The Courage to Be Your Beautiful Self:
The Legacy of Darcy Belanger
Photo by Jeff Gerald
Art direction by Jellyfunk
Every adventure of transformation begins with a call. Mine came from Nature Herself through a recurring dream of lying on ice, while a great blue whale swam below. We each are heroes on the MAPS journey because MAPS is about us all, for us all. Darcy’s passing has called the volunteers at Parvati.org into a new stage of that journey, one that has been both bittersweet and full of grace.
The outpouring of love from unexpected supporters has shown that the voice of MAPS and the call to its adventure have extended far beyond our core group and touched the world. The opportunity to embody the courage Darcy lived and wished for is alive through us.
All great heroes have a mentor. I know from experience that guidance comes when we are open, ready and willing to serve a broader purpose than our own. When we are humble, grateful and in non-resistance to the moment as it is, we see through fresh eyes the fullness of life and the gifts it brings. We discover teachers in the most unlikely of places. I am blessed to receive guidance from a spiritual master, and my life is anchored in a daily meditation practice. But this week a most unexpected mentor came to my aid.
In the storm of grief, the unassumingly mundane is transformed into the spiritually profound. Like water droplets illuminated by the light of the golden sun, when aligned, we become prismatic rainbows that shine in all directions.
In the light of truth, we saw a few humble pieces of paper transcend the destruction of a 45-metric-ton flying machine and all life on it. They showed the world that the message of MAPS would not be silenced. Then a few simple office sticky notes brought home to my deepest core that which had been summoning my attention all week.
As Darcy’s wife Amie prepared to fly back to Edmonton from Denver a few days after the crash, she took a picture of Darcy’s home office desk, where he had spent so many hours working on MAPS. Then she kindly sent it to us. When I first saw the photos, I burst into tears. In Darcy’s exceptionally organized, clean and sparse workspace, the hollowness of his empty chair felt like a gaping wound. His broad wooden desk was virtually bare. Ten light blue sticky notes were neatly stuck to the surface, arranged in a grid on the right. But when I saw a close-up of the handwritten notes, everything stopped—my tears, my breathing, even (it felt like) time itself.
I read intently through the notes Darcy had carefully inscribed, each with a short and specific spiritual reminder to himself. Then, I read them again.
I could not believe what I was seeing. The words on the sticky notes were mine. He had taken them from conversations where he had sought my guidance.
In unmistakable terms, I had been brought face to face with my influence on Darcy’s life, of which I had been entirely unaware. As I stared dumbfounded at the messages, my memory went to specific phone calls, where Darcy openly shared that he did not quite understand my direction, but that he would move forward in full confidence, because he had absolute trust in me.
This was why I had been hearing him say, “Be your beautiful self,” all week. He wanted me to know that on his adventure of life now complete, I had been a mentor. My own mentor was my inner knowing. I encountered this truth in Darcy’s absence. My hoarse throat shifted instantly and my voice became clear and relaxed. This was what my soul had been calling me to understand.
Courage to “be your beautiful self” meant being willing to see my own role in the lives of others, and to step forward to share this. It was time for me to honour the knowing more fully and openly.
But then my heart skipped a few beats and anxiety set in. I was brought back to the morning of the crash, the moment the news was confirmed. Rishi had walked out into the hall, pacing, as he does when he gets upset. I was sitting alone in our room in utter shock. I completely broke down. Rocking back and forth, my head in my tear-soaked hands, I repeatedly muttered, “This is completely my fault.” And then I screamed it out loud. Rishi came to console me, urging me to stop thinking this way.
In the full-on week that followed, I did not have a moment even for grief, let alone the lurking fear that I had caused Darcy’s death. I was unaware that guilt lingered, along with the shadows that fed it. From time to time, I would notice thoughts like “If only Darcy had never met me” rattle through my mind. I was scared that people would blame me: “Well, she gave him this guidance, and he got on a plane and died, so it is her fault.” Deep down, I was terrified they would be right.
After I stared at Darcy’s notes, I lay on the couch in my music studio to consider the meaning of what I had seen. Once again, my meditation practice led me to deeper presence. As my body softened into the sofa, I began to welcome the fear, exactly as it was.
I recalled how I had been held within a perfect field of light to witness the spiritual unfolding that had taken place in Darcy’s final moments. I opened now to a luminous expanse of unity, the shimmering fabric of life. I rested into its light filaments, while my soul sought the fullness of truth.
In the stillness of my mind, I scanned my body through the wreckage of the week. I felt a jagged, heavy, metallic weight in my torso, as though a fragment of the plane had lodged into my chest. In the infinite light of the heart, I finally realized this weight was not mine to carry. These fears served no one.
I had never insisted Darcy go to Africa. He went by choice. He was fulfilling his dharma, his passion, his calling. He served selflessly, willing to go where he needed to go, absolutely and unquestionably committed to the immediate success of MAPS.
In that moment, I sat up with an renewed impulse to lead the tasks of the day. I had come to fully accept that just as my part as CEO for MAPS had asked me to step aside from my personal agenda, Darcy had followed my lead and stepped aside from his own fears and comfort zones to serve MAPS.
I was now being called to take my stepping aside to the next level and trust my role as the mentor and guide for MAPS. My only purpose is to serve, open myself more deeply than ever to the gifts this moment brings, in all colours, shapes and sizes, and face whatever consequences may come when I stand for truth.
As I met the inevitable intensity of my day, my heart was breaking open to love, to rage, to terror. In the fullness of the now, I was standing amidst the storm of the complete human experience. There was so much emotion, vitality and aliveness. For to be in equanimity and balance did not mean living without feeling. To be in presence meant to be it all.
I was left with one choice: awakening to the inescapable reality of unity – unity with uncertainty and knowing. Through filaments of light, I was always interconnected with it all. Amidst the grief, the tears and the laughter, we are ever a part of a oneness reality. The shock of Darcy’s passing had jolted everyone at Parvati.org from any possible sleepy resistance to act in vivid unity.
Darcy’s death was within the mastery of time of the Great Mother that holds us all. It was as though he had experienced, in the moments of his transition, a swift acceleration of karma—his own, and that of all those who had been touched by him. We could imagine Darcy on a slower path, where over the next fifty years he would eventually experience the depth of spiritual surrender he had been passionately seeking. But instead, for reasons that no one will ever know, in an instant he made the choice to surrender in a way he had never done before. I pictured him in a swift spiritual freefall that somehow propelled us all along our journey – the unavoidable consequence of our inherent interconnection and oneness.
I often say that the heart does not just break, it can break open. And openness is a choice. Beyond the temporal nature of even the deepest devastation, we can awaken to a luminous continuum. Then, we realize we are both as tender as flowers and as fierce as lions. In the face of it all, we soften, and soften more, because courage is in the heart and the heart is honest.
Through the course of my friendship with Darcy, I had been witness to his learning that courage was not about muscling in, or being a tough guy. Courage is to be present. Its truest power is in softening. Because to be courageous is to be receptive, honest and gentle. In this, we become of greatest service to the whole.
To create the world’s largest peace sanctuary begins in the heart with profound equanimity. Darcy knew this. Now, all of us who love him have been called into a deepening of the heart—which is an amplification of MAPS.
Darcy gave us the opportunity to understand more fully the purpose of being alive, not the end of it. When we soften to accept our inherent unity at the heart of it all, we experience transmutation and realize we are one.
A spiritual master I know has said that joy is the fabric of the universe. It is the call from Nature Herself for us to remember our interconnection and make right efforts to be receptive, to surrender to the totality of life, to trust the perfection of this moment and be joy. To live in fullness is to live rooted in the understanding of our fundamental unity.
We are called to go deeper, then deeper still, to touch a place of eternal light beyond our hungry souls. That is where Darcy is.
In this exquisite truth, there is no room for wanting. Should we feel constriction or loss, we have lost sight of this. Our sense of interconnection and the peace sanctuary within are our compass. We must return to them again and again. The antidote to grieving is in the realization of the oneness reality. Through selfless service, we let go of all unhappiness. We come to fully accept that we are—and always have been—held perfectly within the Divine.