Gratitude – What does it mean to me?
One of my favorite words in the English language is Gratitude. It keeps me humble, appreciative and on my toes. Life is full of intertwining paths of light and darkness, joy and pain; it is part of the human journey. Gratitude comes when I can accept both aspects of myself, the darkness and the light and thank the darkness for the incredible teachings, for without this I would not be standing as firmly in gratitude. When I can humbly thank myself for releasing behaviours that are not servicing my highler good, having the courage to bring them to the surface to bathe in the light, I have truly arrived at a sacred spot in my life. It is from this place that I can authentically sprinkle gratitude into all aspects of my daily life.
BLESSED – HUMBLED – GRATEFUL
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I have finally come back down to earth enough to start expressing my experience from my most recent trip to the Andes of Peru. I had set out on this adventure to the high mountain land of the Condor with multiple intentions, and as the days unraveled it occurred to me that intentions were not necessary. In essence, what I was experiencing was, natural, effortless flow of life that was suspended in high vibratory energy, the sacred valley lovingly surrounding it in her arms.
The days were warm with a soft breeze and light showers. Pacha mamma graced us with what looked like an electric green, velvet blanket, covering the mountains and Incan terraces. There is a tremendous sense of awe when you have your morning coffee outside in the garden with hummingbirds the size of robins. Where am I again? I could have jumped into a scene from Avatar, it’s ok Shannon, your in Peru remember….
There is so much that my heart would like to share and for now I will focus on my experience in the high mountain community outside of Pisac.
As synchronicity will have it, I had met a man, named Ludwin, at the beginning of the trip who knew of a high mountain community of weavers that were looking to work with foreign people. As the days went on I continued to share with Ludwin, the values of Soulstem Collective, how we are a Fair Trade business that believes in providing opportunity for empowerment and equality with our artisans. As the Quechua translator, I felt it was important for Ludwin to know that we operate on a win/win value system that supports growth and sustains healthy long term relationships.
We had set out early for our adventure and soon we would arrive at a small set of simple adobe style homes with gardens and a community loom attached to the entrance of the main home. Women, children and men all dressed in traditional ponchos with huge smiles come to great us with enthusiasm. The women start to present all of their weavings on the grass, each one has a story that is told through symbols and color. The commitment and love that goes into each art piece takes approximately twenty days to complete, not to mention the shearing, spinning and dying of the alpaca wool in preparation. I am in awe of the artistic technique that has been passed down from their ancestors.
I had brought a huge bag of clothing and a new soccer ball that my son donated and once we did our gift exchange and pumped up the soccer ball it was time for business. We sat on the grass, taking in the beautiful presence of the people, pacha mamma, and I thought to myself, I could not think of a better office on the planet. How special to work in this organic way, heart to heart, culture to culture. I felt the flow of life and the knowing that I was in the right place and this is what I was intended to do.
As it turned out, we found out that the community did not have a knitting machine that could make ponchos, blankets and sweaters. Our Soulstem Online store was looking to have these items produced so we had to make a plan in order to work with this community.
After more discussion it was very clear to me that we would purchase the machines for the community so that they could make our products. The community, their values and our connection together made them a perfect fit for our micro loan program. We purchased the machines and currently the community is learning to operate them. We will have samples of our new blankets and ponchos soon. They will have a western flare with andean tradition combined for our North American customers.
Our mountain community goes by the name “Ayninakusunchis” and when they are not fulfilling our orders, they will produce their own textile products with the machines, to sell at a 100% benefit to them.
Once we had established this agreement there was a big cheer with clapping and hugs and our partnership began.
To celebrate our new partnership we were invited to a traditional lunch, prepared in an adobe kitchen with dirt floor and stove heated with Eucalyptus wood.
During the lunch preparation the elders took us on a hike to ancient petroglyphs, several thousands of years old. Upon arriving back for lunch we were presented with beautiful fried trout, rice stuffed pimentos and boiled potatoes. It was exquisite and what most struck me was the smiling, grateful faces of each and every one of us at that lunch table. For me this is the true meaning of abundance……..simplicity……life.
I am so excited to work with our new Soulstem family “Ayninakusunchis Co-op”, which translates in Quechua “helping all together”
One of our sponsor children
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I recently returned home from Peru where I had the honor of travelling to the Amazon, experiencing the rich diversity of this lush country. Peru is not only the motherland of sacred healing plant medicine but home to some of the most grateful, resourceful, hard working people on this planet.
I have travelled to many countries over the past few decades and I have to say that my experiences in Peru was among the richest . I started my journey in the Amazon where I had the opportunity to spend time with locals from the small communities near Iquitos. Being in the presence of all the jungle sounds and smells evoked such primal feelings of being connected to the earth in the most authentic way.
During this time of reflection and clear vision I experienced what I call universal support, it is a knowing that I have a purpose on this earth that is beyond myself. The Peruvian jungle re-ignited this awareness within me with its magical energy and sacredness.
The purpose that I am speaking of is one that supports and empowers women and children through Fair Trade practices and future opportunities. In the Amazon of Peru many rural villagers live in thatched huts with dirt floors. They lack electricity, toilets or running water. When I visited certain villages I sensed a very important feeling about my work, I was strongly reminded that when we promote fair trade, it can immensely benefit the producer, particularly the very poor producer.
I spent time sitting with local women, asking about their families and with most of the women there was a common thread, they work long hours beading or sewing to support their families. I met an elderly lady who was supporting her grandson and husband by making beaded necklaces and hand embroidered blankets, her health was not good and her husband’s health was even worse. We managed to set up a work program for her that pre-paid her so that she could get the medical help she needed as well as buy stock to produce more crafts for her families future sustainability. This form of assistance has given the family so much hope and to me this is what Fair Trade is all about, giving people hope and empowerment to change their situations.
I had traveled down with two heavily stuffed suitcases full of children’s shoes, pants, dresses and a variety of women and men’s clothing. I had made arrangements with a local woman to distribute the items to people in need as she had a better understanding of who was in the most need. I new that each and every article that I stuffed into my suitcase would go to a good home and it did indeed. For several weeks I saw the village girls wearing the clothing looking proud to have a new dress or shirt, smiling. One of my favorite little friends named Alex lived where I was staying, he wore his new pair of yellow rubber boots every day for weeks even though it was the hottest time of the year, there was no way he was going to part with his new pair of little yellow boots! Bless his heart.
Peru was a great reminder that we all need support and empowerment in our lives.
In spite of the hard conditions that the people can endure, they are grateful, happy people and I learn so much from them and their spirit every day.
When it comes to Peru, my heart says YES…………….
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