The Truth

A week ago, a woman asked me “How are you?” I said “I’m happy.” It was a lie.

As my life continues to unfold, I see how damaging it is to not tell the truth. It hurts. And the pain lingers. It’s looking in the mirror and seeing far less than what’s possible.

For the last few weeks, Canadians have been following the saga of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Justin Trudeau. Jody was the former Attorney General of Canada before being demoted by Justin, our Prime Minister. It certainly appears that he and some of his colleagues put pressure on her to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian corporation which is suspected of bribery and corruption. If the company is convicted, many jobs would be lost.

The rule of law states that Jody, the top judicial figure in the land, and another woman who is the prosecutor in the case, need to make their decisions impartially and independently. No political interference. Jody chose to speak the truth, despite probable negative repercussions concerning her career. In my view, she stood tall, and was not swayed by the winds of popularity polls and the coming election. Here’s a sample of what she said:

We are treading on dangerous ground here – and I am going to issue my stern warning – because I cannot act in a manner and the prosecution cannot act in a manner that is not objective, that isn’t independent. This is the about the integrity of the government … This is going to look like political interference by the Prime Minister.

This is not about saving jobs. This is about interfering with one of our fundamental institutions. This is like breaching a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.

I can’t act in a partisan way and it can’t be politically motivated. All of this screams of that.

Do we stand for the truth or are we searching for “wiggle room”, cutting corners, putting the truth on a lower level than other values?

Jody is an aboriginal woman, a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation on Vancouver Island. On Saturday, she was honoured by five hundred people at a feast (a potlatch).

In previous testimony to the Justice Committee, she said:

I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House [a place for ceremonies and decision-making]. This is who I am and this is who I will always be.

“Judith Sayers, the president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council who recently wrote an editorial about the subject, spoke with On The Island‘s Gregor Craigie about the significance of the words:”

What she’s talking about here is that area of law as the kind of person that you have to be: one with integrity, honesty and truth telling.

A lot of indigenous laws are related to our spiritual, sacred way of life.

Part of it is to do with us as people, how we treat the land and resources and our role in our communities and governance.

I believe that her role in the Big House has been to be a truth teller, which is very strong in that she has to – and she’s told – that she could never speak unless she knows it to be true.

Amen

Sub-Optimal or Just Fine?

Since I quit the Tour du Canada bicycle trip last June, I’ve mostly chosen to put fitness and nutrition on their neighbourly back burners. “Just not important,” I said so very inaccurately. I decided what was important was beer and nachos and such like. Add to that the joy of being online with friends and meditating and watching sports on TV, and I became a synonym for “sedentary”. I was doing lots of cool things, such as going to Belgium and Senegal, and being active in the Evolutionary Collective, but I clearly had a blind spot.

Yesterday, my trainer “Derek” and I really got going on the strength training. First the locker room and the view of t-shirted me in the mirror. Wow … look at that spare tire. I sure didn’t like that profile and I felt myself falling into “bad”, but strangely it was just a momentary dip. My gaze rose from my stomach to my eyes and I liked what I saw there.

Derek started me off with the bench press, using 12.5 lb. dumbbells. I quivered on the upthrust and the weight in my left hand went wonky. Again the contraction in my mind, and again it released within seconds. Hmm.

Next was squats, using a sufficiently high “sit down” platform to vanquish the “I can’t squat” mumbo jumbo. Fifteen reps three times with rests between. Some pain coming up, especially as 12 moved towards 15. My looking in the mirror revealed a struggling old guy, as apparently unstruggling younger guys lifted weights nearby. Contract … expand (both the body and mind).

There was a gentle battle afoot, and I realize that those two words don’t usually go together. I watched my mind and smiled. There was the pointy part: right now you’re not good enough. Then there was the “flowing to the horizon” part: I’m on a journey here. There’s a future of wellness waiting for me. If I do the regular work, I’ll be there in the fullness of time.

What’s so doable is to be sufficient in this moment. I can argue with the way it is right now, but why bother? It’s far more fun to gaze upon my daily blessings, and there are so many.

Blending

I’m feeling the call of health: to rid my life of alcohol, caffeine and aspartame; to regain the fitness that I lost in the months following my exit from the Tour du Canada; to let peace and love guide my actions throughout the day.  I’ve never learned to cook but I’m also feeling the virginal need to prepare simple meals.  In the spirit of moving into the mystery of meal preparation, I bought a blender.

I needed some gesture of addressing the problem, a symbol of taking action in this arena.  At this point, I wouldn’t need recipes.  I wouldn’t need to think too much, of the furrowed brow variety.  I just need to gather healthy items around me that I could mush together to create nutrition in a thick liquid.

And so I shopped, this time without my dear wife Jodiette making the executive decisions.  Here’s my list so far:

Unflavoured almond milk
Plain Greek yogurt
Lemon and coconut Activia yogurt
Almond butter
Chunks of fresh fruit, which gradually have morphed into chunks of frozen fruit
Granola
Bran buds
Bananas
Spinach
Wee little carrots
Unsalted mixed nuts

Well, that’s sort of a recipe … or several of them.  It’s a fragile road I’m walking, so new and undeveloped.  But I’m glad I’m here.  Baby steps forward to nutritional independence.  Just holding the tumbler of goodness in my hand is somehow soothing, with a soupçon of inspiration tossed in.

Blending.  Things merging.  I’ve also recently experienced that in the broad span of living.  In my better moments, there’s a sense of no hard edges between me and other people.  It feels like a painting created in pastel colours of chalk, with some unknown artist taking a white cloth and rubbing the hues together.  All this disappears in the tough times, such as last Saturday.  Then the lines were straight and bold, the distance between us immense, the loneliness like a dagger in the heart.  Perhaps I should just leave those times of separation alone, to let them breathe.  And to welcome the sweet contact of togetherness when it smiles on me.

Something is moving in me.  Something is climbing in me, even though it seems to be two steps up, one back … or sometimes the reverse.

Smoothie, anyone?

B-ball Lessons

I watched the Grade 5/6 girls basketball team today.  They were in another school against two opponents.  I was thrilled to see them play after being on the west coast for nine days.

As the games ebbed and flowed, I saw 12-year-old kids that I love rocket down the court – sometimes making great plays and sometimes messing up.  I realized that I wasn’t attached to the transcendent moments.  My love especially extended to errant passes, missed free throws, “losing the handle”.

The NBA is full of astonishing athletes.  Years ago, Michael Jordan could do seemingly impossible things with the basketball.  But I didn’t love him, nor the other stars.  Today was different.  You go, girls!  You gave it all you had … and I cheered.

Game Number One was with a less skilled team.  The score quickly mounted to 12-0 and my thoughts turned towards the other folks.  Being so outplayed can be such a blow to the ego, but these opponents kept holding their heads high, grabbing the ball after we scored a basket and motoring towards our end.  We intercepted passes, blocked shots, and got in their faces, but those “others” didn’t give up.  I was so proud of them.  When they eventually scored a basket, the cheer from their fans was the biggest I heard all afternoon.

The final score was 28-7.  We didn’t gloat.  They didn’t slump.  Two teams gave ‘er.  In the large scheme of things, it didn’t matter that one team performed far better than the other.  Everybody got to play, and play hard.

Game Number Two had us up against a school that has three times the number of students that we have.  Our girls didn’t believe the stats.  We had hands up in the opponents’ faces.  We fought under the basket for rebounds.  All of our missed shots didn’t slow us down a bit.  At one point a player on the other team broke away towards the basket.  One of our girls raced back and swatted the ball away as she was starting her layup.  Brilliant … worthy of TSN’s Sportcentre highlight show!

The opposition featured powerful players and a stifling defense.  But no heads hung low for us.  We were behind 6-0 and then roared back.  In the final minute of a 10-8 game, we must have had four shots, and none of them found the net.  Still, the fury of our press to tie was a joy to watch.

Win one, lose one?
On the surface of things … yes

Fully alive for two?
Absolutely

Day Nine: Homeward

It’s over … my west coast communion with Evolutionary Collective friends and my sojourn in the world of Berkeley, California. I’m in the big bird heading to Toronto and Belmont and home. I’m happy in the going, in the abiding, and in the returning.

There was a lovely long lineup at airport security this morning. All I did was mention to the woman behind me that the post-and-strap system to create weaving lines of people was a great invention. And then we began. Priya is Indian in origin and is heading to Singapore to surprise her mom and dad. It’s a big anniversary for them and the husband has orchestrated a surprise party for his dear wife. Neither know about the daughter showing up. She’s so excited. We talked of love, family and the joy of reunion. It didn’t matter an iota that she was young and I was old, that she’s from the business world and I’m from education, that she’s a woman and I’m a man. We felt the same need for connection even though our time together was measured in minutes. We hugged goodbye.

***

A huge mural at the San Francisco Airport filled a wall. You’ll see a photo of it if you’re seeing this on Facebook. It celebrated immigrants finding a new home in the Bay Area. The words on the plaque nearby drew a parallel between those people and the birds who arrive in the nearby wetlands. The painting was orange and green and blue. Flying off the canvas was a mother lost in the eyes of her son, a father tossing his infant daughter high in the air, a likely husband and wife whose auras were blending, a woman holding the head of a monk, folks dancing … It was such a celebration of life, of being thoroughly alive. The power of art to transform.

***

I was packing up this morning when I came upon the card I bought yesterday. A huge owl in mid-flap is looking right at me as he bursts through the sky at sunrise. There’s such power in his gaze and upstretched wings. I want that to be me: unstoppable, unwavering, unaffected by crosswinds. He’s going to have a place of honour in my home as a reminder of what’s possible in life. He’ll be on my Facebook page too.

***

An hour to Toronto. I’m looking forward to being with my loved ones – young, medium and old. I’ll have stories to tell, and I’ll delight in theirs. Home … by midnight.

Day Eight: Roaming the Ordinary Streets

I told myself I didn’t want anything special today – no Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 or Alcatraz.  Just the people’s city, please.  I was looking for those people, plain folks who might want to talk for a few minutes.

I started off at Bette’s Oceanview Diner on Fourth Street in Berkeley, except I couldn’t find any ocean.  What was there were nine red stools at the counter, each with good access to tiny juke boxes.  A quarter for two songs.  Cool.  I tried “Whiter Shade of Pale” on for size, as well as an Edith Piaf melody in French.  I joked with Jenna, my server, and she even plunked down two quarters for my listening pleasure.  I asked a waiter to sing a song but he said he only does Prince songs.  I found one on the machine … but he demurred.  (Sigh)

Manfred was this rollicking happy German fellow behind the counter.  He wants people to have a good time, especially since he owns the place.

On my left was a woman who started crying as she talked to me: the old gentleman on her left had just walked out, after paying for her meal.  The guy on my right was, like me, an explorer of consciousness.  He was so interested in the mind, particularly the link between intention and action.  He also was curious about the Evolutionary Collective when I piped up about my passion.

So … a thoroughly alive place.  Manfred called Bette’s “real”.  I agree.  This is the Bay Area I want.

I emerged from the subway (called BART) in San Francisco an hour later.  Unlike New York City, there was no crowd of yellow cabs.  There was, however, a seemingly endless line of cyclists powering past in the bike lane.  The energy of the flow was immense, like a river.  The sidewalks were crowded with folks walking fast.  It felt like I was the slowest.  Maybe I was.  I don’t care.  I saw lots of buildings that weren’t purely rectangular.  Bow windows especially were très magnifique.  And the colours were often bright pastels.  My favourite was a three-storey jobbie all decked out in yellow with red trim.

Shortly after I emerged from the bowels of the subway, I came upon a giant mural on the side of a grey house.  Huge letters pronounced “I have a dream.”  And faces greeted me: Gandhi, César Chavez (a civil rights activist), Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King.  I loved their eyes as they loomed above me.  Thank you, dear home owner, for mixing paint and spirit.

A few minutes ago, I felt moved to find a quote from each of these spiritual giants, so here goes:

Gandhi:  An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

César Chavez:  If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him … the people who give you their food give you their heart.

Mother Teresa:  Spread love wherever you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

Martin Luther King:  Free at last.  Free at last.  Thank God almighty we are free at last.

As I sauntered down the streets of common people, I felt the need for sweet.  Almost immediately a bakery appeared, hosted by a jolly woman who waxed poetic about a nearby street – Valencia.  We smiled a lot and I smiled some more as I bit into shortbread cookies filled with caramel.  I know for a fact that such yummies have a proud spot in Canada’s Food Guide!

Further down the road, the image of a smoothie came calling, and once again providence provided.  An ice cream shop opened its arms to me and placed a banana, pineapple, mango, coconut milk and vanilla gelato smoothie within reach of my mouth.  Who was I to refuse?  I sat outside at a tiny table, savouring a taste fit for all of us.  Beside me was an old man who was praying with his eyes closed.  I could almost hear his words.  He stayed within an aura of reverence for the whole time I sat there.  It was a privilege to share the space with him.

I roamed and rambled, chatting with a few folks in shops and subways.  No one refused my words of greeting.  I like this place.  The only sadness I had was on the packed BART car on the way home to Berkeley.  On a seat made for two, a woman placed her purse dead centre in the open space.  There were lots of people standing.  I wondered what that was about.  Fear?  The need to stay distant from other human beings?  Or just plain unconsciousness?

In the nighttime, I walked along Allston Way from downtown Berkeley to my room at the Knights Inn.  Gorgeous trees, bushes and flowers were near.  And the scent of the blossoms followed me home.  Goodbye, Berkeley.  I’m glad we’re friends.

Day Seven: Living Fully

During the Evolutionary Collective seminar on the weekend, I got to experience some attitudes which allow us to make a powerful difference in the world.

***

One participant shared that she often felt like she was squeezed between the luggage on a bus.  Our leader countered that we need to take a seat on the bus.  Hmm.  So … I’m just as important as anyone else.  I belong.  I have a part to play.  I deserve to be here.  Who cares if someone else has more life experience, more smarts, a more open heart?  Not important.  What is crucial is that we talk to each other and allow ourselves to influence each other.

I’m no better than other passengers and no worse.  In fact, the whole comparison business doesn’t serve anyone.  Together we can flow towards the future, sharing our connection while also allowing each person’s uniqueness to blossom.

***

At a social gathering full of adults and kids, a four-year-old girl came to the centre of the action and said “Everyone stand up.”  They did.  “Now hold hands.”  They did.  It wasn’t a bunch of grownups humoring a kid.  It was a natural response to the power of another human being, who just happened to be very young.  Our age, gender, personality and knowledge don’t matter.  We get to throw ourselves out into the world and impact others.  We each have the juice inside to to be forthright and assertive.  Now, can we bring that to the outside?

***

Let’s say you have a negative pattern that keeps repeating.  You’re awfully tired of it.  What’s possible is to quietly say “No.  I’m not doing that anymore.”  A determination without fanfare.  A declaration.  I realize that some deep traumas (such as the ones which reside in me) need a more extensive strategy but others are perfectly susceptible to a sudden stop.  “I don’t like what caffeine does to me.  I don’t like what aspartame does to me.  That’s it.  No more caffeinated coffee or tea.  No more Diet Coke.”  So there.

***

I don’t have to shut myself down.  I don’t have to settle down.  I can be a very big Bruce, even if some folks say that’s too big.  And I can find someone to share my life who won’t back away when I’m being powerful.  She won’t run away.  Instead, she’ll beckon me closer.  “Give me all you’ve got.  I want all of you.”  Sounds pretty rare, both in the giving and the receiving, but why not?  Why should I tone myself down in my passion and commitment because someone might get uncomfortable?  Well … I shouldn’t.  The planet needs all of us to be at the top of our game – to be willing to express, to give, to disrupt the status quo.  If not us, then who?

***

Stand up
Stand up straight
Look the world in the eye

Day Six: Lost and Found

I spent much of Saturday in a compression, feeling the world crushing me.  I was small, almost invisible, and the dangers of life were towering over me.  Traumas of the past came rushing in and the future was invisible.  All was lost.

I woke up early Sunday morning and just lay there for an hour.  In my mind, I saw a little boy sitting on the floor, arms pressing upwards to ward off the terrors.  I lay there and loved him.  I didn’t furrow my brow and force him to lower his hands.  He was doing what he needed to do.  It was such a new experience, not trying to fix things, to turn my world into roses and champagne.  Just being with what was true in the moment.

And lo and behold, there was peace.  There was breathing again.  Within the slowing, the little kid remained, still pressing hard.  I smiled, the first for many hours.

When the seminar started a few hours later, I spoke to the group about little Bruce.  I told the folks that I was scared of them.  “Scared” says it so much better than “afraid”.  And my friends in the chairs were with me.  One person said “Your voice if different.”  Over the day, I received several “Welcome Back”s.  I was alive again, powerful again, connected again.

I need to address the drowning eight-year-old boy, to look him straight in the eye.  One of the leaders of the Evolutionary Collective is a psychologist and I will meet her on video conference for as many sessions as needed to make friends with my moments of terror.  I’ll do this not to be a better person but to ensure that far more of me is available for other human beings.

On I go.

Day Five: The Mind at Work

At the heart of the work of the Evolutionary Collective is the willingness to feel what’s true in the moment and to go into that deeply.  During this morning’s session, I felt myself being pressed in upon.  There was a heaviness, almost a collapse.  Emotionally I was a mess, buried in “I’m bad” and “I’m scared of people in this group.”  My goodness, where did that come from?

At the break, I sat outside with a woman who asked me “How are you?”  My answer?  “I’m happy.”  It was a lie.  The rest of the break was a swirl of woe and self-condemnation.  I was a jumble inside, being out of integrity with myself.  Sometime before lunch, I approached the woman and told her “I lied to you.”  We talked it out some (with her infinite support) but the prime moment was the first, offering me the relief of the truth.

Later in the day, we explored attachment, frustration and rejection.  The thinking is that each of us has one of these as a dominant theme.  I saw my fear of being rejected, especially in a group.  An image appeared: a bunch of people walking away from me, shaking their heads.  Being left alone.  If rejection is a two-way street – fear of it happening to me and actively saying no to others – then I have a jolt coming in how I experience me.  I’ve always thought of myself as a nice person – caring, compassionate.  Could it be that there’s also a part of me that has no use for others and wants them to go away?

Another today event was looking at past traumas.  Being pushed into the deep end by a swimming instructor when I was eight.  Dumped out of a canoe in rapids, and I still couldn’t swim.  Being hit by lightning.  Clinging to a sloped icefield for half an hour above a near-freezing lake.  Clinging to footholds on a cliff five hundred feet above another mountain lake.  Crossing an intersection on my bike with a speeding car coming through a few feet away.  Running across an intersection at a crosswalk while another car narrowly missed me.

What’s true is that I’ve never examined these incidents with a counsellor.  I saw today that I need to.

So … it was a day that rocked my world.  Am I willing to move towards the eruptions of self-image or will I retreat meekly back into a daily peace and love resting above a basement of fear?  I choose to look.

Day Four: The Evolutionary Collective Workshop

I was confronted today … with an idea and a criticism.  First the idea part.  How about if I started living my life without needing people’s agreement?  For one thing, I wouldn’t be looking over my shoulder to see if folks were still liking me.  I wouldn’t have to tailor my comments to the audience, to test the wind to see if an idea would fly.  I would be totally willing to say my truth without antagonism.  I could enter into dialogue with someone who sees the world differently, perhaps in the end agreeing to disagree.

If we’re breaking new ground here, leaning into future possibilities, then falling back into the tried and true won’t get the job done.  The world needs fresh ideas and I include myself in the company of people who can create them.  And if it’s new, naturally there’d be little agreement in the marketplace.  There’s no track record for such a courageous thrust into the unknown.  But the novelty of thought is where I want to be, rather than simply following the traditional ways of doing things.  If I stay traditional, naturally others will be nodding their heads in response, but where’s the juice in that?

And then there’s the spiritual practice called being criticized.  I felt myself contract today in response but I kept my head up, and my eyes in contact with my confronter, refusing to shrink all the way down to silence.  That’s been my pattern, to plummet into the abyss of “I’m bad”, to run away with my tail between my legs.  So dissatisfying.  I was once told to surround myself with powerful people, to let them impact me, jolt me.  Well, so be it.  In order to be the conduit for great things in the world, I need to be open to influence, to correction.  I need to be open to the type of conflict that raises us both up to be our best.  I need to be in a tennis match with someone equally as committed and farther down the path of transformation, someone who will hit tough shots into the corners and draw out my very best in response.

I love the peace of meditation but it pales before the love flowing through a relationship between two people who are committed to each other.  There’s a brilliant aliveness in asking the other person to be great, and allowing them to do the same for me.