Tone Magazine Article Written by P.N. Waldygo
(I wrote this article about one of my authors for a Canadian magazine. Due to time constraints, I haven't pursued this aspect of freelance writing, but I can write articles in that flippant, humorous, casual voice, if need be.)
Michèle C. St.Amour & Chakaura™ Institute of S.O.U.L.
November 22, 2016 | By Lemmy
by Patricia Waldygo ©November 2016
Meeting Michèle Cleveland St.Amour for the first time brings to mind the deli scene from When Harry Met Sally and its famous line: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
It’s not hard to imagine people thinking this when they encounter Michèle. With her dragon-like eyes that shift from black to gold, her joie de vivre, and a knack for seeing the humour in life, Michèle manifests the vibrant life force of her teachings.
We all embody our choices in life, whether good or bad—we are the sum total of our decisions about spirituality, diet, ethics, and more. By this measure, Michèle St.Amour is obviously doing something right.
Even her married surname, St.Amour, serendipitously coincides with her philosophy and teachings. The name of the organization she founded in 2007— Chakaura™ Institute of S.O.U.L. (System of Universal Love)—appeared in her mind’s eye one day. Michèle immediately recognized its wisdom, because “everything I teach centres on directing love energy, the most powerful force in the universe.”
Michèle focuses on the science behind spirituality, approaching self-transformation from the logical, as well as the intuitive, side. Though not anchored in any belief system, she combines teachings from the wisdom traditions of many cultures, going back to the Essenes and the ancient Egyptians.
“When these original pure teachings dispersed all over the world,” Michèle says, “each culture received a portion of them—similar to one bead of a necklace. The Chakaura practices empower students to join these beads and clasp them into a circular necklace of knowledge, like the uroboros.”
Deriving some of her teachings from her Aboriginal elders, Michèle believes that maintaining good health is a continual process of staying strong spiritually, mentally and physically. We must remain in harmony with ourselves, other people, our natural environment and our Creator. Of all the techniques she teaches, “grounding” is the most crucial for health. And taking responsibility for our choices starts us on the path.
Michèle lives simply in a solar-powered house in the mountains, growing a good amount of her own food and implementing a sustainable lifestyle as much as possible in our modern world. She also gathers wild herbs and always plants a wide selection in her garden for various medicinal remedies, in keeping with her Native heritage.
“Knowledge often presents itself in such a natural way, as with totems,” Michèle says, “so people have to develop awareness and pay attention to every word and everything they encounter, for that is how the spirits of all things communicate and guide us.”
In her early thirties, Michèle went through a spiritual awakening often referred to as the “dark night of the soul.” Her many years of physical, mental and emotional healing forced her to delve deeply into her inner world, unconventional experiences, and states of being. Similar to the paths of other mystics and seekers, her quest enabled her to understand the esoteric meaning of our human journey.
Michèle’s novel Chakaura: Awakening the Muse parallels her own awakening and tells the story of a young woman’s daredevil attitude when faced with altered realities and the moment of enlightenment that changed her forever. (Publication date: December 2016)
Although Chakaura Institute has both short-term and long-term programs, the practices are not a “quick fix” that one can do over a weekend. They require dedication and a commitment of time and energy, so that students can integrate the teachings into the deepest levels of the self. Many other spiritual systems deal with the first three layers of the aura and the first three (lowest) chakras. The Chakaura practices start with these but continue through all twelve layers of the aura and include every chakra, putting students on a path to becoming “masters.”
“People don’t realize that the energy field I call the Chakaura™ is a living, breathing organism,” Michèle says. “The chakras and the aura are not separate. One is simply the result and the emanation of the other, hence Chakaura™: chakra, aura.”
Dedicated to a life of service, Michèle began teaching alternative holistic health techniques 16 years ago. She is a certified Naturopathic-Energy Practitioner© and educator, and she provides workshops, retreats, and seminars in both French and English to those guided to her. The centre offers Chakaura Structural Balancing and Energy Balancing Therapy and Training, along with Self-Discovery Programs. Therapeutic sessions and consultations, aromatherapy and massage therapy are available at the Chakaura Health Clinic. When requested, Michèle will also travel to other locations to offer programs and seminars.
She further explains, “The basis of our energy healing teachings at the Chakaura™ Institute is the principle that all psychological and spiritual processes also have negative by-products, much as our biological functions do. We must eliminate unnecessary substances for spiritual health and vitality to be present. If not, they create emotional, mental, or spiritual blockages that our society calls ‘stress’—another psychological process with proven biological ramifications that are often deadly. A blockage is something that doesn’t move and that constricts the flow of energy or vital life force. This follows the law of vibration: Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates. Matter is simply an energy particle vibrating at a very low frequency, creating the illusion of solidity. This alone proves that all of man’s experiences have by-products, for the frequency of vibration defines every aspect of man.”
Chakaura™ is centrally located at 250 Main St. East, in Hawkesbury, Ontario, only one hour from Montreal, Ottawa, Cornwall and St-Sauveur. Visit chakaura.ca for more details.
Category: Articles, Spirituality & Meditation
[I wrote the following article in 2011 but never tried to get it published.]
Adopting Your New Best Friend
All about Breed Rescue Groups
So you’ve decided to get a dog! You might be a first-time dog owner, or maybe your beloved pet has died, leaving a gap in your life that only a new dog can fill.
You have another option besides going to a breeder, an animal shelter, or a pet store supplied by puppy mills. Instead, you can adopt a dog from a breed rescue group. These organizations are usually nonprofit and are run by selfless volunteers who have fallen in love with specific breeds of dogs. Most breed rescue groups have adoptable dogs of every age, from puppies to seniors. There are many advantages to choosing a dog this way.
Which Breed Is Right for You?
If you are a novice dog owner, it pays to do your homework. You’ll want to pick a breed that fits your personality and lifestyle. Even if you adopt a mixed-breed dog, try to learn about the breeds that contributed to the genetic makeup of your lovable mutt. If you want a purebred dog, attend a dog show or watch one on TV. Make a list of the dogs you are most attracted to, then look up the characteristics of those breeds on the Internet. This can prevent disappointment and heartache down the road.
Many people are emotionally influenced to choose breeds that they see in movies or on TV, but this is an unrealistic view of a dog’s true character. Dog actors are highly trained, and the audience sees each performing dog for only a few seconds at a time. The dog is immersed in its role, and a trainer stands just out of camera range, urging it on with a liver treat.
The spunky Jack Russell terrier became popular because of “Eddie” on the TV show Frasier. Yet this breed might prove difficult for most families to handle. Jack Russell terriers can be snappish and impatient with children, they are high-energy dogs, they pick fights with dogs five times their size, and breeders warn that you should never own two of the same gender because they will continually fight with each other. Some owners of this breed jokingly refer to their dogs as “Jack Russell terrorists.”
Another small dog with an even bigger personality is the Japanese shiba inu. A beautiful and regal-looking breed, it resembles a miniature fox. The shiba inu is very stubborn, loves to be spoiled, and will train you to wait on it. Forget about the normal concept of dog training, because that won’t happen. This breed has an unusual way of vocalizing. Similar to an Akita’s “woooo wooooo,” the shiba makes a higher-pitched version of this yodeling. When the dog is agitated, the sound can sound like a baby screaming, which may cause your shocked neighbors to wonder if you’re performing a ritual child sacrifice in your apartment. Agile and energetic, the shiba inu can leap tall fences and rivals Houdini as an escape artist. If you confine it to prevent this, the dog may become bored and destroy your house. A primitive breed, the shiba is usually aggressive toward other dogs and sometimes with people as well. (Other dog-aggressive smaller breads are American Staffordshire terriers, pit bulls, and similar mixes.) The shiba inu is a high-maintenance breed and not recommended for families with small children, but shiba owners say that their dogs’ unique personalities make them laugh a lot.
Siberian huskies are beautiful and usually friendly, yet they love to run so much that they need a yard with a secure fence they cannot jump over or dig under. On the vast plains of many Western states, people often let their dogs run loose outdoors. For a husky owner, this can lead to problems. In northern New Mexico, one rescue group reported finding huskies that had roamed up to 800 miles from their homes.
The powerful, majestic Akita is intensely devoted to its owner and makes an excellent guard dog. It needs strict control for a different reason, though: aggression against other dogs and a strong prey drive. What starts as a minor scuffle with another dog may end up as a fight to the death. Akitas have also been known to kill cats and other small pets. Sometimes a male and a female Akita can live together without fighting, but often an Akita needs to be an only pet. The Japanese first bred the Akita to hunt bear and wild boar, then later for dog fighting. This aggression toward other dogs is still typical of the breed. Akitas should live indoors with their families, because when left outside these dogs easily lose their socialization. Their prey drive becomes stronger, and they focus on hunting. Whenever an Akita is taken outdoors, it needs an strong-willed, yet not domineering, owner who will keep it on a leash or in a securely fenced yard.
The magnificent white Hungarian kuvasz was bred to guard sheep from wolves in mountainous countries. In its job, it worked alone and made its own judgment calls. The result is a dog that is highly independent and not very trainable because it doesn’t like to follow anyone’s orders. The kuvasz may also assume that its personal territory encompasses several square miles around your house. The dog would be happiest if it could patrol this area unhindered, but that won’t work in the suburbs.
On the opposite end of the trainability spectrum is the Border collie, which also works with sheep but as a herder. It is one of the most intelligent and trainable of breeds, but Border collies usually require too much exercise to thrive in a city apartment—unless their owner takes them jogging five or ten miles a day.
Online Shopping for the Perfect Pooch
Thanks to the Internet, you can see photos and read “bios” of adoptable dogs all over the United States. It’s the ultimate online shopping experience! Most breed rescue groups have websites featuring their available dogs. Just as you might choose a mate through an online dating service, you can browse through dogs’ photos and descriptions of each one’s history, age, temperament, and health status. Often, you can learn details such as whether the dog plays well with other dogs or is good with children or cats.
This is the main reason why choosing a dog from a breed rescue group is often safer than picking a pooch from the local animal shelter. Your human-canine relationship will be a 10- to 15-year commitment, so it helps if you have as much information as possible about the dog. Most of the dogs available from breed rescue groups originally came from animal shelters. Each rescue group regularly makes the rounds of shelters, on the lookout for a particular breed. Then the group evaluates which dogs are good candidates for adoption. Most groups also provide foster families for the dogs to live with, until they find their “forever home.” The foster family then gives updates on the dog’s personality, how it is adjusting to children and other dogs in the home, and so on.
Certain rescue groups focus exclusively on small dogs of any breed that weigh less than 15 or 20 pounds. So if you’re doing a Google search, don’t neglect to use keywords such as “small dogs” and “rescue,” instead of a specific breed such as “Dachshund.”
After a dog is released from the prisonlike animal shelter, it can relax in the safe environment of a foster home. The dog overcomes its fear or sadness, and the foster family can assess what type of owner it needs.
Puppy or Adult Dog?
Even the most hardened cynic can’t resist a playful, wiggly puppy. But puppies are a lot of work. With their natural inquisitiveness and lack of bladder control, they need constant supervision. Be prepared to puppy-proof your home as if you had a young toddler. Also, don’t underestimate how much you value getting a good night’s sleep. A puppy will need to go out to relieve itself at least once during the middle of the night. Raising a dog from a puppy is a rewarding experience, but only if you have the time and energy to do it right. Otherwise, you may not enjoy the process.
If you adopt a purebred adult dog, what you see is what you get. Barring unforeseen accidents, a happy, healthy 3-year-old dog has a good chance of staying that way until old age sets in. Most genetic defects would have shown up by age 3. On the other hand, the cutest little purebred puppy may grow up to develop hip dysplasia or another hereditary disorder. While puppies are young, it’s nearly impossible to predict which ones have certain genetic flaws. Adopting a mature dog takes some of the guesswork out of the process. Of course, any dog may become ill or diseased later in life, as can any person. Yet quite a few problems can be ruled out if you choose a healthy adult dog and have a veterinarian examine it before the adoption.
Breed rescue groups usually request that you fill out an online adoption application. Their standards are often stricter than those of your local shelter. Many groups won’t let their dogs be adopted out of state, or they may want to visit your home to ensure that the dog has the proper environment, such as a fenced-in yard. Often, however, if you live out of state, you can convince the rescue staff that you will be a good dog owner by showing them photos of your previous dogs throughout their lives, as well as pictures of your home and backyard and the bed where the dog will sleep. The rescue group volunteers are well-meaning and merely want to find the best possible homes for their dogs.
An adoption fee is usually required. The average range is $150 to $300, or sometimes up to $500 if a dog is exceptionally well-bred—as many homeless dogs are.
You may still have reservations about adopting an adult dog. Following are some of the most common worries:
1. Will an older dog bond strongly to me? Almost without exception, the answer is yes. Sometimes an adopted dog is so grateful to have a home again that it sticks to the new owner like glue. The dog may be afraid that the new person will disappear the way its previous owner did, so this may create an even stronger attachment.
2. Can a dog overcome its sadness at losing a previous loving owner? Yes, in the vast majority of cases. Many dogs end up homeless not because their owners give them up, but because their sense of adventure leads them to stray and get lost. If this happens, the dog is naturally confused by how quickly and unexpectedly its life has changed: from living with a caring family to dodging traffic and scrounging for food in garbage cans. Despite their intelligence, dogs must be mystified by how they lost their old homes. And given the canine-human language barrier, unfortunately, no one can explain it to them.
Dogs live in the present, though. They will go through a grieving process, but because they focus on the here and now, they generally snap out of their depression within weeks or months. In very few cases, with intensely loyal breeds such as Akitas, certain dogs mourn their masters’ deaths to the point of refusing to eat. Then the only merciful thing to do is euthanize the dogs. But this rarely happens; most dogs respond to love and kindness from their new owners and repay it in spades.
3. If a dog was neglected, beaten, or starved, has this treatment crushed its self-confidence and ability to trust and love humans? This brings up another advantage of adopting through a breed rescue group. The staff members thoroughly test a dog’s temperament to determine whether it can be rehabilitated before they put it up for adoption. Most dogs are amazingly resilient. The meekest, most downtrodden and unhappy dog can become strong, macho, and joyfully empowered almost overnight if it is given love and a decent life. If mistreatment has made the dog paranoid and aggressive, the breed rescue group will assess its personality and decide not to put it up for adoption if it might be a danger to people.
4. Is it too hard to train an adult dog? It may be more difficult when a dog reaches its senior years, but for middle-aged dogs (3, 4, 5, and 6 years old, or thereabouts) age is not a major issue. What’s more important is the dog’s breed and level of intelligence. Every dog is an individual, and some are more capable and talented than others. Look at it this way: you’ll have to train your dog no matter what its age is (unless the previous owner did). A puppy will need training even more than some older dogs do. Often, a mature dog has learned a few useful things in its lifetime.
5. What if an adult dog has bad habits that I can’t change? Many dogs do have behavior problems; that may be why their first owners gave them up. (On the other hand, shelters routinely report that people abandon dogs for the most selfish and trivial reasons, such as, “I remodeled my living room, and he sheds too much on the new carpet,” or “We have to move”—as if moving would be an excuse for leaving behind, say, their youngest daughter. A dog is a member of the family, and anyone who doesn’t feel this way should not be a dog owner.)
Most behavior problems are workable. If your dog has issues that cannot be addressed in group classes, then seek out an expert trainer for a few individual lessons. In reality, the trainer is training you even more than your dog. A good trainer will teach you to communicate in a way that your dog understands. A fascinating look at the difficulty of this interspecies communication can be found in The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell (New York: Ballantine Books, 2002). Because human beings are primates and dogs are canids, certain human ways of acting and communicating make no sense to a dog—and vice versa. It is in our best interest to meet dogs halfway by trying to understand them. For some inexplicable reason, dogs seek out our companionship and will bend themselves into a pretzel trying to please us. Strangely enough, dogs are the only species that prefers to be with another species more than with its own.
The human-dog relationship is a mutual admiration society. Whether we own sporting, working, or companion dogs, they greatly enhance our lives.
Copyright 2011 by P. N. Waldygo