Like a honed, double-edged sword, I’ll use my wits to cut through chatter. Like an arrow, I’ll pierce your hearts with my eyes looking into yours. Like a feather or a whip, I’ll bring laughter or tears with my mind. Like a high calibre rifle, I’ll shoot from my heart through my lips, for I am the Gentle Warrior.
I’ve made friends out of my enemies and vice versa. When I was in Seaton House, I met a young man and he looked out of place. I asked him, “What are you doing in a place like this?” He told me that he read about it and wanted to see what it’s like to live that way. I told him, “Living it is a lot different than reading about it!”
A man here at PARC was giving Alice and my friends a hard time. With a calm voice, I told him, “You upset my wife and friends, you’re upsetting me,” and he walked away. In the past I used my fists, but now I use my head and my heart. If I can do it, other people can do it. I might still get angry, but the lashing out part is different. I’ve gotten calmer and calmer. Being calm is much safer, I respect myself more, and it gives others time to think about their actions too.
I’ll never forget when I first met Jason, a PARC member in his twenties. He reminded me of me when I was young and angry. Tragically Jason committed suicide and ever since his death I knew I wanted to have support for survivors helping survivors. I like mindfulness because it goes hand in hand with helping people; it supports self-healing, self-reliance, and independence from drugs and alcohol. I wish we could have helped Jason and I want other people like Jason to have a safe and comforting space to come to, like the mindfulness group.
I think everyone would benefit from mindfulness. We support each other as a community and we practice mindful communication, like mindful listening and responding instead of reacting. We also try to be compassionate to ourselves and to others. I feel more changes in me–in my body, in my life, and in my mind. My body feels calmer, but I still can’t do the full lotus position! Mindfulness helps me to focus and to live in the moment. It’s for survivors helping survivors.
John is a member of Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC). He participates in the weekly mindfulness group for PARC staff, members and volunteers and actively contributes to many other programs at PARC. Located in the heart of Parkdale, PARC works with members on issues of poverty, mental health, addictions, homelessness and food security and provides a drop-in centre, a peer-support program, an outreach program and supportive housing. The true meaning of PARC is reflected in its mission: “A community where people rebuild their lives.”