Enlightenment Takes Center Stage

Categories: People,
February 24, 2014,

Written by Kelly Beasley
Photography by Troy Ruprecht

Isn’t it interesting that scientists and many great philosophers say that in life, we are all connected? We are all one, we are the same, connected to the world, to nature, to spirit … and—most difficult for me to relate to—we are connected to each other. (Really? How?)

I haven’t felt connected to others for most of my forty-one years. It is still a struggle for me. But lately, the universe has been speaking to me—as it likely always has—and I am starting to “wake up” and listen.

Enter the first VIE Speaks – Think Out Loud live speaker presentation on February 21, 2014. I was asked, on faith alone, certainly not from my resume, to attend the VIE presentation, and to write about my experience. I almost turned it down… No, my insecurity almost turned it down, but then I heard that little voice inside my head, and it was saying “go ahead.” For once, I listened. That is the only reason you are reading this. I almost said no. But I didn’t.

Because I am listening.

Not knowing what to expect in this very small, intimate venue at the Seaside Repertory Theatre, I went, despite the fact that I was attending it alone (this being one of the greatest fears of my life—having no “wingman” beside me to keep me feeling safe and connected). I told myself I should sit alone and keep to myself, no socializing, so that I couldn’t be swayed by anyone’s opinion of the night. This is what I told myself in preparation for my expectation of being “rejected” by the crowd. Instead, I was warmly greeted at the door by Jerry Burwell, and waved in enthusiastically by Lisa once she caught my eye. From then on, amazingly, I felt at ease, even strangely “as One” with the group around me. I ended up surrounded by people I have only recently come to know and felt very accepted and quite possibly even … liked! To accept that anyone could actually likeme has always been very difficult for me.

From that point on, the night seemed to speak directly to me. I’m sure others felt the same, but I was a little blown away by how similar the two speakers’ subjects were, what that connection was, and how much it keeps reappearing in my life.

A popular local artist, Justin Gaffrey, was first to speak. He seemed to be casually mingling with us, sauntering around the dimly lit stage in dark slouchy jeans, boots, and a dark T-shirt, his forearms complete with paint marks. I heard about meditational retreats, sunrises, and coyotes as he told stories about his recent journey into spirituality and its effect on his life and his art. Three very different large canvas paintings stood in the background, each with a story to tell. My eyes kept traveling down onto his worn boots, which seemed to be a metaphor for the challenges of his journey.

Artist Justin Gaffrey recounts his journey toward self-discovery and how it has affected his life and art

Artist Justin Gaffrey recounts his journey toward self-discovery and how it has affected his life and art

His message (well, the message I took from it) was that in our lives, we need less DO-ing and more BE-ing. That we ALL have this little voice, or a feeling, and if you stop trying so hard to LIVE life, you just might hear it. It’s the voice of reason, of your inner being, of something we are not in control of. It comes from within, from that connection in us that we fight against without even being aware of it, called the divine, or spirit, or whatever you choose to call it. It’s that voice that many of us choose to ignore, whether we are aware of it or not, once our ego becomes aware of itself. This often happens as a child. We sadly lose our innocence and start worrying about what others think about us. But it’s still in us. We just have to stop and listen.

Justin finished to a hearty applause, and we had a short intermission complete with food and wine from Roux 30a. I took this time to busy myself trying to get my camera to be silent so I could take some personal shots for the blog, even though Lisa had earlier mentioned photos would be taken. I tried, but I failed in silencing my camera, so I decided it wasn’t meant to be (Listening?).

Justin’s paintings on stage were removed, and the next speaker was Francois Benard, a local artist, philosopher, poet, and actor who was on VIE’s January 2014 cover. He was introduced, then it was just him, a podium, and a lone spotlight. I met Francois briefly at Cornerstone Marketing/VIE headquarters a few weeks back, and I felt nothing but good vibes from this charismatic man. He is even more handsome in person than in photos… On stage, he was a powerhouse performer, commanding presence through his demeanor, voice, and gestures. He kept his hands mostly in his pockets, occasionally bringing one out to emphasize a point or to express a bigger impact than with his words alone. I felt his genuine connection to his work and his love of sharing his poetry and philosophy with others.

Actor, poet, and philosopher Francois Benard delivers an introspective and beautiful glimpse at his poetry and spiritual reawakening

Actor, poet, and philosopher Francois Benard delivers an introspective and beautiful glimpse at his poetry and spiritual reawakening

Raised off the coast of Madagascar, Francois was fortunate enough to experience a rare “untouched by society” kind of lifestyle that was very connected to nature and spirit. After moving to Hollywood and living the high society life, he missed this feeling of connection and didn’t feel right in the world when working as an actor, so he and his wife moved to a ranch in Colorado where peace, serenity, and poetry once again became intertwined with their lives.

Francois has written books with thousands of works of poetry. He shared just a few with us, with the theme of knowing within ourselves what we seek. He blended his poetry into his speech, and before I would know it, he was into another poem. He spoke of finding your peace inwardly, and not by DO-ing, or by climbing the ladder of society. He addressed, once again, that we are all as one, not separate from each other.

My favorite part of his talks were his story about how he met his wife. It was a bad start to a blind date, and to make a funny, entertaining, long story short, when he touched her hand, everything changed. He felt her, and in that moment, he told us in French that he said to himself, “Merde, c’est ma femme!” (I dare you to look that up!)

THAT is connection. That is “listening,” and boy is that powerful! Just a touch, and he knew. He saw her inner being and felt genuinely connected to her. I wish I had that. I am working on it—I hope we all are.

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