To ask me what I believe kind of flies in the face of postmodernism [laughing. Long pause]. I guess I believe that everybody and everything is okay at some level.
I don’t know if it makes sense or that there’s meaning, but that there is an abiding peace that exists. I don’t think that as humans we live in that very much. But we do get glimpses of it. And most people have experienced it in some way. And I can think of times I’ve experienced…an abiding peace or an abiding okayness.
One time that comes to mind is amidst a stressful, unbalanced time when I was back in Vancouver after travelling, was trying to figure things out – where am I gonna live, where am I gonna work – and I went to see a famous Iranian film called Bashu, the Little Stranger, downtown with my mother. I think most of it takes place in Farsi, or it may be local dialect. It’s about the Iraq-Iran war and this little boy who ends up on the wrong side of the border and gets adopted by this woman whose husband has gone off to war. I think even if I spoke the language, it would still be very strange. A lot of the film takes place in visual metaphors, which perhaps if you’re from that region you’re more in touch with. But anyway it was speaking a different language on a lot of different levels and I was just immersed in it: in the birds, in the movement of animals and madness and hallucination and family. A lot going on. And then part of the way through it I just felt this incredible peace descend. And even in my head I had that term. I was like “ugh peace has descended.” And I just felt very different on a cellular level. And I think I got to access that through art. There was something with the medium that was going on. And I walked out of the theatre and remembered: “everything is okay no matter what”
Another that comes to mind, a less momentary experience, and perhaps more interval-based was when I was travelling in Turkey many years ago on my own. I was taking a lot of buses and staying in people’s homes on my own. And often I’d be very uncomfortable on the buses:
“don’t know when I can get off to pee; my stomach’s upset; it’s too hot; my seat is lumpy; there’s the great unknown; I’m not really sure where I’m going; I’ve never been there; I don’t know the people I’m going to stay with; they don’t speak English.”
And the practice of that calmed me down in a way because I had to become very comfortable with whatever was happening. And I think this is very common in spiritual training of any kind. So for me it was spiritual bus training [laughing].
And so it got to a point where I was very okay with whatever was happening. And I remember thinking to myself “woh: I could lose this. I should remember this.” Because when I’m in that place I act very differently: with a generosity and an openness and tolerance and goodness – as people do when they have this in mind, by whatever means they have gotten there.
Similarly when I hitchhiked across the States. Maybe it’s about letting go of total control, knowing what’s going to happen and anticipating everything. You don’t know where you’re going to sleep, you don’t know who’s going to pick you up, but you’re okay.
My New Zealand cousin who still travels quite a bit says she does it to practice not letting small things feel like major problems. Because I think that’s the problem with settled life sometimes: you’re so routinized and you have everything the way you like it. And so any alteration from that feels quite intense and upsetting.
I wasn’t raised with organised religion. I was exposed to it in very fleeting ways, such as when I stayed over at a friend’s house and they’d go to church or temple or something. But for me being alone; those rare moments alone that I would feel very contented…and kind of magical. That was where the spark started for me.
So I remember as a kid going away from the house on a weekend morning by myself and going into a treehouse. I brought some bread – some little flatbread – and some honey, so I had sustenance [laughing] and I think I brought a notebook. And I felt quite pleased with myself for having escaped into my little monastic place [laughing]. And I remember thinking about reincarnation. I think because I’d been exposed to recycling at school – you know, materials – and it occurred to me that it would be very strange if energy, and even thoughts, were not also recycled. And so I remember writing about this and then just sitting there and feeling…quite good [laughing] and that you can go away and find peace and certain things will come to you.