Heart Centered Learning: Rachel Cargle

Rachel Cargle is an Akron, Ohio born writer, entrepreneur and philanthropic innovation. Her work centres the reimagining of womanhood, solidarity and self and how we are in relationship with ourselves and one another. In 2018 she founded The Loveland Foundation, Inc., a non-profit offering free therapy to Black women and girls.  

Her umbrella company, The Loveland Group houses a collection of Rachel’s social ventures including The Great Unlearn, a self-paced, donation-based learning community, The Great Unlearn for Young Learners – an online learning space for young people, and Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre – an innovative literacy space designed to amplify, celebrate and honour the work of writers who are often excluded from traditional cultural, social and academic canons. I encourage you to check out her great work.

A National Emergency

The ongoing deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people were declared a Canada-wide emergency by the House of Commons this week. 

Jaime Black, The REDress Project, installation still, Ace Art Inc., 2011. Photo by Suzanne Morisette.

Red Dress Day

Today is Red Dress Day, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People. It is observed annually on May 5.

The day is marked by people hanging red dresses from trees, windows, fences and balconies. Dangling limply on hangers without women to wear them, the dresses are visual reminders of the thousands of missing Indigenous people in Canada.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in its 2019 report, said the crisis constitutes a genocide of Indigenous people.

“Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than other women in Canada, and 16 times more likely to be killed or disappear than white women,” according to a Globe story that referred to the public inquiry.

The report cited research from Statistics Canada showing Indigenous women and girls accounted for almost a quarter of female homicide victims between 2001 and 2015: though they represent only 5 per cent of women in Canada.

The first Red Dress Day was observed in 2010, after artist Jaime Black launched her continuing REDress art installation. Black collects and hangs red dresses in public spaces to bring awareness to the crisis, and the dresses have come to symbolize the issue.

The Moose Hide Campaign

The Moose Hide Campaign takes place on May 11. It began as a British Columbian-born, Indigenous-led grassroots movement to engage men and boys in ending violence towards women and children. It has since grown into a nationwide movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians from local communities, First Nations, governments, schools, colleges/universities, police forces and many other organizations – all committed to taking action to end this violence.

Since the Campaign began over 10 years ago along the Highway of Tears, thousands of communities and organizations across Canada have held Moose Hide Campaign events and joined the annual Moose Hide Campaign Day ceremony and fast. People of all ages, genders and backgrounds are invited to take part in Moose Hide Campaign activities.

The campaign is grounded in Indigenous ceremony and traditional ways of learning and healing. A cornerstone of the Moose Hide Campaign is the moose hide pin. Wearing the pin signifies your commitment to honour, respect, and protect the women and children in your life and speak out against gender-based and domestic violence.

What can you do?

Stand in solidarity with Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people and show the government that you demand justice for them and their families:

  • Read the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019).
  • Take a picture wearing a red dress pin and a moose hide pin and post on social media “ I am wearing this pin in support of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People in Canada. They and their families deserve safety and justice. #MMIWG @JustinTrudeau”
  • Attend an event in your local community.
  • Write to your Member of Parliament and Prime Minister Trudeau demanding measurable and accountable action be taken, as outlined in the 2019 report.

Community Resources

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Safe Passage program, a database that documents and tracks MMIWG2S cases and the systemic violence that is causing the crisis by collecting and publishing stories by survivors and families. The Indigenous-led, community-driven, trauma-informed, and survivor-centred initiative offers safety resources, educational materials and research tools. It also identifies “safe places for people to go,” as well as “places that are not so safe,” said Carol McBride, president of NWAC.

There is a national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line providing support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The number is 1-844-413-6649

In the Times In Life

In the times in life
when it all gets to be too much
and you feel yourself breaking
and you wonder how on earth we got here
and where on earth we are going
and it feels like the gods have deserted
the weakest and the meekest
in their most fragile hour.

It helps a little bit to put
your naked feet on the naked ground
or to rest your head on a pillow of grass
or to find some sun to sit in
or a star to gaze upon.

And as you rest here, being held
by the earth or the sun, or a star,
know that a mystery and an order
and a future creation
may be lurking deep within the current chaos.

In much the same way
that a once swirling and formless hot mess
of energy and stardust
slowly morphed into a now living
and loving and heart-beating miracle
who can now sit in the sun
and put her feet on the earth
and lay her head on the grass
and feel the joy and the pain of being alive. 

~ Anna Colton

Something to Inspire

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

“There are always people in our lives whose needs appear overwhelming. Sometimes those needs are overwhelming for the person experiencing them and for others who try to help them meet those needs. Friends, neighbours, loved ones knock on our door looking for assistance of various kinds at various times. Within our limited material means, we offer what we can, even when it is not nearly enough. But we can always—or almost always—give our care and attention. We can accompany people. We can listen.”

~ Excerpted from: Turning Words: Transformative Encounters with Buddhist Teachers by Hozan Alan Senauke

Something to Inspire

Photo by Christopher Seufert on Pexels.com

A child raised by a good parent will grow up able to be a congenial and loving adult. The conduct of one parent with such a heart reveals itself in this way through ongoing generations. Parents’ lives are not confined to themselves alone. They are the starting point of life that unfolds into the infinite future.

Excerpted from: Zen Seeds: 60 Essential Buddhist Teachings on Effort, Gratitude, and Happiness by Shundo Aoyama

Life is a Mystery

Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com

When I was a little girl, my dad would often say, “Don’t worry, Lori. The good guys always win.” I loved it when he said this to me as it made me feel safe. It provided assurance that there is a logic and order to the world. It reduced our messy and complicated existence to simple dichotomies: good and bad, right and wrong, light and dark.

As I have grown older, I continue to believe in the transformative power of kindness, love, respect and generosity, but it does not prevent terrible things happening to ‘good’ people. It does not explain why so many suffer, or why humans behave in selfish, cruel and destructive ways. It does not justify racism and inequity. It provides no insight into the hoarding of resources or the destruction of the planet.

The older I get, the more I realize that, no matter how I try to wrap my head around it, the world we live in does not make sense. There is no simple and clear explanation. I will never fully understand how the world functions and I cannot ‘fix’ its brokenness. I have finally accepted this truth. The one thing I can do is live my life in the best way possible: one tiny decision and action at a time. I can actively choose to be a source of love and healing.

I am currently reading The Dhammapada by Eknath Easwaran: a Buddhist scripture traditionally attributed to the Buddha himself. The Buddha lived 2,600 years ago. He was an ordinary person, named Siddhartha Gautama, whose insights and teaching continue to ring true to this day. Buddha is not a name, but a title. It is a Sanskrit word that means “a person who is awake.” A buddha is awake to is the true nature of reality. Simply put, Buddhism teaches that we are blinded by illusions created by mistaken perceptions and “impurities” — hate, greed, ignorance. A buddha is one who is able to see clearly.

I experienced an ‘ah ha’ moment the other day when I read the following passage in the book.

The Buddha’s penetrating insight attracted many intellectuals, one of whom, Malunkyaputa, grew more and more frustrated as the Buddha failed to settle certain basic metaphysical questions. Finally he went to the Buddha in exasperation and confronted him with the following list:

“Blessed One, there are theories which you have left unexplained and set aside unanswered: Whether the world is eternal or not eternal; whether it is finite or infinite; whether the soul and body are the same or different; whether a person who has attained nirvana exists after death or does not, or whether perhaps he both exists and does not exists, or neither exists or does not. The fact that the Blessed One has not explained these matters neither pleases me not suits me. If the Blessed One will not explain this to me, I will give up spiritual disciplines and return to the life of a layman.”

“Malunkyaputra,” the Buddha replied gently, “when you took to the spiritual life, did I ever promise you I would answer these questions?”

“No, Blessed One, you never did.”

“Why do you think this is?”

“Blessed One, I haven’t the slightest idea!”

“Suppose, Malunkyaputra, that a man has been wounded by a poisoned arrow, and his friends and family are about to call a doctor. ‘Wait!” he says. ‘I will not let this arrow be removed until I have learned the caste of the man who shot me. I have to know how tall he is, what family he comes from, where they live, what kind of wood his bow is made from, what fletcher made his arrows. When I know these things, you can proceed to take the arrow out and give me an antidote for its poison.’ What would you think of such a man?’

“He would be a fool, Blessed One,” replied Malunkyaputra shamefacedly. “His questions have nothing to do with getting the arrow out, and he would die before they were answered.”

“Similarly, Malunkyaputra, I do not teach whether the world is eternal or not eternal; whether it is finite or infinite; whether the soul and the body are the same or different; whether a person who has attained nirvana exists after death or does not, or whether perhaps he both exists and does not exist, or neither exists or does not. I teach how to remove the arrow: the truth of suffering, its origin, its end, and the Noble Eightfold Path.” (pgs. 55-57).

In essence, the Buddha is saying there is much that is unexplainable and unknown in this world and beyond; but what he does know is we can end suffering through our own actions. In following the the Noble Eightfold Path, we cease harming ourselves and others: Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. We become a source of light in the darkness.