My Life in One Chapter -
How I became involved in Nature-Based Coaching and Native American Cosmology
I have been fortunate to walk between worlds between the westernized world and Native American world, communities and culture for a great part of my life - as well as a deep, personal connection with nature and wilderness since my earliest memories.
It began at age 5, waking up in the middle of the night from a terrifying vision of what I could only describe as a significant memory-recall of a past life death event as a Native American, With nothing other than my Catholic parents and Sunday school for a religious reference, but it was so startlingly real that I knew in that moment that this death had been mine in a prior life. For the rest of my life, I would believe that reincarnation is highly possible and wondering what the importance was of remembering that one life. Step by step, serendipitous ways to show me would come, including Native American elders and healers who would step in and be ready and willing to teach me the medicine path.
Stepping back to age 3-4, I was a little boy who carried inwardly and outwardly a tremendous case of depression. I knew that it was primarily from a lack of personal contact with my mother, as by age 3, I was the third of four siblings at the time and the only way that I could communicate my loneliness and lack of contact with her was to cry incessantly. This only made her upset and resulted not in giving me some special attention, but her way of resolving it would be to pack a suitcase, put me in the car and threaten to take me to a detention farm unless I stopped crying. So, fearing I would be without parents or a family, I did the only thing I could do and forced myself to learn was to suck up my feelings, be silent and not ask for what I wanted or for attention anymore. Instead, what I found by age 5 that gave me a sense of self and the fullness I needed was the mountain forest behind our Oregon country home where I wandered with nature and waterfalls, finding peace, solace and safety. I connected with my wholeness there and nature became my family and my home. Whenever I went to the forest, things got better and clearer.
Around then, my mother also started to tell us stories about her love of growing up with her step-grandfather, a Blackfeet sub-chief by name of Lester Fontaine, from Montana. Her memory and pictures of him had great impact on how I saw Native Americans as my own family.
In my senior year of high school, 1971, I read "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" and stopped to cry several times and apologize in my soul to the Native Americans; then saw the movie "Little Big Man", starring Chief Dan George who I fell in love immediately with his voice, soul and wisdom on the screen like no one in life I had ever known. Only weeks later, a school teacher approached me asking if I would like be US delegate with 50 other USA teens to a United Nations Conference on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. I had never been to another state or country, so the answer immediately was, "Yes". There, as the conference opened, I couldn't believe my eyes as I found myself sitting at the feet of my new heroic figure, Chief Dan George.
For an entire week, I soaked up the most important things that he could tell an 18-year old about the web of life interconnecting all people and living things together in a Soul that is Nature, Great Creator and ourselves. Leaving there inspired with this profound sense of connection, in the next decade that followed, I became the Eugene president of OSPIRG (Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group; invited the heads of the Oregon DEQ, EPA and NW commander of the US Coast Guard on the Willamette River in Oregon to show them industrial pollution and hand our the first commercial pollution citations in the river's history that led to the first federal funding to launch groups like Willamette River Keeper; and initiated the auction for Greenpeace that raised the money to launch the very first anti-whaling ship on Planet Earth, the Ohana Kai.
By my late-30's, I was caught up in business as a successful real estate broker and home builder - forged my love of nature with my business with a green-building company called Eco-Logic Development, while my soul still felt rooted in Native American spirituality. But my real god by that time had become success and money and I dealt with a lot of depression and anger because I really felt I wasn't living true to my heart.
One year during that time of great confusion and depression about what my true path in life was, I traveled with a prominent friend to the South Dakota Black Hills who was close to the Lakota people there and we visited the owner carving Crazy Horse Monument. As I wandered through the area, I met a native author selling his book Mitakuye Oyasin at a table along with tapes on "How to Speak Lakota". We had a very long and good conversation and it felt like my conversation with him was mutually enlightening but also made me feel that fire in me again that I belonged "somewhere" with the Native American people. I bought his book and walked away. A while later, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned and it was this author who held out to me a set of the Lakota language tapes, saying, "These are a gift. Take them, you're going to need them", put them in my hands and walked away. This kind man, AC Ross aka. Ehanamani ("Walks Among"), I learned became the Chief of the Dakota Santee Sundance Chief. The Great Mystery had touched me once again to say there was something of my path in life to pay close attention to.
Five more years went by, time to use those tapes to learn Lakota but then lose some of it by not knowing anyone in Seattle to speak it with. My life in the meanwhile was focused on business and starting my first business coaching-consulting venture, while feeling everyday compromised with my "true soul's desire" that wasn't entirely clear. Then one day in 1998, by simply feeling a great urge, I made a statement to Spirit that I was ready to leave my six-figure real estate consulting career and work on a Native American reservation and "give back" by using the gifts and skills I’d acquired. Within weeks of that, during a business lunch meeting one of my Seattle consulting clients, a home manufacturer who did not know about my years of study in Native American culture asked me if I could help him put together a pre-fab home factory project between his company and the the Navajo Nation. My heart jumped because I knew immediately that this wasn't a coincidence because of what I'd prayed for weeks earlier.
Although I wasn't successful in bringing the deal together between my client together with the Navajo, it closed the door to me great disappointment, only to have them call me a year later and ask if I would come to the Navajo reservation and co-direct the creation a new $2.5-million log home factory for the revival of their sacred octagon homes, the "hogan". My prayer had come true after all, with no effort or request that they ever hire me. I knew this was no coincidence.
It was there, away from the big city and working with people of the earth in the Painted Desert and Hopi lands that I began to experience profound changes in what was important and necessary in my life. I came into contact with the Native American Church, as well as sitting for hours numerous times alone praying in remote Anasazi ruins far out in nature as well as hiking every trial in the Sedona back-country - only to find the spot on a trail one day where my hair stood up and I knew that I knew that this was the spot where I died in that past life.
At this point, a full major spiritual turning point happened to me: I stepped into what I call my 7-year personal Rite-of-Passage from 2003 to 2010, where visions came to me always by indigenous ancestors appearing before me telling me that I was going to go through some hard times for a while but that I am loved and being watched over and to never lose faith even in the hardest moments. I didn't know at that point that I was going to be a spiritual counselor and healer at that point -- everything in my life: material, marriage, security had to first disappear into what I experienced is called, "the shaman's death" and I went into it in no other way than I could without actually dying, by what I term, "surrendering to the void". It was the Odyssey of Ulysses in every darkness-an-light way, except it was my odyssey - in that learned what Great Spirit needs to be able to work through every healer, is what the The People call, a hollow bone.
In that 7-year Rite-of-Passage, I vision-quested, learned from and was invited to work with a number of Native American teachers, medicine men and elders - which 15-years later is still on-going. To better facilitate my clients in inner healing work and rite-of-passage, I studied NLP and Ericksonian hypnotherapy and acquired my Neurolinguistic Programming Master Certification in 2007 and certified in Hawaiian Huna Timeline Healing and a Reiki Master.
In 2009, just as I was filing to rename my company "Vision Path" and bring my love of nature together with coaching and wilderness rite-of-passage, I was invited to a Lakota/Cowlitz inipi (sweat lodge) ceremony near Mount Saint Helens, I was entirely new to these people but during the feast after the sweat, the medicine man of the Cowlitz People, Grandfather Roy Wilson, called me forward for a naming, "Loves Nature". Grandfather Roy after that became my fifth native teacher of the Medicine Wheel, which I use and teach in my primary coaching work.
In 2010, I was taught the Despacho ceremony of the Andes Mountains by two Peruvian priest who then commissioned me to use the ceremony in my work, which I do today, respectfully bringing it together with the North American medicine wheel - a spiritual confluence of the Eagle and the Condor; and leading rites-of-passage in Oregon's Mount Hood Wilderness.
Finally, the call to Mount Shasta, California came in 2016 to open a rite-of-passage/nature-based coaching service. Doors opened in the first weeks of my arrival to guide groups of South and Central American visitors coming to pray for the Earth and bless Mount Shasta; and members of the local Shasta and Karuk Nations are mutually involved in our work together in each other's offerings of ceremony and healing work.
To say that Native American cosmology is an offshoot of my main work would not honor the path that my life has been on since I awakened from that past life dream as a 5-year old, nor what my numerous teachers have given me with their blessing to use what they taught me - which I do so with great respect, honor and gratitude.