About Christine Savoie
Christine was born in Montreal, grew up in the city of Granby, and moved back to Montreal at the age of 19, to start University. Over the course of the years, she’s gotten degrees in Arts & Sciences, Sexology and Journalism, specialized in written press. She also has Certification as a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist.
She’s devoted her career as a sexologist to the cause of HIV-AIDS: Doing sexual education and HIV prevention work with everyone ranging from high school students to inmates to all in between, participating in advocacy efforts for the rights of people living with HIV, supporting them and their families through trying times. In 2002, she took basic Swedish massage training as part of a volunteer program for individuals who wished to offer massages to people living with HIV/AIDS. This volunteer experience changed her life.
Realizing that the truth of people resides in their bodies much more than in their minds, she gradually ended her sexologist career and undertook the study and practice of Thai Yoga Massage. Helping people heal their hearts, souls and emotional wounds through the body, with the power of touch and massage, is at the core of her life now.
The written word and the arts have always been a passion and, after years of being a closeted writer, she’s ventured out into blog land, with We Blog the World. This venue is also an opportunity to explore the visual art form of photography and have people discover Montreal, one of the best cities on this planet, through her unique perspective.
Latest Posts by Christine Savoie
I grew up as a Catholic, but have been practicing other religions and studying spiritual philosophies since my early twenties, notably Buddhism, Yogic philosophy, Hinduism and Native American Spirituality.
I’ve always been a seeker of Truth and interested in matters of the Soul/Spirit. What I’ve found with these spiritual explorations is that they all share the same message of love, tolerance, compassion and respect of one another.
There’s a Roman Catholic Church near my place, called Holy Family Parish, who exhibits a sign saying “Respect you neighbor’s religion. To live in Harmony” and shows symbols identifying all religions, including aboriginal spirituality. As a matter of fact, an Inuksuk is nestled at the left side of the steps leading up to its entrance. I’d been curious about going for a while and this summer, I took a leap of faith and went to mass.
The first thing you notice when walking in is how much this church doesn’t look like a traditional church! The ceiling is covered in a “web”, symbolizing the web of life in aboriginal cultures, from which a dream catcher is suspended. In place of a crucifix behind the alter, there’s a massive open armed Jesus, dressed in robes as he would have been in the context of his time. Near this Jesus is a screen, from which audiovisual material is used to support the liturgy of the day.
On the right side, the sacred corner where the Bible rests, you will find the Torah, the Koran, the Baghavad Gita, and Buddhist texts. There’s also a permanent shrine commemorating the Holocaust. The left side shows a mural that says “Respect”, with human shapes on which symbols from various religions are inscribed. A poster at the front left proclaims “Jesus belong to everyone. We are all Brothers and Sisters.” And so on…
“How can this be?” I wondered with amazement. Then, the answer to my question came out to celebrate mass. The answer was to be found in Father John Baxter. He was gracious enough to grant me an interview. It was my pleasure to sit down with this lively, vibrant and clearly passionate man.
Introducing Father John Baxter
John Baxter was born in Toronto, in 1933, and raised there until 1950, when his family moved to Montreal. At an early age, he felt the vocational call of the priesthood. He always felt drawn to it, inspired by the priest in the parish of his youth. So he followed the natural flow of a “soul calling”, as he says. “You only have one life to live. Why not give it to God?” He also felt compelled to help people spiritually and to be of service to others.
So from 1953 to 1959, he studied the priesthood at Le Grand Séminaire, in Montreal. Father Baxter didn’t speak French (!), yet managed to understand the classes in French and Latin, and was allowed to turn in his schoolwork in English. After being ordained, he was sent to Holy Family Parish to live and assist the Pastor.
He has been there ever since, with the exceptions of one year (1972) spent in London, England to study the New Catechism inspired by Vatican II, and two years at a parish in Pointe-Claire, a city located on the West end of the Island of Montreal.
The shift in the Catholic Church that came with Vatican II, where the concept of “one true church” was put into question, influenced Father Baxter’s style of liturgy. “God is present in all religions and calling all religions to Himself” is a creed that germinated within him, and over time, influenced the interfaith penchant he gradually incorporated into his church.
“Fanaticism is in everyone’s backyard…and turning people off”, he explained. “Some people think that exposure to other religions dilutes their faith. But I believe it can strengthen it by respecting others and knowing that God is working through that too. It’s not about bringing God to people – he’s already there!”, he continued.
His use of audiovisual material is also quite unique, presenting excerpts of documentaries, movies, news reports and television programs during mass. For Father Baxter, the emphasis is to “experience” religion, instead of just absorbing dogma, to make the message of Jesus more relatable. He explains: “In a way, the Eucharist has always been visual and close to entertainment. Bringing media into the building is of our time and visually reinforces the message, makes it believable today. It grounds the Liturgy.”
“How do you see Jesus?” I ask him. “I see him as a brother, a companion, someone who walks with you. My vision of Christ is of one who embraces”. He also contextualizes the Bible, saying “the kernel of God and Jesus are there, but they’re wrapped up in something else.”
One of the last things I ask him about is the aboriginal symbols and spirituality present in the church. I mean, interfaith is one thing, but adding the wise knowledge of Native Americans takes inclusiveness to another level. “Oh, that…” he responds spontaneously, “that’s been there since even before bringing in interfaith!” Father Baxter is very rooted in Nature – or Creation, as he calls it. He’s an outdoors kind of guy.
After the interview was over, he excitedly showed me the “behind-the-scenes” of the church. I excitedly followed him…I always love going beyond where people usually go. “I built (with some help) a morning room and a night room”, he says as we are walking, “Rooms where you can go and relax or have discussions”. He stops in front of an opening, turns the light on. I walk in. The morning room is filled with trees, murals, eagles and other shamanic symbolism. A “fire” is at the center. “Oh my god…this room is amazing!” are words that could not be prevented from coming out of my mouth.
The night room was just as mesmerizing, complete with a wall of glow- in-the-dark little stars, real tree trunks and again, the element of fire. “I have to show you the sweat lodge” was our next venture. He had mentioned it during the interview. You can’t do an actual sweat lodge ritual in it, but it is there to symbolize the purification experienced during this ancient aboriginal tradition. I did one in 2005 and can attest to its power, healing…and intense sweating heat!
To my surprise, the sweat lodge is tucked away inside the church, behind the Wall of Respect. Again, trees (pine trees) hide and define the entrance. A very tall totem and bear (taxidermy) discretely have their place next to it…I had never noticed them before! This little church is full of surprises and infused with Life! Father Baxter’s motto is “Lead by example”. And what an inspiring example he is!
If you want the address to come see for yourself or know more about Holy Family Parish, go to their website at www.aboutholyfamily.blogspot.ca. It’s in the process of being update (like the pictures of the church), but you can still get some information.
I apologize for the quality of the following pictures. The church is dark, my digital camera is archaic and it was hard to figure out the lighting. But if you click on the picture for a bigger view, the visual is clearer.
Peace and Light to all!
I’m a Yogini. Yes, yoga has been an intricate part of my life for the past 15 years. I’ve explored many forms over that time span. I love most of them and alternate my practice according to the needs of my body, my mind, my spirit.
In 2010, I came in contact with a woman named Susanne Koltai. She had come to me for a massage – I earn a living as a Thai Yoga Massage therapist. During our first massage session, Susanne told me she did yoga. «What form do you do?», I asked. «Svaroopa®!», was her answer. I had never heard of it. It piqued my curiosity.
What is Svaroopa® Yoga?
The word svaroopa means the bliss of Being. First and foremost, its about opening up the spine, starting from the tailbone and sacrum right up to the shoulder blades and base of the skull.
Svaroopa® Yoga was developed by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati, formerly known as Rama Berch. She’s been teaching yoga since 1976 and has studied many disciplines and yogic philosophies in India and North America. Following many trials, tribulations and physical challenges, she began to create variations on the classical hatha yoga asanas (poses), inspired by her in-depth knowledge of anatomy and mind. Her students were amazed and delighted.
Over time, she was urged to name the approach she’d developed and been teaching. Hence, Svaroopa® Yoga was born. Yoga Journal listed Svaroopa® Yoga as a style in 1996, providing national recognition of its expansion and effectiveness. She also founded Master Yoga Foundation, a non-for-profit organization that supports the teaching of Svaroopa® Yoga.
Awareness is at the centre of her philosophy. She told Australian Yoga Life (issue Sept-Nov. 2010): «All the practices of yoga turn your attention inward, specifically for you to find and experience your own Presence within yourself. Yoga is about being aware of your own presence, your own Self, which is a completely different direction of awareness: inwards instead of outwards». Interesting how this awareness is the opposite of how yoga is taught here, in the West, where most of the focus is on the superficial outcome of how yoga makes your body look…
Each class begins and ends with Shavasana (Relaxation pose), focuses on a particular theme and has what is called a marker pose. This is a pose that you’ll do at the beginning and end of a class, allowing you to feel the progression of how your body has opened. It can be encouraging to realize that, yay!, that right shoulder can now reach the ground while doing a gentle twist.
One of the core sayings in Svaroopa® Yoga is «Support = Opening = Release». An abundance of props are used to support you as the postures are held. Rolled up blankets, stacked blankets, blocs, chairs, little head rests are used throughout the session. The rationale is that if you are straining or forcing in any way, the spine cannot release. You need to be as aligned and supported as possible to get the maximum benefits of your practice. And find your Bliss.
The sequence of postures is designed to follow a progressive opening of the spine. «The most important part of it is that as the core of the body begins to open up, so does your inner experience of yourself», explains Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati, in the same aforementioned publication. And I can personally attest to this: I’ve lived with generalized anxiety disorder for most of my life. Since starting Svaroopa® Yoga, I can honestly say that 95% of my anxiety has melted away. Finally, relief.
In addition to being a Svaroopa® Yoga practitioner, Susanne also teaches it part-time. Teaching is a big part of her life, being a full time teacher of Interior Design at Dawson College, located in Montreal. She also had a previous career as an interior designer and worked in sales and marketing linked to the same domain.
She discovered Svaroopa® Yoga 13 years ago when she was looking for stress relief from her highly demanding job. The recreation centre where she lived, in Town of Mount Royal (TMR – located on the Island of Montreal), was offering that form of yoga. She absolutely loved it!
Not only did it help to relieve stress, but she found it to be nurturing and it made her body feel better, younger and more toned. Her mind became calmer and her spirit, nourished. «I found all those benefits to be long lasting, the new found sense of calmness being the most important one», she related to me over a nice little Indian lunch she had prepared for us, «I love that it meets your body where its at. Not only is it powerful and blissful, its accessible to all, whatever shape, size or age».
She would soon discover how Svaroopa® Yoga could be a tool for healing as well. About 10 years ago, Susanne had to undergo major brain surgery. She knew she’d be in for a long rehabilitation. After spending about three weeks in the hospital, she slowly began to rebuild her strength and stamina, dealing with issues of balance and double vision.
Her prior practice of Svaroopa® Yoga helped her in three ways. First, it allowed her to be better prepared for the surgery, with spiritual calmness and harbouring a positive outlook. She went in with the mantra «In my spirit I believe and in my neurosurgeon I trust!».
Second, while recovering in the hospital, she was able to lie in supported Shavasana, where plural pillows were stacked up under her knees, allowing her spine and back to release. This was a tremendous opportunity since she had to spend long periods on her back and bed ridden. Susanne also did Ujjayi Pranayama, an ancient yogic breathing technique that helps calm the mind and body. Its rhythmic sound is akin to that of the ocean or what a fetus hears in the womb. Its very soothing and profoundly healing physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s a very important part of Svaroopa® practice.
Third, along with physiotherapy, the gentle and supportive form of Svaroopa® Yoga ensured she could get back to her yoga practice rather quickly, in little bits and pieces. It helped her regain use of her body and senses. This trying experience reinforced her beliefs that Svaroopa® is accessible to everyone, meets your mind and body where they’re at and helps to heal and grow spiritually.
«After the surgery, I knew I coudn’t (and wouldn’t) want to go back to the pace my life had before. I started thinking about what the next path would be», elaborated Susanne. «I had a desire to bring beauty, balance, bliss and harmony to myself and share it with others».
This became a mission statement for her life. And she knew it would come through Svaroopa® Yoga and teaching. Although she had taken the basic Foundations training in 2004, she started the complete Yoga Teacher Training in 2010 and became a certified teacher. Susanne also continued to take various Svaroopa® Yoga workshops, has regularly attended Svaroopa® Yoga conferences and has taken additional training in Embodyment® Yoga Therapy, teaching standing Vinyasas and teaching half day workshops.
She long had a vision of a home yoga studio. Her husband and herself had been planning renovations to their house, and they decided that the home studio would be a part of those renovations. They had an extension built, where a tower leads you to the cozy, luminous little yoga studio nestled at the top. «Build it and they will come», she believed.
And we have been going! I was one of a few students to begin classes with her in the summer of 2010 and now, her classes are full! Granted, the yoga studio accommodates about 8 people, but Svaroopa® Yoga is usually practiced in small group settings, privileging connection between teacher and students and facilitating alignment corrections and adjustments.
Susanne plans to devote more time to teaching Svaroopa® yoga once she retires from her teaching job at Dawson. That’s good news for all of us!
If you want to know more about Svaroopa® Yoga or locate a teacher in your area, please visit www.svaroopayoga.org, the website of Master Yoga Foundation. If you swing by Montreal and would like to take a class with Susanne, you can reach her at www.studioSyoga.com.
Fall brings about the most beautiful color pallet as the leaves scintillate in shades of gold, orange, red and the harvest of the summer season comes to its final fruition. Fall is also the season of Thanksgiving, celebrated with a day of gratitude and feasting. And in Montreal, the Jean Talon Farmer’s Market is the best place to buy some of this savory bounty.
Inaugurated in May 1933, the Jean Talon Market is one of many Farmer’s Markets located on the island of Montreal, the mission being to offer access to the freshest produce and best products.
Grocery shopping at Farmer’s Markets is an efficient way to encourage the local agriculture industry and limit transportation costs (and fuel consumption). For example, most farmers and market garden producers at the Jean Talon Market have their land located within a 50/60 km radius around Montreal.
During summer, starting in spring, produce found at the Jean Talon Market is super fresh, even possibly picked the same day you bought it. The meat comes from surrounding farms all year long. The fish and seafood are brought in fresh from the Atlantic regions of the province of Quebec, like la Gaspésie.
It’s reassuring to know you can ask about the quality of life of the animals you eat or about the usage of pesticides and other questions you might have, to the people who are directly involved in the farming process. They’re happy to chat with us and friendly rapports are often established.
The egg man recognizes me now since I’ve asked him what the quality of life of his hens was. Granted, he amusingly grinned before answering, but he did confirm that his chickens walk around an indoors enclosure, aren’t confined to cages and are exclusively grain fed, as it should be! That’s a relief! Conscious consumption is something we should all engage in. We are what we eat, after all…
The Jean Talon Market Experience
First off, I’d like to say, I heart FOOD!! I love to shop, cook, eat, it! There’s something comforting in the idea that, no matter what kind of day you’ve had, you can go home and create a dish that will feed your body and nourish your soul. Nothing compares to a good home cooked meal. Cooking also connects us to the roots of our humanity…whenever I stir soup, for example, I’m mindful of the fact this is how it’s been done since the moment humans began stirring soup! Cooking is surely more grounding than texting!
Needless to say, going to the Jean Talon Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite weekly outings. I always feel relaxed and content when I leave the premises, usually loaded like a mule, with many bags of fresh fruits, veggies, meat, fish, eggs. And occasional pastry treat – a woman needs to indulge herself with fabulously rich Italian or French patisserie, once in a while. Men too!
Do go to Le Pain Doré and try a pear and cream of almond danish. It will mesmerize your taste buds! Seriously. I brought some over as dessert at a casual dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and at some point while eating it, he stopped talking and started observing the danish intensely. The next words out of his mouth were “Damn…this is really good!!!”
The ambiance of the market is also enlivening and worth a visit: tons of people from various nationalities, side-by-side, squeezing fruits and veggies to verify ripeness, tasting samples, chatting with the farmers and butchers to learn more about them and their products. Children playfully run around. Musical performances by live musicians fill the air with South American beats and other genres. Dog tails wag as they enthusiastically meet.
Delicious smells from restaurants and outdoor stands cooking meat for fresh hot sandwiches perfume the atmosphere. A few Cafés line the perimeter of the market, where you can sit outside and enjoy the sights. A few hours at the Jean Talon Market is like taking a little break from the city and an indulgence for all senses.
From April to October, part of the merchant kiosks are located outside, and for the other 6 months, walls are built and everybody moves inside – this is Canada, land of the arctic winter cold! There’s also a permanent set of shops that offer specialized products (olives, nuts, spices, health food stores, etc.).
If you live in Montreal and haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for? The Jean Talon Market is easily accessible by public transit. If you’re a tourist who likes to glimpse cities beyond the usual tourist attractions, take a few hours and experience this lovely space. You won’t be disappointed! You might even leave with a soft smile on your face and a can of maple syrup, made in Québec, in your bag…
Cone breast bras. Chic white clothing with stripes. Collaborating with and creating costumes for strong, sexy icons like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. His sensuously intoxicating perfumes. Truly, the influence of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaulthier on the pop culture scene and fashion of the past 40 years is undeniable. He’s pushed boundaries, not only for women’s, but also, men’s couture.
Even if you know nothing about fashion, you will surely tingle at the sight of The fashion world of Jean Paul Gaulthier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, presented until October 2nd at the Fine Arts Museum of Montreal.
Montreal is the perfect city to premiere this exhibit. Jean Paul describes his art as an “open-minded vision of society, a crazy, sensitive, funny, sassy world in which everyone asserts their own identity.” Fusion couture, he calls it. Well, Montreal is a fusion city. Where else in the world do various multicultural communities live side-by-side in peace and harmony, tinted with the flavor of old school France and where the women have a worldwide reputation for their “hotness”? Really, there are so many good looking women in Montreal that one of my male friends once told me that, at some point, you stop looking at every one of them because it gets too time consuming! But I digress…
I went to the exhibit with a fashion designer friend. We got there at 11am, opening time for the Museum. There was already a long lineup! ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘this event is happenin’!’ Contrary to the club scene lineup however, baby-boomer tourists were let in first. FYI – pre-bought tickets is the way to go.
It was hard not to notice that everybody was well-dressed. White t-shirts with navy stripes were au rendez-vous on many visitors. I have to confess: I first went to see the exhibit on a Monday, only to find out the Museum was closed that day. For that occasion, I had adorned my neck with a red and navy striped scarf worn like a tie, and red and white striped earrings. I thought it might be cliché, but it’s one I happily wanted to partake in. So bravo to all of you who honored JPG by wearing stripes!
Once inside, the walk to the exhibit was quite long, but was fortunately punctuated by other exhibits being showcased, free, at the Museum. Visitors can venture off to explore other forms of visual art. Check out the one entitled “The Earth is Blue like an Orange”. It poses the question: How does imagination figure in art today? An à-propos question that leads us to the imagination world of Jean Paul Gaulthier…
Fittingly, the exhibit begins at the top of a lavish staircase, a dark velvet carpet leading us there. Greeting us is a simple, 80’s feel neon sign declaring Jean Paul Gaulthier. And thus the creative opulence begins. There’s a lot to take in, starting with the raw creativity, craftsmanship and artistry of the couture – I mean, wow! Some of the pieces took over a thousand hours to make!
Jean Paul Gaulthier isn’t so much about clothes as he is about vision. He imagines ensembles, with every accessory thought out with precision: the shoes, the hair/hat/head pieces, the jewelry, the stockings (oh my…the lovely stockings!), right down to the face masks, when required.
Every room of the exhibit has a theme: Le Boudoir is where you’ll explore his fascination with corsets and his play with the female silhouette. It’s also where you’ll see the corsets and costumes developed in collaboration with Madonna, for her Blond Ambition Tour. Viewing intimate polaroids of the fittings will be a treat for every Madonna fan! As will be the chance to see the infamous cone breast corset so identified with the Madonna of the 90’s.
L’odysée explores his beginnings. In the early 70’s, he was taken in as a protégé par Pierre Cardin, an influential French designer of the time. It’s also later in this decade that JPG did his first runway collections. His influence on pop culture starts almost immediately, being intimately intertwined with the 80’s phenomenon era of the Supermodels. Seeing pictures of Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Nadja Auermann, to name a few, you can’t help but think that JeanPaul Gaulthier was instrumental in contributing to the überization of exceptionally beautiful women to the rank of supermodel. Ah, the 80’s…I was a teenager in that era. I remember how shocking and innovative Jean Paul Gaulthier’s creations where at the time.
Punk CanCan and Urban Jungle are two rooms of the exhibit reserved for his early creations and other breathtaking pieces inspired by Nature and Culture. I was amazed to realize that a lot of what he did in the 80’s (punk yellow plaid dress with integrated leather jacket; an army themed ballroom gown) is still relevant today, could have been created nowadays. But you can see for yourself – a lot of the pictures featured in this blog are from those rooms. Enjoy the mind blowing creations! Can you believe the originality and work involved in the button dress? As for his ode to tattooing and S/M flavored creations, they are displayed under the appellation Second Skin.
The last room, Metropolis, showcases his contribution to pop culture. He did the costumes for the Fifth Element, La Cité des Enfants Perdus and various Pedro Almodovar movies, to name a few. He’s dressed many French icons, such as Catherine Deneuve, Mylène Farmer and the fabulous music groups Niagara and Les Rita Mitsuko. Not to mention Nirvana, Depeche Mode, Lady Gaga. And remember the 80’s group Cameo, known for their song “Word Up”? Well, he dressed them too, back in 1986!
Do view the screening of clips presented at the end of Metropolis. Not only will you see some of the movies mentioned in the previous paragraph, but you will surely laugh at the segment about two women who actually wear Jean Paul Gaulthier creations in real life situations…with hilarious outcomes. Sex and cone breast bras…that’s all I’m gonna say!
What sets Jean Paul Gaulthier apart from other designers is not only his unique expression of beauty and creation, but the humor and fantasy that underlies each piece. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. I left the exhibit feeling exhilarated, with the belief that anything is possible if you align vision with action. Dare to be bold and to Express yourself (Madonna song pun intended!).
And the beat goes on…Jean Paul Gaulthier will surely continue to inspire us, opening our minds with his fashion art form. Supported by his brilliant soul, mischievous smile and Light in his eyes. The celebration of aliveness…