Eighteen Months In (Raphael’s Version): Life At SoulFullHeart Sanctuary


By Raphael Awen

As my wife, Jelayan said in her blog yesterday of the same title, it has been 18 months living here in a remote sanctuary. Four of us along with three dogs and a bag of cash set out in two vehicles packed with everything we owned, to leave Canada, drive south through the United States to find sanctuary in Mexico.

The decision to leave behind home, country and career was strangely both difficult and easy.

It was difficult in that I was choosing to let go of the security of a 30-year long career as a painting contractor that had gotten easy and comfortable over time. In our last 2 years in Canada, we had relocated from busy Vancouver to the quiet of a ferry access only community on the Sunshine Coast. We had simplified life considerably, went through personal bankruptcy as part of that, and at every juncture, asked ourselves ‘What are we doing and why?’

What made the decision easy was the conviction that my calling in life was not to maintain a standard of living, and then see if there was any leftover time, money or energy to pursue what really mattered to me. I knew, with ever increasing awareness, that to hang on to a career whose time was winding down, even though it was more rewarding than it ever had been in many ways, was to miss a window of purpose and calling.

Jelayan and I had been intensely together for the past six years before we left Canada. Our love and connection seemed to burn up setting after setting in our life together. Just putting in time in some collectively idealized lifestyle of ‘getting ahead’ we both knew would be the end of us. Every spirituality or healing modality we checked into did not draw us. The one we were offering in Canada wasn’t drawing people’s attention beyond a very select few. Life was calling us and asking us to take a big step into the unknown. My attention had been given also to a growing awareness of the unfolding collapse of industrial civilization. Expecting life to continue as it had I knew to be a child’s demand.

We ended up here at what we named Soulfullheart Sanctuary, a place to ‘be’ what we are about and offer to others who feel drawn to what we offer. The external changes were rapid fire. Living without an income meant that every purchase had a feeling to digest connected to our dwindling nest egg. We began by living in tents out of suitcases and plastic tubs. The tent zippers and poles soon gave out and keeping up with some sort of jerry rigged repair regimen soon fell apart. A feeling of powerlessness came up often related to not being able to just haul off and buy new stuff, or go out and get the tools and materials to perform a skookum repair. Our two wheel drive vehicles had to be parked on the other side of a river a kilometer from home. That meant doing more things on foot, like carrying groceries and hauling dirt. Our single panel solar system was a god-send, but was soon tested by lightning and our 2000 watt inverter had to be replaced with our 250 watt standby. Holes in shoes and shirts, and straps falling off sandals were and are a daily part of the commentary here. I’ve never seen what a pair of shoes could come to look like if I simply kept wearing them.

The nest egg of money pooled together has since run out, and we have found new ways to draw modest income, after learning to live on less than 10 percent of what we used to. I was shocked after a year in doing some budget arithmetic to learn that the four of us were living off less than what I used to spend on a daily trip to Starbucks habit.

The transformation of lifestyle change is almost too difficult to describe to someone deeply embedded in a western culture and lifestyle. I couldn’t have imagined how this would have looked and felt before choosing it. I knew we would survive. I knew life would help us find a way. I knew that I needed to choose a lifestyle that was about giving back to life the deepest gifts I had to give and that only then could I ask life to support me and help me live into the transformation that would follow. I didn’t know what it would come to look like.

As Jelayan wrote, the experience of rarely hearing a sound of industrial noise, being with plants and animals, being with constructing homes from natural materials (our first cob structure has all of 100 dollars invested) has expanded us to feeling and tracking inner guidance and reflection. My personal sense of being a human being continues to expand and grow. My sense of connection with love, with god, with parts of myself, with guides, with nature opens out more and more.

The quiet here and the natural beauty here has also been a challenge to let in and be with. After 50 plus years in cities and towns along with the industrial trappings, one doesn’t let go of that without a reaction. Many could easily project onto the picture of our setting and choice an idealism that doesn’t square with the reality. No, we don’t need an alarm clock; we don’t commute to work. I am in a vehicle for less than a couple hours a week, instead a few hours a day. All of that could look quite appealing to people who are feeling stuck in a dead-end lifestyle. There are deep challenges to come to terms with that come with these changes.

The dead-end lifestyle, as difficult as it is to bear and be with, has for most one thing that makes it nearly impossible to part with. That something is a feeling of predictability and security. It’s not that I no longer have these needs. I am more in touch with those needs than I ever have been. Because I feel my need for feeling provided for and cared for, rather than suppressing it, I have chosen a lifestyle that allows me to feel that for myself. Above all, there is time, space and permission to feel everything.

I have a few feelings bubbling up right now. A big one is gratitude. I actually ‘get’ to do this. I get to be in this adventure. Another feeling is anticipation of things to come. Life never stays the same unless we are employing some big resistance mechanism trying to keep it that way. I get to live into that unknown and that anticipation. Even if that means something fearful like running out of money and facing hunger, (something that hasn’t come up yet) I get to be all of me; I get to experience that from my heart in touch with all of life; I get to experience that and navigate that in deep and profound connection with my mate, with myself, with others and with the divine.

THAT’s hot stuff people!

Raphael Awen is an author and teacher at SoulFullHeart Sanctuary. Visit SoulFullHeart Sanctuary for more information about staying at the Sanctuary and virtual sessions. Please visit our Patreon Page if you’d like to support SoulFullHeart Sanctuary. 

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