InHale Rome….Exhale Venice!!


The Coliseum, Rome Italy

The Coliseum, Rome Italy

Inhale Rome… Exhale Venice!!
Is the concept of “lost” an illusion?

Insights of travelling: It heightens my senses.

Conscious exercise of:
noting directions when having my daily walk about…
Food I eat…
where is my passport?
credit card?

remembering my code for the room safe
Surprised at the numerous moments of complacency, as I engage in my daily life in a familiar environment.

The concept of lost…is it an illusion?

I inhale....

Yes, I reflectively giggle and am amused at how my first day in Rome unfolded.

Lost twice in one day on arrival and I freaked out, fell Into a brief emotional ” I hate Rome, I wanna go home”.

As I lay on a bed in my hotel room…I was breathing into the frenzy. I managed to detach myself from feeling emotionally crazed to see a bigger picture of the days unfolding.

From the train station,  I was dropped off at…what I thought to be my new home for the next three days.  It wasn’t after waiting for 30 minutes. Unable to reach anyone at the face of a locked Oak door…I felt empty….

Downstairs was a telemarketing company… the women who choose to help me opened their hearts when they realized my situation. I pleaded with them, “I am lost are you going to help me… what do I do?”
One woman courageously stepped in…she embraced this as her mission… being a phone telemarketing company using the computers to “google” the right address …was off bounds to me. I was on my Iphone roaming Ouch, on emergency airtime.

Cha ching!!! The thought came and went quickly… I am worth it.
An Italian call to a taxi and I was off in the right direction with already a Rome story behind me.

Arriving at the proper location, I apologized for holding the staff up at the hotel, who were patiently waiting for me. I took full responsibility for my mistake. It was humbling…

In the late evening, I had a wonderful dinner. Full…I thought a lengthy walk would be perfect.

I had company of a traveller from Sweden. We walked until I ended up at the coliseum. Happily to have company…I was swept up in the conversation…having not takin’ full notes in the dark how I got here …we parted and I bravely went into the quiet dark streets of midnight.
One hour later nothing looked familiar. I started to panic. I got the “NO” feeling. I stopped and talked to a few groups of travelers that spoke German and Polish. Unsuccessful in getting directions.

Trying to Breathe into this dilemma, I approached a collective of “white” taxi drivers.  the renowned safe taxi’s of Roma.  I kept repeating “the steps.” Where I presumed I lived…gesturing the stairs, with my hands, and on the verge of holding back my tears. This was truly a dramatic moment.  If my theatre career didn’t help me here I was truly F***.  Woohoo!! They rallied and found a driver who could speak some English.

I was going home. The drive felt like forever…it reflected to me I was no where near my bed.
Feeling into my purse, I was made aware I had no cash…only credit card from dinner, no iPhone and no passport.  We arrived outside…I darted upstairs to open my room safe with the right code and gladly gave the driver 20 euros.

I exhale…

I was safe, at home and ready to sleep. First, I text my daughter to let her know “I hated Rome and couldn’t get out fast enough.” I would give myself the night to sleep this off and decide in the morning. What I will do?

Dawn came….I entered meditation I was shown the bigger picture. I was in my bed…warm, safe, intact. I closed my eyes…breathed and noticed being lost is an illusion…I am right here.

Another of my learning curves in this chapter of my life, is a desire to live with my heart open to allow myself to be taken care of.

I Inhale…

I was “taken care of”, by the telemarketing girls, dinner companion, taxi drivers, staff at the hotel, and other travelers.
In 3 Skype debriefs, with close friends, I truly experienced “a Compassionate Rome.”

I admit, My first impression was jaded with thousands of people, smoking, unending noise, attitude and chaos. I was warned of pick pockets , which planted a seed of fear. I knew I had to be responsible/aware but with compassion and an open heart rather than with the edge of protecting myself.

The next day I took the city tour, saw all what I needed to see from an outdoor seat, as my legs were crying uncle. I acquired a great set of earphones…which I had considered purchasing for those Skype calls.

In conclusion, the rest of my stay in Rome was fantastic. I slept for 15 hours ready to embrace the magic of Venice. I sat in a church devoted to the Ascension of Mary.  Tears welled up Inside me as I felt the intensity of my life, a journey of adversities that had truly been my growth as well as the celebrated times of success and love.

I happily exhale!!

Garibaldi in Venice, Italy

Garibaldi in Venice, Italy



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All the World’s a Stage



Duomo, Milan, Italy 2014
An amazing platform of Life.

I have been involved in theatre/film professionally since 1978.  The many gems it has revealed to me has been immeasurable.  I want to share a few with you with regards to health and wellness. It is about re-connecting with our creativity and our innate desire to play.

The biggest blessing in my life was to have my daughter Aly.  It was a commitment I made to re-discover the element of play. Surrendering as I watch those beautiful inspiring Disney animations over and over again.  They release the stress-ors of the day as I enter the world of make belief with Peter Pan and the Lion King. “Patch Adams” with Robin Williams is a movie about Dr. Patch Adams who used his humour with his patients.

Eckhart Tolle wrote “The Power of Now”. Being present is such a vital part of play and theatre.  Many of our minds race get occupied with problem solving or worry that it takes us away from being in the moment.

Freeing our physical body from its immobility or limitation’s letting the laughter and oxygen find those places that have been closed down.  Giving ourselves permission to sing and tell stories from the depths of our creative souls or singing in the shower daily will lift the soul above the mundane we all may live in.  It is also safe as no one is bound to hear us.

The Alexander technique is a gentle way for chronic pain people to release the tissues combining breath and movement.  Kristin Linklater wrote, “Freeing the Natural Voice”. It combines movement with the breath and sound making everyone believe in the strength of their voice be it for singing, lecturing or talking.  It is one of our instruments of communication.

Perspective is another vital tool.  In improvisation and scene study we can choose alternative endings and through lines that we can then take into our lives.  Seeing the positive in all things and people is the greatest exercise.  Try walking down the street and making eye contact with everyone you meet.  How do you feel?  Possibly awkward at first, but then very rewarding.  Since our eyes are our communicators it is a great and simple exercise.

Three to Do’s

Get the self-critic to go on a holiday, stop the self-judgement for there is no room for it as it only causes contraction and low self worth.  Give yourself permission to tell yourself three fabulous things about yourself each night before you fall asleep.  My daughter and I do that, and guaranteed we sleep the better for it.

As the children suggested in the article on “Kids, get Stress too”, published Oct. 2, 2003, get it out of your body.  Play and laugh whenever you can, allow the expression of all emotions aids in the release of stress.  If negative, aim it at a pillow or the great outdoors. If it is positive share it by letting someone know.  “You’re great, I’m happy, that’s beautiful.”

Karen works as a massage therapist integrating advanced cranial and visceral osteopathic techniques in her work.  What has inspired her recently is a three part course called “Voice Tooning, Release the Voices within” with Chinook Animation in Calgary. They are one of the leading studios for dubbing in this country.

 In Reflection:  Empower yourself to choose play and joy in this somewhat stress-filled world we live in. And yes, like the lion in the “Wizard of Oz”, it does take courage.



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Being Presence



Sunny Radiance of India

Sunny Radiance of India

Many people have words that describe the state of mindfulness, being present, taking time to slow down, but I seem to have discovered a precise description for myself that encompasses simplicity of a state of being.  “Being Presence” the expansive embrace of mindlessness….coining the phrase Live you Divinity, Just do it!” is a contradictory in terms that requires reflection… or should it be….”Live your Divinity, Just be it!


My time in Goa so far has been one of intense intimate and honest reflection.  In truth, experiencing another level of “Spiritual Stretching“.  It encompasses my intention to be open in a state of receiving from others in ways I have never done before.  The key word is softening in my heart, to a place of the feminine where I am open to be taken care of. Sounds lovely, but not easy from my life experience of being a single mother…..self employed and the story goes on…..intense re programming.  With no permanent home to go back to….non attachment is demanded of me on so many levels….experiencing freedom in ways I never thought could be defined, physically, emotionally mentally and now spiritually..  Trusting in a power bigger than myself to guide me, believing in my heart.  Choosing to be devoted to the honest voice within myself.  Those voices you hear….listen….it is easier than the struggle of disbelief.

With constant power outages, I find time to write…One of the many things, I think, us as Canadians, take for granted.  We are looking for high speed….In India…you are lucky to get a connection.  Another voice, release and let go…It is India…the lesson serves me in other ways reminding me to slow down, have acceptance of what is and compassion with myself ….If there are struggles… I reflect on what I am truly responsible for…very often I am taking on something that isn’t mine….I consciously release it  and witness what happens….does a new reality present itself?….do other individuals step in? Play with the the intention to release the responsibilities you have for a few days and see what happens….you can always step in again.

This is my exploration in India….it has brought great peace to me and I look forward to sharing it with others. Reaching another depth of my journey as a spiritual being in this physical reality.  Have great compassion with yourself and others….play the game of life with joy….and free yourself on all levels ……I am FREE.

In reflection:  Do I create the space to take the time and acknowledge the wisdom of mother nature when it is right in front of me?  Receive in your heart, her beauty and it will fuel your spirit….

Inspired by my conversations with Michael Wenger, President of the Hoffman Institute, Italy.  




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New Years Toast, 2014

New Years Message

New Years Message

New Years Toast from Goa, India : To the life changing events that have shaped my new direction, to the compassionate brave hearts that have believed in me and the generous souls that have held me up in the challenging times. I LOVE YOU ALL !!!

In my hearts you will always live.
…..From Aashyana Lakhanpal , Goa , India

I shared a gentle story with Don Petersen, a talented tattoo artist who has worked with me to create some profound body murals adorning my hip replacement scars, that I will share with you.  “Transformations, Scars graced by Art” is a passion project of mine…you can see it on my website.


With the large number of people from all over India that flock to the Goa beaches for New Years celebrations I was the only woman I saw with body art. I felt unsure about taking my sarong off…. maybe it was a cultural thing and was only being cautious…at my first walk on the ocean I kept my sarong on but by the afternoon when I returned to the ocean I decided to embrace myself and move forward with the concept of acceptance.


Swimming in the warm sea I noticed an a large older woman in this purple bikini who had trouble walking along the beach…noticeably hip issues….As I walked out of the ocean she stopped dead in her tracks in awe of the beauty of my artwork.  She asked me where I had got it done….I shared with her my story how they adorned my hip replacement scars.  She was from Italia….the connection was made and it was perfect.


Sun kissed on Day One the magic continues to unfold.

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Off to India….A Feel Good Flood Story

"Tara" Line Drawing

“Tara” line drawing
Transformations, “Scars graced by Art”

A Feel Good Flood Story


Yes…. I was one of the infamous occupants of the homes featured on the news of the Canmore Flood, June 20, 2013.


This is an amazing unfolding of one of life’s embraceable opportunities from a life changing event.

Six weeks before the flood, I booked an appointment for a traveller coming from India.  July 8th, approximately two and a half weeks after the flood I returned to work.  It was my normalcy, my ground wire.   I had the pleasure of working with Ajai from India.  He heard of my plight and made me an offer to come and stay as his guest in his home on the ocean in Goa, India.

I must admit I was infinitely excited but had to pinch myself at the reality of my life.  He was scheduled to return for a follow up appointment in a few days. I promised I would ask him to clarify his offer.  I had to make sure I heard him right, as I was processing so much from the uprooting of the Flood.  I wanted to make sure I heard right.

Yes, I did hear right.  I proceeded to go onto YouTube to view the presentation of his villa and the research started.  I ran into several yoga teachers in the BowValley who had heard of his Yoga retreat centre.  One Ayrevedic doctor had taken a group to his centre for a few weeks with resounding success.  The woman who booked the treatment for Ajai was a great friend of his.  She had journeyed there yearly for the last 25 years.  That was inspirational.


I said “Yes” to his offer and the magic started to unfold.


With deep gratitude…To Ajai… Rosalie…. The ticket was bought…Tourist Visa effortlessly received…dates planned…immunizations done…

My mother passed at the beginning of the year with severe Parkinson’s.  I was happy she was not here to see my daughter and I live through this “flood event”, as I refer to it.  I could feel her with me every step of the way and she was taking care of us from her place of grace.  In the last few months, my father chose to get remarried.  In celebration it added to my liberation.  I stayed with him a few nights a week as he grieved.  As a single mom, my daughter who was with me for 19 years chose to live at her boyfriends’ parents…I was alone for the first time….

She decided she didn’t want any of the items I had thoughtfully put away for her over the years. We, as parents take on the responsibility of providing for our young as they choose to depart the nest.  Buying an apartment or condo for them and furnishing it.  Interesting belief system.  My parents said goodbye to me at the train and that is all I got at that time.  The flood threw us out of our home.  She was staying at her friends when the event happened so she was angry with no closure. The items, as I referred to, were stuff: dining room table, chairs, blender, plates etc.  Bathroom and bedroom furnishings. With the burden of stuff….where do we store it all?.  She decided to pay it forward and give it all away.  I followed her lead. Keeping my mattress and a few items that fit in a 5×10 locker. We were now living apart.

With no home to return to, if her living arrangements did not work out, we processed through what was her and my responsibility.  I found that I was replacing her in my life with the prospects of a room mate and returning to the flood home.  In the 11th hour, awakening from a restful sleep, I gazed at the early morning sky full of stars. The energy of love and support filled my heart.  I knew I needed to embrace fully the freedom the universe has created for me.  That day, I texted my potential roomy, rental management company and said I had to embrace this freedom. It was a hard choice as tensions filled my stomach but I knew this felt right.  I try to be conscious in my decision making of what and who I am responsible for…I am still retraining myself out of old habits.  In essence I ask the question, Is this my truth?  Does this honor me?

My 8th temporary home is beautiful.  It is a win-win for the owner and myself as she has needed a house sitter in her travels to Spain, Croatia and California. She invited me to stay in the basement bedroom until I leave for Goa.  I have the flexibility to stay another 2 months upon my return.  This gave me a great peace of mind.

I have met with some generous friends who have guided me and shared their Mother India experiences: cautioning me about the water, keeping my mouth closed as I showered.  What worked for them treating or preventing Malaria.

With an open heart……I embrace this leg of my life’s journey with freedom and joy….creating only with love.  I acknowledge and say “Goodbye” to that old friend Fear that got me up in the morning with responsibilities of parenthood.

I love you all who have kissed my adventures of life with your presence.

FYI…The website is:





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Divine Soup and Wine Series #13

                                                “Augmented” Authentic Beet Soup




In many conversations with Ukrainian women authentic beet soup is just made with all the components of the beets and sea salt.  I did up a batch and decided to add a few Red Jalapeno Peppers that I roasted on the barbecue last week.  I added some white onion.  The flavor and heat was overwhelming so I proceeded to add a can of coconut milk to cut the heat and it made it palatable for me.

My brother and daughter whom loves heat… received a jar of the soup sans the coconut milk.

Today, I will add to the experience… barbecue roasted Zucchini…I guess this makes it a whole new creation.  I love cooking and how with our own specific tastes we can creatively augment a basic recipe into something we love making it special.

In Reflection: Please… with what you explore in your kitchen…give yourself permission to break free from the recipe and discover within yourself what makes your heart sing.


Beet Leaf Pesto

 I have taken weeks to find some healthy looking beet leaves and at the Farmers Market in Canmore I had success.   With enthusiasm, I bought the beets knowing that a pesto was ahead.

Beet Leaf Pesto in Bells

Beet Leaf Pesto in Bells

Chop Beet leaves, “Trick, if they are slightly wilted” Cut off the bottom stems and place it in a glass of spring water…they will revive themselves for cutting…

Add garlic crushed and diced,

Sesame oil and Olive oil, extra virgin

Chopped up sunflower seeds or walnuts

Grated Parmesan cheese

Sea salt


Mix it up and feel free to add it with whatever graces your palate.  I stuffed colorful peppers and cooked it on the barbecue.  Vegan and Yummy!!

I paired these delights with a “Rose” from Le Provence, France….Delicate and light for the Fall sun. It magically marries the flavors…


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Writer’s Cramp September 5th, 2013

Spotlight celebrating your WRITTEN WORD.

Whether it’s a poem, short story, tongue twister or rant we welcome your submission. Mountain FM launched the first show of “Writer’s cramp” on the 24th of January during Rob Murray’s morning show.

(Banff Elementary, Grade 3 pictured left)

September 5 features a powerful personal piece on “Bullying”, Ashley Landreau, College student

You can listen to the episodes anytime on Mountain FM’s website: Did I mention the show features a fun tongue twister tie off between Rob Murray and co host, Karen Barker, plus a word of the week?

The show airs every Thursday at 7:50 am on Rob Murray’s morning show. Dave Whitfield, editor of the The Rocky Mountain Outlook, publishes the featured pieces once a month. I invite you all to join us for some laughter in celebration of the written word.  You will have FUN and a great experience.

Submissions are to be made to Please include contact info.

“At 7 years of age in the mid ’60’s; when it was holiday time I remember the ride in the blue Valiant across the prairies, writing poetry, stuffed up against the window behind Dad in the back seat with 4 siblings. If this opportunity was available to me I would have been in heaven”.  –  Karen Barker

Thank you for your participation in making this opportunity a success for the students of the Bow Valley.

Keeping it light,

Karen and Rob

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Divine Soup and Wine Series #12,”Celebrate Life”

A Barbeque Vegan Meal

A Barbecue Vegan Meal

A Great Barbecue Meal

It features :

Tofu cooked in a Green Jalapeno sauce.

Eggplant sliced in 1/2″ strips and doused with sesame and extra virgin olive oil.  Augmented in sea salt is yummy.

Portebello mushroom is cooked in a basil pesto sauce.

Broccoli is covered in a Bragg’s or soya sauce.  I would have preferred Bragg’s but this temporary home I am in from the Canmore Flood and they did not have this item.

What you see on the small plate is a fresh fig with blue cheese.

A glass of Reventos i Blanc de Nuit,  2009,  Cava, product of Spain has a splash of hibiscus syrup.

It would have been my mothers 77th birthday.  The first birthday since her passing so I honor her with this meal…

Her passion was to Celebrate Life everyday…..

In reflection: Do you honor yourself and celebrate the brilliance that is within you?

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Divine Soup and Wine Series #11

A 5 Leafed Clover

A 5 Leaf Clover


Wow-ser Vegetarian Chili

 Bake at 350 F about 25 minutes: 3 Green Jalapeno peppers

Saute in large pot:  ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, the 3 sliced jalapenos, ¾ white sweet onion then add spices of crushed red chili pepper, Chili powder, cumin and salt

It is at this time that the spices can integrate creating the essential flavors of this dish.

Over top of mixture add broccoli, layered next with an organic can of washed garbanzo and kidney beans, Organic mushroom and garlic pasta sauce,  then end with a layering of fresh Kale.  Do not mix until ready to serve……Allow it to cook in this stacking method.

Turn it down low and allow it a few hours to simmer.  Patience…..

I allow the mixture to sit on the stove overnight to flavor itself.

When I serve it I may add some freshly grated Parmesan for extra protein or organic smoked Tofu cubes.

A nice Red Wine would complement this bowl of delight.

I will follow up with a palatable wine selection soon. stay tuned…..

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A Therapist/Survivor Perspective on:What do I say to a displaced evacuee?

Picking Up the Pieces

Picking Up the Pieces

A Therapist/Survivor Perspective on:  What do I say to a displaced evacuee?

I have as a therapist read a lot in the last weeks around the topic of post traumatic stress.  This is what I have come up with as a survivor.

Many people have asked me what do I say, to an evacuee or displaced person.   There is no reference for such an experience in our lives.

I have come to know that “each person is Unique”, that is what makes life so colorful.  There is no formula but guidelines.

Life is a series of “fortunate” or” unfortunate” events: experiences.  Pending where you are in life, this event or disaster may have put you over the top or you may be able to cope and participate in the clean-up, efforts to re-build is easier for you.

Be mindful that, the “How are you?” question maybe confusing.  In asking, what you are trying to convey is that you are thinking of them, that you care and you will be there for them.

1)      I am thinking of you….I want you to know I am here for you…because they may feel alone…I am checking in with you because I care and if there is anything you need.  Know that I am here for you.

2)      This is not your fault….Punishment or I am being punished is a thought we all have…It is not personal….

3)      Validate their feelings… I see you are sad, give them permission to tell their story.  If you are afraid please do not ask… The event has created a visceral fear response. i.e. losing home, threat of life.

4)      We never consented to this happening. There may be feelings of violation or anger. Thoughts of what have I done to deserve this.  Re affirm you are worthy… of self care: be it counselling, a yoga class, food, love, if that is where you are with that person.


In a nutshell

I am thinking of you.

I am sorry this has happened to you. It is not your fault.  It is not personal.

I am here to help

What do you need?

I love you.


The human condition is a frail one.  It challenges us to be in our hearts and respond in a way that may stretch us.  Embrace the new learning curve for it is new one for evacuees and displaced persons as well.

Remember each personal life is unique and it may not make sense to you but it is re.  Practice non judgement.

Acceptance without understanding is a key.

I accept what has happened to me but do not understand it.  I accept you as you are and I will be there unconditionally in my heart for you.  Do not try to fix it or dismiss it or compare it to others devastation or plight.  I have learned we are all unique.

Life is a dance and an improvisation that challenges us to be present and in the moment in the most beautiful sense of the word.

In Reflection: I thought it was a linear journey but in the intrinsic action of waves we emotionally undulate.

Radio Interview 106.5 Mountain FM July 4, 2013

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