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MURRAY CHALMERS: I felt the fear and found my tribe

Murray and pals on a yoga retreat in the Azores.
Murray and pals on a yoga retreat in the Azores.

Six years ago I found myself in my boxer shorts in a tidal pool in the Azores, screaming with a mixture of elation and fear.

It was midnight and nothing was visible except our faces lit by the moon against the inky, angry water.

As the tide got choppier we were engulfed by waves so huge we had to cling to each other to avoid being swept out to sea.

Our senses became focused entirely on the moment as we were churned aggressively in Mother Nature’s fastest spin cycle.

Health and safety was an old, rotting rope strewn between two makeshift hooks.

As the waves engulfed us we held on to that rope as if our lives depended on it.

In a very real way, they did. We felt the fear and did it anyway – and we survived.

It was a truly magical, transformative experience which I now see as an allegory for the warp and weft of life.

I was by far the eldest and stockiest of our motley crew, which might have made me feel more responsible.

But you could also look on me as the weakest link in the chain.

Those five days taught me it’s possible to be both, often at the same time, and that none of us are really what we appear to be.

And that if we looked after each other we would all be ok.

From Dundee to the Azores, by way of Mars

I was in the Azores on a yoga retreat run by two remarkable Americans who had fallen into Dundee’s orbit as if from Mars.

I’m still not entirely unconvinced that they’re not.

Rosie and Kit Volcano turned my life around.

And it’s not often you can say that about two freaks you encounter while doing a downward dog.

The thing about Dundee is it can be quite a closed society if you don’t belong here. If you move away or if you’re not part of the dominant culture.

It welcomes strangers and newcomers, but it can often feel as if everyone’s in their gang except you.

In an attempt to get fit and make friends I’d been going to Heart Space yoga studio.

I was starting to feel I’d maybe found my tribe.

Then one day the doors opened and Kit Volcano appeared.

At once Kit seemed to be quite the most fascinating person I’d met in the city, not least because I couldn’t work out their gender.

Kit and Rosie Volcano, who may well be from Mars.

Were they female or male and why did it intrigue me so much?

I suddenly felt old, like my own mother when she first clapped eyes on David Bowie.

Kit’s wife Rosie had the same effect. I was captivated by the pair of them.

They reminded me how important it is to be yourself and to be free.

When Rosie and Kit left the city I felt Dundee would never be the same for me.

As if their leaving had exposed the rawness of my own struggles with relocating here.

Discovering myself after 57 years

We reconvened in Portugal with three others.

I’m ashamed to say I almost left on the first day when I discovered I was to share a room with a woman half my age.

That and constant work calls made it very difficult to approach a state of Zen.

Murray and friends in the Azores.

In truth it was ego and privilege that stood in my way.

My life was no more busy than anyone else’s on that retreat.

It’s just mine meant taking calls from popstars when I should have been trying to do a supported headstand against the wall without kicking Rosie in the face.

I turned off my ‘phone for the first time in years and discovered myself at the age of 57, just as Kit was discovering a new identity.

Kit is transgender. Rosie is pansexual. That’s among their many other admirable qualities. They are also a married couple.

They now have a young son and they live in San Diego where their work to transform individual and collective consciousness continues.

Kit and Rosie Volcano.

Their identities, as warriors of an inclusive queer culture, continue to inspire, at a time when division in society has never been wider.

‘People are hard to hate close up’

Kit says: “I don’t need to be surrounded by people like me. I actually thrive when I’m the different one.

“When you can love and accept yourself being different doesn’t need to be a reason to focus on differences.

“When you love to work and accept yourself it’s easier to extend love and acceptance to others.

“I find the best way to change society is this; practise good loving thoughts about others, and practise living that through action and the way you treat people who are different to you.

“If we all did that there would be much more harmony and far less discord”.

The best way to change society?

Oprah said it best – “People are hard to hate close up”.

As we live through these authoritarian, reactionary and difficult times it’s hard not to feel that we need more Volcanos in our world.

I’ll start with these two who have enough fire in their bellies to reignite the Law.