Just Looking into Your Eyes

Imagine that this Intelligence which pulses in each raindrop, shines in every moonbeam, cascades in every snowflake, and breathes in the Life of every being, is now looking directly out of your eyes, touching with your fingers, listening with your ears, feeling with your senses, observing through your very Awareness.  This is Spirit in the first person, Spirit as your one and only True Self, the same and only Spirit looking out from the eyes of every sentient being alive.

Sometimes I have wise things to say.  Perhaps not too often!  Sometimes I blather on about not much of anything.  Sometimes you start the conversation, be it about sports or politics or local events, and I chime in.  All of this is fine.  But what if I got simpler?

What if on some cosmic level my words fade to the background and all I do is look into your eyes?  Nothing to say but so much to be.  I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.  I don’t want to stare.  But I do want to look inside you and celebrate who’s there.  Just for a second or two, please.

We wouldn’t have to talk about it afterwards.  No analysis of consciousness.  But we’d know down deep that there was a connection.  And we would be nourished by the moment.  “Someone sees me.”

What if I built my conscious day around moments like these, rather than focusing on all the things I do and say and hear?  Just looking inside my companions for the briefest of time.

I won’t keep score but I will stay alert to the opportunity when you come my way.  And I will raise my face to yours, trusting that you’ll raise yours to mine.


Stories Handed Down

I volunteer in a Grade 6 class. I read to the group and help individual kids with assignments. But what I love the most is telling stories from my life, in hopes that seeds will be planted in some of those kids.

Last week, I told them about meeting a Haida “watchman” in Haida Gwaii, an archipelago north of Vancouver Island. He told me about how “white men’s diseases” decimated the Haida population, and how hundreds of their children were stripped of their dignity in far away residential schools. I watched the kids’ faces. Many of them seemed to get the tragedy of it all.

This morning I had breakfast in the Belmont Diner. I sat at the counter with two local gentlemen, probably both of them in their 80’s. Stories were told, this time with me on the receiving end.

1. A young man walks along a plank suspended over a huge tub of molasses. He slips … and is instantly up to his neck in the stuff. Co-workers hauled and hauled and finally got him out of the tub. God only knows how he ever got cleaned up.

2. “Fred” lived right by the railway tracks. Before the world of lights and descending gates, he sat in his car and stopped traffic when he heard the train whistle. To while away the time, Fred drank beer. Apparently he polished off 24 bottles most days of his adult life … and lived to 90 or so.

3. Both of my companions had big run-ins with teachers. One got fed up with getting harassed for just having “a little fun”. One day in Grade 10 he walked out and never came back. A week later, he was working at the local hardware store.

The other chap went to a two-room school out in the country. His female teacher for Grades 5 to 8 was to be a woman who never smiled and appeared to hate boys. He was always being called out for something. Imagining three more years of this, my currently coffee-drinking friend went to his father and somehow got switched to another school. Future contact with the teacher was met with stony silence on both sides.

4. My little village of Belmont, many decades ago, had five gas stations! All this to serve a population of 500.

5. Then there was the story of an underaged guy getting into a bar in Detroit. The same fellow who was sitting beside me. I’ll spare you the heroic details.


While the tales were being spun with gusto, another fellow walked in and joined us at the counter. His first words:

The purple asters are covered with little yellow butterflies

So … old guys tell stories to a somewhat younger old guy who tells stories to 11-year-old kids. May it always be this way. It’s how we learn about life.

Mom Love

I went to a soccer tournament yesterday to cheer on the girls and boys from my elementary school.  I wasn’t alone on the sidelines.  Moms were everywhere.  They were coaching, applauding great plays, and sharing the pain of miscues.  All for their son or daughter.  Family filled the playing fields of St. Thomas, Ontario.

Of course I’ve never been a mom, not even a dad.  But I felt with the other folks as their kids did great things.  One girl was absolutely tenacious on the ball.  An opponent would dribble past her but she’d speed up in response and dislodge the ball.  Then a boy blasted a shot towards the top left corner of the net, only to be met with an equally brilliant save from the goaltender.

There were also less great things.  A ball was rolling towards a goalie but she miscalculated the path.  The ball found its way between her legs and gently crossed the goal line.  Oh, the despair!  And a mother in a lawn chair bowed her head.

My favourite moment of the whole day featured a young lady who had just received the ball from her goaltender.  She tried to pass the ball upfield to a teammate but the elusive round thing just squibbled sideways off her foot.  The cool thing was the player’s reaction.  She looked skyward and laughed her guts out!  What a teacher she was in that moment.  I pray that there was a mother nearby smiling in love.

The kids were out there for hours, giving their all.  And a lots of lawn chairs were full of number one fans.  Good for all of them.  As day turned to evening, moments of triumph and agony were no doubt relived in living rooms across the region.  And then it would be time for the young soccer players to greet their pillows.  As moms and dads said goodnight to their kids, maybe a traditional song was on their lips.  I hope so.

Sleep my child and peace attend thee
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night

While the moon her watch is keeping
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
All through the night
O’er thy spirit gently stealing
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling
All through the night

All of Us

Tonight I’m going to see the musical Prom Queen, about a fellow who wanted to invite his boyfriend to his high school prom.  The school board said no and so began a legal battle.  Eventually Marc and Jason got to go.

The raindrops fall on everyone, equally
The candle casts its glow on each person in the room
Death, in its own time, comes to both you and me
All worthy in this world
All precious in the sight of Spirit
No one left out

And now it’s afterwards.  I’ve just stood in awe of forty teenagers giving their all on the stage … joyous smiles and wild dancing all the way to bowed heads and anguish.  It was a celebration of courage, determination, the deepest of loves and the human family.  All together now.

The songs and the lyrics flowed through me and no doubt helped many of us with our own lives:

We could be something infinite
Or we could be nothing at all
Please let us choose the infinity of our uniqueness

You haven’t heard the last of us
We will not be stopped from doing the good that the world needs

Put your game face on
So no one can see who you really are

Homosexuality is an abomination
As we carve out humanity into us and them

At one point, Marc, a future astronomer, gazes out at the night sky and sees up there three people he loves: his best friend Carly, his mom and his dad, all of them standing on the stage.  Carly and mom’s stars are close but dad’s is so far away, barely visible, as he mourns his son’s gay life.  The scene went right through me.

Later mom prays to Mary:

From the depths of my confusion, my despair
Mother Mary, Mother Mary … hear my prayer

Show this mother, Mother Mary, how to love
Both my precious only child and the Holy Lord above
Oh, the tearing out of the heart as loves and duty both call


Here was the agony and ecstasy of being human
Laid out on the stage of the Grand Theatre
In the persons of many young people
Representing us all

Speeding Past … Flowing Slow

When I’m driving in London towards downtown, there’s a spot where the speed limit drops from 60 kilometres per hour to 50.  It’s two lanes in each direction.  I stay in the right lane, doing 50 or a bit more.  In my better moments, I feel the world and my place in it.

Usually traffic bunches up behind me and there’s a steady flow of cars zooming past in the left lane.  Their speed is around 70 kph.  Vehicles behind me look for an opportunity to jerk left.  The car directly to my rear is probably right on my bumper.

I feel the pull of the 70 and the urge to fit in.  It’s a powerful force.  Be like them.  Don’t have them honk at me.  Be invisible.  So seductive.  But there’s another pull that’s far sweeter.  Be thoroughly myself.  Feel Scarlet move at 50.  Fell the rhythm that doesn’t seem available at a far faster speed.  Feel a sense of uniqueness.  Feel myself flowing with life, in sync, carried by a force that I can’t name.

And then there’s the rest of my day – away from roads and traffic.  Can I feel into the rhythms that support me in conversation, in eating, walking and volunteering at school?  Or do I let myself be pushed into someone else’s version of reality?

I choose to avoid toxic talk and the sense of being rushed.  I choose to linger with my fellow man and woman, to give the truth of the other person time to emerge.  My eyes can settle on other eyes rather than swerving from target to target.  My reality isn’t all crammed together.  I feel space around me.  I move with grace.

The pull of the left lane has largely faded away.  I’m happy.


An Extraordinary Woman

I had coffee with a friend of mine today and talk turned toward her mother.  “Emily” is 86-years-old, a long retired teacher.  My friend glowed as she recounted her mom’s exploits.

Emily was about to graduate from Grade 13.  A recruiter came by to see if she would be interested in teaching in a rural schoolhouse – Grades 1 to 8.  Emily, age 19, said yes.  “It was pretty easy.”  Really?  Eight different lessons most of the time?  Apparently the older kids were brilliant in helping the younger ones.  It was just what you did.  And no yard duty at recess – the senior students watched out for the young’uns.

For part of her career, Emily taught in a region that had lots of black folks.  As a young adult, she was often approached by white parents who didn’t want their kid standing next to a black child in the school play.  Her answer was always the same:  “If that’s how you feel, you’ll have to take your child out of the play.  I’m not moving one student away from another for no good reason.  All children need to be respected.”  Pretty gutsy and marvelous from a young teacher.  Some parents complained to the school trustee who supervised Emily, wanting her to be removed.  The trustee remained firm in support of his teacher.  He no doubt knew a quality human being when he saw one.

At one point, Emily moved elsewhere and applied for a teaching position in the new district.  The board offered her a salary far less than what she had been receiving.  Emily simply said “No.”  If they wanted her to teach, they needed to pay her what she was worth, what she had been paid before.  The board caved in.

For the bulk of her career, Emily taught Grade 5 and 6 in a little village.  She loved the energy of those kids.  She taught the children of her former students, and even the grandchildren.  Virtually everybody in town knew Emily, and her kindness to all was legendary.

Emily’s had some mobility issues recently but she still gets out to the local grocery store.  Her daughter was worried about how mom was getting the groceries from the store into her car, but Emily allayed all fears: “Last week, I asked the cashier if someone could help me with the bags.  Further back in line, a 60-ish fellow said ‘It’s okay, Mrs. Smith, I’ll carry them out for you.'”  Emily had taught the gentleman fifty years ago.  Love lives on.

Dear Emily, I hope you write a book about your storied life.  I’ll be the first in line to buy a copy.  Thank you for giving who you are.

Just A Wave

I was returning from London this afternoon on our local freeway.  I took the off ramp towards Belmont and braked to the stop sign.  To my right were two lanes in my direction which merged into one a couple of hundred metres away.  To my left was the freeway overpass and I saw no one coming.  I pulled into the right lane and put on my left turn signal.  My side mirror showed a motorcyclist zooming along the left lane towards me.

If you were a fiction writer, how would you finish this story?  With a spectacular crash and heroic rescue?  A near miss?  The truth was far less dramatic.

I let the motorcyclist go past and then moved into the left lane.  He or she waved.

And I paused, feeling a warmth course through me.  I pondered the beauty and the simplicity.  It was a “thank you”.


About a week ago, I was driving to the school where I volunteer.  It’s way out in the country, surrounded by corn and soybean fields.  Almost all the students are bussed, but there is an exception.  I started braking in preparation for turning left into the parking lot.  I glanced left to the house beside the school and there was a girl walking down the driveway.  She waved at me.  The same warmth, the same smile.  Contact.


Three summers ago, I went on a road trip to Western Canada to visit some of Jody’s relatives and a few old friends of mine.  I stayed a couple of nights with a marvelous family near Kamloops, B.C.  We laughed a lot.  When it was time to say goodbye, I hugged everyone and got in Scarlet.  As I drove down their lane, I glanced in the rearview mirror.  Three human beings were standing in front of their house, each of them waving to me.  Ditto again.


I see you

The Space

I used to be in a personal development program where we were asked to “hold the space” – of commitment for instance.  So I would be committed to achieving some result, and my example of commitment would hopefully inspire others to do the same.

The space is an atmosphere of goodness, sufficiency, expansion, sweetness …  It’s like when you enter a room and you can immediately sense the spiritual environment – hopefully one of welcoming and peace, not one of contraction and anger.

I meditated for eighty minutes this afternoon.  The length of time is mostly irrelevant – the space that I reached was not.  It was pretty much indescribable but I’ll give it a go.  It felt like my breathing stopped.  Everything stopped.  Even thoughts only showed up occasionally.  My face softened and the muscles fell.  Some energy shimmered over my forehead.  Within the stillness came a little smile and an instant later all was love.  Truly all was love.  There was nothing outside of love.

Then there was a flurry of thoughts and the stillness left.  There was a pulsing instead.  I decided to just watch it.  Actually I was hoping the pulse would go away and the no-movement would return, but I was fine with that not happening.  Minutes later, all was still and love again and I sat there in that space for what felt like a long time.

Everything was fine, completely sufficient, sacred, floating, resting, in communion with life.  And then my eyes opened.  I caressed my singing bowl three times with the mallet and my meditation sitting was over.

The space lingered as I got out of my meditation chair, found my wallet, and got into Scarlet for the drive to the Barking Cat, my local pub.  Nachos beckoned.  I was still deeply within the space as I opened the door.  The place was packed and I had to search for a seat.  The PGA Tour Championship was on TV and Tiger Woods was leading, for the first time in many years.  And then what?

The space went poof as I salivated over the possibility of Tiger being my hero again.  I brought my nose towards the television to follow every shot.  Swept up and overwhelmed by an old version of me.  How easily I let the space of transcendence slip away, unconsciously.  Only after the nachos were tiny bits did I wake up to what had happened.


So … will I commit to the current version of Bruce showing up a lot more frequently?  Yes, I will.  I can’t afford not to, for there isn’t much cheese down the tunnel of birdie putts and monster drives.  The cheese is elsewhere.

The space that came upon me today, by grace, is available as I walk into a living room, a school, and yes, even a pub.  What can I create with kids and adults coming from such an aura of love?  Something beautiful, I think, even if that’s largely unknown right now.

May I let the space linger, even within the flurry of daily life.

Unlike Them?

I enjoy reading many of the articles in The Athletic, a sports website.  They go far beyond the score and the thrilling plays to find the human beings.  That’s what I’m interested in – how other lives can relate to mine, how there are lessons out there for me to learn.

Yesterday I read about Tyler Parsons, a 21-year-old prospect with the Calgary Flames hockey club.  A couple of years ago, while I following the progress of the London Knights (my local junior hockey team), Tyler was the goalie.  I loved seeing his spectacular saves and he seemed like a good person.  And that’s where my pondering about him ended.  But who knows what’s beneath the surface of our skin?

The article laid bare Tyler’s emotional life, with his blessing.  It was so unlike the culture of male professional sports, where one need to be tough, without feeling, totally focused on achievement.

“I finally spoke up.”  Indeed he did, and well done, young man.  Here’s what he had to say:

I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me.  I’m better now.  But before all this happened, I thought mental health and all that stuff was a bunch of bullshit.

One thing builds into another.  You start with a small issue, and it seems to just build up and build up and build up till it becomes physically and mentally painful.

Problems in your life are what molds you.  I’ve been through so much in my life in such a short span that it grew me as a person.

If I wouldn’t have opened the doors and started talking, I wouldn’t be sitting in this chair right now doing this interview.  I probably wouldn’t be playing hockey.

I’m not going to sit back here and hold it in when my words, my story, can change somebody else’s life.  If I can help somebody get out of that state, possibly save their life … because there were many times when I was in that state that I didn’t want to be alive.

It seems to me that when the world is collapsing, it’s just ME … my feelings, my woes, my long victim-laden story.  Tyler has found a way to spend time in US … empathy, kindness and compassion.  May we all find this togetherness.





Unlike Them

Last night, during a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Florida Panthers, Maxi Domi of Montreal tried to goad Aaron Ekblad into a fight.  As they tussled, Max punched Aaron with his glove on.  But Ekblad didn’t want to fight.  Then Domi whipped off the glove and smashed him in the face with his bare fist.  Aaron was bleeding and left the game for concussion testing.  Max was ejected, and today was suspended for five games.

The culture of hockey has always included fighting.  The general expectation is that you stand up for yourself, that you fight if provoked.  But here comes a fellow who doesn’t want to play that game.  He wants to play hockey.

What does it take to create a paradigm shift?  Well, a few brave souls for one thing.  I don’t know of another sport where fighting is acceptable, where assaulting another human being is seen by many as “being a man”.  Congratulations, Aaron.  By saying no to violence, you’re beginning to create a new groove in the sport, one that will deepen as more courageous athletes join you.

Speaking of shifts, a couple of days ago, the teacher I volunteer with presented the kids with little plastic boxes for the books they’re reading.  His first question was “Who wants a pink one?”  As well as a few girls, six boys put up their hands.  I wonder how many of them would have done that 20 years ago.  (Zero)

Who are other pioneers of change in our world?

1. Women who opt for careers in areas traditionally dominated by men, e.g. police officers, plumbers and professional coaches

2. Men who opt for careers in areas traditionally dominated by women, e.g. hairstylists, primary school teachers and ballet dancers

3.  Men who cry

4.  Women who demand to be heard

5.  Kids who have ideas for bettering our world and speak of them assertively

6.  Elders who dive into sports

7.  Folks with a physical handicap who get out there and make things happen

8.  Religious leaders who see God in other faiths

9.  Politicians who applaud the good ideas coming from members of other parties

10.  Those of us who think of all of us

Come on down, you movers and groovers!