Yesterday, I co-facilitated a poetry workshop at Pacifica Treatment Centre in Vancouver. This is an initiative of Pandora’s Collective and one that’s been held on an on-going basis for a number of years. It was my first time teaching here, and I was happy to share this role with Marn Norwich of Vancouver Writing Courses.
As I prepared my exercises and found material to share on the theme ‘gratitude’, I didn’t realize I was also designing my own judgements of what I could expect upon entering the building. I didn’t know that I had created a mental profile of a person in recovery until these smiling, eager individuals walked into the room, shattered that image and took their seats at the U-shape table set-up. Men and women, with quite an age range, filed in – some individually and others in pairs. I could have met any of these souls on the street. There was no evidence of their journey – nothing screaming out, I’m in recovery!
Then again, there’s often no physical evidence of any of our journeys…is there?
And yet, we are all enveloped in our stories. And even when we pass each other in the streets, without the honour or the pleasure to share these stories, they are still there in all the nooks and crevices of our bodies.
Yesterday, I got to be a visitor on someone’s journey in sobriety; this short blip of time that our paths crossed was completely affirming of my belief that the arts are therapeutic and necessary. They connect us – to ourselves and to each other. And really, if we can’t or don’t make these connections, what kind of road are we travelling?
For over 6 years now I have been writing publicly about the lessons and blessings in my own personal development, in the hopes of encouraging others in their own. I’ve taken the stage numerous times now and shared stories and thoughts on these same topics, closely relating creativity and spirituality and shining a light on our connectedness.
It occurred to me as I gathered material on ‘gratitude’ for this workshop, that indeed this work has chosen me. It’s as much for me as it is for my readers, and my audience and my participants. Last week I was also preparing a talk on ‘blessings’ for the Western Canada Paranormal and Spiritual Expo. So, there was an overlap of days when I was immersed in gratitude and blessings – for my work – but also for my own spirit. For me, it doesn’t get much more amazing than that.
Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”
I really believe the arts can heal and can make positive social change. I think and talk about this often. And one evening last week when I had papers spread around me and my laptop humming beside me, I realized I was living that belief.
I was so filled with happiness, I had to stop my work and spill my heart onto my chalkboard.
Yesterday, I stepped into myself – lover of words and believer in healing – and stood in this room, and quite simply felt like I was meant to be there. I was witnessing a circle of writing and healing that went way beyond me, but that I was very much apart of. Another nod to connectedness.
I can close my eyes and still see the room. 18 men and women, walking a courageous path, holding on to sobriety with hope, faith, crazy strength…and a pen.
I can see their faces, their smiles, their frowns. Eyebrows stitched together. Tiredness etched on their faces. Hope there, too. Mouths chewing gum, pens tapping lips. Fingers grasping pens or stroking paper. Twirling hair. Reflecting. Dreaming. Sharing. Keeping some things private.
It takes an incredible amount of courage and strength to get through each day on this road of recovery. It requires hard work, dedication, determination and a lot of self-love to fight through this. Through their writing, I got a taste of this. Glimpses of their troubles and their dreams of the future. One word at a time, one day at a time…there is so much magic in this transformation. Sometimes magic feels like moving mountains.
To learn more about Pandora’s Collective or to donate to their initatives, please visit their website.