John Fraser, M.A., R.C.C.
Registered Clinical Counsellor, Nature Connection Mentor
I grew up in nature. My family home was situated in the middle of 50 acres of land that were surrounded by thousands of acres of crown (government) lands. I have always been extremely comfortable being out on the land, developing a deep appreciation and understanding of nature as a vibrant living system. In many ways, ‘Being’ out in nature felt more safe for me growing up, than being in my own home. My adolescence and early adult years were an extremely difficult time for me. I experienced a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, which eventually resulted in a diagnosis of colitis in my early 20s. Growing up with Deaf parents, I was further ostracized from my peers, in that I did not have an understanding or appreciation of mainstream culture (E.g. music). Initially, not having the self-awareness that I was gay and then hiding this when I realized this was the case, only made matters worse. Growing up, I would have to describe myself as being an extremely ‘sensitive’ person, and was further distressed and disillusioned with all the madness and uncertainties of the ‘cold war’ with Russia, that was occurring at the time of my youth. In an effort to find some peace and sanity, in what appeared to me to be a violent and mad world, I often retreated into nature. Although this afforded me much reprieve, it was not enough. I still had to live in the ‘human’ world. Feeling unable to reconcile this inner conflict, I considered packing my backpack and disappearing into the wilderness, where I would not have to interact with mankind. Taking my own life was also under serious consideration at this time. Things eventually got so bad for me that I went on a hike to contemplate and possibly decide, once and for all, if I were to continue to try and live, or to take my own life. This hike ended up being one of the most important turning points in my life. Given that I am still here, I obviously choose life, smile. While contemplating my life situation, sitting in meditation and feeling the warmth of the earth beneath me, watching a glorious sunset over the ocean and feeling a cool breeze wash over my face, I had one of my first profound mystical experiences. Although it is impossible to fully describe this experience in words, I can say that I had experienced a profound sense of interconnectedness with my surroundings. I was filled with an incredible sense of peace and knew that everything was going to be okay. I received a message, or as some would say, I received some spiritual guidance, letting me know that although I already had a strong connection with nature, I would also need to develop a more confident and secure relationship with humanity. I was left with the knowledge that this was going to be a long and challenging journey, one of facing fears and growing confidence.
After this experience, I dove into life, trying my best to not let my fears or insecurities hold me back. I worked hard at overcoming my social anxiety by coming to terms with and fully embracing my unique identity as a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and a gay man. Feeling a sense of hope and purpose, I started studying metaphysical topics and my spiritual practice began, complimenting my deep connection with nature. Over time, I realized that growing up with Deaf parents actually helped me to appreciate Silence in more ways than one. Being Deaf, my parents had no need for noisy ‘distractions' and this helped me learn to be comfortable with stillness at a very early age. I started to meditate and was able to achieve a deep relaxation and calmness that resulted in the disappearance of my colitis and other stress related ailments that I was struggling with. Growing up in the country also added to my spiritual development in that my back yard was a symphony of nature. I spent most of my childhood wondering through forests and meadows and feeling very attuned to the natural energies all around me. My first formal lessons on spirituality began when I was introduced to the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) in my early twenties. Rosicrucian teachings go back to the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Europe and involve such topics as metaphysics, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, parapsychology and science. I remained a member of the Rosicrucian Order for many years, further refining and developing my spirituality and state of being (I AM).
After a rather dramatic coming out of the closet adventure, I moved to the ‘big city’ of Halifax, Nova Scotia (actually a very small city, but it felt big to me at the time) and started my first official job as a grocery store clerk. Eventually realizing that I wanted to be more than a grocery clerk, I applied to and was accepted into Dalhousie University in Halifax. With a B.A. in Psychology, I moved to British Columbia and started working as a Child Care Counsellor with the BC Provincial School for the Deaf. Feeling called to do more, I got my M.A. in Counselling Psychology from the University of BC and started my 20 years of service as a Registered Clinical Counsellor. After being recruited to manage a mental health agency serving the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind communities, I felt that I had achieved the pinnacle of my career. I had also developed an amazing group of close friends and was able to forge a more genuine and authentic relationship with my family. And then, suddenly, I pretty much lost everything that had come to define me. My partner of 23 years moved to Taiwan to teach English as a second language. After 1 year he decided to partner with a couple of local Taiwanese residents and open his own school. This was obviously going to be a long term commitment and he felt that the distance between us, geographically speaking, was too great to continue in a partnered relationship. Although I currently consider him to be one of my closest friends and allies, I was devastated at the time. Learning how to redefine myself after spending almost ½ of my life with someone was proving to be extremely difficult so I booked a spiritual retreat in Sedona, Arizona. This retreat was definitely helpful and I felt that I was on the road to healing. However, after a couple of months of us ‘redefining’ (‘ending’ doesn’t fit) our relationship, I was suddenly and completely unexpectedly, fired from my job. I have gone through many traumatic incidents (including a gay bashing where I was almost killed) and difficult times in my life, but getting fired was definitely, by far, the most traumatic experience of my life. I had recently lost my partner and now my career path had come to an abrupt and cruel dead end. I felt as if pretty much everything that defined me was ripped out from under me. Feeling quite lost and disillusioned, I once again, sought out a spiritual retreat in Peru to help me make sense of everything that was going on. It was actually during this spiritual quest, that my idea for Elemental Magick was born. This came to me while I was hiking with one of the other participants on this retreat. We had some free time and broke off from the rest of the group to take a day hike through the jungle surrounding Machu Picchu. As we were hiking, my hiking companion started opening up about some things that were going on in her life. I have been told that I have a very non-threatening and compassionate presence and people open up to me very easily. This turned out to be a very powerful and insightful impromptu opportunity for some personal exploration. After our discussion, we continued on our hike. My companion was very excited and pleased with the insights she had gained and would not stop talking about it. I therefore suggested that we take the next hour and hike in silence. I explained to her how to hike mindfully. That is, be fully present and take in all the sights, sounds, fragrances and textures of the jungle. After an hour I asked her how this was for her and she was completely blown away. This is when I had the realization that this is something that I very much wanted and could do.
It has been almost 3 years since the above-mentioned events unfolded. Fortunately, my family and friends have rallied behind me, to offer their ongoing support and encouragement. Being so used to taking care of myself, this has truly been a humbling experience for me and has actually allowed me to grow by learning to trust and forge deeper connections with those closest to me. This time away from work has also granted me the opportunity to reconnect with nature. Although I had never really lost this connection, (no one ever really does) being in a relationship, focusing on a thriving career, and keeping in contact with close friends, left virtually no time to spend in nature. In some respects, I feel that the last few years have granted me an opportunity to ‘return to my natural home’, a safe and nurturing place where I spent many hours as a teenager. This has once again reminded me and allowed me to realize that nature is an amazing place filled with healing and growth opportunities. I am filled with much gratitude that I am returning to this place and very much look forward to reconnecting and forging an even deeper connection with this old and wise friend.