"And now I feel so different..." Sinead O'Connor  

                              Sitting writing this blog post, finding the essence of the Goddess, despite how I feel I look.

 

Courage over Comfort.

I’m not sure where this phrase came from last week, but I wrote it a couple of times in my journal, wanting to keep it my memory for either a song lyric or a blog post. I really had no idea I’d be using it as a prompt for a spiritual experiment last Tuesday afternoon: shaving my head. 

Yup. You read that right. Hair. Gone. My long silver/blonde/brown locks were shorn to the quick...then burnt up later that night in my fire pit in ceremony. I’d been toying with the idea of shaving my head for as long as I can remember. Every time I’d go back to Barrie to visit one of my best pals Jen, who is also the best hairdresser I’ve ever been to, I’d ask her if she’d consider shaving it for me. To this she always replied with something like, “Not in my salon! Get somebody else to do it. You have great hair dude!” (Usually sprinkled with some cuss words for emphasis; we are Barrie girls after all.) 

When I was in India, I thought about it for a couple of reasons: one being it was so bloody hot, and the other being that it’d be a sadhana of sorts (spiritual practice). I chickened out for a couple of reasons, the most prominent being I was in a relationship with a fairly famous cricket player, and was worried that without my long sexy tresses, he’d lose interest. He had Bollywood chicks throwing themselves at him, so I felt I had to keep my idea of beauty intact, stay on my game...keep my hair. 

Later, while living in Canada, I’d use the bypass of it being so bloody cold most of the time, which is actually true. Having a shaved head underneath a ski helmet doesn’t provide the most insulation. I’m usually cold in the best of times so the idea of using my hair to keep me warm made sense. 
Many of you know I’ve been living in warm climates for the past decade or so during the chilly Canadian winter months, and yes, I thought about getting rid of my locks during those times, but there was always another bypass: a music festival I was playing, a music video I was shooting, time spent in L.A. where the modus operandi is usually to look stunning at all times. I’m a bit humbled to say that I bought into that for many years. I don't wear much makeup, and haven't bought into that, but I have bought into placing value on my hair.

As a pre-teen my hair became part of my identity. My mum used to take me down to Toronto to Holt Renfrew’s upscale salon once a year to get my hair highlighted. They did have a great student discount, so there was that, but still...pretty extravagent for a kid from small-town Ontario. This highlighting business continued well into my 30s, whereby I’d often spend inordinate amounts of cash making my hair brighter, which I felt could not only lighten my locks, but lighten my mood too. 

I remember coming back to Ontario after a bout with severe depression in my late twenties, and my mum immediately took me to the salon to get my hair done in an effort to make me feel better. She always did the best she could and I love her immensely, so there is no blame, but there is a question of why didn’t we delve into the real issue of why I was depressed? And yes, looking good can make you feel better...temporarily. I remember the Saturday Night Live sketch with Billy Crystal who was imitating Fernando Lamas and crooning, “It’s not how you feel dahling, it’s how you look, and you look mah-velous!” I think many of us take that to heart, and often overlook what’s really going on that’s making us feel so shitty in the first place. And so, we go to the salon, we go binge shopping, we eat copious amounts of Ben and Jerry’s, in attempts to feel good. 

I’ve decided that I wanted this to stop. Now. Not next week, after I do a photo shoot on the beach. Not next year after I release a new album. Now. I want to really walk my talk and continue with this “Camino” or journey into freedom. True freedom. Without attachment. I heard Shimshai’s beautiful song, Suddhosi Buddhosi the other day at a friend’s house, which made me stop and think about what I’m attached to most. I’m pretty good with giving up my “stuff” and can let go of material objects pretty easily these days, but when I dove into the notion of my appearance and beauty, that was another story. Everyone has always commented on how fabulous my hair is. It had become something with which I had identified my actual being, which is total bullshit. I can say in my workshops and writings/songs that “I am enough” and all that jazz, but can I live it? It’s pretty easy to write a song inspiring people to know that they are enough, despite their physical “flaws” or “limitations” when you are blond, tall and lean and fit into what our present day society deems “beautiful”. It’s another thing to inspire through living it. And that’s what I want to do. 

                             Embodying what I deemed a "Goddess" presence during my CD Release event in Canada.

And so, the other day, as I began toying with the idea of doing the full shave, I googled the spiritual significance of shaving one’s head, and up came an explanation by Sadhguru, one of my fave teachers, who said that if a woman shaves her head on the day before the new moon, it is super powerful as a sadhana, and that the energies will flow more readily to the upper part of the body. It was the day before new moon. My friend Fabrice came by to give me a massage, and he and his beloved both have buzzed noggins, so I asked him hesitantly if he brought his buzzers with him. When he replied that indeed he did, I burst out with “Shit. I think I want you to buzz my hair.” And so, after setting an intention and sitting with the idea for about 5 minutes in silence I said “yes”. A Jewish proverb that I use came to mind, “If not now, when?” 

That night it took me a few hours to look in the mirror, and when I did, I felt like I looked like an old man. The shorn hair close to my skull was super white, my face was so prominent, with all of its newish lines and wrinkles, and I immediately started crying. I realized that this was not a practice in trying to look good, channeling Sinead in her early days or attempting to be cool. I’m also not losing my mind (as my Dad feared when I told him). No. I’m actually experiencing a true clarity of mind right now. This was and is a practice in letting go and keeping my ego in check. It still is, and will be for some time as my hair will slowly grow back. Hair is powerful, energetically. I remember after Mum died I visited an Anishinaabe healer in Midland. She told me that my hair was holding a lot of grief, and that to get rid of this, I could wash it with cedar water as a way to cleanse and clear. I feel like last week, I took this to a whole new level. I feel very clear.

This morning I look in the mirror and see the silver stubble coming through...sprouting if you will. I see the lines around my eyes more prominently without all that hair masking them. Lines that show I have laughed a lot in this lifetime. And I mean, a lot. I will continue to laugh a lot. I see the lines around my mouth from half a lifetime of smiling, and on my forehead, I see skin speckled with discolourations and freckles from years in the sun. And I mean, many years. I’ve been outside for most of my life as a camper and camp counsellor, ski and sailing teacher, outdoor guide, and overall, worshipper of nature. I smile at my reflection. I look into my eyes and see within them, my own soul. The universe. Tomorrow I may catch my relfection in the window and be momentarily shocked and grieve my former lovley locks, but it will be fleeting. For I know that as I contine to choose more courage over comfort, I pave the way for my own life filled with beauty and love, and dive deeper into freedom. Sat Nam.
                               It's all part of it: the Light and the Shadow. The masculine and the feminine. I embody it all.

"Surf City here we come" The Beach Boys 

Floating around on waves in the ocean has been known to induce many insights and encourage life-changing epiphanies. This raw connection to the elements brings us into close relationship with the environment, and ourselves. Some may ponder life’s fleetingness and the sense of groundlessness. Some Buddhists have been known to see the correlation between waves and thoughts, and how they come and go. Perhaps not as deep and profound as those who have thought before me, I too had a  revelation in seeing the myriad of similarities between surfing and dating. 

Based on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua for half the year, I’m used to being on the lake and doing lake things like swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and the odd synchronized swim routine for friends when I’m feeling sassy. I do however go off island several times a year to catch some waves in Popoyo and Maderas on the western coastline of the country. It was there in Popoyo last week that my “a-ha!” realization came. 

Due to the fact that I almost never date, and the same can be said about my surfing hobby in relation to real surfers, this is clearly a given similarity. But the connection between both activities runs deeper than that. The most obvious for me is that both surfing and dating induce a mild state of fear. I’ve had enough near drownings with my surfing days in Costa Rica to know that you don’t mess around with Mama Ocean. The first time I surfed was more than twenty years ago, and due to my youth, naiveté, and cockiness in believing that I was an athlete, I made the mistake of surfing in Playa Hermosa, south of Jaco, on a super big day.  One wave totally trashed me and left me feeling like I was in a washing machine with the level set for heavily soiled clothing, for about an hour. In reality, it was probably more like two minutes, but it was the longest minute of my life. And one of the scariest. Once I was washed up on the beach, I took some verbal abuse from my fellow surfers (rightly so!) and scampered away with my tail between my legs, vowing to not make the same mistake again and to find a beginner beach. 

The same can be said for dating in the sense of being fear-provoking. I’ve had a few dates that went on for perhaps an hour or so, and yet, they felt like a week: “Will this guy ever shut the fuck up and stop talking about himself? Will he ever and ask me a question?! Does he know that going into every mechanical detail about a specific piece of farm equipment is generally not that interesting?” And then I’ve had an experience with criminals, which is also scary. I met a dude on a surf trip years ago in Hawaii, and apparently after one rendez-vous under the stars one evening, he’d fallen in love with me. I was open (okay, maybe a bit desperate) so decided to give it a go upon returning to my home in British Columbia, Canada. After him not showing up for a date we had planned in the state of Washington, (I even crossed the border for this guy!) I googled his name to see if he may have been in an accident en route to our chosen spot. It was then that I saw all of his mug shots for various arrests, including spousal assault and carrying a concealed weapon. It now made perfect sense why he wanted to meet in the States. He couldn’t cross the border. I dodged a bullet there. Probably literally. I vowed in that moment be more discerning with dating, and to do some research in the future; I would not make the same mistake. Similarly if I’d had done some research all those years ago in Costa Rica about the waves in Playa Hermosa, I would have realized that they were way out of my league. Discernment is a virtue. 

My session out on the water the other day was also like dating in terms of waiting. Waiting to catch that perfect wave, and in the dating world, waiting to find the perfect guy (one should note that I am currently forty-six and the longest relationship I’ve had is 2 years). As I straddled the board (uh, no, I’m not going into any of those comparisons folks. I’m a classy broad) and looked out to the sea, I kept my eyes on any potential waves that would be appropriate for my skill set. Basically, giving my environment the once-over. It reminded me of being at a festival or gathering whereby I’ll let my eyes wander about, sussing out the potential man situation. A few times I’d see a wave or two coming in and think, “Is this the one? Could this be the one?” and then against my better judgement (and often impatience after having waited for a long time), I’d paddle, paddle, paddle, only to find that the wave was actually mediocre, and if I’d had waited another couple of minutes, the waves following that wave were actually much better in terms of shape and form. I’ve seen this lack of patience before with finding men too. In my gut, I always know when a man is right for me, but since my love life much of the time can be compared to the rains in the Sahara, I sometimes forget my gut voice and try him out anyway, drinking from the pool of mediocrity, only to end up feeling disappointed. During that dreadful date with the less-than-stimulating conversation about farm equipment, who knows if my true prince was somewhere else? He could have been waiting to find me and wanting to talk about George Martin’s influence on the Beatles, or the waves in Popoyo. The moral of the story here both on land and in the sea is: patience. 

The question is: is there really  a perfect wave or perfect partner? On the flip-side, sometimes I can miss a really great wave or really great dude waiting for the more perfect wave or more perfect dude that actually never comes along. It’s a fine line. That being said, I’ve also noticed that when one great wave comes along, a whole set of them accompanies. From seeming nothingness, and eons of waiting, here comes seven, at the same time, so take your pick! Which wave to choose?! It’s the same with potential love too. For ages there is nothing, and I start to consider becoming a lesbian again (you know what I mean lesbian friends...I don’t want to get into the being born a certain way argument!) , and then all of a sudden: voila! Seven guys knocking down my door and now I have to choose. Decision making not one of my strong points, this can often be overwhelming. Mostly, very few dates actually work out, and then I’m back to the whole contemplating becoming a Buddhist nun thing again. That’s usually when my friends chime in to assure me there are plenty more fish in the sea. And many more waves to catch as well.

"Day is done, gone the sun..." Taps 

“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the skies...God is nigh.” Most evenings at dusk I sit on my porch and sing this song, watching the sun sink into Lake Cocibolca’s horizon here on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. With every unique sunset in its intricacies of colours and patterns, I do feel that “God is nigh” or that Spirit is near.  Often, as I wake up to birdsong and see the sun rising over the volcano behind my home I’ll belt out, “Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!” Last week I was chiming “Feliz Navidad” like nobody’s biz, to all the neighbours, recounting those August 25th mornings when Joe Vetro (the hunk we all adored at girl’s camp) would walk around the junior section with his guitar serenading us. Clearly, Kitchi has left its imprint upon me, and the music that I experienced at camp has shaped who I am today, and how I live my life.  

For me, music is associated deeply with ritual, and as a spiritual teacher and musician, this notion of ritual and music go hand in hand. When I lead my retreats, we always gather in the morning to do some sort of meditation or yogic practice to start the day mindfully, which is reminiscent of “morning thought” at flagpole. Before we eat, we gather around the food and sing songs of gratitude and thanks, a practice instilled at camp of course. We often have a night of devotional music and reflection, a ritual I revered every Sunday at chapel. On the last night of my retreats, we sit around a campfire singing traditional tunes. It’s a way to unite people, despite race, colour, creed and religion. Campfires for me are now seen as an informal “ceremony," and I’ve already had a couple here at my place in Nicaragua. My experiences with various ceremonies in Peru all incorporated some sort of music, whether it be shamanic drumming or singing. In India, many of the practices that resonated the most involved some sort of chanting and music. Music and sound has been the vehicle to help take me into an altered state. A place where I am most in touch with the universe, and most importantly, with myself. When I attended my first Kundalini Yoga class twenty years ago the class finished with a chant that left me in tears. I wasn’t consciously sad at the time; I’d just spent a killer day at the local ski hill. However, that music moved something in me that allowed me to have a cathartic experience, getting rid of subconscious garbage I’d been unknowingly carrying around. It changed my life. Singing and swaying in a group of people, tears streaming down my cheeks, I think back to that first class, and am reminded about other times like this: closing campfires at Kitchi.  

Here’s where the whole “Everyday people just don’t understand” theme really comes into play. Gary Bard so eloquently summed up our experiences in his song, in a way that is simple, and yet profound. I’d tell my friends at home about closing campfire, one of my favourite (albeit bitter-sweet) happenings at camp, and they’d be confused, “Um, okay, so you all just sit around a fire and sing and cry? That’s weird.” But we know that to be amongst like-minded souls with a love for Kitchi and its values, and to be open and vulnerable with each other through our tears at a young age was so rich and healing. I believe it set us up to be more reflective, to celebrate friendships and to be empathetic compassionate human beings. Those campfire songs told the stories of our lives. Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend solidified friendships in a way that we didn’t need to have a conversation; singing and swaying together was enough. I still call on Kitchi friends today when I’m “down and troubled”. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain inspired us to believe that indeed, we would see each other again. I can still hear Sarah Hill’s sweet voice coming in on verse two. When I close my eyes around a campfire today, I can hear Graham Weber strumming Blue Rodeo’s Lost Together. That music became a fabric, weaved by so many voices and memories, and I take that with me wherever I go in the world.  

And so, as a songwriter today, those songs from the heart informed the way I write. I allow myself to become vulnerable and to write as honestly as I can, knowing that my experiences, although unique to me, are actually universal: love, loss, experience, learning, growing. This is the human experience. I’m currently working on a musical theatre project, a “spiritual musical” if you will. Our morning anthem Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma set the tone for having a positive outlook and appreciating the day. It’s my hope that through music, I can convey much of what I’ve learned, from Kitchi and my journey, to encourage more kindness, compassion and love in this world.

"Relax." Frankie Goes to Hollywood. 

Yoga nidra sesh while waiting for the ferry in Swartz Bay

 

So many of you know that I’ve been touting the benefits of yoga nidra for several years. My friend Jaya Leigh introduced it to me ages ago and I’ve been practicing it diligently, especially since I started to heal my adrenal fatigue issues. Yoga nidra is otherwise known as “sleep yoga," and come on, who doesn’t want to have a little more sleep in their lives? Particularly those of us who have babies and are completely sleep deprived? 

And so, I have a couple of downloaded versions on my phone in my music library that are my go-tos when I’m travelling (which is a lot of the time). One of my faves is Karen Brody’s rest meditation/yoga nidra recording from her book “Daring to Rest” . I read her book last year and followed her 40-day program which included three different yoga nidra practices, each building upon each other, and culminating with a sense of DEEP and PROFOUND rest. I felt amazing. The yogis say that doing a 20-minute yoga nidra session is equivalent to having a one-hour deep sleep. The brain waves that are activated during a yoga nidra session are the ones that slow our brain activity down. In the day to day, we access our beta waves, and that allows us to talk, drive cars, and fulfil our regular daily tasks. When we do a yoga nidra session, we access the alpha waves, and often the theta waves. In this place and space, there is less thinking and more rest. 

I’ve been known to do yoga nidra sessions in various places: airports, ferry terminals, park benches, friends’ couches, the back of my car, hammocks, beaches and other public places. All I need to do is find a place to lie down and put my headphones on. 

Several years ago I introduced my dad to the practice when we were in Invermere BC skiing. We were staying at a friends’ place and they have two awesome (and very busy)! kids. Since I don’t have kids, and Dad is old and lives solo, we were pretty pooped with all of the hustle and bustle of the household. Plus, we’d skied our butts off all day, so we were exhausted. We excused ourselves from the carnival (which is their living room) and shut ourselves into the spare bedroom for 20 minutes. After our session (we listened to Liz Hill’s practice) on YouTube, we emerged from our yoga nidra nap rested and replenished, ready to take on the rest of the day. Dad was amazed at how much energy he had, and how calm he felt at the same time, “What the hell was that? I gotta get that and do it at home.” I told him he’d need a) internet and/or b) a stereo system. Since he’s allergic to computers and doesn’t like technology, and his stereo only plays FM stations, this would be challenging for him. And so, he only does the practice when we are together. 
For those of you who know my dad, you know that he is, well, how shall I say this? Gruff. Rough around the edges. A Barrie boy through and through. His ex-wife had a chip truck called “Grumpy Mike’s” with his face on the side of the truck. Everyone who knows him knows this about him. He makes me laugh constantly with his grumpy comments and mannerisms, because underneath, he is a softy, with a huge capacity for generosity (he let a homeless man stay in his storage unit for years, and would often feed him) and love. I’ve posted many-a-story about Dad, and his unique and comical mannerisms in the past. He’s like the character of the father in A Christmas Story, particularly in the scenes where he’s fixing the furnace (Dad was a furnace and air-conditioning guy by trade) and you can only hear muffled sounds emanating from the basement (cursing and swearing). Every sentence Dad utters usually has the word “Christ” in it, and although he’s a Catholic, he’s not using his saviour’s name in reverence or prayer most of the time. 

Yesterday’s yoga nidra session with him should have been a Seinfeld episode. Here’s what went down: 
Dad was laying on the bed and I put my portable speaker next to his head between the pillows while I set up my computer on my desk. I guess the last time I used the speaker I was rockin’ out pretty hard because I left the volume on full tilt. When I pressed play, Jodi’s voice boomed, “Close your eyes.  Begin to feel yourself moving back from your everyday life....” and Dad, in his state of being startled by the volume shouted, “Christ! That’s fucking loud!”. Not off to a good start for tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that says, “Slow down.”) After adjusting the volume, I lay beside him on the bed and told him he should have his palms facing upwards towards the ceiling. With that, I gently took his hand and flipped it over, as I would when teaching a class. What was different in this scenario however, was that my students are usually in their 30s-50s and don’t have severe arthritis. When I flipped Dad’s hand over he shrieked, “Ow! Fuck! What are you doing?! My hands are sore!” Setting the scene was progressively going from bad to worse. After finally adjusting the volume to a peaceful level, and then getting him comfy and relaxed, I lay down and got myself comfy. It took me a few minutes to get into the meditation because I had a serious case of the giggles due to the schmozzle of starting the thing. After a few minutes, we were both super relaxed, and the sides of both of our hands were touching. This almost made me weep. In addition to being grumpy, Dad is not the most demonstrative person I’ve ever met. He’s not a big hugger per se (getting better in later years due to my insistence), so the fact he was comfortable almost holding hands was a big deal. 

After our session, we both felt much more relaxed and grounded, and I noticed he was a lot more present for the remainder of the evening. More inquisitive about me. Less grumpy. Now, if only I could get a yoga nidra recording to be broadcast from an AM radio station.

"You've got the eyes of a stranger." Toto 

"Excuse me Sir.....I don't think you should go up there!"

“I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” was a memorable line that came out of Tennyson’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and it’s always resonated with me on so many levels. Being an intrepid world-traveller and constantly meeting “strangers”, I too have relied on kindness. 

Yesterday, I found myself in the role of the stranger, offering kindness. It was a cool and dreary Toronto fall day, where the gray sky seemed to envelop the whole city. I was going to get some blood-work done at a nearby clinic and after numerous attempts to make an appointment online for two days (Mercury in retrograde), I decided to just head on in and wait. When I got to the building, I was greeted with annoyed faces and numerous huffs and puffs from people in the lobby. All three elevators were out of order, and everyone had to use the stairwell. Not such a big deal for those of us with appointments on the second or third floors, but kinda a big deal for others who were on the eleventh or twelfth floors. I could hear people complaining, “I mean three elevators out of order? Why would they do that?!” When one woman complained to me just before I began going up the stairs, I calmly replied, “Well, I’m sure this is a pain in the ass for them too. I don’t really think that they want their elevators to not be running either.” She just gave me a “humph” and moved on to someone else who would commiserate with her. 

I started the jaunt up the stairs for the sixth floor (not so bad!) and it was like I was at the end of the Boston Marathon, for geriatrics. I was passing a lot of people with either silver hair or no hair at all, and were clutching the hand rails, stopping to catch their breath, and swearing. When I got to the second floor, there was a woman who was yelling at an old man who must have been very hard of hearing and was hunched over, clutching the handrail for dear life, “Sir! Sir! You can’t go that far! You have to turn around!” It turns out that the old man was not hard of hearing, but he just didn’t speak English. Nor did his wife who was toddling along behind him. I asked the woman what was going on and she told me that he had an appointment on the ninth floor, and that clearly, this wasn’t an option. She had followed him up one flight of stairs and had witnessed him almost fall several times, and had caught him. His wife was about 4’7”, so not much of a “spotter”. 

I asked the wife who the doctor was on the ninth floor, but she too spoke no English and answered in either Polish or Hungarian (or some other Eastern European language I’m assuming...it sounded like she said something about pirogies) and lifted her hands to show me nine fingers. Clearly, our conversation wasn’t going very well. By this time, another young man, whom I’ll call Freddy (he looked nothing like a Freddy, and actually looked Arabic, but I don’t want to give him a stereotypical name) came on the scene and asked if he could help. The woman asked me to stay with him while she went down to get security. It was really a bad idea for this man to attempt another seven floors. While we waited, the old man kept trying to climb the stairs. It was painful. Freddy walked in front of him and took his arm, and I stood behind him to spot him in case he fell backwards. By the time we reached the third floor (almost ten minutes later), it looked like the old guy was going to have a stroke. I stopped him and began playing charades in an attempt to dissuade him from going any further, “You can’t go up the other stairs!” I stated, looking into his eyes, and making hand gestures that were reminiscent of a bastardized Hokie Pokie, shaking my head and walking my fingers around in the air towards the upper floors. He just looked at me with kind pale blue eyes and smiled, nodding as he attempted to give it another go. Freddy and I resumed our positions as leader and tail runner. 

Finally, the security guy came to meet us, with a woman who worked in one of the offices who spoke Polish. She began talking to them in Polish, and again, nothing was understood. Could they have been Czech? Romanian? Regardless, the security man brought him a chair to sit on, and the other woman headed up to the ninth floor to find out who the doctor was. At this point, Freddy and I made our way to our respective appointments, smiled to one another and felt a certain unspoken bond in our brief, albeit meaningful camaraderie. 

Even though we were “in a rush” to get our business done and to make our appointments, we let this fall away as we attempted to help a fellow human in need, and to try to prevent harm. It really was a beautiful moment in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been back in Toronto, I’ve found it challenging to be in a place that is so fast-paced and busy. I’ve been the recipient of serious road rage several times, and have been almost crushed to death while embarking a streetcar by people who are clearly in a rush. My moment with Freddy and the old couple yesterday has helped to fade those not-so-great-moments I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that by leading by example, some of those people who were running by us on the stairwell, complaining and swearing will be inspired to slow down. Yogi Bhajan encouraged us all to “be the lighthouse” and I’m hoping that yesterday I could shine my light and show what it is I can offer: my time and my energy to uplift and serve others. Sat Nam.

"Teach Your Children Well" CSNY 

I saw a woman wearing a tee shirt many years ago in a security line in an airport in Australia that read, “Oh no! I forgot to have children!” I had to stop and take her picture.  

I felt like I was in the same boat. It’s for this reason that I was hesitant to contribute for this month’s blog about raising conscious children. I’m not actually raising children for several reasons, the main reason being that I don’t have the dude in my life right now with whom I’d want to raise them, and I never had the maternal calling so much that it pulled me towards having a child on my own.  

That being said, I was a school teacher and camp counsellor for many moons before devoting my time to teaching Kundalini Yoga and creating music. During those years, I got many glimpses of how parents were raising their kids...some of those glimpses were beautiful, but sadly, many of them weren’t, at least in my experiences with teaching in the school system.  

I won’t get into the whole description of how lack of respect starting at home was then passed on to the teachers. Nor will I go into the many crazy events whereby I was a recipient of some pretty serious verbal (and once physical) abuse.  

I will, however, relay that when I spoke to parents whose kids were having issues, they were often quite defensive and would put the blame on me—that it was my fault their kids were behaving poorly. After many of those phone calls, I decided I could teach and serve in other ways, and left the public education system.  

What I noticed is that so many of these kids were really crying out for some sort of routine and sense of stability. I know when I don’t have any routine I behave poorly: missing doing my sadhana, eating a bag of chips for lunch, having Netflix binges. Many of these children were being moved around from parent to parent with no real sense of schedule or routine. There was simply no discipline.  

As a kid, I had the privilege of having routine with my schooling, my after-school paper route, piano lessons, practice time, dinner at a certain time, homework, connecting with mum time, then bed. I had discipline enforced on me with my piano lessons and homework, which of course I didn’t love, but it made me the musician I am today, and allowed me to see through experience that practice is valuable. Finishing things is valuable.  

On the flip-side, my experience of working with kids in a camp setting has proven to be amazing in terms of seeing how important it is to raise healthy conscious kids. I recently attended a summer camp reunion up in northern Ontario in Canada; I attended it from the time I was eight until I was 22 and worked on staff.  

We were celebrating its 100 year anniversary and people from all over the globe came back to be on Beausoleil Island to reminisce, reflect, share stories and songs, and give gratitude to the place that helped form us. The majority of the alumni have gone on to be successful adults in both their personal and business lives. Many are philanthropic and do acts of seva on a regular basis. Many are helping others in terms of teaching, healing and serving.  

I wrote an article last year for the camp’s publication about how my life at camp helped to set a foundation for my spiritual life as a Kundalini Yogi. We started each day with “morning dip” in the chilly Georgian Bay, which of course, is akin to the cold showers Yogiji recommended so many years ago. We then attended “morning thought” around the flagpole, whereby a staff member would read a poem or thought that was spiritually oriented, and we’d reflect on this as a sangat.  

The day was filled with healthy outdoor activity to keep our bodies fit, and there were times of song and rest. After lunch we’d have an hour to rest, which of course, Yogiji recommended doing after eating. Although there was no formal meditation at camp, there was a structure that encouraged mindfulness, activity, rest and reflection.  

Without parents around, we had autonomy to grow without their conditioning, and to make our mistakes, learn, grow and thrive. We were able to “feel safe and secure in our own unique identities," which Yogi Bhajan said was so important for children, and we learned to communicate clearly and consciously. This, I believe helped to create so many healthy, strong kids—myself included.  

That being said, although I don’t have children of my own, I do encourage my friends who have kids to send their kids to camp. My camp was a YMCA camp, with Christian values, but was non-denominational; my sister and I were Jewish, and there were many others with different backgrounds.  

The lessons I learned there were in line with the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and the Aquarian sutras. I see the value in kids being together outside of the traditional school setting—in nature and being nurtured spiritually. I still go to camp...this year I went to Ladies Khalsa Camp in BC and felt like the routine of sadhana followed by learning, eating good food, resting and being in nature was so very valuable. Gratitude for camps.

"Who Are You?" Pete Townsend 

This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately...with the prompts of conversations with friends, readings from Sri Ramana Maharshi, and Gangaji. As I embark upon a new chapter in life (moving back out west) and trying to re-define myself in terms of what I "do", it's been a bit of a shit-show, to be honest. Spiritually, that is. The idea of moving back to Nelson has been a dream for the past 7 years, since I left, and now that it's come to fruition, I'm a bit scared. I guess the whole 7 year itch thing kind of makes sense; I've been away, having an amazing time travelling the world, meeting all sorts of wonderful people along the way (like Pete above), and now, I'm itchy. Rather, I'm tired. Tired of moving around every few months. Tired of trying to figure out where to go next. And so, here I am in Nelson asking myself what is next for me out here. I know I don't want to go back to the public education system, and I know that I don't want to go back to touring my music right now. I'm simply too tired. But that's what I've done! But that's how I made my money out here! Now what?! And so, after much contemplating, I've decided to just stop for a while. Stop the searching. Stop the seeking. And trust in Spirit, which I usually do, but lately this trust has been a bit muddled and murky with the anxiety of "what to do next". 

The idea of "who am I?" has been one of the most prominent (and perplexing at times) spiritual questions for centuries. I know that I am a teacher and leader/guide, musician and all of those other things, but those are things that I DO. And so, my question lately is asking myself who I am, as opposed to what I do. It's tricky to navigate and it leaves me feeling a little raw and exposed. I thought I knew who I was, but in reality, right now, I'm not sure. How do I plan on juggling that perplexing question? STOPPING. That is not something that comes easy for this gal. For those of you who know me, you've seen me running around like a chicken with its head cut off...running from airport to airport, country to country, yoga class to yoga class and so on. I realize I've been running around for the most part of a decade and it's time to stop. Nelson seems like a pretty good place for that. I'm pondering creating a small community here on my property, or at least building myself a cabin to call my own. It's time to create a home somewhere, and the Koots still feels like home. 
While I'm here, "stopping", I'll continue to breathe, be, and create music; the next album should be interesting as I explore the notion of starting to settle down, without settling for less than I want. I'll also continue to explore who I am...and at its essence, I already know the answer: I am truth. Sat Nam. 

Question for You: Who are You?

"If you are young at heart..." Carolyn Leigh 

 Last week in Peru I had one of those moments where I thought, “Shit. I’m getting old.” I was getting ready to head out on a day trip to the hot springs and was putting my boots on at the door. Rather, I started putting my boots on at the door but bent over and felt a little “creak”, and so I backed up like a slow UHaul towards my bed, plunked myself down and put on my boots there. Usually I just bend down, slip my feet into my boots, do them up whilst standing and bending over. Lately though, I realize that I’m now consciously looking for chairs, beds, benches or anything to sit my butt down on before I put on my boots. Does this mean I’m getting old? I’m almost 42 for cripes’ sakes! 


However, once there at Lares hot springs, I woke up and got my head out of my butt, so to speak. I had travelled there with two dear friends whom I met last year at Lares: Eduardo and Ines. Eduardo is Peruvian, and 80 years old. Ines is his wife, originally from Holland, and is ten years his junior. First of all, the way those two travel around in their Land Rover, camping out all the way from Lima to Quillabamba and around the Cusco area blows me away. When I met Eduardo last year in the hot pools, he was so animated and full of life, showing me books about the area, telling me about the spirits of the mountains and inviting me outside of the gates to their truck for lunch. There, I found Ines chopping veggies and preparing a simple yet tasty lunch. I joined them, and from thereon in, we became fast and furious friends. I spent my last day in Lima with them last year, and they took me to their home for dinner before bringing me to the airport just after midnight…still full of energy and vibrant. 


Back to Lares last week:  At night after our soak, Ines and I hung out at the truck and made some mulled wine, then downed almost the whole bottle while sitting in the front of the truck chatting until almost 11pm. Ines wasn’t the least bit tired; her energy is amazing. For breakfast the next morning, we met once again at the Land Rover and sat outside in the sun to enjoy our oatmeal and coffee. Ines gave me a camping chair to sit on, and then plunked herself down on the ground to enjoy her breakfast. I tried to tell her to have my chair, but she refused saying, “I like the fact that I’m 70 and can still sit on the ground comfortably.” She’s amazing. Once we were in the pools, I sought solitude and situated myself in pools that were sparsely populated. Eduardo on the other hand was the centre of attention in the tepid pool, filled with kids aged 3-7. There, he taught about 3 of them how to swim, was swinging them around, bobbing them up and down, and taking kid after kid for a “ride” around. His face was filled with joy and his energy was absolutely astounding. My idea of “old” was completely blown out of the water. These two had so much to teach me. 


On the way home we stopped to visit some ruins where Ines chatted up the workers, trying to find out all the information she could about the land; her curiosity and eagerness for new knowledge is truly inspiring. She worked for UNESCO for years in education and her passion for learning makes me feel kind of lazy and makes me want to learn more. Her optimism and enthusiasm makes me want to drink more coffee or chew more coca leaves. When we stopped in town to pick up something from the pharmacy which is very common in Canada, I realized that I had to go to 4 different pharmacies to find it. When I expressed my frustration she just smiled and said, “That’s the interesting thing about Peru…sometimes you have to go to many places to find what you need, but in the end you find it. Enjoy the differences in this country.” She is so patient and really accepting of all situations. She is a true mentor in so many ways. 
Eduardo has brain damage from several decades ago when the political scene here was hostile and the Shining Path, was anything but shining. He “knew too much” and was actually given shock therapy in hopes of repressing what he saw and knew. His mental health has deteriorated, and although he’s still loveable and sweet, he has some quirks. Recently, he has embarked upon collecting various unique items, mostly, rocks. He gathered about 25 rocks yesterday and schlepped them into the truck, and when he goes to gather more, Ines has to get rid of the first batch without him knowing. She is the epitome of patience and her devotion to him is beautiful. She simply accepts things as they are and believes that her life is beautiful. 
This week they drive to Lima, stopping in hot springs along the way, enjoying the scenery, enjoying each other, picking up and throwing away new rocks and stones. I’ve vowed to let go of the idea that I’m getting old and will do my best to walk in their footsteps; their energy, enthusiasm, love of life, love of knowledge and constant learning, travelling, and walking. I’ll find a chair to sit on, do up my boots, and go forth into the world knowing that I am and will remain young if I choose. The other day my courageous and brave Wild Women and I walked the Inka Trail and our last lunch spot was Winyawana, which is “forever young” in Quechuan. I thought of Ines and Eduardo there and said a silent “gracias”.

"These boots are made for walklin'..."" Nancy Sinatra 

Taking myself out for a walk last fall on the Camino 


“If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy confidently, “we shall sometime come to someplace.” The Wizard of Oz 
Hmmm. I love this thought. It was a year ago more or less that I walked the Camino de Santiago in what took about two months. Almost 1000 km or roughly 500 miles. For me, that’s far enough, and I did most definitely come to someplace. That someplace was Finnisterre (the end of the world), then to Barcelona and back to Canada. While walking the trail I had an epiphany. Or two. One of which was the idea of moving back to Nelson to build a small retreat community on my land. I’d be able to have my own house (the cabin is super cute, but not much room for a recording studio and all my instruments), as well as having a couple of cabins that I could use for retreat purposes, or renting out. I had found so many sacred spaces along the Way that sang to my heart. And they weren’t the five star hotels or fancy pants places I stayed a couple of nights to “treat” myself. Where I found myself most at home was in the small pensions that had a sense of warmth to them; literally and figuratively. 
One of my favourite places to stay was in the mountains just before Ponferada and after Rabanal in Spain. His place came recommended to me by a fellow Kundalini Yoga teacher. There, I found comfort in sitting in front of the fireplace with Manuel, the old neighbour who comes to sit there every day to pass the time. Jaime is the epitome of a good neighbour and he goes to pick Manuel up every morning, brings him to his house, they have lunch and dinner together, and then he walks him home. 
What I loved about Jaime’s home was that it wasn’t anything super fancy, and yet it had a real warmth and elegance to it. Everything that he had, even though it wasn’t a lot, was lovely to look at and to touch. We drank our wine from beautiful crystal glasses that were set on a table adorned with linen and simple yet lovely plates and decor made from nature. The beds were comfy and the rooms were sparsely decorated, but what was there was tasteful and gave me a sense of who Jaime was. Our little candles and incense burners. The small table that overlooked the mist covered mountains. The simple and yet useful/comfortable chair and reading lamp. All of this was not the Ritz by any means, but it made me feel like I was at home. So much so that I decided to stay an extra day and night there and alter my plan. I didn’t want to leave. It was after my stay there that I decided that I wanted to create sacred spaces where people can come and feel like they can relax, unwind. I want to create spaces on my land that people will feel like they won’t want to leave. And so, I’m starting this week with a full survey of the land to see where some sweet spots might be in terms of laying down some foundations in the spring for a couple of cabins. 
When I start to get overwhelmed, which I do at times when I think about ALL of the things that need to be done before actually STARTING to build (and I get overwhelmed with choosing paint colour sometimes), I go for a walk. Lately it’s been with the sweet pooch that I’ve inherited with the property: Babaji. When I walk, I instantly feel more grounded and more clear. I started writing a song about it. If you want to listen to the scratch (the first draft), you can have a listen here. 
  
When I take myself out for a walk, there’s no need to talk. Just listen to the song upon the breeze. When I take myself out for a stroll, I get in touch with the whole…wild world and all her mysteries. 
Question for You: I’d love to know how walking plays a role in your life… 
As always, thank you for continuing to come with me along this amazing journey. I look forward to hearing from you. 
Much love and light, 
Sarah

"Slow and low tht is the tempo" Beastie Boys 

Long Duck Dong from Korea whom Kiara and I fell in love with. He taught us a few forms of meditation and told us to focus on our "abdolman" and to practice "compassion", which, with my ears and his accent I took to mean, "the passion", so I focused on the possibility of a fiery Spanish passionate love instead of my breath. It was a different form of meditation. When Kiara and I told him that we were both 41 and single he sighed, "Ohhhhhhhhhhh. That a big problem." 

Lourdes from Pamlona after we told her we were looking for a cafe in her vacation village outside the city, "Only a coffee?! Then you MUST come to my house. I have coffee and you don´t have to pay!"  She then proceeded to give me her packet of rice cakes when she heard I didn´t eat wheat. Talk about generosity. 
Celebration to Reflection 
After Kiara left, I was feeling pretty blue, but luckily I had Angelica my new German friend, also a high school teacher and lover of the mountains, to eat meals with and chat. Usually we´d walk by ourselves, meeting at different points for coffee or a meal, then meeting at the albergues or hostals later in the night. Juan from the Canaries joined our crew, as did Andrew and 3 sweet sisters from Australia, a couple of peeps from France, a former school teacher from Scotland, and another German gal. For almost a week we´d walk sometimes together, sometimes alone,but would always meet up at cafes and bars, and stay at the same albergues together. It was fun. Until for me, it wasn´t. I realized that I was drinking way too much (wine is included in the menus and is cheaper than wáter), and I noticed that I was starting to feel a bit down. I craved some alone time, and even though I loved this group dearly, I felt like I needed to take some time out from the constant socializing. I needed to reassess why I was here on the Camino. Surely not just to experience being with people all the time and drinking too much so that I felt lousy. We had so much fun in Burgos with tapas and dancing, and the next day I took in the Cathedral and monastary while Juan and Angelica kept walking. I ended up having a picnic on the porch of a museum in Rabe de las Calzados, which was closed, but in the shade. In pulls a car into the museum´s driveway and I find it´s the owner of the gallery/house who wondered why there was a blond girl with her shoes and socks off eathing cheese and olives on his front porch. He explained that the gallery was closed, but invited me in anyway and showed me his life´s work: truly amazing. I spent about an hour looking at his paintings, sculptures and multi media pieces before he invited me to bring in my food and eat inside in a civilized manor. I shared my cheese, he made a salad and we shared his leftover fish soup over a cerveza before I headed back out. He gave me a card for a friend of his who had an albergue in the next town of Hornillos and said I should stay there. Angelica had already reserved a room for me at the municipal so I thought I wouldn´t be able to stay at his friend´s place. The thing about the municipals are that there are usually about 30 people there, with snoring people galore. I much prefer the smaller private alberges with only 4 or 6 to a room. In Hornillos I met the crew and we made a community dinner together which was pretty sweet. I went outside with my cup of tea and heard,¨Hey...are you the Canadian musician?" Turns out it was the artist´s friend who had been looking for me. He invited me to his place where I´d have my own room and a guitar, so I packed up my bag and headed down the road. Much more tranquil. More more what I needed. I found that many serendipitous acts like this were happening, and my constant making plans to meet the group, trying to keep up etc. was not really working for me anymore. And so, with that, after a week of amazing walking, comraderie and fiestas, when Angelica left at Castrojeriez, I decided to go a bit slower, which meant that I´d break off from the crew and go my own way. It´s a decisión that was a bit difficult as this means that I might not catch up with my friends, with whom I had become so close. They are and were familiar, but I am here to step out of my confort zone. 


Reflection 


Sincé taking a step back, saying goodbye to Angelica and Juan, I am on another type of Camino. So far I´ve met a few great new people, and the other night embarked on a night walk in the pitch dark for 8 hours under the new moon´s starry sky. If you follow the Milky Way, you can make it to Santiago. I´m now half way there as of yesterday, and I´ve been spending much more time alone, writing, meditating, and feeling overall back on track. I´m alone, but not lonely. The Camino continues to teach me what I need, which is really not all that much. Fresh air, a bed, food, comraderie and music. Gracias Camino. 
I now find myself in a sweet albergue outside of Astoria called Albergue Verde which is so exactly what I need right now. Full of open hearted women running the place, I´m eating organic foods, doing yoga and dancing when I´m not reading Pema Chodren. A hippie´s heaven. I have finally listened to my body and spirit and slowed down for a few days. The Camino is constantly teaching me to honour what I really need. In Leon a few weeks ago I stayed in a hotel for one night that had a spa so I could sauna and steam away my oncoming cold. I spent the nights before in rooms with people who were snoring up a storm and exhaling all of their colds into the hostal air. I realized I don´t actually need to do that anymore...I have a choice  and I´m not in any rush to get to Santiago. In fact, since I am more than half way there, I really am nervous about getting there too quickly. I don´t want this journey to end. 
Up ahead of my a couple of days is a monastery where you can stay for 2 days so I will most likely do that. If I keep on going the way I have been, I should reach Santiago by New Years! Kiara has now coined me the Snail of the Camino. Here at the Albergue Verde, the motifs are snails, which is so totally a propos. I´ve let go of feeling slow, of possibly missing friends I´ve met along the way, who are now a couple of days "ahead" of me. I´m learning that there is no such thing as "ahead" anyways. I´m just going at my own pace. Slow and steady. 
Once again, thank you for coming along on this journey and I´ll be back blogging in a week or so. 
Much love and light, 
Sarah

"Relax." Frankie Goes to Hollywood. 

Yoga nidra sesh while waiting for the ferry in Swartz Bay

 

So many of you know that I’ve been touting the benefits of yoga nidra for several years. My friend Jaya Leigh introduced it to me ages ago and I’ve been practicing it diligently, especially since I started to heal my adrenal fatigue issues. Yoga nidra is otherwise known as “sleep yoga," and come on, who doesn’t want to have a little more sleep in their lives? Particularly those of us who have babies and are completely sleep deprived? 

And so, I have a couple of downloaded versions on my phone in my music library that are my go-tos when I’m travelling (which is a lot of the time). One of my faves is Karen Brody’s rest meditation/yoga nidra recording from her book “Daring to Rest” . I read her book last year and followed her 40-day program which included three different yoga nidra practices, each building upon each other, and culminating with a sense of DEEP and PROFOUND rest. I felt amazing. The yogis say that doing a 20-minute yoga nidra session is equivalent to having a one-hour deep sleep. The brain waves that are activated during a yoga nidra session are the ones that slow our brain activity down. In the day to day, we access our beta waves, and that allows us to talk, drive cars, and fulfil our regular daily tasks. When we do a yoga nidra session, we access the alpha waves, and often the theta waves. In this place and space, there is less thinking and more rest. 

I’ve been known to do yoga nidra sessions in various places: airports, ferry terminals, park benches, friends’ couches, the back of my car, hammocks, beaches and other public places. All I need to do is find a place to lie down and put my headphones on. 

Several years ago I introduced my dad to the practice when we were in Invermere BC skiing. We were staying at a friends’ place and they have two awesome (and very busy)! kids. Since I don’t have kids, and Dad is old and lives solo, we were pretty pooped with all of the hustle and bustle of the household. Plus, we’d skied our butts off all day, so we were exhausted. We excused ourselves from the carnival (which is their living room) and shut ourselves into the spare bedroom for 20 minutes. After our session (we listened to Liz Hill’s practice) on YouTube, we emerged from our yoga nidra nap rested and replenished, ready to take on the rest of the day. Dad was amazed at how much energy he had, and how calm he felt at the same time, “What the hell was that? I gotta get that and do it at home.” I told him he’d need a) internet and/or b) a stereo system. Since he’s allergic to computers and doesn’t like technology, and his stereo only plays FM stations, this would be challenging for him. And so, he only does the practice when we are together. 
For those of you who know my dad, you know that he is, well, how shall I say this? Gruff. Rough around the edges. A Barrie boy through and through. His ex-wife had a chip truck called “Grumpy Mike’s” with his face on the side of the truck. Everyone who knows him knows this about him. He makes me laugh constantly with his grumpy comments and mannerisms, because underneath, he is a softy, with a huge capacity for generosity (he let a homeless man stay in his storage unit for years, and would often feed him) and love. I’ve posted many-a-story about Dad, and his unique and comical mannerisms in the past. He’s like the character of the father in A Christmas Story, particularly in the scenes where he’s fixing the furnace (Dad was a furnace and air-conditioning guy by trade) and you can only hear muffled sounds emanating from the basement (cursing and swearing). Every sentence Dad utters usually has the word “Christ” in it, and although he’s a Catholic, he’s not using his saviour’s name in reverence or prayer most of the time. 

Yesterday’s yoga nidra session with him should have been a Seinfeld episode. Here’s what went down: 
Dad was laying on the bed and I put my portable speaker next to his head between the pillows while I set up my computer on my desk. I guess the last time I used the speaker I was rockin’ out pretty hard because I left the volume on full tilt. When I pressed play, Jodi’s voice boomed, “Close your eyes.  Begin to feel yourself moving back from your everyday life....” and Dad, in his state of being startled by the volume shouted, “Christ! That’s fucking loud!”. Not off to a good start for tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that says, “Slow down.”) After adjusting the volume, I lay beside him on the bed and told him he should have his palms facing upwards towards the ceiling. With that, I gently took his hand and flipped it over, as I would when teaching a class. What was different in this scenario however, was that my students are usually in their 30s-50s and don’t have severe arthritis. When I flipped Dad’s hand over he shrieked, “Ow! Fuck! What are you doing?! My hands are sore!” Setting the scene was progressively going from bad to worse. After finally adjusting the volume to a peaceful level, and then getting him comfy and relaxed, I lay down and got myself comfy. It took me a few minutes to get into the meditation because I had a serious case of the giggles due to the schmozzle of starting the thing. After a few minutes, we were both super relaxed, and the sides of both of our hands were touching. This almost made me weep. In addition to being grumpy, Dad is not the most demonstrative person I’ve ever met. He’s not a big hugger per se (getting better in later years due to my insistence), so the fact he was comfortable almost holding hands was a big deal. 

After our session, we both felt much more relaxed and grounded, and I noticed he was a lot more present for the remainder of the evening. More inquisitive about me. Less grumpy. Now, if only I could get a yoga nidra recording to be broadcast from an AM radio station.

"You've got the eyes of a stranger." Toto 

"Excuse me Sir.....I don't think you should go up there!"

“I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” was a memorable line that came out of Tennyson’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and it’s always resonated with me on so many levels. Being an intrepid world-traveller and constantly meeting “strangers”, I too have relied on kindness. 

Yesterday, I found myself in the role of the stranger, offering kindness. It was a cool and dreary Toronto fall day, where the gray sky seemed to envelop the whole city. I was going to get some blood-work done at a nearby clinic and after numerous attempts to make an appointment online for two days (Mercury in retrograde), I decided to just head on in and wait. When I got to the building, I was greeted with annoyed faces and numerous huffs and puffs from people in the lobby. All three elevators were out of order, and everyone had to use the stairwell. Not such a big deal for those of us with appointments on the second or third floors, but kinda a big deal for others who were on the eleventh or twelfth floors. I could hear people complaining, “I mean three elevators out of order? Why would they do that?!” When one woman complained to me just before I began going up the stairs, I calmly replied, “Well, I’m sure this is a pain in the ass for them too. I don’t really think that they want their elevators to not be running either.” She just gave me a “humph” and moved on to someone else who would commiserate with her. 

I started the jaunt up the stairs for the sixth floor (not so bad!) and it was like I was at the end of the Boston Marathon, for geriatrics. I was passing a lot of people with either silver hair or no hair at all, and were clutching the hand rails, stopping to catch their breath, and swearing. When I got to the second floor, there was a woman who was yelling at an old man who must have been very hard of hearing and was hunched over, clutching the handrail for dear life, “Sir! Sir! You can’t go that far! You have to turn around!” It turns out that the old man was not hard of hearing, but he just didn’t speak English. Nor did his wife who was toddling along behind him. I asked the woman what was going on and she told me that he had an appointment on the ninth floor, and that clearly, this wasn’t an option. She had followed him up one flight of stairs and had witnessed him almost fall several times, and had caught him. His wife was about 4’7”, so not much of a “spotter”. 

I asked the wife who the doctor was on the ninth floor, but she too spoke no English and answered in either Polish or Hungarian (or some other Eastern European language I’m assuming...it sounded like she said something about pirogies) and lifted her hands to show me nine fingers. Clearly, our conversation wasn’t going very well. By this time, another young man, whom I’ll call Freddy (he looked nothing like a Freddy, and actually looked Arabic, but I don’t want to give him a stereotypical name) came on the scene and asked if he could help. The woman asked me to stay with him while she went down to get security. It was really a bad idea for this man to attempt another seven floors. While we waited, the old man kept trying to climb the stairs. It was painful. Freddy walked in front of him and took his arm, and I stood behind him to spot him in case he fell backwards. By the time we reached the third floor (almost ten minutes later), it looked like the old guy was going to have a stroke. I stopped him and began playing charades in an attempt to dissuade him from going any further, “You can’t go up the other stairs!” I stated, looking into his eyes, and making hand gestures that were reminiscent of a bastardized Hokie Pokie, shaking my head and walking my fingers around in the air towards the upper floors. He just looked at me with kind pale blue eyes and smiled, nodding as he attempted to give it another go. Freddy and I resumed our positions as leader and tail runner. 

Finally, the security guy came to meet us, with a woman who worked in one of the offices who spoke Polish. She began talking to them in Polish, and again, nothing was understood. Could they have been Czech? Romanian? Regardless, the security man brought him a chair to sit on, and the other woman headed up to the ninth floor to find out who the doctor was. At this point, Freddy and I made our way to our respective appointments, smiled to one another and felt a certain unspoken bond in our brief, albeit meaningful camaraderie. 

Even though we were “in a rush” to get our business done and to make our appointments, we let this fall away as we attempted to help a fellow human in need, and to try to prevent harm. It really was a beautiful moment in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been back in Toronto, I’ve found it challenging to be in a place that is so fast-paced and busy. I’ve been the recipient of serious road rage several times, and have been almost crushed to death while embarking a streetcar by people who are clearly in a rush. My moment with Freddy and the old couple yesterday has helped to fade those not-so-great-moments I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that by leading by example, some of those people who were running by us on the stairwell, complaining and swearing will be inspired to slow down. Yogi Bhajan encouraged us all to “be the lighthouse” and I’m hoping that yesterday I could shine my light and show what it is I can offer: my time and my energy to uplift and serve others. Sat Nam.