(excerpt from September 2011 issue)
Mette Bach tunes in to Vancouver’s healing vibes (www.mettebach.com)
I’m on a cleanse. I get reflexology twice a month. I shop at Banyen Books. I can recite Ayurvedic recipes off the top of my head. I am a certified Reiki practitioner and I visit the ocean at least three times a week. Of course I’ve tried rolfing. Of course I get acupuncture. The best part is that none of these things makes me the least bit strange. Why? Because I live in Vancouver.
Every year I have a new solution for the common cold, a regular cure-all. Last year it was tea made from yarrow flowers. The year before that, it was raw garlic. The year before that, oil of oregano. I pick up nuggets of wisdom wherever I go: the traditional medicine farm at UBC, my local health food store and people I meet on the street.
My best friend, Elaine, lives in Toronto. When she called last winter, I could hear from the sound of her voice that she was under the weather, so I rattled off my latest wonder-cure and talked about supplements and the benefits of avoiding dairy.
She replied, “You sound very Vancouver right now.” Vancouver, used as an adjective, was perhaps her way of saying holistic. I know it is sometimes used when people mean to say “flaky” or “New-Agey.” No doubt Vancouver can be another way of saying “woo woo.” Do we mind? Not at all. Most Vancouverites are proud to tote water bottles for optimal hydration and practice yoga for balance. It’s what we do.
This city, after all, is the birthplace of Greenpeace and Buy Nothing Day. The ’60s put Vancouver on the map and attracted a wave of hippies, pacifists and people on spiritual journeys. Even though that era is over, the hippies and seekers keep coming. People around here readily point out that it’s a West Coast “thing.”
Even when I haven’t actively looked for spiritual guidance, in Vancouver the healers have honed in on me as though I emit low-frequency distress calls. It’s nearly impossible to get away from optimism in this town.
One day last summer, I received some bad news. I mean, really bad news. I didn’t know what to do, but I did know that I shouldn’t go to work, that I should take care of myself. Mirsad had taught me that.
Following his direction to put self-care first, I got a haircut—because anyone can attest to the healing powers of a new style—and then I wandered past Garden Health. If Shirley MacLaine is correct, this health-food store is located right at the intersection of the four directions. Allegedly, she has said that the corner of Bute and Davie streets (a mere block from where I live) is the epicenter of the world, where the four peoples of the world will unify. Whoa.
In any case, the shop’s sandwich board announced that an intuitive healer was available there that day. Sure, I thought. What the hell. It couldn’t make me feel worse. Besides, I’d graduated and was no longer able to see Mirsad.
That’s how I met Shelina Manji, a fourth-generation shamanic healer. If I’d belonged to a church, I’d have seen a priest or minister. If I’d gone to a synagogue, I’d have talked with a rabbi. Since I’m more comfortable in Garden Health than I am in a house of worship, Shelina Manji helped me in my time of need. The very idea that I can speak to a shaman at my local health-food store is kind of cool.
She led me into a room that was partitioned off from the store so that other customers couldn’t watch or overhear.
“What would you like?” she asked.
It was a great question.
“I have no idea.”
“Well, I can give you an Indian head massage. I can do reflexology and Reiki.”
“What would you recommend for someone who has just been totally disappointed and devastated?”
“I would recommend asking the Creator for guidance.”
I was not expecting that. But it seemed like a better idea than getting me to choose. After all, who knows better, me or the Creator?
“Do you have specific questions?”
“I suppose I want to know why things happened the way they did.”
I mean, why else would I bother The Big Guy? I have generally stayed out of His way. (Or, er, Her way.)
I was mystified, watching Manji roll her eyes toward the sky to speak to the Creator on my behalf. I wanted her to come back with something inaccurate and vague so that I could call shizzle-sticks on this whole experience, but instead she looked me right in the eyes and spoke with frightening clarity.
“Creator says you didn’t get what you want but you got what was best for you.” She told me I should not be upset. She went on and on, citing situations and conversations that she could not have known about. Freaky did not even begin to cover it. Just when I thought my world was about as rocked as it could get, she added more.
“Creator says this thing you wanted would have taken you off your life’s path. Your life’s path involves work with children from other cultures. It’s about language. You are a teacher.” I do, in fact, teach ESL, and I did come dangerously close to giving it up. If it hadn’t been for that disappointing turn of events, I would have. But that turn of events immediately no longer seemed all that disappointing. I knew it would take my rational mind a lifetime to figure out and explain what had just happened, but that didn’t matter because I left Garden Health feeling light and carefree.
How Shelina Manji speaks to the Creator is none of my business. I didn’t want to figure it out like it was some kind of trick. It was as though she had waved a magic wand, and since I’m not used to magic wands, I couldn’t help but leave my troubles behind. These
days I accept help even when it shows up in surprising ways. I’m a whole lot more willing to entertain the stuff that can’t be proven. I meditate. I take leisure time seriously and make sure I have enough of it in my life. I even bought a piece of amethyst to keep on my windowsill because a cute girl at Banyen Books told me that it clears negativity. I don’t know if that’s true, but it does look pretty when it catches the light, and why shouldn’t I have it? I live in Vancouver, the city where rationality and gemstones co-exist peacefully.