Opinion | Graham Rockingham: A year of living spiritually without religion – TheSpec.com

She danced with witches, built a new age altar, went 40-days alcohol free for Lent (even tried a couple of AA meetings), visited Thoreau's Walden Pond and drove to Lily Dale, N.Y, North America's oldest spiritual community. She hugged a tree, even spoke to it, practised yoga with goats, immersed herself in a float tank, learned to interpret Tarot cards, explored past-life regression, hosted a "death dinner," donned a pink hat for the Women's March in Washington, chowed down on a megadose of magic mushrooms (her first and only time), tidied her house ala Marie Kondo ... and got a tattoo, a little one, of a bird, on her shoulder.

There was other stuff, too, but you'll have to read the book to find out what.

It's called "My Year of Living Spiritually," 254 pages published by Douglas and McIntyre, and it's coming to your local book store on Oct. 26. You can attend the book launch on that day from 7 to 9 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, a place of worship as liberal as the Canadian Reformed Church is conservative. Bokma is also speaking Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 9 a.m. at the Royal Botanical Gardens, presented by A Different Drummer Books.

Bokma approached her spiritual encounters with both an open mind and a journalist's skepticism. While some therapies failed to provide the promised spiritual boost, Bokma never questioned the sincerity of the people pushing them. Most came to her through trusted recommendations.

Some required travel and money (she budgeted $300 on items for the new age altar), but many were found close to home and for free.

Perhaps the most moving chapter is "Finding My Voice," in which Bokma finds spiritual solace through the shared voices of a community choir. At one point the choir visits a palliative care unit. Bokma is brought to tears by how a simple song can raise the spirit of those facing their final breath. The narrative is poignant and compelling.

Although it wasn't Bokma's original intention, the book became more of a personal memoir than a work of journalism. Her path kept returning to her broken relationship with her family, in particular her mother, a woman she had always admired.

The new age altar didn't survive the year, but Bokma has cut back on her alcohol consumption, pulled the plug on the TV and learned to accept her life with gratitude. Her house is a much tidier place, due to Marie Kondo, and, after more than 30 years of marriage, she has rethought her relationship with her husband.

Perhaps most importantly, her year-long journey has brought some reconciliation with her mother, helping to mend a rift that opened more than 35 years ago.

"She read the book. I had to show it to her, she's in it so much," Bokma says. "I thought maybe that would be the end, that we would never speak again. I had no idea how she would react.

"The next morning she called me at 8 a.m. She had stayed up all night and read it. She didn't hate it. She didn't like it, or love it. She corrected a couple of things.

"And said 'I do love you.' That was the first time I had heard that in a long time.'"

What: Book launch for "My Year of Living Spiritually," by Anne Bokma. A reading by Bokma plus a conversation with Tom Wilson, author of the bestselling memoir "Beautiful Scars." Musical performances by Lyla Miklos, Darcy Mitchison and J.P. Morrison

When: Saturday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m.

Where: First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, 170, Dundurn St. S.


905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec


905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec

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Opinion | Graham Rockingham: A year of living spiritually without religion - TheSpec.com

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