A Map of Guidance

This article is written by Tess Wixted and appeared in Life as a Human‘s September articles section.


In this age of GPS and Google, it’s easy to forget the mysterious interludes of wonder stirring in the folds of a well-worn map. Some of my fondest vacation memories include casting the magic carpet of a crinkled chart across my lap and running my fingers along the mythic lines beckoning me and my travel companions on towards our next road adventure. Even more alluring where the names of towns and sites that had faded away in the creases of miles and time, folded and refolded memories in that beloved chaperon made of paper.

Maps are guides that take us not only from point A to point B and back again, but can bring us to places far beyond our perspective of what may lie ahead. What is missing in the digital efficiency of getting us from here to there are the omitted options to take a different road, a detour, to discover places tucked just beyond the edge of our screens and our well planned itineraries, places beckoning our imaginations to step off the brink of the known and fall into the unknown, uncharted destinations that are calling to us in whispers of “where next”?

Last fall I initiated the creation of my own Map of Guidance, a practice both intuitive and strategic, based in large part on the centuries old wisdom and mystical direction of the Tarot. I was mentored in the charting of my map by Oriane Lee Johnston, a woman with vast experience as an integral educator, a contemplative explorer and guide, and a purveyor of horse wisdom for humans.

The Map of Guidance is a two-part journey that began with a compass bearing of my current life and direction. In our first Skype session we talked about the roadblocks I’d been encountering, where I wanted to go, the struggles and questions that begged for exploration in the next six to nine months. A few days later we convened again on Skype for a recorded session and Oriane Lee shared with me the assignments and outcomes that would lie before me.

Step by step we charted my course in that conversation, not in the language of the Tarot cards, but in the principles of alchemy and change; how my worldly situations, inner experience and personal power interweave and link with each other, in the past, the present and the future. Oriane Lee’s intuitive wisdom melded into the map reading as well, bringing insights, signposts to note and farsighted visions along the road of my life.

Personal themes arose that wove themselves into quandaries and contemplations. My attachment to striving, to perfection, my addictive tendencies towards food and an always/never polarity that at times could paralyze me in my work and my day-to-day place in the world. I felt as if I was walking a tightrope on my spiritual journey, afraid of falling off, of being tempted by the material and the false desire to fit into a world that often felt alien. In the midst of everyday busyness and errands, it was as if I’d lost my country, my language, my customs and my culture.

The Map of Guidance revealed instead, a journey of firm direction, of gifts within myself that I had yet to discover. It foretold that I would step away from a barren landscape into a brand new neighbourhood, a new way of being. I’d discover that the life I had set up for myself wasn’t actually nourishing to my spirit or my writing and creativity; that was why the hunger and the cravings would arise for they hid in the spaces of desolation that I had been unable to see.

I was being called to honour how far I had come and to acknowledge that the life lessons I thought were unfinished had in truth been completed. It was time to see my spiritual life as not separate from life-in-the-world, but as my identity, my way of being. The phase of my meditation practice was moving into the realm of the Magician, the four elements, new openings between the invisible and visible worlds, expanding like the ever-blooming petals of the lotus. This journey of immanence was the underpinning for everything, a treasure asking me to fall apart so I could fall into wholeness.

The map concluded with a promise of new life being conceived in spring 2014, a time where the embryo of my as-yet-unborn work on this plane would come through the archetypal world. My writing would shift from personal exploration to an expanding awareness of the human condition. It would be a time of emotional stability centred in the loving heart, opened fully, just like the lotus.

These signposts sketched on the map seemed at the time abstract and beyond my comprehension, much like a road beyond the horizon, paved in questions and uncertainty. There weren’t clearly defined stops along the way or the promise of comfort by a certain date. The reading seemed at the time to be as vague and hard to make out as those worn names lost in the folds of the map I held onto so many years ago.

Over the next nine months, I listened to the recording of my session with Oriane Lee perhaps a half dozen times. Each encounter unearthed a subtle deepening of the message, yet I had my doubts. The changes that were foretold spoke to patterns ingrained in my being for years, if not decades, of my life. I struggled to see how those shifts had come to pass over the expanse of time since my reading.

It was in early summer this year as I listened to the recording once again that the pathways and caravans of wisdom illuminated themselves into a grand brilliance. An etched clarity arose as I heard the words again, a clarity that seemed to ignite the guiding beacons of the map and brought light to the faded edges and vistas in my life.

I recognized that my attachments and addictions to food have waned in these passing months, not by anything I have consciously done, but of their own falling away. The black and white demarcation lines between my spiritual cocoon and the outer world have faded as well. My writing has shifted in subtle ways too, as I embrace a broader expanse of care for all beings and sense for the first time the deep presence that binds us all. And most gratifying of all I feel a resolute spiritual practice in the everyday world and not just on my meditation cushion. The contemplative life I projected for myself two years from now is already alive within me today; that is the embodiment of the Magician and the lotus; my life feels in full bloom.

Just one degree right or left can change the destination of any journey. From where I started last fall to where I am today feels like the difference between a toe lifting from the earth and the sighting of home after circumnavigating the globe. That’s how much my perspective has shifted, has travelled, has reached beyond what I could have imagined.

As for the promise of a fresh life in the spring, these changes of perspective and direction in the landscape of my life feel tantamount to a newborn way of being. There is, for example, one long journey that began nine years ago and came to fruition this spring. At the end of May I became a Canadian citizen. The road I set out upon so long ago to reach that destination held many hidden turns and detours, yet always the glimmer of an oasis kept me moving forward. Now that a new map stretches out across my mind I see how far I have come and how the folds and faint lights of passages yet to arise are calling me forth. Just as all good maps are meant to do.

oleeJoin Oriane Lee Johnson for Your Emerging Future at Hollyhock Vancouver on October  8th.

Maria Sirois midlife happiness

Finding Meaning in Midlife

In this interview which first appeared on the Krialu website, clinical psychologist Maria Sirois, PsyD, talks about the challenges and opportunities of midlife—and how mindfulness can make all the difference. Sirois will present A Short Course on Happiness, on Cortes this September 19 – 24.

Q Can practicing yoga and meditation help us live longer, healthier lives?

A Research shows that people who practice mindfulness, yoga, and Positive Psychology on a regular basis have greater physical immunity and live longer. These tools and practices have a very positive, very deep impact on our health, longevity, and well-being, no matter what age we are. A Harvard study in 2008 showed that genetic expression literally looks different in people who regularly engage in practices, like yoga and meditation, that elicit the relaxation response. When compared to those who don’t practice, they showed significant changes in the expression of the genes linked to immunity and longevity. Positive Psychology researchers like Sonya Lyubomirsky and Barbara Fredrickson have also done studies showing that people who practice positivity have better physical health and longer life spans.

Q We all know the phrase “midlife crisis.” What makes midlife such a challenging stage?

A There tends to be Continue reading


SVI 2014 Profile | Jenny Kassan, Cutting Edge Capital

This article written by Hilary Mandel originally appeared on the Junxion Strategy website.

 Some people know from an early age that they want to be entrepreneurs, while others fall into business without even trying. Jenny Kassan, CEO of Cutting Edge Capital in Oakland, California, puts herself in the latter category, having primarily spent her early years working at nonprofits. “When I first got out of law school, I’d never been involved in any kind of for-profit business, except when I worked at an ice cream parlor and pizza restaurant as a teenager. I didn’t know much about enterprise back then,” she admits.

The SVN-SVI Connection

Kassan’s journey from ice cream and pizza to equity crowdfunding will put her in good stead at the 19th annual Social Venture Institute, taking place September 10-14, 2014 at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, British Columbia. This will be Kassan’s first time attending SVI at Hollyhock, though she says, “I’ve heard for so long about how great it is” from fellow members of the Social Venture Network, an original and continuing co-presenter of the Hollyhock conference.

Kassan has found a great deal of value from her membership in SVN, and can expect to find a like-minded crowd awaiting her at SVI. “SVN feels like a great tribe of people – when you walk in as a social entrepreneur, you feel like you’ve found your home. It feels great, because you can be in other arenas like the world of finance or others where you don’t feel that way. Everyone’s really friendly and generous. The ethic of giving, not just talking to the people you know, makes me feel really good to be in that community. And of course, I’ve made some wonderful connections with people through that [network] too.”

Helping Small Business Succeed

Though her path wasn’t direct, Kassan eventually learned that through business, there are plenty of opportunities to help make the world a better place. Fresh out of Yale Law School, Kassan joined The Unity Council, an entrepreneurial community development corporation that works towards the social, cultural and economic development of a largely Latino neighborhood in Oakland. “One of my jobs was to work with small businesses,” Kassan recalls, “and I saw how they were struggling, and how what they’re going through is so different from large businesses – they don’t have resources, and the playing field is so tilted against them.”

Always a champion of the underdog, Kassan thus became more interested in small business and social enterprise. “All these laws and policies and programs, even the ones designed to help [small businesses], really don’t work — they’re just struggling like crazy,” she says. After 11 years at The Unity Council, Kassan joined a small law practice serving the social venture community, and very soon thereafter, was asked to run the firm. “Suddenly, I became a small business owner – I learned a lot very quickly!” she exclaims.

DPO’s – An Innovation in Impact Investing

Four years ago, Kassan’s law firm launched Cutting Edge Capital, a related consulting firm focused on facilitating alternative funding structures for mission-driven enterprises. Forbes Magazine recently profiled Cutting Edge Capital’s use of Direct Public Offerings (DPOs), an innovative form of financing social ventures through investment crowdfunding. “DPOs provide small enterprises with access to patient capital, and small investors a way to support local and sustainable companies,” explains Kassan.

Kassan believes DPOs are part of a systemic change, circumventing traditional investment banks’ lock on the initial public offering (IPO) market. “If you look at the financing system in our country,” she says, “it’s so incredibly limited in terms of who can benefit from it. On the business side, very few businesses can access capital on reasonable terms, if at all –angel investing and venture capital goes to less than 1% of businesses – so many [small social entrepreneurs] don’t have access.”

While DPOs have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the decades — Ben and Jerry’s did one back in 1984 — there has been a recent resurgence in their use by small businesses. Kassan and her colleagues started looking into solutions for raising community capital about eight years ago, and in the four years since Cutting Edge Capital’s launch, they have completed 11 offerings and have about 35 more in the pipeline. As evidence that they are “walking the talk,” Kassan’s company has used the DPO model twice itself – being a small business, she admits, “we go through all the same challenges as our clients do.”

Even though she “finally realized there’s more to life than nonprofits,” Kassan hasn’t totally abandoned her interest in or passion for the sector. A number of her clients, including those pursuing DPOs, are nonprofits; for example, they’ve worked with a school that generates revenue through tuition, and a community development financial institution (CDFI) looking for more ways to raise money. Kassan’s firm also has its own sister nonprofit, Community Ventures.

Looking North of the 49th Parallel

As she prepares to cross the Canadian border to travel to Hollyhock, Kassan makes sure to mention that she’s in active conversations with SVX, an Ontario-based online platform connecting impact ventures, funds and investors. Kassan’s group has its own impact investing platform, CuttingEdgeX, but what differentiates SVX is its ability to allow investors to purchase securities on the site. While SVX is focused on businesses in Ontario and is currently only open to wealthy investors, Kassan would like to see the SVX model expand across the border into an investing platform open to everyone.

As for her upcoming visit to Hollyhock, what is Kassan hoping to gain? “I’m looking forward to learning a lot and having fun and getting into a different space,” she says. With those as her goals, it’s safe to say she’ll be looking at an excellent return on her investment.


Hilary Mandel works with Junxion as a client manager and project manager, blending her experience in business/non-profit management and media production. She has an MBA with a focus on sustainable business from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and is also a freelance writer/photographer.


SVI 2014 Profile | Derek Gent, Vancity Community Foundation

This article written by Hilary Mandel originally appeared on the Junxion Strategy website.

After a long break, Derek Gent is heading back to SVI once again… and is looking forward to the magic of the mix.

Vancity at SVI

As it has been for over a dozen years, Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union, will once again be the lead sponsorship partner of the Social Venture Institute, taking place September 10-14, 2014 at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, British Columbia. Vancity is a leader in the financial service sector for its work with social entrepreneurs, offering a mixture of conventional financing, venture capital, high risk financing, and grants to mission-based businesses and non-profits. Continue reading