The creative offerings at the Shatford Centre are being taken to a new level this weekend with the inaugural InSpirit Festival.
To celebrate the spirituality within the arts, the three-day event will cover a range of exercises to help each participant gain a deeper understanding of their soulful insights and inspirations, as well as bolster the human desire to be creative.
“It’s about encouraging creativity, to be really creative – poetry, music, gardening or cooking – anything that makes you stop and become aware of beauty is very spiritually enlivening,” said Ann Mortifee, who will be a keynote speaker at InSpirit. “The people who come come because they want to go deeper, and I’ve never had a workshop that didn’t end up being really fun and often very meaningful for everyone.”
Mortifee said her teachings don’t embrace new age beliefs, but rather ancient understandings.
“Everything is miraculous in the universe – everything. We’re living inside of a miracle. Now we know through quantum physics what the mystics have been telling us for thousands of years, that everything is made of light and energy.”
Mortifee has a rich spiritual resumé to draw upon. As a young girl, she was raised on a sugar cane farm in Africa, where she was surrounded by the Zulu peoples’ primitive forms of music and dancing, and had a “marvellous” nanny who could explain the culture at a deep level.
“Listening to their songs and dancing in the night when I was lying in my bed, it was just like a mystical world outside of myself.”
Then as a young teenager, Mortifee embraced Christianity.
“I had a profound experience of seeing unconditional love and really wanting to develop that in myself,” she said. “As I moved on, I suddenly thought, if my love is a tiny thing, and God is supposed to be love, then it must be bigger than what I was perceiving.”
Her curiosity prompted her to travel to India, where she further expanded her spirituality after submersing herself in Hinduism, which she was fascinated by.
Shortly afterwards, Mortifee then grasped and studied the beliefs of Buddhism.
Even after exploring other spiritual philosophies, what Mortifee learned through the Zulu people hadn’t lost its effect, and she was intrigued to notice that a similar philosophy is embraced by North American Shamanism.
“Shamanism is much more connected with how the mystery speaks to us through the physical world, and how to connect with animals.”
Regardless of the flavour taken by any particular religion, Mortifee said InSpirit will appeal to people of all faiths, as the ability to connect deeper with oneself holds universal significance.
“There’s this veil that is very, very thin between us and the world outside, or the world inside where other layers; other dimensionsy exist.”
Through meditation, Mortifee said it can feel like the mind has transcended and physically left the body, and that often leads to robust feelings of creativity.
“I think transcendence really happens when you go down into your body,” she said. “But whether you go out into the galaxy where the stars are, or you go down into your body where your quarks and atoms are, you’re going into empty space, really. What you’re doing is creating an experience with space.”
Mortifee’s presentation will also incorporate the experiences of her partner Sherrill Miller, who’s carrying forward the journey of her late husband Courtney Milne, who was a professional photographer. He passed away five years ago, and his inspirational work lives on through her.
“My work with him over the years was creating; we travelled the globe, photographed sacred places and wrote a dozen books on sacred and beautiful places around the world,” Miller said. “It was all about the intersection between beauty, spirituality and creativity.”
While the loss of a spouse will feel debilitating, Miller exemplifies the positive direction she took following the tragic circumstances.
“After Courtney died, my whole world needed to change,” she said.
“But people don’t have to be bereaved to come to this. It’s about making any change in life, and mine happens to be adjusting to losing a partner, and losing my job basically, because Courtney and I worked together for 25 years, as well as lived together. So when that happens, you need to find a new way of reinventing a life.”
Miller uses her late husband’s photographs of sacred and beautiful locations from around the world as visual content, and marries the images with music and deep commentary.
“It’s all about finding what is creative for us; what is our passion; what turns us on; what gives us satisfaction; what evokes our curiosity and imagination,” Miller said. “That’s what I’m going to be speaking a lot about.”
“Spirituality is all about finding those answers deep within oneself, and then making choices based on that soul-searching,” Miller said.
Those interested by InSpirit can register to participate in the whole weekend, and individual workshops are also being offered.
“Even if it’s just one of the events we can arrange for them to come,” said Jane Shaak, executive director at the Shatford Centre. “We hope this provides an opportunity to see a diverse range of spirituality in one weekend, and maybe it will help people open up to new possibilities.
The festival takes place at the Shatford Centre on Oct. 23, 24 and 25.
To find out more or to register, visit inspiritfestival.com.