“Remember Who You Are” ~ Asha Frost
It was the autumn of 2007 when I first met Dr. Asha Frost. In an office adorned with crystals, earthy pine and floral scents, pictures of beautiful landscapes, aboriginal art and sculptures, sat a young woman in her late 20’s who was very calm and serene. A desk and a bed, plus books about ancient and modern healing arts graced the shelves of a book case. This initial encounter was unusual since I had been expecting to see someone seated in a clinical medical setting who wore the classic white lab jacket.
I introduced myself and she listened intently while I spoke to her about my grief over my first husband’s suicide in September 2005. His suicide had involved serious charges against him by the taxation institution of Canada. My grief was due to the loss of someone I loved unconditionally, and also to anger against a powerful mainstream national institution.
My symptoms of depression also included an inability to focus on anything for long, I had difficulty understanding anything I read, and I felt isolated and wished to continue to live this way. I could not motivate myself to re-invest in life again. I awoke each day, because I believed someone at work needed me, my father needed me, my pets and plants needed me. The anti-depressant medications I had been prescribed were not working!
Before his suicide, I had strong beliefs about my society and I was sure my religious beliefs were correct. I had gathered and passively accepted these beliefs from books, mainstream schools, work experience, the political system, parents, as well as my church. My spouse’s suicide, however, dealt a fatal blow to my beliefs because they became meaningless.
During my visit that day, Asha told me I had lost a great deal of trust. Trust, she advised is what keeps us in a state of good health, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The loss of trust was keeping me in a state of isolation and depression. I recall her telling me that I needed to learn how to live from my heart because my head was full of ‘negative compact discs’ which were constantly repeating negative experiences related to my spouse’s death.
She spoke to me about her health issues and journey of becoming a homeopathic doctor. Her healing methods consisted of homeopathy, and in sharing the benefits of Aboriginal healing practices from her Ojibwe heritage as well as other indigenous cultures. She suggested I learn a new way to gain trust in the universe, meditation and healing from within.
I was shown a diagram of the human body and she explained the parts of the body related to trust, relationships, knowledge, and the spiritual dimension. I was advised to focus on the present time only and on breathing deeply and slowly whenever I became embroiled in negative thinking.
At the time, I also told her about a concept I had recently been exposed to called intuition which was new to me and interesting. I had been reading about it and discussing the benefits of understanding and using intuition with a neighbor who first told me about the importance of using intuition daily. Asha showed enthusiasm and suggested I continue learning more about intuition and the ways it can be applied to my life.
She motioned me to the bed and offered to give me a ‘healing’. When I lay down on the bed, I noticed soft soothing music and a pleasant floral aroma. She said words softly and prayed for me touching me very briefly only three times during this healing. At first when I lay on the bed, I did not believe anything positive would result, but shortly after these thoughts something very special happened. At first, it was a tingling sensation around my ankles, and then I felt that very pleasant sensation proceeding up my legs.
The tingling spread to my torso where it remained throughout the session and this felt like a symphony of warm, pleasant, tingling sensations. Indeed, these pleasant sensations were not my imagination. They were physical. In my mind, I saw myself in a beautiful garden. Before the healing was completed I felt like there was an opening in my head and a burden was released. Once off the bed, she asked me questions and gave me a homeopathic remedy which would give me more energy and place me in an improved emotional mood.
In the ensuing days, the increase in energy was not dramatic but I noticed I could focus better and complete more tasks in a day. During my first visit she had asked me to visit her each month, but the experience, although positive was nevertheless so alien to my normal way of functioning that I did not return to see her until the spring of 2008. My condition had gradually worsened and I could not relieve myself of the ‘negative compact discs’.
On my next visit, she performed another healing and the effects in her office were not as dramatic as the first time but became more dramatic after I entered my car and drove away. When I saw her after work it had been late afternoon and so when I left, naturally, the skies should have darkened, but they didn’t for me. They were brighter. I felt as though I were surrounded by a bubble and when I looked out onto the street, I saw people walking, laughing, a woman pushing a stroller with a child and even the trees seemed greener. I felt better!
I had been learning more about intuition and this research was becoming part of my assignments in the master of education program and some of my writing included my visits with Asha. I discovered that intuition was a natural ability within each one of us which guides our lives and relationships. Intuition has a long history and is well respected by many educators, musicians, doctors, scientists and theologians but intuition has not been recognized by the mainstream education system, at least not in Canada.
My training as an elementary school teacher was based on convincing students and parents to adopt a specific paradigm promoted through school subjects and a rigid school structural system which to me became similar to working in factories with specific tasks done at certain times, interrupted by bells indicating times to go outside, times to eat, and to go home.
I came to believe that each person should have the freedom to choose which subject areas, hobbies and careers they wished to pursue. When I researched this idea, I learned some schools were already doing this in the U.S. and in India!
During this time, I was attending Asha’s group meditation sessions throughout the year, and a four week course on learning and healing using indigenous ways. In these sessions, I was given knowledge that was in stark contrast to the ways in which I was teaching and in the ways I had been taught by the mainstream school system. For instance, in one session, while we were sitting comfortably on the floor in a circle she had various objects in the middle with a candle and she advised that all healing comes from within. She said “When you were born, creator knew you would endure a lifetime of joys, sorrows and challenges. A best life path can be discovered through meditation, prayer and learning about your medicine bundle for health and happiness.” She also mentioned that we each have intuitive abilities, a soul, and human, animal spirit guides, angels, and fairies that can help us if we ask for assistance.
During my private sessions with her and in group meditations, she honours our inner visions and dreams. In group sessions, we share our inner visions with one another and offer hope and compassion for individuals in the group. I recall emailing her after a session in which I said I had always been told that healing and medicine were experienced through pills and liquids given by doctors. I had never been advised that healing comes from within and I had access to my own way of learning and healing. These sessions empowered me to learn more about the human brain, the emotions, nutrition, and the body.
I realised Asha was teaching us to honour ourselves as individuals and in group sessions she honours and invites the spirits of the buffalo, the eagle, the deer and the bear to visit us. She continues to teach us about the importance of honouring Mother Earth and our ancestors. Whenever she mentions healing, I automatically think – education!
In contrast, the mainstream education system imposes a structure known as the transmission position. ‘In the transmission position, the function of education is to transmit facts, skills, and values to students. Specifically, this orientation stresses mastery of traditional school subjects through traditional teaching methodologies, particularly textbook learning (subject orientation); acquisition by students of basic skills and certain cultural values and mores that are necessary in order to function in society (cultural transmission orientation); and the application of mechanistic view of human behavior to curriculum planning, whereby students’ skills are developed through specific instructional strategies (competency-based learning orientation). In this position there is primarily one way movement to convey to students certain skills, knowledge, and values.’ (Miller, & Seller, Curriculum: Perspectives and practice, 1990, pp.5-6)
To me, the transmission orientation became a strategy of assimilation, when compared with Asha’s teachings. Four Arrows, in his book ‘Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education’ refers to the transmission form of education as hegemony (Four Arrows, 2013, Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education). My research about intuition and the transformation orientation in education was supported by a wonderful professor. A course which she offered in Narrative Inquiry was filled with students who were patient and very kind to me during my grief journey and it was this professor who eventually supported my master of education research and book called ‘Intuition: For Education and Healing’. During this time of grief, I’d like to add that staff and students at my school were also very compassionate towards me.
I continue to seek ways in which I can foster Asha’s teachings into the mainstream education system. Including intuition and Indigenous wisdom honours the individual’s experiences and expressions both in words and in deeds. As an extra-curricular activity I offer meditation classes to elementary students, adapting Asha’s ideas and using Indigenous music as well. The first year I offered this program, six to eight students attended regularly, and this year, I have sixteen students.
Whenever I offer an artistic component with mandalas or other themes about thirty-six students attend. When the book by Four Arrows, ‘Teaching Truly : A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education’ became available I now had a way of including the transformation orientation within my Core French Curriculum and I have contacted Four Arrows with some curriculum plans and examples of work done by students. Recently, I’ve introduced a beautiful tribal play called L’arbre Ungali from French Senegal Africa, and used Four Arrows ideas in his chapters about language and geography in my planning.
I love to know about the personal interests of my students. A ten year old student recently told me she loves to garden and has learned to cultivate and store her own seeds in her house over the cold winter months. Her parents support this hobby. She grows vegetables and flowers.
Another student told me she loves horses and wants to have a horse farm teaching others to enjoy horseback riding and also have a horse and donkey rescue area as part of her farm. I see myself as a teacher who supports the aspirations of my students.
Asha has often repeated her famous statement, “Remember Who You Are”. I’ve learned to make my passions and interest my priority. I love water, and swimming, so I learned to scuba dive during my grief journey. I promote the value of water by treating it well at the source through a filtration system, and not using plastic water bottles.
I love animals so I feed wild birds, a squirrel, and I’ve increased the number of pets in my household. I volunteer for an animal shelter and support organizations dedicated to helping wildlife. I love gardening so I’ve learned to compost indoors over the winter with about 400 little friends who are worms. I support organic farmers and protest genetically altered crops.
I’ve also remarried and although I am an only child, I now have more sisters and brothers through my husband’s family.
Education continues to be my passion.
Since 2005, my mental health has improved fantastically despite periodic bouts of anxiety, being scattered, and being unable to focus. Therefore I continue to see Asha on a regular basis in her private practice and through group meditations.
Asha has told me several times that she sometimes wishes she became an elementary school teacher since she loves children. I tell her she is a teacher … she is the teacher of the teacher.
Four Arrows, (2013) Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Asha Frost, (2007 – 2013) Communications during private and group sessions: York Region, Ontario, Canada
Miller, J.P. & Seller, W. (1990) Curriculum: Perspectives and practice. Canada: Copp, Clark Pitman.