I have posted a fair bit over the last few months about transitions in my life and work, particularly the move from my previous location to the great groovy surroundings of Winnipeg's West End. At the same time there's been things in the news lately about some of the challenging issues in the area, as well as things people have been facing in various places - suburban and rural - in Manitoba and throughout the world. From a small town restaurant closing down partly because of homophobic slurs, someones home being spray painted with hateful graffiti, to random violence that has gone on - all over it seems. With all that, it's easy to buy into a sense of fear and apprehension. I think fear and ignorance is a big part of what motivates these things to happen in the first place. That fear is something I have had to work through at different times in my life and that I get to work with in what others encounter and move through. It's a challenge to meet that with courage and compassion but it's ultimately what we all have to do if we aren't to feel fear or act out ourselves.
I have a pretty diverse client base, I've read in boardrooms, in restaurants, homes in wealthy areas and low end areas. I've read for doctors, lawyers, teachers and artists, gangsters, nurses, therapists, celebrities, media people, political people, people struggling with addiction, practitioners of all sorts and often for other people that are themselves "sensitive" and they are ALL just plain folks when you get right down to it. Everyone knows what it is to feel fear and uncertainty. I always see a reading as an opportunity to learn from the client and as a point where for some, there's an opportunity to change the road they're on. I love my work and this is why I generally am drawn to reading in environments that would be comfortable for anyone, a place where you wont be judged, where you can feel safe and I think that's reflected in my present surroundings.
One of the things I appreciate about Elemental Book and Curiosity Shop (my primary location) is an atmosphere that supports people's spiritual interests on a broad ranging level, where there are tools for inspiration and growth, books, incense, jewellry, crystals and candles all at very reasonable prices and where experience and honoring of different paths are offered in an understanding way. Dominique (the owner) shares her own extensive knowledge and interest freely and there's a loyal sense of community that people feel and give back to around the place. I like to think we are where we are because we are needed where we are, It's also central and affordable in a way that allows me to keep my price range accessible for everyone. I don't want to be in an exclusive area or where people would feel out of place or be condescended to. It's a good fit for me and so far I've had nothing but positive re-enforcing feedback.
Downtown Winnipeg, particularly this little area near Langside and Portage is a very high concentration of that diversity. There's the adjacent University, CBC, Art Galleries, The West End Cultural Center, Seniors housing (where my mom is), restaurants from fine dining to artsy and funky all within steps of one another as well as also some low income housing, people struggling, addiction and urban living issues you will find anywhere. Our particular location is right beside the West End Biz (a community improvement project with street patrols and resources for area clean up and promotion) and directly across from the new University Sciences building as well as Macfeetor's hall, the student residence. Our building and the adjacent parking lot are monitored. There's security all around us, I feel very safe. But that feeling of safety doesn't just come from things like foot patrols, surveillance cameras or security guards. I haven't always felt it and it certainly doesn't come from a naive avoidance of what is there. It comes from reaching out, being open and present. I wrote something on my Facebook page the other day that came from somewhere in my head:
"As someone who has known what it is to encounter bullying or social pressures, my heart goes out to those that need to know they are not alone, We have to meet ignorance and hate with a compassion that says bullying is not right.
It's never just the actions of the few bullies that wound...it.is the silence of those who stand by and allow it to happen, that do nothing and say nothing because they don't want to be targeted, when that changes and maybe only when that changes, then we wont have bullying, we will just have occasional jerks that we can help to become compassionate and to be freed of their ignorance and insecurity."
"If you call out to your fears, they will come to you. if you're strong enough, go for it. the hawk might eat you, but then again, you might tame a hawk."
I have a commitment to helping others the way I have been helped many times over, and because I'm in a place where I can to reach out to others who are feeling uncertain or scared. Whether that's someone feeling they have to hide who they are, or a person struggling to be who they can be, sometimes having to walk away from pretty difficult stuff. I'm happy to meet people on the road of life. I draw a lot of strength myself from their stories. I've learned there's no safety in hiding. There's also little comfort in exclusivity. Whenever I've been willing, the Universe has given me what I need, sometimes through the generosity of those less fortunate in their circumstances than I. That exchange is something I have to give back to. It's why I feel safe when I show up anyway, do what I can, where I am, and help others to feel safe too. I'd rather be part of change and evolution in a world, a city and a neighborhood that is trying to grow and I hope, dear reader you will too.