The journey to a healthy and positive lifestyle is a daily balance
- Joel Pedersen | November 06, 2019
Deciding what to write about is sometimes a challenge, other times it’s as if there is not enough space in a column to share the descriptions or thoughts.
I have been so fortunate to meet some incredible people over the past couple months, and experience some amazing opportunities. The journey to a healthy and positive lifestyle is a daily balance in meeting physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.
I recently traveled to Muskoka Woods, Ontario for some programming with the Toronto Blue Jays Care foundation James Bay Girls at Bat program. These incredible young women travel down twice a year from the Mushkegowuk First Nations area of northern Ontario, to meet with volunteers; mentors; and friends, as they share in empowering and self-confidence development. This session added another cultural component, that being the sweat lodge.
Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to experience ceremony in some Anishinaabe communities in Manigotagan and Hollow Water to Fort Williams First Nation on Mount McKay. The lodges seem to be much smaller than the lodges I have seen in Saskatchewan. I asked the elder if I would be permitted to write about some of the experience and to share some photos of the construction. He thought about it for a few minutes, and said it would be acceptable. Megwich.
The elder’s name was Joe and his oskȃpȇwis (elder’s helper in Cree) was his best friend Jim, both are Anishinaabe from the Timmins Ontario area. I was fortunate to be able to share in the construction of the lodge, as Joe and Jim instructed and taught me what to do. It has always been suggested to me that when an opportunity to learn something new, to always find a way to do.
A light rain had started as the location was selected, Joe explained to me how to make the shape, where to make pound the stake holes, offer tobacco, seek out the willow, prepare the lodge and dress the lodge. The old men made jokes and passed the time by sharing the teachings of the lodge with me. It reminded me of the experience I had with Elder Jake Jobb from Reindeer Lake, when he took me out to his traditional fishing spot on a cold February day; I was the worker to pull all the nets in.
With a big smile on his face he looked at me and said, “Now that’s a workout hey?”
On this day as the light drizzle and heat steaming off my shirt from the work of preparing the lodge, the old man smiled and gave me thumbs up and said, “this is how we have done it for many years, as long as I can remember it’s our connection of physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health.”
It was a true honour to learn from the Elders on which willows they liked, the angles, the importance of alignment, the balance of the lodge and how there are times when tolerance must meet with acceptance. As I look back at what they were talking about, I realize it was also about life.
Finding ways to connect to our Indigenous culture is also an opportunity to be active. Not all fitness activities need to be sport; it can also be functional and active lifestyle. As the weather turns the months of Kaskatinowipism (freezing month) and Iyikopiwiwipism (frost month), find ways to stay active outdoors and stay connected.
Fitness 2J2 is a socially responsible, community-based health and wellness company. Established in 2011 based out of Saskatoon, we have brought programming to more than 30 Indigenous communities where we have empowered and inspired more than 30,000 youth and adults. We look forward to meeting you on your road to healthy and positive lifestyles.