Archives for category: Faith

Glendalough Castle in Ireland. Obviously not the beach, but a place of adventure, and another inspiring  location where the air vibrated with fecund expectancy.

First thing this morning, as is my wont, I donned warm clothes and sturdy shoes, and, urging my trusty hound into the back seat, jumped into my CRV and headed for the beach.  I went there expecting the same wonderful experience I always receive — unique every morning, but always a gift to the soul and senses.

But today was different.

Today, after Maz and I traversed the short path onto the sands, we emerged onto a landscape tinged with fog, the icy blue of the still water blending into the serene sky with nary a division seen.  All was calm and peace, the only sound the gentlest lapping of water on shore.  I looked up and down the expanse of beach.  We were alone, yet the air was pregnant with imminent possibility.  The very sand seemed to be waiting in hushed expectation.

I felt as if we’d stepped through the back of the wardrobe into an undiscovered country, where something awe-inspiring was about to take place.

A glorious feeling to carry into the day.










There is very little doubt in my mind that one of the greatest sources of joy in my life at the moment is Long Point Beach.  Every morning at around 7, I can be found alternately strolling or striding along its shore, accompanied by my faithful hound Maz.  I come for the scenery, Maz prefers the dead fish.  End result:  sheer happiness for both.
This morning, while driving along the causeway leading to the beach, I was startled to see a huge swarm of small black birds filling the sky above me.  From the point just above my head to one above hte marsh far in the distance, thousands of these feathered friends were beginning their exodus to warmer climes, their wings pumping madly in the chill of the morning sky.  There was no mid-air ballet today, no time for any such frivolity.  They had somewhere to go, and there were getting to it.

But the experience of all of those small bodies, those pulsating wings, dominating the heavens made me stop my car in the middle of the road and gaze upward in abject awe.

The driving force of thousands of palpitating hearts, all beating as one, created a moving mosaic of black wing against the light grey morning sky, and I was mesmerized.  But more than that.  For a few fleeting moments, I was a part of it, almost present there with them in the heavens, wings beating, core pounding, spirit lifting up and away into the promise of bluer skies, balmier breezes and tasty caterpillars only just contemplating the cocoon.

I drive that causeway almost every daybreak, and usually I give thanks for the simple beauty of the natural landscape.  But this morning … this morning was a moment of wonder in an ordinary day, and it felt like a miracle.

Tomorrow, I’ll once again rise at dawn to make the same pre-breakfast trek on those enervating sands.  Will there be another miracle?  Is there a miracle every single day, if I open myself to it?
I think there may be.  And I will be watching.

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the different way we perceive beginnings and endings.

It seems to me that beginnings are greeted with joy, quite possibly in anticipation of what is to come, while endings are often seen as a sort of failure, a death, something grim and poignant in its inevitability.

And this puzzles me, because so many of our journeys in life are circular:  after following a path of exploration, we arrive back where we started, only, as Eliot so rightly said, to know the place for the first time.  We have been changed by the journey, we’ve learned and grown and hurt and laughed and cried.  We’ve lived.  And yet, this experience often seems to have little value in comparison to the inexorable sense of sadness and defeat at an ‘ending.’

Take our reaction to babies, for example.  They arrive into this world, blinking and wailing after a squashing, squeezing trip down a sort of internal water slide, red from the exertion, wrinkled and covered in goo, their skulls often compressed into very odd shapes.  Yet they’re instantly proclaimed ‘beautiful,’ their birth heralded with all the adoration due a dauphin, no matter how humble their situation.  I was just such an infant, and I’m sure my mother kissed my chubby belly and proclaimed my fat thighs to be the quintessence of loveliness.

Strangely, as I grew older, those same fat thighs and near identical chubby belly began to attract something other than praise!  But I digress …

The wrinkles on a baby are part of their charm, but, in our society, the wrinkles on the old are viewed as part and parcel of an unavoidable decay.

The Japanese have a term, ‘nagare,’ which refers to the natural flowing back of life and energy to its source:  a birthing-growing-decaying cycle which is a joy to behold in all its stages.  I see it all around me in the natural world.  I saw it on the beach not long ago when I came across this natural sculpture, half buried in the sand … a delicate, intricate jigsaw of line and circle and tone, made no less beautiful because it was once a living thing.

The spirit (or life force if you prefer) of this creature has departed … gone, I like to believe, back to its source … and its physical form is following suit.

Rather than viewing this as putrefaction, I see its beauty.  I hope the day will come when I see this beauty in the endings of all the things and creatures I love, but I believe this will require more enlightenment than I currently possess.

But then, I have faith that this enlightenment will return.  As a baby, I blithely accepted the cavalcade of the world’s business, as those who cared for me came and went, tending to my needs, caressing me with love and baby powder.  As I grow older, and yet older, finally returning to the source of my life, I trust I will embrace that perfect acceptance once more.

I will regard my wrinkles, and yes, even my chubby belly, and hopefully see the beauty of a journey well-taken, from beginning to middle to ending.  Something to be appreciated, and remembered, and finally released.

There are times when I contemplate the state in which we’re passing on this planet and this society to our children that I’m overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness.

I want to be a force for positive change, but I’m only one person, one small voice in the wilderness.  How can I possibly make a difference against a cacophony of angry or simply loud but indifferent utterances?

But, last night, I received a lesson regarding the power of a single voice.

After a sunset walk on the beach, and a lovely chat with friends, my faithful hound and I returned home late in the evening to a darkened abode.  When I turned the key in the lock, and entered, I heard a disconcerting sound.

Above the gentle hum of the fan, a shrill squealing was rending the air.  Mystified, I began following the source of this din.  It emanated from an upper kitchen shelf; at the top of the crisp cotton curtain covering the stash of preserves intended to provide local food throughout the winter, I spied the tell-tale twitch of antennae.

A cricket!  I quickly grabbed a magazine and swatted at the curtain top.  The sound stopped abruptly.  “Well,” I thought ruefully, “I may have murdered one of God’s creatures, but at least it’s quiet now!”

And it stayed quiet, blissfully quiet, as Maz dropped down onto his cushion, and I got undressed for bed.  It stayed quiet as I nestled amidst smooth sheets and contemplated the day’s events before drifting off into a peaceful slumber.  It stayed quiet, in fact, until 2 a.m. when, once more, an accursed, high-pitched squeal pierced the silence.  I clambered out of bed and snapped on the kitchen light;  the sound once again ceased in an instant.   But how, how, how could I guarantee silence, and accompanying sleep, for the rest of the night?

I knew I would never be able to find the cricket amongst the jars of canned plums and dehydrated zucchini that graced those particular shelves, so, hypothesizing that crickets chirped only in the dark hours, I left on the kitchen light and crawled back under my duvet.

But as I lay there,  the half-light coming from the kitchen creating a twilight aura in my bedroom, I had an interesting thought.

If one small cricket, simply by rubbing his back legs together, could create such a powerful noise, how much better was I equipped to raise a strong voice to be heard?

After all, some of the men and women I most admire, who have had a significant impact on both myself and the world, were single human beings, invested with only their unique personal voice.  I don’t compare myself to Thoreau or Gandhi, but they made a difference by speaking their truth forcefully yet with compassion and wisdom.  Jane Goodall works tirelessly to help save the diminishing chimpanzees of the world and their habitat.  Dr. Shiv Chopra and his small team at Health Canada were the reason that the children of this nation drink milk free from Bovine Growth Hormone.

The question, then, is what small but still significant changes of a positive nature might I facilitate by speaking from the heart with an educated and non-judgmental voice on the issues I care deeply about?  What positive changes might you precipitate in the same way?

One doesn’t need to possess the deafening force of a clanging bell to be heard through the ongoing clamor of the modern world.  Sometimes a single voice is enough.

These were the only flowers not destroyed by the ogre. (Fortunately, ogres are afraid of bees!)

For the past half dozen months or so, an ogre has been camping out in my backyard orchard.

Without so much as a “how-d’ya-do,” and certainly without an invitation, he moved in and began wreaking havoc:  breaking branches off trees and strewing them across the walking paths; digging holes for me to stumble in as I stroll barefoot with my morning coffee; and trampling just about every flowering plant in the vicinity.

In early May, I spotted him up one of the apple trees, calmly devouring the blossoms.  It seems no accident that those trees were unable to produce fruit this year.

My friends are terrified to visit, and even more afraid to bring their children, lest they be spirited away like changelings, never to be seen again.

Since his arrival, I’ve been shooting him many a dirty look, but the nasty thing just cackles with laughter in a most discourteous manner and carries on with his destructive behaviour, seemingly intent on ruining my life.

For months, I have despaired, and even considered moving on to another locale far beyond the ogre’s reach, but quite suddenly, I find I’ve become not only older, but wiser.

This morning, directly after throwing back a fortifying cup of organic joe, I marched myself out to the back yard, where I discovered Mr O. hunched over the back steps, earnestly stripping the paint from off my back door.

“Ahem!” I said, loudly.

The ogre paid me no mind, forcing more vehement interruption.

“EXCUSE ME!” I shouted.

He ceased his assiduous peeling, and without any discernible alteration to his hunched posture, turned a malicious eye in my direction.

“Thank you,” I said civilly.  “Now, there are a few things I’d like to discuss with you … or to say to you, if you choose to remain so resolutely silent.”

The ogre narrowed his eyes and wrinkled his nose slightly at this, but otherwise made no response.

“First of all,” I stated firmly, “I want to say that I know this isn’t personal.  Destroying property, creating confusion and alarm, inciting fear and anxiety — that’s just what ogres do.”

His face was an impassive mask, but his eyes burned into mine in a gaze straight out of Edgar Allan Poe.  I continued, confident that I had his full attention.

“Furthermore, I want to thank you for your visit:  it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned a great deal, and you’re welcome to stay as long as you need.  I know I can trust you to move on when the time is right.”

At this, the ogre looked startled, as if I’d asked him to dance a fandango when he’d come prepared to do only the foxtrot.  His eyes widened further as I took a step toward him, coming within range of his less than fragrant breath.

“You have something for me,” I said quietly.  “May I please have it?”

Just for an instant, a cunning smirk leapt onto his face, but the ogre hid it quickly behind a smile that oozed hospitable chagrin:  he turned out the pockets of his filthy trousers, showing them to be empty.  With an apologetic shrug, he began to shuffle backward, preparing to end our conversation.

“No!” I said with a firmness of tone to which the ogre was obviously unaccustomed.  He raised his grizzled visage to me and paused.

“Please, may I have it?” I said again.  “I’m only asking for what’s right and fair.”

This must have touched the creature in some secret reservoir of compassion,  hidden within his breast, for he slipped his greasy hand into a small pocket in the front of his vest.  After a moment, he pulled it out again, his fingers loosely closed around an object.  Looking full into my eyes, he opened his hand and held it out toward me.

There, nestled in his palm, was a dark, dusty orb.

My surprise and disappointment must have been evident, for he picked the orb off his palm with the fingers of his other hand, and raising it to his lips, blew on it lightly before rubbing it on his sleeve.  Once again, he held it out to me, this time grasped between his thumb and index finger.

There poised between his fingers was a large black pearl of such remarkable beauty that my body drew in a sudden breath.

And reflected in the liquid surface of the pearl was my own image.  But I could see more … so much more.

I registered in an instant that the drama of my everyday existence was simply that:  a piece of theatre created by my ego for its own entertainment.  That my frantic competition with those around me for status and possessions was akin to a temper tantrum thrown by a petulant child. That my life in the orchard was designed to be an ongoing cavalcade ping-ponging between anguish and bliss, and that the ogre himself was responsible for giving it meaning:  his destruction ensured I felt the pain and anger of loss only because I had something in life I deeply loved and hated to lose.

I raised my eyes from the ebony luminescence of the pearl to find the ogre studying me.  Although I had looked him in the face many times, I had never really seen his eyes before:  they were a hypnotic shade of deep sea blue, and as I returned his penetrating gaze, I recognized that they were filled with love.

It seemed an epiphany to realize that to be shielded from pain was to spend a lifetime shrouded from life itself.  And that not just the pearl, but the pain itself comprised the ogre’s gift.

And this I know with certainty.  Next year, the orchard will bloom again.  The trees will have replaced their broken branches, and even the flowers will be manifesting a miraculous amnesia regarding ever having been trampled at all.  Everything will be the same, yet everything will be different.  For the ogre will be there, not as an intruder, but as a welcome guest.  I will stroll through the trees in the moonlight, and smile to see him lolling on the grass beneath the low-hanging boughs.  He may even chuckle as he regards my serene composure, and aim a cheery wave in my direction.

As for me, I will be in my orchard, exactly where I need to be, calmly and joyfully experiencing every moment of a life now gratefully shared with the ogre.  Pandemonium will reign, but a life will be lived.

I ask you to forgive my absence from this page over the past several weeks, gentle readers.  The extreme heat and other pressures of life began to overwhelm me, and as is so often the case, I retreated into the relative safety of my little world, which has recently revolved around health and canning nature’s bounty and, of course, finishing the requisite changes to my thesis.

But, last night, I had a sort of epiphany.  Part of that epiphany recognized that the times when the world overwhelms is absolutely the right time to express that feeling through the written word.  And the other flash of understanding I will attempt to illustrate through parable.

When the weather becomes unseasonably warm, my thoughts inevitably clang like a clapper to the side of a bell, pealing out negative thoughts regarding the havoc we are wreaking on this poor planet.  No matter how I try to lift my spirits, the resounding knell of global warming rattles my bones, and at these times, I despair of mankind, assiduously proclaiming to anyone who will listen that even a dog knows not to crap where it eats.

The heat at Long Point was so extreme last week that my poor canine boy was unable to traverse the scorching sand to reach the cool of the lake unaided.  Halfway there, he began to limp, then his hind legs literally buckled under him from the pain of his burning foot pads.

This is exactly the sort of scenario which causes me to plummet into a downward spiral, and the apex of this slippery slope is the following limiting thought:  “This is awful.  This has always been awful.  This will always be awful.  Forever and forever, without the amen.”

But being reasonably stoic, at these times I remind myself of a tale brought down through history in the writings of the Eastern mystics.

The story tells of a village which was overrun by the army of a feudal king as he plundered and conquered far from his own lands.  This lord had given the order that the villagers should be put to death, but, being of a whimsical nature, he bowed to their pleas for mercy, offering them this challenge.

“I will spare your lives,” the king said, “if, by this time tomorrow, you give me a very special gift:  a gift that will make me sad when I am happy, and happy when I am sad.”

At first, the villagers were struck down by despair.  How could they comply with this strange request?  What gift could possibly achieve what seemed impossible?

But their wisest elders and their craziest fools joined forces, and at the appointed hour, they approached the king, bearing a small, plain box.

When the king opened the box and saw the villagers’ gift, he was filled with awe at the perfection of it, and holding it high in the light of the new day, the sun shimmering off its surface, he immediately ordered their release.

The gift was a silver ring on which was inscribed, “And this, too, shall pass.”

Last night, I stood outside in my backyard orchard, gazing at the stars, set like jewels in a cobalt sky, and felt the first cool caress of autumn on my bare arms.  “This awful heat may come back,” I thought, “will certainly be back next summer, but in this present moment, I know in my soul that it is just now, and not forever.”

Whatever the joy, comfort, anguish, confusion of an instant, the only certainty is that it, too, will soon pass.  Surely the secret, then, is to fully inhabit every moment; to embrace every aspect of this divine comedy we call life, secure in the knowledge that each tick of the clock brings with it a transition into a new experience.  It is the accumulation of these moments and experiences that make us who we are, and since we are all on our own perfect journeys to becoming our fullest selves, whatever the moment holds is, in itself, a silver circlet of fleeting perfection.

So today, I give myself this hero(ine)’s challenge:  I will slip the king’s ring on my finger, and try to encounter every one of life’s moments fully.

And make no mistake, the ring is there, patiently waiting for the present moment in which you choose to grasp it in your palm and allow it encircle your life.

I was blessed today with a wonderful reminder of how small acts of kindness and truth can mean a great deal in someone’s life.

It had started out as a difficult day:  too many hours driving through extreme heat in my feisty little vehicle which lacks air conditioning.  Too much dust, and too much sweat with a hot dog in the back.

When I arrived home, faithful canine in tow, we gratefully trudged indoors and turned on the air.  Still, I felt as if we were under siege, hiding behind closed doors, windows and blinds from the incessant blaring of the sun.

So around 4 p.m., we headed for the beach.  I was wearing my ancient bathing suit:  a Speedo in a simple maillot style, but in a shade of blue I really like, and with some colourful detail around the V-neck.  I had tied a patterned piece of cloth in complementary shades around my waist as a sarong, and donned my nifty straw hat, purchased at a thrift store for a mere ninety-nine cents!, with a silk scarf adding a dash of bon vivant around the brim.

The lake was flexing its muscles, big choppy waves stirring up the sand and painting the water a dull beige.  I untied my sarong, slung it around my neck, and with my sandals in one hand, entered the water, Maz trailing behind.  It was delicious and cool, and the slapping of the waves against my fanny was a lovely reminder that the lake may be a sassy fellow, but he’s always happy to chill with you on a warm summer day.  I smiled as I watched Maz rolling with large waves that threatened to swamp him, amazed that my greyhound seems to have made the transition to water spaniel.

Leaving the water, I re-tied my sarong over my now wet suit, and we continued our barefoot trek along the shore, our feet sinking slightly into a cushion of wet sand.

When Maz stopped for a sniff, a young woman in a scanty bikini walked slightly past, then turned around and came back to us.  She was perhaps 18 or 20, with a sweet face and a gravitas that belied her tender age.  After asking about Maz, she said something that seemed to me quite remarkable.

“I’m an art student, and obviously I can’t ask you to sit for a sketch here, but I’ve been walking behind you on the beach for a ways, and I just wanted you to know that I think you and your dog are beautiful.”

Now, how’s that for a comment guaranteed to make any day brighter?

I was honestly humbled by the simple courage she exhibited in speaking so forthrightly to a stranger, and while I thanked her for her kind words, I’m quite sure I failed to adequately communicate how much those words had meant to me on a difficult day.

And it’s serendipitous, because I’ve been reading a great deal lately, in blogs and such, that the only way we’ll be successful in changing ourselves, and the opinions of our brothers and sisters, as we attempt to heal the gashes we continue to make on this beautiful planet, is by speaking from the heart.

It’s been my habit for some time, whenever Maz (and before her death, Gini) and I enjoy a soul-nurturing walk on the beach, I wait until a stone calls to me, and I take it home as a reminder of the lake’s gift.  As I left the young woman, a beautiful egg whispered my name, and once home, I honoured it with the photograph you see above.

This stone is the symbol of the young woman on the beach who had the courage to speak from the heart in a way that raised my spirits so much on this searing day.

Blessings fall on us from so many places.  The next time you have the opportunity to speak kindly to another human being from your heart, know that you may be the blessing that makes a small but important difference in that person’s life.  Just as the young woman did in mine.

Yesterday, I took a break from thesis corrections to watch Dr. Wayne Dyer in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday series. (Gosh, you gotta love that, if only for the alliteration!)

After speaking of a spiritual healer he credits with curing him of leukemia, Dyer related his faith in manifestation — that our thoughts become things, and that the universe responds to our committed requests and beliefs.

In regards to the well-being most of us desire, he suggested that one should act as if those states were already present in one’s life, and further, should actually act as if they, a spiritual being in the midst of a human experience, were those qualities.  Rather than thinking, “I’m sick, I’m poor and I’m unlovable,” one should fill one’s thoughts with, “I am Health, I am Wealth and I am Love.”

The notion that the configuration of the universe responds to our thoughts and desires isn’t all that different from the Hindu concept of “Maya”, the illusion of the physical world.  And the idea that we can create scenarios by believing we are already in possession of them resonates with me of the great psychologist, Fritz Perls and his Gestalt therapy:  his watch-cry was, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”  Perls would poke and prod his patients into assuming the form of happiness — “If you were happy, how would you sit right now, stand right now, talk, act?  So, do it!” — and the emotional state would tend to follow the physical one.

This morning, I was walking on the beach with Maz.  It was a little later than usual — 8 o’clock — and the sun was beaming down on us as we both meandered barefoot on the sand, and paddled in the water.  The lake was calm, a serene glass blanket, twinkling coquettishly at the sun’s caress.  A man and his grandchildren were frolicking in the water, and farther from shore, a lone swimmer rose and dipped in a measured front crawl.

It struck me that, despite whatever else is going on in the world or in my life, I needed to put very little effort into obeying Dyer’s suggestion, if only I could open myself to the experience of that moment.  As I strode along the warm sand, my canine companion at my side, I felt completely at peace, and in harmony with nature and my fellow travelers on this planet.

I am Health.  I am Wealth.  I am Love.

The challenge, I believe, is to bring this openness to every moment of one’s life — not just those spent on the beach.  The joy is there, if we can see it and feel it and believe it.

I’ve been having some challenging times recently.

Returning home from a reasonably successful viva voce for my doctoral studies in the UK, the first thing I learned was that my mother had been diagnosed with a serious illness, and was beginning treatment immediately.

Over the week that followed, she became progressively worse and was taken to the emergency department in the middle of the night by my father and brother.  I stayed with my dad for several days, and was startled to witness my mom, quite honestly one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever known, unable to recognize her husband or children.

She is hopefully on the mend now, and her mental faculties are improving, but this incident was a reminder of important work I haven’t yet completed in terms of my own spiritual growth.

In December, I put my little canine girl, Gini, to sleep after struggling for months to improve her health based on a false diagnosis.  A second opinion proved that she had cancer, and was never going to get better.  Although we were able to keep her comfortable for a short time, I promised myself that when she had three bad days in a row, it would be the sign that I should release her from mortal suffering, and that day came on December 13th.

I don’t know if every reader has had, or will have, the kind of relationship some of us have with animals.  I can only say that Gini was truly a part of me … a piece of my soul that lived outside my body, like the ‘daemons’ which were linked to the humans in the film The Golden Compass. I still feel her loss acutely, as in her presence, I never felt either lonely or alone.

Now, when forced to confront my mother’s age and medical condition, it struck me that there are some individuals, either human or non-human, who are so real to us, so integral to our personal reality, it seems impossible that they should ever not ‘be’.  There are days when I think of Gini and am honestly surprised that I am still alive and walking on this earth, and she is not.

I know that life is transitory.  I know it intellectually, in my head.  But obviously I have not completely let the idea into my soul.  This is something I will be opening myself to in the coming months, as I attempt to understand and accept this important piece in life’s puzzle.

While this has all been going on, I’ve been driving and walking through this beautiful countryside, marveling that the trees are still green and supple, that the earth is bringing forth its riches, that the sun still beats down warm and friendly on my arms.  As my family has been embroiled in a human drama, life has still gone on around us, not uncaring, but simply present.  It reminds me that there is still joy to be had, even in the midst of anguish.

During an early morning stroll on the beach with my remaining beloved canine, I came across the message pictured above, lovingly placed in the sand by someone who had walked there before me.  It seemed to sum up so much.

After all, in this transitory journey we call life, the only thing that really lasts, that really matters, is love.

The greatest talent a person can have, it seems to me, is the capacity to have faith in the goodness of life.  It is a gift I have often been lacking in my life, but which I’m now endeavouring to cultivate.

Let me explain, albeit in a somewhat circuitous manner.

In retrospect, I feel that I’ve spent the first half of my life in a trio of inter-connected studies:  to unravel the meaning of life; to fully comprehend humanity in its dichotomous tendency toward  good and evil; but most of all, to fully know and understand myself.  In Jung’s words, I have striven to own my own shadow, and my work in theatre has been an important tool in this exploration.

It only feels right and appropriate, therefore, after the introspection of my first half century, that the second portion of my allotted time on this planet gather together any understanding I’ve gained and employ it in the service of things outside of myself, whether that be mother Gaia, my fellow human beings, or the animals who share this planet with us.

And there have been certain signposts directing me onto this path.

This past New Year’s Eve, a dear friend and I decided to exchange the usual over-consumption of food and spirits for a meditation workshop, opting to enter 2012 with a clear head, a clean body and peaceful thoughts.  At this event, for the first time in my life, I took part in an activity which might be described as ‘psychic’:  a session conducted by a young woman who offers what she calls Soul Intuitive Readings.  I should tell you in advance that I am highly skeptical of this sort of thing:  I believe it’s possible that rare individuals may possess perceptions the rest of humanity does not, but I also acknowledge that there are many con men and women who seek to prey on the gullible.  This young woman , it seemed to me, fell into the former category, and, as she fixed her attention onto a point in space, I was astounded to hear her describe aspects of my life in a way which resonated fully with me.

Then, she let the spiritual bomb drop.

The next part of your life, she said, will be predominantly as a healer.

Now, this statement can be interpreted in a number of ways.  I often sense that my work as an acting teacher has a healing quality to it, both for myself and for my students.  In terms of my own life, I feel I become the best possible version of myself when I teach, since in order to do it well, you must be fully committed, and as kind, determined and ego-less as is humanly possible.  And while it is never the direction or intention of the classes, I have seen how the work of freeing oneself as an actor; of scaling the walls of fear associated with a character’s particular journey; of pushing through and past emotional blocks encountered within the work; has a ripple effect into one’s own life as well.

The characterization of healer also sounded echoes from my past.  During a collective voice class at Equity Showcase some twenty years ago, I became friends with a young woman from Northern Ontario who belonged to the Objibwe tribe.  We were taking part in an exercise in which the fifteen or so students walked about the room, encountering one another with a gaze which greeted in a free neutrality, seeking neither to give or receive.  I found that these exercises tended to become a bit stale and precious after a while, so, at this point, when I encountered my friend, I would offer the slightest of interactions:  a quirked eyebrow; a slight widening of the eyes; resulting in her spontaneously emitting a smile or a soft giggle.  At the end of one such exercise, she grabbed me by the arm, then waggling a light-hearted finger in my face, she said, “YOU are so Bear Clan!”

“Bear Clan, ” I asked, “what’s that?”

Letting her head fall on one shoulder, she assessed me with a warm, accepting gaze.  After a slight pause, she replied:  “It’s a very healing clan.”

Being a healer doesn’t imply power or uniqueness, since I believe we all have the capacity and the opportunity to heal, or to destroy, every day of our lives.  Sometimes it might mean as little as a warm smile to a stranger on the street who looks as if the world is grinding them down.  I believe it means simply to be of service.

At this point, I’m not yet sure what direction my future vocation as healer might take.  I certainly have strong views on the dangers of agri-business and pharma-business; I’m passionate about the need for the humane treatment of all living things (raccoons and rats being a major exception); I’m eager to live a simpler, more self-sustaining lifestyle, particularly if this helps counteract the injuries to which we submit this beautiful planet every day.

I’ve decided to wait with as much patience as I can muster, believing that a path will reveal itself to me, particularly if I keep working away  at things the best I can.  I’ve come to understand that service to others, while it may seem selfless, has a wonderfully selfish aspect as well:  it makes you feel so good, so connected to life and to the rest of humanity.

So now, I will simply have faith in the goodness of life, and remember the words of Julian of Norwich, who sagely said that “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

I am sitting in my living room, and with these words, I am speaking to you, who may be many miles distant from me.  The rain is falling heavily in the little orchard outside my window, which hasn’t deterred the birds from continuing in their joyful serenade.

I am having faith in the goodness of life, and I am happy.


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