Recorded Live, Hear about Dominique’s unique upbringing and how her travels led her to learn more about authentic Native American women’s traditions and Maori “Medicine Women” and how it changed her vision of the World, Learn about what she’s been teaching in women’s circles for over 40 years, Discover her thoughts on the social roles of women and her passion for celebrating the divine within each of us.
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Right below, you will find the transcript of this video.
00:01 Dr. Michele Burklund: Okay. Hello, everyone. My name is Dr. Michele Burklund, I’m the Chief Science Officer here at Puriya. And this is our Living Well Interview Series, where we give you the tools and foundation to live a healthy life. And we introduce you to inspiring people who are focused on helping others find wellness in all aspects of their life. And this is going to be a very fun and educational interview today on women, challenging the roles, embracing new perspectives on women and the feminine.
00:30 DB: So, welcome, Dominique. Thank you so much for joining us today.
00:33 Dominique: Hello, Michele. Hello, everyone.
00:37 DB: Thank you. So, Dominique is a gestalt therapist, a psychotherapist, a lecturer and designer of Equus Gestaltung. Now, that is probably not the best pronunciation. You could tell me the correct way to say that if you’d like.
00:55 Dominique: It’s Equus like horse in Latin and Gestalting from Gestalt therapy..
01:02 DB: Beautiful. Much better said. So, she has been leading groups for over 40 years. Her travels have led her to meet Native American women or a medicine women of different traditions who have accompanied her in transformative passages and her vision of the world, life, impermanence, interdependence, circularity, posture, sovereignty and the social role of women. So, many amazing things to talk about today. Thank you so much for joining us. This will be very informative and you have a beautiful story. Before we get started, I wanna hear more about your background, what created this desire for you to learn more about women, Native American cultures. Tell us how this began, tell us your story.
01:53 Dominique: Well, I didn’t decide anything. I didn’t even know it existed, it just happened to me. I was traveling. I ran away when I was 16. I just wanted to discover the world and I didn’t know anything about Indians besides the movies. My mom used to watch American movies, mostly. So, even this image of native peoples was not correct and it was a big fantasy. And when I arrived in North America, I arrived in Canada, this was probably in 1979, I didn’t see any Indians and I wasn’t particularly searching for them. So, this came later. It was a side effect of traveling.
02:41 DB: So, it found you more than you finding it. You came across it.
02:46 Dominique: Yes.
02:48 DB: Very interesting. So, let’s talk about some of the memorable experiences you had from spending time with these different women. Tell us about how they found you across your journey when you entered Canada and about that time.
03:06 Dominique: Okay. I guess the most important event which provoked everything that would follow happened in 1982, I was invited to a medicine women’s circle, and I was 23 years old. I had no idea what this meant. I certainly was not a medicine woman, very young and green. And so, I went, I was curious. I was invited and I went. And it was a gathering of more than 30 women and there were five women… I don’t know if they’re shamans, medicine women or whatever, I didn’t know. And one of them was [03:53] ____, a very well-known person in the spiritual teachings in North America, a Cherokee. Another one was a grandmother, Doris “Morning Dove” Minckler who died and three others. And there was also a Buddhist nun. And at one point, in these three days, I was invited to a talking stick circle. I was one of the last ones to speak. And when it came to me, I started trembling and I grabbed the stick as if I was holding on to life, and felt sucked up in a, what do you say a tortillon, a spiral. Yeah, I felt aspired in a spiral and saw myself hanging above the Earth and the Earth was a ball between my legs, and it was all very strange. The whole thing was very strange.
04:57 Dominique: And at the end of the circle, we were all invited to talk about this experience. And when I told my story, grandmother Doris was very interested and she invited me to come sit with her after this circle. And she started by talking about Spider-Woman. I had no clue, no idea, what is this, what’s going on. And at the same time, she gave me a job to do. I had to go pick up two pieces of wood, 2 meters long, 10 centimeters in diameter and go get a rope, and hang things. So, in short, I made a weaving device and started weaving with… She brought me a basket with ribbons and wool, and all kinds of things. So I did, I started weaving. And there were two other women with me or three, I don’t quite remember. The third day, I was the last one. I just got into the weaving like crazy, and wove every time I had a free minute. Every day, she came to sit next to me with a cup of coffee and just went, “Mmm, mmm,” and then left. In the fourth day, I was the last one, she told me to come sit next to her and said that when my basket would be full, I would have to go back to my people so that these eggs can hatch, which is what I did. I came back to Europe and started woman circles.
06:31 DB: Very nice, very nice. How long were you there in Canada learning all these different things with women?
06:44 Dominique: It was Canada, it was the US also, Vermont, Upstate New York, California, Arizona. I met other native women and also Hawaii and Alaska. It’s a long story. [chuckle]
07:03 DB: So this beginning journey and being in this women circle, it inspired you and inspired all of these journeys throughout the States and everywhere to kind of engage with these women.
07:17 Dominique: Yes, it just happened. It was, as I said before, side effects of traveling. I met people and how it goes, I cannot explain, it’s just synchronicity, it’s coincidences. And I didn’t know, I knew I was on a sort of a quest, but I didn’t know what I was searching. So the first thing was to find out what is it I am searching? And it took me many years that it’s not even finished. I guess it will never finish.
07:52 DB: Right, right. I think that’s part of all of us too, that was a journey, that was part of the journey. So what did you learn, or what kind of changed when you spend this time with this women? What viewpoints changed, or how did you change after going through these experiences?
08:20 Dominique: That’s also a very long story. [chuckle] Well, what can I say about that? It certainly changed my view of the world. Because I’m European, Flemish born in a small Flemish town, which is more than a 1,000 years old. I come from a very old culture with very traditional values. And so when I went to North America, the first thing I noticed is that it was not so tight. People were not so narrow in their views of life, of the world, of their personal anthropology, I would say. Their vision of what is it to be human, why do we exist? All these existential questions. Until then, I only had the Catholic religion where I found a few answers, but they were not satisfying. I had read some Books from a Buddhist, I had more answers, but still it was all very theoretical. And what changed the most for me is that I had to come to down from this little cloud, because everything I had learned about spirituality or the answers to existential questions was elevate, elevate yourself. And this was a radical change with, especially Native American women, because they told me to go for my roots and not for my wings.
09:54 DB: Yeah.
09:55 Dominique: And the whole thing was that women and men, as I understood it, we come from different directions and we meet somewhere in the middle. So they say that male energy is active, it has to make an effort and go up, and feminine energy is passive, you can find this everywhere in the Chinese writings. And this means that if you have something which is, let’s say, down here, this object for example, if I want to bring it up, I have to make an effort, it cost me an effort, but if I am passive, I have to stop resisting and if I let go, what happens? It just falls, no effort. So men and male energy costs an effort, where feminine energy costs letting go. And this was very mystical for me. What does that mean? How do I do that? And it took me many years to apply this on the emotional level, on the physical level and on the mental level, and I suppose the spiritual happens as an integration of all. So that was the biggest change for me, I stopped looking for elevated whatever, and going down. In French, we say…
[11:25] [foreign language]
11:27 Dominique: Which means that we’re brushing the… How do you call them? Daffodils, the little flowers.
11:36 DB: Daffodils, daffodils.
11:39 Dominique: Yeah. So we just brush the tip of the daffodils. That means that if I do something, if I say something, I have an explanation for it, I know what I’m doing. So I’m not playing ritual, I’m not playing spiritual or illuminated, I want to know what I’m doing? Why I’m doing? And what it brings? So it’s about experience, more than theory. And as a true European middle class, blah, blah, blah, I had to let go of my theories.
12:21 DB: Yeah, which is hard, which is hard for all of us, letting go of all those beliefs that we collected when we were younger about everything. Yeah, that’s powerful.
12:29 Dominique: So developing mental flexibility, emotional flexibility, resilience.
12:40 DB: So tell me more about the practices, the celebrations, the rites of passage for women, the feminine energy, women menstruation, all of these different things that you teach and celebrate in unifying women about. So tell us more about this part, what you do in your practice and how that’s all combined?
13:11 Dominique: Okay. So for me, the most important is women circles, that women sit again in circles together, and talk about all of these things happening right now. When I started 30 or 40 years ago, nobody in Europe spoke about this, it was all very mystical, otherworldly, exotic and not very welcome, because we had the leftovers of the feminist movement of the ’70s, where there was a lot of interesting fighting going on, and because all of these women were of course products of patriarchal culture and very competitive, defensive, a bit paranoid. So there was a lot of fighting and arguing going on and the women circles were fighting arenas. I have some hard memories and sad memories of this. However, it was the beginning of something great. So I also want to honor these women who have done the hard work, so that we can do what we’re doing now, and the younger ones. So it’s about learning to talk to each other again, and listening. And so we’re doing this with the seven rules of a talking stick. I don’t really use the stick, it’s more about the rules. So some of these rules are, speaking in the first person, no naming of other people, talking about oneself, not talking about others, and saying, “I heard,” when we’re finished, when someone is finished speaking, and when we are finished, we say, “I have spoken.”
14:58 DB: And this in the circle, and this is where gestalt therapy comes in. I invite women to be less elusive and more direct in what they say. So instead of talking with a distance about things that have happened, I’m inviting women to talk about how they feel now with these things. And this, of course, brings up very hot, and emotional subjects, and the whole group takes care of that. And the fundamentals of this, this is another thing that I have learned in my travels and not only with Native American women, also in Algeria and Morocco and with Muslim people, because they live separated, the genders live separated and they do some things together. And this separation is very important, if we look at initiation rites of many peoples on the planet, and old European traditions, among others, the Basque, which live in south-west France. A teenager boy always goes, maybe not always, okay. Very often, they had to or still have to go on what is known today as a vision quest. The Basque, for example, the young people had to go naked for one complete year before they could come back, and this was their initiation rite, it’s for teenagers, and girls had to do this too.
16:34 Dominique: What native people brought me, is that men, very often, mostly do their initiation rites alone. They have to prove that they’re worthy. They have to do things like a first kill or, I don’t know exactly what it is they do. And we had very similar things for men. In our fairy tales, the boys have three, what do you call, is three challenges that they have to overcome. Three times they have to do it. So this is for men. And for women, for girls, it’s most of the time, the first initiation rite at the age of adolescence is the menstruation, is the welcoming of the menarche in a group of women who are still bleeding, and access to the moon lodge, a place where women go together when they bleed, ’cause we know that women living together in similar light conditions, bleed together, the cycles adjust. So we have this group thing as women that we have lost with the nuclear family, because now the women live separately, and so we don’t bleed together anymore. We have artificial lights and we don’t do these things together anymore. So the women’s circles are very important with this because for women, it is together, men, they do things alone. And this is a fundamental difference in initiation rites and ceremonies for men and for women.
18:15 DB: And so, how often do you hold these women circles or do you recommend women hold these circles for groups that they start too? Is it on a monthly basis for them to connect or as much as they can?
18:31 Dominique: This is up to each group to choose. I like to work with the pagan calendar because it’s the closest we have here in Europe to tribal traditions. One of the things my Indian teachers told me is, know your people, who are your people. I had no idea of my people who are, what tribes. So I had to dig in my own history and the European history. And we have been colonized some two, four, maybe 8,000 years earlier than Native Americans, which is 500, 600 years ago. And we have to dig much deeper to go back to our traditions, the original traditions. It’s like a embers hidden deep in the ashes. But they’re still there and we still have enough material that we can dig out and with the help of Native women and they’re very willing to help, because it’s for the sake of the planet. So let’s put everything we have together. And they have more than we have, because it’s been destroyed in Europe, and the last blow to this, what we had, is the inquisition in the middle ages. So European women, we have deep to dig, but we have it all. It’s all in the fairy tales, everything’s right there.
20:00 Dominique: So it’s all about re-reading our history, re-understanding and extracting what we have. And then, of course we have lost the ceremonies and the rites, this has definitely gone, but that’s where other women from other peoples have managed to keep this, and sometimes to the price of incredible sufferings and even killings, but they have kept them. And so, I also honor and thank these women who have transmitted in the deepest of the night for the soul, and such valuable knowledge in ceremonies. Because in North America, for example, when the white priest came, my ancestors, and I apologize in their name, they had to hide from their own men, because the women were quite free from what I heard and the stories they have told me. And so when the priest came the women had to hide from their own men after some time. It is terrible. So then when the American laws changed, when they were allowed to practice their religion again without being killed for it. Some of them decided to share with us, with other peoples, not only Europeans and white peoples, but for all people, so that we will survive as a species.
21:33 DB: It all comes down to just discovering those roots and celebrating all different cultures and the practices they’ve been able to carry on and integrating those, I’m sure.
21:45 Dominique: Yeah. And usually when we do circles, we have 2000 years of sufferings. Women have incredible stories of rape, of being beaten, of being killed, of having to hide, of not being free, it’s terrible. We have 2000 years of this to clear, to clean, with so much grief, and the grief can come out in these circles. Nobody is going to… How do you say this, to make it ridiculous what a woman says. Nobody is going to minimize it. There is room for talking about this. And sometimes in one of my last circles, there was a woman who’s been coming for two years to the circles, and three years ago she lost a young child, and so her suffering had no bottom. And at some point I invited her to come next to me, and if she would accept a hug, and with a self defense trick I turned her around and took her in my arms and started rocking her. She started screaming and what’s the word? Sangloter, crying when the plexus is jumping, deep crying, and the whole group, we were all crying with her. And it’s beautiful that we create again spaces for women to express whatever it is they need to express, suffering, joy, to share this with other women. And so we find support.
23:27 DB: Right. And it’s beautiful just to create that safe space for women to share everything they want without judgement and knowing whatever they say they’ll be okay. I think that’s a beautiful thing to join them together.
23:43 Dominique: Michelle, my battery is low. I think I have to change device. My battery is complaining.
23:50 DB: Okay. No problem. You can switch it and open up the link if you’re switching devices right now, from the same link that I sent you.
24:03 Dominique: Okay. So give me a minute, I’m closing this one.
24:05 DB: Sure. Sure. No problem.
24:08 Dominique: Okay.
24:10 DB: Okay. So we are back live. Thank you everyone, for holding for that moment and thank you Dominique for persevering and getting connected again too. I greatly appreciate it. And we’re going to jump into the next question which is about your passion for horses and the workshops that you offer, and how you combine your knowledge of gestalt therapy, and your love for horses, and how all of that ties together. So tell us more about that.
24:40 Dominique: Okay. What links this whole thing together, is that women and horses, we lost our freedom at the same time in history when the Caucasian Warriors came down with the horses and burned everything on their way. So this coincides also with the invention of war. So, horses were domesticated at the same time that women have become dominated. So we have a few things in common with horses, women and horses. Most important thing being that we are a group beings, so horses are herd animals. And as I have said before, I believe, and I have been told that women should do more things together, and become again, group beings, at least for some things. And to take good care of relations with other people, other humans, but also with everything that is. Meaning animals, the green growing ones, the swimming ones, the winged ones, and the invisible ones, and the minerals, the elements. There is so much life out there.
26:14 Dominique: So to be in good relation with all that is, means more than just being in peace among humans. We have been treating with a lot of ignorance other creatures, and so a lot of people now are waking up to that also, and a lot of people are slowly seeing that what we’re doing with horses is not okay. They’re very much in pain with our human activities, which are also… It’s a one-way thing. We use horses, horses don’t use us, and when we’re done with them, we throw them away. Very few horses get to live long. In France, the average life span statistically for horses is seven or eight years, where in nature, a horse can live up to 50 years. This is a huge difference. Most horses live to be 35, let’s say, close to 40, and a few reach 50. That means that human activity is causing a lot of damage to horses, as we know to other animals also by the disappearance of natural habitats. And we’ve done it to ourselves too. We’ve done it to our own kind, we have colonized the whole planet, we have been multiplying, and even though we’ve had many wars, we haven’t been going on with ourselves and others in a sustainable way, this we know. That’s what I mean when I say being in good relations, it’s with more than our fellow humans.
28:03 Dominique: And so, I give my horses their freedom back as much as possible. Ideally, this would mean having a territory of a thousand hectares, which we don’t have in Europe except in some places in the mountains, the Alps maybe, or the Pyrenees mountains, or the massive Massif Central in France, but in Central Europe, there is no more land. This is a big difference between North America, and I guess, South America and Europe. We have no more large spaces. People are everywhere. If you drive through Belgium, everywhere you are in Flanders you will see a church tower everywhere. There is no more landscape where you do not see a village. It’s full, we are full. So how can we give animals freedom back if we don’t re-wild the space? We have to stop the intensive agriculture, stop the intensive education of our children, which we cultivate like land with a deep… What do you call it? A plow? And to plow which is very sharp and digs deep and turns the earth around.
29:28 DB: Yeah, I know what you’re saying.
29:30 Dominique: And this is killing the aerobic soil, the top centimeters where all life is, we’re killing everything with our behavior, including femininity in the name of equality, we’ve got something wrong there. I respect if people think that, however, for me, it’s not only about equality, it’s about specifics. When I was convinced that women and men are different, and the first time I had to explain what is the difference, I couldn’t explain it, I didn’t know. So I had to search and ask my teachers, and they invited me to look myself.
30:16 Dominique: So the first thing I had to do is to be clear what is the difference between feminine and masculine, what are we talking about? And most answers that comes spontaneously is that we each have a part of feminine and masculine. Okay, still doesn’t answer the question. And so, when we look at animals and they have very different functions in the group, the males and the females, and they don’t discuss equality, they don’t care. It’s not about equality, it’s about who has which function. So the males are protectors, with horses and other herd animals, and when it’s mating season they fight. When it’s not mating season, they don’t fight, they are very peaceful, they coexist very peacefully. They have bachelor herds, and with the females there is this one stallion and the children.
31:15 Dominique: So what is happening with our males that today so many males are turning against the females in the human species? This is a question where I don’t have the answer. I don’t know what is happening there. There’s something very wrong and it’s not okay, so we have to correct this. The mothers, the women, we have to say it’s not okay. What’s happening with little children in the highest levels or layers of society, I suspect it’s the same in North America with the Epstein stories, and then in Europe where all the judges are pedophiles, and they’re the ones the women go to when they search for their disappearing children. So there is something very wrong, very sick in the society, and this is changing now. Children are standing up, women are standing up. Look at what’s happening in Argentina with the women and the feminists, they’re turning over everything right now, and this is great, fantastic news. It’s happening, we are the ones we’re waiting for, and here we are doing the work, it’s happening. So we’re dealing with a few challenges also, because the women who are older and who have been looking to find answers to their questions.
32:47 Dominique: The younger ones don’t always understand that the older people are not there to dominate or give orders, but are there to give support and share wisdom. So when I was young, I was looking for these older women. I have found a few, but most of them not in touch with their own roots or spiritual roots, and they’ve been doing what they can, the best they can and I did not find these teachers. I had to go very far. We have no more of these wise old women in Europe. They’re coming back, and this is also fantastic news, but there is so much healing to do. We’re doing it, and there is no time the seats of the woman, the woman’s lodges, and the grandmother lodges, the seats are empty. We have no more grandmothers sitting in circles and in the grandmother lodges. So I’m calling all of the women, everywhere on the planet, and the menopause, the women, the grandmothers, the ones who have that had a hysterectomy. Who have had a uterus who don’t have it anymore because of surgery or whatever. All these women, we all have the echo of the tides in our womb and of the cycles, it’s time, even if we’re not perfect, if we don’t have the trainings, if we don’t have the teachings, still, let’s sit in circles again, the grandmother seats are empty. Take them, it’s now.
34:18 DB: Yeah, I like that. I mean that the biggest thing is just getting back to our roots and celebrating that and celebrating the authenticity of it and being ourselves and finding that. I think that’s beautiful and I think that it’s always a challenge to find the authentic women, but I think when you call them, the right people always come to the right place.
34:44 Dominique: I also think that the wild part of us is always alive somewhere. And so as soon as we find ourselves in nature, where I do my workshops, this I insist on doing them in nature, in beautiful natural surroundings. Because as soon as we take our shoes off and we wash a couple of times in the creek, we’re back down to earth, we’re back with our naked feet on the Earth, and everything comes back. It takes only once. We make fire once. We show a young woman how, or an older woman how to make fire once. She knows. It all comes back, but we have to be in the right surroundings if we put ourselves in cities where the air is not nice to smell, where the sounds don’t do good to our ears, where the landscape hurts our eyes with straight lines, where the food that we eat isn’t not very healthy, etcetera. What we put on our skins. All of this when we stop putting poisons in and when we stop this then the body can stop cleaning or cleansing, and then we can start doing the work. Though putting ourselves out in nature is more than survival, it’s healing, and it’s the necessary connection if we want authenticity.
36:11 DB: Yeah, a hundred percent. I think it’s just a natural part of us that we need to celebrate instead of ignoring it and becoming so detached. It’s the simplicity of everything, of food, of nature, of the environment is some of the most potent healing energy too. So I will ask you two more questions. The first one is; What advice would you give our viewers on how to embrace their individuality and celebrate their bodies and who they are today? What would you tell them?
36:45 Dominique: That’s a very nice question. I have a bit of a problem with the word individuality, because we don’t exist as individuals, this is an artificial creation of whatever. I exist, what we call I, exists always in a context in an environment. And for me, the question is, how can the I, so this word I, how can I offer the best of myself? What would make me happy? And what would be best for the whole everything? And so how can I become the best version of myself? By recognizing my own talents and putting them to service. This gives me a reason to live, and it gives me a place in society, it gives me a place in the world. And what I love to do, usually I do it well, it’s a pleasure to do it, and this is the best I have to offer. So, my advice would be stopped doing things you don’t like doing, stop doing things that put you in a bad mood or that make you sick or that bore you. Of course a little bit frustration is good, but too much makes us sick.
38:07 Dominique: So how can we get out of the rat race, the more of us going out of the rat race now. And putting and recognizing our talents. We come from a culture where it is arrogant, to say, “Hey, this is my talent, I can do that.” It’s vanity, it’s considered vanity in our society. This is very wrong. It’s important to recognize a child’s talent and to tell this child, “You have this talent.” And before that, if we don’t recognize it in ourselves, our children will not believe us. So we have to start with ourselves. And when once we know what we love to do, and that we do it well, and that we get more training, and that we do with more, we’ll do it better. And there will be so many side effects to this for everything and everybody. So, I’m having a problem with this egoistic way of being an individual, me, myself, I. And I encourage everyone to recognize their own talents and put them to service. It’s so good to help. It’s such a good feeling to have done something well, and to have contributed to something, even if it’s the only, the little drop of the hummingbird.
39:33 DB: Definitely. I think that’s excellent advice and I think that puts everything into perspective too. So, I’ll close up the interview, I won’t take up too much more of your time. But let’s talk about how we can find you, like website or books. Tell me about the books that you have written, ’cause I won’t try to pronounce them, ’cause they’re in French.
39:56 Dominique: Okay.
39:57 DB: And the best way that they can find you on the internet, either through Facebook, and we can always add these links later on, too. So just tell us a little bit more about the books you have written too and the best way to find you.
40:13 Dominique: Okay. So the book in itself is a story. I was doing the summer camp, which we do once a year, it’s a camp for families, men, women and children. And also single people can come, everybody’s welcome, all ages, and it’s in nature with horses. We do circles in the TP, we use no cell phones, no computers, it’s like five days completely cut from the world full in nature. And so we did this. This was 2013, if I remember well, and I asked the group, I asked everyone what their dream was, which they told, and when the circle was over, I was ready to go on. And the whole group screamed in one voice, “And you.” So I said the first thing that crossed my mind was to take the time for writing a book. And at the end of that summer camp, two people came to me privately at my house and asked me to write my adventures and they gave me a huge slab of money for doing it. So I told them, I wanted three days to think of it because this couldn’t be possible, that someone gives me money to do that. And it was true. So I did. But I did not write in the first person, I didn’t want an autobiography. So it’s a story of a young woman who goes on to an adventure and discovers all kinds of things she hasn’t really asked for.
41:45 DB: Okay, nice. It sounds like a beautiful read to learn more about you and peer into that on a different side. Very nice.
41:55 Dominique: So the best way to find me right now is on Facebook, because we have a website under construction, I’m not very good at this, someone’s doing it for me. And have a couple of blogs, but they’re not updated, so Facebook is the best way at this point.
42:15 DB: Perfect. Well, we will be sure to have all the links available when we publish this and everything for people to get hold of you. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your great information, your story of how you discovered all of this and how you’re teaching others. So it was very inspiring. Thank you very much for joining us.
42:36 Dominique: Very welcome. And thank you for inviting me.
42:38 DB: Yeah, yeah it was good seeing you. Well, take care.
42:41 Dominique: Okay. Bye-bye.
42:42 DB: Bye.