I grew up in Montreal in a family of mixed cultural heritage. My mother's family came from Poland and my father was Canadian of French and English (Irish) background. We were a pretty large family; I had four sisters and lots of cousins. As a child, I loved art, playing the woods, climbing trees, and animals. For a while, we even had a monkey as a pet who, when he wasn't up to mischief spent time hanging onto my arm. My mom had to give the monkey to another family after six months because he caused too much of a ruckus!
I loved animals. My mother's friend was a photographer and she helped me develop this picture of me dreaming of horses.
After graduating from High School and I decided to study Art in Junior College. I thoroughly enjoyed the program and the friends I made at that time. Moving forward, I wasn't sure if I would continue in that field, however, as I couldn't picture myself making my livelihood that way. As with so many young people not knowing what to do (with the rest of my life!) caused me a lot of stress and set me on a journey of searching. It was during this crisis that I discovered meditation which helped calm my nerves and trust in the moment. I believe that oftentimes, it is precisely these times of discomfort and confusion or unease that can lead us to awaken to our purpose in life.
At 20, I went to Europe for the summer to visit family in Poland. At that time, Poland was still under Communist Rule and Marshall Law. In spite of the hardship, I found the Polish people (and my cousins) to be extremely hospitable and remarkable for their sense of humour and strong spirit.
I also spent a few weeks at a monastic community called Taizé in France, which was known for the great number of young people who visited as well as its music.
This was on the train from Warsaw on my way to Berlin and then London.
I had begun meditating at 20 as a way to calm my anxiety about the future and find some calm for my overactive mind. I discovered it through a community in my home town. This lead me to India where I stayed at Shantivanam Ashram with Fr. Bede Griffiths' community. I also spent a week in Madras (known as Chennai today) where the Taizé community hosted an International Ecumenical meeting. Upon my return, I felt drawn to deepen the practice of meditation and decided the Monastic where I had first learned about meditation back in Montreal.
This is a picture of Fr. Bede's 79th Birthday party celebration when all the villagers and many guests came to attend the festivities.
I can't believe that was me! The sister beside me in the photo was a marathon runner. She had run the Boston, New York, Ottawa and Montreal marathons (and her timing was pretty amazing too!). Because the mission of this particular community was to teach meditation, we had people from all kinds of different cultural and religious backgrounds who came to visit and stay on retreat at the Monastery. I discovered that many monastic communities are actually quite revolutionary and definitely alternative in their way of approaching life. It was a memorable time in my life.
We wore the habits for the morning and evening prayer services and meditation. I only started wearing it in my second year when I was accepted as a Novice. I left before taking any vows.
The monastic life had never been my goal in my earlier life, so it came as a surprise even to me! Rather, as a teenager, I had dreamed of having a family, living on a farm and enjoying the simple life. Here is a drawing I made at 14 years old about how I envisioned my future life!
Although I really gained a lot from the three years that I stayed in the Monastery, I knew that it was ultimately not for me. I went back to school and a year later I married a long-standing friend from Art School. We married at the hospital as my mother was in her last days and passed away three days afterward. I'm so grateful that she was able to attend our wedding.
After moving to Northern Ontario for a year, I came back to Montreal to finish my degree. I got pregnant that year and had to write my two final exams after my son was born! Whew!
I graduated from the Religious Studies Faculty where the focus of my studies had been on World Religions. I really believe in a common ground between the different faiths and the importance of fostering understanding between people of different backgrounds. More recently, I've been studying the Feminine Dimension of the Spiritual Life which seems to have been quite neglected in so many cultures.
As I readied to cross the stage at my graduation, my husband handed our son to me, fearing that he might burst out in tears. I think that he thoroughly enjoyed the huge applause we got as we crossed the stage together!
Just over a year later, my daughter was born. Becoming a mom was a whole new kettle of fish for me! It certainly came with its joys and new challenges and loads of learning. The learning never ends!
Family has been really important to me I can't believe both of my children have moved away from home. A new chapter of life begins! Every life transition seems to come with a time of searching and some letting go in order to make room for what's next. This step often involves faith and requires trust. Sometimes, it may feel like we, just are like the trapeze artist are suspended in mid air, having let go of the old bar in order to catch the new one coming our way.
Brings to mind this quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: 'Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.'
Here is a more recent picture of me on the top of Mount Pico in Azores. Climbing that 8000 foot summit was quite an experience and was a definitely a highlight. I wonder what 'mountains' (or goals you have set) you have 'climbed' in your life or wish to climb!
I've learned so much over the years, through my family, my work and life experiences and I know when we set out in pursuit of a goal in life, many challenges can appear! There are times when it can be hard to 'see the forest from the trees' and getting feedback or guidance or just someone to listen can be invaluable.
Over the years, I've learned that obstacles can be an opportunity to grow (even when I know it doesn't always feel that way!), to listen to my heart's yearnings even when I'm not sure where they may lead me, to reach out for support and value community. I've also learned (slowly) to embrace myself as I am and that there are real gifts to be found in one's wounds.
I also believe that we often end up teaching or sharing what we've struggled to work out and that sometimes, a difficult experience can lead to an awakening of our deeper purpose. For myself, self-care and honouring my feminine and creative sides have been major lessons for me, allowing for huge shifts in my relationships, my work and my whole approach to life!