Originally from Toronto, bestselling author, international keynote speaker and mystic Tanis Helliwell has made her home in Powell River for more than a decade. Early in her career she worked as a high school teacher and counsellor, later becoming a therapist, spiritual teacher and international corporate consultant. In 2000, she founded the International Institute for Transformation, which offers courses around the world. She hosts local and international retreats and recently released her eighth book.
How did you first get into writing and what is your background?
My first book, Decoding Destiny, came out in 1988. I was just into my 30s and was meditating and heard ‘You’re going to write a book.’ I had no intention of writing a book; it had never been one of my goals. But I followed the meditation and did it. At that point I had been a corporate consultant for some years, teaching spiritual courses, and I was a therapist.
How many books have you published now?
There are eight and another three that are half written. Sometimes you get so far in a book and you have to put it aside and get going on something else, and you put that aside and finally you finish something.
What inspired your latest book The High Beings of Hawaii?
I had been to Hawaii about four times prior to wanting to write a book about my experience. This one year I was having a great deal of encounters with mystical beings who call themselves ancestors. They were ancestors of Hawaiians and ancestors of nature spirits who were there before the Hawaiians ever came. I had not been reading Hawaiian mythology or doing any study, but I started recording all these things that were happening to me.
What is your connection to Powell River?
Originally, I’m from Toronto, but I’ve lived in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and across the country. Before coming here I lived in Vancouver for some years. I came to Powell River 13 years ago because I needed a place to write and be quiet. This has been my haven. I’m very fortunate we have a retreat centre here right on the ocean.
What are your retreats like?
They’re all meditation retreats but each one has a certain focus. They all have to do with healing ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
What is involved with your upcoming writing workshop at Powell River Public Library?
[Library adult services coordinator] Mark Merlino invited me to do this. It’s not a topic I have ever spoken about before. He said, ‘we have so many writers in Powell River and they may be frustrated in getting their books published, how to promote them or even how to write and get started.’ So I’ve developed an hour and a half talk to help people based on my own experience.
What are some key points?
One of the keys is to write about something you know and are passionate about. That energy will infuse what you’re writing, and for people to find their own voice and not mimic somebody else.
What else do you do for work or fun?
I like to hike and garden and I love meditating and searching for these eternal questions that we all deal with like ‘How can my life have meaning?’ and “how can I contribute something to the world?’ 20 years ago with a group of people we founded the International Institute for Transformation. Last year I taught in eight countries and we have e-courses people can take and form their own groups. These courses are also in Spanish, German and Italian. It takes up a great deal of my time creating and structuring these courses, so it’s a pretty full schedule.
It sounds like you have an interesting career.
Well, I do what I like. Another thing I recommend to people is to find out what you really want to do. Then there’s no such thing as retirement. It’s ageless because it keeps on evolving as you evolve.
A writing workshop with Tanis Helliwell will take place at 7 pm on Friday, September 20, at Powell River Public Library. For more information on the event, go to prpl.ca. For more about Helliwell, go to tanishelliwell.com.