What a Life! Bob Turner

by Joseph Roberts

Bob Turner
Bob Turner (1944-2017)

The phone rang early in the morning. On the floor, between it and me, lay a brightly coloured business card with “ALL ONE!” written in large capital letters. Wondering where it had come from, I reached for the call. A voice from the past, Alex – a friend of Bob Turner for 45 years – reported the bad news: “Bob is dead!” Shocked, my mind raced, as the finality of the word “dead” sunk in, followed by tears. And questions of how could it be?

Bob was many things to many people. His Facebook page is huge testament, populated by real people, the type that appreciated the depth and wit of a real human, an authentic artist, clearly perceiving those around him. The first time we crossed paths was 1966 at a Centennial High School dance. There he was, in the Black Snake Blues Band, grooving on the bass. Fast forward to the founding of Common Ground, in 1982.  This Renaissance man in a van was hired to distribute our magazine. He laughingly and lewdly referred to himself as a “distabator.” His insights on society, art, music, people, politics, habits, continued unabated for decades. He was my go-to person for advice on distribution, music, parenting, and life in general.

Bob had a degree in early childhood education which he said, helped him understand us so-called adults. With disarming comments, always ready for the next round of jokes, he found his way into the hearts of most wounded adult children who crossed his path.

He did a stint as Artist in Residence at SFU. His home was a working artist studio two blocks off The Drive. And he befriended a stray cat that would only relate to him.

If you knew Bob, you understand why so many loved him and grieve his loss. I can go on and on, but I won’t. Let me pass the pen to another person who worked distributing magazines as Bob’s swamper and was with him the day he died.

Co-worker Paddy Kellington wrote : “My dear friend and the nearest thing I ever had to a real father (although HE would have laughed at the description) Bob Turner, died, September 5th. He wasn’t feeling well, so I made him stop and go home, although I thought Emergency would have been a better choice. I stayed with him to make sure he was comfortable. Shortly after 6, Bob simply fell asleep, and became non-responsive. I called Emergency, and as instructed, did CPR until the ambulance arrived. They couldn’t revive him. I am deeply shocked, deeply saddened. I had always thought being parentless, I’d be spared from this particular species of grief. Looks like I am not. He was a brilliant man, a great human…even if his sense of humour would have made a middle schooler wince. He was a great artist, and a great support and mentor for other artists, or frankly anyone who was genuine and struggling to articulate their voice.

He was remarkably patient, even with my rather reactive emotionalism (Bob was a pragmatic existentialist) and known for his ability to deal with near anyone or anything with humour and wit.

I probably laughed with him more than with any person I have ever known. I cannot believe we will never share a warped joke, or ridiculously satirical take on life, the universe, and everything else. Including, of course, ourselves.

No words are enough for a life as full as his, as quietly influential as his. Someone else who is more eloquent will, I hope, speak to the life of this very human and remarkable man. I am proud to have had his friendship. I loved the man. I will miss him.

Samples of his work are located at turnercom.com

Remembering Gwen Barlee

Gwen Barlee

Activist, ally, mentor, leader, friend

Gwen BarleeThe Wilderness Committee is deeply saddened by the passing of Gwen Barlee on June 21, 2017. As one of Canada’s leading environmental advocates, Barlee worked as the Wilderness Committee National Policy Director since 2001 and she was an invaluable member of the organization’s executive leadership. For more than 15 years, Gwen guided both this organization and its community of allies through many hard-fought environmental campaigns.

She touched hundreds of lives as a mentor, ally, activist, leader and friend. Wild rivers, forests, meadows, all creatures big and small including western toads, mountain caribou, sage grouse, killer whales, spotted owls and bees, these were Gwen’s passions. She stood for the public good, defending parks and waterways against all those who would exploit them for personal profit.

Her loss has left a hole in our hearts. But her positive impact on environmental preservation in BC is undeniable. Through the Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund, her legacy will continue. The Wilderness Committee will continue Gwen’s work. Will you join us? We have established the Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund to honour Gwen’s memory and to continue the vital public policy work that was Gwen’s passion:

Parks: Gwen fought fearlessly to protect the wild. She defended BC parks from industrial development and devastating government funding cuts. In her sights was the protection of key contiguous lands for a new national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen. This fund will continue her work preserving the wild nature of BC and Canada’s parks.

Wildlife: Gwen stood up for some of Canada’s most endangered species on the ground and in the courts. Advocating for endangered species legislation in BC was one of her most important causes. This fund will ensure Gwen’s work continues, fighting for at-risk species from grizzlies to wild bees and pollinators and all those in between.

Wild rivers: Gwen’s ferocious defence of wild rivers was one of her defining campaigns. When corporations dammed and diverted BC’s wildest rivers for costly, irresponsible private power projects, Gwen joined forces with community groups and citizens to stop the BC government’s “ruin-of-river” policies. We will keep up that fight in her memory.

Freedom of Information: Strategic use of provincial and federal Freedom of Information laws was Gwen’s trademark tactic. She created persuasive campaigns based on data gleaned from the government’s own files. She held decision-makers’ feet to the fire, releasing facts to the public to increase government accountability on environmental matters. This fund will support a new generation of environmental activists conducting investigative research.

Strong environmental and economic policy: Gwen’s activism was motivated by the public good. Whether it was eliminating provincial park user fees so that everyone could enjoy the park or opposing the Site C dam to protect family farmland and First Nation sacred grounds, as well as managing hydro rates, Gwen always believed the best environmental policy should be the best policy for people. Help us continue that legacy.

Gwen was a strong leader and a tireless activist for social change

Over the past 16 years, Gwen distinguished herself as an extraordinarily talented and determined defender of Canadian wild nature, especially in her home province of BC. She showed a passion beyond compare for the defence of the land and the species that call it home. She was a YWCA Women of Distinction nominee in 2016.

She was a fierce defender of species at risk. Gwen laboured for years to push the case for standalone endangered species legislation for British Columbia. She was instrumental in convincing the BC government to set aside tens of thousands of hectares of land for the protection of the northern spotted owl, one of Canada’s most endangered species. She continued to call for an even greater amount of protected forest habitat, not just for the spotted owl, but for other species at risk including BC’s southern mountain caribou, marbled murrelet and goshawk.

Gwen fought for the establishment and protection of provincial and national parks. She helped stop government plans to put large private resorts in provincial parks. She was a ferocious defender of wild rivers since the mid-2000s against the government’s policy of giving them away for private power projects. She helped mobilize thousands of BC residents to protect the Upper Pitt Watershed, Bute Inlet rivers and Glacier and Howser Creeks from industrial power projects.

What distinguished Gwen as an environmental advocate was her research ability and her commitment to enhancing government accountability, upholding the right for British Columbians to scrutinize government activities and promoting transparent, fair and inclusive decision-making through filing freedom of information (FOI) requests.

She worked hard to create unique alliances of people and facilitate a common vision for coming together on environmental issues. Whether working with union leaders, park rangers, First Nations communities, beekeepers or kayakers, she was committed to working with people who loved BC’s spectacular wilderness and wildlife.


An invitation to honour Gwen Barlee

Wednesday, July 26

6pm reception, refreshments, appetizers, cash bar.
7PM tributes. Vancouver Rowing Club, 450 Stanley Park Drive.

On behalf of Gwen’s family and friends, the Wilderness Committee invites people to honour the life and legacy of their colleague, partner, activist, friend, sister and daughter. Please join us in remembering her compassion, determination, tenacity, humility, fearlessness and strength.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Wilderness Committee’s Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund.

How spirit inspired an ecology centre

Science of Spirituality building

by Arran Stephens

Whenever a new person walks through the gates of the Science of Spirituality Meditation and Ecology Centre in Richmond, one often hears the words, “I never knew such a place existed. It’s so peaceful and the gardens so beautiful.”

In 2005, this haven was a barren, shuttered school, with a history going back to 1904. Feral rabbits had undermined the foundations while rats ran along littered hallways. The traffic roaring along Steveston Highway was hardly conducive to meditation, contemplation and fresh air! Neither did we have sufficient funds at the time to carry out a purchase. But there was hope, wild hope! To critics, I said, “We have a vision; let’s make it a reality.”

Our eclectic group was inspired to take this step under the loving guidance of Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, a living Master in an ancient lineage of spiritual adepts. His immediate predecessors, Sant Darshan Singh Ji and Sant Kirpal Singh Ji, were revered Masters with whom several of us had studied as well. Despite the small size of our local charity, we took the plunge to purchase this place that spoke to us at some very deep level. Generous donations and effort flowed in from members, at exactly the right time, unexpectedly, if not miraculously. Thus began the physical genesis of the SOS Meditation and Ecology Centre. And to create it took a great deal of sweat equity. Gardens were dug and planted by volunteers; shoulder to shoulder, brothers and sisters laboured together, despite having families and full-time careers. Over the following years, beautiful gardens were established and every inch of the old building and roof were gutted, restored and added to. For noise mitigation, we brought in 50 truckloads of topsoil, built a fertile berm, a fence on top and a tall cedar hedge for privacy.

Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj
The author (L) and others strolling in the young orchard with Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj when he inaugurated the Meditation & Ecology Centre in 2010.

Attendance at the free talks, seminars and meditation sessions quadrupled. To accommodate growth, two large meditation/Satsang rooms were created, one for English (with Spanish subtitles) and one for Hindi-Punjabi language programs; a commercial-grade kitchen and dining atrium for over 100 people were added, and an Ecology of the Soul library, a children’s room, outdoor play area and eco-parking lot followed.

Free organic gardening, vegetarian cooking and ecology classes held at the Centre are given from time to time. All organic produce from the garden is used in the Langar, a communal kitchen that serves free vegetarian meals to 75 to 100 people each Sunday.

From a wishful dream and a loving handful, this special place, with its verdant gardens, became a reality. The Centre has become a beacon of light and love in a materialistic society, where seekers find peace, joy, help in meditation, fellowship and an opportunity to grow spiritually.

How the Spirit inspired an ecology centre is embodied in this verse by Sant Darshan Singh:

“I started alone on the journey of love,
filled with faith and zeal;
At every step, travellers joined me,
and soon we became a caravan!”

The SOS Meditation & Ecology Centre is run on Seva, or selfless service, and strengthened through the practice of meditation on the inner Light and Sound, initiation into which is given by a living Master of this science. The two combined enable steady, inner progress. Indeed, the purpose of life is to realize the true self and the Creator, while serving the community and those in need. This summer, seekers are welcome to meet and hear Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, July 1 & 2 at the Chan Centre at UBC.

In service.

Arran Stephens is a Canadian entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, organic gardener, advocate for GMO labelling and co-founder of Nature’s Path, a leading manufacturer of organic foods.


July 1 & 2 , 2:30pm – All are invited to meet Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj in Vancouver for two public talks at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts, University of British Columbia, 6265 Crescent Rd. On July 2, the public talk is followed by Initiation into Meditation on the Inner Light and Sound. All events are free. For more information, see centrefold ad on page 12 of print edition.

Honouring Athena, embracing Aphrodite

by Marianne Williamson

Portrait of MarianneWilliamson
Marianne Williamson

Many people complain these days that romance hasn’t come their way. Often, however, we see that if romance were to be likened to a visitor, it hasn’t arrived yet because we ourselves are like a town where there’s no place for it to stay. We keep saying we want love, but don’t truly prepare for its arrival. Why would it come to a place where there’s no real welcome past the initial “So glad you’re here!”?

Many contemporary women now embody the Greek goddess Athena while craving a visit from Aphrodite. Yet the gods only come to where they are fully embodied. Embodying Athena, we attract worldly achievement; embodying Aphrodite, we attract love. What’s exciting about being a Western woman today is that we’re allowed to embody as many and whichever goddesses we choose. For those who seek a deeper romance, it serves to embody the goddess Aphrodite for she is the goddess of romantic love. In order to become her, however, we must approach her with reverence and love.

“Aphrodite’s temple” is a real psychic vortex, as is any divine space, with steps to be climbed in order to enter. There are both external and internal steps to climb before entering Aphrodite’s temple, and all of them can be learned.

External steps to the Temple of Aphrodite

Get all exercise equipment and office work out of your bedroom. Aphrodite is a temple, not a workspace. Make your living environment, clothes (even undergarments) and personal behaviour a magnet for romantic vibrations. Your own manifestation must match her frequency in order to attract her. Study books, take seminars, attend support groups, go to therapy – anything to avail yourself of all opportunities to learn greater mastery in romantic relationships. Some barriers to Aphrodite are simply mental, emotional and behavioural patterns that we learned and can now unlearn. All negative energy, when surrendered to God for healing, can be transmuted and transcended through grace.

Internal steps to the Temple of Aphrodite

Take an honest look at how you view relationships. Do you value them less than other areas of life, judging them as somehow trivial? Do you truly give yourself emotional permission to fall in love and stay there? Do you hold covert, or even overt, judgments against men or women as romantic partners? Such judgments must be recognized and consciously surrendered for healing or they remain subconscious forces that sabotage our chances for love.

Take an internal scan of your psychological, spiritual, emotional and physical landscape. Are you emotionally available? Are you physically prepared? Are you ready to be gentle with a man, or at times of fear might you be demeaning or impatient or angry? Are you yet kind and giving enough for love? Are you juicy and erotic and honouring of real sexual desire? Are you ready to welcome a partner, to serve his or her growth that you might participate together in a great romantic journey? Combining the sacred and the erotic is a high adventure; Aphrodite is both goddess and lover. We must approach the gods, and love, with reverence if we’re to receive their blessings.

Inner engineering

Even those who feel that they have failed at love can receive the blessing of Aphrodite’s touch. For she does not just reward those who are willing and ready to love; she also heals those who come to her weakened in the wars of love, now ready to make peace with the parts of themselves that have tried and failed at love, shown up and been rejected, had the chance and blown the opportunity. When we are ready to forgive ourselves and others, ready to humbly ask for guidance in love, ready to rise above the resistance to love, then we are ready for Aphrodite’s blessing. Once we are ready for her, she is ready for us, and once joining with her, we embody her. Then love arrives on angel’s wings, for gods can do what only gods can do. And love surrenders to their slightest command.

Source: www.marianne.com

Visionary artists Alex and Allyson Grey

Alex and Allyson Grey

An interview

by Jacob Steele

Jacob Steele: What do you see as the visionary artist’s role, and what do you seek to communicate about life in relation to the polarities of dark and light?

Alex Grey: The artist is a lens for the soul. Artworks are the views seen through that lens. The artist’s subject dictates where the lens will be focused. Light is the core subject in our work. We are painters of transcendental light. Allyson’s paintings are abstract expressing a world view of essentialized consciousness through spectral light and secret writing. My art is figurative, portraying states of consciousness throughout the hero’s journey.

Allyson Grey: The responsibility of the artist is to be true to their own soul. The mission of art is to make the soul perceptible. Polarities infuse our art and life: light and dark, chaos and order, bright colour and grey monochrome, man and woman, old and young, life and death. Polarities reflect the paradox of our mortal existence in relation to our timeless spirit. Spiritually inspired art is infused with devotional love energy, transferring to the viewer a sense of the sacred that makes life worth living.

JS: The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) is a project to which you have devoted many years. What is CoSM’s mission?

Alex Grey: The mission of CoSM is to build an enduring sanctuary of visionary art to evolve the creative spirit and uplift a global community. CoSM is a radically welcoming interfaith art church, a context for a community that honours and practices art as a spiritual path. To further the spiritual practice of art, CoSM offers workshops and cultural programs.

At CoSM, we celebrate commitments of love and passages of consecration including weddings, baby blessings and memorials. Grey House is filled with art and altars. The Wisdom Trail through the woods features natural beauty, altars, a labyrinth, a reflecting pond, murals and sculptural installations. Overnight stays can be reserved in Grey House, CoSM’s 10-bedroom guest house, 365 nights of the year. CoSM offers an inspiring destination for souls seeking to align with creative source, co-create a mighty force field of compassion and manifest sacred space together.

Allyson Grey: Now under construction, targeted to open December 2017, is Entheon, CoSM’s sanctuary of Visionary Art, where visitors will experience an exhibition of mystic art inside a sculptural building. The All-One Gallery at Entheon will feature an annually rotating exhibit of original paintings, sculpture and muti-media by the finest artists of the International Visionary Art movement and there will be a gallery featuring many of my paintings and works on paper. Designed by Alex, Entheon will display many of his best-loved works including the Sacred Mirrors.

Alex Grey: We invite the world of visionaries to become part of the Entheon project, a way to honour the mystical experience through enshrining artifacts inspired by the higher worlds. (buildentheon.com, cosm.org)

Excerpted from an interview conducted by Jacob Steele of Banyen Books & Sound, banyen.com

EVENT APR 27-30: Alex and Allyson make their debut appearance in Vancouver. Join them at the Vogue Theatre on Friday April 28 for their feature presentation. Tickets available at www.ticketfly.com and Banyen Books, www.banyen.com, 604-732-7912. More info at www.apparentproductions.com

StarWise March 2017

photo of Mac MacLaughlin

by Mac McLaughlin

Let’s fantasize for a few minutes and see where we get to. How about this? Three hundred thousand years have gone by and now we’re in the Golden Age. Everybody is getting along. There’s peace on Earth and love prevails throughout the land. There are no borders, no wars, no pollution, no violence, pestilence or disease. We are all one people on one planet in which race, creed and colour mean nothing. Men and women are equally respected and accepted. The children flourish and everyone lives in harmony. Utopia, ecstasy and freedom prevail and all is well on dear, old planet Earth. Can we find anything wrong with this picture? Is something not right? The true problem is that even with attaining every particular thing, we are still confined within the limitations of our physical bodies. We are still subject to birth and death and to the cycles of Awagawan, in which we journey throughout the ages, very much still stuck in the cycle of 84.

Awagawan is a term indicating the soul’s journey through the cycle of 8,400,000 species of life forms, from mineral, to plant, to insect, reptile, bird, animal and human form, ad infinitum. In other words, if we had the whole thing together and had all we could possibly desire, we would still feel at a loss and discontented with our lot. The problem is that we’re not from the Earth; our true home lies far above the stars, in a land that has eternal life and eternal love and bliss and it is not subject to change.

My beloved Guru, Param Sant Kirpal Singh ji Maharaj, gave the analogy of men being in prison. Upon seeing the condition of the prisoners, a benefactor made a donation so the men could have better food. Another benefactor decided to give better clothes. And a third benefactor set the men free. Which benefactor do you think the prisoners appreciated the most? Okay, let’s plummet back into 2017, smack in the middle of the Iron Age with all of its accoutrements of loneliness, despair, war, pain, disease, addiction, prejudices and hatreds. What to do? It seems like we’ve gone a bit mad and we’re certainly not treating each other very well. However, all is not lost and there is much to gain. The true Sant Gurus have stepped onto the Earth and are busy emancipating the souls and directing them homeward. Our daily work is to begin to create the Golden Age again, by truly striving to love one another, with no excuses or exclusions, only peace and love. See you on the high side.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years. Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.

Aries ZodiacARIES Mar 21 – Apr 19
The Sun enters Aries on March 20, placing you in your solar high of the year. Mercury, Venus and Uranus are visiting as well, while Jupiter and Saturn cast good energy your way. The indicators are good, very good. It’s up to you to either do something with it or just languish through the fine spring days.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21
Fiery Mars visits until April 23, bringing energy, strength and activity into your life. You’ll be busy, which you may not mind. Keep in mind that Mars also rules fires and accidents so go slow. Measure twice, cut once. It may be wise to measure your responses as a war of words could develop easily.

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20
Your solar career sector is a bit cloudy and a tad murky until mid-March. Then the clouds part and you can see your way through; you will know what to do. Stay above board and don’t stoop to any form of low activity. Speak the truth, as it will set you free.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22
Travel and solar career sectors are hot and it is likely you will be on the move. You may be inclined to take a spiritual vacation or a time out, in which you consider your options. Work and feed the spirit first, pocketbook next. In this way, you have your priorities right with no confusion.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22
Leo is one of the true metaphysical signs of the zodiac. You are on a quest for truth, light and love. Now, as the stars light up your solar eighth house, you may be inclined to dig in deep and leave no stone unturned. Life’s mysteries, death and the afterlife are topics that come up now.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22
You work so hard and so diligently and generally you have all your ducks in a row. Bravo! But is it enough? I don’t think so, especially if you leave yourself vulnerable on the level of spirituality. Put up your treasures where rust cannot corrupt. In other words, feed your spirit first.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22
You can play now and pay later or pay now and play later. Jupiter is on board bringing you all kinds of gracious gifts. Please do not squander them on trivial endeavours. Head for the high ground and strive with all of your heart and soul towards enlightenment. Ask and it shall be granted.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21
Relationships seem to be the hot topic for Scorpio these days. You are not alone – you’re never alone – although you may feel that way. You are here to finish off your give-and-take karma with the souls you have past life indebtedness with. Take it as a special, gracious duty to do so.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21
Big lessons come in waves. Get one done and another pops its head up. It’s going to be that way for a while so you might as well get into it and embrace it. It’s just a cleansing of the karmic slate and you may feel quite unburdened once you get through it all.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19
You were thrown into the cosmic blender years ago and soon you will be able to reassemble yourself in a brand new way. To put it mildly, you are in the midst of a rebirthing and renewal of all things. This time around, don’t forget your spiritual values. It’s the only reason you’re here.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19
Take me to your leader. Oh yes, you are plenty capable, competent and courageous. It’s just that you have been slumbering in the stones for many lifetimes and now the time has come for you to awaken and move towards the light. You have it in you and the power just needs to be awakened.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20
It’s your time to shine and I don’t think anyone can burn such a bright flame as dear Pisces when they’re at the top of their game. You are the mystic in our midst. Yes, I know you don’t know, but you do know, don’t you? Purify, forgive, pray, love and give of yourself.

StarWise – February 2017

photo of Mac MacLaughlin

by Mac McLaughlin

 We are living in very interesting times and it is highly likely things are going to get a whole lot more interesting as we move through 2017. Many people are afraid, depressed, scared and horrified. Everyone has a theory, an angle or some sort of take as to what will unfold this year. My wife seemed a bit depressed the day after Trump won the US election. I asked her what was wrong. She said she just felt very down and worried about the state of affairs in the world. I told her if you want the world to be a better place, meditate more and give more love whenever and however you can. If we want love and peace, we must be loving and peaceful.

Now just imagine if Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin were taken out of the equation. Would we be in a better place? Maybe so. Well, according to the stars, it is a high probability that this scenario may take place. Vladimir Putin’s chart is indicating the likelihood of an illness along with serious infighting and competition amidst the power types in Russia. He may have to step down or he may be ousted. A fateful, climatic and very dramatic solar eclipse takes place on August 21, 2017 that will have a major effect on Mr. Trump’s destiny and the destiny and fate of the US. Impeachment is likely and the stars are indicating a very stirred-up time in which anything can, and probably will, happen. All will be changed by September 2017.

In the meantime, another very interesting planetary configuration takes shape that started in January 2017 and will be in play until October 2017. The planetary configuration involves Jupiter and Uranus as they form an opposition aspect. Jupiter travels through Libra creating a combination that indicates a striving for justice, fairness, balance and harmony. Uranus moves through Aries indicating a time of revolutionary upheaval and massive movements to bring about dynamic change in the world. When we put these two dynamic forces into the cosmic blender, we can expect no less than some type of revolutionary activity to take place. This configuration took place at the time of the French revolution. Everything that needs to be changed – women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, etc. – is going to be challenged. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any longer. Well, I’m not mad as hell. Actually, I’m very determined to meditate more and to give more love. And if there is any way I can help my brothers and sisters, I will do so. Only love will do – only love.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years. Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.

Aries ZodiacARIES Mar 21 – Apr 19
Possibly, you haven’t noticed, but there is a fuse burning and there is about to be an explosion in your life. Hopefully, it’s an explosion of light, love and hope that propels you far into the future. You are the basic archetype and forerunner of things to come. Lead the way.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21
Loosen up, lighten up and make yourself ready for a dynamic ride into the future. Oh, you have time to play and ponder it all, but all is about to soon change. Taurus never changes willingly, but you might consider different probabilities and possibilities the future may present. Embrace it all.

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20
Expansive Jupiter casts his special energy and blessings your way bringing opportunities for growth and advancement. Saturn casts his glance bringing his special hidden blessings that may not, on first inspection, seem like blessings. Hard work, sacrifice, dedication, devotion and discipline come into the long-term play. Gains and losses are indicated.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22
Ahh, Moon Child, what to do? It seems to me many of you are in the midst of some type of spiritual unfoldment. Life may not have panned out as you had expected. In the wake of failed dreams, many new vistas are taking shape. Travels, far and wide, are indicated.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22
The lunar eclipse on February 10 will illuminate your inner psyche. Interestingly, most of the planets are casting fine energy into your sign. ‘Innovate and create’ is your mantra for the month. Take things slow as you are in your solar low until February 18. The road ahead is pretty clear.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22
Your solar low of the year begins on February 18. Basically, give yourself five days before and after your birth date as the solar low period. It just means it is time to nurture and nourish yourself. Your pathway may not be as clear-cut as you would like it to be.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22
Read the introduction regarding the Jupiter-Uranus opposition as it relates strongly to your sign. It’s time for growth and expansion in many areas now. Don’t be afraid to shake things up and do something totally radical. Also watch out for doing too much, if that makes any sense at all.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21
The area of your solar chart that indicates romance, entertainment and children is very activated beginning February 18. Activity regarding the above topics could come into play. Health and dietary concerns could be in the mix as well. Look at the long view as late 2017 and 2018 is looking very promising for Scorpio.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21
It looks like a time has come in which you have to re-invent yourself. My Sagittarius grapevine tells me there has been quite a lot of dissatisfaction and possible frustration with how things have been. Let go of what is not worthy or healthy in the next several months.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19
A couple of dates are noteworthy in February. The first one is February 7 and 8. Challenges and changes are likely on these dates and emotions will be running high. Then, on February 21 and 22, another set of dynamic circumstances comes into play. Power plays and powerful days come to pass.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19
The lunar eclipse on February 10 will bring clarification and all kinds of information your way. Communicate and relate and take things a step further as the stars are leaning in your favour. Timing is everything and it is likely you will be in the right place at the right time.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20
The solar eclipse on February 26 is important and revelatory especially if you were born within a few days of this date. Pay attention to your dreams and intuition as they will provide all kinds of hints and information for your evaluation. Be clear and honest as the tendency to cut corners will be strong.

A triumphant soundtrack for our times

the Leonard Cohen soundtrack

For the greater part of 82 years, Leonard Cohen wrote, recorded and performed a sometimes bleak, sometimes joyful, soundtrack of our times. Even from his deathbed.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

by Bruce Mason

Just before the profoundly sad news of his death went viral in November, many were listening to Leonard Cohen’s latest recording, You Want It Darker (released October, 2016), eerily prophetic and highly acclaimed as among the best of his 14 albums. As the world became darker and more inexplicable and absurd, the numbers grew into the millions, as others reached out and briefly retreated into his beloved canon of musical meditations on ‘big questions.’

My own initiation began with a few dollars left over from purchasing first-year university textbooks, spent on Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), published when Cohen himself was an undergraduate. Its intellectual and spiritual hunger, melancholy and black humour were the most easily understood and accessible in the campus bookstore. Through dog-eared and thumb-worn poetry collections – The Spice-Box of Earth, Flowers for Hitler, Parasites of Heaven – and novels – The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers – I followed along on his quest for what he called a “state of grace, a kind of balance in the chaos of existence.”

In an engrossing New Yorker profile in October, “confined to barracks” from a modest second floor in L.A., Cohen confessed in his final interview, “I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”

For the greater part of 82 years, Leonard Cohen wrote, recorded and performed a sometimes bleak, sometimes joyful, soundtrack of our times. Even from his deathbed. A handful of informal guitar lessons in his twenties served him well: “Six chords and a guitar pattern, that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music,” he said. And he eventually tamed his performance anxiety after pursuing Zen as a discipline and a practice of investigation.

Five decades ago, Cohen was as big and celebrated as it got in Can-Lit and culture. He befriended fellow poet Irving Layton, later recalling, “I taught him how to dress; he taught me how to live forever.” In 1960, restless and relentless, he retreated to the Greek island of Hydra where cars were banned and mules carried water up steep paths to houses. With a small inheritance, he purchased a simple, whitewashed space for $1,500 and shared it with one of his many muses, Marianne Ihlen, and her young son.

“I met him in the mid-’60s,” Judy Collins told me (Both Sides Now, Common Ground, April, 2013). “He’d been in Greece and was unaware of the folk boom, heading to Nashville from Montreal, with a notion of pursuing country music to supplement his income. In my living room, he apologized for his singing and guitar playing, even doubting that what he was writing were songs. I was mesmerized, wanted more.

“After he finished writing “Suzanne,” he sang it over the phone and I invited him to an anti-Vietnam War town hall. I dragged him onstage, but he stopped partway, pleading, ‘I can’t go on.’ “I pushed him back to the mic and the crowd went wild.”

Cohen was 33 when his recording debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was released. He was an original voice, haunting, hypnotic, a whisper-like rasp, unconventional, unprecedented and more economical. Critics’ labels included “godfather of gloom,” “poet laureate of pessimism,” and “music to slit your wrists to.” “Sometimes, I stumble out of bed, look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Lighten up, Cohen,’” he told audiences, which grew to as many as 600,000 at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Speaking of concerts, he said they made him feel like “some parrot chained to his stand.”

His Hallelujah – ­years in the making and released in 1984 – is possibly the most-sung-all-occasions-song of this century, played at weddings and funerals, repeatedly on VH1 after 9/11, at the state ceremony for NDP leader Jack Layton, and at the opening of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It has been recorded so often that Cohen jokingly called for a moratorium. Two weeks after his death, Hallelujah made its first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and garnered four million US streams in the week ending November 17, 2016.

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan has compared Cohen’s songs to “prayers… great songs, deep and truthful, multidimensional, surprisingly melodic, they make you think and feel.” Hallelujah is “beautifully constructed and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect has plenty of resonance for me.”

In 1992, Cohen released The Future. Included on the album is Anthem, which took 10 years to complete – “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” – and Closing Time, in which he shifted out of the darkness in single stanzas: “All the women tear their blouses off. And the men they dance on the polka dots.” Or, “I said to Hank Williams, how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet. But I hear him coughing all night long, floors above me in the Tower of Song.”

For five years, he retreated from the public eye, spending it in deep meditation and silence – three years near L.A. and two in Bombay. Meanwhile, his manager and former lover, Kelley Lynch, embezzled his life savings. He would be awarded a symbolic $9 million while she received 18 months’ jail time and five years probation for harassment. Broke, he went back to the studio and toured from 2008 to 2014, his spiritual strength evident in four-hour performances and an unmatched late-life renaissance.

Last summer, when he learned she was dying, Cohen scribbled, “Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. Now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye, old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

After burying his father in an unadorned pine box in a family plot in home-town Montreal, his son Adam, a musician who co-produced Cohen’s last album, posted, “As I write this, I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work.”

Now, one for the ages, Leonard Cohen is gone, leaving behind a lifetime of inspired offerings, a rich, polished, timeless legacy for those who seek inner peace, especially in troubled times.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

Last words from Leonard

Twenty-five years ago, his song, The Future, prophesied, “And now the wheels of heaven stop. You feel the devil’s riding crop. Get ready for the future: it is murder.” Weeks before his death, he shared some insights:

“I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people – there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like, ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to cooperate enthusiastically with the process. Force yourself to have a sandwich.’

“What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol. The divine voice. You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.”

photo of Leonard Cohen by Takahiro Kyono Creative Commons

When pain is invisble

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

I have worked with many clients who suffer from chronic physical pain, as well as those who have post traumatic stress. For these people, physical or emotional pain can be constant, and from the outside they may look perfectly normal.

A person wearing a cast or recovering from surgery is treated with compassion and patience. Their pain is obvious. Those with invisible pain often do not get the same compassion. Those who have not suffered from invisible pain cannot know what that is like.

Read more

STAR WISE – October 2016

photo of Mac MacLaughlin

by Mac McLaughlin

Everyone’s holding his or her collective breath as we approach the fateful November US election date. November 8 tells the tale. I’ve gone on about Trump’s chart – especially in the April 2016 issue – but it might be worthwhile to put the charts of Clinton and Trump under the cosmic microscope once again. When I look at their birth horoscopes, it makes my head spin and my heart pound, nearly audibly. It’s been in the news that Hillary Clinton may be ill, and her stars are strongly indicating she may very well be suffering from some type of severe illness. On top of that, her husband – and former US president – Bill Clinton is also on shaky ground, health-wise. Hillary has the power to win the election, but she may not be able to perform her duties, and the stress could be over the top for the Clinton family.

Donald Trump’s chart is equally strong and very dynamic and he also has the power to pull off a win, but the stars are indicating a most dangerous time in his life. It’s one of the strange things about astrology. Trump comes into a double Jupiter cycle just days after the election that promises great abundance, fame, wealth and power. At the same time, other planetary influences indicate the probability of a great fall in his status and wealth. On top of that, other indicators are showing the high probability of some type of accident or incident that could bring injuries or death to him before the fall of 2017. Go figure.

Both of the top contenders for the throne of the most powerful position on the planet are on shaky and very dangerous ground. What could this mean? To me, it means both have the power to win, but neither one may be able to see it through to the end of their term. Either of their vice presidents may be the one that ends up carrying through until the 2020 elections. I hope that what is written above doesn’t come to pass, and whomever is elected is able to carry on and do their best with the best of health, peace and safety. The remedy is to counterbalance this energy with more love and more caring for one another. Give, give and give some more, and by the by, we will get it worked out with love. According to the true mystics, we have a time coming up when the planet will be run by the wise ones who are spiritually enlightened, with wisdom and love in their hearts.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years. Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.


Aries ZodiacARIES Mar 21 – Apr 19

Anything weighing on your mind these days? If so, throw it to your drummer. Your drummer is the sum total of all that you are; in other words, your spirit. The answers to your problems will come flying back your way within a few days of the full Moon on October 15.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21

Taurus never makes changes easily or readily, and if change comes, it is often experienced as somewhat of a tectonic shift. No sense waiting around for that type of energy to manifest. Be the master of your own destiny by moving forward now and making the changes that will bring peace and happiness your way.

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20

It’s one of those unique differences in personality types, in which Taurus doesn’t make changes easily or readily while Gemini looks forward with anticipation to anything new and exciting. You must put this natural gift to good use now and be very pro-active about getting it together body, mind and soul-wise.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22

Things could get a bit hairy around the full Moon on October 15. There might be power plays and other types of manoeuvres going on that need your attention and intuition. Kindness, caring and patience get you through while anger and aggression could easily backfire. Relationships of all sorts get tested throughout the month.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22

You can ease on though the October time or you can use the energy on board to tackle any sort of persistent problems or concerns, especially regarding your overall health. If your health is fine, you can focus the energy towards organizing the different areas of your life that have needed your attention for some time.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22

It may be hard to keep your focus and attention on all of the different projects and objectives you have going. You may sense you have lost your way. Time and pressure are the two components you are up against. Doing one thing at a time, and taking your time, is best.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22

Reach for the stars and make a wish. Better still, just make it happen. Dynamic changes are taking place in your life, and out of the 12 signs, you have the best opportunities to be successful in all that you do. The full Moon on October 15 will bring more than a few surprises your way.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21

It’s time for some behind-the-scenes work. Topics such as health, be it physical or spiritual, need your attention now. It’s also time to serve and help other souls that may be in need of nurturing and care. It’s time to resurrect your spirit and energy once again. A time of healing takes place.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21

Saturn continues to carve out his wisdom into your soul. Sagittarius is generally a joyful type and not too much can really get them down. A time has now arrived in which you have to get serious about what works and what doesn’t work. Seemingly onerous, once done, you can put the past behind you.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19

Mars and Pluto meet up in your sign mid-month, bringing on all kinds of power plays and other displays of possible outright ruthlessness and some danger. Keep in mind an honest man fears no enemies. The best bet is to avoid dangerous people and places. Moreover, stay clean and let your works be seen.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19

The time has come to do some exploring. You can climb the highest mountain and dive to the depths of the sea, but, in reality, the best search and discovery are within your psyche. Philosophy and spirituality, along with all forms of academia, will be of interest now. The world is your oyster these days.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20

Pisces is the most gifted and naturally talented sign of the zodiac. Art, music, medicine and theatre are natural vehicles for your expression. What you need to know is that you are flowering and opening as never before. Keep your vessel clean and pure and stay receptive to the higher vibrations being offered these days.