A lifetime of travel has led me to appreciate the power of perspective on the moment. At times, as I move through my work day in Toronto, an inner giggle bubbles up from within, and I see the streets of East York as though they were a borough in Scandinavia. The supermarket where I get my daily needs becomes a Tesco in England or a Carrefour in France. Similarly, I have cooked rice over a camp stove by the back of my musical tour van in a campground in North Carolina that I had never seen before, and felt welcomed by my natural surroundings. As a young and searching yogini, I slept on rooftops in India, carrying nothing but a backpack, and felt a sense of richness. Any sense of humdrum lifts as I access an enthusiasm for life found when traveling. I can feel in the here and now, wide-eyed and receptive, no matter where I may be.
Montreal, where I was born, came to life for me on a recent weekend visit in a way I had not expected. Though I brought my friends to some of my favorite areas – such as the trendy Plateau where I used to own a yoga studio, the Westmount Lookout where I had my first kiss, the Old City’s wharf where I had my first heartbreak – I had never felt more like a tourist, viewing with fresh and welcoming eyes what I had known for so long.
In this, the weekend nourished my spiritual self, showing me that I do not need to tint my perception of the present with colouring from my past. In a way, the past never really was. It is only a perception of the moment – in this case, the way I saw life through the lens I carried at that time. If I were someone else, I would have another past. If I were a Buddha, it all would simply be. Each moment would arise in an expansive field of isness. There would be no “this is good” or “this is bad”. In the face of praise or shame, there would be no identification with life happening to “me”, inflating a sense of either conquering or being defeated by the moment.
For years, I have perceived much of my past as a series of memories to be released, and the notion of my future as something to build with the choices I make today. Through this process of healing, I have come to see the value in resting in my cultural roots and accepting them as a part of me, without identifying with them as being who or what I am. They have created the story of my life, this transitory experience through time. I have learned to cherish the rich colours of my past, savouring the sweetness of my francophone and European upbringing, while understanding that the way I saw them in my formative years was a reflection of my previous karmic tendencies. We have a tendency to push and pull at our experiences, feeling “this experience was bad so I don’t want to think about it” or “this experience was good so I want to hold on to it”. Yet neither pushing nor pulling is needed. We can simply witness, without attachment or aversion that create resistance to the moment.
Though I am from an English-speaking family, all of my education was in a French microcosm at a European lycée, le Collège international Marie de France in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges- Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area. The students, the teachers, even our books and paper were from France. There, I was “anglais”, a sub-group of the school, and hung out with other English friends who were in the same category. We were fluently francophone, but when we were out in the city, the distinctly European accent of our French always led others to ask us where we were from. Not Québécois but from Quebec, I had the similar feeling in the city to that I had at my school – being a part of yet not a part.
My inner healing has been a process of integrating this schism into a feeling of wholeness. Part of how I have dealt with this in the past was by feeling I was a citizen of the world. But I have come to realize that somehow in the idea of being a world national, I had adopted another identity that has kept my past in Montreal at arm’s length. I can now see that though I am at home on our beautiful planet Earth as a whole, I am also very much at home in the city of Montreal. I can feel grounded in the colours of my past without feeling attached to them.
I am no more a Montrealer than I am not one. Yet, my physical experience of being in form, and the layers and ripples in my personality, have been very much shaped by this city. I welcome Montreal into the totality of my life experience and see it as part of the whole, all of which is transitory.
Through this, I continue to develop the notion of being a perennial traveler, a spiritual being passing through life here, cherishing the moment, opening to what is right here and now with a receptive sense of freshness.
I wish you the experience of seeing that which is humdrum or habitual in your life with the eyes of a tourist. May you witness the landscapes of your formative years, however they may have been for you, with appreciation, neither pushing them away nor pulling them in. May you experience the light of possibility no matter where you may be.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of, Confessions) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.