The Silent Piano … Speaks

For a few years in the 1980’s, I was a volunteer manager at Lethbridge Regional Hospital in Alberta.  I saw a new modern building being erected, one with a sky-high atrium of glass.  In the middle stood a grand piano.  It took me awhile, but one lunch hour I strode over to the black magnificence and sat down.

Thirty years earlier, I ventured a few blocks from home for my evening piano lessons.  It was work.  It was mistake upon mistake.  It was an edict from above not embraced by this little guy below.

In the time between, I had somehow made friends with the piano.  I had let go of trying to read music and just experimented with the fingers moving on the keys.  Could I “play by ear”?  Not really, but melodies appeared now and then.

There were a few people lounging in the hospital atrium and I didn’t mind.  I raised my hands to the white-and-black, trusting that pleasant sounds would emerge.  And they did.  Simple fare, yes, but pleasing to the ear.  After my initial foray into courage, I returned to the piano many times to nourish myself and others.

And then I was laid off.  Piano playing ceased.  I tucked it neatly onto my raft of memories and watched the music sail away.

After Jody and I moved to London, Ontario in 1990, the need to tickle the ivories seeped back. I tried to ignore the urge.  We moved to Union in 1994 and the music in my head persisted. Somewhere along the road we bought a Roland keyboard.

I had my moments where the music flowed from the fingers again, where the unknown melodies soared.  Most of the time, though, what the piano gathered around itself was dust.

Since 2016, I’ve lived in Belmont.  The keyboard sits in a place of honour in my bedroom, looking out the tall windows to the field beyond.  The candleholder perched on top reminds me of what the instrument has become – an environment for soft evening light cast against the bedroom walls.  A setting, rather than the centrepiece.

Enough.

It’s time to play.  Half an hour ago I did, first brushing the accumulation of years from the piano bench.  I felt awkward.  Discordant, along with some of the notes I hit.  But there was memory too … of an atrium, of simple melody, of folks glancing over to me from the edges of their newspapers.

I asked myself “What do you know about playing piano?”  “Not much” came back.  But that’s not true.  Even though I don’t at this moment recollect how to string a melody together, how to spontaneously let the hands flow, I know this can return.  And I know that if I play in the key of C Major, I can add chords that go with it, such as F Major, G Major, D Minor, E Minor and A Minor.  Just like on the guitar, I can create.

A few minutes ago, a loose feeling came along, just a hint of the ease of decades ago.  I smiled.  It’s been a long time.

I’m so taken with the hit song from the film A Star Is Born.  It’s called Shallow.  On Sunday night, it just might win the Oscar for Best Song.  I’m going to listen to it on my phone now.  Then I’m going into the bedroom and give ‘er a go on the piano.  Stay tuned.

***

Oh my God – it’s in the key of G.  Lady Gaga is blasting the song and I’m stumbling along the whites and an F# black … to the melody!  Yes, stumbling is the word but so what?  It’s a beginning.  I can do this.  Once I have the melody, I can add the major and minor chords in the left hand.  And soon, wonder upon wonders, I can sing the words while I play.  I can put it all together.  I can do this!

And so I will

 

 

Just Be There

I was cruising The Toronto Star newspaper tonight when I came upon an article about a dad and his adult daughter. They had agreed to make a cake together for her young godson. Dad was pooped and wanted to order from a bakery. She persisted and he got to learn a little more about life:

My baby girl has grown into a generous, tolerant, openminded young woman. I swallow my pride and head to the kitchen to make the cake but little do I know that the lesson is not over. “Dad, I don’t want you to make the cake. I just want you to be there.” Who is the parent now?

It’s so tough sometimes to BE THERE. It’s so easy to forget that sometimes just sitting down at the end of the kitchen island is what they need and want.

I like to think that I often have cool things to say, in voice or in print. Many a time my generosity flows out. And the moments of eye contact that I share can touch people.

There are also the other times, when I’m so tired in the body, so distracted in the mind, so wounded in the soul. It feels like I have nothing to give … but that’s not accurate. I can offer my physical proximity to human beings, especially the hurting ones. Here are some places where I can plunk myself down:

1. The Grade 6 class of twenty-six kids and one adult. I volunteer there.

2. The Belmont Diner – at the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter or at the table for six to the left of the front door. I often eat breakfast there.

3. The home that is the home of Acoustic Spotlight house concerts every Wednesday evening. I listen to folk music there.

4. The group internet calls of the Evolutionary Collective. I’m there about five times a week.

5. Times when I sit with one other person, in my home or out for lunch. My presence is a gift to them as theirs is to me.

Lots to give
Apparently little to give
They’re neighbours, you know

Singing Like There’s No Tomorrow

I ask myself what can launch me into an altered state of consciousness. But it’s more than that. The deepest beauty is being launched into a state of communion with another human being, or with a group of them. What can propel me into the power of selfless love?

Seeing a person perform an act of kindness is one trigger. Or even reading about it. Looking way deep into another’s eyes is also transforming. And then there’s singing. Eighteen months ago, I stood alone on the outdoor stage at Tanglewood in Massachusetts … and I sang. It was Someday Soon by Ian Tyson. My audience was two.

I gave it all I had – loud, head up, joy on my face:

So blow you old blue northern
Blow my love to me
He’s driving in tonight from California
He loves his damned old rodeo
As much as he lives me
Someday soon, going with him someday soon

Singing so lustily opened something in me. There was a freedom beyond thought. I sang to my friends at the back of the hall, and I believe they “heard” … to the depths of their being.

Cynthia Bourgeault has something to say here:

We know in a very personal way that singing will often bring into play a heightened range of emotion not accessible through speaking alone. The lyrics of a song – say, “Silent Night” – can look bland and harmless on a page, but when you actually sing them (particularly with others), a magical transformation occurs.

On Saturday evening, I saw two films. I’ve written about the first one – Stan and Ollie. The second was A Star Is Born. Lady Gaga plays Ally, an aspiring singer who catches the eye and heart of a famous rocker (Bradley Cooper as Jackson). She’s written a song. He’s created an arrangement for it. And during a concert, he challenges her to come onstage and sing it with him. The lyrics open with the man singing and soon it’s time for the woman’s response. As the moment approaches, Ally is trembling offstage. Suddenly her face tightens and seconds later she walks towards the microphone. On cue, her voice and soul explode to the audience. Face shining, mouth wide open. Nothing held back.

We in the theatre and they in the stadium are transported. There’s thunderous applause in the company of a woman who’s flooding the world.

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

Infinitely far from the shallow. “Up where we belong”. My head rises. My heart beats in unison with Ally’s. There’s work to be done in this world and I’m here to do my version of it. Thank you, Lady Gaga.

Stan and Ollie

I was ten years old, in Grade 5 at Bedford Park Public School in Toronto.  The school had a fun night for us kids and I remember it felt very special to be showing up there in the evening.  There were all sorts of cool stations, such as standing in front of a projector while a mom traced my silhouette on black construction paper.  As I cut out the image, I was in wonder that this was me.  I’m real.

Further on in the evening, after oodles of popcorn and sweets, we sat in the gym and watched a movie.  It was Laurel and Hardy at their slapstick best.  Laurel, pencil-thin with the most flexible face I’d ever seen … and Hardy, so very fat and jolly, complete with a little Hitler moustache (although I’d never heard of that guy).

I was transfixed and exploding regularly with laughter.  Self-esteem wasn’t my best subject and what a blessing to be so very happy in the company of my friends.

Laurel and Hardy clearly sunk deep inside this insecure boy, and stayed there.  On Saturday, I was searching for a movie to see in London.  Stan and Ollie was playing at the Hyland Cinema and it was already speaking to me.  The story focused on their later years, well after the popularity of their one hundred films.  The end of the celebrity was coming and two very human beings presented themselves to me … at odds with each other and yet deeply loving each other.  Here’s a review:

Jeff Pope’s script gives us two men whose partnership needs an audience to thrive.  Alone they’re close but often businesslike, held back; with even a single pair of eyes on them they blossom into life, slipping into routines in the hope of raising a smile.  Every audience from one to a million gets the same amount of effort.

I’m here to perform.  I’m here to be around people and hopefully touch their lives.  Hopefully make them smile.

At one point late in their journey together, Stan looks at Ollie and says “You don’t love me.  You love Laurel and Hardy.”  Biting words, and Ollie chooses not to send the venom back.  As his health declines and he declares retirement, and thus the end of walking onstage, there’s a scene in bed.  Ollie is tired in his PJs and Stan crawls in beside him, fully clothed.  They sit there holding hands, and we the audience are moved.  Simple contact forged over decades of friendship and collegiality.

Here’s another reviewer:

After that delightful prologue, Stan & Ollie begins in earnest – sixteen years later, by which time Laurel and Hardy – now competing with television, their own reruns and a couple of imitators named Abbott and Costello – have been forced to tour second-tier theaters in Britain, staying in un-grand hotels and playing to half-empty houses.  They’re not happy about it, but they’re troupers above all else, playing their classic “bits” as if they’re discovering them for the first time.  Written with compassion and worshipful wit by Jeff Pope, Stan & Ollie pays tribute to a bygone era when a little song, a little dance, a dollop of slapstick and some clever stage patter counted as enormously successful pop entertainment.  By dint of sheer self-preservation and professionalism, Stan and Ollie manage to turn their final tour together into a triumph, not knowing that it’s a curtain call, not just for their nearly 30-year partnership but for an entire culture.

I see the history of Bruce as I sit in the Hyland.  A little boy, laughing and laughing at big men.  Now I’m a big man myself and happily I’ve not let the joy slip out of my life.  In the falling away of Laurel and Hardy, and of slapstick humour, I see my own future ending.  I expect lots of raucous silliness between now and then.  And I hope that some kids, when they’re in their forties, will look back on their childhood and remember me with fondness.  “Mr. Kerr – he was pretty strange … and nice.”

Harold and Ian … and Linda

I went to see a kids’ hockey game in London yesterday afternoon.  I was going to see a movie there in the evening.  Between, I wanted to find a cozy place for supper and to write my blog post.  I didn’t have a clue what I was going to say but virtually always something comes out to ask for expression.  (This, twenty-two hours later, is that post.)

It had been a long time since I’d been in the Morrissey House and so my nose led me there.  How about a beer and some funky British dish?  The angled wooden bar seats six people.  A young couple were off to the right and an older guy was hunkered down on the left edge.  I sat down two seats from him.

It’s unusual in my life that someone says hi before I do but today was my lucky day.  “Harold” was engaged in a conversation with the bartender, and included me.  It sounded like they were negotiating a trade, and indeed they were.

“How about four cuts for the painting?” offered the bartender.

“Sounds fair to me, ” returned Harold.

Wow.  If only all of life’s exchanges could be so simple.

Turns out that Harold is a barber in the back of a high-end men’s clothing store.  And Mr. Bartender is a painter.  I Googled the shop and found out that cool services such as a “hot towel shave” were on offer.

“I bet you know what you’re doing when you’re looking down on someone’s hair, Harold,” I chimed in.

“I’m good at what I do.”

How refreshing.  Someone who sees their ability accurately, without pomp and circumstance.

I looked more closely at the employees flitting to and fro.  They were often smiling.  And they wore black t-shirts.  On the front was “I ♥ the MO.”  On the back … “I am human and I need to be loved.”  Okay.  This is my type of place.  I asked my friend who was pouring drinks “Who owns the Morrissey House?”  The reply was accompanied by a gesturing arm.  “The fellow in the ball cap – Mark.”  He was seating a couple at a window table.  Big smile.  No edge.  Homey.  I like this room and its inhabitants.

Harold and I got going about Newfoundland.  We both were in St. John’s in September.  We talked about getting “screeched in” on George Street, and the astonishing host at Christian’s Bar who learned, and remembered, everyone’s name.  There must have been thirty people  participating in the ceremony.  That was a moment last night when Harold and I locked eyes in admiration for a young Newfie guy with fully operating brain cells.

We talked of the bright colours of St. John’s, the many homes painted in red, yellow or blue.  We talked of the people who laid open their welcome mats for us.  We were instant friends.

Harold is a regular at Morrissey’s and an hour after our first contact here comes “Ian”, another one.  He sits between us.  There’s an Irish lilt in his words as he tells me he’s from Corner Brook, Newfoundland.  Ian regales me with the beauty of Gros Morne National Park near his hometown, and soon it’s a three-way conversation about the wonders of St. John’s eateries and drinkeries.  “Did you go to Quidi Vidi?” > “Yes!  And the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company with its wooden paddle full of beer samples.” > “How about Linda’s Place there, right across from Mallard Cottage?” > “I was in Mallard Cottage but I don’t remember anything across the street.”  >  “It had another name but Linda was the star.  What a character!”

Wow.  Look at what I was in the middle of (well, actually on the right end).  Three senior guys whooping it up in memory.  I got Google Maps going on my phone and found Mallard Cottage.  When I enlarged the screen, I saw “Inne of Olde” across the street from Mallard.  I enlarged the photo of a smiling woman and showed it to my fellows.  “That’s Linda!” bellowed Harold.  And we all laughed some more.

Here’s a Google comment about Linda’s place:

Linda (the owner) has so much heart for those around her, and anyone that comes in is another new friend or family member to her.  Welcoming atmosphere, with trinkets from around the world and often stories along with them.

Definitely worth the stop in for a pint or a shot or three.

I’ll definitely come back every time I’m in St. John’s with a few friends in tow.  The YACC community will keep coming back, Linda, from your adopted cancer kids – we love you!

Wow all over again
Morrissey’s and Linda’s
Harold and Ian and Linda and Bruce
And a smiling young couple at the other end of the bar

London Junior Hockey

I’m sitting in the last row of Budweiser Gardens, the 9000-seat arena that’s the home of the London Knights. These young men, ages 16-20, dream of a career in professional hockey, perhaps as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, or maybe the Detroit Red Wings.

This is my first Knights game of the year. I only know of three players – Alex Formenton and Evan Bouchard played a few games in the National Hockey League and were then returned to junior hockey. Liam Foudy is merely a name I’ve heard of. So I haven’t been engaged in a deep feeling of “team”, a group that I’d be passionate to cheer on. My connection is simply that I live close to London. Unlike the Leafs, players on the Knights have a short shelf life before they’re on to something else in their hockey career.

The game has just started. It’s dark up here but brilliantly white on the ice, which is shiny with the lights. My first thought? It’s so pretty! Human jewels, some in black with gold, and some in white with gold, are flitting over the surface. It feels like a white Christmas tree. Perhaps this isn’t the analysis you were expecting from a hockey fan but it works for me.

The Knights have just scored the opening goal on a “2 on 1” (two players rushing towards the opposing goal while one defenseman tries to fend them off). The goalie leans toward the puck carrier who then slips the disc over to his friend > goalie out of position > empty net > goal! So sweet. Such grace in motion. I stand and applaud although my heart doesn’t really soar with the Knights. It’s just fun to cheer.

The computer on the big screen is exhorting us to “Make Some Noise!” I’m always suspicious of such forced enthusiasm. I figure that the brilliance of the play is what should get me out of my seat. I stay on my bum.

Okay, now it’s time for the great Harvey’s hamburger giveaway. Everybody in one section of the stands (out of perhaps 30) gets their hunger appeased. I’m in 315. There’s a counter on the big screen, going pretty fast. And now it’s slowing down … 311 … 312 … 313 … 314 … (pause) … 315! Oh, Harvey, I love you. Folks around me are standing and cheering.

After a few more goals, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the McDonald’s Big Mac Attack Challenge. It’s 6:48 left in the second period. If the Knights score by 4:48, everyone in the building gets a burger. Oh my. And then … a close-in play in front of Erie’s net, a flick of the stick, and in! 5:34 to go. A two-burger night!

Now I’m in Harvey’s, having consumed my free Original Burger and my not-free fries. I’m happy. The game ended in a very short overtime period, which is played with just three skaters on each side. It’s très exciting since the skilled players have so much room to wheel and deal. Alex Formenton roared down the ice for the Knights, with ending the game on his mind. But he was checked neatly by an Erie defenseman and the play surged the other way. In five seconds, the puck was in the London net, and the game was indeed over. I was okay … the final flourish was spectacular.

My only sadness concerned the woman I had been laughing with most of the game. She gathered her family, turned away from me, and left. No goodbye. I felt the loss.

It was a night out with spiraling energies, happy moments and sad moments, sublime skill and silly mistakes. A lot like life.

Twenty Flights

Perhaps I’m crazy.  Over the years, several people have volunteered that opinion.  I seem to be throwing myself into life in an unprecedented way.  I’m going here, I’m going there.  And mostly I’m flying through the air (with the greatest of ease).

Between now and early January, I’m stepping aboard twenty airplanes.  This will involve a major dip into savings.  It’s not that I haven’t considered the financial fallout … but I’m doing it anyway!

It’s all about love.  And the physical distance between my loved ones and me will decline to zero, again and again.  I will be looking into the eyes of Canadians, Americans, Belgians and Senegalese, and I will see beauty there.  I will truly be a world traveller, something that has not been true in the past.

Here’s my itinerary.  The dates are approximate but you’ll get the idea:

1.  March 19 – Toronto to San Francisco for the Evolutionary Collective Base Camp three-day weekend

2.  March 27 – San Francisco to Toronto

3.  April 30 – Toronto to San Jose, California for the EC five-day event “All Together Now”

4.  May 9 – San Jose to Toronto

5.  June 5 – London, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta for my nephew Jaxon’s high school graduation

6.  June 13 – Calgary to London

7.  June 28 – Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my friend Sharyn in Mannville, Alberta and my brother-in-law Lance and his family in Longview, near Calgary

8.  July 12 – Calgary to Toronto

(What?  One day between!  You’re nuts.)

9.  July 14 – Toronto to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

10.  July 15 – Amsterdam to Brussels, Belgium to visit Lydia, Jo, Lore and Baziel

11.  July 20 – Brussels to Rome, Italy to go ‘splorin’ with Lydia, Jo, Anja and Curd

12.  July 30 – Rome to Brussels

13.  August 4 – Brussels to Amsterdam

14.  August 4 – Amsterdam to Toronto with Baziel (Lydia and Jo’s son – age 14) and Olivia (Anja and Curd’s daughter – age 14)  to explore Toronto, Niagara Falls and Belmont for two weeks

15.  December 15 – Toronto to Amsterdam

16.  December 16 – Amsterdam to Brussels to visit Lydia and her family

17.  December 22 – Brussels to Dakar, Senegal with Lydia and ten other Belgian folks to visit the kids we sponsor in Toubacouta, Senegal

18.  January 4, 2020 – Dakar to Brussels

19.  January 8 – Brussels to Amsterdam

20.  January 8 – Amsterdam to Toronto

***

Why did I tell you all this stuff?  So you’ll think I’m super cool?  So you’ll think I’m absolutely full of myself?  Well, no. These trips are an expression of my need for contact, true communion, “being with” across the miles.  There’s some power surging up in me, demanding I pay attention.  My beingness has been deep for years, and that will continue.  Now it’s time  to get out there far more and do things – Bruce actions that make a difference in Belmont, San Francisco, Nukerke, Pompeii and Toubacouta.

Whatever happened to that recent fellow who wanted to hang out in rural Massachusetts for three months … in silence?  He’s still here.  It’s just that he’s been transcended and included.

On I go

A Partner in Divinity

Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say I am?”  I need to look in the mirror and ask the same question.

For decades, the underlying tone of my apparent high self-esteem has been “I’m not good enough” and “I’m less than you.”  Only recently have I glimpsed what’s true about this … it’s nonsense!

I’ve spent time with some powerful leaders.  Long ago in San Francisco, I was in the same room as Werner Erhard for three days.  He’d wear a white open-necked shirt and dress pants and sit there being impossibly handsome.  Words poured like honey from his lips.  I was terrified.

Twenty years later, I was on a three-month silent meditation retreat in Massachusetts.  For six weeks of that time, I was in the same room as Joseph Goldstein, one of the pioneers who brought Buddhism to North America in the 1960’s.  He was impossibly tall and spoke with the quietness of a master.  I’d tremble when he was near me in the lunch line.

Patricia Albere is the founder of the Evolutionary Collective and has brought the transformational Mutual Awakening Practice into the world.  I’d see her in live online group sessions and have heart palpitations in the comfort of my living room.  My 1-1 interactions with her were marked by a distinct shortness of breath on my part.  She was the founder, she was famous, she was smart.  And I was not any of those things.

So there’s a rich history here of being “less than”.  Smallness seemed to suit me.  Except it didn’t!  In my better moments of mirror gazing, I’m seeing not a cowardly lion but a fierce spiritual being, not Caspar Milquetoast but a rejuvenated Clark Kent out on an evening adventure.  Enough of being itsy bitsy.  I’m a partner with you (and you and you …) in making this world work.

Who do I see looking back at me in that mirror?  Here are some quotations that move me … to action.  May they vibrate in your chest.

***

Never bend your head.  Always hold it high.  Look the world straight in the face.

Helen Keller

You could say that Helen didn’t have the eyes to see.  But within her beat a visionary heart.

Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry.  It merely astonishes me.  How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?  It’s beyond me.

Zora Neale Hurston

Oh, Zora, you soar above the pettiness of the narrow!

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

The Buddha

That’s right, Mister Buddha.  I’m totally deserving of the goodness that comes my way, just like each of you is.

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

Mark Twain

Out there, a healthy mixture of smiles and frowns comes a’calling.  In here, I get to choose.

You were born an original.  Don’t die a copy.

Unknown

In 2002 or so, a lovely teacher wrote this on the board as her “Thought for the Day”.  It hasn’t left my side since.  The words come in handy when my small voice chimes in with “You should be flamboyant like Lara” or “You should be a computer wizard like Peter.”

A healthy self-love means we have no compulsion to justify to ourselves or others why we take vacations, why we sleep late, why we buy new shoes, why we spoil ourselves from time to time.  We feel comfortable doing things which add quality and beauty to life.

Andrew Matthews

I love watching The Masters golf tournament on TV.  I love venturing into spiritual discussions with some folks who don’t seem interested.  I love singing “O Canada” in rooms where few do.  The reactions of others are simply … there, and are not a danger to me.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Washington Thurma

I love discussions with kids about life in all its immensity.  Perhaps the shine in my eyes touches the warmth in their heart.

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.  There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.  To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to be a teacher in the Evolutionary Collective.  I will create what I need in order for this to happen.  And the stars will align.

***

Deficiency
Sufficiency
Abundance

Seems like a logical progression

Beatrice and Bruce

Beatrice Bruteau was a philosopher, a mathematician and an evolutionist.  She stood in the present, learned from the past, and most especially leaned into the mystery of the future.  So much of my spiritual practice has been about being in the moment.  “Becoming” seemed like a poor sister to the deepening of what’s now.  But there’s a new flow inside, and Beatrice has helped me access it.

Here are some Bruteau quotations, with my take following:

We cannot wait for the world to turn, for times to change that we might change with them, for the revolution to come and carry us around in its new course.  We are the future.  We are the revolution.

I remember attending an evening meeting at the University of Toronto in the late 60’s.  Our plan was to travel to Ottawa and protest the war-induced starvation in the Biafra region of Nigeria.  As I walked in the door, I looked around for the “big people”, the ones who would lead us, the smartest ones.  I never gave a thought to the idea that I could be one of those leaders.  They would speak, I would follow.  Beatrice would have pursed her lips at me.

Somewhere deep down we are all filled with a mystical longing, with a longing for ultimate meaningfulness, and therefore we need to see all of our world in that context.

It’s far beyond “My life has meaning.”  Together, you and you and me … we have meaning, and we long for a world where no one is left out.  We see the economic disparities, the suffering, and still we feel pulled forward by some unknown magnet towards a future which is curling its finger at us in welcome.  The image that comes again and again to me is standing on the moving walkway in an airport and magically being brought forward, with no trying on my part.

There is a basic urgency in life to grow, to expand, to become new and renewed.  We might even say that the very meaning of being alive is to be constantly in the process of becoming a new creation.

New, as in never here before.  Not just a quality improvement of the old model but a radically new design.  And maybe it’s not even a car anymore!  Plus it is urgent … no messin’ around.  There’s work to be done to have everyone feel at home.

The individual animal doesn’t get to choose how it’s going to evolve.  But the individual human being can, and we, by our concerted intention, can make something that hasn’t existed before.

“I’m not an inventor,” I protest.  “It’s only the big people who do amazing things.”  But wait a minute … last I looked I was a healthy 5’10”.  That’s plenty big enough.

Okay, Bruce.  How high can you jump?  Can you teach a Mutual Awakening Practice course for kids and have them open to a love they may never have experienced before?  Who’s to say not?

Deep reality is that place in the center of our being where we experience our existence in an unlimited way.  The deep self is not defined, not described by any of the qualities of our bodies or personalities, by our histories or social positions, our jobs, or our religions.  This is fairly hard to realize.  We tend to think of ourselves, introduce ourselves to others, believe others are seeing us in terms of these qualities.  In meditation and its associated practices, we try to center ourselves in our sense of existing without identifying with these descriptors.  To the extent that we become accustomed to this, we may spontaneously behave in a new way.

You can see from this how our energy is affected.  When we define ourselves in terms of our qualities, we have to devote energy to protecting them and trying to gain more valuable ones – more beauty, personality, wealth, power, social status.  But if we liberate ourselves from such identity, then all that energy becomes available for the radiation of goodwill to others.  We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following, not “I am a this” or “I have that quality.”  Only unlimited, absolute I AM.

And the interesting thing is that as soon as you experience yourself this way, you at once find that you also are saying toward the whole world, “Let it be!”  It seems to be the nature of that which is I AM to say, “Let it be.”  [Or, as Beatrice later expressed it, “May you be.”]

This is the love that is called “agape”.  Agape is the love that seeks the being, well-being, full being, ever-fuller being, of the beloved.  It is a love that is not a reaction to the beloved but rather a first action, an action beginning in you, coming out from the center of your being because of the nature of your being.  This energy of love is inexhaustible.  It doesn’t have to be reserved or apportioned or used economically.  It is plentiful, bountiful, enormous.  It is a dynamic out-flowing activity, energy.  It’s constantly in motion and radiant, like a star is radiant.  It streams out from us in every way. The True Self in us is constantly radiating this willed goodness.  [Beatrice later referred to this as “spondic” love.]

Not defined by my story
Instead a vibrant spiritual being
With infinite energy pouring into you
Until I am no more

TV Commercials … Do I Buy It?

To what extent am I hypnotized by the messages of mass media?  Or do I see beyond the compulsion to add more stuff to my life?  Usually I don’t even notice commercials, but without my alertness am I simply allowing their underlying tone of “more, better and different” to seep into my being?

The commercials I do notice are ones that depict the tenderness of  human relationships, moment of kindness, soft eye contact.  But then there are the others.  Perhaps I should pay attention.

1.  Say it with diamonds

There’s nothing wrong with a lovely ring or a dinner out at a fancy restaurant but even better is saying it with your mouth.  And within the speaking, let’s include the words that are so often withheld … “I love you.”

2.  There’s no better time to get …

Apparently it has to happen now, or at least it should to foster maximum happiness.  Maybe I’ll be missing out, squandering some once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, if I hesitate.  Can I be just as happy without making that big purchase tomorrow morning?  Yes.

3.  Beat the blues  [Buy what we sell]

The thought is that happiness is basically an outside job.  If I accumulate more precious things, depression has no chance.  Whether it’s gourmet food, designer jeans or a car that goes from 0 to 60 in the flash of an eye, I’ve got this.  Or does it have me?

4.  Get the exceptional handling of intelligent all-wheel drive

And who doesn’t want to be exceptional and intelligent?   Maybe the glory of my car will somehow rub off on me.  No, I don’t think it works that way.

5.  Twenty winners every Thursday

Well, I better get in on that or I might just end up being a loser.  Could it be, though, that the zero sum game of win-lose doesn’t point to happiness, that helping someone else brings me more than I give?

6.  Broadway’s best musical

I would certainly like to be associated with the best.  Actually, I’d like to be considered the best in some area of life.  Then I could feel good about myself.  I don’t know … that doesn’t seem to leave much space for contentment.  Perhaps I can be happy without being an exceptional athlete, singer or teacher.  Just a human being who cares.

Oh … and another thing – who is saying this musical is the best?

7.  This is as good as it gets

Unspoken and insidious > There’s a ceiling to your life.  And this is pretty much it.  It may not simply be downhill from here but nor will you be breaking through the stratosphere to touch the stars.  Says who?!  The future beckons, and I don’t know what beauty will reveal itself for me, for my loved ones, and for humanity.

8.  Insane deal!

Naturally, I don’t want to be considered insane for missing this golden opportunity.  I want to be respected.  I want to be normal.  I better buy this thing.  I think not.  Another type of insanity comes to mind.

9.  When I’m holding your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When I’m cruisin’ in overdrive
Don’t have to listen to no run of the mill talk jive
I’m in love with my car

(Queen)

Oh please.  Give me the sweetness of the soul and the softness of the skin before the shine of the metal.

***

No hypnotism
Eye-to-eye
Real