ have found together is that it doesn’t matter what the end product looks like; searching the soul for perspective through art is not skill-based, but rather it’s the act of listening, and following along with a brush; Need more of a prompt? Consider your view of a five year old from when you were also five… visualize your childhood friend, see that he or she was a similar size as you, liked the same games as you… the messages you wanted to give that person were likely affectionate, silly and very present-day oriented… it was about fun. Consider that person again, only this time, you are a 95 year old grandparent. Do you now see that child differently? Is he or she smaller now? More vulnerable? Do you see vast potential for joy and pain, and is there suddenly a sense of the miraculous and urgency in your messages to that child? A canvas can be a time-capsule for your unique message to reach your future self, or perhaps your children or grandchildren… what would you tell them from your perspective? Alternatively, imagine how you would have your great-grandchildren picture you and your life-story. What colors did their ancestral grandmother (you) love? What plants, what foods and animals were in her life? What was important to her?
- Create a ceremony that enacts your shift into a healthier paradigm… Acknowledging our life-stages with ceremony makes our milestones REALIZED by retrieving the event from our imaginations and forming it into a physical experience and consequently, a cherished memory. Ceremony helps us lift our eyes to a long-term view, and connects our current perspective to everything else along our life-line. Gathering for ceremony lifted our perspectives enough that we could see the impact we women made; our roles were defined and we became inspired by the realization that we weren’t just creating families; we were planting and nurturing the kind of people we want to live with in this world, starting with ourselves and with our children..
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”- Dr Wayne Dyer
- Everything is a story. Whether we subscribe to a Creation story or a Theory of galactic gasses and masses, we humans function with a basic assumption that our lives- and our existence- started at one point, has gone through amazing transformation, and is headed toward a great conclusion. Sharing from our unique perspective is an act of revolutionary love toward yourself and to others. You have pieces of the story that we, the others around you, need; and your story – the way you are telling it, to yourself or to others is impacting the rest of us; Further, expressing your perspective helps others to think about and refine their own. Examining your own perspective and understanding how it came to be can open you to other’s perspectives, creating possibilities you might never have considered, and opportunities for kindness and compassion.
- Whether your next undertaking is ‘micro’ like doing the dishes or ‘macro’ like designing a building or a dam, having a perspective that is wide enough to connect your work -your story-to the bigger picture is critical to maintaining a sense of purpose and direction. (For example, are you “just” doing the dishes, or are you actually tending to disease prevention in your home?) Here in ‘western society’ our fore-mothers had to fight hard for the right to express and submit their perspectives in the formation of our communities. It wasn’t long ago we could not lawfully gather or vote, we had no women’s magazines or platforms to speak publicly, educating women was thought to be futile and dangerous, and the only work open to us was menial servitude under males. Times have changed. Our Mothers and grandmothers -women all over the world-have revolted enough that the human right to hold an opinion, and to express it, was recently recognized and affirmed by the United Nations, making it an enforceable law worldwide. Do you understand that?Somewhere in our shared history somebody kicked some ass so you would have the right to hold, change and express your perspective…
Go on now, Use it!
Crystal Charlotte Easton is a Metis Artist born and raised in Fort St James, BC, a small northern village that provided the ideal country background for a blossoming artist, writer and environmentalist; She received early Art exposure and guidance from her grandmother, and continued to access art as a lasting, visual way to express her dreams, perspectives, and acutely attentive witnessing of her own life’s unfolding. Inspired by her “in-between” experiences as a mixed-blood woman, and hungry for her culture and ancestral teachings, Crystal achieved a bachelor’s degree in First Nations Studies in 2007. It was while studying Canada’s colonial relationship with Indigenous peoples that Crystal’s art emerged as the healing kind, prompted by the depressing and infuriating nature of her studies, and the realization that her family and her people -native and non-native alike- are still living the consequences of the colonial legacy. Today, Crystal’s art and writings braid together the strands of storytelling, activism, technical exploration, and free soul-stirring expression in symbolism, color and emotion. She works at her home studio in Nanoose Bay, BC, raising her large family with the Cree, Metis & Dene cultural teachings she finds along the way.
Find out more http://www.soulstoriesstudio.com/artist.html
All artworks in this Article are from the personal portfolio of Crystal Charlotte Easton, unless otherwise stated.
- QUOTES UN Human Rights Council:First Resolution on Internet Free Speech, 2012 July 12 [http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205403231_text]’Self Expression is Your Human Right‘, Shiloh Sophia McCloud 2013 via Red Thread Nation Free Teleclass, May 16, 2013.
- Reference Videos
- Playing for Change http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hGSqqhhokE
- Paradigm Shift: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlRK1vqcuvg
- This is Water: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLBp8WpeMSM