Thursday, March 24, 2011

This Healing Work

I can feel your pain as surely as if it were my own. When I place my hand on yours, it is fear I feel gnawing at your bones. Your pulse beats your story and your eyes tell a tale I am not sure I am strong enough to hear.

I see a little boy, unguarded and pure. I imagine rubber boots, fists full of rocks, dirt-encrusted fingernails, and holes in your socks. There was light in your eyes, once upon a time. You were light. I wish you could know this, hold on to this and let it carry you through the dark and scary nights. I wish you could remember.

I am on the verge of tears, but I know I need to get a grip. I am here to touch you in a way that is loving and safe, to honour your goodness and to help you move through those energetic knots that have you feeling so stuck and defeated. I am here to listen. I am here to care. I am so sorry.

Thank you for braving the blizzard and coming here today; for allowing me the privilege of playing a part in your healing journey. I am new at this, you know. I have only just begun and my heart is probably beating faster than yours is. Thank you for trusting me.

I am not a healer now, nor will I ever be. Those who claim to be healers have chosen to ignore one crucial piece of information: We can only heal ourselves. But I can be a tunnel, a conduct for healing energy to pass through me and into you. I can be the middlewoman that guides the energy, and perhaps even strengthens its curative properties, if my intentions are good and my vessel uncluttered. I am happy to be the intermediary between the heavens and your beautiful but broken spirit. I have prepared myself for this. I am ready.

I am not ready at all.

What can give can also receive. If energy can travel through me and into you, it can also travel through you and into me. And in this clear vessel that I have carefully primed for healing work, a tempest can take place.

It is taking place. As I make my way from school to home, hours later, my mind is racing with angry thoughts. I find it difficult to walk, not because of the snow on the ground but because there is a heaviness inside of me trying to pull me down. Everywhere I look, I see suffering. My throat is tight and I am overcome with feelings of frustration and annoyance. I want to stand up on the streetcar and scream “Nobody understands!”

This angry person is so far removed from the girl I was this morning, I know that something is not quite right. The realization comes as a shooting pain in my head: these strong emotions are yours, not mine. They have squeezed their way into my psyche and are wreaking havoc on my mind. They are spreading their claws and ripping through the fabric of my perfectly good day.

I teeter on the edge of panic. What do I do now?

I hear a voice - thick as smoke and smooth as honey. I have heard it before; it is the voice of the man who spends his days singing to strangers on the street. He never asks for money, never holds up a sign, but just sits there, crooning old favourites. I reach into my jacket pocket, dig out a looney, and drop it into his empty coffee cup. He says, “Thank you. God bless” and gives me a lopsided grin. I feel the irritated voices inside quiet down for a second and this reassures me a little.

I arrive home and know I need to be alone. I am in a toxic state and ready to spew venom on anybody who gets close. I give myself permission to feel the hurt - your hurt - which is now mine too. I allow the waves of sadness to lap at my feet, my knees, my waist, but I do not allow them to swallow me up. I fight against the undertow, digging my heels in the sand, clinging to the solid ground which is anything but solid.

I embrace my aloneness and wait for the waves to recede, the sadness to pass, the bitterness to lose its bite. I carve out a space for myself - a hollow haven amid the density of the human condition. I fall into it, as easily as I fall into bed, and I let go of everything about today: you and your troubled eyes, me and my naiveté, Old Man Winter’s gruff farewell, the street singer’s velvety voice.

I clean out my vessel, yet again, chipping away at the unnecessary bits. I remove particles of you, particles of me, particles of both of us that cover my insides with dust. I vow to do a better job of protecting this little heart of mine; it is the only one I’ve got. I am of no use to you, or to anybody, if I allow the weight of the world to press down on my shoulders and obstruct my energetic flow. I am of no use to you, or to anybody, if I allow anger and resentment to dictate the way. If I lose myself, I am of no use to even me.

I look up at the night sky and pray for you. I imagine a string of stars reaching down deep inside of you and uprooting your pain, your loss, your fear, and catapulting them past the moon, into the darkest black hole of the cosmos. I see the little boy that still lives inside you - he is wounded but not destroyed. I ask the stars to lead you back to that boy and his light. Back to you, back to hope. Back to health.

Friday, March 18, 2011


A week ago today, Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake – an 8.9 magnitude quake (the fourth largest recorded since 1900) that caused a devastating tsunami to obliterate entire towns and cities, leaving many people dead and many more missing.

I first heard the news on the radio, as I lay in bed fighting the urge to “snooze” for another ten minutes. My eyes popped open. I sat up straight. My heart raced. A few seconds later, I heard Yves’s voice coming from the living room: “Oh my God. You have to come see this.”

I had never seen anything like it – a seemingly neverending wave slithering its way out of the ocean and onto land, flooding fields, submerging homes, causing bridges to collapse and cars to be carried away by the sheer power of water. It looked like a scene from a science-fiction film. It was hard to believe that these images were real, that those cars that bobbed on the water the way rubber duckies bob in the tub had, only seconds earlier, been filled with people going about their daily routines.

How quickly a day can change. Imagine being on that freeway - heading to work, sipping on coffee, singing whatever song – and looking out your side window. Imagine seeing that wave breaking the boundary between earth and sea and doing the thing that water does best: flow downward. Imagine the panic.

I was glued to the TV all of Friday morning, completely awe-struck, yet again, by the forces of Nature and heartbroken for the people of Japan.

I have an affinity for these people and their country. It was my country, not that long ago. It was my home. They were my family.

Oh, Japan. I hadn’t thought about you in quite some time. But this week, you were always on my mind.

I pull out my old journals and suddenly it is 2004 and I am getting on a plane and flying towards Adventure. I am young and brave, leaving behind the familiar, fueled by the irrespressible (some might say irresponsible) need to lose myself in the unknown.

It was the inner call of the wild that made me pack my bags and say goodbye - that untamed part inside of me that feeds on change and challenge and unruly encounters and shaky ground. It was something else too – the desire to dip my toes in foreign soil, breathe in unusual scents, taste unfamiliar foods, and be the wanderer in a strange new world, the moving dot on the map.

Revisiting these old journals feels like re-discovering an old friend – a 23 year-old girl brimming with giddiness, trusting her “illogical” instincts, craving independence and self-sovereignty, wise in her choices but naïve in her reasons for choosing. It is with a mixture of nostalgia and elation that I realize I love this girl.

With this younger me by my side I plunge into the pages of my past and I remember it all. The euphoria of the first few weeks – the brightness of the Asakusa sun, the wetness in the air that made even my stick-straight hair go frizzy. I remember the Harajuku kids, expressing their inner realities, and the bright red temples, amidst the bright green trees.

I recall my first earthquake (October 7, 2004). It was small, but big enough to wake me from sleep, rattle my bones, my nerves, and the plates in my cupboard.

I relive my trek to the holy summit of Mount Fuji, my love affair with Hiroshima, my dear snow monkeys in Nagano, and the onsens of Beppu.

I think of the day the sakura bloomed, dotting the country in pink, and I am reminded of the cherry blossom’s purpose: to remind us mortals of the delicate and transient nature of life.

I remember the food and how much I loved to eat.

I remember the people – those that opened their hearts and homes to let me in. So many wonderful people, so much cross-cultural connection.

I remember Toshiko, my “Japanese Mama” as she liked to call herself. My Okasan.

She was my neighbour and she approached me one day as I rode my bike up the street. She took my hand and shook it firmly. Then she said “To…shi…ko” and pointed to herself. “Come…my…house.”

That was the beginning.

Toshiko’s English was only slightly better than my extremely poor Japanese but, somehow, we got each other.

She was 63 years old and her eyes sparkled like a child’s. She wore dresses and wide-brimmed straw hats and superstar sunglassses. She loved purses and owned over a hundred, though she told me this in confidence and made me promise never to divulge it to her husband. She had recently moved to Shin-Toride from Tokyo and desperately missed the bustle of the city. She loved drinking beer with dinner, but always made sure she had some red wine for me.

She called herself “plain” because she had never had a job outside of the home, but she was anything but plain. She was a being of remarkable goodness, who took pleasure in taking care of others, who found joy in the simplest tasks, and who never, ever complained. She was also a tea ceremony Master who had studied the craft for over 25 years. To me, she was both an artist of the highest calibre and my closest friend.

I’ll never forget the day my mom called from Canada and Toshiko answered the phone. My mom was trying to explain that she was "Vicki’s mother" and would like to talk to Vicki. All Toshiko could understand were the words "Vicki’s mother" and she kept saying, “Yes, yes…I am Bicki’s mama.” So much laughter followed that phone call.

Japan was indeed an Adventure. I go through my journals and I marvel at the things I saw and did and at the vital lessons I learned. But it is the people I remember the most - the humanness that can brigthen the dreariest day, the intimate sharing that can occur, in spite of a language barrier, over a steaming cup of tea.

Anywhere can be home. Home is not a house made of bricks or a bedroom painted pink. Home is that feeling of comfort and joy that fills us when we are in the right place, with people we love, and we feel safe.

As I sit here typing this post, the news on TV is devastating: over 6000 dead, 10 000 still missing, and Japan on the verge of a nuclear disaster. I want to cry and scream out, “Why?” and pound the floor and swear at God and get really angry and get really scared.

Instead, I think of Toshiko and her girlish giggle. I feel her – though she is a world away, I feel her presence, her goodness, her unshakeable strenth. I dig deep, deep, to the very bottom of my well, where my own unshakeable strength lives, and I combine it with hers and, together, we ignite a thread of bright, white light. I feel this thread as surely as I feel the beating of my own heart.

There is hope here, admist the rubble. There are threads of light igniting in households all over the world, sparking compassion and charity and kindness. There is a breaking down of “us” versus “them” as we feel empathy for the plight of our brothers and sisters. There is love here, among the tears, and there will be healing. I am not sure if it is our humanity, our divinity, or the perfect combination of both, that keeps us going when catastrophe strikes, but we do keep going. We strive for home. We strive for life. The sakura blooms again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The End Of the World As I Know It

A friend once told me that while she was having an impassioned conversation, a beam of light shot out through the top of her head, astonishing those around her.

I did not doubt this story for a second. This friend moves through the world the way birds fly in the sky: joyful, free, and fearless. She trusts her inner-voice and makes decisions based on how they feel in her body, not on how they may be perceived by other people. She possesses that rare kind of knowledge that is usually reserved for elderly folks who have lived remarkable lives and acquired wrinkles and wisdom along the way.

If any of my friends were to have a beam of light shoot out of the top of their head, it would be her.

I remember the night she told me this story. It was back in 2008 and we were both working at the tea shop. We had just finished our closing duties and were reluctant to go home. We talked and laughed and confessed. Our discussion touched upon the menial details of our day-to-day existence and grew to incorporate the cosmos.

I went home feeling deeply connected to this friend, to the planet, and to the entire world. Although my own spiritual journey had begun years earlier, I suddenly felt an urgent need to renew my commitment to it.

I had already started breaking old consumerist patterns and was working on simplifying my life. I was surrounding myself with people who shared similar beliefs and whose experiences and insights propelled me further on my quest. I was noticing gaps in the carefully orchestrated order of things and was aware of the Otherness that permeates the physical realm. I was reading books about transformation and ways to escape the ego’s grasp. I was traveling the path of awakening and feeling the seeds inside my heart start to sprout.

But I had never had a beam of light shoot out of the top of my head.

I had never come that close to converging with the Light. I had never experienced such a powerful and glaringly obvious connection with the realm of Spirit.

My experiences were more like whispers carried in the breeze or specks of sunlight piercing through my early-morning dreams. They were beautiful, but brief. I knew they were there and I knew they were real, but I longed for more. It was not Nirvana that I longed for, but simply some kind of confirmation that I was indeed sprouting and grasping some fragments of Truth.

I knew that I was - just by the way I felt in the world and by the synchronicities that kept seeping into my reality. I just wanted to know it more. I wanted to be one of those people who are unshakeable in their beliefs because they have experienced something extraordinary. I wanted to touch the untouchable.

So I continued on my quest, hoping that someday, somehow, soon, something would happen. I listened with rapture when people shared stories of enlightenment and I anxiously waited for my moment, my beam of light.

It did not come.

The whispers and the specks of sunlight still came. I still saw the beauty and felt a sublime presence guiding me on my path, but I did not feel as though I was growing. I was at a standstill, spiritually speaking. I wondered if I had reached my plateau.

At some point I realized that I was OK with this. Perhaps I was not meant for any great transformation or life-altering big bang. Perhaps I was meant to notice the small things. Perhaps the small things were the big things.

But there was something in me - a push I simply could not ignore. A voice that kept telling me that there was more. That I wasn’t crazy. That I needed to be brave and do the thing that scared me.

What scared me was leaving my job and returning to school, at my age, to embark on a whole new voyage.

I wondered if I was losing my mind. I wondered if it was normal to live a life of semi-contentment and if this constant “search for more” was just a way for me to avoid committing to anything, a way for me to avoid “growing up.” I wondered if I would ever feel as though I was in the right place and I wondered if I should just stop seeking, settle down, and be quiet already.

But I didn’t want to be quiet, and neither did the voice inside my heart. There was more and I was getting closer and closer to dancing with the divine.

So I applied to a school I felt a deep connection to. I got accepted-paid tuition-left my job-and never looked back. Things happened that quickly and, before I knew it, the push that had propelled me forward grew into a force, a flame, and then I was flying. Flying so high and so free and seeing my reality from a newfound angle.

I had made the right decision. I knew it in my bones, in my blood, in my flesh, in the surrender that occurs between every beat of my heart. I knew it the way birds know how to build nests, the way newborn babies know how to reach for their mother’s breast.

It is this knowing that spurs me on - through mid-terms and exams and more acupoint quizzes than I care to remember. It isthis knowing that pats me on the back as I pour over readings - so exhausted I can barely make out the words - and it is this knowing that guides my hand as I locate meridians on my own body.

When I found out that there was a mandatory weekend workshop last weekend, it is this knowing that gave me the energy to not only attend the workshop, but to show up alert and open to whatever lesson or message I was meant to hear.

I had no expectations. I was not searching for illumination or hoping to reach some great understanding. In fact, had I been given the choice to attend the workshop or not, I probably wouldn’t have. I would have stayed home, caught up on some much-needed sleep and studied for two upcoming tests.

But I was not given that choice, so there I was. In that room. With those people. Listening to that teacher - a teacher bright-eyed in her bliss.

And it happened.

Words were spoken and I felt the shift immediately, but it was subtle at first - a nearly imperceptible flutter in my chest. I looked around: Had they felt it too? No. This was me. “This” - this unnameable, untouchable flutter of recognition - was happening to me. Things started coming together really quickly - moments, memories, faces, feelings, times, places. I felt the seeds sprout, the sprouts bloom, the cosmic dots connect, line up, and encircle the entirety of my existence in one fell swoop and I scribbled on my piece of paper: Oh my God.

I lived with this flutter for the duration of the weekend, knowing I was on the brink of something extraordinary and feeling intimately cradled in the arms of the universe. The teacher spoke and I felt her voice resonating in the inlets of my heart, shifting the axis of my being in a way it had never shifted before. I do not use the word shift metaphorically. I felt a moving, a sliding, an unblocking taking place in my core. I stepped out of class, on Sunday evening, and was unsteady on my feet, as though my body was adjusting to my new internal constitution. I told my classmates: “I feel weird right now.”

After a few hours of putting aside the experience in order to study for the next day’s test, I walked home as fast as I could, burst through the door, hugged my guy in a way I hadn’t hugged him in a long time, and started to talk. Using the languages I know I did my best to explain the feelings, the realizations, the magic of the weekend. I looked into his eyes as I spoke, half expecting him to laugh it all off, to say, “That’s great Vic. What do you want for dinner?” But he didn’t laugh and he didn’t interrupt and he didn’t change the subject. He was right there, with me, goosebumps on his arms, aware that something special had taken place.

I talked and talked and talked and together we came to even more realizations, reached a place of greater awareness, fueled each others’ inner discoveries, and collapsed - two hours later - exhausted but glowing from within.

He whispered: “You know how the best things always happen near the end of something? The best scene is near the end of the movie? The best chapter, near the end of the book? The best song, near the end of the concert? Maybe we're nearing the end of the world...

I knew what he meant. He didn’t mean the end of the world, as in massive extinction. He meant the end of the world as we know it. He meant the Apocalypse, if you will. Though the word Apocalypse has come to be understood as “the end of the world,” its original greek meaning was “lifting the veil” or “revelation.”

Maybe this lifting of the veil really is upon us. Maybe these 2012 prophecies are indeed telling us that we are on the brink of a great revelation, a new sort of existence - the next crucial step in the evolution of mankind. As someone who studies traditional healing, I have tremendous respect for our ancestors, for the pieces of information they left behind. It is foolish not to take their messages seriously; we must expand our narrow-minded idea of the world and embrace their wisdom.

It was after our sharing - after he had fallen asleep and I felt completely emptied - that the flutter in my chest began to flourish. This flutter, which had spoken to me all weekend and guided me through a series of transformative moments, wasn’t done just yet.

It grew. It became a thump against my ribcage, a pounding in my head, a warmth that spread like a star from my centre to my extremities. I laid down in my bed, breathed, and acknowledged the phenomenon taking place inside my body.

It became noisy - like a wailing wind. It went from warm to hot and filled my body with fire - when I closed my eyes, I saw red. It started buzzing, the way bees buzz in the middle of summer. The buzzing started in my head and then, like an electrical current, whizzed round and round my body, never ending nor beginning, just moving in me and through me, up and down my spine, below the surface of my skin, fast and burning and electrifying. I thought I might spontaneously combust.

The buzzing continued until six in the morning when, finally, it faded. My heart rate returned to normal. My skin cooled. I closed my eyes and the red was gone. I slept.

I woke a few hours later with more questions than answers: What does it all mean? And where do I go from here?

I am still processing the experience and figuring out how to best utilize the knowledge I acquired over the weekend. It is knowledge I am keeping close to my heart, insights I do not feel ready to share.

But what I can share - and have shared in this lengthy piece of writing - is that it is not by desperately searching for Spirit that one encounters it, but by letting go of fear, by surrendering to the voice of Truth that comes from within, by opening our hearts, honouring our own odysseys, and noticing the small things which are, in fact, incredibly big.

Longing for spontaneous transformation is futile. The spiritual journey is made rich by the very act of journeying. The cracks and crevices in the road, the things that scare us the most, the people who challenge us - these are the things that move us forward and inward, towards greater understanding. The parts of ourselves we think of as weak or broken or less-than-perfect are those parts that offer the most significant gifts, the most amazing opportunities for growth.

I have not reached Enlightenment, nor do I claim to possesses divine wisdom. But I have heard my name called - heard it loudly and clearly - from a place other than the here and now. I have scratched the surface of my own ethereal soul and, though I have not had a beam of light shoot out of the top of my head, I have felt a fire buzzing through my body.

The Mayans were on to something. The veil is indeed lifting.