Cara Kim Reynolds
Standing in the Light and Playing with her Shadow
Late morning light spills onto the couch
from an East facing window where Cara Kim Reynolds sits adjusting her necklace and smoothing her pants. I set up my recording device and nibble on a muffin. For the moment, hers is left untouched.
“We’ll start with the basics.” I soothe. “Where are you from?”
Cara grew up on the outskirts of Montreal in a community known as Pierre-Fond. She came out west for the first time to visit a friend in 2009. Within a year she was living in a bachelor suite with two other newcomers and feeling her way through the film industry, a beast she knew relatively well seeing as her professional acting career had started at age nine. It was this path that lead her to the coast and provided her with the financial stability to give Vancouver her best.
“For the first year or two, I felt like I was on holiday. Even though I was working, even though I was living a normal life like I would have been in Montreal, discovering the city for a couple of years felt amazing. That being said, I was young. Very young. And anything I thought I knew about life, I probably wouldn’t agree with now.”
She laughs as she says this last statement and her mind goes off on a tangential trip down memory lane.
Her mother and sister still live out east and I ask her if she gets home often.
“I haven’t been back to Montreal for nearly two years. I used to go back to Montreal every few months. When I first moved here, I would go for a week, two weeks, whole summers. The two were such contrasting cities. Montreal’s atmosphere was heavy with art and culture, their food scene was way better. Everyone was out late drinking and smoking. Everything was open late. Here in Vancouver I’d plugged into a culture of doing yoga and drinking green juice. I used to make the joke all the time that I’d go east to party, come back west and throw myself into rehabilitation… not the place but the lifestyle. I called Montreal my bad-girl sister. It was gritty and old and has this charm to it where as Vancouver still had art and life… but it was new and green and healthier. The two places kept me in balance.”
Ten years later, Vancouver is Cara’s home though she admits to feeling at home where ever she goes. In the last ten years her life has shifted and reformed into an entirely new shape. Though still involved in the film industry, her intention with the business is just that: business.
“I still work in film. I do it mostly for income. I don’t carry the same intentions and goals that I did for my career as when I first moved out here. They faded pretty quickly, actually. After about two years of being here I discovered alternative healing and that became my passion. It started with a fascination for nutrition and it grew into breath and body work. I’ve now spent the past five to six years studying and training in those areas. I did not predict that this was going to be where my journey would lead but I guess that’s just what Vancouver had in store for me. I still consider myself an Artist and will always be involved in film or media in some capacity, I love it, but my agenda is different. Health and wellness is what I would call my primary passion.”
If you think working as an artist in one of the world’s most expensive city’s is a tough gig, try doing it to support your career in alternative health and healing. Not only can finances be tight but the emotional exhaustion that can occur while trying to balance two careers can be overwhelming. Working with another person’s energy requires immense self-awareness and a deep understanding of one’s own biases and lenses. You don’t get to that point by accident, it takes a fair bit of self-reflection and digging.
“I didn’t realize when I first started pursuing alternative healing and health how much healing I had to do. At really dark points I could see that I had two options, get better or die. Being able to pull myself out of that darkness made me curious about why I was able to when others weren’t. And it made me want to help. I wanted to help show the people who couldn’t how it was I could.”
Cara is naturally generous in spirit, almost to a fault she admits.
“My MO used to be that I would shout these things from the rooftop. When I heard or learnt about something that resonated with me, I would essentially preach the good word (laughs) but over time, I allowed things to occur naturally and I’d absorb the lessons that worked for me and detach from the things that didn’t stick without needing to prove anything to anyone.”
She ponders, then:
“We aren’t obligated to help or share with one another but why wouldn’t we?”
Relating to my own experiences in self-development, I ask Cara how she manages the space and the process between knowing what the next step is and embodying it.
“I feel like I don’t manage my disconnects between knowing and being. I’ll think that I’m living it because I’m aware of it and I only realize that I wasn’t living it when I actually start to to live it. I often have these delayed reactions and I’ve kind of given up trying to get it right. It’s still ingrained in me to try to figure it out, try to apply them right away, I’m just as impatient as anyone else, but for the most part, it spontaneously and naturally occurs. All of a sudden I’ll be like Oh, that thing I was struggling with… I’m doing it now. An interesting way of framing things that one of my teachers once told me was that there is having an awareness of something, understanding it, which is when it starts to sink in because you are standing beneath the concept. And then there is being it. And when you are being it, you believe it.”
Cara is an active member in a community that looks at Shadow Work. This, as it sounds, is work that is based on the idea of shinning light directly into the dark spaces that have been created in our bodies and spirits.
“Spot lighting the areas within ourselves that we don’t want to look at and that we especially don’t want others to see lifts a massive burden off of us and literally takes the lid off of those feelings and shines some light on them. It’s challenging. I can’t say that I always do it but it is always my intention and my goal.”
Cara’s description of shadow work is intriguing. It touches on elements of self-care and development that I have heard others speak of but approaches it in a way that is new to me. We talk about the value or importance of self-reflective work like this.
“Whatever we resist persists. If you shove your anger down, it’s not going away. It’s just going into the basement and working out. It’s just getting stronger.”
In order to better understand this work in its essence, Cara puts forward a personal example: her tendency to judge.
“First I had to take ownership of how judgemental I was, both towards myself and towards others. The objective fact is that I judge people and things all day, every day. It’s how my psyche understands its surroundings. I used to make that mean that I was a bad person, I added an element of shame to a simple fact. Which didn’t stop me from judging but just pushed it further down. When I started to accept and own the fact that I was judgemental I was able to see it as a gift. I’m an observant person, I’m a discerning person. When I detach from what I’m making these observations mean about the individual or thing, then it becomes a fact and stops being a judgement. It’s not good or bad, it just is.”
Removing emotional attachment from observation allows Cara’s act of judging to morph into a curious acceptance of her surroundings. This shift has had a strong impact on Cara, providing her with a greater sense of balance and compassion in how the stimuli of the world filters in.
“I want to be in a society where we can say to someone who’s done wrong Come closer into the tribe, you clearly need healing. We are so quick to cast out.”
This statement, especially in today’s political climate, is a radical approach to handling other people and the messes they stir up. It is deeply compassionate and controversial. Cara says it with a full weighty understanding of what it means.
“I think that we’re going to come around and realize that we’re all the same. Excuse me while I finish this muffin and talk with my mouth full.”
Cara has the unique ability to be entirely goofy and completely serious all in the same moment without ever losing an ounce of authenticity. This trait is joyfully and undeniably present as she closes off her thoughts.
“We experience emotions because we are in a human body. When you break it down they are just chemical reactions happening within this vessel. It’s all response to stimuli and suffering is part of the rent we pay for living here. We don’t really know why we’re here. We have to make meaning for ourselves if we want to live a rich and fulfilling life. But we create that framework.”
Cara’s wipes the last crumbs off of her hand and relaxes deeper into the sofa as she determines how to lay out her last words.
“For a very long time I had an extreme fear of death. Or that’s what I called it. What I realized over time though was that I was not afraid of death or dying, I was afraid of the unknown or more over, I was afraid of being alive. I was afraid of suffering, of loss, these things that I associated with death. But they happen in life. And really, what do any of us actually know about death. Maybe death is just another opportunity to be present. There are cultures that practice dying consciously which is really just a practice in living consciously. So maybe life and death are two sides of the same coin.”
She looks at the imaginary camera and winks. “Spend your money wisely, kids.”