How This is Like That

Photo by Jody Goodwin Photography

Photo by Jody Goodwin Photography

One of the tools we use as Martha Beck-trained life coaches is what we call the Metaphor Tool.  It is based on the premise that we can get more information about something that is happening internally by looking at something that is happening externally.  This idea also runs through shamanism.  We create ceremony/ritual on the outside using concrete objects found in nature (visible), so that we can have a clearer view of what's happening on the inside (invisible).  

I was pondering this during my morning practice, and I realized that this website is a perfect example or metaphor for what is happening in my life.  My old website (aka my old life/identity at is not fully dissolved - in fact it is stubbornly evading deconstruction, while my new website, this site, is not fully formed.  And that is ok.  I am not fully formed yet.  I am still emerging.

I have chosen to publish this site in its unfinished state.  Why?  Because I am not sure what "finished" looks like.  I have been on this inner journey for so long that I am starting to see that there isn't an "end".  There is no "fully formed".  There is only expansion/contraction, re-births/deaths, periods of change and stagnation and on and on the spiral goes...  

In FIERCE Integrity, I talk about the "perfection of imperfection".  Seeing ourselves as totally perfect, even though we are far from what we might consider our "ideal selves".  What this is really about is compassion.  Having compassion for all of the ways in which we aren't where we think we should be.  

In the  past, I have had a relatively easy time of feeling genuine compassion for other people, however when it comes to offering that same level of compassion to myself, I haven't been able to do so.  This is changing.  This change has been almost imperceptibly (and unbearably) slow, but it is happening.  

I acknowledge that I am not perfect.  I can be selfish, entitled, ungrateful, lazy, and inconsiderate.  I can (and have) spent a lot of time agonizing over these traits… pouring over my past (and current) transgressions and mercilessly punishing myself for them, over and over again.    But that doesn't help.  Actually, the only thing it does do is beat me down deeper and deeper into a state of depression and self-loathing.  

What I have realized too, is that in order to truly free myself from the darkness, the reprieve that I am seeking has to come from within.  In the past I have spent a lot of time looking for external feedback and validation.  Funnily enough, I have received a lot more positive feedback than negative, and yet it is those negative comments that I hang onto, that I read over and over again, until I am practically wearing them like a crown of thorns.  "See?  See?", my inner critic delights, "You really do suck!"

My point is:

In order to create a true and lasting shift out of the darkness, compassion needs to be an inside job.  

Be kind.  Be gentle.  Be compassionate.


Nahanni, Dancing Coyote Woman




Fire Walker

I have always loved ritual and ceremony.  As a child I can remember casting spells and making potions out of items that I found in nature.  I even had a "magic wand" with a miniature purple-wizard-guy on the top of it, and I can still remember the sound of the bells on his tiny hat as I swooshed it through the air, Blessing my creations.  Yes, I love the magical side of life.

I also love reason.  I love to have my questions answered… definitively.  I love reason and rational thinking so much, that I even have three University degrees, one of them in Science.  

One part magic and one part reason: there's that Gemini thing at play again.

Anyway, every year at New Year's, for as long as I can remember, I have chosen a word for the year.  I need to do this with a lot of consideration and care, because, as it turns out, whatever word I select typically becomes kind of like an intentional axis for the teachings/intentions over the entire year.  I do not know exactly how this works, but it does.  (My rational mind hates this fact, but my magical heart absolutely LOVES it).  

My word for 2015?  Trust.

So, let me tell you how this actually works.  When I first started doing this ritual, I thought, yes, I'll pick a word and then receive that word or feel that way all year long.  Well, Yes… and, No.  What really happens is that I will inevitably receive opportunity after opportunity to CHOOSE the vibration of whatever word I've chosen, often in the face of difficult or counter-intuitive situations… kind of like a test (or more like many tests).  

To be honest, I wasn't aware at first that this is how it worked, and my first couple of years of this practice were actually quite painful.  I thought the Universe had totally heard my prayer/intention, looked at my word and then laughed openly as it gave me the opposite.  But that IS how it works.  I can now see that when I pick a word, I will be given ample opportunity to put it into action!  (Last year's word was Grace… you can just imagine how messy 2014 was!)

Now, 3/4 of the way through 2015, I can honestly say that the Universe is right on cue with this year's word.  

Reflecting back on the year so far, I can see that there have been many examples to step into and choose Trust: avoiding river pirates in Peru, drinking Ayahuasca plant medicine (yes, again), riding near-wild horses in the Andes, rock-slides on crazy Andean roads, money stuff, work stuff and BIG relationship stuff, however a few weeks ago the Universe brought me what felt like a very, very big test.  

As some of you know, I am currently on a one-year training program called The Shaman's Path - facilitated by my brilliant friend and colleague Sarah Salter-Kelly.  We meet four times over the course of a year, in accordance with the equinoxes and solstices.  It is a training program based on the teachings of the medicine wheel and so far, it has proven to be nothing less than life-changing (I know, I know, how many times can I have a "life-changing" experience?!  Apparently many.  Infinitely perhaps).  Anyway, at the last gathering for the fall equinox (West direction), part of the program was performing a fire walk.  

Now, I had some vague recollection when I signed up that there was going to be a fire walk during the program, but honestly, I never gave it much thought.  It was one of those, "yeah, yeah, I'll worry about it when I get to it" kind of things.  

Well, on Friday night of the fall program, there it was, staring me straight in the face as a red hot, bed of coals.  The time had come to "worry about it".

I did what the facilitator (Brian) said to prepare, I connected to my breath, I connected to my energy field, I envisioned "cool moss"… but I was scared as shit.  My rational brain would NOT SHUT UP, with many others in the circle voicing my internal concerns: "Won't we get burned?"  "What is the science behind this?"  My magical heart, on the other hand, was totally in.  

Do or die.  Ok.  That's a bit dramatic.  Let's say "Learn or Burn" instead… or maybe "Trust or Bust"  (oopsie, my dorky sense of humour just got out).

Erm-Erm (throat clearing).

Who do I trust?  My magical heart (which I know is fully connected to the Universe), or my rational mind (which is actually quite a smarty-pants).  

We walked in silence, our group of thirteen.  I went quickly, right after Sarah and Brian… wanting to literally walk away from the conniption fit my mind was having in my head.  

And I did.  And it worked.  

On the other side of the coals, I collapsed in a heap of emotion.  

The Universe DOES have me.  I AM supported.  I CAN trust.  I DO trust.

Later, when we looked at some of the pictures (the one above).  I have to say I was a bit gob-smacked.  I don't know if you believe in capturing evidence of spirit on camera or not, but after hearing Dr. Wayne Dyer talk about it at length and show many photographic examples, I do.  I choose to believe that all of the white in the above picture is spirit.  That I am surrounded by love and support.  That I CAN trust in that.  

Grateful for the lesson.  Humbled beyond measure.  

Yours, in Trust,


Nahanni, Dancing Coyote Woman

Big and Small at the Same Time

I had my star-chart read a while back.  You know, that thing where they draw all of those lines in the circle and write all of these weird symbols and then somehow magically tell you all about yourself?  Apparently, the idea is to map out exactly where all of the planets/stars/sun/moon are at the exact moment of your birth, so that you can understand yourself from a cosmic perspective.  Sound fluffy?  Yes.  I agree, but: don't knock it until you try it.  

If you haven't had one done, I strongly recommend it.  It somehow set me free in a way that I had never experienced before.  It allowed me to be "more me" than I had ever dared to be before.  I felt like it gave me permission to be who I am instead of trying to change who I am in order to better fit with my perception of societal expectations.  Basically, it gave me permission to be the beautiful mess of contradictions that I am.

You see, I am a Gemini.  A double Gemini actually, which means that my sun sign (the one that you look up in the paper) and my rising sign (the one that was rising at the moment of my birth) are the same.  Apparently, these are the two signs that have the greatest impact on your personality and yeah, that is a LOT of Gemini.  For those of you who aren't super familiar with astrology, Geminis are the "twins" of the Zodiac.  Given that many of us aren't actual twins, what this means is that we have "twin-like" energy WITHIN us… in other words: duality.  

What is duality?  Well, it is essentially contrast or oppositional energy… aka PARADOX.  Yes, us Geminis are the Zodiacal keepers of contradiction (and often confusion).

Which brings me to the actual subject of this post.  

The lady who did my star-chart reading has PhD's in both Astrology AND Psychology, specifically, Jungian Psychology, and has studied with Carl Jung's daughter.  Having a background in Psychology myself, this both impressed me and appealed to me, which is why I was willing to wait six months for a reading with this particular astrologist.  In my opinion, the beauty of her having studied in both of these disciplines is that they are inextricably linked, personality and astrology, and she was able to put my chart into language that I really understood.  Most notably, she used Archetypes to describe elements of "me".  

Not surprisingly, what came forward in my reading was a lot of paradoxical energy, however in particular, she told me that I seem to hold equal proclivity towards both the teacher archetype and the student archetype.

While part of me wasn't surprised by this at all (in fact, I can see how I have always gravitated towards these two roles enthusiastically), I couldn't help but notice that they seem to contradict one another though, don't they? 

Well, they do and they don't.  For one thing: I can be equally comfortable in each role.  I love to learn.  I absolutely love being a student.  Historically, I have been one who gets to class early, stays late, asks lots and lots of questions, does the assignments (even extra ones) and usually gets really high marks.  I have had a lot of success as a student.  On the other hand, I also love to teach.  There is nothing better than the feeling of being up in front a group of people sharing what I know/have learned.  Both of these roles are wonderful.

I also notice that these two archetypes/roles are complimentary.  One certainly feeds the other.  

That being said, there have been times when I have experienced them to be at odds with one another.  Times when I have wanted to simply walk away from one or the other (or both).  It is often the teacher role that I most resist, feeling like I have nothing new to offer anyone.  I feel like a huge fraud.  I feel like setting my e-mail/voicemail to a message that simply says: "I have no idea.  Life is beautiful and life is excruciating.  It just is."  

When I have sat with each these archetypes, it has become clear that what I actually find so uncomfortable, or painful, is moving between them.  Over and over, I have become identified with one or the other, and I am able to get comfortable in that role.  In my Master's degree, I had an outstanding experience as a student.  I really kicked butt.  And I thought, "Yes".  I should keep going and do my PhD… But instead I was called (aka forced) into USING my degree and putting it into practice (aka teaching)… and it was/is uncomfortable.  In my coaching, I LOVED the training course and I thought, what's next?  Oh yes, I will take the Master's training course… But instead I have been called (aka shoved) into coaching (aka teaching).

here is a passage written by Pema Chodron, one of my very favourite teachers, that beautifully describes what I am trying to say:

I was once invited to teach with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, my teacher’s eldest son, in a situation where it wasn’t exactly clear what my status was. Sometimes I was treated as a big deal who should come in through a special door and sit in a special seat. Then I’d think, “Okay, I’m a big deal.” I’d start running with that idea and come up with big-deal notions about how things should be. Then I’d get the message, “Oh, no, no, no. You should just sit on the floor and mix with everybody and be one of the crowd.” Okay. So now the message was that I should just be ordinary, not set myself up or be the teacher. But as soon as I was getting comfortable with being humble, I would be asked to do something special that only big deals did. This was a painful experience because I was always being insulted and humiliated by my own expectations. As soon as I was sure of how it should be, so I could feel secure, I would get a message that it should be the other way. Finally I said to the Sakyong, “This is really hurting. I just don’t know who I’m supposed to be,” and he said, “Well, you have to learn to be big and small at the same time.”
— The Pocket Pema Chodron, Shambhala Pocket Classics, Pages 66-67

Time and time again, I have put the archetype of teacher/coach down.  I have willingly and whole-heartedly gone back to the student role - only to find myself being pulled out of that role and thrust back into that of teacher/coach once again.  

Part of me wishes that I could just STAY in one of those roles.  But I know I can't.  To stay is to get stuck, to stagnate.  I know that is not what it's all about.  It (life) is all about growth and expansion.  It is all about tides ebbing and flowing, seasons changing, death and rebirth.  

I must learn to be BOTH.  I must learn to be big and small at the same time.  I must learn to stop being humiliated by my own expectations.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.
— Carl Jung

With kindness,


Nahanni, Dancing Coyote Woman




A tiny little rant...

We watched a movie this weekend - Tomorrowland, a futuristic Sci-Fi film.  It was far from being the best film I've ever watched, however it did have a bit of substance.  More notably, a large part of its storyline hinged on the Cherokee Legend about the two wolves:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”


This story has always resonated with me, and really reminds me of my own inner struggle, especially as it has pertained to my depression.  

Anyway, this is not a post on depression, but rather on self-promotion… and how much I loathe it.

As a life coach, I am a firm believer in possibilities.  Yep, I am an eternal optimist, what they refer to in the film as dreamer (much like Casey in the above-mentioned film, whose optimism, by the way, saves the world).  

So, a few years ago, I fully committed to my own dream by starting a coaching/writing business.  Like most coaches, I didn't know the first thing about starting or running my own business, and right off of the hop, it became apparent that self-promotion was going to be a "necessary evil" of growing my business.  Blech.

I played the game at first, I bought a few advertising spots here and there.  I started to build my "list".  I posted on social media.  I blogged a lot.  I gave away free stuff.  

And it worked, kind of.  But I hated it.  And to be totally honest, I still do.  

I have tried to make it feel good.  I really have.  Last year, I took Tad Hargrave's & Mark Silver's workshop on Heart-Based Business and Marketing for Hippies.  It was right up my alley in terms of their energy behind the approach (and these two guys ROCK), however the action items that came from that workshop are honestly still sitting idly on my list of "to-do's".  I just don't have the energy for them.  I don't have the passion or the drive.  

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE what I do.  I love to teach, coach, give talks, write and sing songs, and create ceremony, but I SO don't love to sell it.  I just don't.  It takes me months and months to muster up the patience and energy to put out a newsletter.  What I do know is that if it feels like crap in my body (and it does), I just won't do it.

I have a friend who also works in this business (self-help/spirituality/personal growth) and she is BRILLIANT at what she does.  I know from speaking with her that she shares similar thoughts… tired and frustrated of the hustle that comes with trying to get your work out into the world.  She tells me that in other parts of the world they have a bit of a different system.  There are people who make a good business of organizing and planning events/workshops for you (and they take a percentage).  

All I have to say about this is YES PLEASE.

You think the Universe heard me?  Yeah.  I think so too.

Until then, I'm going to spend more of my time doing what I love, not on what I loathe.  I am going to write, I'm going to sing songs, I'm going to create ceremony, I'm going to go back to doing what I love to do, simply because I love to co-create with the Divine.  

As for you, please feel free to read it, listen to it, watch it, follow it… or don't.  And hear this: If you are getting my posts and don't want to, please for the love of God: UNSUBSCRIBE!  I don't want to want to waste your time any more than I want to waste my own!

We only get one wild and precious life.  Let's live it.



Nahanni, Dancing Coyote Woman

(PS: Curious about the name thing?! -- me too, more on that later)

Photograph courtesy of Jody Goodwin Photography

Beginning anew

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~Elizabeth Appell


It can be hard to start over.  

I have had many "new beginnings" in my life, but it seems like I have experienced more of them in the past two years than in my entire adulthood combined.

Many of these new beginnings have occurred in my personal life, and because of this, I took a much-needed hiatus from promoting and growing my business.  There simply wasn't the time or the space for it.  

Frankly, I am not entirely sure that there is the time and space for it now, but I am being gentle with myself.  Coming back to it slowly and gradually.  

For months this website has been sitting untouched, waiting for content, waiting for information, waiting for photos, waiting for…me.

Much has changed in the past two years, and yet much has stayed the same.  If you have been following my work for a while, you will almost certainly notice some differences.  Perhaps these changes will bring us further into alignment with one another, perhaps not.  

Today I am softly emerging.  Today I begin anew.



Dancing Coyote Woman