Two hours out of my day, memories for a lifetime.
When I heard Toronto was hosting delegates from the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers – I jumped at the chance to participate. A fundraising tour for the Council, registration fees I must admit were a bit steep for me personally, but I’d read about the Grandmothers previously and was amazed that they were coming to visit. I knew I had to find a way to participate.
My prayers were answered, and few days before the visit I’d heard through my work that representatives from the tour were seeking volunteers. I got in touch with representatives to put forth my name. My duties, I found out, would be to assist with registrations and to help out with sales of items from the Grandmother’s store – an assortment of books, meditation cds and DVDs. All items meant to share the stories of the beginnings of this remarkable group of women, and help participants with their own journey to connection.
My son and I arrived bright and early to find Ana Elizabeth (tour contact and representative), at the front door of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. We chatted as we made our way to the meeting room. Ana had travelled all the way across the country from her home in California to assist with the tour.
As we were setting up, Ana requested some water for her guests so my son and I agreed to purchase some from a nearby store. As we made our way to the front steps, a van pulled up in front. A beautiful white-haired lady with the kindest eyes, smiled at me through the window.
Ah…there’s Grandma. I thought and smiled to myself.
I smiled at her and stood by as she navigated her way out of the vehicle. I felt honoured that I happened to be the one to greet her on this fine sunny morning. As she stood next to me, she leaned in like any Grandmother greeting a granddaughter, and waited. Obligingly, I smiled and kissed her soft cheek. Welcome Grandma!
My son, ever the performer – did a little dance for her just then and was rewarded with smiles and chuckles from his audience.
I shook the hands of the people with her and assisted Native Centre staff to direct them inside, while my son and I went off to make our purchase.
When we had returned, many of the participants had arrived and it was only minutes later that the circle began. Grandmother Gyaltong began her oration with a prayer, and as she sat with her hands, together palm to palm in front of her heart…she began to sing.
It was one of the most beautiful moments, a tibetan prayer song. I was enthralled. She began by telling how she came to learn about the movement, that she was encouraged by her family to join the Council.
Her story was both strange and familiar at the same time. She spoke of her home Tibet and a Chinese occupation. Tibetan children had been taken from their parents and sent to learn Chinese, in Chinese schools. Families under the threat of assimilation sent their children to a neighbouring country for a chance at freedom. Changes in the landscape due to occupation, and development were painfully endured by Tibetans as they saw their beautiful home slowly being poisoned and clear-cut.
Traumas such as those described by Grandmother Gyaltong is part of what prompted her to join the council. She went on to speak about how women are the most important people in a child’s life because of the close bond between mother and children. Mothers have the responsibility to teach children love and compassion, how to live life in a good way and to always keep their eye on the next seven generations.
During the discussions that followed her story, the Grandmother impressed upon her listeners the importance of education, compassion and our children.
Emphasizing that the freedoms we enjoy in the west must NOT be wasted, Grandmother reminded us of those who do not enjoy the freedoms we so often take for granted. Such an important, and too often overlooked message.
And so, I ended my Saturday morning, with a circle of women sharing a profoundly empowering experience…what an amazing day!
**The Centre for Sacred Studies (CSS), and the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers have promoted peace since 2004.
Exerpt from the council’s Mission statement: “We represent a global alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children, and for the next seven generations to come…”
For more information on the Council and the CSS, please visit: http://www.grandmotherscouncil.org