In STO Union’s latest show, What Happened to the Seeker, I play, and in many ways ‘am’, the lead character: a woman whose multiple attempts at healing from a traumatic event leads her down numerous roads, which lead to more trauma, until she finally finds the space she needs in order to heal.
The “space to heal”… Space here is the operative word. Like air around a wound, empty space is the key ingredient in all transformation. It can be the empty space of the meditation hall, or the empty space of the theatre, but it is always found in the empty space of the breath itself, entering the wound, transforming it, almost miraculously.
First, the Seeker must re-discover the trauma: it is covered over by multiple failed attempts at suppressing it: booze, sex, partying, you name it: we all have our demons. Those demons distract, cover over the broken heart. The lack of stability that most of us in the theatre world live with adds to the confusion: we give so much and are rewarded with the insecurity of not knowing where the next job will come from, and if what we do has any merit or value at all, at the end of the day.
So the Seeker must start at the beginning: the first step is the agitation, the subtle level of nervousness that feels slightly uncomfortable, that is always kind of ‘there’, right under our conscious minds. In the Seeker project, we have people moving around, from experience to experience, as the agitation propels us forward on the search. Eventually the search and the overwhelming pressure of too many distractions must make us stop. Stop.
At 29 years old I began the process of ‘stopping’. I was so frayed by a life on the run, spinning out of control, longing for a home to replace the one I had left at a very young age. My home was in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, on the Québec side of the border. I couldn’t wait to leave it so that I could go out into the world and find a better, safer place for myself.
The search began to end when, alone on a road trip through the United States, I parked in a Sedona mall, not knowing where I was going to go next. I saw a sign that said ‘free healing session’ and, because I was lost, I decided to try it out. I remember one of the healers just repeating, almost under his breath, “so much pain, so much pain”. When I got back into my car, I burst into tears – I felt so sad for myself… how had I come to this?
Life then led me to a meditation teacher, whose initial comment to me was: “you are hanging onto life by a thread”. And it was true, I was ready to leave this world of suffering – I saw no way out of it. Then began the years of sitting in meditation halls, becoming familiar with silence, stillness, and eventually peace. I worked with many teachers who taught me the critical role that breath has in the process of transformation. They showed me how to empty the well of sadness I had carried for so long.
I recall weeping in the arms of a fellow meditator, an older woman, who held me in her arms and rocked me like a baby. I stayed in her arms for hours, so deep was my well, as fellow meditators took turns giving her water and supporting her back as she held me and gave me the motherly love that I had so little experience with. My well emptied out and what was left was space: beautiful, peaceful space.
For fifteen years I sat in those halls, heard the most tragic and beautiful stories from people who had come there too, to find some kind of way out of the burdens that life had brought to them. The similarities in between those halls and the theatre space were in no way lost to me – they are close cousins, both spaces for healing, both fully dependent on the power of space, both know, at the core, that space itself is what does all of the healing.
Through healing, I was able to make peace with my past and let it go. That peace allowed me to return to my home, the Gatineau hills, the very same landscape where the wounding had happened in the first place. The land no longer terrorizes me, but rather has transformed into the net that now sustains me. hat I ran away from, I return to, as if returning to the scene of a crime, no longer looking for clues to solve the mystery, but rather to plant a garden in gratitude for everything that it has taught me.
The space of the meditation hall, the theatre, and the breath merge together: space holds life without judgment or fear. My first home was the theatre – that is where I got my first inkling of the power of space. My second home was the meditation hall: that is where space took over my being. My final home is here, on this planet, no longer the walking wounded, but the wounded held by a peace and stillness that is always right here and now. I am deeply grateful for whatever forces that led me here and even more grateful that I have the opportunity to share this story with others.