wanting to happen here?” -
A Question That Brings Clarity
By Joanne Sales Published in The Beacon - April 2008
An Interview with Shivon Robinsong
Shivon is a kidney donor, founder of Hollyhock Education Center
on Cortes Island and the Gettin’ Higher Choir in Victoria.
I met Shivon in the blueberry fields at our farm a few years ago,
and I was struck immediately by what an amazing person she was.
She started Hollyhock Retreat Centre on Cortes Island, she started
the 300 person Gettin’ Higher Choir in Victoria, and then,
last fall, she blew my mind completely when she gave one of her
kidneys to a friend. I suspected that she had a unique slant on
“conscious living” - and indeed, she does.
I asked Shivon what conscious living means
“To me, being conscious is pausing, breathing, and tuning
into the infinitely larger energy field of which I am a small
part. A question I like to ask is - ‘What’s wanting
to happen here?’ It’s a really different question
than ‘What do I want to do?’”
As we talked, it became obvious that asking “What’s
wanting to happen here?” has guided many important decisions
in Shivon’s life.
“When I‘m not caught up in the
illusion of separation, I have faith that there is an infinite
plan. By giving up thinking that I can control it, I find life
is much more enjoyable. To ask ‘What’s wanting to
happen here?’ is a way of opening up to that flow.”
I was fascinated by how Shivon arrived at the decision to actually
give a living part of her body to someone else.
“Joel has been a close friend for
25 years. I had known that Joel had a congenital kidney disease.
It weighed heavily on me that we may lose him too early.
“Last spring, he came over to my house. We were sitting
at my kitchen table. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He told
me that the doctor had said his disease was progressing, and that
he would need to find a kidney soon. I immediately blurted out,
‘You can have one of mine.’”
At that time, Shivon didn’t even know if she had the right
blood type, but after rigorous screening, it was determined that
she could be a kidney donor for Joel. I wondered whether Shivon
ever regretted the offer she made so quickly that day at the kitchen
“Absolutely not. Here was this dear friend, who I was so
deeply linked to through our connection to Hollyhock. When it
dawned on me, that a kidney that I had, that I didn’t really
need, could actually save his life, when I asked “What wants
to happen here,” it was startlingly clear. Take a kidney
from me, give it to him and we will both be fine. It seemed a
very obvious choice to me.
“I love to garden. Joel loves to garden too. If you have
two prize plants, but they are very close together, you will happily
make the decision that you’ll move this one over here, to
bring this other part of the garden to life. Once I thought of
it in gardening terms, any fears I had went away.”
So on November 14, at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver,
Shivon had one kidney removed, and it was placed inside her friend
a couple hours later.
“When I first came out of surgery,
it was one of the happiest days of my life - a deeply joyful feeling
like after you have given birth. I cried tears of joy when the
doctor came in to tell me how well it had gone, and that my kidney
was springing to life in Joel. Whatever pain and discomfort I
experienced was really minor compared to that.”
The kidney transplant was successful for Joel, and Shivon says
she now feels better than ever. She has her friend back, and her
I asked Shivon when she first asked the question, “What
wants to happen here?”
“Well, the first time I remember having
that feeling was in 1981, when I was first living on Cortes Island.
My friend, Rex Weyler, had recently been told by a gypsy fortune-teller
‘Look for red hollyhocks… an important sign.’
He came to visit us on Cortes, and as we were showing him around
the island, there in the middle of the garden of the former Cold
Mountain Institute was a vibrant patch of red hollyhocks. We had
a strong sense that there was something that wanted to happen
there and wanted us to be part of it. The question was not ‘Do
we want to do this?’ Rather it was ‘‘Are we
willing to be part of what wants to happen here?’”
At that point, the property on Cortes (now Hollyhock) was for
sale for over half a million dollars. Shivon pointed out that
they hardly had any money.
“All I was able to say was, if this
is meant to be, we don’t have to figure out the how, we
just have to get clear about whether we are willing to be prepared
for what it will ask of us.”
At that time, the property was in need of caretakers, so they
applied for the job.
“The next thing we knew, we were moving
in. That seemed like a step in the right direction. It was a harsh
winter. We got a crash course in what it would be like to be stewards
of this property. Pipes burst, trees fell on buildings. So it’s
not as though having this approach makes it all easy, all clear
and smooth all the time. But it helps get the ego out of the way.
In resolving conflicts for instance, it helps when I can remember
to ask ‘what wants to happen here?’ instead of ‘how
can I get what I want?’ And then the answer to ‘how
can I be in service of that?’ often becomes clear too. Peace
is always the answer.”
The vision on that day beside the red hollyhocks in 1981 was to
create a learning centre that would bring together the outer work
of environmental activism with the inner work of personal and
spiritual development. Today, Hollyhock is Canada’s leading
educational retreat centre.
In 1989, Shivon had an encounter with breast cancer, which she
says gave her “another opportunity to listen to what was
wanting to happen.” Another chapter of her life opened.
Happily for the rest of us, Shivon started choirs!!
Her first choir in 1994 was on Cortes Island.
“I came to choir directing as a wounded musician, you could
say - wishing I had another voice. But I felt a rush of joy upon
hearing that the sound we made together was far more beautiful
than any of us could make alone. I realized how much more we can
accomplish by putting our voices together than we can individually.
I believe in the power of many voices.”
In 1996, she formed the Gettin’ Higher Choir in Victoria
which has grown to over 300 people - now the largest choir in
Canada. “Anyone who wants to sing
is welcome, whether or not they think they can sing.”
In 2004, Shivon and her choir partner, Denis Donnelly, began a
choir leadership training program. Now there are non-audition
community choirs in the Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Errington,
Qualicum Beach, Denman Island, and scattered throughout North
America. Shivon and Denis call them "ubuntu choirs - “a
community of choirs who believes that the joy of singing is a
Again, Shivon says, this was something that was wanting to happen.
“As the choir grew, I saw that it
was an ideal vessel in which community can form. The hunger for
community is everywhere. Singing itself is a spiritual practice,
and so is coming together with a group of people every week with
the sole intention of creating harmony. Harmony thrives on diversity.
So creating harmony is a wonderful training ground for building
self awareness and awareness of others. The skills we gain in
singing in harmony, we can use to build harmony in other areas
of our life.”
“What’s wanting to happen here?”
It’s a question that makes us more conscious, and obviously
bears good fruit.
Look for Shivon's workshop schedule at www.shivon.com
To find a choir in your area, go to: www.ubuntuchoirs.net