Where is she now.

Well the rumours are true, Phoenix has once again tugged on my heart strings and nudged at my spirit to make the trip South. I had originally booked a flight way in advance for January 8th 2019, thinking I would have my life together at this point and be able to travel freely, fully confident in all aspects of my life.

However, this came to be not true at all. I had my biggest breakdown in a while, right on New Years Eve. Of all the times I could have a breakdown right? It was my rock bottom, it was a low, dark, scary place where my mind was screaming at me from every angle, where I felt numb but also in excruciating pain in my gut from the place I was in. I was unhappy with my relationship to self, I was feely depleted in my relationship, I felt completely alone in what I was going through and felt as though I was a complete burden to my poor family who welcomed in a sobbing, cold energy from the Winnipeg night minutes before the clock struck midnight. This was my story. This was my past. But I choose to release it. I choose to rewrite my story. To create a life where I feel aligned, balanced and healthy so that my spirit doesn’t fall into that self-dug hole anymore.

The next day I took it upon myself to face my confrontations, to face my fears of those confrontations and to do the responsible thing. To talk it out, feel it out and make goals on how to better improve myself for next time. While all of this was happening I was also going through a huge move, emotionally un-attaching from so many material items like my bed, a lot of clothes, plants I’ve grown for the past 2 years, artwork, etc. You name it, I sorted through it, donated most of my things, saw them be gifted to new homes and mentally and emotionally felt so drained from seeing my nest, my comfort zone, slowly break a part, bit by bit, right before my eyes. As the days passed, I tried to readjust to my new living situation in a community home. I found myself sleeping in, my spirit and energy still so low and feeling overwhelmed by the change in my lifestyle and also physically aggravated by my cat allergy. It came to a point where I had to make the decision whether to keep my flight the same, even though I was broke, in a low place, had no connections and was feeling completely fearful and unsure of the length of the trip or to change my flight and get myself sorted first in Winnipeg, get financially stable and then head to the sunny desert.

After, many many hours of deep reflection, I came to my decision. I would board the plane within 24 hours and make it work. I craved the raw energy of the sun, to feel the warmth on my skin once again, to be in a brand new environment where no one knew who I was, to smell the desert air, to be free to make my own choices and live by my own rules. To prioritize, soothe and look after me, myself and I. So I did just that. I packed my things again all into one backpack along with my hoop bag and boarded my 7AM flight.

As the plane took off and I peered out my window, the sun was just rising over tiny Winnipeg and a warm beautiful energy took over my heart and spirit and lit me up from the inside and I knew in that moment that I made the right decision.

So here I am, raw, authentic, just little ol’ me in the heart of Arizona. Planning hikes, meet-ups with inspiring people, training sessions for the hoop contest and spending a lot of time meditating, journaling and reflecting on what ignites my spirit. I am here until the 11th of February and have already been making a great turn around within my inner self. There are times where I feel lonely and I miss my comfort of being back home around my family, my partner and those who I feel safe with but my spirit craves growth. It’s at its peak where it wants to heal from the past, from family lineages, from my stories, from my mind and from societal norms. It wants to break free and break open to bring in more self-compassion, more compassion for others and ultimately more compassion for the globe and all that is intertwined within it.

Through yoga and meditation, I am learning how to distance myself from my thoughts, to observe my mind and to let go of its stories that it creates. And let me tell ya, my mind is one active phenomenon. But slowly, as the days pass, It’s starting to get more and more silent, it’s starting to get the hang of stillness, it’s starting to relax and flow and let go. Which is huge for someone like me, who has only known for as long as she could remember, having an overactive, anxious, unbalanced mind where the smallest thing could set it off.

I haven’t been out exploring too much yet, I’ve just been settling in my peaceful AirBNB, nourishing my body with organic foods form a local farmers market, meditating each day, training each day and working on my business and working on my inner self. It’s been a great process so far and I’m so incredibly grateful to those who have been supporting me on this trip thus far, those who are encouraging me to keep on. How beautiful. When you feel completely alone, you really aren’t. It’s usually just a story your mind is creating and that thought is a scary thought because it can snowball so huge, to the point of no return. It’s extremely important to re-write, re-wire that story as soon as possible and to realize that abundance is all around us, that we are connected to all of it, to our own source, we are our own universe, the universe is all around us and we are truly blessed to be in this moment, just as we are, right now.

I don’t know what the future holds, I can’t predict what the future will bring and I don’t plan on dwelling on it for too long. I’m too busy making this present moment count, I’m listening to my breath, I’m feeling my body, I’m feeling my emotions and I’m listening as closely as I can to my spirit.

I wish you all well in where your journey is at this point in this lifetime. If any of these words have resonated with you and you would like to chat, please do not hesitate to send me a message, I would love to connect with you so that we can learn from each other. Stay tuned for future posts, subscribe so you don’t miss a post and also consider checking out and subscribing to the Youtube channel where I also share my story through visual art.

Love you all,
– Shan

Hoop Dance Championships

Each year, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships where Indigenous hoop dancers from all over the world gather to meet, compete, inspire and represent their home communities. It was my second year attending and representing my Cree and Saulteaux roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation. Little did I know, that my inner critic would get the best of me and that it would become a very teachable moment in my life that I’ll remember for a long time.

The days leading up to the event were full of excitement, boatloads of support from our communities back home and reminiscing about that buzz I had felt after my first year. I traveled down with 6 year old Rylee Sandberg and her family and we had coined ourselves as the “Winnipeg Female Hoop Dance Team”. We received immense support from our families and communities as we prepared for our big trip by promoting ourselves through social media, t.v interviews, school workshops and extra performances.

The big day arrived and I was excited to meet and dance alongside all of the dancers who I look up to and cheer on Rylee. We drove down to the Heard Museum bright and early under the Arizona sun and after a long day of sitting in the sun and watching all of the tiny tot, youth and teen divisions perform, it was my turn to dance. My nerves intensified as I walked up to the northern drum and told them to give me a nice fast beat.

A
NICE
FAST
BEAT.

Once the drum began, I instantly knew I was in trouble. My mind was a blur and everything I had practiced in my routine was thrown out the window as I tried to keep up with the fast pace. Once I finished, I shook all of the singers hands and walked away with my head low and my eyes filling with tears. I was in a panic, out of breath and felt completely disappointed with my performance. I quickly shuffled to the restroom quickly disregarding many comments that I did fantastic. I was just too engulfed in my own self critique and funk. I swear this story gets better though, hang in there.

I went to go sit in the lounge where many other hoop dancers were. Celina Cada-Matasawagon was one of the first people to offer wise words of support when I was feeling my lowest. She reminded me of the reason why we dance and that we should just go out there and have fun and not dwell on the idea of placing. She reminded me of everyone back home rooting for me and that it’s important to keep my head up and keep going because of those young ones looking up to us. She said a lot of things that I needed to hear and I was incredibly appreciative of that. That evening we discovered that Rylee had made top 6 in the youth division. That evening was full of mixed emotions. My earlier disappointment in myself was overpowered by an overflow of love and happiness for Rylee and for all the kind words and support everyone had for the both of us.

That second day was another wondrous day. I was in better spirits and continued to meet and talk with the other dancers, partake in honour songs and support Rylee all the way up until she placed 3rd over 31 other youth hoop dancers in her division. I also found Celina and gave her a huge hug and told her that I was appreciative of what she had did for me. At the end of that day, the winners were all announced and everyone was saying their goodbyes. At that moment I also experienced the utmost love and support from the hoop dance and Indigenous community. Everyone asking if I was coming back and that I did a great job. Dallas Arcand and Tracy Bone also offered words of advice that I needed to hear exclaiming that even though I may not have placed, I was still a champion in everyones eyes including our home communities and the youth that I teach. They told me that I’ll get there one day and that it’s important to not give too much of myself away and to look after myself too. They also thanked me for all the work I was doing back home by planting those seeds and offering teachings to the younger generations. Those were words I definitely needed to hear as I emotionally gave them hugs and thanked them for their kind words of advice.

This year’s hoop dance gathering in Phoenix was another amazing year. I learned so much more about myself, met amazing influential people and felt all of the positive supportive vibes from everyone there. I learned that we are all human and we make mistakes and that’s okay. Our harshest critique is ourselves and it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves and to look after ourselves first before anyone else. It’s important to enjoy life as a journey and not as a competition, to go with the flow and not focus all of your energy on the top prize. It’s important to remember why you started in the first place and to do it simply for that reason and for all the reasons that you stand for. This year proved once again that everyone in the hoop dance community is incredibly supportive of one another and we value ourselves in building each other up and looking out for another.

Below I will post some snapshots of the championships. Thank you once again to everyone for your overflow of support and love. I am incredibly grateful, appreciative and humbled to have such wonderful people surrounding me. I am looking forward to what’s to come, looking forward to keep on doing what I love and to continue to discover and learn through this crazy rollercoaster we call life. I’m so cliche. Anyway, hope you enjoy the snapshots. Take care for now.

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Myself and Patrick Willie from Orem, Utah.

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Rylee, 6 years old.

Meeting Nakotah Larance, 2nd time world hoop dance champion in the adult division, been attending & bringing home titles at the world’s since he was a kid.

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James Jones from Edmonton, Alberta.

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Phoenix, Arizona & The Grand Canyon!

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Back in February 2015, my mom and I decided to pack our things and head down south to Phoenix, Arizona to participate and dance for the first time in the world hoop dance contest at the Heard Museum. It’s an annual event where hoop dancers from all over turtle island gather to mingle, dance their hearts out and represent their home communities. Ever since I had started hoop dancing I had only seen videos of the event on Youtube and I admired the unique intricate routines from established dancers from around the world. The idea of participating in the event myself seemed like such a far fetched dream, so when the opportunity presented itself I was more than thrilled to partake.

3:30 AM Friday morning, we made our way to the airport.
After a long day of travel, we finally arrived in the beautiful sunny Arizona. I was beyond excited to bath in the sunlight and enjoy the high temperatures of the desert landscape. We rented a car and made our way through the winding freeways to find our hotel. We kept seeing various road signs along the way such as Los Angeles and the thought of how easy it would have been to take a drive down to these other various cities excited us. We definitely put that our list of things to do for next year!

IMG_7402The next day began bright and early as we made our way to the venue. Before the day of hoop dancing began, they held a meeting to discuss the rules and answer any questions that the dancers may have had. Then it was time to get ready for grand entry! I was beyond excited at this point, marveling among the hoop dancers I’ve looked up to and only seen in videos. Everyone dressing into their different vibrant beautiful regalia and everyone was buzzing with energy.

Then grand entry began with over 75 hoop dancers both men and women, children to senior, from all across the world dancing together. This is where it all hit me. I was in that moment and felt a strong sense of belonging, like that was where I was meant to be. That overwhelming feeling embodied my whole being, a feeling of pride and happiness. I couldn’t believe I was there, dancing along side with my fellow mentors, those who had inspired me to keep on hoop dancing, those who had such an influence on my life. We were all there in the Arizonian sunlight, dancing  to that sound of the drum that I’ve known all my life. It was truly an amazing experience.

IMG_7406IMG_7416IMG_7418The day continued as they showcased each dancer beginning with the tiny tots then into the youth  and teen divisions. Then they showcased the senior division and then completed with the adult division. Each dancer was marvelous in their own way, dancing in various styles and introducing IMG_7426different hoop formations coupled with their fancy footwork. Throughout the day, all of us dancers mingled and met with each other and talked with the spectators of the crowd. Everyone was so warm and friendly and a mutual acceptance and respect was felt from everyoneIMG_7442. Then it was my turn to dance.

As I waited for my turn, the nerves set in but I kept reminding myself that it was just like any other showcase I’ve done, to just go out there and dance my hardest and even though it may not be the best…the experience would be worth it all. Some fellow hoop dancers came by and gave me some last minute advice and that really helped calm my nerves. I spoke to the northern drum who would be singing for me before walking up to the center and placing my hoops in anticipation. The beat began, the timer started and all eyes were on me. I was full of energy and excitement mixed with nerves but I was more than ready. I danced my little heart out and danced the hardest I’ve ever done before in that center dusty pit under the blazing sun. It felt exhilarating.

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Out of 22 dancers in the adult division I was 15th on the score card and even though I didn’t place I was thankful and incredibly grateful for the experience and for meeting all of the other dancers. I definitely already started making plans for next year, I’m just getting started and it feels amazing. Also a huge thank you shout out must go out to my mother for making it all happen and for supporting me all throughout, without her I wouldn’t have made it there and I am so incredibly grateful and appreciative of everything she had done.

The second part of our trip we took a drive up to the Grand Canyon and the pictures can speak for themselves . . .

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Overall, It was a truly breathtaking trip and instilled a deeper pride into who I have become and who I am as a young indigenous woman. It was beautiful to escape the Winterpeg winter and bath in the warmer southern temperatures and to witness the grand landscapes of Arizona. The trip up to the Grand Canyon and experiencing such a breathtaking view of one of the world’s natural wonders really put into perspective just how beautiful our world can be. I already cannot wait for next year and I look forward to continuing this journey of hoop dancing, travelling and experiencing all this world has to offer.  
Thank you for reading 🙂