The Course - Welcoming Night

The roads we choose to navigate through life are as
unique as ourselves.

Like snowflakes, no two are alike.

Experience an opportunity to decide what works
for you and what doesn’t. It’s all a choice.

There are no rights and no wrongs with the course.

No test.









The Course - Welcoming Night

The grand foyer of the law library on the university’s campus was the perfect setting for the welcoming night
for the course: the marble floors decorated with brass inlay, the intricately carved ornate wood paneling and
the waning sunlight streaming through stained glass windows radiated learning energy, thinker energy and history
from every corner. One couldn’t help but feel strong and solid in the room.

Registering one hundred and ninety-five attendees was busy and fraught with frustration when registrants didn’t
receive private rooms as requested and found out they were in a dorm sharing a bathroom and kitchen. At the
end of the day everyone was satisfied, wrinkles ironed out and the light-hearted buzz in the foyer was testament
to the staff and volunteers who made things happen.

In the corner of the foyer was a non-descript raised platform placed in front of a massive stained glass window
that faced east. Rae Ketchum was handed a wireless microphone by Suzanne, the lead for the team running the course.

“It’s after eight, time for your welcoming speech,” Suzanne winked.

Rae smiled sweetly, placing a calm hand on her arm, giving it a light squeeze. “You are the best at keeping me on
schedule.” Moistening her lips, rotating her shoulders before tossing them back, she stood tall and flicked on the

“Hello and welcome to YOUR seven day adventure,” echoed loudly throughout the foyer.

People shuffled about looking for the person behind the voice as the buzz in the room slowed to a trickle.

Rae deliberately paused a few long seconds before repeating her words, this time softer, pausing again for effect.
Stepping on the platform she repeated the words with a heart-felt lilt in her voice, capturing peoples eyes in hers,
pausing to personally nod a silent welcome to those who didn’t look away.

“I am so very pleased, yes so very pleased to welcome all of you.” She parted her feet, similar to a military pose,
yet gentler. Placing her free hand over her heart she continued, “Each and every one of you have made a
commitment to yourself. I honour you for taking the time to get to know yourself again.” Her eyes welled up.
“All of us, each of us, our individual journey to this point in time is something to be proud of…” Rae pulled back
the corner of her mint green linen jacket and deliberately placed a hand in the hip pocket of cream pants.

“We all question why our lives are the way they are, whether the question is chronic or simply spoken during a
tough stretch. We seek therapy, counseling, whether professional or over a cup of joe with a pal…we seek guru’s,
we read a plethora of books, we take courses, we join like-minded groups, meditate, see psychics, travel to India
and we try different religions, rebirthing, regression, channeling, numerology, astrology, aroma therapy, chi
gong...the list goes on.

“All of these different modalities are perfect for us at that moment in time. Past, present and future. That is why
we gravitated toward them, that is why they were, are presented to us at that time and yes, they help us, give us
a boost, a new direction, a different way to look at life and the way we live it.

“It is all good!”

Right on cue, Suzanne slid a stool on to the stage. Rae pulled it over and sat, hooking the heel of a loafer on a
rung with the other firmly planted on the stage. She brushed her shoulder length brown hair behind an ear.

“You are taking seven days out of your life on this planet to seek the answers to the questions you have…you are
already a champion. Why? Because you have committed to yourself, not to me, not to the person standing next to
you…to yourself.

“I was told by an attendee she was here ‘cause her partner made her come; both are attending the course. It
is their last ditch effort at making their relationship work. My response was, why the HELL are you in that

A wave of shock washed across faces in the foyer, not so much from the strength in Rae’s voice, but from her
switch in energy. Everyone felt it. Even Suzanne and the crew, who immediately snapped to attention and they
were accustomed to her ability to instantly flip to a strong energy to accentuate a point.

Rae chuckled, attendees relaxed, some letting out a breath they didn’t realize they were holding.

“She had the same look on her face as all of you did,” Rae laughed heartedly, tossing open her palm to accentuate
the point.
“Come on now, last ditch effort?! Those three words summed up their entire relationship in under
five seconds.” Rae stood slowly. “Listen to the words you speak. They tell you more about yourself, where you are
at and what you want to know than drawing any tarot card or rune stone.

“In 1995, I journeyed on a quest, a solo quest to get to know myself again. On the spur of the moment I
went to Tofino, BC, for seven days.” Rae paced the platform, grabbing hold of people’s eyes in the audience.
“Catching a late ferry to Nanaimo, I scoured the racks of brochures in search of the section for Tofino. Planting
myself in front of the area I called hotels to book a room: I arrived there just after midnight.

“Upon checking in I told the owners I didn’t want room service. When I required new towels or sheets
changed I would let them know.

“I had hastily packed a duffle bag full of supplies: sage, sweet grass, copal, charcoal pucks, crystals, candles, rune
stones, journal, hiking gear, day pack, water...” a mischievous grin inched across her face.” …wine infused with a
spicy cigar box oak aroma, frosty ice cold beer…” she winked, the audience murmured a chuckle,“…fruit,
snacks…I was prepared for anything and commenced building my container in what was to be my sanctuary for
seven days. I had no clue what was to unfold, nor did I care.

“I only knew I wanted to find out who I was - I wanted to get to know myself.” She cocked an eyebrow at
the crowd. “I spent the previous three years dedicated to my spiritual growth and had a love, hate relationship
with the process.

"I put myself in cognitive therapy and spiritual therapy. I worked with my mind and the life
events that brought me to that point in time, then would immediately leap into spiritual therapy whether that was
channeling, rebirthing, past life regression and so on. A stellar individual crossed my path that was not only a
registered therapist but a firm believer in New Age practices and she was trained in various modalities of that

Rae snapped her free arm wide. “I HIT THE JACKPOT.”

Carefully tucking the hand into a pocket she let the words linger a moment. When the energy shifted, she
continued, “I hiked forests, trails, miles and miles of beaches. I wrote page after page in my journal, I talked
to myself and let life’s moments engulf me. I would sit for hours staring at a pool of sea urchins and starfish
feeling what it was like to be them. I would rest for hours against logs in desolate spots on beaches tapping into
the rhythm of mother earth, staring out at sea.

“I would stand at the waters edge and experience the pull of the tide go in and out at my feet, the strong tug
as the waves were sucked back from where they came, my feet sinking deep in the sand, into the womb of
mother earth,” she swept a hand up her body, “drawing goodness up through me,” she brushed the back of the
hand down, “releasing stuff away to be transmuted to love and joy. A process of emptying and re-filling that was
repeated over and over.

Rae dragged the stool closer, resting a hand on the seat. “It was a wonderful five days." She broke into a slow,
wide smirk.

“On the sixth I went to Florencia Bay and walked the rock strewn beach for miles until I felt an old weathered
tree drawing me in. This massive structure was various shades of grey, bleached from years lying on its side on
the beach totally exposed to the elements.

"An old tree, this I could tell by the sheer size of its exposed gnarly root ball…I nestled myself next to it,
laid out my blanket, placed my crystals purposefully around, journal, water and other things and leaned back.

"I let the rhythm of the earth lull me, the sound of the waves caress me and the warmth of the sun cradle me.

“There wasn’t a soul in sight.” Rae walked to the side of the platform and snapped out a hand. “I had the entire
bay to myself.” Suzanne placed a book in it. Rae held it up.

“I am going to read you what I wrote that day.” Rae leaned against the stool and flipped open a well used
journal. “It is titled: The Turning Point.

“One life (this time) one story, one amazing person (me) who had the courage to be the very best they could be. It has
not been without trials and tribulations – Oh No! The T&T’s in life is what brought me to this point.

I sit nestled up to a tree that died a long time ago, fallen of the cliff behind me. Its character and vitality, although
dead, exposed to the elements which have been, over the years, harsh and unkind to this soulless being, was once a
grand tree, this I can tell by the roots and long straight trunk that would have borne many a tall branches. The only
thing left are the stories I could conjure up by looking at this empty shell.

Although no soul lives in it any longer – the diva since been long gone –it tells me a story about my life.

The twists and the gnarls of the once mighty roots remind me of my awakening years ago when I first came into this
world. I was not so pleased at being contained in this Carbon Unit that had an EGO! Going into body in the womb I
fought all the way. ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ I shouted as I was becoming human – spirit forms don’t think

My spirit side knew and wanted the experiences which were to unfold.

As I became enmeshed in this melon like host, I pulled down the veil that took me years to pull up.

Let’s not forget the tree: its gnarled roots tell me it was once sturdy and had strength. These roots went deep into the
earth for nourishment, encouragement and energy until it let go of its foundation.

That about sums up the first part of the Carbon Unit’s life. At a very young age of two or three (and I distinctly
remember doing this) I did not want this Carbon Unit's B.S. anymore, so I climbed up on the hope chest, grabbed the
drapery cord (mother tied them high in knots like a noose so we wouldn’t play with them), slipped my head through
the bottom half and jumped off.

Relief finally, I thought, but my spirit side said no, this is not why I am here. I am here to learn and to open up others
to the veil which is clouding them. Low and behold, as if on cue, my soul sister Sue came in and saw me, and ran and
got Mom. Mom pulled me out and told me years later I was blue in the face.

My soul sister Sue how I enjoy her in spirit form now. She died at twenty-four and was my best friend, one who knew
me better than myself. That was our contract and much more, and that is another story in itself.

My very first psychic experiences were as a young child. Seeing colours and people who weren’t of this plane. I was
told they were my imaginary friends and didn’t exist. OH the things in society and our culture, what we have done to
ourselves over the many years is very sad: the masks, preconceived notions of what truly is all but an illusion.

So not being able to leave this plane and not being able to play and talk to my imaginary friends, because surely they
didn’t exist, I put my head down and bulled ahead through life with my warrior side up front to deflect and defend
myself. I created a chasm, a deep pit in which I lived for many years, until after her death, my soul sister Sue came
back to visit me and she reminded me truly how things are meant to be.

For a brief moment in time I understood and remembered the way it is to be.

But still didn’t believe it ‘cause I was in this warrior mode (DAMM EGO) and liked where I was. Where no one (and
I am only referring to myself) could touch me.

Ah, the tree and all its splendor. When it let go of its foundation it went for a long fall, to its slow death totally
exposed to the elements. A death it chose to have. A choice of a way to live.

Yup, that’s me, warrior, warrior, warrior all the way. I should be a General by now for all the battles I fought against

So, since it is a battle with the self, I do, hereby, decree you, Rae Ketchum, rank – warrior, ID #, who knows and who
cares, to be a four star General in the battle of beating yourself up over the years. CONGRATULATIONS.

Till finally one day I decided to let go of my supports and tear down this house of a pit I created. It was a slow and
sometimes not so steady process starting consciously four years ago. Three to be exact when I made a choice to pull
up that veil and see what it is I am missing in this Carbon Unit’s life.

Oh sure whose to say I didn’t have fun on the way… and look at all those good times.

But, you know, it was the ‘bad’ times that I grew from, when I allowed myself to and didn’t crawl back into my pit.
The times I put fear (THAT DAMM EGO AGAIN) aside and lived in my heart and truly listened to my heart for what
it was telling me, everything flowed naturally and easily.

HUH, I said, after experiencing these times more and more, what’s this? If I listen to my heart and not my head
everything seems to turn out okay.”

Rae paused, engaging attendees' eyes. “An island was in the middle of the bay and at that precise moment of
writing a massive crack from a falling tree on that island echoed around the bay. A truly, magnificent experience.”
She allowed a moment of silence to ripple across the foyer before she continued.

“This tree reminds me of my journey to this point in my life. I have honoured myself the time to get to know myself
again and I like what I see.

A death of a way of living by letting go of your foundation and supports, but something always lives on.

For a moment today I left my tree, my new found companion, and strolled the shore with my head down focused on
what was immediately in front of me. The pebbles blemished the sand as they were spaced quite far apart. I looked off
to my right and saw footprints. These would be mine from a previous stroll (or was it a previous journey?).

I’ve been this route before but I appear to be on a different path. ODD. I looked back at where I had come and saw
ahead to where I was going and thought, wait a minute there four star General Ketchum, this is exactly the strategy
for a loved filled life.

There is no need for it to be hard, only if you choose it to be. It can be easy and fun.

As I continued to stroll the pebbles grew closer together. I realized I needed to plot my course around them for an
even path. The more I walked, the bigger and closer together they became. I had to walk on them and mind my step.
I had to walk slower as my path was growing increasingly hard and treacherous. I glanced forward to my goal and
dared not glance backwards. I did not want to fall. I did stumble a few times but always regained my balance.

With focused intent I marched on to the beat of a new strategy. A new path, a new way of walking. As soon as I
thought I had enough of the boulders and the difficult path, the stones started to grow increasingly smaller and were
spreading out from one another.

I looked up and my goal was there…right in front of me.

I looked beyond that goal to another spot on the beach and with head held high I marched on marveling at the steep
eroded cliffs and the rain forest that sat on top, the beach strewn with logs and piles of sea kelp artistically
placed creating an ever changing image as the tide came in and out.

I reached my goal and felt a sense of relief. The turning point to which I returned from.

The waves sang their song as I turned on my heels and walked back from where I had come. The exhaustion I felt as
I dropped my heavy coats and shed my old skin, although, walking was easier and had new rhythm. Every once in a
while I would trip on a pebble, a gentle reminder to remain focused and I know this reminder will stay with me for
the rest of this life.

As I glanced from side to side I realized I could not see my footprints leading me to my goal. I looked back and saw
my footprints behind me, but others were nowhere in sight. It wasn’t the waves erasing their memory as I walked
high above the shore line.

Yes, this was the affirmation I needed to conclude I had in fact closed that door on the old way of life.

Yes, my structure was gone and only my foundation remained. A solid base that brought me to this point. And that
base will always be under my feet as I build my new structure with new tools and a new way of living. Free to build
on my path as I choose. Clear of all previous habits, patterns, preconceived notions…room by room, nail by nail and
this building process will take the rest of this lifetime in this Carbon Unit.

I saw my friendly tree down the beach with one root pointing up to the heavens and another pointing out west to the

As I nestled in amongst its roots, warming my soul in the sun, using its trunk as my back support, I thanked this
tree for what it taught me. I honoured its spirit…where ever it was, as I honoured my own for allowing these
experiences to flow through me.

The sun was slowly closing the day, casting long autumn shadows across the beach. It was time for me to go. It was
no coincidence I nestled into that tree. It called me there for a reason.

It told me it was only dead wood now, but its spirit, its new way of life lives on.

And you, my friend, General Ketchum have closed that door and opened a new one filled with wonderment and

Your new journey has just begun!

May you always trip when you need reminding of the lesson, the turning point you reached on the beach.”

Tears streamed down Rae’s face. She smiled sweetly at the audience, giving a slight bow, letting the energetic
imprint of her experience settle.

One person clapped weakly and softly. Then another, and another until the foyer was full of sound; a drum beat
of thanks for sharing her journey.

Rae placed her hands in prayer position, bowing deeply to the crowd, then stepped off the platform and exchanged
the mic for Kleenex from Suzanne.

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