By Tom Kernaghan
“To be human is to have a limited understanding of what it is I think I see.”
This line, from one of Cherie Hanson’s many mind-jolting blog posts, says volumes about the awakening effect she can have on people. I’m going to go a little gonzo and put myself in the story, because to know Hanson is to know that she delights in connection and electrifying exchanges that push beyond convention and conformity. She is one of the most challenging, engaging and prolific individuals I have ever met, not just here in Kelowna, but anywhere.
Hanson is a spiritual fitness coach, poet, artist, blogger, playwright, director and producer; and a former choreographer, dancer, and English teacher. Her thought-provoking blog and Facebook posts inspire thousands and may even irk some, but they have certainly stopped my scrolling and reminded me that I may not be seeing the whole picture—personally, culturally or politically speaking. And yet, beneath her staggering urgency and bracing honesty is a playful humour that speaks to the thrilling potential of hope in all of us. If we dare to run with that responsibility! She also holds writing workshops, entitled Writing The Self, which are designed to help you find your authentic voice and make a plan to “rewrite” your future.
A self-described outlier (with which I would agree), Hanson has risen above many challenges in her life to find the joy of discovery through sharing and teaching. With multiple degrees, including post-graduate work in creative writing and contemporary poetry, she is armed with a power to wield words that feels fully aligned with her hard-won fearlessness. She is brilliant and tough—qualities I find encouraging, not intimidating … when I am willing to confront myself.
I’ll tie my first line into our last sit-down conversation. You called “bulls–t” on a limiting belief I had. I was intrigued, a bit annoyed and then grateful for the mental pathway you pointed out. And it made me wonder, what motivates you to be so frank?
Now is the time of a massive energy shift. The world has spun around in the same circles, the same patterns of war and recovery and yet we are not learning. We all share the knowledge that we are in a state of urgency.
All of the systems are imploding. The earth itself is headed into the extinction cycle. What is of paramount importance is for each of us to stop lying to ourselves, to stop doing the routine, repetitive self-comforting and self-destructive rituals in the face of monumental change.
I see my purpose in the midst of the arising chaos as that of a teacher.
When I was four, I put chairs in rows for my dolls and set up a blackboard. I knew I was on the earth to teach my stuffies.
I know about chaos and confusion and betrayal and fear of death. I knew as a child. I have served an apprenticeship in the methodology of grounding. One is only “safe” in a shifting world if one is able to let go of old victim scripts and clearly find a purpose.
It is a skill. And it can be taught. My calling is to help others find a footing in a shifting landscape. When the world that we know is disintegrating is when we most need to find out who each of us is, as a separate being. The mask must be discarded.
Anyone who follows you on Facebook will know the furious pace with which you post, particularly with respect to social inequities, political corruption and cultural stagnation. What bothers you most right now about the way people are (or are not) engaging with the world? Are people afraid of themselves, or too comfortable with complacency?
I am filled with compassion as I watch people who are “frightened out of their minds.” They are terrified. We know from scientific studies of the function of the brain that when fear is the trigger, the prefrontal lobes cease receiving information and the parent, the wise adult, is turned off. What we are seeing is frightened children whose early childhood damage is now running the show. The corporate control of individuals becomes easier, more pervasive.
In the deep south, the antebellum society kept a class of people as enslaved as when they were the peasants in feudal times. The system of slavery was operated by manipulation of hatred. The share croppers were told to hate blacks, to brutalize them. As long as rage can be successfully misdirected and encouraged, the human being cannot think like an adult. Nor can he understand that the power he feels in attacking another is not true power. In other words, the more unstable the world appears to be, the more volatile the human emotions become.
My goal is to educate, to present petitions for action, to post success stories of people working together for the greater good. I know what is happening, and it is not something that draws me in emotionally. I just do what I am called to do and release a need to see an outcome.
You have another two-day writing workshop, Writing The Self, coming up on June 22. Tell me about this event and what people you want to discover though the experience.
What HAS happened every time I teach the writing retreat is people are no longer in the dark about what they are doing in their lives and why they are doing it. I have spent nine years as an academic, and I research to discover valid information. Family imprinting; ancestor’s trauma, brain function; the effect of our social amoeba upon us is all necessary information. I have watched people understand for the first time in their lives that they are not solely responsible for their life path. And it is only then that they can move forward with confidence. When we all can be so bold and brave as to walk on the earth without a mask, we will no longer fear one another.
I am working with a prize-winning editor, Elee Kraljii Gardiner, on my book Walking the Streets of Blood about my personal experience during the Paris Attacks in 2015 and tying it back up to my ancestors’ story of trauma damage. I ask: When does brutality become the norm? There are also YouTube interviews of me during the attack.
I’ll quote two lines from your blog: “I am as you find me” and “my mind constantly amuses me.” Let me flip those over and ask you to share something amusing people likely wouldn’t see or assume about you upon first meeting.
I am as you find me is a direct recognition that how you respond to me is coloured by the experiences in your childhood. It is why we react automatically to certain qualities or behaviours of another person. Until we have mindfulness practice as part of our operating system, we are unable to bypass automatic activation responses. For me to be authentic, I know that I cannot rely on other people to tell me how to be good, virtuous, attractive, acceptable.
The more I understand not to take anything personally, the more confident I become in being who I am, and—surprise, surprise—the more people trust me.
My trigger-quick sense of the absurd can remove the sting from any situation. This morning I was describing that during my elementary years we practiced curling up in a ball under our desks when the teacher yelled “FLASH!” I explained that I could understand how much easier that made it to scrape us up after the blast. These are the thoughts of an eight-year-old laughing at the futility of adult responses.
And how you respond to this interview is none of my business.
This column was submitted as part of BWB Well-Being Wednesdays.
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