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Meet the Stewardship Council: Sobey Wing

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Describe your work in your own words.

My work is something I don’t often put into words. I have not always had clear insight into exactly what shape it would take, but as I seek to describe it I would say that my work is to fill gaps that I see in society, those that I feel are present because of colonialism. Along this path I have made myself available to support the revitalization of Rites of Passage in the world since 2008 and it continues to evolve how I approach this. At times it is supporting other groups & organizations, while at others it’s responding to the direct needs of people in my community. In addition, Astrology has played a large role in achieving clarity on the exact ways to support life transitions and a practice I’ve been dedicated to cultivating. Since 2012 I’ve also been drawn more into the work of decolonizing and redressing the colonization of indigenous cultures both of my ancestors and those in the land I live upon as well as elsewhere around the globe. This is something that informs my work with Rites of Passage, understanding how it was forcibly removed from cultures worldwide and how the damage done from this is reflected in various forms of trauma.

How do you define Rites of Passage or talk about it in relationship to your work?

I have given numerous talks on Rites of Passage over the past several years including a TEDx talk in 2011. I’ve referenced the definition used by Arnold Van Gannep who coined the term from his field research in sociology. Thought as my studies and interactions have evolved I’ve found myself defining it more from an indigenous centered viewpoint that holds interconnectivity at the center of human values. Rites of Passage thus being the way that value is expressed consciously in human societies. I also place this work in relationship with decolonization as Rites of Passage was a target during the spread of colonization along with those who held the roles of spiritual mentors, counsellors and keepers of rites in their communities worldwide.

What brought you to this work?

In 2008 I decided to take a hiatus from all the things I was doing in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia throughout my late 20’s and into my 30’s. I found myself in the Philippines for some months and came to realize that it was ritual that I was called to, in relation to community. Community ritual was something I already had been doing for many years in a self-initiated manner. But beyond those rituals was the forming of a sense of community which proved itself real and vital in times of crisis, when people came together to help each other and thus the whole. I began to see my role within this process and wanted to figure out how to be more effective in assisting communities through big transitions. It is then that the term “rite of passage” came through to me as something to ruminate and built upon.

Around 2009 I began to announce via Facebook to my sizeable network cultivated over years of being a community organizer that I was offering Rites of Passage services. For several years I found ways to help individuals create meaningful ceremonies for themselves to assist with marking shifts in their lives. Most of those people were in their 20’s and up.

Are there specific mentors, teachers, or lineages it has grown out of?

I have been exposed to many traditions of Rites of Passage hailing from Turtle Island as well as other indigenous cultures around the world. However a deeply vital part of my work is finding ways to be less of an interloper in others traditions and more centered in my own ancestral ones which include Chinese, Gallic (Celtic ancestors of the French), Iberian (Celtic ancestors of the Spanish), and especially Kabisay-an (Visayan connected to what is known today as the Philippines).

What have been your greatest lessons and in turn joys in getting to where you are?

There feels like many. I recently read that change is said to be non-linear. I can relate to this as I see the threads of all the things I am today that in my past wound their way into increasing coherency.  Perhaps the greatest lessons in relation to Rites of Passage have been to reconnect to the ancestors. This in turn gives me a sense of reconnection with self, others, and the future that will outlive me. I find a deep and lasting joy in that.

Are there any tools or resources that have been especially useful to you?      

I would name Astrology for certain. I am a still a young Astrologer but the more I look at charts the more I see the universal story of humanity in all its nuances. Connecting with cultural groups Dually I share ancestry and visiting my ancestral homelands has been both useful and crucial to me. I have yet to visit all the homelands I am connected with but they call to me. Certainly I would also say that serving as a mentor or participating in other organizations doing Rites of Passage has been useful to me and thus connecting with a network doing this work.

How did you get involved with Youth Passageways and what led you to become a Stewardship Council member?

I was invited to the summit for Youth Rites of Passage practitioners by Joshua Gorman in 2013 held at the Ojai Foundation. Afterwards I attempted to keep one of the most passionate dialogues alive via through web conferences on the topic of cross cultural sensitivity. As this progressed I was invited to bring what would become Youth Passageways into fruition alongside Darcy and Joshua and as it did joined the Stewardship Council of which I’m now serving my second and final term as a board member.

What is your hope or vision for YPW, what do you see that we need as a community?

My hope and vision for YPW is to see it serve in some sense like a guild, culture lab, think tank federation, and ever evolving non-static entity that doesn’t allow itself to be assimilated by capitalism. I hope to see it decolonize and root from ancestors of path, of community, and of initiation. I see us empowering elders who can eventually likewise empower the next generation of elders. My hope is to see youth bring forward their spirit of truth and expression and be given a clear map of what previous generations have struggled to understand, master, and hone. And to see them further that map and pass it on.

I see us as a human family centered from the most displaced to the most privileged and bringing the balance of the masculine and feminine into its most beautiful and harmonious expression possible. I see us upholding the right for all people to experience meaningful coming of age rituals while birthing a new future of Earth honouring. I see us as ancestrally rooted and future generation serving guardians of truth, justice and reconciliation!

And finally as a community, we need to develop our capacity to dive deeply and respectfully into the shadow of humanity to find the opposite light that needs to be reborn.

Why or why isn’t it important that YPW be an international community?

It is important for a few reasons. Our communities’ ancestor lines come from around the planet and very few from Turtle Island or the lands we presently inhabit. Unsettling ourselves means relanding with the places we live and developing a reconnection with our ancestral homelands. It is being aware of ourselves as settler colonialists and recognizing our collective displacement and displacing of others. From this stage of awareness we can work to support the indigenous led movements of the world with our movement rather than operating the status quo directive to recolonize wherever we roam.

How do the local and global points of view interact in your work/experience?

I see the most present and apparent interaction in the challenge and charge of global Climate change. At the Ojai summit I recall Kalani Souza from Hawaii talking about being on the ground surveying a beach after a tsunami. The continued effects of climate change define our spiritual maturity as a global species of human beings. Will we continue to burn down the house or will we learn how to adult with the mother Earth? Rites of Passage mean nothing in a home that’s ablaze of flooding out. Starting with the poorest most vulnerable amongst the human family. I feel that centering the most marginalized is a rite of passage in itself that can help humanity in its maturity towards adulthood out of its collective adolescence and amnesia.

Locally, I am left to discern which location defines me, my ancestral lands or a place I live as a settler-colonialist. How do I live on stolen land? How do I help heal the land where I live? Local needs to be conscious of its history from the viewpoint of the longest living people of that land.  I have been looking at this in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories where I live as a settler and recently with projects happening in Costa Rica. In the end, practising Indigenous solidarity, being able to support indigenous led action, and indigenous women led action is the way to repair what had been broken that resulted in the loss of Rites of Passage across the world.

*Image Courtesy of Märt Lume

About the Author: Sobey Wing

With ancestral roots which connect to the Central Visayas, Spain, China, and France, Sobey has been coming to know his cultural identity on Turtle Island. Born and raised in the Haudenosaunee region known as Toronto, Sobey has based his adult life in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories of Canada. There Sobey has been a mentor with a program called Teen Journeys, and offers rites of passage consulting and facilitation for people undergoing transition as well as those marking milestones in life. His experience includes community engagement with youth in festival dance culture, working with clients undergoing transition and therapy for addiction through the help of ibogaine, and studies of astrology. In 2011 he gave a TEDx talk on Rites of Passage and has presented this topic at numerous festivals in North America, Australia, and Portugal.

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