25 or 71?

For years I’ve told people: “The last time I looked, I was 25.”  Guess I haven’t been looking too often.

My wee backyard slopes up to a farmer’s field.  A couple of weeks ago, huge machines came by and hustled the crop of winter wheat off the earth.  I had enjoyed the waving strands and was feeling a little naked about it all.

Offending my sense of the flow of land was a border between grass and stubble: two feet of eighteen-inch-tall weeds.  Although cute white butterflies often floated over the fifty-foot length, I decided that action was required.  “I’ll chop ’em down!”

Lacking a shovel in my relatively new condo life (each of us has a separate building), I borrowed one from my always helpful neighbour.  Two days ago, I set to the task.  Moderate morning temperature, lots of sun, lots of water, and a sweatband adorning my forehead.  “I can do this.”

Being a relatively intelligent person, I got the hose out for plenteous watering.  “Look at how I’m softening the soil.  This is easy.”  Indeed, the shovel found its mark with aplomb, over and over again.  But there were so many overs and overs, and my breaks in the shade gradually grew.  Fifty feet looked like a marathon.

But I did it!  In a tidy three hours.  I had visions of bagging the resulting greens shortly thereafter, but my breathing was a mite heavy, as were my legs.  “Tomorrow.”

Early afternoon I pulled the covers up to my chin and snoozed for an hour.  Then a ninety-minute Zoom call with the Evolutionary Collective.  After that, I contemplated some meditation, maybe reading some more of Stephen King’s The Stand.  The answer to both came back clearly … “No.”  I was dull of body and spirit.

Yesterday morning dawned as a perfect bagging day … not too hot, and ripe with the thrill of accomplishment.  I started bending over to pick up the branches, the roots and the dirt.  I enlisted a dolly to transport each full bag to the side of the house.  “See how I’m saving energy?  What a good boy am I!”

I lasted eight bags full, a task which somehow took almost two hours.  “Hmm.  Thought I’d last longer than this.  Oh well.  I’ll call it a morning.”  And so to bed … for more than two hours.  Then another Zoom call.  In the evening, I watched Alice In Wonderland but I could barely keep my eyes open for her return up the rabbit hole.

Nine hours later, I awoke.  As far as I can recollect, that was this morning.  Everything in the lower half ached.  Basic bathroom tasks were problematic.  Walking was a pale version of Bruceness.  The eyes appeared to be laden with lead weights.

Essentially I’ve stumbled through my day with scarcely a glance towards the backyard.  My bed welcomed me for yet another two hours.  Is this my future – professional napping?  And another question … how exactly have I been able to gather mind and body sufficiently to write this post?  Must be divine intervention.

Back to the original question.  25 or 71?  Well, right now it feels more like 93.

Could it be that I’m aging?
Could it be that this is just fine?
Yes, that certainly could be

Take kindly the counsel of the years
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth

Desiderata

 

“Less Than” Is Archaic

This is me. I’m different than you. I’m older, or perhaps younger. My hair is grey … yours may be a chestnut brown. I like t-shirts. You may prefer a suit and tie or a vibrant dress.

In the photo, my eyes are wide and my mouth agape. That could mean I’m angry, or excited … both normal expressions of being human.

In the deepest sense, I believe I’m the same as you. I bleed when I’m cut. I’m grumpy when I haven’t had enough sleep. I love and am loved. I yearn for peace and happiness and I want to be kind to my fellow man.

So … different and the same. Good. But nothing to do with good and bad, unless I’m hurting someone. There’s no evaluation of my value compared to yours. We all simply want to be happy.

A world away from such tenderness is the contraction that arises from “less than” – seeing some individuals or groups as inferior. A convenient target is the colour of our skin. How strange. I don’t revere people based on their covering. I cherish them based on their good hearts expressed as good deeds. Beneath the surface is where the truth lies.

We easily pick skin colour. Why not eye colour? “Mine are blue. Yours are a muddy green.” Or how about thickness of hair, breast size or penis length? It’s so ridiculous.

Maybe I should be a horse. As I hang out with my equine fellows, I can peacefully rubs shoulders with a massive Clydesdale and a tiny Shetland pony. Racehorses will come by to say hi and so will pack animals from the Rockies. Who cares how many hands high you are or the length of your mane?

Let’s just go run together through the fields.

Nothing To Say

How about that?  I’m at a loss for words.  I sit and sit and sit … and nothing comes.  This has happened several times and I’ve wasted too much mental energy fretting about it.  No thanks.  Grunting my mind to get some sentences to come out just defeats the whole purpose.  I want my thoughts to emerge naturally, like someone is calling them forth.  Sadly, not these days.

The other factor is blunt: I don’t want to write (at least for the last week or so).  There’s no oomph there, no urge to influence or entertain or share.  As odd as that feels, it’s what’s true right now.

Will I come back tomorrow?  Two weeks from now?  In 2021?  I don’t know.  I’m well and happy and not writing.  Simply the way it is.

Cheers to life …

 

 

Upside Down

I’m a fairly intelligent person and I know how the world works.  You start with A and get yourself to B, whether that’s an easy task or something that requires great effort and creativity.  After that, it’s on to C.  Etcetera.

Or … maybe I’m wrong.  Life just might present us with stuff that doesn’t make any sense, that’s bereft of logic, often just plain weird.  Could it be that these moments are immense windows into another way of being?

I’m looking back at jolts, discontinuities, strangeness.  One happened a couple of days ago, when I was doing a Mutual Awakening practice with someone online.  I can’t even remember who that someone was, which is a bit of a jolt in itself.  In these practices, images often bubble up.  I’ve let go of figuring out where they come from.  This time, I saw a man looking at me with his eyes closed.  I could tell they were about to open.  Instead of the eyelids rising to reveal the eyes, they came down from the top.  When the eyes were fully visible, the lids didn’t stop at the bottom.  They continued down his cheeks, gradually showing an iridescent turquoise interior.  It was shining and it was huge.  Seeing into the man’s eyes, I realized that he was me.

My lips tightened.  My head tilted.  And I was transported to another place.  I knew almost immediately that I would talk to you about this mystery that takes the breath away.  Here it is Sunday and I’m talking.  It doesn’t matter how you react to this.  It’s clear to me that this break in normal reality needs to be communicated.

***

I’m thinking back to a vacation that Jody and I had in the Dominican Republic.  The dining room was close by a lovely pond bordered with tropical colours.  Long-legged pinkish birds walked in the shallows, seeking a fish buffet.  After a minute of watching the birds tense into their pouncing, I noticed their legs.  My mouth opened and I stared.  Their legs bent the other way … folding backwards.  What ever happened to A, B, C and D?

***

Last night, I went to a BeeGees tribute concert in London.  Towards the end, many of us were moving and grooving on the dance floor that was the narrow space between Row A and the stage.  One young man danced like … I don’t know what.  His fingers were jabbing in time to his neck moving back and forth, sort of like a chicken but not really.  More staring from me.

***

When the breaks in reality flood me, I get disoriented, wavery, hanging not so loose in some in-between space.  The questions explode in my head:  “Where am I?  What is this place?  How come I don’t recognize any landmarks?”

This is all okay
Just embrace the fog
Walk inside
It’s safe

Riardo Just Out Of Reach

The family has headed into Riardo to poke around. I’m in my room. Another life opportunity.

One reality is that my body isn’t working right. Coughing, tired, some dizzy, vague nausea. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s there. When I go into figuring out mode, I see the 35 degree Celsius heat, the amazing quantity of food I’ve been eating, the “new to me” foods I’ve been eating, and … beer. I especially suspect that last one, even though I enjoy a brew at home.

So, what is bigger and what is smaller? This morning after breakfast, as the crew were planning for the day, I realized I could do something unusual for me. I could rest. I could say no to the streets of Riardo, the ancient buildings with bricks of volcanic ash, the open-air ristorantes. I love venturing forth into new life, meeting new people, gazing in wonder at the previously unknown. But that love need not define me, need not put me into a box of identity. This morning I simply chose differently. Sleep came upon me … and then I awoke.

I gazed up to a sublime curving of light coming through the wooden shutters. I lay in a cathedral, a flow of beauty far larger than physical ills. So I sit, feeling the woes of the body, seeing art on the ceiling, waiting for the family to return.

It is enough.

Dozey

I find it valuable to write about emotional, physical or spiritual experiences when I’m right inside them, rather than “Here’s how I felt yesterday, but I no longer feel that way.”

So here I am … heavy in the eyes, spaced out, vacant.  It’s right here, right now.  And the voice starts in: “Write something tomorrow, Bruce, when you’re feeling better.  You’re too woozy right now to make much sense.  When you’re at the top of your game, that’s the time to do a WordPress post.  You say you want your thoughts to contribute to people.  There’s just not much coming out of your brain right now.”

Well, that’s one perspective – quite a reasonable one, I’d say.  Perhaps, though, the world doesn’t need so much reason.  Could it be that listening to someone who’s in the middle of an experience can be valuable to the reader, no matter what that experience is?  In my fairly stupefied state, I say yes.

“Your words will come out garbled.  You won’t find the right word for what you want to say.  You’ll make all sorts of spelling and grammar mistakes and won’t be alert enough to correct them.”  I see.  Quite a persistent voice.

What do I enjoy reading?  Stuff that’s real.  The writer is not trying to impress with their intelligence, wit or creativity.  He or she is just telling you the way it is for them.  And the readers probably can put themselves in the writer’s shoes.  “I’ve been there.”

The “there” right now is so very dull.  The clarity and joy that have often shown up recently seem to be hiding behind a curtain, and my reaching hand can’t find the hem to pull the heaviness aside.  Strangely, it’s not an emotional blahness.  I can see the animated Bruce as a silhouette just out of reach.  I know my gifts haven’t gone anywhere.  They haven’t deserted me.  They’ll come back through the fog to say hello.  How strange … right now there’s a little smile on my drooping face, even as my eyes call me to sleep.

What can we human beings create when the body is not co-operating with transcendence, power and union with others?  Can I just “snap out of it” and be all set for a brisk walk in the world?  It doesn’t feel that way.  My body will continue to do what it chooses but my heart has a say in this as well.  I get to decide the extent to which I reach out to my fellow travellers.  In every moment, brimming with energy or slumping my way along, it’s up to me.

Hmm.  I chose.  I wrote this post.  Thanks for listening.

 

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.

Exhausted at the Concert

I was going to a house concert last night in London, to hear an extraordinary fiddler and guitarist. During the day, I was feeling good. Before the concert, I headed to the gym for an hour on the elliptical. Since I hadn’t worked out the previous two days, I wasn’t expecting any problem. I was wrong.

Ten minutes in, something was off. My usual speed was pie in the sky. My head was dull. “Maybe I should quit after thirty.” > “No way!” And so I grunted along.

With the luxury of a day later, I see a factor here: no recent caffeine. But yesterday afternoon, I squirmed within a sea of confusion.

Time to hear Mr. Fiddler. I walked in, made a joke with the host, and then sat on a couch with three other fans, right in front of the fellow performing. I felt myself fading.

In my life, I’ve spent a lot of time reinforcing a very solid identity. “Bruce is this. Bruce isn’t that.” Since entering the world of the Evolutionary Collective, my tightly woven sweater has started loosening, even unravelling. I have many moments of disorientation, where I’m so unclear about what reality I’m swimming in. This may sound like a really bad thing but I sense that it’s not.

I sat there not being particularly friendly to my neighbours. I sat there not enjoying the virtuoso violin solos. I sat there unable to follow the artist’s words as he talked about the tunes he’d created. I was in a fog.

Slowly and unsurely, I fell into a state of being okay with my so-called deficiencies of the moment. This too was a part of Bruce. I didn’t need to be alert, communicative and engaged all the time. It was okay to be pooped, fuzzy and simply blah.

It’s such a waste of energy to get down on myself when I’m not flying high. So I will stop doing that. I will embrace the roller coaster, both the dips and the heights. There’s far bigger fish to fry in this life than analyzing and critiquing my various foibles.

I’m here to serve and it’s time to accept that some days I don’t have much to give. So be it. Then there are those other days!

Sweet and sour … together they make a delicious flavour.

A Natural Exit

When I drive into London from Belmont, I usually take the 401, our Southern Ontario freeway, which has a speed limit of 100 kph (about 60 mph).  After ten kilometres or so, I’m ready to take the Wellington Road exit.  The ramp goes straight for maybe a kilometre, and then around a slight bend is a 50 kph (30 mph) sign.

As I veer off onto the ramp, I lighten the pressure on my gas pedal and gradually decrease to the 50.  I sense I’m in a natural rhythm of blending with my environment.  It feels good, like I’m flowing from one chapter of my life to the next.

Other drivers disagree.  Usually I’m tailgated on the ramp and the crowd of cars behind sometimes reaches double digits.  Once a fellow swerved onto the paved shoulder to get by me.  At the 50 kph sign, a second lane appears, with traffic lights shortly thereafter.  If the light is red, a vehicle or two has time to blast by me on the left and then slam on their brakes.  If it’s green, a convoy flows past, with most of them then flashing into my lane, since lots of us are turning right at the next light.

I let myself feel the pressure of the tailgating, and my fear.  It’s definitely a part of life.  But it’s very sweet to maintain my flow in the midst of impatient drivers.  I’m the source of my actions, not them.  Overall, the whole thing is a meditation and I’m pleased that I choose to experience it regularly.

***

I ask myself if I’ll have the same grace as I leave this planet.  Will I let myself feel the body diminishing and the mind clouding?  Will I let the words of William Shakespeare linger?

Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace!
And lips, O you the doors of breath
Seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death

Or will I vote with Dylan Thomas?

Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

The ramp awaits
Soon, or not soon, my turn signal goes on

Bad Stuff … Good Stuff

On Sunday, I received an e-mail with a negative tone.  On Monday, I received another one, from a different person.  Both sent me into a spin.  Both had great impact on me.  I asked myself what I was feeling in response, and the answers came quickly … fear, sadness and then grief.

There followed the classic question “Now what?”  How do I hold all this?  What would the Buddha do?

I sat with me and let myself feel those feelings.  To really let them in.  And they were most willing to come in.  Soon I was crying.  A day later, not so much, but the underlying current is still woe.

The Buddha was a pretty smart guy.  He talked about the Eight Vicissitudes: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and disrepute.  He essentially said that we can be the most happy and kind creatures on Earth, and still we’ll experience the negative halves of those pairs.  So the loss is vivid and the pain intense.  What’s to be done except let it be there?  “Go away” is useless.  Covering it over with alcohol, food or TV goes nowhere.  Wearing a fake smile is transparent to the rest of the world.

So, “Hello, loss.  Thanks for coming by.  Stay as long as you like.  I realize you’ll go when you’re ready to.  After all, you’re just a visitor here.  This is not your true home.”

After yesterday’s e-mail, I was walking along Bloor St. in Toronto, quite lost.  My head had dipped down.  Happily, I noticed this.  Again and again, as the crowds surged around me, I said “Lift your chin up.”  Each time it felt good to do that, to let go of “I’m bad” and realize that there’s a lot of living to be done.  A lot of people to contribute to.  And a depressed human being doesn’t do much of that.

Here I sit, tapping away.  My chin is up.  My fingers are down.  And I have no clue who will come my way tomorrow.  What I do know is that I’ll be ready for them.