Sometimes my consciousness is “normal”, with me addressing the daily tasks of life. Sometimes it’s spacious, as the flow of awareness and compassion holds me. And sometimes there’s a jolt of disorientation as something completely new floods my being.
In the early 70s, I travelled with my girlfriend and her dad from Vancouver to the slopes of Mount Baker in Washington. They were skiers. I was not. I strapped on my snowshoes and set off up a hill on my own. Partly I was thrilled to be exploring solo, but there was an itsy bitsy parcel of fear as well. Soon the lodge was out of sight and it started to snow. Gosh, what a winter wonderland! I plodded onward, being careful to make my steps wide so that one snowshoe wouldn’t overlap the other. At one point, I looked up and saw that the nearby trees were dimming … and then some more … and then gone. Everything was gone, in all directions. I had walked into a whiteout.
There I stood. Nowhere to go. Not knowing uphill from down. No idea how long it would last. Stunned to silence and immobility. All my insides were stunned as well – mind, heart and soul. Would I survive this? Is this the end of Bruce as we know him? All the structures I had built around my humanity were gone, irrelevant. It was like A, B, C, … Ψ.
I stood for at least twenty minutes. Then the snow cleared. But I was changed.
In August, 2010, Jody and I were driving back from Nova Scotia through the States. After crossing back into Canada at Buffalo, we headed west on Highway 3, a secondary road. I knew that sooner or later we’d catch a glimpse of Lake Erie on our left. A couple of hours more and we’d be home. That trip was a lot of time behind the wheel, and I was tired. On and on we went until there was a huge lake up ahead … on our right. I pulled over and gazed out the window at the blue. Huh? Does not compute. Actually, I wasn’t doing any computing. I just sat there with my mouth open. Completely fried. All functions having ground to a halt. Stunned again.
There was a big empty space where brains should have been. It had to be another planet I was on. All thoughts of reason, of a gradual accumulation of life experience, frittered away. Only many minutes later did Jody and I figure out how to get back to Earth. For a short distance, Highway 3 curved to the right and headed north. The idea was to turn left at a certain intersection to resume the westward trip. I missed the turn. And continued until I came upon … Lake Ontario.
A total break in the head
A discontinuity of consciousness
A plummet into the unknown