Have you ever gone on a trip that left you feeling fundamentally different than you were before you embarked on it? A real life changer? Well, that’s what spending nearly two weeks with relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia did for me—and I am excited to write about it!
I met my great-uncle Ralph and great-aunt June in person for the first time more than ten years ago when they visited the East coast. I recognized them instantly as kindred spirits and felt a deep connection with them. (They even founded a Waldorf school in North Vancouver!) Not long after their visit, they sent me the 2005 Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide, with lots of handwritten comments about places that were meaningful to them. I held onto that guide with intentions to visit their home in Sechelt (the heart of the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver) someday. In recent months, my intuition told me it was time to make “someday” happen. Visiting them was one of the top items on my list of “100 Things to Do” this year.
My dad and I began talking about making a trip to Vancouver together. A health condition was making it more difficult for him to get around, and I felt it was important to make the trip sooner rather than later. We also had been talking about driving to Virginia to visit his sister, who had been ill for quite some time. At the end of January, she passed away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we didn’t make that trip in time, and that made it seem even more important to follow through with the Vancouver trip. We renewed our passports and came up with specific dates for our trip. When it came time to make flight reservations, my dad had second thoughts and eventually told me he thought the trip would be too much for him. But he still wanted me to go, so we booked my flights, and I prepared to make the trip on my own.
In the days leading up to the trip, I felt I was making some real progress excavating and releasing limiting beliefs that had circumscribed my life for as long as I can remember. But I still felt stuck and unsure about how to proceed. Intuitively, I knew there was something for me in the Vancouver area. Something important. I could feel it, even though I didn’t yet know what it was, other than that it was the next step.
It turns out a great deal was waiting for me there. At least three journeys took place simultaneously: an exploration of the area’s unsurpassed natural beauty, connecting with my ancestral and family tribe, and a very deep spiritual journey.
I had wanted to travel to the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver for a long time, and it was every bit as breathtaking as I anticipated. To get to Sechelt (SEE-shelt) from Vancouver, I took a 20-minute flight in a tiny float plane that could accommodate up to five passengers. The woman sitting next to me was excited to point out landmarks and tell me about the magnificent terrain on which she lived her whole life.
The coastal landscape, dotted with islands and lined with snowcapped mountains in the distance, provided sharp visual contrast to the temperate rainforest featuring moss-covered trees (including broadleaf maple, red cedar, hemlock, and Douglas fir), ferns and mosses, and so much lush vegetation.
During my stay, I went kayaking three times—my first experiences paddling in salty, ocean water and in kayaks equipped with a rudder (which is actually quite metaphoric). We paddled by herds of seals, at least one sea lion, great blue herons, and bald eagles.
On different outings, we toured the Coast from Roberts Creek to Egmont, stopping to appreciate the sights and scenery along the way. One afternoon, June and I took a long hike on the rainforest trail through Skookumchuck Provincial Park to view the rapids during ebb tide.
My soul mate of a cousin, Paul, whisked me away a couple of times to catch some glorious sunsets and moonrises.
We also explored the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (where June and Ralph have their own bench) and spent an afternoon motoring around Thormanby Island and Smuggler Cove on Paul’s future in-laws’ 68-foot yacht—a very special treat.
One pattern that stood out was the residents’ positive, grateful energy. I read that the Sunshine Coast boasts the highest per-capita number of artists, artisans, and crafters in Canada and is also home to a great many writers, nature lovers, and alternative healers. It was like moving from one paradise to another the whole time. And unbelievably, the inner journey was even more astonishing than the outer one.
It didn’t take long to figure out why I needed to make this trip. I needed to connect with my only Pacific Northwest relatives to learn where I came from ancestrally and where I fit in, in relation to my family tree. I discovered that I am part of an extended family of multipotentialites extraordinaire: artists, musicians, writers, and sharp minds. Through the years, I had heard anecdotes of my (mostly European) relatives’ talents, but seeing actual works of art, hearing recordings, and holding writing collections in my hands brought the stories to life and made them more tangible and real. Until recently, Ralph (an architect, writer, painter, and athlete) had been the keeper of the family tree, and when we sat down and looked at it, it seemed everyone he spoke of had at least one jaw-dropping creative talent in addition to whatever else s/he did. I felt like I had found my real tribe and realized that I am part of something larger that I didn’t grasp until now. I finally understood the source and value of my creative and artistic passions that didn’t seem to make sense in the nuclear family I was born into. Artistic expression and creativity are hardwired into my DNA!
I woke up every morning in a room decorated with framed prints of Ralph’s watercolor and acrylic paintings, listened to him read some of his poetry and prose in the evening after dinner, conversed with June about our shared values with regard to developmentally appropriate and inspired early childhood education, took in the extraordinary beauty and magical details of their gardens, and dined on organic fruits and vegetables (some from the garden) and delicious meals, including the most scrumptious coconut yogurt (Liberté Méditerranée) I’ve ever tasted. And so much more.
At 85 and 80, respectively, Ralph and June love kayaking every bit as much as I do (though they have been doing it MUCH longer). Although quintuple bypass surgery a few years ago put a damper on Ralph’s physical activity, I was inspired by how active, fit, and engaged they are at their age and how they took action to create what they wanted, whether it be a Waldorf school or an indoor tennis facility. I just wanted to absorb their positive energy and lifestyle!
It also was wonderful to finally meet two of my three Canadian cousins (technically, my dad’s cousins), who are my age. Paul and I bonded instantly and spoke a common spiritual language that allowed us to communicate on a deep level. I was grateful for opportunities to spend time with him, his fiancée, and her parents throughout my stay. Caroline flew in from Vancouver Island for a few hours, during which time we went kayaking around the Trail Islands in the Strait of Georgia, talking the entire time. I wish I could have stayed longer and visited her on Vancouver Island. Their younger sister, Sonia, who lives in Alberta, was too far away to connect in person, but I spoke with her on the phone. We also called relatives in England, including cousin Bryan (current keeper of the family tree) and Ralph’s (and my deceased grandfather’s) only living sibling, 93-year old Ron, an accomplished pianist and organist (amongst other things). It was such a delight to connect with each of them and bring to life some of the names on the family tree.
One night, it was rainy and cool, and June insisted on sending me to bed with a hot water bottle to keep me nice and toasty. As I appreciated both the heavenly warmth and the kindness of the gesture, it occurred to me that it was the first time I have felt mothered in a long time. I fell asleep with tears of gratitude still moist on my face.
The second morning of my vacation, I discovered the path that leads to the beach, only a five-minute walk from the house. I spent two or three hours at the rocky beach every morning for the rest of my stay. It was very rare to see another person on the beach, so it was my own private sanctuary, where the spiritual part of my journey unfolded.
I had two special places on the beach. The first was my stone balance workshop by the sea, between two logs. I searched the beach for interesting stones and lined them up on one of the logs for later use. Someone had placed a rock that looked like a cradle on the log, and I used it as the base for many of my stone balances. Balancing rocks by the sea is one of my very favorite meditative activities.
My second special place on the beach was under an arbutus tree (my new favorite tree) that grew out of a rock formation.
Surrounding the arbutus tree were several wild, pink nootka rosebushes in full bloom, which expressed an intoxicating fragrance into the air.
From my arbutus tree sanctuary, I’d often see great blue herons at the water’s edge and hear the gentle, soothing rhythm of waves lapping the shore. Here, I worked on my feng shui vision board, reflecting and envisioning what I wish to manifest in different areas of life. As the moon grew fuller, my vision board insights and clarity deepened. Being on the Sunshine Coast, so far from home with “my people,” helped me to see my life back East from a different perspective. Removed from my daily routine, I was stunned by ways in which I’ve compromised and sold myself short by playing it safe. I came to the realization that there is perhaps nothing riskier in life than playing it safe. But rather than feeling discouraged, I experienced clarity about what I do and don’t want in my life moving forward, including what kind of energy I want to surround myself with.
I had a profound experience walking the 11-circuit, Chartres-style labyrinth outside St. Hilda’s by the Sea (Anglican church) one warm, sunny afternoon. Again, there was nobody else around. When I arrived at the center, an inner voice asked: Are you ready to give up the path of suffering? Are you ready to walk the path of joy? Are you really ready to let go of suffering? I answered yes. Yes, I’m ready! (I understood suffering to mean the internal reactions that set in motion outer circumstances and events.) Then I looked up and saw a rainbow around the sun and experienced a deep sense of peace.
As I walked on the winding path back out of the labyrinth, I realized that as long as I act from love, all will be well. When I allow ego to take the wheel, it never seems to work out. Also, if I feel bad about myself for not accomplishing more or for the paths I chose and the choices I made, that’s ego. Good/bad, right/wrong, and better than are the vocabulary of ego, not Higher Self. Instead of making judgments and comparisons, Higher Self is love that seeks expansion. When you’re aligned with Higher Self, you intuitively know what to do and not do. It’s like a divine GPS that will save you time rather than take you the long, roundabout route. It doesn’t mean that when you don’t follow it, you’re wrong or somehow doomed. You’ll eventually get to your destination. It just might take longer. You might experience more drama and unanticipated traffic setbacks along the way. Somehow your divine GPS knows where the obstructions are and reroutes you to a clearer, more direct path. But if you choose to go a different way that ends up taking longer, it’s ultimately okay because the Higher Self exists beyond time. So there’s no need to regret what could be perceived as wasted time or poor choices. Better to tune into intuition and focus on the road ahead rather than get mired in regret.
These labyrinth insights bathed me in peace. When I exited the labyrinth, I retrieved my camera to take a photo of the rainbow. As I composed the photo, two seagulls flew through the frame. It was a moment.
I had an incredible experience on the beach my last morning on the Sunshine Coast, when the moon was full. After doing my vision board work, I decided to do a final rock balance before leaving the beach. When I first arrived that morning, I’d found a rock whose shape was in between a crescent and half-moon and intended to balance it later. So I brought it back to the rock cradle and decided to put a round stone underneath it for an extra challenge. The round stone was so wobbly on the cradle, and the weight of the moon-shaped rock was so unevenly distributed. But I set my mind to it and decided I wanted to do something that seemed impossible, to prove to myself that I could do it, and I never doubted my ability to balance the stones. As I worked with the stones, I recalled my cousin, Paul, telling me that he no longer fears challenges because he sees them as opportunities to discover what he is capable of. It took a while, but all of a sudden, I felt the stones shifting into alignment, and then they clicked into balance! The moment that happened, I cried tears of joy and fulfillment because I accomplished what seemed impossible— because I believed I could and didn’t give up. I immediately texted Paul to share my success, knowing he’d understand.
That balance inspired me to expand my ideas about what is possible. Dream big. Pursue bigger, bolder goals, and remember the excitement, satisfaction, joy, and gratitude I felt the moment those stones clicked into balance (and remained balanced!). I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to learn that the silver slippers could have brought me home at any time—that I had the power all along. I want to manifest during this lifetime and discover what I can do. And a big part of that is having an unwavering faith that I will succeed, acting on intuition, and having the patience to see it through.
I’m shifting out of a defeatist, poverty attitude, and it is the most miraculous shift of my life. I used to be like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory receiving his birthday chocolate bar and savoring it for as long as he possibly could because he knew he wouldn’t get another candy bar until his next birthday. An impoverished gratitude. What I’m cultivating is a sense of exploration and adventure. I’ve been traveling more since my mom died two years ago and consider traveling a great metaphor. It’s about having gratitude for where you are now but not clinging to it because you expect to experience all kinds of new wonders, beauty, and joy by traveling to places you haven’t been before. Places that will delight, challenge, and expand you.
After a phenomenal and life-changing visit to the B.C. Sunshine Coast, I flew home that night on moonbeams to a place of fireflies, splendid autumn foliage, and really good spring water, where the intoxicating fragrance of the last, lingering lilacs greeted me the moment I got out of the car. I returned home with renewed energy for creating a shining life.
My great-aunt June told me that she went to my stone balance workshop by the sea after I left and felt my presence there. She said I left a piece of myself there, and that makes me happy. But ironically, even though part of me remains on the Sunshine Coast and surely will call me back there, I returned home feeling more whole and complete than ever—for on the Sunshine Coast, with my tribe, I found my missing pieces and know that my life will never be the same.
To view more of my photos from the Sunshine Coast, click on the image below:
© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.