Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

-Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond

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There is something about you that is different. Even if you have convinced yourself that you are average or blend into the backdrop of the mainstream. I am here to tell you, that you are indeed different, because the concept of normal is a complete fabrication designed to keep us feeling trapped in a cage of our own creation. This disillusionment of normal keeps us disempowered and willing agents in perpetuating a system that serves only those very few at the top, while the rest of us waste away in the land of average and sameness, always feeling like something is missing and never reaching our potential. It is possibly the most important task of your life to discover what it is exactly that sets you apart, defines who you are, and then surrender to it fully with all of your heart. If you can make this a priority, your life will change forever and you will wonder why in the hell you never did it sooner?

Who are you? The question of questions, and one that I ask myself every day to ensure I don’t slip back into complacency and a false sense of self, designed by my ego when I was young in order to help me survive and navigate a painful world, plagued with conformity. We are not our family, our job, the city we live in and the society that has shaped us. These are just the effects of nurture, but they are not your nature. We came into this world with something that is uniquely us and our life experience has either helped to steer us towards ourself or away from it. So really, the question is, who were you before the world got a hold of you? Who were you before you got talked out of following your heart and your bliss and all the things that ignite your fire and make your soul smile and cheer? Who were you before you integrated the message that if your interests don’t make you money they should not be a priority? Who were you before security, practicality and responsibility steered you away from who you actually are and what you want for yourself?

When I see people struggling within the life they have created because somehow, along the way they have ended up filling their days with way more ‘have to’s” than “want to’s”, I have nothing but compassion because I’ve been there. I, like so many others was programmed by social conditioning to keep putting the things I loved aside in favour of socially accepted and understood choices that would ultimately make me money and provide me with security, social status and respect. I went into sciences at University because I had been told repeatedly by many sources that I was more likely to get a job in the field of science, and nothing was more important than a secure job. I then ended up in a very practical Environmental Technology program at College. A couple of years later, I moved out from my childhood home into my own apartment, got a part-time job to pay the rent and gas for my car and then graduated soon after. By the time I was 21 I had started my career at an Engineering firm and began a 10 year climb up the corporate ladder and into a well respected position in a glass sky-rise at a large Corporation downtown. During this climb, I bought a house with my then boyfriend, now husband at age 24, got a dog, bought my first new car, and went on a warm vacation annually. By all socially accepted measures of success, at only 28 years of age, I had made it. While some might have found that life comforting, a deeper, more intuitive part of me found it deeply disheartening. I was only 10 years into being an adult and there were very few rungs left on that corporate ladder I was climbing. I had landed directly in the middle of average. I shot for the middle instead of the stars and landed there more quickly than I had expected. This life was taking up all of my time with very little left over for my interests or passions. Was this really going to fulfill me for the next 35 years of my life until retirement? And then what? Then I get to do what I want? Was I living for the weekend, the next holiday, the golden retirement years? I had a constant nagging feeling within me for something more, that money and vacations and marriage was not fulfilling. Then, I checked the next milestone off my well laid out and organized life. I got pregnant, and everything changed. I was faced with the hardest and also the easiest decision of my life. Would I stay in my extremely demanding career and try to juggle being a Mother, a Wife and a career woman, or would I give up the career I had been building and working towards since high school? That’s when I started to question everything, mostly myself. That’s the first time I had dared to ask myself “who am I?”, and allowed myself to be brutally honest. After quieting the opinions of others and finally listening to my inner knowing, I knew that this life I had built so diligently by following the rules and playing the game, was not in fact who I was. So I gave up my career, and all the money and status that came with it and devoted myself to raising my babies, all the while, doing the soul searching work of getting back to the core of who I was before I got onto this well trodden mainstream track. The isolation and solitude that being a stay-at-home Mom provided me, while lonely and alienating much of the time, was the best gift I have ever given myself. I had a legitimate excuse to get out of the rat race, be separated from the constant reinforcement of popular opinion, and come back home into my own heart.

Often, people who are experiencing that nagging, that inner turmoil that tells them they aren’t living their authentic life, get stuck, because when they ask themselves “who am I?”, “what do I want?” they honestly don’t know the answer. My humble advice for this common experience is to go back to the beginning and start from there. Who were you before other people’s influences, projected fears and scarcity mentality got the better of you? What were you like as a child? What did you do with yourself when boredom led to self-directed creativity? When you were told to go and play or entertain yourself, what did you gravitate to? What made time stop for you, that you lost yourself in completely, that you returned to again and again? All of those things, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem to you now, are the clues to your bliss. They are where the essence of who you are resides.

When I asked myself these questions, it was very clear to see who I was, and I was definitely not being true to her anymore. I was dishonouring that little girl who loved to dress up in elaborate costumes and create characters in her Grandmother’s wardrobe and then come downstairs and ad-lib in character to my Grandparents delight. I was not being true to the little girl who loved to sing and dance, create costumes and perform dance routines to Mini-Pops songs on my portable record player and microphone that connected to our radio. Thank you 1980’s! I had suppressed that pre-teen who dressed her friends up in our Mothers’ clothes and created sets and themes riffing on popular advertisements. I’d take their pictures on an old camera, taking the time to get them developed and putting them into photo albums. I had polished and wiped clean that wild child with the messy tangled mass of hair, who was strong and athletic, wore a camo sweatsuit, painted mud on her face, hiked in the woods, communed with nature and built ramps to jump her BMX bike on dirt trails. I had silenced the teenager who wrote poetry and short stories to process her emotions, played guitar and piano, adored thrift shopping for vintage and cutting up and sewing new clothes out of thrift store finds. There was almost no sign of the girl who read countless books on astrology, spirituality and mysticism, learned to read tarot cards and burned incense daily in the solitude of her room. I was no longer honouring the young woman who chose theatre as her extra curricular activity in high school and Bellydancing as her twenty-something after work hobby that she squeezed into her work schedule. Dance led to teaching, performing and producing Vaudeville-estque productions, and eventually training with world-renowned Bellydancers. Aside from keeping a small fire lit in my heart with dance, I had somehow completely suppressed the girl within me, my soul self, my essence and she was screaming to come out, and making it harder and harder to ignore her dissatisfaction as the years ticked by. I had been waiting for permission to be myself, to be told by someone, anyone, that the things I loved were worthy of my time and focus, and that they deserved to be the centre of my life, not something I pushed to the sidelines in favour of money and security and conformity. I had talked myself out of myself. Everything in me wanted to believe that if I followed my bliss, my interests, the things that made my heart sing, I would be ok. I would be able to take care of myself in this world that had convinced me that the things I love carry no value and have no place here.

I have spent the last decade, re-claiming myself. Gathering up all the ways in which I gave myself away, spread myself too thin and replaced my soul self with an imposter out of fear and the very human need to belong, even if it meant I’d end up surrounding myself with people who would never fully understand or genuinely encourage the real me. I gathered that young creative girl up in my arms and I told her she has my full and complete permission and undying support to unleash herself fully un-encumbered. I started to take chances again. I re-aquainted myself with my creative spark. I re-connected with the wild, natural, mystically inclined warrior woman I always was. I dove back into my passion for vintage clothing, began fashion styling, creating fashion editorials and working with photographers to create visual art. I started writing again and embraced art, philosophy and poetry. I started this blog for the shear joy of mashing all my passions together and birthing them out into the world. I continued to dance and teach and learn. The more of myself I accepted, the more layers of false reality about the world started unravelling and revealing to me. The more honest and authentic I have become with myself, the more confident I get and the easier it is for me to reveal my truest nature to others. I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, or that you won’t lose people along the way. Being true to yourself at all costs takes an immense amount of courage and conviction and can be challenging for those around you who would prefer you to not rock the boat so they can stay comfortable inside the paradigm they’ve accepted. People who uphold mainstream values will see your choices to live alternatively in favour of your own truth, as a personal judgement on them, not as the brave and honest thing it is. People will see your personal sacrifices of monetary gain and non-attachment to titles and material things as an affront to a lifestyle they are trying to justify to themselves daily in order to have the gumption to hit that alarm clock every morning and go to a job they complain about all the time. You have to be willing to allow those people to fall away from your life and open yourself up to all the new beautiful souls who will begin to appear in your experience.

There is almost always a period of isolation and loneliness in the process of un-learning your social programming and embracing your true self, but I can’t even begin to explain to you the incredible freedom that comes with self-acceptance. Pursuing the life that matches your values and attracting like-minded individuals who will come into your life to teach you new things, cheer you on, support and encourage you and celebrate your victories along with you is incredibly fulfilling and vindicating after facing your fears and conquering them. These new advocates will not only not be threatened by you or want to compete with you, they will hold you up and inspire the hell out of you! The mutual respect will be that which you have always deeply desired. The angst and judgement you felt towards people because you gave your power away by blaming them for robbing you of your vitality, will start to become beautiful to you in incredible ways and you will begin to love the world again the more you love yourself and honour the things that call to your heart and soul.

Remember. Remember the creative genius of a soul that is you. Remember who you are and don’t give your power away. No one can take it from you, it has to be given up freely. Make yourself a priority and get back to that joyful being you were so freely as a child. Peel away the layers of false messages that have been keeping you down and re-claim your potential. And Shine. Shine on you crazy diamond!

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re Acceptable
Respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!
Oh, take it take it yeah
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
‘Cause I was feeling so logical
D-d-digital
One, two, three, five
Oh, oh, oh, oh
It’s getting unbelievable

– Supertramp, The Logical Song

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING and ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

MAKEUP: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

HAIR, & MASK DESIGN: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique

FASHION:

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Embrace The Mystery

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“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed.”Albert Einstein

I am a strong believer in the power of questioning things. When we ask a question, we are essentially communicating that we don’t know something, and in that admittance, we create a vast openness and allowing for ourselves to receive. To acquire new information, a new perspective, a new understanding, or most often, a new set of questions. We learn and grow and experience from that place of openness and willingness to not have all the answers. Children do this with ease. They have not yet developed the Ego that tries to pretend it knows more than it does, to protect us from being laughed at or belittled for not knowing something, or for getting it wrong. We are so often criticized for lack of knowledge about something or not getting the right answer, like somehow making mistakes is bad, instead of essential to our growth. As adults, we have learned to avoid admitting it when we don’t know, like it’s a flaw in our character. Somewhere along the line, we have lost our willingness to be an open vessel that wants to receive more knowledge, for fear of judgement. Maybe it’s because of the well known expression “knowledge is power”, and we feel by admitting that we don’t know something, we become powerless. Maybe its because knowing things has become useful in a society that feeds off of gossip and competition, and being the first to know something gives us status in a superficial culture. Maybe it’s because we have created a society that places substantial emphasis on education, certification and qualification to determine a person’s value, and not nearly enough emphasis on a deeper wisdom that lives within each of us that we access through compassion, love and intuition. Maybe, we have lost our willingness to admit not having all the answers because we are terrified of going down the rabbit hole of unanswerable questions and the incredible vastness and great mystery of the universe. Maybe we are just shit scared of realizing how little we as a collective species actually know.

The possibility of humanity knowing almost nothing about our universe might scare you, and leave you feeling paralyzed and on the brink of an existential crisis. I definitely understand that, I’ve been there, all too recently in fact. But to me not knowing is the beginning of everything. It is the empty cup waiting to be filled. It is the majesty of embracing mystery, wonderment and the absolute awe-inspiring complexity and sheer immeasurable size of our universe. Every question leads to more questions, and the discovery and journey is the purpose. When we cling to an answer, a set of rules, a dogma, a belief system, a scientific law, we cease to be open to learning and growing to the capacity we are capable of. We cling to these ideas and philosophies for comfort. We use well established beliefs in order to help us define ourselves and ultimately to belong. I get it. It’s scary to manoeuvre in a world without a code, or a guideline or set of beliefs, but I think it’s much scarier to live in a world where people have attached so deeply to one idea, that they cease to be open to any other, and will wage war with anyone who challenges their particular views. People use a belief system as their identity, instead of a source of information and a part of their knowledge and life experience. They say “I AM”, a Christian, an Athiest, a Scientist, a Metaphysicist, and in doing so, they lock in to a set of rules and maybe without realizing it, they put up a wall and close a lot of doors to more knowledge they may never get to experience because it’s in conflict with who they have decided they are. I find it very interesting and curious, living on this planet, a biological phenomenon supporting millions of species, that floats in space within an immeasurable cosmos where we have found no other intelligent lifeforms, that there are so many people who have a set of beliefs directly in conflict with others’ beliefs, yet they all claim without a shadow of a doubt that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Just let that sink in for a minute. There are those who believe that the earth is flat, despite scientists providing evidence and photographs from space that show the contrary. Doctors used to believe smoking was good for us and prescribed cigarettes to reduce stress. There are millions of people who believe the Earth was created in 6 days and Women were created from the rib of Man. There are those who believe we have souls and reincarnate into new physical bodies and those that believe that when we die, that’s the end of it all. Truly ask yourself this, with so much conflicting knowledge, living on a planet we have polluted to the point of mass extinction, where we murder each other over resources and differing beliefs, and eat food we have knowingly poisoned with chemicals, who are any of us to decide that we are right above all others, and not allow another perspective in, in order to better ourselves? Truly, we need to ponder that.

“We must be willing to sit on the edge of mystery and unlearn what has helped guide us in the past but is no longer useful.”Robert Wicks

I am completely enamoured with science, mythology, mysticism and spirituality. I never tire of learning new things in these arenas, especially the places where we have no physical evidence or proof, and I’m forever fascinated with where these areas overlap. You name it, I’m open to it. You want to talk about energy and vibration? Artificial intelligence? Astrophysics? Religion? Aliens? Metaphysics? Philosophy? Art? Western Medicine? Light-workers? Politics? Astrology? Let’s talk. I look around myself and I see small pockets of people in peace with each other because they believe the same things, but they are in constant conflict with the other pockets who don’t share their beliefs and every pocket thinks they have the answer, so we are all trapped in our own Ego’s and as a result, at war with one another. Moving forward and evolving is next to impossible in that kind of environment. People are more interested in being the one who is right (even if they’re wrong because they don’t have all the information), than living in harmony with people and the planet. We want belonging so badly, that we hold onto agreed upon ideas in one group with white knuckles, while in actuality we are creating division and separateness between humanity. The internet is rife with condescension and righteousness. “Our world is in trouble, politically and environmentally because of them!” If only they would get on board with our beliefs. Sound about right? I’m guilty of it too, and I’m tired of that game that goes nowhere good. I’m more than ready now to do the work of bringing humanity back together by letting go of my closed-mindedness and judgement and pouring out my cup full of how smart I am, so that I might actually learn something new.

I think the key to embracing the unknown is to ask questions about the topics that interest us and revel in the new information we aquire in order to understand them better, but not to attach and cling to an idea out of a need for comfort or security. I think the goal is to be brave enough to let go of old ideas when other information presents itself, even if it challenges the ideas we were just accepting. I think it is our willingness to surrender to the unknown and to unlearn old information as new discoveries and understandings surface. We are natural explorers, scientists and creatives from birth. Watch any child discovering their world and this becomes so abundantly clear. Ultimately, I think it is about cultivating a willingness to surrender to the magnitude of not knowing and to have the courage to stay open to receiving, learning and growing. It’s about making friends with the inevitability of change and letting go of judgement for long enough to entertain ideas and theories that at first glance appear crazy. Indeed, it has been those crazy ideas and theories that have moved humanity forward by leaps and bounds time and again. Imagine what the neighbours must have thought of the Wright Brothers while they were building and test flying their first flying machine designs which would later become the modern airplane? Imagine if they had cared too much about what the neighbours thought?

If I have a strong belief of my own, it’s that what is known about our universe is far less than what is unknown, and I want to learn as much about it as I can, so I must maintain a willingness to be wrong about things I used to think were right. We must be willing to investigate and ask “what if” about concepts that others around us will laugh at and disregard because of their limiting beliefs and pre-conceived notions. We must continually push our comfort zone and go where others are not willing to go. We have to be more devoted to learning and our own growth than to the judgements and narrow mindedness of others. I am willing to do that for the sheer joy of the possibilities and discovery of our potential, but most importantly, I’m willing to do that to play my part in helping to heal our hurting world, are you?

“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” –Bruce Lee

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” –Lao Tzu

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders

STYLIST, MODEL, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE/PRE-LOVED FASHION: Patron of Dreams now has a NEW online SHOP full of Vintage, Pre-loved and Up-cycled Clothing and Housewares! New treasures are always being added to the shop, check it out here Patron of Dreams Shop !!!

One of our greatest scientific geniuses in history, Galileo Galilei, was an Astronomer, Physicist and Engineer. He was deemed the “father of observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of the scientific method” and even the “father of modern science.” He was also an avid Astrologer, who read the stars for people who sought his knowledge to better understand their own lives. I think it is the people who use a combination of their education, experience, intuition, emotions, and a healthy dose of curiosity and openness to possibility, who end up reaching their fullest potential in this world.

“Who would set a limit to the mind of man? Who would dare assert that we know all there is to be known?” – Galileo Galilei

I would like to introduce you to Shannon Rae, of Unwilling Mystic. Shannon is a Teacher, a Mathematician and an Astrologer, who does readings of Astrological birth charts for people, teaches workshops on the ancient science and art of Astrology, and does Astro-Dice readings at Winnipeg’s, Radiance Gifts. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Shannon by a mutual friend who had attended her workshops and I was completely captivated by her knowledge and accuracy when she read my birth chart for me. I literally lost track of all time and talked with her into the wee hours of the morning. The whole experience was profound. It was incredibly eye opening in some ways and totally affirming in others and amazingly, we barely scratched the surface. I highly recommend you take the leap and have Unwilling Mystic read your Astrological birth chart. Your eyes may be opened to things you never would have thought possible. I had no idea of the scale and complexity of Astrology and just how much information there is to dig into, if you are willing to go down the rabbit hole. Astrology is as vast and awe-inspiring as….well, the cosmos.

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“For the rational among us there is not much room for the mystical. My great wish is to inspire my clients and students with the tangible experience of astrology, to illuminate the patterns of time and meaning so we can feel the connection to our universe and become aware of our dance within it.”Unwilling Mystic

Astrology has a colourful place in pop culture but like anything condensed for mass entertainment its true value is grossly underrepresented. The study of the planetary correlations to human events and personal unfolding has been in practice for more than 5000 years and I am honoured to be able to add my interpretations to this rich history.

Each of us is born with a beautifully mathematical cosmic fingerprint. This image of the heavens at the moment of your birth is unique to you and is a map used for navigating your self-understanding and, when compared to current planetary positions, your personal evolution through time.

It’s hard not to get swept away by the magnitude of all this… but in reality a consultation is a simple conversation. Using your astrological fingerprint I will offer insights into your key characteristics, how you interact with the people around you and your aspirations for the future. My goal is to validate your intuitive understanding and help you capitalize on the energy of the moment. Ride the wave, baby! –Unwilling Mystic

 

 

A Woman’s Sexual Sovereignty

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I will not cower from people’s opinions and criticisms of my body like it has any bearing at all on how I choose to feel about myself. I will not allow some ridiculously narrow standard of beauty stop me from revelling and celebrating in this incredible vessel I am lucky enough to live in. I will do with my body what I want, when I want and that includes sensual and sexual expression, simply because, it’s my body. I will not feel shame for being a woman and all that that encompasses. I will not shrink, I will not be quiet, sit down and be told how I must act, what I can and can not wear to be respected. I will not be diminished or intimidated by whispers and finger pointing. I am not ashamed of this body, that has allowed me to be a dancer, a lover, a mother of two beautiful boys and a model, despite the worlds desire to make me think it’s not good enough. There is no such thing as beauty flaws. My lines, age spots, cellulite and stretch marks are a map of my physical growth and changing life story. How dare anyone imply they are flaws that I should be embarrassed about, hide or try to repair. I simply don’t accept it, and I am more than willing to be the tip of the arrow head that slices through that old, outdated, oppressive paradigm designed to keep women insecure, fearful and as a result, controllable. I understand that being that spearhead may mean I get battered and bruised by judgement and criticism, but I’d rather be dead than allow this body shaming standard to continue into the next generations. It’s time is up. That story is over, time for a new one and I intend to help write it.

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 It’s true what they say about women in their 40’s. There are only so many fucks to give in any woman’s life until you run out, and often, when women enter their 40’s, they discover there are zero fucks left. It completely unravels you and everything you thought you knew, which is terrifying and at the same time, completely liberating. Every woman has a finite amount of patience to put up with oppressive bullshit and bite their tongue until one day, they wake up and say, it’s not ok anymore, enough is enough. This summer, I turned 40. I was born in 1978, hence the t-shirt in this photoshoot. It is hard to believe that I have been alive for four decades already! As I enter my 40th year upon this earth, within this body, I find myself in an intense time of personal reflection and examination, as often comes with Birthdays, and the change of season. Goodbye to a transformative summer, which was somewhat of a living death for me, and welcome to a new and more empowered chapter. Happy Autumnal Equinox!

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My personal story is about a girl who tried very, very hard to be a good and to be liked. To behave in the way that pleased people. We learn at a very, very young age what behaviours will be met with approval and all the positive attention that will come with it, and what behaviours will be ignored, in hopes it will go away, or with downright disapproval. I learned very quickly that nice girls were modest and reserved and appropriate. To fit in and belong, I learned to place others’ opinions of me above my own. To care what the neighbours and strangers around me thought of me. By 15 years old I had accepted that to fully be myself was a recipe for rejection. I had to hold some of myself back at all times. I knew what people wanted me to be and I knew what behaviour was going to get me approval and belonging. I thought that being approved of was synonymous with being loved, because my behaviour seemed to dictate the amount of positive attention I would receive or not.  I think my story is shared by a lot of women.

It took me a long time before I understood that really loving someone was to accept them as they really are. It is not conditional. It does not depend on behaviour, shared interests or values and it certainly does not rely on accomplishments, conformity or obedience. I began to understand it the first time I fell in love. It became completely clear once I had my own children. I will not withhold my love and affection and support from them when I disagree with or do not understand their behaviour or choices. Once they figure out who they are, with much encouragement from me, I will back them, no matter what. Their personal unfolding and life experience and choices are their own, not mine to control. That’s love.

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When you begin to understand what love is and you start to see the transformative power of it, you begin to understand how important it is to turn that kind of love onto yourself. When I began to do this, I discovered that my love for myself up until that point had indeed been conditional. It wasn’t true love, it was dependant on how I looked, on my performance in life and my accomplishments. It was dependant on how others perceived me and if they approved. That was a very difficult and shattering realization. Interestingly, but not too surprisingly if you know me personally, I realized that the two places in my life that I had had the courage and audacity to fully self express despite obvious disapproval was with dance and attire. From as young as I can remember, I refused to conform about either of these two things. I refused to wear the frilly pink dresses my Grandma tried to get me to wear because it just wasn’t me, and I continued to have a strong opinion about how I would dress through my childhood, which only strengthened and became more adventurous, and bold into my teens, through my 20’s, 30’s and to this day. I understand now, that something like clothing and style may have seemed insignificant or even shallow and vain to others around me, but in truth, it was a deeply empowering gateway to my understanding of who I am and what my true purpose is in this lifetime. Patron of Dreams is not about clothes, it’s about empowering people to be themselves. My style was one place in my life that I didn’t compromised myself to please others. I expect there are others out there like me.

The other place I didn’t compromise was with dance. I recall challenging my Ballet teacher when I was only 7 years old about the politics in the classroom. I expressed that it was unfair and not right that some students got to have significant roles in the performance based on how many other dance classes they were paying for, and not based on skill and commitment to that class. Such defiance! Needless to say, I quit at that school and moved on to another one with more integrity. I danced unabashedly and joyously as a pre-teen at Junior High dances while others awkwardly hovered against the walls. Sometimes I danced all by myself in the middle of a room full of uncomfortable and self-concious people. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone thought of me because of it. I was born to dance. It’s no surprise that I ended up finding true love in the ancient art of Bellydance. I found pure power and presence of self in the most sensual dance style in history. Through my studies of this dance, I learned that it had absolutely nothing to do with the male gaze and it was then that I understood the personal power and sovereignty that lies within our sexuality, and that it has nothing to do with sex. We are sexual beings, when alone or with others. Our sexuality is a full expression of our being. It is our life force and vitality. It is a power source. It is as much about our mind and our spirit as it is our body. In fact, I’d argue that our sexuality has much more to do with our mind and spirit than our body ever will.

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The reality of this limited physical experience we are having here on earth, is that much of what is inside our mind and spirit can only be expressed through our body or outward appearance. It is a terrible misunderstanding and an atrocity to assume someone’s bodily expression is an invitation for sexual advances, for un-invited comment or opinion. To assume you understand someone’s intentions, or what is going on inside someone’s mind and spirit when they express with their body, whether it’s what they wear on it, or how they move it, is quite frankly, to show how little you understand about yourself. It’s a sign you are the victim of the old bullshit programming about women’s sexuality that has seeped into the world’s psyche. The age old “virgin-whore dichotomy”. Every woman’s body is a battleground. Every Man has the right and privilege to assess and openly critique any woman’s body if she’s out in the public eye, like she solely exists as a body to state your opinion on. Like a cow at an auction. She may be a singer, or an actress, or just someone walking down the street, but all anyone is talking about, is her body. Can you even imagine if it was as standard for women to do this to every Man they saw on Netflix or in the street. “Look at the gut on that guy!”, “He might be alright looking  if he wasn’t bald!”, “Hey baby, sweet ass, wanna party?”. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? It’s no less ridiculous when Men do it to women, we’ve just been programmed to expect it and not bother speaking up against it because “that’s just how it is”.  Well, this just in. It’s no longer socially acceptable to publicly critique every female body that crosses your path or your screen. Period.

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Women are expected to be sexy, but not too sexy, modest, but not a prude. Women have been condemned from the beginning of time immemorial for our sexuality. We are supposed to be ashamed and hide everything that makes us women. We hide when we bleed because of the stigma around our period. We stifle our emotions so we are not thought of as hysterical or irrational. We cannot be flirtatious, playful or expressive with our sexuality in public without being called a slut, a tramp, or being accused of “asking for it” when we call out someone for groping at us un-invited. Our sexual expression is not an invitation. If it was, then why would we put on clothes that make us feel sexy and dance in a sexually expressive way when we are alone? New flash, lots and lots of women do this! It’s not an invitation. It’s a celebration of being a woman in all her glory, vitality and power. End of story.

This photoshoot was a playful and personal expression of my sexual sovereignty. It was in celebration of entering my 40’s as a fully realized woman. It was about taking back my own sexuality from the ones who think they get to dictate to me what I can do with my own body, and to show that I don’t adhere to some ludicrous standard of beauty. I don’t fit the mould and I’m not going to feel shame for that or change myself to meet their standard, no matter how hard they try. I have danced on many stages in theatres and under the stars and empowered many woman with this body. I have grown two babies in my womb, birthed them both naturally, and fed them the milk that I produced with this body. I am well aware of my power as a woman, and I am here to tell you that the reason there are so many backwards, corrupted and blatantly untrue ideas out there being spread and perpetuated about women is that the powers that be are well aware of a woman’s power.  They understand that to shame women about their bodies, and throw derogatory slurs at us for being sexual beings,  has worked to control us in the past. They are banking on us being too afraid of public criticism and persecution to continue that behaviour which may have the disastrous effect of empowering other women to do the same. Never forget, it’s the ones who are trying to tear you down, who believe in your power the most.

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I called on two other sovereign and empowered women to help me bring this shoot to life. Joey Senft, the photographer who drew the youthful and playful vixen out of me, and Lori Fast, aka Lady Lorelie who adorned me with the ancient art of henna. Since this photoshoot was in celebration of my Birthday and entering an important decade, I asked Lori to create her version of the Astrological star constellation for Leo down both of my legs. I wanted to embody the playful, fun, bold and courageous attributes of my Astrological star sign. I asked for crescent moons on my shoulders to symbolize femininity and the essence of being a woman. Lori is a gem of a woman and it was an absolute honour to spend the afternoon with her having my henna done. She was a treasure trove of wisdom and amazing life experiences. She put me at ease, did an amazingly professional job and I found myself pouring my soul out to her like I had known her forever. The entire experience was completely cathartic and an exercise in release. I went to her to adorn me and give me that little bit of extra confidence to put myself out there and push my own comfort zones. It worked, to say the least. I highly recommend Lady Lorelie’s magic if you are wanting to embrace and celebrate your body. Henna is a fantastic bridge that allows you to expose your skin without feeling naked. The added bonus for me was that I felt I had placed strong intentions for myself in the henna during the process and as it slowly faded over the next few weeks, it was like my intentions were slowly being released to the universe. It was a wonderfully powerful experience, and I fully recommend it to every woman.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft,

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

HENNA BY: Lori Fast, Lady Lorelie

FASHION: Absolutely killer velvet bralette and velvet ruffle shorts custom made for me by Solstice Intimates. Socks from American Apparel. Shoes and 78 tee were thrifted. Glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Vintage chairs from Atomic Age Vintage

 

Creators Without Compromise

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is one of my deepest desires to live within a world where I can surround myself with beauty, luxury and comfort without compromising this beautiful earth we live on, or the health and wellbeing of the people on it. I believe with all my heart that this is the world that is coming. The world that many of us are currently consciously creating. I believe that we can not only have abundance in our lives, but that it’s our birthright. When I say abundance, I don’t mean excess, because that would be out of balance with everything. I mean the bounty that comes from feeling full, satisfied, content with what we have and the peace and serenity that comes when you feel well cared for and a part of something bigger than yourself. When we reach this level of contentment, the only desires that arise are the ones that drive us to create and expand our human experience through making and doing and the positive impacts that it has on the world.

When we choose to experience life from a place of gratitude and we live from the perspective of possibility, we begin to see the potential of human beings and their capacity to be in sync with the rythms of the earth and live harmoniously with it and each other. We begin to also see the potential in ourselves. It is this faith in human potential that drives everything I do. Not only do I want to create things for the joy of it, I want to create things that help others to achieve their fullest potential as well, while at the same time promoting a connection to the earth and a unity between people and planet. I know that compassion and collaboration are key in the creation of this kind of life experience. This might seem like a very large undertaking and a bit overwhelming from one perspective, but it is my view that even the simplest creative acts are part of a greater good. You don’t need to commit to some grand elaborate scale of creative achievement in order to have a massive impact. We may only play a song on our guitar that few will ever hear, or up-cycle and refurbish old furniture or clothing for our own personal use, but the ripple effect of these small acts of creation and expansion can have an impact that is substantial. You may think nothing of your little hobby that you do when you think no one is watching, but your simple act of making it a priority and doing creates an allowing within those around you that can quite literally change people’s lives. Think of the child who carries a bounty of creative potential who sees others around him taking the time to be creative. That child could be the next Nikola Tesla, or Ludwig Van Beethoven, and your simple acts of creativity help to cultivate an environment that allows that child to feel safe enough to take a chance, to explore, to investigate their own creative instincts. Every single person can have an impact that they may never even know they have, and every single person who is inspired to create because of someone else’s creativity is a win for all of us in the human family.

Ren (Chinese: 仁) is the Confucian (Chinese Philosophy) virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic.

Confucius (Chinese Philosopher) also defined ren in the following way: “wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others.” Confucius also said, “Ren is not far off; he who seeks it has already found it.” -Wikipedia

It is when the deep creative force within us as well as a desire to live in harmony and do no harm in the process of that creation meet in the middle, that true magic occurs. It’s like the entire universe is at your back cheering you on and at your front clearing a path for you. You are driven by your own need to expand, but also, the need to feel your connection with all things. You know that you are impacted by others and that you too have impact and it leaves you feeling empowered and significant, yet completely humbled and in service of others at the same time.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

-Chinese Proverb

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It is my greatest pleasure to introduce you to Little Tree Hugger Soap! Luxury, hand made, natural bath and body products made right here in Manitoba. It was the beauty and inspiration from nature that drew me in, but their commitment to sustainability and compassion, never compromising on people’s health and the health of the planet was what truly won me over! Not only do they make exceptional quality products, they are committed to something greater than themselves and a belief that we should all experience the benefits of feeling luxurious and pampered, guilt free. This is a philosophy I can truly get behind!

“At Little Tree Hugger Soap we strive to provide Luxury without Compromise. What does that mean? You get the finest quality, luxurious bath and body products that never comprise our health or the health of our planet and it’s many creatures.

We want you to feel secure in your bath and body products; we carefully research every ingredient and promise you Truth in Labelling at all times. Sustainability and compassion are central to everything we do. We are proud to be certified cruelty free by Leaping Bunny and EWG Certified. We believe firmly in supporting local business; we source all of our ingredients from Canadian Companies even when that means paying more. Our products are fair-trade and organic whenever possible. We use only the highest quality ingredients, natural botanicals, essential oils, and phthalate and paraben free fragrances. Fragranced products are always clearly marked for those wishing to avoid fragrances. Finally, we pay close attention to our artistic vision and spare no detail in creating a visually pleasing, effective, and luxurious product you will thoroughly enjoy!”  -Little Tree Hugger Soap Website

To purchase Little Tree Hugger Soap products, visit their website www.littletreehuggersoap.com to shop on-line, or any of their Partner Stores located in Manitoba. Also…

*****STAY TUNED for the GRAND OPENING of their NEW SHOP at 296 McDermot Ave. in Winnipeg! Their SOFT OPENING is AUGUST 1st!!!*****

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: Dress from Shakti, Earrings by Divine Light Therapies.

SOAPS, BATH & BODY PRODUCTS BY: Little Tree Hugger Soap

 

The Bitches Are Back

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” Because sometimes f*ck you is synonymous with I am worthy.”

-Tany Markul, Thug Unicorn

I have been processing the rising of an anger and defiance within me that I haven’t felt in full force since I was a rebellious teenager. It has never healed because the patterns remain, but the time has come to channel that anger into a productive change of epic proportions. It’s a deep seeded feeling of absolute rejection of the popular response, “that’s just the way it is!’ Nothing sends my blood pressure to the moon like that apathetic and mindlessly compliant response to injustices and asinine outdated ideas about the world.  This rage that has been building inside of me begins with little girls being taught that they must be “sugar and spice and everything nice” as the nursery rhyme teaches us, and ends somewhere with a guttural animalistic scream unleashing from the depths of female oppression. It is a pendulum and it is swinging hard and fast like a wrecking ball into the patterns of old that have been keeping all the good women down.

Be sweet, be pretty, be gentle and polite. Don’t be loud, don’t attract attention. Don’t take up too much space, and remember to sit with your legs together. Don’t guffaw or snort when you laugh. Don’t do a cartwheel in a dress. Don’t swear, and don’t admit to any bodily functions, lest you reveal that you are indeed an animal. Don’t admit how old you are, and don’t revel in your sexuality if you want to be respected. BE A LADY! Sound familiar?

If you are assertive, they’ll call you aggressive. If your personality and style is big and colourful, they’ll say you are just trying to get attention. If you are ambitious and no nonsense, pursue things with grit and focus, and don’t let anyone stand in your way, they’ll say you’re cold, and bossy and not a team player. If you push back against the things you disagree with, speak out, stand up for yourself and say no to being treated in ways you find unacceptable, they will say you are difficult, selfish and unrealistic. You will be accused of being silly, naive and idealistic about the world because this is just the way it is! If that doesn’t work to shut you up and shut you down, then they’ll tell the world you are an unreasonable bitch. Well, so be it, if they are intent on labeling our defiance. The bitches are back, they’re pissed, and they’re louder than ever! They are taking up all the space they did in the 1980’s except they are armed with more education, more compassion, more resilience and a unity the likes of which the world has not ever seen before. The word of the current times is action! We are tired of asking nicely, being reasonable, defending ourselves and expressing our disagreement politely. We’ve been talked over and belittled one too many times, and it doesn’t matter how small the beast, if they are backed into a corner and feel threatened enough, at some point, peaceful negotiations are no longer called for and survival is all that matters. Even the sweetest creature will bite to save itself.

“Wild Woman teaches women when not to act “nice” about protecting their soulful lives. The wildish nature knows that being “sweet” in these instances only makes the predator smile. When the soulful life is being threatened, it is not only acceptable to draw the line and mean it, it is required. When a woman does this, her life cannot be interferred with for long, for she knows immediately what is wrong amd can push the predator back where it belongs. She is no longer naive. She is no longer a mark or a target. “

-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

We are up against a deeply engrained patriarchal paradigm that has seeped into the cracks and crevices of the collective psyche. I have experienced just as many women as men trying to curb the wild woman within all women. Why are they all trying so hard to make us behave within such a very narrow ideal? Well, it’s simple really, and an age old tactic. They are trying to control us, and people are deeply afraid of change. Just like any set of rules, they are there to maintain order and control, under the impetus of it being for our own collective good. You want to be liked don’t you? Well, in truth, if I have to stop wearing sequins or leopard print on a Tuesday because it’s too much for you; hide my nipples because you can’t stop sexualizing them; drink my beer in a glass because it’s more lady-like; or put up with sexist jokes and being cat-called in the streets, then no, I don’t give a hot damn about being liked! I like myself, and this funny thing happens when you begin to love yourself and stop requiring external validation. You stop caring what others might think of you for speaking your truth that challenges their accepted paradigm. You realize that their acceptance of you can’t even come close to comparing to the power and significance of your own self acceptance.

We women have been taught that we are too much from the very beginning and that we need to tone it the fuck down so we can be likeable (read; manageable). From the girlie little dresses my Grandmother told me that I refused to wear despite her efforts, to the attitude problem I had as a teen who angrily asked endless questions about why this messed up world is the way it is because I wasn’t buying it. To the modern day Wife and Mother I am today who deeply relates to women in movies set in the 1950’s and 60’s, because sometimes it feels as though nothing really has changed. Well, we can only be told to be quiet, demure, take a back seat, be grateful and settle for less than our potential for so long before the inadequacy of that life creates a deep collective female sorrow that burns and boils and grows into a visceral rage that will eventually blast the patriarchy to smitherines! And you can be damn sure, there will be casualties that are not paying attention and refuse to acknowledge that it’s already in motion. It’s not a matter of if, but when. 

“I’ve been baking pies at home, pies of rage!”

– Debbie Eagan (Liberty Belle), GLOW Season 2, Episode 10

We women, make up 50% of the population on the planet. Wake up beautiful warriors, pay attention to what’s happening! #WomensMarch #TimesUp #WomenSupportingWomen #GirlGang #GirlBoss #BodyPositivity #TheFutureIsFemale. These are global collective movements that are gaining ground every day, not just trendy hashtags. I’m an avid reader and a quick trip to a book store or search on-line will tell the story of what’s growing in the bellies of women, and I don’t mean little bundles of joy.

The She Book, by Tanya Markul

This is For the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck, by Janne Robinson

Strong is The New Pretty, Kate T. Parker

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

In The Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The list goes on and on and on! These messages aren’t pretty, they aren’t designed to make you feel comfortable and content with the way it is. These messages are often angry, poingnant, raging, crying, pleading, cajolingly beautiful masterpieces that are imploring you, to turn some of that deep empathic compassion you reserve for the oppressed, the animals, the children and mother earth onto yourself! Women of the world, we must save ourselves and each other. The time is most definitely up, and the time of gentle, quiet nudges towards equality is over. You have a voice, you have power and you have a responsibility to yourself. There’s no need to riot, to retaliate, to be violent or hateful. In fact, these responses are not in line at all with what it is that makes us women. Our strength is in our willingness to love deeply, be compassionate, empathetic, embrace our emotions and live by our intuition. Embracing our womanliness, does not mean rolling over and exposing our bellies in submission, or putting up with bullshit. On the contrary. We must turn toward one another and see that our freedom from these old patterns depend on our unity. That burning in your belly is not yours alone. I feel your fear and your dissappointment and your rage you have been told you are not allowed to express if you want to be loved. I feel you because I am you. And as I get to know you more, I know myself more, and I remember what a beast lies below the surface and what she is capable of. I am called to defend and protect myself and all the women of the world like I would my own sons, because that compassion and fierceness can not just be reserved for them, for who will defend them if I don’t defend myself and the women of the world who will raise them and love them into their manhood? What are they being taught about their Mother, about the women they may partner with some day, about you?

You are not too much, you don’t take up too much space. You don’t have an attitude problem or a difficult personality. You are not a bitch for rolling your eyes at outdated patriarchal bullshit. No one has been tip-toeing around your feelings, when they under pay you, grope you and devalue your contributions to the world, so why are we expected to tiptoe around their feelings when we’ve clearly had enough. We are hurt and angry, and tired of the old patterns and we are allowed to feel that way. In fact, it is to be expected, and typically it’s the the biggest transformational changes that come out of those perceived negative emotions. Sometimes being nice and gentle and sweet doesn’t cut it. Sometimes the dysfunctional societal patterns are too deeply engrained in the human subconcious that you have to stamp and swear and scream that guteral scream, even if it’s only out into the abyss, like I am doing right now. People will hear you, like the unidentifiable wail from a creature in the woods and they will ask “what the heck was that?” and a shiver will climb up their spine and it will wake up their senses. And maybe it will make them afraid, or maybe there will be others who feel that scream to the core of their being and recognize it in themselves. They will not run away, but instead, seek you out in the darkness of the woods and say “I feel you sister”, when they find you. And before you know it, you are walking out of those cold, dark woods, hand in hand with an entourage of women who’ve got each other’s backs. A sisterhood in formation who are not afraid to back down because they are stronger together and determined to make change for the greater good of humanity. Women and Men alike.  These are the new idols, the warriors, the rock stars. These are the ones the next generation of women will look up to and they will know our story of struggle and fear and oppression and how we overcame. We won’t leave the ugly parts out because this is no fairytail of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour, this is the story of women saving themselves and reclaiming their power and potential. This is real life, and sometimes real life is messy and unpredictable. Sometimes before a new order of things can occur, a much bigger mess must be created, like when we undertake to organize a closet. Just like a sling-shot, there is a tension and a tightening and a strain that has to occur before the release that catapaults us into a new paradigm. There is no way to go around the discomfort of this shift, we must go through it, and I for one am ready and willing.

“Good is following the rules, fitting in, ticking things off the list, being liked, keeping it light, and great is making mistakes, going too far, getting messy, standing in your truths, fighting for what you believe in, and it’s finding out what you’re doing here and actioning it with all of your heart.”

-Tanya Markul, Thug Unicorn

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Faux fur coats, animal print jackets, sequin skirt, shoes, gold belts, black leggings.

NEW FASHION: Gold bodysuit and animal print bathing suit top from American Apparel. Sunglasses from Urban Waves

Opalescence

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Opalescent: Something that is opalescent reflects light and changes colour like an opal.  – Cambridge Dictionary

Opal: A precious stone whose colour changes when the position of the person looking at it changes.  -Cambridge Dictionary

The opal, also known as the “Eye Stone” is known for it’s ability to bring a person’s personal characteristics and traits to the forefront as well as bringing unresolved patterns or tendencies that require self examination to the surface. This self evaluation can lead to profound personal transformation. Opal boosts creativity and originality. It is considered to be a karmic stone, showing us that what we put out into the world will come back to us. Also, how we perceive the world, will be shown to us like a mirror reflection.

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Each of us are like the opal, a complete spectrum of colours that changes from different perspectives. When people look at us, they see a reflection of themselves. You show them their hopes, their fears, their insecurities, their desires. They look at you and they see what they like and what they don’t like about the world in which they live, which is really just a reflection of who they are, or rather, who they believe themselves to be based on their life experience. People look at you only in relation to themselves, which is why no two people see you in exactly the same light. Every person who lays eyes on you sees a different colour depending on the perspective they are coming from. People see you in relation to the stories they tell themselves about the world. In truth, no other person can really see you, even though you are there in all of your glory. You are the only one who can actually see yourself, but you will never see your true self in a mirror. When we see with the human eye, we see only a reflection of our beliefs, our world views and our current state of mind. Who you really are is deep within you and can only be felt with the heart and the spirit, not seen with the human eye.

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Although we cannot see people as they truly are, what we can do is feel people, but we are so trained in our society to see with our limited sense of eye-sight, that we have neglected to develop and maintain our ability to experience and know one another through feeling. This ability, which all of us have, requires a deep sense of compassion for others and the ability to feel beyond the sensory information coming in all directions from our basic five senses. The five senses while important and useful for moving around and experiencing our physical world, can be very distracting and overstimulating which keeps us trapped in a constant state of reacting to our surroundings. It is difficult to live an intentional life with focus, direction and action when we have become a slave to our senses and are continually responding to stimulus. And let’s face it, we live in a society that is designed to bombard our senses with stimulation. We take the sensory information in and believe it to be truth, instead of just information reflecting our current attitudes and perspectives. What I mean to say is that your state of mind effects your mood and your mood can make your sensory perspective very different from one moment to the next, and very different from one person to the next. For example, loud music when you are in a bad mood can be irritating, but the same loud music when you are in a good mood may make you want to get up and dance. Both situations are the same, the truth if you will, but your perspective means that you experience the same stimulus in a very different way. What this means is that your reaction or perception of the situation has nothing to do with the situation, but has everything to do with your personal perspective and current state of mind when you experience the music.

Do you see what this means?  It means that how you experience the world around you and the people in it, is really just a reflection of your inner state and relationship with yourself. It is a reflection of your beliefs, your views, your expectations, your understanding of the world from your life experience and your current attitudes. You tell yourself that it is truth, but there are billions of people on the planet and each of us is experiencing our own personal story as truth. This is why you can have two people being exposed to virtually the same circumstances, yet each of them experience it very differently. It is not your circumstances that determine what kind of life you have, but the way in which you experience and react to those circumstances. There are so many examples of people born into poverty, abuse, and horrendous circumstances who manage to rise above it by sheer force of will and attitude about life. There are many other examples of people who have been born into wealth and affluence with every need being met, and opportunity given,  yet they waste their life away doing nothing of consequence and often loosing themselves in a life of drugs and disfunction. If the victim narrative is deeply engrained in you, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, because ultimately, it means that you have far more control over your life experience than you think you do, and you have to take responsibility for your own happiness or misery. You may not be able to control the circumstances or events that occur in your life, but you do have a choice about how and what you react to.

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Here is the true freedom gleaned from this understanding. The way that you see other people and experience your life is constantly acting as a mirror to tell you what your state of mind is and the current state of your relationship with yourself. Every reaction to other people or situations is an opportunity to learn about you and become more self aware. How strong your reactions are can tell you a lot about your pain, issues you haven’t dealt with, and it sticks a pin in exactly what your fears and insecurities are. Ugh, I know, it’s rough, but it’s also a gift, if you self-examine and use the new found understanding of who you are to transform into a better version of yourself. Here is the other gold nugget. If your reactions to and understanding of others is a reflection of you, then their reactions to you and understanding of what you are all about is a reflection of them. Their perception of you, good or bad, has absolutely nothing to do with you. Their opinion of you and reaction towards you is not your responsibility. Whether they are criticizing you or praising you should not determine how you feel about yourself. All you are responsible for is working on yourself, taking responsibility for your feelings and emotions and how you react or don’t react to people and circumstances. When what you say, what you do, what you wear, or how you live your life causes people to respond angrily, or with judgement, it shines a light on the things they themselves need to heal. Often the differences we see in others invokes deep seeded feelings of fear of the unknown and triggers all the ways in which we ourselves have adapted who we are in order to fit in and belong and not make others feel uncomfortable. Deep down many of us are hurting because of this because all we want is to be loved and accepted for who we actually are. We are tired of suppressing ourselves to be more acceptable to the status quo.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Well, what I have come to learn is that many people are holding other people and circumstances responsible for their own happiness. They believe that they would be happier and their life would be easier if other people and situations changed. This is a terrible and disempowering trap, that can only lead to depression. I have learned to become more aware of my own reactions towards people and situations and do my best to explore and investigate why I feel the way I feel and determine if what I am perceiving is indeed truth, or if my reactions are just a symptom of my own personal fears and insecurities. Because of this, I have felt more empowered, more in control of my own life experience and far less emotional and volatile. I have been taking responsibility for my perspective and spending a lot more time understanding myself and nurturing my relationship with myself, and a lot less time holding other people accountable for my happiness. We tend to focus our attention on understanding others and how they appear to be towards us. This is the ego perspective. Try looking at yourself instead when something that someone says, does, or doesn’t say or do hurts you or upsets you in some way. You cannot change them, but you can heal your own perspective. Also, you don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, world views or appearance, but you also don’t need to allow that difference of opinion to make you volatile, or feel you must impose your opinion or educate another about the way it actually is. That’s your self-important ego talking. You can have strong opinions and views without losing your sense of inner peace. Social media is a perfect example of people running rampant with volatile reactions to every post they don’t see eye to eye with. Either blatant personal attacks of character, or my personal fave, the self-righteous armchair activist who seem to say “There, I’ve given you a piece of my well-educated mind and taught you a lesson with my well-sourced arguments! It’s all in a days’ work!”, like they’ve actually accomplished something by arguing with people on Facebook or Instagram. You are giving all of your power away when you do that because you are robbing yourself of peace and happiness in that precious moment, while you type angry, hateful, or self-rightous truths from your perspective towards another human being. All the while blaming them for robbing you of peace and happiness, and convincing yourself that it’s your job to change them. You quite literally poison yourself with the poison you are trying to shove down someone else’s throat. Hurt people, hurt people. You react so strongly because of old pain or fear, that has nothing to do with the person you are directing your anger at, they have just touched a trigger point within you. A hot button that needs your attention. A place within yourself that needs healing. When you become aware of this, you become aware that the entire human race is experiencing the same thing. This knowledge plants a seed of compassion towards others in your heart. Even if their anger or negativity is directed towards you, you can maintain a state of peaceful awareness because you recognize that they have their own pain, fear and insecurity that they are living with, and they are possibly completely unaware of it. When it spills over to you and you react strongly, it just feeds the monster that you are disapproving of.

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“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown

“Non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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Here are some of the philosophies that I try to live by. When you heal yourself, you heal the world. Stop giving your power away to those who have no capacity to understand who you actually are and are not responsible for your happiness or life experience. Take responsibility for your own life and your self-worth and stop letting the praisers and criticizers decide how you are going to feel about yourself. Make your own personal growth and healing your top priority because it is your relationship with yourself that will determine your relationships with everyone and everything around you. Every time you are about to criticize someone else, stop and self-assess. What is going on inside of me that makes me feel this way? There is always a gem of self-discovery in there that will make your life easier if you face it. You can only respond to the world from your current state of awareness and consciousness. When I look at people and situations, I want to see all the colours of the spectrum like an opalescent symphony from a place of self-awareness and compassion. I know that this requires me to work on myself. To get honest about my issues, to stop holding others accountable and take responsibility for me. I want to live in a world where people would rather spend their time bettering themselves than trying to force others to change because they understand that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to people. And one by one, each of us begins to react to one another from a place of self-awareness and compassion, and before you know it, we have transcended a pain and fear-filled society and we can finally begin to feel one another for who we actually are. It is then, I believe that we will begin to discover what we are truly capable of, and just how colourful and opalescent we really are.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: Dress from Wildwoodrose Vintage Market (note: the next market is on June 9th in Winnipeg at Old Market Square! I will be selling vintage there this year!!!). 70’s leather skirt from Shop Take Care . Shop Take Care is sells vintage, consigned fashion and goods from local makers and artisans. Vintage coyote-fur hat. Vintage scarf.

CURRENT FASHION: Thrifted Mukluks from Manitobah Mukluks. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg. Rose Quartz necklace from BCP Jewelry

LOCATION: Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg. PONTAGON, the Faculty of Architecture’s warming hut installation at the Forks, in collaboration with the City of Winnipeg’s Walk/Bike/Bridge project.

Winter Blues

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Trouble in Mind

Trouble in mind, Lord I’m blue
Honey I won’t be blue always,
Sun’s gonna shine in my,
Lord, shine in my back door someday.
I’m gonna lay,
Lay my head
On that lonesome railroad line,
And let the 219 train
Ease my troubled mind.
Trouble in mind
Lord I’m blue, now,
I won’t be blue always
Yeah, that sun’s gonna shine in my,
Lord, shine in my back door someday.  Janis Joplin

 

Golden Years

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel
Come get up my baby
Look at that sky, life’s begun
Nights are warm and the days are young
Come get up my baby
There’s my baby, lost that’s all
Once I’m begging you save her little soul
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
Come get up my baby
Last night they loved you, opening doors and pulling some strings, angel
Come get up my baby
In walked luck and you looked in time
Never look back, walk tall, act fine
Come get up my baby
I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years, gold
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
Come get up my babyDavid Bowie

Winter. It can be a bitch. Not enough sun and not enough fun. It’s the result of that funny universal pendulum that keeps everything in balance. After December, a month of total excess and too much of everything, we get slammed with a harsh reality check, and it leaves us feeling the polar opposite of December, like there’s not enough. I think the trick for conquering this, is awareness of this pendulum phenomenon. When you can shine a light on the patterns that repeat, and the ever swinging pendulum of extreme opposites, you can start to anticipate it, laugh at it before it even happens, and mitigate it’s effects. You can also realize that all you are really in control of is your own emotions. You can let your reactionary feelings take you on a roller coaster ride through your own personal misery, or you can get yourself into the driver’s seat and decide exactly where you want to go and how much attention and energy you want to give to the things that don’t make you feel good.

It took me many years of teenage and twenty-something angst to realize that the flexible and ever changing nature of our emotions allows them to be adapted by us if we can make it a personal practice to be aware of what’s happening inside of us. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about combating clinical depression or anxiety disorders. I realize that no one dealing with these difficult issues can just flip a switch in their brain to feel better. Those of us not dealing with that still experience a struggle to get the winter blues under control. It should also be said that I’m not talking about avoiding serious emotional issues or traumas that you need to work through either. Those nasties have a way of returning over and over and over again until you do the emotional and spiritual work of facing them, working through the painful emotions and healing yourself. I’m talking about the general funk or malaise that seems to go along with lack of sunshine, maybe less money, less hustle and bustle, some unwanted extra weight, and where I’m from, the frigid cold that on some days requires more will power than it’s worth just to get out the door.

I’m here to tell you that we all have a magic button. A silver bullet that smacks us out of our negativity before we find ourselves in an emotional tailspin. We always have a choice. We do have the ability to switch gears and decide that our foul mood is pointless and not helping us in any way. The only purpose it serves is to challenge you to overcome it. There are little over-riding tricks you can employ to consciously decide to change your mood in an instant. For me, and I imagine for a lot of you too, music is that magic button.

When I was younger I ended a crappy day with moody music that kept me drowning in self pity. I chose tunes that matched my misery and fed the monster of festering despair. I’m not sure when or why it happened, but at some point, I just decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I was tired of dragging these unproductive kill-joy feelings out any longer than absolutely necessary. I recognized that no one was going to save me, so if I wanted to feel better I’d have to save myself. Music is a very powerful tool for this. It can work almost instantly. Do yourself a favour and conduct a little experiment. Next time you are feeling a little rough, put on some of your favourite music that typically ilicites the polar opposite mood to the nasty one you are feeling. You may find at first that you feel annoyed by it, because it doesn’t match your current vibe at all. The reality is, that irritation is still a better feeling than despair. You may also find that if you stick with it, irritation quickly becomes indifference, which turns to optimism, which leads to joy. And voila, you just changed your mood and decided to create your feelings intentionally instead of just allowing them to run on auto-pilot where all the drama sneaks in. You are now on your way to an intentional life.

Managing one mood at a time, one day at a time by remembering to be aware of your feelings and directing them intentionally is completely life changing. It’s just part of a healthy lifestyle. Like eating more fruit and veggies, or getting enough exercise, it’s a commitment. When I started this lifestyle change, I needed LOTS of reminders. I would slip into autopilot all the time and forget to be aware of how I was feeling, and before I knew it, negative thoughts had led me straight into a bad mood. But, just like committing to a workout plan, I made a commitment to it. I put sticky notes all over my house that said “How are you feeling?”. I know it sounds nuts, but WOW, it’s amazing how that question immediately creates an awareness and presence within you, and sheds an immediate light on what you were thinking and feeling. You become aware of how little your feelings have to do with what’s happening right now, and that they really reflect where your thoughts had taken you and what feelings transpired as a result of those thoughts. Auto-pilot. Your mind will drive you, if you aren’t intentionally driving it. Here’s where choosing up-lifting music, inspiring books and positive people around you makes all the difference, even in the middle of a dark, deep freeze winter when life feels extra challenging. Get intentional, become aware of your feelings and decide to take charge of your moods. Your future self will thank you, I promise! Until then, get into the music and out of the winter blues.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP, ART DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: Re-worked vintage wide-leg jeans by Patron of Dreams. Vintage blue Chinese satin jacket from Atomic Age Vintage. Blue sequin top from Ruby Slipper.  Vintage blue suede, Penny-Lane style coat from Value Village Thrift.

CURRENT FASHION: Blue aviator sunglasses from Urban Waves. Black ankle boots from Rooster Shoes.