My name is Reverend Karen Harrison, and I. I want to acknowledge the Earth to the Earth ancestors and hearing the venerable chai and the song as the many sun gather. Marcus son. I I’m born here in Canada and my ancestors are from Northern Ontario and also from the Ukraine. And growing up as a little girl, we would go up north and go. We would do a lot of time out in in the woods, in the bush, as they say. And both my mother and father are from up north, and they’re farmers, too. And so growing up, we learned to love nature, to love the Earth. And I learned as a kid that I was from my father’s side of the family. We had indigenous blood. My father and my father’s family was very uncomfortable with this. So the only time we really could be free around that spiritual route was when we were up north or we were out in the wild, and then we felt at ease to just be ourselves. So that was the early development for me because today actually it is the summer solstice here on Turtle Island. It is the day where we recognize our indigenous ancestors here on Turtle Island. And so it’s still a journey began making, but it’s one that really touched me deeply when I was a kid. I, I love to be up north. I love to hang out with bears and pick blueberries and just be outside. And so that that was another universe for me, because when you come to the city, I felt not that comfortable. So my spirituality developed from that awareness from my aunts, really, it was my aunts that really nurtured my sense of spirituality, both on my mother’s side and my father’s side.

 On my mother’s side, I had an aunt who was an artist and she also was a revolutionary artist and a very independent woman. And she she went her own way. And she was very, very independent. And she studied art. And she did quite well as a darkness. And she was a very dear woman. She encouraged us to look for our creativity, let the world up inside of us to be who we were. And so when I was with my as mindfulness siren, when I was with my as a life was the paintbrush, life was the canvas. And that’s the way she treated it. She was just very independent and free. So that’s where my spiritual roots started. And also I can remember past lives to a little bit of the past life experience, but I can’t say too much about that because more people don’t understand it. I barely understand it, but I do have some memories from the time I was really, really young. I’d say maybe two years or something like that. Very young. I took I had these images of past lives that I have lived and that I had some interesting experiences. But you don’t talk about that in an urban environment, but children children receive this. And I was lucky that I could receive this, too. And so that nurtured me in my spirituality because I had this feeling. This is not the first time here on this earth I’ve been here before, and I didn’t understand. But I had that rooted feeling. I’ve been here before. Yeah, I get too much. Yeah. No, no, that’s just the start, you know? So I think so. And so you’ve given a sense of, you know, it’s having influence on your spiritual foundation. Yeah. And so that was through your teenage years. And so I guess the question becomes, you know, you know, after high school, college, like, how did things open up given that foundation? You know, you obviously you were raised in nature and that was also nurturing of the spiritual connection. Yeah. You know, so that’s what I got. And then so I guess, I guess maybe more formally as you enter adult life, how was her that spirituality cultivated or sort of pivot or, you know, so just kind of give us a little history of that aspect. Reverend Yeah, I had a teenager. I was very curious about everything and I had a boyfriend who loved insects. He was a zoologist and he loved animals and insects. And we used to go canoeing together. And so one day he says to me, I want you to come to my parents house and meet a llama. And I thought, Oh, oh, this is very wonderful because you like animals, you like insects, insects. And here you have fabulous parents. Your parents have a lemon. Their home. So I thought, what a llama. So of course I said, yes, yes, I’ll come. I’ll come over. And I came over and I said, okay, where do your parents keep the llama? And like this was a this was in Rosedale. And I thought, well, how can you have a llama in Rosedale, which is a very affluent place in Toronto? So I met the parents and this was very strange. They were exploring the paranormal. They had an interest in that and so they said, Come, come up to the third floor, you’ll meet the llama. And I said, Oh, you see you have the llama living well, yeah, up in the attic here. So anyways I went up and there was this gentleman sitting cross-legged on the floor in crimson robes and I said, I don’t see a llama. This is just a human being sitting here. And if you see a human being, what are you saying? 

You know, and I don’t have to worry about rebirth,
but I’m sure it happens because
I saw it already and, you know, and it is scientific

This is a llama. This is not a lobo. Well, the llama turned around and he smiled. He said, I’ve been waiting for you that day. And I said, Oh, thank you. I’ve come to me the llama, but I don’t see one. He said, I feel the same. I have the same thought as you. And I said, Well, so what are you doing here? He says, I’m Tibetan. And he said, I sit here and I do meditation and I, I drink tea. And I said, Oh, this is wonderful. So I forgot about the llama. The llama was no, no interest to me anymore, I thought. Interesting, interesting guy. So we start we had we had tea. He put butter in it and I was like, oh, this is too much. This is very thick tea. And so we we had a good time together. We joked and and that and now we had the visit. And, and then I left and I said, Yeah, well, it doesn’t matter if I didn’t meet my it’s a very nice man I met. So I later on found out he was the lama and so that was what I first was introduced and I said, what is he. Well my boyfriend said, he’s a he’s a Buddhist lama and he’s all cool. And I said, oh, oh, okay. So I didn’t know I was like I said, well, that’s I guess that’s that’s wonderful. So then I went to a poetry conference in Boulder, Colorado, and I was very interested in Oregon poetry. And I met Allen Ginsberg there, and I met the Grateful Dead. Allen Ginsberg and, you know, Gregory Corso and he Wolfman a Bob Dylan. I just hung out there and Allen Ginsberg came up to me one day and he said, Do you look like you could try some meditation like Merton? And I said, Oh, okay. And so he brought me to a little room and there were other people there. And he said, You know, you just sit and breathe. I said, you? Well, he says, Yes, that’s all. So I did it. I sat and I breathe. He came up to me afterwards. He said, How did you like that? I said, You know, everything’s just happening. It is just like it is. Is that all there is? And she said, yes. And I said, okay, so it’s all good. It’s just fine. I said, I think I’ll do this more. And I said, I like it. You know, I like it because I’m too active.


On Activism

But I’ve learned I’ve learned that no matter how hard you protest, you’re just you’re just it’s a river flowing, right? And if the energy is going in that direction and the conditions are right, the conditions that you might want can develop. If you see conditions that are very harmful, you don’t have to do a lot.

He said, Good. Where you where you sit more. And I said, Yes, I get on that. So I started it. I started studying more and I would sit with Mr. Ginsberg and all these poets. And I didn’t think what it was really, but I liked it. So I started doing meditation. Then when I came back to Toronto after that, I met a couple of Zen masters, and I, I thought I’d done everything because I, I had been sitting and breathing. So I thought that was all there was. You go. So I got myself into a bit of trouble. I went to a Zen temple with the Koreans and master. And it was very formal, you know, sticks and bells and everything. And I said to the Zen master, well, it’s a bit complicated. Here you go. And I said, Why don’t you just sit and breathe that? And he was like, You know, what do you know? And I said, Well, I was told it’s about singing in Britain. So I thought I knew everything. And obviously I didn’t. And I, I got it a lot, you know, and he was very kind and the whole sangha was very kind. And I met I met a lot of great people. I then met one of my partners. And after sitting more and more, I thought, Oh, maybe I would like to become a nun. The Zen master said to me, You’re your trouble. You wouldn’t last year, the nun, you’re too active, you know. And I said, I’ve heard that before. Yes, you’re too active. So, you know, you have to you have to practice, practice, practice. And so I we did a little bit of a I guess and babble and I was of course, I lost and, you know, so I realized, no, I’m not nun material. And then I thought I had met some Koreans and masters, I had met some Japanese masters then and I thought, Oh, and I done this. And and I thought, oh, this is too hard. This is way too strict. And what I, I can’t do this. I need somebody who was a little gentler and that and who understands me a little bit better because I’ll never I’ll never fit in if it’s very complicated, have like a ritual, I have to be more natural. And so I, I met a Zen master, kidnaped her. And the first way I met him, it was in the late seventies, early eighties. I was very active. I was a peace activist. I was involved in the anti-nuclear movement. Oh, there was a big march in New York City, which Tai was involved with, and we had an international organization and I did a 61 day fellows to I wanted to save the world from nuclear weapons. And I failed. I failed still. But we’re getting better. But I failed. But anyway. So I fell 61 days and I thought, oh, the environment is getting the pollution is getting worse. There’s so much world hunger. And I felt this too. And he had been organizing internationally for a long time. And he made connections with the the community of reconciliation and he had been very involved in interfaith dialog and peace work too. So I met Chai through that because he was one of the people who approved of the international and global movement. We were creating and we were creating with the Japanese Buddhist monks or Vietnamese, the American Buddhist monks, the Jewish community, the Christian community, all the religious community and the activists. And so we did that. And then I learned more about Chinese work with the in Vietnam.


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