When Rev. Dr. Kenn Gordon found himself paddling for his life on a harrowing kayak trip between the Broken Islands, he knew there were only two things he could rely on: his compass and his map.
Gordon spellbound an audience of 50 members of the Centre for Spiritual Living Campbell River Friday as he revealed how this idyllic trip turned to terror when fog rose up and he, along with his then 16-year-old daughter and three other family members realized they were in trouble.
“You couldn’t see your hand in front of you. It was a terrifying feeling,” he said. “And if you gave up, you couldn’t turn around and go back. You had to keep the pathway, and you had to keep turning to things that you could trust – our chart, and our compass – in order to see where we were going.”
Gordon is the Spiritual Leader of Centres for Spiritual Living, which has more than 400 communities around the globe. He was here to celebrate and acknowledge the 15 years since his student, Spiritual Director Rev. Jill Brocklehurst-Booth, founded the local centre on Quadra Island.
Gordon used the kayak trip to illustrate how we can choose to navigate difficult situations in our lives, including the current climate of violence, environmental uncertainty, and political upheaval.
“There comes a time that you can’t see the beach that you’re leaving, and you can’t see where you’re heading either,” he told the audience. And as the swells came up, the three kayaks struggled to stay aright. His sister was in a single-man kayak, without anyone to help paddle.
Gordon said he could hear her cries that she couldn’t do it. Her husband followed her voice and turned his kayak around, as did Gordon, and they tied their kayaks together, finally paddling to safety.
“We all know people like that, and we can’t abandon them, and we can’t afford to stop. We manage it through the use of the sangha – the spiritual community that comes together when we are lost in the fog,” he said.
Gordon said his compass is his faith, and the work is to keep paddling despite appearances, so we can get to the other side.
“The world right now, with all the injustice, the inadequacy, the violence – we are between islands. We are in a fog,” he said. “I allow myself to do the work, and my work is to keep paddling.”
Gordon thanked Brocklehurst-Booth for being among those who keep paddling, who provides a vessel that helps others get to shore.
Marilyn McPhee is one of those people. A Quadra Island resident, she’s been coming since the beginning.
“I remember having the realization that being happy is a choice, and once I chose to be happy it just opened everything up,” she said. “Today, I’m actually creating the life that I choose. I’m doing my life’s work because of this teaching. I live where I live, because of this teaching. I am filled up and overjoyed with beautiful people in my life because of this teaching.”
Brocklehurst-Booth thanked her teachers for the knowledge they shared with her, and in a brief ceremony used a rose crystal to remind everyone that its refracted light symbolizes the diversity of light that each person is, and it is this light within that carries everyone through the fog of life.
“You created this rainbow of activity that is here today,” she said. “We can’t plan this. And yet here it is.”