Machinery of Violence . . .

Since violent entertainment 
erodes the sanctity of human life,
it’s revealing to examine 
the extent of our complicity.

We are more alike than different . . . only our thoughts construct narratives of Other. Our behaviours and actions follow. If, as global citizens, we cannot agree that the sanctity of human life is non-negotiable, it’s impossible to share any meaningful dialogue about equality.

selfArchive Blog 02/19 | New Year | Awakening | Transformation | Words

Excerpt from The End of Seeking manuscript © 2016 – 2019 Arlene Cotter
Illustration The Machinery of Violence (detail) © 2019 Arlene Cotter
© 2019 Arlene Cotter | arlenecotter.com & selfArchive.ca
Printed in Vancouver, British Columbia  Canada


Living Consciously in 2019 . . .

Wishing you and your loved ones a year of promise for 2019 from Arlene

If we’re conscious,
our lives can transcend
the privation of
our own self-interest.

There are times in our life when we activate a fuller expression of being, and we know it. Our senses intensify. Our capacities expand. We feel deeply and we speak truth. We’re brave.

As our innate wisdom shepherds us across the abyss of our fear, we ask more of ourselves and we receive more of ourselves in return.

selfArchive Blog 01/19 | New Year | Awakening | Transformation | Words

Excerpt from The End of Seeking manuscript © 2016 – 2019 Arlene Cotter
Illustration Living Consciously 2019 (detail) © 2018-2019 Arlene Cotter
© 2019 Arlene Cotter | arlenecotter.com & selfArchive.ca
Printed in Vancouver, British Columbia  Canada


Everlasting Gifts

People cook dinners. They build tree houses, knit scarves and draw homemade cards. Sometimes they help you move or take you to the rink or medical appointments. At other times, they simply listen.

These ordinary gifts of the heart are easily overlooked, yet everlasting. 

selfArchive Blog 12/18 | Holiday Spirt | Awakening | Transformation | Words 

Photograph: Blue Satin Doll Coat (circa 1960)
A pretty doll coat made by hand for Kathy, Linda and Arlene by our mother Izolda Kovacs Cotter.

© 2018 Arlene Cotter | arlenecotter.com & selfArchive.ca



These are stones with no appreciable monetary value. A collection of minerals molten, compressed, cooled, fractured and tumbled over millennia. Plucked carefully and hauled from river bars and ocean shores—some by me and some by others—they archive geological journeys beyond my imagining.

When I’m no longer here to witness their poetry, will my lifetime curation be evident? Do I am imagine my survivors will discern the tumor, the organisms or the cross? Unlikely. The stones will be dumped in a garden or at the beach. Maybe they’ll be thrown in a river. 

Long after my bones have turned to earth, the stones will continue to transform.

And I will, too.

selfArchive Blog 12/18 | Cancer | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter Impermanence


The Gift of Hair

Hair loss is a side-effect of some cancer therapies. It symbolizes fear and loss of control in the face of cancer diagnosis. And it’s a big concern for many cancer patients.

As silly or vain as it may sound, our appearance is a core aspect of our identity. It has a powerful impact on how we understand and locate ourselves in the world. Sure, fashion and gender styles are fluid . . . in 2018, lots of people shave their heads. However, sudden, undesired hair loss from chemotherapy (or for any other reason) is a different thing.

First, unlike shaving, hair loss from chemotherapy is not intentional. It can also be messy; exposing irregular, patchy spots on our scalp and leaving clumps of hair on our pillows and clothing. Hair loss is embarrassing. To get closer to a worse-case scenario, just imagine what it might look like if a small rodent chewed your hair over a period of days or weeks.

Second, unlike shaving, which leaves a shadow of shorn hair in the follicles, hair loss leaves nothing—no definition. Our scalp looks different without hair roots because there is only skin.

Third, in addition to the hair on our head, we’ll often loose our eyebrows. This can be a terrible shock. While it’s understandable to feel self-conscious when we lose our hair, especially if we already look pale and unwell, the loss of our eyebrows alters our appearance dramatically. Hair signals youth and vitality. Without our hair and eyebrows, we can look and feel vulnerable. We don’t look like ourselves. To be frank, our face may look baby-like, especially if we’re taking steroids that give us a round or “moon face.”

Should you lose your own hair, you may or may not want a wig. Fewer people want them now than in the past. When I was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, almost 20 years ago, I had a $950 wig constructed out of real hair. I never wore it with confidence because it always seemed to shift position and end up at some unflattering angle. I had foolishly ignored expert advice to get a short style, instead insisting upon recreating my previous look. It was an impressive wig but even with heavy make-up, my face no longer matched the strong look of the long, thick, brown curls. I probably wore the wig five or six times before I finally abandoned it entirely. When I look at it now I’m touched by what a lovely and generous a gift it was from my family. The natural hair is still beautiful.

A Cancer Wig
In this photo, the wig looks like a wild animal. I don’t know whether to smile or cry. Now, of course, synthetic wigs are more popular and people are more daring with colour and styles. But real hair wigs still hold a special place for many patients because they help them to recognize something of themselves when so much of who they are has gone. People all over the world donate, offer and even sell their hair so that those without hair can feel more like themselves.

You can contribute, too. Do some research to find out how you can help. Here in British Columbia many people donate their hair to create wigs for adults and kids who are facing difficult journeys.

Consider Wigs For Kids BC if you’re interested in gifting your hair to a child.

selfArchive Blog 10/18 | Cancer | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter The Gift of Hair



selfArchive Column 09:18 and Blog 09/18
On Being Human Now

I took a moment to reflect on if I was kind to each person I met today. My answer wasn’t all that comforting: Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

selfArchive Blog 09/18 | K I N D N E S S | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter Kindness


The End of Seeking Project

selfArchive Blog 08/18
The End of Seeking Project

Consciously awakening to our life is the single most transformative thing that a human being can experience. It’s also the foundation for building a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable world. 

The End of Seeking Project shares lessons from more than 40 years of spiritual enquiry. It has become the most significant communication project of my life. 

We write about what we know or need to know, and in my case, there has been a movement towards transformation and this ineffable thing called Awareness. I’ve spent much of my life drawn to silence; often experienced in solitude but also through openings when sitting with spiritual teachers, healers, psychologists, psychiatrists and, occasionally, awakened masters. 

At an early age I found peace in this stillness and felt no need to understand anything more. But as I moved through childhood and entered adolescence, this shifted. That’s when I lost what was once familiar and close. And that’s when I became a seeker.

I’ve since read many books, listened to many speakers, and attended many workshops in search of something I sensed was missing in my life, always beyond my grasp. Even after surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis and training as an integrative energy healing practitioner, the searching didn’t stop. And then, one day . . . it did.

The seeking ended without my being consciously aware of it until months later because it was so quiet that I almost missed it.

I will share glimpses of the project in the coming months.

selfArchive Blog 08/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter The End of Seeking Project


About Canada Day

selfArchive Blog 07/18
About Canada Day

On Canada Day I stand as a proud first generation Canadian*—but not that proud. As Canadians we collectively and individually need to examine our thoughts, behaviours and actions more closely, specifically the national conceit of living in “Canada the Good.” 

I’m not questioning our international reputation as a civilized democracy. Canada is good. It’s very good. But it could be much better if we put an end to xenophobia and the ugly forms of racism and social injustice it foments. 

July 1st is a day to remind ourselves that we have opportunities to practice inclusion, not just in theory, not just through legislation but within our daily lives. Inclusion has always been a personal choice.

Frankly, it’s not just new immigrant children and their families who confront xenophobia. Every day there are thousands of citizens here on Canadian soil who are made to feel “other” by fellow Canadians, by us or people like us and our children. This despite the fact that Canada is a country of global migrants living on ceded and unceded traditional territories. 

We can all do better. We can be better Canadians and better global citizens. And it begins with being better people. I was reminded of this recently. If you haven’t seen the documentary Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, please rush to your local theatre. It’s a poignant reminder about being human that might bring a tear to your eye.

Over 50 years ago Fred Rogers understood what it meant to sow the seeds of human dignity, respect and love. Recognizing television’s growing influence, he directed his ministry towards children’s programming. Whether we are children or adults, the wisdom he shared is foundational to what it means to be human. 

Happy Canada Day.

* Both my parents immigrated to Canada from Hungary as children. It was hard to get here in 1929 and it was hard to get here in 1939. It’s still hard to get here in 2018. It takes untold courage to start life in a new country but the suffering should end here, not continue. And if your ancestors were born here, however late, the suffering must stop.

selfArchive Blog 07/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter About Canada Day


Finding Quiet

selfArchive Blog 06/18
Finding Quiet

It’s uncommon to experience the complete absence of sound in the contemporary world but we can still make an intention to spend quiet time alone. We can walk away from distraction, find a private place and sit quietly for long enough to sense the subtle realm that surrounds us.

Most people don’t do this.
But many do.

there is nothing to say.
I put aside my discomfort

and welcome
And the world unfolds. 

selfArchive Blog 06/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter Finding Quiet


Living Consciously

selfArchive Blog 05/18  
Living Consciously

All lives are precious. This suggestion makes some people indignant. But to judge one life as more valuable than another is an unsettling idea for many of us.

I thought a great deal about this when I survived my own encounter with death, and continued to live. My experience was not so uncommon. Every day, human beings die from violent trauma and ordinary things like the flu or falling down the stairs.

The Canadian Cancer Society celebrates Daffodil Month each April in an gesture to honour people with cancer and those whose lives have been impacted as survivors, family and friends, researchers and healthcare professionals. April is over but I’m celebrating May by recognizing the individuals among us who have overcome the odds and continue to live—regardless of what they’ve faced. I’ve known many such people, and have lost many others. I’ve also come to respect life more than I have in the past. I now realize that we all have an opportunity to wake up and live our lives consciously

My new book project honours our every small intention to live an awakened life. It shares what experience has taught me: Every life is valuable and deserves to be honoured. This is our birthright. 

If we’re conscious,
our lives can transcend
the privation of
our own self-interest.

On 10 May 2018, please celebrate The Courage to Come Back Awards 

Over the past 19 years, Coast Mental Health has celebrated 114 British Columbians who have shown courage in the face of extraordinary adversity to emerge stronger and with a deep compassion to help others. Each year, at the Courage To Come Back Awards, we share their stories of triumph with the goal of helping others facing adversity regain the belief that, with courage, reclaiming their lives is possible.

Source: The Courage to Come Back website

selfArchive Blog 05/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter About Daffodils and Living Consciously



selfArchive Blog 04/18

Thirty years ago I was captivated with Rollo May’s book The Courage to Create. Later I found confirmation of my experiences in the work of Edward de Bono, David Bohm and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Creativity has shaped my life through the exploration of ideas and potentials.

As a designer, I’ve been confounded many times when breathlessly elegant solutions were dismissed as simplistic in favour of flashy trifles of meaningless complication. Far from solving anything, providing clarity or offering good design, these empty concepts added nothing of beauty to the world. One might argue that visual illiteracy was to blame. I would suggest that an absence of clear thinking was an equal partner.

In stark contrast to visual and mental clutter—but only if they make it through the gatekeepers—sit apparently simple solutions that are assimilated immediately. Things like elegant programming code, poetry, mathematical equations and minimalist design. Here ideas are rigorously distilled until the underlying complexity is essentially hidden; subsumed by an overarching solution. Such clarity shines with intelligence for those who recognize its form. But not everyone does. It can be easily overlooked because it’s so obvious, it’s transparent.

selfArchive 719 | Creativity | Simplicity | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter and selfArchive | distillation


On Life and Living

selfArchive Blog 03/18
On Life and Living

Several years ago I had an opportunity to stay with the internationally renowned psychiatrist and thanatologist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926 – 2004). Dr. Kübler-Ross was a pioneer of hospice in the USA, a courageous advocate for both adults and children suffering from cancer and AIDS, and author of the ground-breaking book On Death and Dying (The Five Stages of Grief) along with over 20 other books.

By the time I met her, Elisabeth’s health was in decline. She had already survived at least eight strokes and was living well beyond what she and everyone else had expected. Having previously confronted the spectre of my own death, I was presumptuous enough to think that I could help her to die well. Instead, confronted each day with her formidable intelligence and devastating wit, I became her student. Fortunately for both of us, Elisabeth didn’t pass away during my stay but she did show me what living a fierce and fully engaged life can look like, even as death draws near.

Live, so you do not have to look back and say: “God, how I have wasted my life.”
—Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross from Death: The Final Stage of Growth, 1975

This week I revisited some personal work I had prepared and presented to Elisabeth. Recognizing the level of social intimacy involved in caring for a physically compromised individual—especially one with both fame and notoriety—I had written two small booklets for Elisabeth with the intention of fostering rapport and engendering trust between strangers.

B O O K  I
Elisabeth : On Life and Living assumed the form of a social contract and served as an introduction.

B O O K  I I
Elisabeth : On Taking and Giving was a social note, debriefing, farewell and thank you.

As I re-examined the booklets, I considered whether they had any value outside my personal experience. That’s when some memories began to resurface.

How did I come to find myself living in Elisabeth’s Arizona adobe as her companion? Contrary to whatever convincing words I told myself, I was there because I thought that I just might be the one person who could finally bring Elisabeth to peace. It was no secret that this world expert on dying was having difficulty. Candid about her frustration and anger over her compromised physical state, she isn’t the first person who’s had to depend almost entirely on people like me who were less knowledgeable than herself. (That alone had to be a master class in patience.)

As a follower of her work, I was disturbed by some of the articles I’d read that year. Despite having devoted much of her career to speaking for the voiceless and ceaselessly advocating for death with dignity, Elisabeth was again being attacked in the media, this time because she was not dying as it was felt she should. The presumption of the writers was galling. Instead of recognizing her courage in speaking truth, they were framing Elisabeth’s candour as weakness. 

Reflecting upon my experience of meeting Elisabeth, staying and leaving, I wrote a third and final booklet for my series:

B O O K  I I I
Arlene : On Listening and Healing was a personal reconciliation of the lessons I learned from Elisabeth about dying and living.

I understand why people were drawn to Elisabeth. Her personality was magnetic. Even at the most intimate stage of her life, a time when common decency would dictate that strangers should extend her and her family privacy, people wanted to talk to her, interview her, know her, see her and claim some piece of her. They seemed to want to be in the aura of her legendary brilliance and fame. Of course, I was no different—except that I cloaked my own needs in the guise of service. Where others had failed, I would bring peace. My conceit was folly for all manner of reasons but primarily because at the core, Elisabeth, like many of us—like me—was navigating the healing realms of acceptance, forgiveness and love. Frankly, Elisabeth didn’t need me; I needed her. She was showing me the fierce grace of healing though I couldn’t quite see it at the time. 

It was only years later, back in Vancouver, that I understood more about this thing called healing when (after years of degenerative illness) my close friend died. This was because something remained between us that was not healed prior to his death. After he died, I would sometimes ask for his forgiveness or for my own, until one day when the concept of bestowing forgiveness fell away entirely. What remained in its place . . . was love.

I think modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. It is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love.
—Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Learn more about Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and the foundation that continues her legacy at ekrfoundation.org

Time brings change. While this scene no longer exists, here’s a glimpse of what the gate to Elisabeth’s Arizona property looked like back then.
a   The sign that simply said “Elisabeth”
b   The Swiss Flag
c   The Tepee
d   The Totem Pole
Three Booklets for EKR from Arlene Cotter

© 2018 Photograph of Arlene by Christopher T. Hall
© 2018 selfArchive | Arlene Cotter Three Booklets for EKR

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