It hit me last night – probably a cold, hopefully not the flu.  Today I’m very weak, sort of stuffed up, headache, coughing.  Just like every human being on the planet has experienced.  No big deal.

Why write about this?  It’s so ordinary.  And shouldn’t I take a break from tapping on the keys?  I’ve decided no.  Some of my favourite writing has been when I’m right in the middle of some experience.  It’s so much cooler than “This happened to me yesterday.”

During the meditation retreat, I learned how to watch my mind, without judgment.  To be curious about where it goes.  This morning, it’s gone off in many directions.

At 2:00 pm today, I’ve scheduled a Skype call with the organizers of the Tour du Canada.  They want to know more about me and I have lots of questions about the summer bicycle ride.  “But I have no energy.  I won’t sound like a potential crosser of my country.”  Too bad, Bruce.  Give them what you have in the moment.  It’s enough.

“What if this turns into seven weeks of bronchitis, like it did after Jody died?  How will I possibly get fit enough for the ride?”  Now there’s a little smile on my face.  I’m not quite laughing but I’m getting there.  Silly man.

“Will I have to cancel my trip to Cuba?  And the BC tall ship trip in early June?”  No, Bruce.  You won’t have to.  It’s just a cold, my friend.

“Is this the end of my newfound strength training?”  Oh, my.  That’s quite the mind you have there.  “Well, right now it’s an ill mind, having trouble putting thoughts together.  And struggling to maintain my self-esteem.”

“And I got turned down a couple of weeks ago for further life insurance – ‘a current abnormal ECG and blood profile results.'”  Don’t sweat it, Bruce.  Julie, your doctor, is looking into this stuff.  She’s always thought you were a very healthy specimen.


The Buddha had a word for the proliferation of negative thoughts … papancha.  “Well, hello papancha.  Nice to hang out with you.”

No judgment.  Just a human being being human.  I sort of like the guy.


What Does It Mean To Shine?

That’s the title of a glossy brochure that I received last week from my alma mater – the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.  I was shocked that the word was showing up in mainstream society.

During my meditation retreat, I met several people who were shining.  Their hearts were open and our world was richer for it.  I sat near the back of the meditation hall and I could feel these folks, whether they were teachers or yogis, sitting near or far.  So spacious, so present in the moment, so loving.

On the arm of my man chair sit the words from U of L.  Here are some samples:

It’s a glowing passion, for work and for play.  It’s the spark of creativity and discovery … U of L alumni like you are illuminating the world.

Sometimes I imagine human beings as lamps.  Some folks seem to have the light mostly turned off.  Some operate with a dimmer switch.  Others radiate, nothing held back.

And from individual graduates:

My parents were lifelong proponents of combining skills plus opportunities with hard work for the benefit of other people.  I think people who do that shine.

That’s the key, I believe.  It’s all for others.  It’s all love.

When you’re confident and doing what you love, you shine.  I’m shining when I’m teaching aboriginal studies to my students.  They inspire me to be my best.

To surround yourself with marvelous people.  Then it’s easy to shine.

When someone shines, they have a certain confidence to them – they are happy in what they are doing and with their life – and it’s contagious.

Other folks notice, even from a distance.  And are moved.  And begin to cast light themselves.

For me, to shine means … to leave this world better than when you entered it.

Yes.  Let’s all do this.  In large and small ways.  We matter when we look outwards with love.

For me, to shine means to be fully present – not just in music, but in life.

Moment upon moment … whenever I’m with another human being.  Whether they feel me or not.  May they feel something sweet hovering nearby.





How strange that I usually don’t pay any attention to the pivotal moments of history, moments which typically include someone speaking out, thrusting new values into the lap of society, giving all they have to make life better.

I knew that the suffragettes worked hard in the early part of the twentieth century to secure the vote for women, and that they were successful.  How pale a view that is, lacking the spirit of the doers.  I saw the movie Suffragette this afternoon and I have been changed.

I virtually never think “I am a man” and consider the privileges that come with the label.  Men haven’t had to earn less than their female colleagues.  Women have.  By and large, men haven’t been sexually harassed in the workplace.  Women have.  Men have always been able to stroll into a polling station and vote.  Before 1920 or so, women were denied that opportunity.  It was deemed by many males that husbands, fathers and brothers could explain the realities of politics to women, who clearly didn’t have the smarts to figure it out themselves.  Oh my.

What sort of man would I have been during these troubling times?  I think one who didn’t see anyone as superior to anyone else, despite our different strengths.  Would I have been strong enough to resist the power of male culture?  I sure hope so.

The film had many incredible moments.  Here are four:

  1. The main character Maud is barred from her house (and her son) once her husband sees her identified as a suffragette in the newspaper.  Neighbour women just stare at her as she walks away.
  2. Sonny, Maud’s husband, gives up their son for adoption.  Maud has no rights as a parent.  As the adoptive couple are leaving the home with George, Maud looks him in the eye and basically says ” Your mother’s name is Maud Watts.  Find me when you’re older.”
  3. Maud goes on a hunger strike in prison.  We see her being held down, a tube inserted into her nose, and a milky fluid poured into a funnel.
  4. The suffragette played by Helena Bonham Carter has developed heart problems after years of protesting.  As the women organize to disrupt a horse race attended by the king of England, her husband locks her in a room, fearing that she will die during the event.

I need to see the courage of people who lived long ago
I need to see the courage of people who live today
I need to act courageously

Out Of The Blue

I was just at Wendy’s in St. Thomas, having their yummy Asian cashew chicken salad.  It’s freezing rain right now … our first taste of winter.  On the way there, I concentrated like crazy.  Slow, Bruce, slow.  And gentle turns.

Emerging from the restaurant fully satisfied, I poked my way home.  Sometime during the trip, my caution evaporated … and I sobbed for Jody while winter passed me by.  Huge, gasping cries.  How I miss my dear wife.

But where did this fresh grief come from?  I don’t see any trigger.  The last few weeks, I haven’t been crying for Jodiette every day – maybe every second one.  But this, just half an hour ago, was a flood.

Last week I had lunch with my friend Lyrinda.  We had two hours of great talk.  Maybe halfway through, there was another flood.  I was overwhelmed with an immense peace, such that I just sat there with mouth open.  Lyrinda smiled.  And the sublimity continued to percolate through me.  [Oh, my.  I just wrote this stuff and the peace and the tears are both here with me.  Oh … how can they be visiting at the same time?  But they are.  I think I’ll just sit with them for a few minutes.]

Did my written words call forth the peace and the sorrow?  If so, perhaps I can bring into being anything I want, just by saying or writing it.  And yet a big slice of me doesn’t want to perform acts of will.  It wants to let go.  Aren’t the moments of serendipity allowed entrance by open hands, rather than clutching ones?  Well … maybe both can create the sun bursting through the clouds; or 1, 2, 3, 17, 121 … ; or joy.

Unusual and Unexpected

“Bruce is this.”  Or so I’ve said.  But sometimes I’m not right.

1.  Bruce loves blogging and does so about two days out of three.

Except when he doesn’t, such as the last three days.  Firstly, I didn’t want to.  “But you always want to.” >  “No, actually, I don’t.”  I watched my unwillingness, sometimes scared about what it meant, and sometimes just fascinated with another part of me.  Secondly, I couldn’t think of anything to say.  “But you always think of something, even if it doesn’t come until your fingers are poised over the keys.” > “No, I’ve been blank.  And then the fear came of not having anything to say for the rest of my life.”  Wow.  Look at my brain going off into a doomsday scenario.  How strange.

Hmm … I appear to be typing.

2.  Bruce loves watching the world junior hockey tournament every year, cheering on Canada.

I turned on the TV yesterday for game one:  Canada versus the USA.  I watched for ten minutes.  I wasn’t excited by the flow of play.  I didn’t care about Canada winning.  I wasn’t interested in seeing Mitch Marner on the ice.  He’s a member of our local junior hockey team – the London Knights.  “Oh my goodness.  Who has taken over my couch?  Have I turned into this perpetually peaceful person who no longer gets excited by his experiences in this physical world?” > “No, I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m just getting excited by other things these days, such as going to the gym for strength training.”  And maybe the sports section of The London Free Press is a thing of the past for me.  In any event, I sense that whatever draws me in the future will bring forth zest.

3.  Bruce loves action films and can’t wait to see the next Star Wars movie.

Renato and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night.  I was bored.  I got tired of the chases and the shooting.  I got tired of everything going so fast.  I glommed on to the tender moments, such as when Leia and Han Solo were looking into each other’s eyes.  “But Bruce, you’ve always enjoyed the Die Hard movies, Keifer Sutherland in 24, a good old disaster flick.” > “Well, now it seems that I want to watch good stories, love stories, human beings being oh so human.”  Such as a movie I saw last week – Room – in which a mom and her young son are imprisoned by a predator for years.  To see the love between the two of them, plus the heartache, was so sweet.


I am inconsistent.  I contain multitudes
Walt Whitman


I used to be a runner.  Now I’m a cyclist.  Only recently have I been a stretcher.  And apart from a dabbling a few years ago, I’m just beginning to be a weightlifter.  I want to cross my country this summer on my bicycle ta-pocketa.  I need to have “all lights shining bright” (from a David Francey song).

I’ve started working with Marcin, a personal trainer.  He’s so supportive and so willing to challenge me.  Day One is lots of reps using light weights.  Day Two fewer reps and somewhat heavier weights.  And then there’s Day Three – today.  A couple of hours after our session, I was sitting in the Byron branch of the London Public Library, starting to read about my favourite Buddhist topic … being a bodhisattva, a person who hears and responds to the cries of the world.  And I just about fell asleep.  I managed a few pages and then realized that I didn’t have it.  Simply exhausted.

At one point in the gym, Marcin was coaching me in doing a leg press.  He chose the weight.  I pushed … and nothing happened.  The angled plate under my feet didn’t move.  Memories jolted into me and my normally high self-esteem plummeted.

I went back twelve years, when I had ruptured a tendon in my right foot and had surgery.  When the cast came off, the physio told me to move my toes to the side.  I pushed … and nothing happened.  Orders from headquarters mattered not.  I felt deeply sad then, and medium sad today.  And I let myself feel it this afternoon.  No judgment, just watching it all wash over me.

I went back twenty-three years, when my thirteen-year-old niece Diana beat me in an arm wrestle.  Lots of judgment back then.  Bruce was bad, weak, repulsive, un-male, deserving scorn …  Now I hold myself far more gently.

I did my best today.  The last few reps of a set were often really hard but my mind was strong.  Marcin settled on good weights for me, ones that stretched my everything.  I will be ready on June 20, 2016, in Victoria, British Columbia.  I will dip my rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean and head north to the ferry, and then east across Canada.  I will not poop out in Manitoba (a province halfway across my home and native land).  I will ride fast enough so that one or more of my Tour du Canada friends will choose to accompany me each day.  I will create enough energy for hills, headwinds, rain and bad roads.  And I will have enough left over to be good to my fellow riders.

For at least ten years, I’ve dreamed about this ride – seeing Canada, meeting Canadians, and blogging about it all.  I will do this before I die.

So there


We Play On

Tonight was the night!  I dressed formal, vaguely remembering how to tie a Windsor knot.  Then Renato and I headed to the London airport.  Thirty white chairs sat in the concourse.  Slowly they filled … with musicians from the former Orchestra London.  When they lost their government funding, the organization went into bankruptcy, but many of the members continued playing as the We Play On Orchestra..

In front of the podium hung a red sign: “Conduct Us!”  So we did.  Young and old and medium.  Musicians and novices.  Those with confidence and those shaking in their boots.

When it was my turn, I took the baton from the concertmaster (the number one violinist), stepped onto the podium, tapped the music stand and raised my arms.  Smiles from many of the players.  Then we were off, into some fast Christmas piece whose name I can’t remember.  I swirled my arms during the loud parts and pulled in my limbs during the tender sections.  I was a conductor!  And I was enthralled.  A female violinist to my left kept grinning.  Actually she did so for every one of the conductors, maybe thirty in all.  Oh, bliss!  I had so looked forward to tapping that stand and directing such immensely talented musicians.  Dreams do come true.

Here are a few of my favourite moments:

  1. A little boy doesn’t want to take off his baseball cap off when conducting.  A helpful adult turned it around so we could see his face.  Then he gave ‘er.
  2. A young woman in a green down coat clearly had never done this before but soldiered on with a huge smile adorning her face throughout.  Wild applause from her friends standing at the back.
  3. A 2-year-old girl wearing a pink toque is carried by her mom and together they lead the orchestra.  Later, when another child was on the podium, the little one kept conducting in the wings, using a pink straw to great effect.
  4. A man in his twenties keeps a steady beat while his girlfriend films the whole thing.  When the piece was over, he sat down beside her.  They held hands and she leaned her head against his neck.
  5. As her young daughter conducts, mom holds her cell phone high and just beams love.  An eternal smile … ecstasy beyond words.
  6. An elderly man gives it his all.  His technique was muted, a little bit jerky, but the universe doesn’t care.  He led.  The musicians followed.  It was good.
  7. A 10-year-old girl grabs the baton and jerks it up and down with gusto, then starts dancing mid-performance.  The podium survived nicely.

Throughout, the concertmaster welcomed each conductor, encouraging the nervous ones, and letting the folks with more confidence do their thing.  Instruments came alive in the hands of professional Christmas celebrators.  Violin, cello, viola, double bass, trumpet, trombone, bassoon, clarinet, drums, and others not remembered – all were happy to be there.  So were the throngs coming in on the latest flight and their loved ones there to pick them up.  A fine time was had by all.

“God bless us, every one”




For many years, Jody and I frequented a grocery store in St. Thomas.  I loved goofing around with the staff.  My favourite trick was grabbing a big tub of margarine as Jody was heading towards the cash.  Here’s our script:

“Oh, Bruce.  Put it back.”

“But Jodiette, it’s one of Canada’s four major food groups and we’re running short.”

Sometimes I even put the tub on the cashier’s belt before succumbing to my dear wife’s wise counsel.

Occasionally, I’d be shopping alone, but why omit margarine pleasure?  Staff members, especially a woman named “Jessica”, would almost yell across the store, “Put it back!”

One time, I was heading to the pile of yellow goodness and was greeted by a big white sign, authored by Jessica, which said something like “Bruce, leave our margarine alone.”  Great fun.

Eventually, Jessica moved on to another job, and when Jody got sick we left the grocery store too.

Six years later is today.  I walked into a gift shop in a London mall.  And there behind the counter was Jessica.  We knew each other’s names and our hug was a natural one.  We had a good talk for a few minutes and then I said this:

“I have some sad news to tell you.  Jody died a year ago.”

Jessica laughed.

“No, Jody died last November.”

More laughing.

“Jessica – stop.  Jody really died.”

More of the same.

I was lost in space.  I thought there’d be tears but there weren’t.  There was anger.  After coming back from the meditation retreat, it felt like there was no antagonism left in me.  I was wrong.  I guess Jessica couldn’t move past the kidding relationship we’d had years ago.

“Jody has died.  Stop it!”

She didn’t.

I walked out.

“Oh, Bruce.  This is so not you.  You can’t leave it like this.  Go back.”

I went back.  Big smile from Jessica.  “Let’s hug.”  I backed away.  (“So not you.”)  I left.

I came back.  We hugged.  I believe Jessica still thought I was kidding.  But who on our fair planet would ever kid about your life partner dying?  I said goodbye and left again.

“You can’t leave it like this, Bruce.  It’s too damaging for both of you.  Go back and forgive her.”

So I came back again.  “I forgive you, Jessica.”  And now a real hug.  “I wrote a book about Jody and I’d like to give you a copy.  When are you working before Christmas?”

Tomorrow I’ll walk into that gift shop once more, Jodiette:  My Lovely Wife in hand.  More forgiveness.  Friendship renewed.  Completion.

I don’t have the luxury of living any other way.

Now I’m crying.





How do you learn to be kind?  Well, you can read a book with “Kindness” in the title.  You can listen to a spiritual teacher talk about it.  But I think the best is watching the people who show up in your life and catching them in the act.

On Thursday night, my friend Adele and I went to hear The Messiah at a lovely church in St. Thomas, Ontario.  At the intermission, we both had to pee.  Adele uses a walker and when we got to the washrooms, there was a lineup of about twelve women.  “Oh no!” I said inside my head.  Suddenly the woman at the front of the line came up to Adele and with a sweet smile told her she could go first.  Her smile was returned by both of us.  And the kindness continued.  Adele graciously said yes, allowing the woman to feel the full impact of her generosity.

Yesterday, I was at a Christmas carol sing at a London church.  At the end, a father came walking down the aisle holding his newborn child, “wrapped in swaddling clothes”.  He approached a young family across from me.  They brightened to see the child.  A girl, perhaps eight, stood up, approached the baby, and gave him or her a kiss on the cheek.  It didn’t matter to me whether the two were siblings or not.  Love is love.

Last night, my friend Renato and I were at a pub in London.  A classic yellow brick home from the nineteenth century, I’d guess.  The hostess ushered us into our own room, with a big window facing the street, and a gas fireplace only a few feet away.  But the music was a bit too loud for comfortable talking.  I asked the woman if she’d be willing to turn it down.  She smiled and said yes, adding that she’d have to turn it up again if other guests came into the room.  Twenty minutes later, here came those other guests.  But the hostess never turned the music back on.  Such a simple thing to do, but also a kind thing.  Renato and I got to hear each other as we each talked about our lives and enjoyed hearing about the companion’s.

I’m a kind person but I have no interest in searching for moments of the past few days to show that.  Other citizens of this planet show us all we need to know.

Eighty-Four Days … Part Three

There are a lot of good ideas in life, and I’ve subscribed to many of them.  I found myself opening during the retreat, and ideas moved to truth.  The head became my heart.  Such as …

Love them all

Not just my family and friends.  Not just nice people.  Everyone.  Even those who sometimes grate on me.  We all hurt.  In my finer moments, I feel huge compassion for the people I meet.  Great love.  All of us face loss, blame, pain and disrepute (the Buddha’s words).  Short or tall; male or female; young, medium or old; angry or serene; pretty or handsome in the eyes of the world or not so.  I will sit with them all.

Do no harm

No hurtful speech.  No gossip.  No wishing that things don’t go all that well for them.  No comparing.  No making them “less than”.  No pushing past someone to get what I want.  And when I do harm, I will feel remorse and apologize.  We all deserve this.

Everything changes

I can try to keep my youth, my vibrancy, my financial well-being.  I can try to keep the people I love close to me.  But sometimes my good fortune floats away and the world is black.  And eventually I will be separated from all those I love.  Jody is no longer with me in body.  I’m no longer teaching kids.  My childhood friends are hopefully still on the planet, somewhere out there in the world.  And raging against the night is just not it.


During the last few weeks of the retreat, my periods of sitting meditation became ever more peaceful.  And I couldn’t keep my head up.  A few minutes in, it would just flop.  I made great efforts to “correct” the situation, all to no avail.  I stood up, but very soon my legs wouldn’t hold me, and I sat down again.  I tried bowing my head in perfect alignment with my body.  Slowly I teetered to the left and the speed increased so that I had to snap out of the peace to stay erect.  I leaned my whole body somewhat to the right, seeking a balance point but still I rolled left.  Eventually, I found balance by leaning way to the right, maybe at a 45 degree angle.  I worried about my head smashing into my neighbour’s chair arm.  For some moments I was deep into my heart.  In others fear ruled.  Always I was fully alert to my environment.  Finally I let go and let it happen.

I meditated this morning, again my head way off to the right.  Oh well.  Guess I won’t make the centrefold of Meditators’ Monthly. 


That’s all I feel like writing today.  I wonder if there’ll be a Part Four.  I wouldn’t be surprised.