Follow Me

Two weeks ago, a young man approached me in the Grade 6 class with a book to share. “Ned” held a volume of transcendent paintings called Imagine A Night. As I leafed through the pages with him, I was transported to another land, that of the imagination. Suitably equipped with my smartphone, I zoomed to Amazon and ordered. On Monday it arrived.

Today, as the kids were silent reading, I sat on a counter and came upon …

Imagine a night
When snow white sheets
Grow crisp and cold
And someone whispers
“Follow me”

The painting showed bare winter trees, and a snowfield which blended into a room full of white beds. A young man walks through the night, holding a lantern. A girl rises from sleep and beholds the glow.

Follow me

All was silent in the classroom. Eyes roamed over secret stories. I fell into the lantern, opening to the mystery.

Who do I follow?

Ego me pronounced that I follow no one. Broader me saw the silliness of such rigidity. I bring my own flavour to the world but I’ve also been taking notes on other lives for decades. I stand on their shoulders.

Here are my influences:

1. My dad (Archer Kerr) … a gentle man who loved making kids laugh

2. Arnold Palmer … a championship golfer who played the game with passion, and treated everyone like a king (or queen)

3. Yo Yo Ma … like me, a cellist – one who made my heart soar as he caressed The Swan

4. Cam Clark … my best friend since Grade 10, whom I can always laugh with

5. Jim Bailey … a social work instructor who showed me the oomph of living far more than he taught me counselling skills

6. Adele Zezza … she of the beaming love to her daughters, and out into the world

7. Johnny Haslam … my boss at the Prince of Wales Hotel. Always a smile, always a helping hand for this young man of 20

8. Sally Armstrong … a meditation teacher who looked way inside me and saw goodness

9. Jody Kerr … my dear wife, who glowed when she said “husband”, and loved me through my foibles (still does)

10. Patricia Albere … who sees me and shares her vision of a mutual world with all who have ears to hear

***

Quite a crew of inspiring folks
I followed
They led
I lead

Words Tumbling

I woke up many times last night.  I don’t know why.  Each awakening was accompanied by a spill of words.  The thought came to write all of it down but sleep kept taking me back in.  When my alarm said hi, I knew that something special had happened, but the details were lost.

I grabbed a white index card and my trusty pen.  Lying on my back, I waited.  And more tumbling came out.  Throughout the day, I took little moments of repose and just watched.

So here it is: a selection of thoughts from somewhere splendid, somewhere unknown.  There’s no sequence to it.  And no “sense”, if you mean explainable.  I’m not sure what it all points to, but that’s okay.  Mysteries are fun.

***

Home is where the heart soars

Underneath and beyond

Sinking into love

Ribbons of light

Floating on the river

Words fall away

Underneath it all

The light of a single candle

Opening into the abyss

Mouths open … waiting

Actually not

The snake climbs the tree

The eyes of the young ones

Dancing in the night

Wandering in the world

Clouds above … pain below

Under the wings of freedom

An appetite for the luscious

The pond … everlasting

Falling through air

All through the night

I want me

Here we go again

Listen to the world

I am me … you are you

We fall from the sky

I sing upon the sands of time

Darlinka

Underwear king … of you I sing

The anthem of the world

I love you, my dear lovers

Falling into space

All together now

The wonder of the world

Unknown together

A volcano spurting

Love embraced in a robe

Over and under … above and below

Wings abide

The pulsing … the falling … the slipsliding away

Hands out … palms up … forever

Nothing and no one and nowhere

Aren’t you ready yet?

Floating upwards on a wind

Arms wide open … heart wide open

Love them all.  Light the world

One and for all

All that I want is here

What loosens?
What falls away?
What remains?

Human beings throughout the ages

What is the love that is here right now?

Holding on ever so gently

A universe of young minds

***

Well … that’s a whole bunch of stuff
Wash over me, dear words

Praise

There were about twenty of us tonight on an internet call of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community. I enjoyed practicing 1-1 with one of those folks, assigned randomly by some computer. And then the group had about ten minutes at the end for sharing.

“Tessa”, a woman that I had met in Asheville a couple of weekends ago, started speaking. I never know what people will say, but usually their words come from deep down in their experiencing. What a treat to be on the receiving end of such realness.

Well … “receiving end” indeed. Tessa began talking about me (!) She mentioned the deep love that I show in these internet gatherings. (Gulp) She told the group about my love for my dear wife Jody, and the book I had written for her. (Gulp again)

I wanted to avert my eyes away from the cast of rectangles that lay before me. I wanted to hide. But I decided not to. “Just look, Bruce, and listen.” Tessa had moved on to talk about someone else but I was still writhing and sighing, writhing and sighing, within her words.

My small brain had its typical response: “You’re not that great, Bruce. Actually, you’re quite ordinary. You’re a nice guy, but nothing off the charts.” Plus “Don’t let your ego run roughshod here, my friend. You’re not exactly the next incarnation of Jesus. Get a grip!” Or “Tell them about the times you’ve been mean to people. They need to hear that stuff too, you know.”

Thanks for the feedback, small brain. But what’s true here?

1. I’ve very rarely been purposely mean to anybody. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did that.

2. I’m extremely unusual. I’m likely more spontaneous than 99% of the population. I love the word “silly”, and “weird” is a pretty good concept too.

3. My love for my fellow man is immense. I am deeply compassionate towards those of us who are suffering. I want each one of you – family, friend or “stranger” – to be supremely happy.

I don’t often get praised so directly. I don’t have much practice in dealing with it. Perhaps I should simply accept it with grace and return to loving the next person who comes my way.

Yes, that would be a fine thing to do.

1:59

That’s the time I meditated this afternoon … hour and minutes, not minute and seconds. The time doesn’t matter. The space does.

I’ve meditated a lot over the past eight years and it’s sure contributed to my life. These days, however, eyes open beckon far more than eyes closed, talking far more than silence. Still, quiet times in my chair are a blessing.

I only got five hours’ sleep last night, and usually that’s a red flag that meditating won’t work. Oh well, I decided to give it a go.

I went quiet inside within a few minutes. Several times, my body slumped down and then I’d pull myself up a bit later. In the past, the falling seemed to point to a deeper opening of the heart but times appear to have changed. It felt like I was on the verge of sleep, a very peaceful sleep.

What was missing during the first hour was the upswell of love that’s become such a part of me. I was simply blissing in the peace of it all rather than feeling the sweetness of others. And there’s nothing wrong with bathing in the holy water. It’s just that I want more.

Then, as a gift, a tiny smile caressed my lips. I felt the seeping in of love … ever so slowly. It wasn’t aimed at a particular person. It just covered me like a rainbow. Energy was flowing out of me, and the falling was gone. The love was unbidden, undoing and undeniable. I was simply floating with friends on the river which I stumbled upon.

Pushing doesn’t work. Pulling’s not so great either. Something far bigger than me is doing the heavy lifting. Thank you, my mysterious benefactor.

Moving

Half an hour ago I was walking along Bloor Street in Toronto, reflecting on my current spiritual life.  And the word “current” seems right on, since things are moving inside me … in mysterious ways.

On my right was a storefront full of windows.  Inside was a series of chalkboards.  The middle message hit home:

Truly, God alone has knowledge of the Hour
He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs
No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow
And no soul knows in what land it will die

As a Buddhist, my spirituality has focused on the depth of the moment.  What do I see in this precious present?  How has time stood still in communion with Spirit?  What epiphany of love do I see in your eyes?  All is still.  All is beauty.  All is the lingering now.

There is sublime being here.  But things are also rolling … in the becoming of it all.  Where will I die, dear chalkboard?  What realm of Bruceness will I inhabit when the breath fades away?  I feel a train flowing over the landscape.  I’ve bought a ticket to … somewhere.  I forgot to ask Via Rail about the destination.

In a universe next to timelessness, nothing stands still.  Love unfolds like a red, red rose.  The future curls her fingers and beckons us forward.  Happy are we in the going.

What will we earn tomorrow?  Maybe that day will bring us gifts that we don’t deserve, and can’t imagine.  Grace may bestow them upon us.  May we welcome the blessings that are to come.

We roll on.

Poof!

I was sitting in the Bloor-Gladstone Library in Toronto yesterday afternoon, wanting to write about Thursday evening’s concert with Robert Pilon.  I whipped out my Android phone, went to WordPress and started inputting.  Sadly though, a sentence such as “I don’t know what to say about all this” showed up on the screen as “I don’t know whawhat to say abouabout all thithis.”  Wha?

Not deterred by the mysteries of technology, I went to my e-mail program and began to tell the story.  An hour later, I walked over to Hugh’s Room, where I’d later be enjoying a concert celebrating the music of Leonard Cohen.  Before the songs started up, I finished my blog post.

Perfect.  Now all I had to do was copy and paste the groovy words from Internet Explorer to WordPress.  I highlighted the whole enchilada … and watched in horror as the whole thing disappeared.  Oh my God!  That’s about 500 words of the best I had.

I furrowed my brow and began the rescue attempt:

Work, work, work
Grump, grump, grump
Work, grump, work

Nothing worked.

The despair arose in me, along with the anger, sadness, impotence and any other yucky word you can think of.  Spiritual Bruce was stuck in a poop hole.  “Maybe tomorrow morning when I fire up my laptop, I’ll find that the post has been archived somewhere.”  (‘Fraid not.  It’s now tomorrow morning and Robert is nowhere to be seen.)

As I sat there watching the musicians walk onstage, there was a shift.  There was peace.  There was a quiet voice: “This doesn’t matter, Bruce.  I get that you want your words to touch people, but don’t worry – you do that with or without words.  Tomorrow you’ll do your best to resurrect your thoughts.  It won’t be as good but it will be good.  And today’s vanishing will not diminish the whole of your life.”  Thank you, dear voice.

Well … shall we get to it?

***

Last night’s concert was a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors organization.  It honoured Canadian veterans of combat, and first responders, who are in the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It was a privilege to be there.

Our host and entertainer was Robert Pilon.  He was the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.  He sang in Les Miserables.  And in 2017 he loved the vets in song at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France.

I got to sit front row centre and look into the eyes of human beings first, performers second.  Robert strolled onto the stage, and from the first second I knew I was in the presence of greatness.  He had a power about him – not of force or intrusion – but of grace and love.  I couldn’t take my eyes off his face.  The eyes shone.  The smile radiated to us all.  And his spoken words were a melody.  He hadn’t yet sung a note.

Robert melted us with Danny Boy, and in an inspired duet of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with the woman who directs the Laura Secord Secondary School Concert Choir.  Oh … how their voices blended!  Again and again, Robert let his voice soften as hers soared.  He was the star of the show, but not in his mind.

And the kids!  Choir members often spread throughout the theatre as they backed up the other musicians.  There were young women four feet away, facing me and the audience.  I beamed love at them and said words of thanks after each number.  My neighbour and I briskly applauded the teens as they filed back onto the stage.  Some of them smiled.

Jully Black loomed above me later in the program.  She’s a soulful black singer who had us embrace all citizens of the Earth.  Her eyes also spoke joy.  Then there was Dr. Draw, a young man who has embraced electronic violin music.  His melodies shook us down deep.  Sometimes he knelt close to the floor, eyes closed, lost in his world.  Stunning.

Near the end of the evening, Robert told us that he has a certain signature song.  I had an inkling … “Go, Phantom, go!”  He said that he hadn’t donned the mask since retiring from the role, but tonight was special.  Robert turned away from us and then whirled back, half of his face covered in silver.  He stood above me as a God.  When he opened his mouth, The Music of the Night spilled forth.  Robert snarled at us.  Robert loved us.  Oh my.

The songs were lovely
The voices were transcendent
And that’s fine

But the best?
The hearts were way wide open

***

How about that?  I remembered.  Thanks for listening

Light Without … Light Within

I’m so much enjoying being online with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  We often reach a consciousness together that includes all and loves all.  Really, it’s addictive to be with other human beings in this expansive way, where I look through my laptop screen and see my brother or sister.

So … I was going to a concert last night at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in downtown Toronto.  It was a fundraising event for the Wounded Warriors, an organization committed to supporting veterans of combat, and first responders, who are walking the rough road of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The concert started at 8:00 pm.  Our EC call was scheduled from 7 to 8.  Google Maps showed me that there was a small park across the street from the hall.  “I’ll go there, be with my friends for fifty minutes or so, and then rush to my seat.”  How strange, part of my brain said.  Sounds like an addiction to me.  And I guess it is – an addiction to loving.

I found a bench in a well-lighted area of the park.  The Selfie view on my camera showed me that there was a lot of light falling on my face.  In fact, there was a lot of light everywhere.  The buildings were aglow, especially one which had a huge mural on its side, suggesting gift wrapping paper being pulled away to reveal the treasure within.  Yes, the image was surreal.  I thought of rearranging myself to offer a more neutral background but some deep part of me said no.

Just as the call was starting, with folks from all over showing up on my screen, a fellow came up to me:

“Can you spare some change?”

I said no.

“How about $20.00?”

“No, I don’t want to do that.”

“You need to give me money.”  (A louder and closer voice)

“No thank you.”

His face contorted and he moved still closer.

I walked away … briskly.

I was carrying my phone as I escaped and no doubt the online folks experienced flashes of pavement and grass.  A minute later, I was back to my spot and my aggressive companion was nowhere to be seen.

I guess my sudden departure scared people.  Sorry, folks.  “Nicole”, our hostess for the call, asked me if I was okay, if I was safe.  I said yes, with a big sigh bubbling up.

***

Soon it was time for the 1-1 portion of the call.  As I talked to “Ben”,  my fear began to fade.  We both marvelled at all the folks who were strolling by my bench.  I worried that me holding up the phone would look like I was videoing them, but then that contraction also floated away.

Somehow, and magically, both Ben and I experienced Toronto strangers as a flow of brothers and sisters.  They were with us, not against us.  And the lights of all these buildings in downtown Toronto seeped into our collective hearts.  I was the source of my well-being.  The gentleman wanting money didn’t carry the day.  I did.  And there was goodness all around me.

Pollyanna?
Naïve?
I say no
An inclusive future beckons us

Just Opening My Mouth

Why not?  What’s the purpose of keeping it shut, worried about what some person might think?  Silly.  Let the real Bruce flow.  Some will love me for it.  Some will be disgusted.  Some will be afraid.  I welcome them all.

Halfway through this morning, the bell rang to announce the beginning of recess.  I mentioned to Jeremy that I was going to Toronto next week to see the same concert twice: a tribute to the Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, who died of smoke inhalation in a plane in 1983.  Perhaps strangely (you decide), I’m doing the same thing this week, with the target of my affection being Leonard Cohen.

Jeremy didn’t know Stan’s music but immediately went to YouTube for the song I mentioned, one that some people think should replace “O Canada” as our national anthem: Northwest Passage.

Ah, for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea

Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wide and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea

Three or four kids had stayed in at recess, working on their poetry homework.  Hearing Stan’s deep baritone voice again sent me away.  I started singing the chorus … full-throated, nothing held back.  It was Stan and me and the kids.  A couple of them gaped.  One smiled.  I kept singing.  At one point, I was so happy that I threw my cell phone about three feet in the air (and caught it on the way down).  Not a wise move, I agree, but the feeling of free coursed through me.  My cells were singing too.

Next was The Mary Ellen Carter.  I sang.  Then 45 Years (Stan’s love song to his wife).  I sang.  Kids watched.  All was well.

***

Tonight was the Quarter Auction at the arena.  Two hundred women and me.  Actually, there was another guy.  He was one of the many vendors spread around the perimeter of the room.  These folks were selling cool stuff for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.  Not a single item for the garage.  That’s okay.  As a general statement, I like women more than men.

Each item to be auctioned required a bid of a quarter or two.  Then we’d hold up our paddles and see if our number was called.  I sat with “Barb” and her two daughters plus two of her friends.  I kept putting too many quarters in the little bowl, just for fun.  When my companions weren’t looking, I’d slip quarters into their little purses, just for fun.  And when the announcer corrected herself from “Ladies” to “Ladies and One Gentleman”, I leapt up with a “Yes!”  That was fun, too.

Towards the end of the evening,  I heard “78”, which just happened to be my number.  I jumped up, slammed my paddle on the table and skipped over a woman holding the necklace I’d won.  People cheered and laughed.  Me too.

There was a gorgeous blue stone set in the pendant.  Since I didn’t have a thing to wear with it, I gave it to one of Barb’s daughters.  She smiled.  Me too.

***

So it’s been a day.

I might as well throw myself out there into the world.  What’s there to lose?  Maybe blending, shrinking, averaging.  I can let those go.  Expressing is far more fun.

 

Love Spoken

I returning to volunteering in the Grade 6 class yesterday.  I was only gone for ten days but gosh I missed those kids!

“Jeremy”, the teacher, asked me if I’d like to say anything to the class about my trip.  Yes, I certainly did want to.  I could have talked about the beauty of the hills around Asheville, North Carolina as the trees were starting to turn.  But no, there were more important things to say.

I asked the kids if adults should tell children the truth, even if it’s possible that they wouldn’t understand.  The verbal and non-verbal messages coming back to me were clear: “Yes.”

I spoke about how the 32 of us in Asheville experienced a deepening of love, and not only for family and friends … for everyone.  It’s the type of love where you want the other person to be so very happy.  I told the kids that I loved each and every one of them.  It’s so clear in my heart that I want the best for them.

During the rest of the morning, sprinkled amidst the work that needed to be done, I had a few conversations with individual children.  As we talked about this and that, I felt great relief inside, and peace, that I had told them what was true for me.

***

Last night I was online with the Evolutionary Collective Global community.  I think there were fourteen of us.  Half of the hour is spent doing a practice with one other person.  After that, there’s the chance to share your experience.  I had my screen set up in Gallery View, so I could see everyone.  As different folks spoke their hearts, I just gazed at my friends … in awe and love.  Then I pressed the “Raise Hand” button:

“I’m looking at each of you in Gallery View, one after the other.  And I’m loving you, one at a time.  It’s why I’m here on the planet.”

Again, I spoke what was true, and again I sighed into the sweetness of it all.  Loving people is what I’m meant to do.

Eight years ago, when I went to my first meditation retreat in Massachusetts, there was a moment in the hall when an interior voice came through so clearly:

Love them all
Light the world

Let’s do that together

The Open-Hearted Ones

There’s no shortage of fine people sprinkled throughout my life. I just did the math: I’ve lived for 69 years and 300 days. That’s 69 x 365 + 17 (leap years!) + 300 = 25,502 days. What are the chances that at least one kindness has come to me every day of my existence? I’d say 100%! So no wonder I’ve turned out okay.

Yesterday evening I went to a spiritual group in London for the second time. The host welcomed me like a long lost brother. The hostess did the same. Plus two other folks who were there a month ago smiled at me with “The Real Thing”, “The Full Meal Deal” or any other commercial image you can think of. And … I got four out of four hugs.

You can try to fake a smile but the whole world sees. You can slap someone’s back in a hug until the paramedics may have to be called, but that’s not real. We all know what’s truly real, more genuine than the clothes on your back. The eyes say it all. We love. And so it was for me last night.

I shared with my twelve companions how I long for eyes and hearts who speak the truth of love. I know and love many folks but most of them rarely if ever bring their mouths to tenderness, adoration, deep togetherness, “being with”. Last night’s circle was so willing to speak its truth, its communion. Thank you, dear humans. And I’ll keep planting seeds with the beloveds of my daily life.

***

There’s a Husky Truck Stop on the freeway near Belmont. I went there for breakfast today. Something went wrong with my order. “Fred” had joined me at the table ten minutes after I arrived and his food showed up briskly, while I continued to sit there lusting over tiny peanut butter containers (I finally gave in). I asked my server and she checked with the kitchen. “The cook lost your order.” Even though I suspected that the lady at my table had forgotten to put the order in, I realized that “explanations” were irrelevant. Life throws momentary interruptions my way, and truly who cares? I am happiest when I look over there and see the beauty of the other, whether mistakes are made or everything is tickety boo.

My food eventually came, although it was mostly wrong. My hunger almost propelled me to eat the sausages and scrambled eggs I didn’t want but I decided to get my needs met. More waiting … and then eating.

As I was slurping my last cup of coffee, my replenisher “Barbara”, laden with a pot of decaf, slipped a ten dollar bill onto my table. “You shouldn’t have to pay.” Barbara is a volunteer in the restaurant, and I opened my mouth to protest, but no words came out. I thought back to my own volunteering at school, and the kindnesses that I often send over to kids and adults. “Don’t take away her joy of giving.” So I didn’t.

I look back at my life and see that I too have been a fine person. We’re everywhere, you and me: eyes shining, hearts opening, hands touching.