Searching for the next self help fix

When Emelia Symington Fedy was 12 years old she bought her first self-help book. Looking back, she's not sure where she got it. 

When Emelia Symington Fedy was 12 years old she bought her first self-help book.

Looking back, she’s not sure where she got it. Bookstores weren’t exactly plentiful in the tiny central B.C. town of Ashton Creek.

The book was called Reviving Ophelia. It was for preteens suffering from depression.

Fedy wasn’t depressed.

“But I thought I should read this book,” she said. “Just in case.”

That was the first taste of what would become a life-long quest for Fedy: a search for fulfillment.

“I’ve spent a lot of time and money, my entire adult life, trying to find ‘the thing,’” she said on the phone from Vancouver.

“The thing that will make me feel good. The thing that will work. Take away pain. Heal me, you know? The search.”

Her search has taken a variety of forms, from the more conventional – like novels and yoga classes – to less mainstream options.

Like the time she flew to Hawaii to go swimming with cosmic dolphins.

Wild dolphins, she had been told, were the closest thing you could get to swimming with God.

“Dolphins have this kind of cosmic quality to them. They can potentially interact with extraterrestrials. They can interact with your fetus. There’s this kind of belief.”

Or there’s the thousands of dollars she spent on an online “spirituality based” business school for women.

The classes were part conventional business lessons mixed in with things like meditation, to help bring whatever you wanted in life closer to reality.

It wasn’t until recently that Fedy sat down and did the math. The cold, hard, non-spiritual numbers.

She estimates she’s spent nearly $70,000.

It was a shock. At 35 years old, Fedy is an artist, and not a wealthy one. But this is how she was choosing to spend her money.

“I could have had a down payment on a house but instead I was swimming with cosmic dolphins and taking vaginal weightlifting classes,” she said.

Fedy has translated her experiences into a one-woman, (optionally) interactive, stage show. Through the Gaze of a Navel is part yoga class, part performance piece.

It’ll be in Whitehorse from September 17 to 20 at 7:30 p.m. at The Old Fire Hall. On Saturday there is also a 1 p.m. show.

Audience members can participate in the yoga or just sit back and watch while Fedy takes them through a gentle satire of the world she is so familiar with.

“You get to go in and out of the experience of asking the questions that I had asked,” she said.

Fedy is trained to teach two types of yoga, classical Ashtanga and Acro-yoga, a technique involving a partner.

“Even though there was this incredible empowering aspect to the practice, why does it have to put me in debt? Why do people have to tour for five years without being paid to be assistants?” she said.

“There’s this system of rock star and guru worship that I’m really curious about.”

It’s what Fedy calls “spiritual consumerism,” money made off of people’s longing for God. She’s living proof that it works.

According to a report in the Boston Globe, Americans spend about $549 million a year on self-help books, with diet books taking up the largest chunk of that.

Neither Industry Canada nor Statistics Canada track that kind of data for Canadians.

Fedy says the question she’s asking in her performance is: will you ever find the answer, no matter how much money you spend?

“Is there darkness and pain in life and is it about accepting this instead of throwing money, and hope, and belief at it? What about just sitting in it?”

Even though she’s been asking the questions, going cold turkey isn’t easy.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Swimming with dolphins? Are you kidding me? The most amazing thing ever!” she said, speaking faster as she describes the cosmic dolphin experience.

“But why do I do it? Why do I search out these things that I think are going to make me feel better?”

She’s now a mother, and is six months pregnant with her second child. She said having someone else to worry about has helped to curb her spending habits.

So has being on stage.

“Instead of spending money and going to crystal bowl regression healers, through having this playtime on stage with the audience, I actually now feel the most connected and who I’m supposed to be.”

Through the Gaze of a Navel is a production by The Chop Theatre, where Fedy is co-artistic director.

Tickets to the Whitehorse shows are $22 and can be bought through the Yukon Arts Centre.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

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