Just as you wouldn’t drink poison, you wouldn’t give your children poison to drink. This seems an obvious statement.

But what about the poisons we don’t eat or drink? The poisons of the heart, the poisons of the mind?

We allow toxic thoughts to spill out from us into the world and we accept that pollution from others. We may shake our heads at an example of abuse or hatred or racism, but we allow it into our lives.

We have built up so much of it that the sickness becomes common-place.

A harsh word, the loss of temper, jealousy, unkindness – we excuse it easily because it’s everywhere. It’s what we’ve come to know from others and so we are okay with those things in ourselves.

But just as surely as microscopic amounts of lead or mercury or arsenic will eventually sicken us and eventually kill us, the harmful, hurtful, negative and small thoughts and actions we take on a regular basis will dull our spirit, threatening to kill our connection with the Great Spirit.

In addition, it warps and ruins our ability to connect compassionately with others.

We begin to feel alone, isolated, under attack. This can be individually or tribally. We feel separate from others in a world of pain and distrust.

It can look so benign.

Gossip over the phone, laughter at other’s misfortunes, vindication when someone who hurt you suffers.

And our children observe and feel it all. They take it in. They take in the slow poison. And then we wonder why they act up, where they learned to hurt others, why they seem so sad or angry.

It’s because they have been presented with a table full of toxic food and not knowing any better they’ve eaten it up, following our examples.

Now, this is not an easy thing to write because I certainly don’t want people to feel bad about themselves. So let me say clearly: you are not a bad person if you aren’t perfect.

You’re not a bad person, period.

You’ve inherited your pain and you live in a society that favours punishment over healing, vengeance over peacemaking, delivering hurt for hurt, keeping the cycle of pain alive and they call it justice.

And for some, feeding you this poison is good business, it’s done intentionally. Keeping you afraid, angry, locked in those cycles of anxiety and worry is big money.

So you were basically born into a toxic landscape.

It’s not your fault.

But you can heal.

It’s not a quick fix. How could it be? But you can start anytime. You can start now.

Begin to notice when you are feeling negative. You will usually notice it comes from one or two things:

1. Self loathing
2. Blaming others

That’s about it.

And both of those things you have the power to respond to.

If it’s self-loathing you feel ugly, inside or out – or both! You burden yourself with all the wrong you’ve done, you live in perpetual anxiety or depression or you feel like you are ‘faking it’ much of the time. It can be mild or severe.

If it’s blaming others you keep a litany of the wrongs done to you. You are on high alert for more wrongs, and every time, you have a deep emotional reaction. You feel like lashing out and sometimes you do. You are trying to stay in control of your life but others keep abusing your trust or betraying you. Again, this can range from mild to severe.

These feelings, this self loathing, this blaming others, can exist on an individual level, a community level, heck, a cultural or national level. And they often do. We all have a little bit of it unless we’re crazy enlightened. (by the way, the vast majority of people you will ever meet who claim enlightenment…well, probably aren’t. If you have to say it, you’re likely not quite there)

Now, we can all have moments of enlightenment. Moments when we are at perfect peace or a wondrous realization washes over us. That’s the healthy you breaking through the smoggy atmosphere of our society.

What we would like to do is expand our thoughts and our spirit out and up above the pollution so we can breathe more fully, see more clearly. Right?

Right.

Now, believe it or not, you’ve already started, just by reading these words, by painting these images in your mind.

Part of being positive, of overcoming negative habits, is first acknowledging the thing that is harming you. We’ve done that. We’ve described it. It’s not a secret or a mystery.

Being positive isn’t being naive or clueless. It’s seeing the whole scope of things (well, as much as we’re able) and choosing. Making a choice. Basically, installing a filter.

Instead of wholeheartedly choking on the ashes of the world, the positive person has taken the simple step of covering their mouth with some cloth, shielding their eyes with safety glasses (usually rose coloured), and put some earplugs in to cut down on the constant barrage of noise.

The positive person has done all that because they see and feel quite clearly and quite keenly the ills of the land. And they have chosen to be a healing force in a world of hurt.

But the question that remains is how do you filter the stuff that’s already inside you? That self loathing, that blaming others stuff?

Acknowledging it. Being aware of it. Basically saying to yourself something along the lines of, “Yup. There it is. I see what’s happening.”

It makes sense. You have to be able to diagnose, to see, the thousand little blades that cut you from inside.

And every time you see one, you’ve basically plucked it out.

Now, instead of tossing it aside where it can hurt someone else, the trick is to transform it. Change it.

The most effective way to do this is to breathe deep and clear and to send a new feeling into the universe. Yup, I said universe. I know, it sounds so new age-y.

But here’s what you can do (and you don’t even need to be dealing with something directly, but sometimes you will have to).

Instead of thinking, “I gotta deal with this! I gotta stop hating myself.” or “I have to deal with this other person. Right Now!”

Just relax.

How?

Again, by breathing.

Imagine all that poison we talked about is darkness, shadow, pollution. As you breathe in through your nose (filter, remember?) you can feel it swirling all around, inside and out. You might want to think it’s gross, but try this, instead. Just say, “I see you.” No judgement, no inferiority, no superiority. Just awareness.

Then when you breathe out, breathe out through your mouth. Not in a quick, impatient way, but slowly, deliberately, in control.

The air that flows out of you is filled with pollution. As it leaves your body, do something amazing.

Picture it all transforming into crystal clear beauty, into light.

As it transforms, let it fly away from you. Appreciate it, but don’t try to keep it. Let it go.

Every intentional breath you take in and release can be a healing, transformative breath for the world.

It will take practice, but you will get the hang of it.

And it doesn’t stop there.

As you breathe in and out, in and out, you are cleansing yourself, your hoop, your place in the web of life.

As your hoop is made light, it grows. It expands around you.

It grows and is made stronger.

Your hoop will be filled with this new healing and as you walk through the world, more and more people will fit in your hoop, will pass through it.

As you continue to breathe and see and acknowledge and allow, your hoop will grow.

You’ll see that the poisons I talked about, while real, are really not that bad once you learn how easy they are to dispel. Or dis spell, as it were. Yup, that’s a groaner.

Shadows look pretty scary but wow do they disappear fast with a little light!

Keep doing this, grow in kindness and forgiveness. Grow in your desire to give healthily.

And your hoop will grow until it embraces the whole world.

And if you’re really humble and cheerful and loving of yourself and others, it will expand beyond that.

But baby steps.

First learn to breathe on purpose, for a purpose.

And the purpose? To be alive. To be excited about being alive. To contribute your energy and actions to making your community a better place. To accept all challenges as part of your journey, your story, your adventure.

You have so much to give, whether you believe right now or not.

But now that I said it, maybe you’ll finally start believing it’s true!

Ready, set, breathe.

Hiy hiy

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Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel ‘Lightfinder‘ comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.

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