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

White Poppies – new Remembrance Day ceremony highlights the true costs of war

white poppies

by Teresa Gagné

The white poppy was first introduced in Britain in 1933, only 12 years after the red poppy. Alarmed by the rising tide of post-war militarism, British women, many of whom were the wives, mothers and sisters of men who had been killed – looked for a symbol to express their belief that civilized nations should never again resort to the terrible and ineffectual method of war for the settlement of international disputes. The wearing of a white poppy on Armistice Day became a focus for the British peace movement and the newly founded Peace Pledge Union undertook its promotion and distribution.

The growing demand for peace poppies highlighted the need for Remembrance Day activities to reflect the diversity of Canadian perspectives on war and remembrance and to acknowledge the war experiences of many immigrant Canadians. With this in mind, Vancouver Peace Poppies partnered with The BC Humanist Association in 2016 to co-host “Let Peace be Their Memorial,” a Remembrance Day wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate refugees and other overlooked victims of war. The following is largely excerpted from my address at the 2016 ceremony.

The first armistice day was in November of 1919, pretty close to 100 years ago, a year after the end of a war so huge and horrible it was regarded by many as “The War to End War.” People thought that surely nothing this terrible could happen again, that governments and nations had learned from this horrific and wasteful experience. But 100 years later, we find there have been well over 300 more wars, with close to 200 million people killed and every year on November 11, we get together and remember. But really, what have we accomplished with all our remembering if 200 million people have died in war since then? Do we really think that was the torch John McCrae and his comrades threw to us? They would be appalled to think they had lost their lives and we had learned so little from it.

There are lots of reasons to be against war: it’s immoral and it’s wasteful, but I think the inarguable reason now is that it doesn’t work; it just doesn’t work. The reasons given by our governments and our press for why we have to enter this or that conflict aren’t valid: that it will make the world safer, it will spread democracy and that it will increase human rights for persecuted minorities. In fact, it isn’t working. If we look at the most recent effects of 20 years of war in the Middle East and ask, “Is Canada safer? Is the US safer? Is the Middle East safer? Is the world safer?” No! “Is it more democratic?” No! So all those deaths, all that money spent, all that waste haven’t really achieved their stated goals and we have to raise our voices to say, “Your way isn’t working.”

Around the world, we need to be training hundreds and thousands of people as a mediation resource available to communities and countries to deal with the difficult situations that are always going to happen. Not providing training for peacekeeping forces or the military or the police.

We need to commit ourselves to counting all the different costs of military conflict: the social costs, the environmental costs, the desperate refugees, the lost potential of 50 million children whose schooling is disrupted by war, the women traumatized, abducted or sexually assaulted, the conscientious objectors who sometimes pay with their lives for standing up and refusing to fight, the psychological costs of PTSD on veterans and civilians. We need to include all those things and we owe it not just to ourselves to do so; I would say we even owe it to our military.

If we ask somebody to risk not just their physical health, but also their mental health, on a military endeavour, we’d better be sure it’s likely to succeed and that in the cost-benefit analysis, it’s worth the costs. So I don’t see any disrespect to the military in saying, “Let’s count all the costs of war and evaluate if it’s really going to achieve what we want to achieve.” If we don’t do that and find a better way, we will really have ‘broken faith’ with those who died and with those who will continue to die.

This year, wear a White Poppy to:

  • commemorate all victims of war.
  • mourn the environmental devastation it causes.
  • reject war as a tool for social change.
  • call for dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution.
  • show your commitment to building a better future.

Because Remembering is important, but it isn’t enough.

Teresa Gagné is the co-founder of Vancouver Peace Poppies (www.PeacePoppies.ca). White poppies may be ordered on the website. The poppies commemorate civilian victims of war and encourage people to challenge the ‘normalization’ of militarism.


NOVEMBER 11: Wreath Ceremony to recognize overlooked victims of War, 2:30-4PM, Seaforth Peace Park, 1st Avenue & Burrard Street, Vancouver.

On love and forgiveness

Scott Stabile

by Scott Stabile

I forgive the man who killed my parents completely and without reservation. I forgave him a long time ago, but not until years after he took their lives and uprooted mine.

Photo: Scott Stabile at Banyen Books

I have four distinct memories from my mom and dad’s funeral when I was 14. I remember sitting at the funeral home, as hundreds of people paraded past my parents’ closed coffins to pay their respects. The only face I recall is that of my classmate, Jodie Goldberg, whose eyes caught mine as she waited in line. She gave me a nervous, sympathetic wave. I stared for a second and then looked down at my lap. I also remember crying in a side room away from all the mourners, with two of my sisters standing nearby. I overhead one sister tell the other she didn’t know how I, the baby of the family and devoted mama’s boy, would be able to survive without our mom. I didn’t know, either. How would I? How could I? The third thing I remember was the moment before my parents’ caskets were going to be carried off. I leapt from my chair and threw myself against my mother’s casket, screaming and crying so they wouldn’t take her away. “Mom! No! Mom! No!” I remember shouting, over and over, not willing to say goodbye. One of my brothers – I’m not sure which one – pulled me off and led me out of the room.

Incredibly, I don’t know if that last scene really happened or if I saw it in a movie or read it somewhere and owned it for myself. I can see the moment in my mind and feel it in my bones, but there’s a part of me that questions whether it actually took place. It feels much more dramatic than I knew myself to be. Of course, many things I thought I knew about myself changed when my parents died. I was one Scott the day before their death and a different one the day after. An orphan can never be the same person he was with parents. The day of the funeral, and the weeks around it, are mostly lost to me. Still, I have that vision of myself, body pressed against her coffin, screaming, arms outstretched, holding on to a little more time with her. I’ve never asked my siblings if it happened because I don’t want to know if I made it up. I want my last memory with my mom to be real.

The last thing I remember that day was being in the funeral home parking lot with my three brothers. They were talking and smoking as I sat on a ledge staring at the ground with one thought in mind: I will never forgive my father for my mother’s death.

Luckily for me, I didn’t end up keeping that promise.

The man who killed my parents was caught and sent to prison for life. He’s still there. I have a vague memory of being at his sentencing with my siblings. I don’t know why we were there, really. I’m not sure what difference it made to anyone. Maybe we wanted the judge to see our devastated family so that he wouldn’t be lenient in his sentencing. Or we wanted our parents’ killer to see the faces of the seven orphans he’d created so that he couldn’t ignore the magnitude of his crime. Perhaps his sentencing promised the only closure my older siblings knew they would find within their grief; being present for his conviction provided a breath of relief within a universe of hopelessness. With mom and dad’s killer off to prison, we could at least lock away that part of the horror.

Though that day remains a blur, my parents’ murderer does not.

I remember his name, of course, and even his face, sometimes more clearly than I remember my parents’ faces. Maybe because his actions, even more than my parents’ up until that point, impacted most profoundly the person I would become. He had changed my life more than anyone. He had taught me the meaning of loss and introduced me to unimaginable grief. He had turned me into an orphan overnight.

Even so, I forgive him.

I forgive the man who killed my parents completely and without reservation. I forgave him a long time ago, but not until years after he took their lives and uprooted mine. Not until I simmered in blame and rage and fantasized all the violent ways I would have loved to take revenge. Not before I quieted my fury by imagining his troubled life to that point and the saddened loved ones he would likely never see again. I forgave him many years ago, but not until I learned that forgiveness of others is the only choice that lives in love, and that love is the only choice I want to live by.

To love is to forgive. To forgive is to love. I don’t see exceptions, not where my heart is concerned. I don’t believe any of the justifications I produce for not forgiving. The only way something could be unforgivable is if I’m not loving enough to forgive it – if the darkness that lives within someone’s actions proves greater than the light that lives within my heart. I’m not willing to accept that. I won’t discount the strength of my love for anything, or anyone.

I used to think my parents’ murder was unforgivable. For many years, I didn’t even consider the possibility of forgiving their killer. It didn’t register as an option, not when he’d done something so profoundly terrible. When I thought about him, which wasn’t that often, I hated him, and I was fine with that. He deserved it, I thought. But it felt awful to rest in a state of hatred and rage. It hurt. I grew to understand that to feel more at peace with myself, I would need to find a greater sense of peace with him. Without knowing how I’d find my way there, I eventually considered the possibility of forgiveness. What did I have to lose?

“How do you forgive?” People ask me that question a lot. Some have struggled to forgive ex-spouses who treated them horribly while others refused to forgive friends who betrayed them. Abusive bosses, backstabbing colleagues, selfish parents, thoughtless children, corrupt politicians, greedy executives, bigoted neighbours – all have provoked in us the need, and inability, to forgive. Is there someone in your life right now you have yet to forgive? Or someone from your past you refuse to forgive? Maybe you don’t think they deserve it. Maybe you want to forgive them, but don’t know how. Maybe you’ve tried and failed.

I wish I had an answer that guaranteed success, but I’m not sure a definitive path to forgiveness exists, beyond a clear commitment to it. We have to want to give it in order to find it. If we don’t, we’ll never really start searching. There are loads of articles, books and videos that promise to guide us to forgiveness and that, no doubt, offer some valuable tools to help us along the way. Still, all the best forgiveness recommendations in the world won’t make a bit of difference if we stay committed to the belief that something is unforgivable. We won’t climb a mountain we have determined to be unclimbable. Once we shift that belief, and truly want to forgive someone for what he’s done, even if that’s solely for our peace of mind, our desire alone will likely lead us there. My desire has.

Forgiveness takes dedication and awareness, and it takes work.

Excerpted from Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart. Copyright ©2017 by Scott Stabile. Printed with permission from New World Library, www.newworldlibrary.com

StarWise – October 2017

photo of Mac MacLaughlin

by Mac McLaughlin

The Sun passes through Libra from September 22 to October 22. Libra’s pictograph is a blindfolded goddess with a sword in one hand and scales in the other. It symbolizes impartialjustice and fairness. Libra is a cardinal–air sign. The cardinal signs – Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn – lead off the seasons and, as such, they contain more power and dynamism. The element of air in astrology represents the intellect and its abilities. When we amalgamate the cardinal–air qualities and project them onto humankind, we can expect to find some of the most brilliant, talented, creative and artistic souls in our midst.

The first one that comes to mind is Mahatma Gandhi Ji. His philosophy of passive resistance transformed India. Venus is the planetary ruler for Libra. She is the goddess of love, harmony, beauty and balance. I’m sure if you did some research, you would find some very highly evolved souls in the world of art, music, dance, design, architecture and law. Yes, folks, harmony, intelligence, fairness, beauty and balance sum up the essence of Libra, a sign known as the iron fist in the velvet glove. Well, we have to ask the question. Do we need harmony, balance, love and peace? I think we do, more than ever.

The scales are rocking precariously and the big and little egotists are gambling with our lives. Hopefully, we don’t sit and passively watch it all unfold. While under the influence of Venus– Libra, it would be helpful to remember that Jupiter, the planet of wisdom and idealism, is moving through Libra and has formed an opposition with Uranus, the planet of revolution and innovation. It might be high time to hit the streets again as world peace hangs in the balance. We know there are myriad brilliant minds out there and we need them to come up with some true resolutions for today’s very serious problems. Although the Vietnam War was very ugly and highly destructive and devastating, it also raised the consciousness of the whole world; as we know, there were worldwide protests at the time of that war. All of this business with the US and North Korea has gotten to a risky and very dangerous place and the powers that be truly need to do something about it before things really go south. No sense warmongering with a bunch of fear tactics. We need love and peace now. When you’re standing up to your knees in gasoline, it doesn’t matter who lights the first match.

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
It’s your time to shine as the light of the full Moon lights up your sign on October 5. Venus and Mars are conjoined on the same day indicating something quite special heading your way. Make it a special day and do something meaningful and important.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21
You might want to plan something unique or just wait and see if the universe has anything to offer over the weekend of October 6-8. The stars are leaning your way as your planetary ruler Venus snuggles up with fiery Mars at that time. Break out those red, high-heeled sneakers and head to the club.

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20
A lively time is indicated especially around the full Moon time on October 5. The Gemini Moon on Thanksgiving Day provides a big boost and there is a strong likelihood of surprising news coming your way. A secret is leaked and, as we know, those family gatherings can sometimes get hectic. Hide the alcohol.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22
Home and family are important topics for Cancer. Now, the Sun travels though your solar house related to home life. The full Moon on October 5 brings work related news. Jupiter, the planet of luck (good karma), casts excellent rays your way for the next 12 months starting on October 10. Confidence and timing play a special role.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22
Communicate and relate is the mantra of the month for Leo. Promotions, sales and proselytizing will work well now. An increase in resources could take place in the first half of the month. Make that call. Reach out to the people that really matter in your life. A series of short journeys takes place.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22
Venus and Mars meet up in your sign on October 5. It’s also a full Moon day. Basically, it amps up the areas of love and creativity. It’s your time to shine and others may take a shine to you. It’s time to take stock and evaluate what is real and what has true value.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22
Take note of what comes to pass on October 5. Some illuminating scenarios are destined to unfold. People from the past come into the play. The new Moon on October 19 will bring interesting surprises and opportunities. You might be in the midst of important changes in your life now. Go with the flow.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21
Jupiter, king of the gods, moves into Scorpio on October 10 for a 12-month visit. You should capitalize on this once in 12-year cycle by doing whatever you have to do to elevate your status. Confidence gets a boost and timing becomes very important. Basically, do your best in all endeavours. It will pay dividends.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21
Your solar house of friendships and alliances is lit up. It’s time to mix and mingle. The full Moon on October 5 stirs up some fun and entertainment. Behind-the-scenes work will pay off in the long run, such as quietly committing to the gym and paying the price through sweat and effort.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19
Your solar career sector is very active. The stars are aligned nicely in the sense they are casting good energy into your sign. Work towards strengthening alliances and loyalties after October 10. Power plays abound and all kinds of hidden machinations take place. To be clean and let your works be seen is best.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19
It’s time to blow off the dust and strive towards higher knowledge. This could come through a series of journeys to far-off places. It could also occur in the classroom, but, regardless, it’s time to dig into the topics that can quench your thirst for enlightenment. Job opportunities loom on the horizon.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20
The question is just how to fit in and make it all work and how to achieve success in your desired field of activity. Mainly, to just keep giving of yourself and helping other people is best. The overall plan was formed before your body was formed. Be who you are and do what you do.

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.