The Hip … A Step Forward

It’s intermission time at London’s Aeolian Hall. I’m here to see The Strictly Hip, a tribute band for Canada’s great rock group The Tragically Hip. It’s been decades since I’ve been to a rock concert (other than dancing to Five Alarm Funk at Sunfest) and here I am in the front row.

Straight ahead of me, fifteen feet away, a young man wields an impossibly long bass guitar, his head bobbing and weaving. The lead guitarist plays some incredible licks with a macho flair that has the girls swooning. The drummer is brilliant. Still, the star of the show is the Gord Downie lookalike, complete with cowboy hat. I can barely make out the words but he’s belting out the hits as folks wearing Hip t-shirts move their bods in front of the stage.

Sometimes I close my eyes and feel the pulse of the drum in my heart … it moves right through me. The guitar runs, the deep bass parts and Gord’s strident vocals flood me with the juice of life.

***

And now it’s later. A little girl is jumping up and down by the stage and Gord reaches down to shake her hand. She bounces giddily back to her seat. The way ahead of me is crowded with dancers. A couple slow dances for a slow song. Friends jump straight up and high five for the fast ones.

I don’t know the songs but clearly just about everyone else does. I don’t feel like dancing and I wonder if that’s because of my recent ankle and knee problems. I take a second to poop on myself and then that smallness magically disappears.

I’m loving the energy in the room but then a thought comes: this group surge is nowhere near what I feel when I’m online with members of the Evolutionary Collective global community. That energy bubbles up from within. Tonight’s source is the wild band in front of me and their songs – some raucous and some tender. The truth is that I don’t need rock concerts to expand. Just give me a few open-hearted folks and I’ll bring forth love. A subtle and yet immensely powerful surge.

I continue to change in the world. Old versions of me are honoured and included in what’s emerging. Thanks, Gord and friends, for being on the journey with me.

Tomorrow?
A delightful mystery

Next year?
Perhaps a Bruce I can’t even imagine

Bring it on

Hurtling Through Space

Many a time, I’ve written about something that I was feeling recently but no longer.  If the experience was real in my soul, the words reached others.  It’s even more special, however, when what I’m telling you about is still with me … such as right now.

I’m in a global community that’s exploring consciousness, especially what’s possible when two or more of us look into each other’s eyes.  Can we experience great freedom?  Can we awaken together?  The answer that returns is “yes”.

Last evening there was a live internet session with about ten of us.  I looked inside as the call started.  I was “space-y”, disoriented, “loose” – but not in a negative way.  The cognitive me seemed to have taken a back seat.  And the question was large: “Where am I?”  What realm of being has come calling?

Part of our time together is the opportunity to practice with another person as we look at each other through our computer screens.  As I sat with a fine fellow, images flooded me and I shared them.  For a bit, I was floating in space, untethered from my spaceship.  Suddenly I was beside the rings of Saturn.  I spun them like a frisbee.  Then I was hungry, and the moon beckoned.  We all know that it’s made of green cheese and I took a huge bite.  Next I grabbed the moon, and having conveniently gotten rid of the planet Saturn, I threw the moon through the rings.  Bulls eye!

Fear came by.  “Shut it down, Bruce.  He’ll think you’re weird.”  As soon as I uttered these thoughts, they floated away and I was back in deep space.  I gasped as the meteor that was Bruce blasted into the darkness.  Fire trailed my splayed arms and legs.  I was hurtling through space!  And I still am.

I’m experiencing being launched somewhere, at supersonic speed.  I don’t know what the “somewhere” is, and I don’t care.  There’s no sense of danger.  Just astonishing velocity.  I’m vibrating with it.

I’ve had many meditation experiences where everything stops.  The stillness and peace abide.  Right now that peace is also here – a great calm – but I’m being thrown into some future.  There’s a vacuum sucking me forward.  There’s a magnet pulling me in.  I’m on a bullet train to the next moment.

Here’s the fear again.  “Don’t publish this.  Leave it as a draft … forever.”

Sorry, worried voice.  I’m about to click “Publish”.  It won’t be a record of the past.  It’s still an awe of the present.  I’m Superman – “faster than a speeding bullet”.

Mitch … or Me?

Last night was the first National Hockey League game of the season for my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.  I was ready to be glued to the TV set.  This could be the year that the Leafs hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.  I was a teenager back then, a Torontonian who watched four cup parades in that decade … a fanatic fan.

I watched the game last night, waiting for my body and soul to explode as the Leafs peppered the Montreal net with brilliant shots, and as our goalie Frederick made one stunning save after another.  And then, of course, we’d win.  As it turned out, we did win, but I didn’t explode.  Actually I was pretty flat during the whole affair.

Why?

I went to sleep clueless about my waned devotion.  I woke up with one word on my lips … “Mitch”.  A few years ago, Mitch Marner played for my local junior team – the London Knights.  I loved watching him zoom up the ice, make impossible passes and blast the puck into the top corner of the net.  An 18-year-old was my hero.  And then the Leafs drafted him.  Thus rekindled was passion for my team.

Mitch didn’t do much last night.  His passes went awry.  His shots missed the net.  And I wasn’t engaged in the game.  The truth seems clear: I create heroes.  I imagine myself as them.  If they don’t perform well, I’m bummed.  Somehow it’s an attack on my self-esteem.  I want heroic moments so I can bask in the glory of their excellence.

I did the same thing with Mike Weir, Canada’s champion golfer who won the Masters in 2003.  I lived and died on every tournament result.  If I was watching on TV, it was on every shot.  What sense does it make to allow my happiness to be blowing in the wind of Mitch and Mike’s performance?  None!

I’m a different person than I was in 2003.  There’s a richness to life, to the possibilities of consciousness, that wasn’t as fully developed then.  Could it be that my ho-humness is less about Mitch’s lack of results and more about competitive sports no longer floating my boat?  I wonder.  I still love the transcendent moments in hockey, golf and tennis but something has changed.  What animates my life these days is a conversation with one other person where we touch each other’s souls.  The flow of a hockey game can’t hold a candle to communion.

You and Me

My favourite moments in life are when I’m sitting with one other person, talking about things that matter to us.  There’s a sense of connection, of communion.  The other is special to me, and a spiritual light encloses our being together.

I wonder if I can create that sense of intimacy in relationship to other things.  Let’s see.

1.  Life:  The ups and downs of human existence.  The joys and sorrows of the day, the triumphs and failures.  Yes, I can embrace it all, as I would hug a friend at a cozy restaurant.

2.  My Books:  My favourite one is The Grand Option by Beatrice Bruteau.  As I sit in my man chair caressing the pages, the words and I touch each other, quietly and sublimely.  Contact.

3.  The Younger Me:  So many years have drifted down the tunnel of time.  Earlier versions of Bruce scrambled up mountains, created a soulful batik and played cello with a passion.  Now they’re gone from the surface of life but somehow they still sit with me as I sip coffee at the diner.  To be revered.

4.  My Home:  My orange-brick sanctuary.  It’s where my soul has space to unfold.  Favourite chairs and my delicious bed cradle me as I sink into them.  I am being held, as I would by a lover.

5.  My Car:  Scarlet has been my companion on journeys to meditation retreats and to reunions with faraway friends.  She has led me to thrilling sports matches and harmonic concerts.  She knows where I want to go.

6.  My Clothes:  My favourite red shirt, my ancient red toque, the jeans that feel like home.  And don’t forget all those t-shirts with the funky sayings.  They’re part of me, expressions of me.

7.  The Songs I Love:  Where would I be without The Wings That Fly Us Home, Imagine and Dancing Queen?  Such longtime friends and tender reminders of what’s important in life.  I breathe into you and you hold me in return.

8.  The Land:  I am drawn to the fields and forests, the birds that fly high and the streams that roar or meander.  Time often stops in your presence.  We sit together in peace.

9.  My Ceramic Mugs:  I wrap my hands around you and enjoy the coffee you offer.  I am nourished.  I am comforted.  I am happy.

10.  My Body:  Parts that I like, parts that I don’t.  But behold the miracle when they all come together.  Even if some things don’t work perfectly, I celebrate the uniqueness of these muscles, bones and organs, all enclosed nicely in my skin.  I kiss my hand.  I wrap my arms around me as far as they stretch.  There’s a lot to love.

***

Things to be used?
I don’t think so
They’re all you’s to me

North Sea Gas

Three gentlemen from Edinburgh, Scotland – one in his thirties and the other two probably in their sixties – strode onto the stage.  After a few songs, the young guy said “If you like our music, ask us back … [glances at his companions] … but don’t wait too long!”  And such is the spirit of North Sea Gas.

Guitar, fiddle, banjo, brilliant vocal harmonies, and outrageous humour – what a recipe for audience fun.  There was just no way these fellows were going to let us have a ho hum evening.

Mr. Banjo introduced a song written by a great Scottish poet named Tannahill.  “Unfortunately he was overshadowed by the brilliance of Robert Burns.”  To which Mr. Guitar sighed “I know a thing or two about that.”  Right on cue, Mark, the lighting and sound guy, dimmed the lights.  We laughed and laughed.

Then there was the tender ballad I Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore.  “Now when the wife and I dance, we look away from each other … sort of cheek to cheek.”  Or how about the song about a fellow whom the women cuddled when he was a baby, but not so much anymore.  No more rubbing the chest or rolling in the clover.  Ahh, the elusive male self-esteem.

“How many of you have been to Scotland?”  >  About four hands go up  >  “And why exactly did you come back?”

“Now we’re going to sing … [Mr. Banjo starts choking up]
“Now we’re going to sing … [more wringing of the hands] an English song”
[Mr. Fiddle hurries off stage in a huff.  We cajole him back]

North Sea Gas are on a six-week tour of North America.  After a few days back home, they head off for a month in Germany.  They are marvelous instrumentalists and the blending of their voices is otherworldly but the deepest joy comes from their fun.  They’re not politicians, spiritual leaders or musical superstars … but they are teachers.  Their simple message?

Lighten up, folks

Three

It was yesterday evening, and I couldn’t think of anything to write. And that was okay … I knew that sooner or later something would come. The voice inside said “Go meditate. Your answer is there.” My small mind didn’t think so, but since I love meditating I headed for my chair.

Soon thoughts became few and far between, and any urge for a “solution” disappeared. About an hour in, it felt right to stop. My longtime tradition is to caress my singing bowl with the mallet three times as I end. And so I did.

“Three. Write about the beauty of that number.” Thank you, sweet voice.

In one tradition of Buddhist meditation, the three gongings represent the Buddha, the dharma (the Buddha’s teachings) and the sangha (the community of practitioners). Lovely. I feel a sense of deep belonging in that. There’s a togetherness that creates a far more profound happiness than my own spiritual progression.

And now my own name bubbles up: Bruce. I remember as a kid asking my mom for more syllables … one was not enough. My ideal length was always three. Yesterday I watched a champion golfer do his thing. His name was Francesco. Perfect. Just call me “Francesco” from now on, please.

On the train towards Newfoundland a month ago, I was passing through Montreal. A glance to the left showed me the former US Pavilion at Expo 67. Back then, it was a radical new design, from the mind of Buckminster Fuller – a geodesic dome. Its skeleton was composed of triangles of metal tubing. Extremely stable, grounded. Hmm. Thanks to Bucky, the image of a triangle has been firmly planted in my brain.

I think again of the Buddha and me. Another threesome comes to mind: me, you and all of you. Such are the joys of my life. I sit across from you in a coffee shop and we talk about life. Around us are other you’s who need to be included. There’s a lovely balance among the three.

Balance
Strength
Inclusion

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.

Hi

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