Opening The Heart

“There is nothing more beautiful than the magnificence of the human heart as it reveals itself. I believe that we cannot open our hearts on our own. We must rely upon each other.”

Janie Brown of Callanish

Recently I attended an equinox ceremony at an organization called Callanish in Vancouver. The invitation read, an evening of community, music, poetry and “council”. The council is based on the Quaker concept of unprogrammed worship, which involves sitting in a circle in silence and waiting for a member of the group to feel inspired to speak; there is no obligation to participate; someone participates if they feel drawn to do so. The evening normally starts with some form of musical chant that I find centres me and creates a beautiful environment for sharing. Then Janie Brown, the Executive Director, opens the proceedings with a few words, concluding with the sound of a gong indicating the commencement of the council.

Callanish is a small non-profit organization dedicated to improving the emotional and spiritual life of people living with cancer. I became acquainted with them through my work with Inspire Health and had heard a lot of positive feedback about their work. The circle at the equinox gathering consists of people living with cancer, some family members, employees of Callanish and friends and supporters like me. Ironically my initial visit to one of the councils happened by mistake. I thought I was going to a fundraising cocktail party but had got the nights wrong, the cocktails were the following week. However by the time I realized there appeared to be no wine or appetizers, it seemed too late to back out.

The result was an amazingly real, very moving, positive experience which has had me coming back ever since. The courage, the open heartedness, the ability to share challenges, the creativity that Callanish helps to engender, are all components of an evening which I know helps to open my heart. I realized at my first gathering that this was a real gift for me. I was at the time of my life when I had become more conscious of the guardedness around my heart. I think like many males I found emotions to be scary.

Recently I came across these words by Max Strom. “Sacred body, temple of the Divine, impermanent home of my soul, which is who I am: I invite you to unfold, to open, to release the armor and protection I have been holding for so long. I now realize this armor is no longer necessary, and it is time to flourish and blossom, to fulfill my destiny in this lifetime—in this world. It is time to allow all of my light, power, and mercy to shine forth, for the benefit of my own evolution and all other sentient beings as we move together toward the Light.” I know that letting go of this armor and protection is not easily accomplished in isolation and Callanish provides an opportunity for me to feel my heart opening with love, compassion and admiration for the brave souls who share their stories. As Janie says that in order to open our hearts we must rely on each other.

You can find out more about Callanish at

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