I have always, since as far back as my memory reaches, felt a specific way about myself, the world around me and the meaning of it all. I was a highly sensitive, and intuitive kid. I had vivid dreams that came true, I sometimes saw robed monks in my room at night in the dark and I could literally feel other peoples emotions around me. I carried a deep love and respect for nature and animals and felt connected to it all in a way that made me feel out of place. This reality of mine was not openly shared in my up-bringing and I felt misunderstood, and often, like there was something wrong with me. Growing up realizing that I lived in a world that bought, sold, exploited and destroyed nature was deeply traumatizing. I quickly learned that any group or culture that seemed to feel similarly to how I did was held in varying degrees of dismissal and contempt. Eventually I learned to internalize my way of seeing.
As an adult, being an artist and being in nature allows me to live in this secret world. But I’m not always sitting in front of a canvas or in a forest. The truth is, I feel like I’ve never fully fit into the world and it has been a suffering that I have carried my whole life. I grew up feeling like I didn’t belong.
What I have come to realize is that everyone has felt this way at some point. And the truth is that we are all born into this world with a deep connection to everything around us, even if it’s subtle. We all belong.
My road to this 'knowing' kicked into high-gear a year and a half ago. I was deep into my first taste of success as a full-time artist. I was busy, productive, making lots of sales, collaborating, expanding to new galleries and being published in high profile magazines. It was everything I had been visualizing and truly more than I’d dreamed of. I felt on top of the world. Then one day in July, at the height of the busiest month of the year, I got knocked down.
I was in a car accident and sustained a neck injury that made it so that I couldn’t paint, almost at all, for 9 months. (The fact that it was the same amount of time as the human gestational period is not lost on me!) I was effectively forced into stillness. At first I kept a strong facade but secretly I feared that I’d never paint again and that if I wasn’t an artist, how was I supposed to be in this world? I couldn’t pick up my daughter, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t do the dishes or work. We live in a society that places value on producing, consuming and acquiring. And if we’re not actively producing or consuming we have no real value. Just look at how our society treats our elders, people with mental illness, addicts and homelessness. Suffice it to say, that finding self-worth 6 months into being dependent on others and not contributing in any real way is a tough act for the hardiest of us. And so my journey of discovering my value began.
I also learned that when life benches you, everything that you’ve been too busy to deal with comes up, relentlessly. I’d coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all) quit drinking 2 months before my accident, which I’ve held-to ever since. So, I didn’t have anything to numb the waves of what was constantly coming up to the surface. What I was amazed by is how many moments from my early life were still informing how I was behaving and participating in the world. All of these moments when I had convinced myself that I had to change in order to be accepted.
The whole experience was a true immersion.
If I were to be metaphysically honest about my injury, I’d tell you that the energetic link between my head and my heart was broken. I was forced to operate out of my heart. And fuck was it uncomfortable. This quote pretty much sums up the whole experience:
“The longest journey you’ll ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.” - Andrew Bennett
I’m still not physically back to the way I was before the accident. But at a deeper level I am forever changed. I’ve realized that healing isn’t about getting better. It’s about finally letting go of everything that isn’t really you.
This experience has given me a depth of compassion that I never knew was possible. And a drive to prioritize my own alignment to truth above everything. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable and I find myself sometimes straight-up sucking at it.
But how do we let go and get more authentic? I realize that I don’t have it all figured out. Far from it, in fact. But I have gotten myself to a place where I can comfortably admit that, even though I don’t, I still hold value. I have something of value to offer in service.
Which leads me to now…to the one thing I do know…from all of my experience, vulnerability and seeking is that the journey back to Self, back to awakening and well being, can’t be done alone. It is not and cannot be an individual pursuit. If we keep it close and go it alone, no matter how deep we dig, we are still just playing at it. It’s not until we can be our whole Self in the presence of others who are holding an intention and vision of our true perfection that we can fully integrate. Call it alchemy, call it ceremony, call it community, call it magic, call it anything. There is no one word for it (especially not in the English language) and it has been being done since the dawn of humanity. Group gatherings have facilitated deep transformational change and healing in all cultures and all times. Our society is starved of it.
I want to help change this.
I am passionate about creating more inclusive opportunity for this type of integration and I am actively sharpening my tools. I have been teaching art classes to adults as well as to elementary and middle school students. And I’m hosting an on-going series of still-life and portrait painting workshops at Ultramarine Art Supply that I'm really excited about.
But if I'm to be honest, being an artist at times has been an armour for me to ‘get to be’ me. I’m not me because I’m an artist. I’m an artist because I’m me. This way of being in the world should not be exclusively acceptable to ‘creative types’ only. We are all creators. We all create our life, every minute of every day. Sacredness is our birthright. When I’m hosting these classes I’m aware that the effectiveness has as much to do with holding a space of belonging for the group as it has to do with what is being ‘taught’. It’s a time to be together, accepted and connected first and foremost. The modality is secondary.
I’ve found my bearings in this regard over the past year hosting women’s full moon and new moon circles. And I’m officially ready to put out to the public, after lots of meetings, co-creating, dreaming, visioning, and courageously, nervously, vulnerably stepping up to bat to say:
I have recently joined a pilot project through Leadership Vancouver Island to host my first 3 day workshop alongside Ricardo Manmohan to be held in February at the Long Beach Lodge.
I’ve also said a big ‘hell yes’ to participating in a 35 women, 4 day gathering in May at the Long Beach Lodge hosted by a fiercely rad friend of mine from LA, Sonya Anglin. I’m excited to be offering these workshops at special rates to the surrounding communities so that they aren’t just for people to come and experience Tofino but are in and a part of the communities. I’m excited to be co-creating with other hosts, speakers, elders, healers, artists, coaches, leadership developers, and mentors from all walks of life, cultures, modalities and perspectives into the workshops and events I'm developing. I’m looking forward to where this calling is taking me and will be sharing details soon.
Thank you endlessly for witnessing this transition. I never thought that sticking my head out in this way to follow what is deeply in my heart would be so hard. SO, if you feel like reaching out to share, connect, co-create, vision, collaborate, or just to talk about anything that’s come up. I’m here…
As an Artist and now, officially, as a Visionary Host.