Monique Gray Smith is a mixed heritage woman of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent and is the proud Mom of eleven year old twins. She is an award winning author, international speaker and sought after consultant. Her career has focused on strengthening the understanding of historical trauma on Indigenous Children and families and fostering paradigm shifts that focus on the strength and resiliency of the First Peoples in Canada. She is well known for her warmth, spirit of generosity and focus on resilience. Monique has been sober and involved in her healing journey for over 23 years.

What do you BELIEVE in?  I believe in the innate goodness in human beings and I believe in the power of love. I know how corny that sounds, but I’ve seen and felt the healing power of love in my life. In fact, I know I wouldn’t be sober or alive today without the love of my family and friends. I believe in surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself! I’ve come to learn how integral these people are to our success. When I say success, I don’t mean how many cars are in your garage or how big your house is. But rather, success to me is using the gifts we’ve each been blessed with in the best way possible to foster a more caring, empathic and civil society. I believe that in order to be successful, we must surround ourselves with people who are also successful. It is from these people that I garner my courage, strength and willingness to do what I might not otherwise do. We all need people to champion us and I think we all also need to be champions.

One of the things I’ve come to believe most powerfully over the last few years is that words can be medicine. I know that what flows off my tongue has the power to either heal or harm and while at times I fail miserably, I have become more and more mindful of the words I use.

How does LOVE show up/present itself in your life?  One of the teachings I received as a little girl was the importance of filling a room with love, and that everyone is born with love in their hearts, sometimes life takes that away, but we’re all born with it.

When I was working in the hospital as a Psychiatric Nurse, I saw so many people that had lost the love in their hearts and it always made me sad. Their loneliness was palpable. Today in my work as a consultant and author, many times people will share their life stories with me I often find myself wondering, ‘how are you still alive?’ But woven within their stories is always one person who has loved them or their belief in and love of the Creator (God) that has guided them through.

I really do think life is all about love. Yes, the romantic love that Hollywood sells us, but for me, more importantly the deep, soul nurturing love that feeds my spirit. You know the love I mean…The love of a friend who calls in the middle of the night, just when we think we can’t hold on for another second, or the love of a stranger who provides Christmas for a family who might not otherwise be able to celebrate, or the love of a partner who knows exactly when to wrap their arms around you and whisper ‘I love you’ in your ear, or the love of a child who cuddles up on the couch beside you and lays their head on your shoulder, or the love of an elder who says, ‘come sit with me, I have a story to share with you.’  I think there are as many ways to experience love as there are human beings on this planet.

Because I believe in love, it shows up everywhere for me.

Who or what INSPIREs you?  Whew, that is a big question because so much inspires meJ

My children inspire me. Every day the world asks them to try something new, to take a risk, to learn, to grow and to discover their own values and beliefs. Sometimes I think it’s a good thing children have an abundance of energy because otherwise what we ask of them would be exhausting.

I’m inspired by love! Lately, I’ve been attracting all these elders who’ve been telling me their love stories and they are very, very powerful. Stories of love that has endured more than most could ever imagine and stories of love that is reunited after decades of being apart.

I’m inspired by people who listen to the whisperings of their soul. Those who follow their dreams, even when at first they have no idea how or what to do.

I’m also inspired by the underdog… the one that people write off or is given little credit for what they can or might be able to do. I think sometimes I see myself in the underdogs who cross my path. Sometimes their stories, resilience and perseverance moves me to tears. I also think that I’m moved so deeply because in underdogs there is always a profound lesson of possibility, about following ones heart, and, well, I love that!

How do you, or can you, SERVE your community?   I travel a great deal for my work and so my ability to serve my community with my time can be challenging, so I attempt to find other ways to be of service. I think one of the most powerful ways we can serve our community is living a life with integrity, being generous of spirit and being a positive role model.

What does it mean to you to SURRENDER?  Mmm, surrender has so many meanings., but what comes to mind immediately is something I’ve been thinking about since winning the Burt Award for First Nation, Metis and Inuit Literature for my book Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience. It was beyond my wildest dream to even be shortlisted with authors like Thomas King, Bev Sellars and Cherie Dimaline. But to actually win, well that I had to surrender to. I know it might sound odd, but I had to surrender to the joy, the bliss, the acknoweldgement, the praise…all of it.  I used to think of surrender in a different context, like having to surrender to a situation that I didn’t like or didn’t want, but I’ve come to realize that surrendering has so many connotations, including letting yourself be blanketed by joy and acknowledgement. This is a form of surrendering that I’m still getting used to and don’t always do it gracefully, but I’m working on itJ

I also think of surrendering in this context, that sometimes our ancestors have bigger plans for us than we could ever imagine for ourselves. At times, we must surrender our control so that we can make room for the plans of our ancestors. What I mean by ancestors is those who have gone before me, yet in some ways, live within me. As a First Nations woman, I give thanks every day to my ancestors who gave up so much so that I may be afforded the bounty of privileges I have today.

I heard an elder share a while back about humility and what was shared resonated deeply and influences my ability to surrender. What he said was that we sometimes think that being humble means not bragging or talking about ourselves, but it also means all good things in their rightful time. I often think of that when I’m trying hard to make something work and things just aren’t falling into place. It’s either not time yet or won’t ever be time. Knowing when to slow down, pause or seek a new way is all part of humbly surrendering.