Review by Peter Shepherd author, transpersonal psychologist, founder of Trans4mind.com
From the book by Marion Brownlie
Facing Demons is “Marion’s story.” It is also designed to serve a higher purpose, as an inspirational tract or dissertation, intended to help the reader rather than merely entertain. Facing Demons, then, is a self-help autobiography.
Marion is an ordinary enough woman on the surface, a wife and mother from New Zealand farming stock, but she has experienced much adversity in her life, some of it self-inflicted, some the result of chance and ill luck or some from extraordinary circumstances. Facing Demons tells how she deals with these challenges and the wisdom, strength, and resources she develops as she strives to overcome them.
Marion chooses a ‘hard path’ that almost forces her to learn lessons on a path of spiritual enfoldment that stretches the mind. These experiences, often stranger than fiction, include alternate realities, other dimensions, planes of existence, and consciousness. Her story shows the strength, resilience, and supremacy of the human spirit, the depth of the soul and the power of hope. She shows how each of us can access those very same qualities if we choose to – even in the midst of our greatest adversities. Marion’s story is thus, a story of hope for every human being.
Personally, I found the book both moving and inspiring. At the start of the book, Marion says, “Please take my hand and journey through my life with me…” That’s exactly what it’s like, and Marion is such a good writer that I felt I was inside her much of the time, learning with her from experiencing the very lowest times, such as contemplating suicide, through to the triumphs in her incredible journey. All too often I’m tempted to read the end of a book first, in this case it was the Epilogue, which follows…
Epilogue: My Lifetime in a Race
One-hour twenty-one minutes and thirty-six seconds to paddle my first ten-kilometre kayaking race. I sat on the start line thinking that I was well prepared for this race even though I hadn’t been in a kayak race before. The first wave for the longer distance competitors had gone two minutes before. The starter calls “paddlers are you ready – GO.” The race was born.
My sons Grant and Jess took off as if fired from a cannon. The water started to churn all around me and I felt as if I was caught in a washing machine sitting on a cork. How could I paddle when I could hardly stay in the boat? Everyone else seemed to be having it easy as they disappeared into the distance. I was left behind, struggling in their wake, unable to paddle properly for fear of falling out. I felt like a complete amateur even though I had trained for this. It seemed a lifetime before I reached the narrower canal and calmer water. There was no-one else’s wash to deal with as they were stretched out ahead. I found my rhythm and technique again, powering along, slowly closing the gap. Suddenly open waters again, big boats, little boats, jet skis, wake, wash and waves from all directions. Everything I knew about paddling went out the door again. In my struggle to stay afloat I even forgot to paddle.
However, I did hold it together to reach calmer waters again to discover “yes, I could power along”, right around the island and back into the open water. I think every boat in the vicinity must have ganged up on me and decided to test my skills. My body ached but I was through the worst of it then my focus lapsed, my kayak got the wobbles, and plonk, I was in the water, swimming. A rescue boat arrived. I was too tired to climb in so they dragged the kayak and me through the water to a sandy beach. It seemed to take a lifetime to get there and my last thread of strength to hang on. I felt like I had done the race already but in reality, unbeknown to me at that time I had only completed a third of the distance.
Eventually my rescuers emptied my boat of water. One loan kayak whizzed past. He’d had a late start as his rudder had broken and had to be fixed before he could start but he was long gone by the time I was back in my boat. I looked at my rescuers. I was on the brink of giving up. “I feel like I’m all alone in the wilderness and don’t know where to go.”
“Don’t worry,” they replied, “we will be right behind you.”
“Couldn’t you just go in front so that I can get in your wake and I’ll know where to go?” I tried to take the easy way out. After all I wasn’t going to win this race.
“No, we would rather you were in front so we can keep an eye on you.”
They set me on my way and fell in behind.
On and on I paddled. Sometimes the water in the narrow canals flowed so fast against me it was like paddling up rapids and took all my strength to go forward. I got a feeling of reassurance from the continual hum of the rescue boats engine. I had fallen out once and they had rescued me. Now when the water got tricky they would encourage me. “Turn right now, go into the wake. That’s it, you’re looking like a pro. Paddle, keep paddling.” I didn’t think they could see the intense concentration on my face or know of the struggle I was having with myself just to keep going.
The canals opened up forming a wide expanse of rough water. On and on I paddled with no idea where the finish was. Several times I felt like pulling into the bank and giving up, but no, I had started this race and I was darn well going to finish it. Grant had finished the race and concerned about where I had got to, paddled back to find me, appearing at my side. The relief to see someone I knew! “Can’t be much further now” I thought. “That’s it mum you’re going well, keep your hands up and use your body more.” I instantly felt stronger again knowing that he was there with his encouragement.
Around the last bend I came to be greeted with cheers and claps from all the other participants. It had to be the finish! “Can I finish now?” My boat had come to a stop. “No, no you have to go up to the red buoy.” To my exhausted body and mind it seemed miles away but somehow I had to finish especially since I had come so far.
I dug my paddle in. It disappeared into the sand almost capsizing me as I feebly fought to free it. I was on a sandbank with only two hundred metres to go. I struggled, pushed and shoved against the sand, suddenly the Kayak broke free, one stroke, two strokes – “that’s it you can do it,” I encouraged myself. “Nearly there, nearly there, keep going, keep going.” At last, the finish line. I had made it, my boat slowly rolled over and I took my last dive. Jess appeared and carried my boat and paddle for me. I was proud of myself… I had made it and not given up when tempted to do so.
Was it just one-hour twenty-one minutes and thirty-six seconds or was it a lifetime? This was not the first tenkilometres I have paddle even though it felt like it. The same with other lifetimes I have experienced. This race turned out to be twelve kilometres and the challenges very different from any I had ever encountered before. But as in this life we chose to come, to do a journey, bringing our own gifts, strengths, talents and weaknesses. Ones that we have developed through other lifetimes that we hope to hone, develop and strengthen throughout this one. For our souls to grow we often choose a path that will challenge us to the upmost. We don’t always have the conscious knowledge of why we came, where we are going, how we are going to get there, or of the obstacles along the way. Sometimes people come into our lives when they are most needed. My son appeared at my side with his help and support when I desperately needed a bit of encouragement. Just as in kayaking the difficult times are the times we grow and learn the most, building on and developing our personalities and skills at a much faster rate than through the easier times. However these easier times allow us to recoup our energies and the balance necessary to help us keep going.
We never know how our life will be. Some start quickly and appear to have had a smoother road while others hit the rough water and struggle from the start. That day we all paddled the same course but our experiences were vastly different.
Different challenges touched each of us during the race and we reacted in individual ways accordingly. The same opportunity to finish, in the best way we could, was there for each of us. There was no right way and no wrong way and we all have many faces. As in life you start it on your own and you must finish it on your own. As the rescue boat was there for me, so are our Guides, Angels and God or the Divine Essence. Many of us don’t see them, just as I couldn’t look over my shoulder to see the rescue boat for fear of falling in again. I needed to keep looking forward to keep my balance. It is comforting to have the knowing they are always with you regardless of how much we muck up and to know that it is not necessary to see them. Our Spirit Guides would rather let us do it on our own but are constantly there offering help and encouragement. They are always quietly supporting us especially in our most difficult moments when we find it hardest to listen, but need to the most. Other people can encourage, support and cheer you to the finish but you still have to paddle your own canoe, facing your own shortcomings, weaknesses and fears. No one else can do it for you but they can share in your pride of achievement. When you know you have done your best then you have won your race.
A few years later at the Australian National Canoe Marathon Championships I won a bronze medal in the forty-five to fifty-five year veteran women’s K1 (kayak1), against strong competition. Three years later I won gold and backed up to win gold again the following year!