Miracle in Central Park: Armando meets Eckhart Tolle

Armando and Eckhart

written and compiled by Lorna Davis and Constance Kellough

The story below comes via Constance Kellough (publisher) and Lorna Davis from Namaste Publishing in Vancouver. The Story of Armando originated in New York’s Central Park when Lorna Davis met a homeless man named Armando. His life story greatly impacted her and she subsequently approached Constance with the idea of bringing his story forward. Rarely is one given the opportunity to witness such a sacred encounter as that of Armando and Eckhart Tolle meeting for the first time on a wet and chilly early April day in Central Park.

Lorna’s story

I first met Armando on a summer day in 2013. I walked past a guy on a bench in Central Park who looked like your average homeless guy with a beard and a cart and then I saw the words on the cart.

“Good grief, that doesn’t seem like your average homeless guy’s cart”! I thought. So I stopped and talked to him.

I heard a little of his background, but there were so many people stopping to talk to him that there wasn’t much time to hear his story, a story that emerged over the many weeks and months I sat on that bench with Armando since then.

Armando was born in Brooklyn on April 24, 1960, to Colombian and Puerto Rican parents.

When he was 13, he discovered alcohol and weed on the same day and was hooked. From that day on, Armando was what he describes as an olympic addict. Any event would do. He took crack, marijuana, heroin, alcohol, cigarettes – pretty much anything he could find. His life was a series of cycles through the excitement of scoring drugs and the money for drugs followed by periods in rehab. The way he describes rehab is a story in itself:

“You get really skinny when you are on crack because you walk and walk and walk and you don’t eat. Eventually, you get tired and someone tells you to go to rehab, so you go. You get a nice bed, food and it’s warm and comfortable. You do nothing except eat and sleep and talk about getting high while sitting in a big circle and they pay you $200 a month! After three months, you have $600. You are fat and bored and all everyone talks about is drugs and alcohol so you leave and spend your new money on drugs and off you go again.”

One winter night in Boston, in 2001, Armando had done what he often did – caused enough of a commotion for the police to take him in and put him in the cell overnight. It was a good strategy because it was nice and warm and he had worked out which police stations had a holding cell and he would go there, stand outside and give a policeman some lip. He was in the cell and was continuing to give the policeman a hard time, when the two big, Irish cops had had enough. They picked him up and threw him out into the snow. Armando was furious, trudging through the snow, furious with them and the world when he saw a manhole cover. He lifted it and found himself in a culvert pipe so he sat down to take shelter, to be furious and, as he says, “to suffer some more.”

At some point that night, for the first time in his life, he had “a period of no suffering.” We might call it “a moment of grace.” He thinks it lasted about 20 minutes and it was the most amazing feeling of calm and peace he had ever felt. He waited for the night to end and in the morning he emerged from the pipe and dropped everything in the snow – the cigarettes, the crack pipe, the needle – and staggered to a bench. He found a homeless shelter that night and in the morning they noticed he was withdrawing and sent him to rehab. They said he had walked out of rehab twice from there already. He couldn’t remember, but there is a “3 strikes” rule so they let him stay and complete the physical detox.

Clean and sober, he set out to discover what had happened to him. Many people tried to recruit him to their cause and he spent some time standing on a street corner talking about the Bible. But none of it felt right.

About a year later, he was in the 96th Street library and he found a copy of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, in Spanish. The way he describes it was that it was like coming home. Every word in that book resonated and he felt safe, comfortable and understood.

He has watched every video, read every word of every book of Eckhart’s many times over and whenever anyone suggests other teachers, he says, “I don’t need another teacher; Eckhart says what I need to know.”

Today, Armando sits on the same bench in Central Park every day. He feeds the birds, squirrels and dogs. Many a time I have come to visit him and found a privileged New Yorker crying about how sad they are and I see Armando quietly and calmly listening and accepting them. This man has more friends and has healed more lives simply by his presence than anyone I have ever met. I had a dream that one day Eckhart Tolle would walk down that path and shake Armando’s hand.

Constance’s story

Now we step back to hear the full chronology. At the request of Lorna Davis, Todd Schuster, who I believe is an agent in NYC, contacted Namaste Publishing’s agent Bill Gladstone saying he had a most wonderful story to tell that involved Eckhart Tolle and could he get it to Eckhart. Bill advised him he would have a better chance of getting something to Eckhart if it came through me, his publisher.

When Todd emailed me, I agreed to talk to him and asked him to send on the story for me to read before I would decide whether it was important enough to pass on to Eckhart. Upon reading it, I was so touched by Armando’s story and thought Eckhart would be too. It so happened that I was set to meet with Eckhart here in my home office the following week at which time I gave him Armando’s story to read. After he finished, he looked up at me and said, “Yes, I will meet with him.”

As it happened, Eckhart was to be in NYC giving a talk on March 31st and then another talk to students of NYU the week of April 1st.

“Oh, my God, it’s going to happen!” I said to myself. I quickly informed Lorna Davis who was elated as well. We all worked at keeping this a secret so as to surprise Armando when Eckhart walked to meet him on his bench. There were also several of us there to witness this sacred encounter.

After a 20-minute walk from our entrance into the park, we approached Armando sitting on his bench. We watched from some distance as Eckhart walked up to Armando. When Eckhart reached him, Armando stood up and looked with shock and disbelief at first. Then the two men embraced. We stood there watching and there were tears while this tender, soulful hug continued for some time.

Armando kept repeating that he couldn’t believe it, that he couldn’t take it all in immediately. His spiritual teacher was standing right in front of him and it wasn’t a vision. He kept repeating how breathless he was with surprise and gratitude.

Soon, Armando put a small towel on his bench and invited Eckhart to sit. We stayed put while Eckhart and Armando conversed or maybe a more appropriate word is “communed.” When Eckhart pointed to us, it signalled Eckhart didn’t come alone and we were now invited to join them.

I can only speak for myself, but I am confident that the five of us in attendance would say the same thing: our hearts were overflowing with love and gratitude as we witnessed this miracle in Central Park. Armando was animated, talkative and full of joy. He exuded warmth and love, with a heart so big and so wide open he could embrace all mankind.

Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth and one of the most renowned spiritual teachers in the world today, who has through his teachings elevated the consciousness of millions, met with Armando, surely worthy of being called his disciple.

There are too few stories today that inspire us, that are heartwarming and that show us the power of loving connection and remind us of the goodness in mankind.

Please feel free to share this “Good News” story with others.

Copyright © 2018 Namaste Publishing, All rights reserved. namastepublishing.com

Video – We Don’t Want Your Pipeline

We Don’t Want Your Pipeline is Bob Bossin’s musical response to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The musicians on the live stage recording are Marie-Lynn Hammond, Keith Bennett, Ben Mink, Calvin Cairns, Paul Gellman and Dinah D.

The original We Don’t Want Your Pipeline was written by Robin and Linda Williams when people in Virginia had their own pipeline battle. Robin and Linda graciously let Bob write new verses for the Kinder Morgan fight.

Full credits, lyrics, sheet music and other info about “Pipeline” can be found here.

Vancouver: the day the media died

truth-in-journalism-rip-not

Will legacy media survive obvious false equivalency?

by Bruce Mason

Blip. Blip. Mainly comatose for ages, that’s the sound of mainstream media in the Lower Mainland. A weak, worrisome flat-line from a sad, deteriorating shadow of its former self.

But the epic failure to properly cover the first First Nation’s Kinder Morgan pipeline protest and Kwekwecnewtxw (watch house) construction was a widely exposed nail in the corporate media coffin. The latest injury, self inflicted, was complicated by a combination of severe circulation loss, ownership quackery and deceitful malpractice.

We’ve learned, by now, local media doesn’t work, especially on weekends and holidays when, supposedly, nothing happens, except sports or rock concerts. So on March 10, it was skeleton crews in newsrooms, in the city and on Burnaby Mountain that screwed up the biggest story in a generation. Even CBC-Radio lost its voice and loyal listeners, having to apologize in a re-vamped story and clarification. Good old Mother Corp. got earfulls from an angry, ongoing chorus.

Compare pictures. On one side: 10,000 protectors, swamping the Lake City Way Skytrain station and rallying at the Trudeau-Notley-Kinder Morgan clear-cut sacrifice zone. On the other side: 100+ out-of-towners, bussed from Alberta, casually shuffling around with other tourists, snapping selfies beneath the now-extinguished Winter Olympic flame.

One hundred to one, given equal time and coverage. The obscenely rich one percent own most of the world’s power and media. But there were more anti-pipeline protestors in Edmonton than imported pro-pipeliners in Vancouver. And many more volunteers at the gates of the Kinder Morgan tank farm than pipe-dreaming visitors downtown.

Facebook comments included, “What’s wrong with this picture?… False equivalence, like American-style Sean Spicer BS… CBC is no longer a voice of the people. So sad… Like giving flat-Earthers equal media time during the launch of a spaceship… a boycott of Global is in order… the pro-pipeline event was organized by Albertans. Figures.”

Meanwhile, coverage in Seattle and San Francisco was far superior, being fairer and more accurate. Then again, it took the New York Times to expose BC as the “Wild West of Canadian Politics.” So we leave it to them and the independents and social media to report on the ongoing international story of “Standing Rock, North.”

Blah… blah. Radio? CKNW has transmogrified from “Top Dog” into a Fox News sub-station. The lights are out and no one’s home, let alone being worthy of finding ice for Jack Webster’s scotch or stirring Rafe Mair’s coffee.

Anchors aweigh? There isn’t a TV personality in this town who wouldn’t be light weight on a set next to Tony Parsons. Fade to black. In the words of another former press legend, Allan Fotheringham, “It’s all fuzzifying of the muddification.” Chit-chat.

Current would-be reporters shrink in comparison to those who built the Vancouver Sun and Province, invented talk radio and earned our attention and ratings – the once-proud tradition of fearlessly engaged and competent journalism. From tall shoulders, our contemporary cub-pack of wannabees have tumbled, feeble and spineless.

Know that it wasn’t always this way, or this bad. Bob Hunter co-founded Greenpeace through his Sun column, with publicly raised funds, including a benefit concert featuring two virtual unknowns: Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. It stopped a US nuclear bomb test way up in Alaska!

Essential history: we on the west-coast shouted “No way!” much like today’s “You’ll never build your deadly pipeline or tanker traffic here!” Not in a hard-won Nuclear-Free Zone where 200,000+ people marched in Vancouver’s Walk for Peace and will link arms once again. Likely in larger numbers to shut down yet another greed-driven American assault on life. That’s our real legacy.

I was once a writer for the Vancouver Show, comprised of two hours of live television, five nights a week. How I long to see Grand Chief Stewart Phillip emerge from a green room for more than a few edited seconds. Even if we can’t have inspiration and advocacy, we deserve balanced information that informs and reflects our reality. Hello, that’s the job of journalism. Or it used to be.

Instead, we get shameful “false equivalence,” worthy of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration crowd-size claims, with alt-right-like speculation: protestors, supposedly paid by US agitators, or manipulated by Russian hackers.

Legacy media have all but ignored the corruption and criminal greed that flipped Vancouver into the unaffordability stratosphere. They knowingly and wilfully hid and shilled on BC Hydro, ICBC, Site C boondoggles and so much more. Now, they been caught out, clearly no longer required, or believed.

The last word goes to Hunter S. Thompson: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”

Support independent media in the days ahead; inform and engage on social media and in-person. Text the word ‘READY’ to #52267 for when and how you can help stop Kinder Morgan and share in the story of our lifetime.

photo montage by Tom Voydh

Dave Barrett: when true socialism shaped BC and made it more beautiful

Dave Barrett

by Bruce mason

Dave Barrett’s recent death has inevitably brought to mind the first-ever NDP Premier’s legacy of brilliant public policies, which helped make BC a better place for everyone, every day, including you and me.

However, today, at least two of his signature policies are threatened. Public auto insurance, ICBC, is wrecked and a write-off. And the Agricultural Land Reserve, designed to protect farmland, is being diminished with the largest-ever removal of farmland by flooding the Peace River Valley for Site C.

In three short years (1972-1975), the Barrett government passed 350+ bills, an average of one every three days.

Barrett and his caucus created the BC Day holiday, Pharmacare and citizens’ right to sue government. They forced politicians to reveal donors, launched a daily question period and were the first to record and publish legislative debate in Hansard (the traditional name for transcripts of parliamentary debates in the British Commonwealth).

They dramatically expanded parkland and halted mining in them, banned pay toilets, put a stop to spanking in schools and jailing 12-year-olds, lowered the drinking age to 19 and enabled neighbourhood pubs. In Vancouver alone, we have the Seabus program, the preserved Orpheum Theatre and Robson Square.

And Barrett accomplished so much more: North America’s strongest labour code, consumer protections, human rights legislation, increased pensions for the elderly, increased support for the disabled, assistance for tenants, higher welfare rates and implementing the highest minimum wage in Canada.

Ninety-seven legacies are listed in The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975, by Rod Mickleburgh and Geoff Meggs, who is now NDP chief of staff in the current minority government. In many ways, Barrett was 40 years ahead of his time and, hopefully, we’re now catching up. “None of the things we did, not one, was radical. Not one. And in the light of history that’s even more evident,” Barrett explained.

Dave Barrett was the youngest child of Isadore, a communist, and Sam, a twice-wounded Great War veteran who was gassed at Passchendaele and limped behind a horse-drawn fruit wagon before opening a fruit market on Powell Street in Vancouver. He was also the first Jewish born – albeit educated at Jesuit universities in Seattle and St. Louis – and the first socialist to hold BC’s top elected position. A champion of the little guy, he was an MLA for a quarter-century, an MP for five years and later headed two inquiries into the leaky condo fiasco.

Referred to as “little fat guy” by the press gallery, he self-deprecatingly nicknamed himself “Fat Li’l Dave,” laughingly, saying, “They’ve called me a Marxist. I say, ‘Which one? Groucho, Chico or Harpo?’”

He took off his shoes to jump on the table at a first cabinet meeting, shouting, “Are you here for a good time or a long time?” Revolutionary, compared to the cautious, current NDP, which stresses “affordability “ and “’administration over activism.” In contrast, Barrett bristled at an economic system even he never imagined would cause today’s obscene inequity. Redistributing wealth more equally, rather than consantly growing economy on our finite planet, was his life’s work, which he acted on rather than endlessly study.

Worth recalling is his first trip to Ottawa when Barrett told then-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, “I didn’t come here to B.S.” A far cry from today’s contrived, polite federal-provincial relationship. Also worth remembering: in 1983 when he was forcibly dragged out of the legislature at 4:30 am for refusing to withdraw a challenge to a Social Credit restraint and austerity program. A first in the 112-year history of the chamber, characterized even now by whipped back-benchers and spineless cabinet members on short leashes.

“In my political career I’ve always been blunt, very blunt. As a consequence, either people love me or they hate me. There’s not much middle ground. That’s really how I operate,” Barrett recalled.

I remember late August in 1972: Watergate, the Arab oil embargo, rampant inflation and reactionary right-wing politics. When TV took over, it was the toy department of journalism. Dave Barrett’s landslide victory was on the tube, everywhere, including a pub where I witnessed folks buying rounds, passing joints and hugging complete strangers, well past closing time.

A few months later, on the evening of the long-awaited day when live music was finally allowed in bars, my band was hired to play music. A few measures into the first song, the bar emptied as people lined up at pay-phones to call friends and family. It was a joyous time, much like the NDP functions I later played at and the live, paid gigs on BC Ferries.

Imagine that. I mention culture because it too matters. And Dave Barrett, deeply rooted in NDP principles, was music to our ears. His honesty, bold vision, unapologetic action and passion gave us the hope and justice we now urgently need to hear and see from BC’s legislature as we run out of time in 2018.

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
https://m.youtube.com/user/TheMidniteComposer

Bill C-59 will help safeguard privacy

But more needs to be done

photo of Marie Aspiazu

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
by Marie Aspiazu

After over two years, the federal government finally delivered on a long overdue promise: namely, the reforms to the draconian Harper-era gem, Bill C-51. These proposals, set out in the National Security Act 2017, or Bill C-59, were published after a tireless, nationwide movement calling for the full repeal of Bill C-51 and a lengthy national security consultation that began last fall. fall.

Amongst the top reforms called for in Bill C-51 were stronger oversight and accountability measures, rolling back expanded powers for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to conduct police activities, repealing provisions for broad information sharing between government agencies and rejecting mandatory data retention laws for telecom companies.

But did Bill C-59 go far enough to address the top privacy concerns of Canadians and tackle the many other deeply troubling aspects of C-51? Or is it just a half-baked measure by a federal government seeking to claim it did its part while leaving some of the worst pieces of C-51 lurking beneath the surface? The answer lies somewhere in between.

Bill C-59 is undoubtedly a positive step toward safeguarding the privacy of Canadians, as it includes encouraging reforms such as a new pan-government review body for our spy agencies and a much narrower definition of “terrorist propaganda,” so that this term no longer encompasses activities like peaceful protest and artistic expression.

However, it falls short of addressing some of the most serious concerns associated with Bill C-51, namely information sharing and police powers for CSIS. This is particularly disappointing, given the national security consultation revealed Canadians have significant concerns related to the sharing of sensitive data with foreign governments. Furthermore, broad powers for CSIS to collect and retain “publicly available” datasets went woefully unaddressed.

There was also no mention of measures to protect Canadians from invasive mass surveillance devices like Stingrays or proactive measures to protect encrypted communications, which have become essential for many of us in our everyday lives and critical to our digital and economic security.

Overall, the reform leaves worrying gaps that indicate the new legislation fails to give Canadians the privacy standards they’ve been asking for in an era where privacy is under constant threat by both government agencies and powerful corporations.

More importantly, despite C-59 making some progress on privacy, it remains clear Canadians are still hungry for a full repeal of C-51 and won’t be satisfied with half-measures. What is certain is that C-59 will have to be substantially improved to give Canadians the robust privacy protections they deserve. And there is an opportunity for this to happen through amendments as the bill goes to committee in the fall.

There’s no doubt this will be near the top of MPs’ to-do list when Parliament returns. Use OpenMedia’s online tool to message your MP with a simple click at act.openmedia.org/ProtectPrivacyC51 and ask them to fill in the current gaps and strengthen our privacy protections.

If we flood our MPs’ inboxes before they resume Parliament in the fall, they will not be able to turn a blind eye to our pressing concerns on C-51. Canadians can speak out at act.openmedia.org/ProtectPrivacyC51

Marie Aspiazu is the social media specialist at openmedia.org

Our lieutenant governor’s “Three Rs”

Judith Guichon

by Bruce Mason

Photo: 2017 Canada Day Citizenship Ceremony at Government House, in which Her Honour presided over the swearing-in of 150 new citizens. Photo by Rachel Rilkoff of Government House.

For a short time in late June, all eyes, and much speculation, focused laser-like on Hon. Judith Guichon, BC’s 29th lieutenant governor. Representing the Queen is mostly ceremonial, but the urgent, unenviable task of making a vitally important decision thrust Guichon onto a red-hot seat, under a glaring spotlight. The corporate media pack sniffed, chowed down and quickly moved on to another flavour shortly after she denied then-premier Christy Clark’s desperate, self-serving, 90-minute plea for a snap election.

Judith Guichon, BC’s busiest lieutenant governor in decades, was etched into our history then calmly carried on with her own personal goal, which includes visiting 150 schools and pledging to use her position to educate about what we must learn if we are to have a future worth living.

She calls them “my three R’s: respect, responsibility and relationships.” Guichon lives and breathes the belief that we have a responsibility to respect the land, and to honour that relationship in order to leave a healthy planet for future generations..

In January of this year, while accepting an honorary doctorate from Vancouver Island University, she explained why she had taken the job in 2012: “There’s an increasing gap in understanding between urban and rural populations. Since we both need each other, I thought this was an excellent opportunity for me to bridge that gap. And it was such a wonderful opportunity to learn something new.”

Christy Clark had welcomed her, saying, “She has a deep appreciation for the history and traditions of BC and has spent a lifetime ensuring that we all stay connected to our roots.” In retrospect, our former premier underestimated and misunderstood Guichon’s overriding “appreciation” and “lifetime” of work.

Sure, Guichon had been recommended by then-prime minister Stephen Harper and had donated a modest total of $1,350 in 2005 and 2009 to Gordon Campbell’s liberals. Her friends and neighbours note that she leans right, as most of them do, obvious in the recent election, supporting fiscal responsibility and economic diversification. All of which had little influence over doing the right thing.

Before she was appointed in 2012, Guichon lived in the Nicola Valley in BC’s interior and owned and operated the Guichon Ranch, as the family of her late husband, commercial pilot Lawrence Guichon, had done since 1878. The couple took over in 1979, the fourth generation to run the ranch. They studied holistic management, focused on environmental stewardship and practised and promoted sustainability that emphasized natural habitat, such as letting cattle graze longer and using less feed. They are credited with introducing healthy techniques to the ranching community.

While growing a small parcel of land and a few head of cattle into a sprawling property with thousands of livestock, a general store, post office and a hotel, Judith Guichon, with a neighbour, started a recycling society in Merritt. She played the flute in the Nicola Valley Community Band and spoke up on water issues, served on health boards and task forces on species at risk, ranching and agri-food. She also developed her signature biodiversity program.

After her husband died tragically in a motorcycle accident in 2003, she wrote, “The love of my children enabled me to carry on. To say that I would not have endured without them is not overstating the case.” Her current husband Bruno Mailloux and four adopted children carry on while she nears the end of her five-year term.

Personally, I never had any doubt that she would do the right thing and I wish I could shake her hand and share a few words, again. Two years ago, in a reception line at the end of her tour of the Gabriola Island Medical Centre, she asked if I wrote the book, Our Clinic, that had just been presented to her. It tells the story of how a community of 4,000 residents and a volunteer army of 170 built a multi-million dollar urgent care health clinic and heli-pad on donated acreage, without raising any taxes. Christy Clark’s liberals chipped in a total of $100,000 at the last-minute.

A short time later I received a hand-written letter – remember those – from Guichon: “It will be my pleasure to tell your story where I go because it is incredible, an absolutely amazing feat that I hope others can learn from. My own projects are about healthy land and healthy communities. We all have a responsibility to leave them in as good or better state for those who follow.”

Just as she did as a rancher, Hon. Judith Guichon broke the mould of lieutenant governor by making a decision to invite the NDP and Greens to form government in the best interests of the people of the province. And her story, the real story, is the one to record, share and act on.

Jesse Waldman an inspired voice from Vancouver’s dark side

Jesse Waldman

by Bruce Mason

Jesse Waldman’s long-awaited record debut was decades in the making, including four years of painstaking recording and production. The brilliant concept album, Mansion Full of Ghosts, stands out for not only capturing life in contemporary Vancouver, but for also giving voice and hope to all those who struggle in the dystopian, hollowed-out nightmare into which Canada’s most expensive city has devolved.

“I started with 20 songs and wrote at least 15 more, which accounts for some of the time,” reports Waldman. “More than half of the people that my girlfriend and I know here live under constant threat of renoviction and skyrocketing housing costs, holding on for dear life, with fingernails. I’m just back from playing gigs in Toronto, my old stomping grounds, and it was outstanding. In Kensington Market, on Queen, College and Bloor Streets, there is a vibrant, supportive arts scene, a stark contrast to the corporate, cookie-cutter culture that Vancouver is becoming.”

The 16 tracks on Mansion Full of Ghosts are individual rooms, artfully designed and built, with wave-like walls of sound, without any superfluous musical notes or words. From a journeyman’s lovingly created, solid, eclectic musical foundation, haunted dream-like characters emerge, linked with a jeweller’s eye for gems and settings. A “country mouse” doesn’t care for big-city small talk in the “smiley plastic face rat race of shiny people and phony deadbeats.” Others include “A Ballerina From the East Coast.”

Perhaps the most fully realized is “Lorraine.” A dime-less high-school dropout from Mississauga decides, “I’m goin’ it alone… changed her clothes in a phone booth and rolled a smoke for the road. Her grubby hands were shaking/As the honest world was waking she flagged down trucks in high heels.” She ends up on a poster at a drop-in centre, disappeared without a trace with no helpful leads. A cold case indeed.

Waldman’s own story is essential to fully appreciating Mansion Full of Ghosts. A cherished cassette of his grandmother singing a Yiddish folk song and a guitar abandoned in the basement of his family home helped fuel his teenaged flight from the suburban sprawl of Thornhill, Ontario. He paid his dues, underage, in Toronto bar gigs, through a succession of groups, including the grunge band Zygote, Web, The Beefy Treats and Phatty Phatty, perfecting his impressive chops and accompaniment skills in finger-style folk, country, blues and pop genres.

“Every band needs a writer and I became that guy, almost by default,” Waldman recalls. Fine-tuned musical and other skills enabled his emergence as a very fine songwriter. His website (jessewaldmanmusic.com/media) features four videos. “The Rest of My Days,” produced to launch the album, includes raw archival family footage, charmingly illustrating a credo and promise revealed in the album. The other three earlier examples demonstrate his laid-back, comfortable virtuosity on electric, acoustic and resophonic guitar.

A cross-country adventure to the West Coast was pivotal and transformative. After touching down, he has stayed for 25 years in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the poorest postal code in Canada. Home is Hastings St. and Commercial Drive where he is – and this is a compliment – a “fixture on the Drive,” as well as a highly accomplished national touring act.

Sensing the growing need for rehearsal space, then recording space, he co-founded Redlight Sound Studios, where months of rehearsals and pre-production for his debut took place. He also studied the recording arts and sound design and he is now in demand, with a busy client roster, including the CBC, Telus, The Knowledge Network and Bravo.

Waldman assembled an all-star cast of other “fixtures,” most notably Marc L’Esperance, whose diverse skills, longtime friendship and musical partnership resulted in a well-deserved credit as co-producer. Jesse excels at portraying post-modern Vancouver where shopping carts roll down alleyways as skyrocketing numbers of homeless sleep in too-many boarded doorways, with pleas for help on scraps of cardboard, in front of ATM’s and… “all them lyin’ servants in their parliamentary seats.”

Mansion Full of Ghosts is audio alchemy. Gold is transmuted into various forms – Klondike gold, fools’ gold – with its colour depicted in occasional skies and rays. In “Eastvan Blues,” he writes and sings, “I got one foot in a sunbeam/I got one foot in the grave.” The album is highly recommended, especially for those down-and-out in Vancouver.

I asked him to share his expertise from 25 years on both sides of the studio glass. “Tips for Up-And-Coming Artists Headed Into a Studio” is a one-page, seven-point checklist to avoid common problems and pitfalls in making the best, most-natural recording of roots music. Email brucemason@shaw.ca and I will reply with a copy.

Healing addiction

It takes a village

by Jennifer Engrácio

Perhaps it is possible to heal an addiction on your own. I have not personally met every addict in the world to know if that is true or not. However, I do know that the vast majority of addicts I’ve met needed a good support system around them in order to recover fully.

Many addicts do not have a healthy community to interact within. Addicts across the board tend to have weak skills in some areas, including impulse control, self-command, boundary setting and will, to name a few. During the healing phase of an addiction, addicts need to lean on the will of others so they can maintain their sobriety until they’ve built up enough self-worth on the inside and strengthened their own will.

We’ve assumed that punishing addicts for their behaviour and marginalizing them is the way to deter addictive patterns, but this is actually the stance that encourages addiction to flourish. Humans regulate themselves and learn and grow within the context of healthy and secure relationships. In the absence of loving connections and solid bonding with community and family members, humans begin looking for other ways to feel secure, accepted and safe in any way they can: joining gangs, taking drugs and becoming fanatical in their beliefs. Because intergenerational trauma is passed down through generations, many attitudes about parenting, relating to others and messages about how the world works that many of us carry are not life-giving.

Thankfully, my higher self guided me to a spiritual pathway that is filled with folks who have the experience to work with addicts and wounded people from all walks of life. They did not, of course, do the work for me; I had to do that myself. They always accepted me, even at my worst and ugliest. When I was filled with self-pity, they didn’t go along with it. They called me on it and this sent me to a place of ownership so I could reclaim my power. When I was self-important, they had gentle ways of bringing me down to Earth.

Ideally, the community is a place where we learn good coping strategies, where we are supported to grow, where there are elders and people available who can help us get to the root of what ails us and guide us in letting go of belief systems and habits that no longer serve us.

I am proof that it is possible to seek out these sorts of communities. They do exist. It requires the courage to try something new. It requires being willing to heal. It requires being willing to keep seeking support and never giving up. Perseverance. Patience. Faith. I found my way within a non-denominational spiritual community. Perhaps that is not your way. I pray you can find a way that is a good fit for you. Reach out. It’s worth it. You’re worth it.

A student of shamanism, Jennifer Engrácio is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, lomilomi practitioner, and a certified teacher who has worked with children since 2001. She runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, BC, she lives in Calgary with her life partner. Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books: The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within, Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life and Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey Into Healing. For more information, visit www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

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.

Events:

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.