I am thrilled to share my interview with the Algonquin Medicine Man (Pete Bernard) with you today.
Pete is an Algonquin from the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation in Golden Lake, Ontario, Canada. He is a Midewin (often referred to as a Healer or Shaman) who offers private healing ceremonies, rituals, group healing circles, and offers various training programs for those interested in learning Medicine Work. He also offers public talks on Spirituality and Healing.
Along with being Traditionally Trained in Medicine Work, he is also a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Certified Hypnotist, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Practitioner, Medical Qigong, Reiki Master, and trained in many other types of healing.
Here is what he had to say.
Why did you want to learn about and practice healing?
I wanted to learn about healing because I myself was hurting. I had been through a lot of traumas.
The incident that precipitated everything is when my brother got hit by a drunk driver when I was nine years old. It had a very large and negative impact on myself, my family, and of course, my brother. Nothing was the same after that.
Around that time, I actively began talking with my grandfather about different things and we spent a lot of time talking about the philosophy of healing: What it is? What it is not? Why does it work? Why does it not work? It got me intrigued and wanting to help myself.
Coming out of that trauma at the age of nine, by the time I was a teenager, I had migraines every day. From 13 to 24 years old, there was never a day where I did not have a migraine. I went to some of the top neurologists in Canada: these specialists can certainly diagnose you with migraines, but they cannot do anything about it. They know there is no “real” treatment. You can get drugs, but to actually figure out what is causing it and heal it… that is another story. Even today, they cannot do it. I wanted not only to “manage” it, but to heal it. I had made a mistake myself: I had been focussing only on the migraines themselves, not on what had actually caused them.
For me, the cause of my migraines was the unresolved trauma in my body – the unresolved trauma of the initial event and the events that spun off from it. At that time, too many things happened at once, too close from one another – like too many mini bombs exploding. If I can use an analogy: it just left this huge spike on my graph – and because that was not resolved, it was disrupting my system. I think it was the emotional pain and the mental pain inside of me that could not get resolved or could not get out that was manifesting at a physical level, that was “knocking on the big door” to be recognized and heard.
When I finally resolved that trauma, I woke up one day knowing that something was different, but I did not know what it was. It took me half a day to figure out what was different: I did not have a migraine. But my body still was not happy. It had been living with migraines for eleven years and it was used to that level of pain. By not having it anymore, my body almost went through withdrawal. It took me about a month or so to sort it out and only then, could I be in fluorescent light again (still not liking it, though), tolerate noises, and eat food that used to bother me.
So, it was all of those things that made me want to start learning about and practicing healing when I was approximately nine years old. I saw my first client around that time too. Obviously, I was not a fulltime practitioner at that time. I was also going to school and doing other things. My grandfather also encouraged me to study in other traditions – in other ways – to find out what is similar and what is different between healing practices. To find the unifying factor – the “one thing” – that is usually consistent throughout all healing.
What does healing mean to you?
Initially, healing means the absence of the issue. But beyond that, it also means living the equal and opposite of your wound. For example, if a person’s wound has limited him or her to a point where he or she cannot love, we do not want to simply get rid of the wound, we want that person to actually be able to love and to be able to experience it. Ultimately, healing is the evolution of your issue to a point where it serves you in a positive way.
Too many times, people allow their issues to define them and more importantly, they allow their issues to become rallying points or excuses as to why they do not make changes. They refer back to what happened. For example, “the reason why I do not trust is because…”. While this is perfectly normal, what if there was another option? What if we did not have to live that way? What if we could heal those issues? It is sure possible to do things differently.
Ultimately, everybody has “stuff”, but it is what we do with that stuff that matters the most. And let me tell you that if you do not do something with your stuff, it will do “stuff” with you! In truly trying to figure out who you are, it is important that you realize that you are not your wounds. We identify so strongly with our wounds in our story. In our current society, when we tell our story – what happened, we get the “Oh My God! I totally relate to you. We are sisters/brothers!”. We allow so much of who we are to be identified through our issues.
Healing has to be the equal and opposite of what the issue was. I had a client who was afraid of sharks. After a few sessions, he knew he was no longer afraid of sharks, but in order to prove it to himself, he went swimming with the sharks – he did the shark dive! No doubt it was a great experience for him. I am not saying that everyone should do something extreme, but in a meaningful day-to-day thing, you need to be able to love, you need to be able to be vulnerable. When an issue presents to you, it cannot change you if you do not want to be changed. When you get a diagnosis, for example, it can potentially change you forever. Your job is to take it and do something with it. That is healing.
(To be continued in PART II.)