Liberation Through Conscious, Sustainable Systems with Colby Tootoosis

Today I’m talking with Colby Tootoosis about creating conscious, sustainable systems. Colby is a presenter and facilitator of leadership and personal development workshops with Conscious Leadership Coaching, Inc. Colby will share how The Journey process was introduced into his life when his father was ill. He’ll be talking about his first experience with process work and the path that led him deep into this calling. We’ll be diving into his journey of taking a practitioner program halfway around the world, his experiences with oppression, and how crucial it became for him to use what he learned to process his emotions during his time as an elected official. Listen in to learn more about Colby’s journey and how he uses his knowledge and experience to help others.

What to Listen For: 

  • What it was like growing up with both parents being therapists
  • Witnessing his parents working with families and communities
  • Being immersed in personal development, self-work, and proactive problem solving from a young age
  • Working through generational impacts of residential schools and the oppression of Indigenous peoples

“Growing up with my parents, there were experiences of having to work through things as a family. The generational impacts of residential schools, of the oppression of our peoples, and the attempts of colonization on our peoples.

And that’s the narrative and a theme that’s often not highlighted. And so I think the greatest thing that my parents have done for us as a family was to create the space and to encourage us to do the work that we needed to do personally so that we can continue the intention of ending the legacy and the impacts of that narrative.

  • How this set the tone for the way he engages with his family
  • How The Journey method came into his life

The Journey method came into our life through the means of a crisis. The crisis was my dad getting physically ill. And he had myelodysplasia, which is the beginning stages of bone marrow cancer, meaning he had to get a bone marrow transplant if he wanted to continue to live life on earth, and it was a scary time. It was a scary time and a challenging time.

  • Praying with his family for something that would help not just his father, but others as well
  • His mom’s experience with happening upon The Journey by Brandon Bays
  • His family going to a Journey workshop in Boulder, CO
  • His resistance to reading the book

I was very judgmental and critical and turned off by it completely. And my dad was really drawn to it. And at that time, I didn’t want to discourage anything. The truth is when you’re going through a health crisis like that; you get desperate. You’re open for anything. And I was in that space. And so I, with the judgment, was there, and I put it to the side. I encouraged him, and I was supportive.

  • What happened when his dad came back from his first Journey Intensive workshop
  • Colby’s first Journey method process

He sat me down in my bedroom, and he gave me my first journey method process, and it rocked my world. It shook the foundation of who I thought I was because prior to that moment, I thought that I didn’t have any issues for me to look at, that everything was fine.”

  • What revealed itself in that first experience with process work through the guidance of his father
  • Wanting more after that first taste of this work
  • Figuring out how to get to the Journey Practitioner Program in Europe
  • His dad’s incredible recovery

“While I was in their Journey Practitioner Program [my dad] continued to do journey work, and he healed. His brother was a match, and he went through a full bone marrow transplant, and he healed so quickly they put them in a medical journal. He was like a case study in a medical journal. 

I remember the moment because there were people in the same timeframe, in the same ward where they were going through bone marrow transplants as well, they were still in bed and resting. And my dad was walking around, and I remember him telling me he asked the doctor if he can go to a pow-wow. He wanted to go to a pow-wow to go dance.”

  • The feeling of watching his dad get ready for that pow-wow

It was reality. It was life happening. And I remember that. Going back to the moment when he showed me the process and saying this is what’s going to help me. This is what’s going to get me well enough, you know. And it just added fuel to the awareness of, I want more life, not even being aware of how shut down or how numbed out to life I really was at the time. 

In all this revealing of the armor coming down and the vulnerability and the freedom that comes with that and welcoming that and embracing that full force. Which included all the emotions that life has, you know, all the emotions and the uncomfortability that life has and, and being present, unlimitedly present.”

  • The continuation of violence on Indigenous peoples and the impacts of witnessing this trauma
  • Going to the colonizer’s territory to experience freedom, joy, and liberation

“It’s almost like feeling alone and isolated in the story and having to work through and process the story of the continued circumstance of colonialism, was a trip in itself, was a journey in itself. It led to an internal conflict of how do I reach a point of joy and happiness in the midst of oppression? How can the oppressed open into happiness in the midst of continued oppression?  Having to meet that conflict and that situation really revealed the reality in the inset.

The best way I can articulate is that there’s this fine line between insanity and enlightenment.

  • The leverage of the choice to be happy amid oppression
  • Looking at The Journey method as medicine that you have to work for
  • Finding this method to be a universal supplement to life
  • What helped him to be open to this work
  • Stepping into the work that he does now
  • Meeting Brandon Bays
  • Not feeling called to teach the journey, but not feeling sure what to do
  • Being encouraged in his work by Kevin Billet

“I saved my money to take the leadership programs in the States. And it meant, you know, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at times.

I went, and I experienced this work, and it was like a small cohort of us. We were experimenting with the work. We were using The Journey method work and making it applicable in an area of leadership. And the experiment was amazing.

We were all experiencing amazing results and awareness and putting it into practice. And I loved it.”

  • How he started teaching the visionary leadership intensive
  • Taking what he learned to create his own programs
  • Becoming an elected official in his community and experiencing the systems for what they were

“I didn’t have the means to articulate experiencing the result of a system. It’s a system of violence, a system of dehumanization. Why the fuck is everybody going along with it? I didn’t want to go along with it.

We have to disrupt this shit. We have to do something so that we can affirm who we are as continuing nations and enforce the rights of our continuing existence because Canada wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for treaty. Why are we domesticating and minimizing the essence of treaty?”

  • Experiencing the stress of seeing first-hand how the system works
  • How his stress started leaking into his family life

“It got to the point where my mom said, don’t come home. Whenever you’re stressed out, you’re mad, just don’t come home. And I was like, well, I have no place to go. So I remember feeling so stressed out as a result of these systems and the dynamics at play in a mess of those systems that I needed a place to go. And there was no place for me to go, and there was no place for me to talk to anyone.

  • Parking out in a field to cry and release emotions

“That became the cycle where I was like processing these emotions in the midst of a system that was evoking the emotion, and then like using that for leverage to dig deeper.

Okay. Well, maybe it’s a trigger, so, okay. Let’s find out where this trigger is. And, and then continuing to find the trigger and process it and find a trigger and process it. And it’s like the systemic toxic environment was continuing to evoke the growth and holding me to fire to my growth.

It was maddening, and it got to the point where yeah, I’m growing, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any progress here because I’m continuing to go back to the environment. And there’s like this environmental component to it. The growth was amazing, but it felt abusive to continue to go back to an environment that toxic, and I didn’t know what to do.”

  • Investing in himself to take the systems training in the USA
  • His huge aha moment

It doesn’t matter how much personal work you do, cause systems are gonna have this result. And there has to be this balance, and there’s an imbalance that’s taking place in families and communities because people can do the personal work. They can do all their personal work, but systems are still going to have this influence. And then people will only do systems work. But systems work can leave behind those if they’re not doing the personal development work.”

  • Applying systems work to his role in his community and feeling like a weight lifted from his shoulders
  • The most difficult four years of his life
  • Feeling called to work in Indigenous community engagement
  • Combining visionary leadership and the systems-based approach

“I’ve found that doing the personal work combined with the systems work is like fire; it’s like the beautiful combination. It gives so much leverage for a person to navigate and to innovate, to evolve into completely disrupt hamster wheels.”

  • Going rogue in his first advanced leadership process

About Colby Tootoosis:

Certified Conscious Coach, presenter of leadership and personal development workshops with Conscious Leadership Coaching inc., well versed in The Journey Method, Certified in Perception Control Theory, a Grief and Recovery Specialist, Life Skills Coach Trainer and program presenter with Red Echo Associates, Certified in Critical Incident Stress Management to communities in both group and one on one setting. Trained in social collaboration processes such as World Café and Open Space Technology. Is currently practicing the New Conscious Systems principles in organizations and communities while working towards a resurgence of Indigenous liberation through conscious, sustainable systems.


Glossary of Terms:

  • Indigenous peoples: Also referred to as First peoples, Aboriginal peoples, Native peoples, or autochthonous peoples, are groups who are original inhabitants to a particular place.
  • Colonialism: The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, tribe, or land, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
  • Colonizer: Settlers to a place that establish political control over it without agreement or regard and respect to its native peoples.
  • Residential Schools: Government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture.
  • Kinship: Kinship systems determine how people relate to each other and their roles, responsibilities, and obligations in relation to one another, ceremonial business, and the land.
  • Reserves: Canada has numerous Indian reserves where Indigenous peoples were placed, they were mostly established by the Indian Act of 1876 and have been variously expanded and reduced by royal commissions since. They are sometimes incorrectly called by the American term “reservations.”
  • Âhkamêyimowin: The collective action and essence of resilience. “Don’t give up, keep going.”
  • Treaty: A formally concluded and ratified agreement between Nations. The Treaties that Canada is associated with are the Pre-Confederation Treaties, Numbered Treaties (1-11), and Modern Day Treaties. Colby is from Treaty 6 territory within the Treaties 1-11.
  • Survivance: Colby refers to this term from a place of utilizing modern tools and resources without the compromise of the values, morals, principles, and dignity which stem from the cosmology of his peoples. To evolve in modern day times without complying or conforming to systems of oppression and colonialism.


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Read my memoir, Unravel: Rising Up and Coming Back from a Season of Living that Damn Near Killed Me at