Athlete

I’ve been worrying about my cross-Canada cycling trip. The same old refrain: “Too old. Not strong enough.” Happily though, in the past few weeks fear and excitement have switched places. I’m far more in touch with the thrill of it all.

Still … I’m scared.

A month ago, my doctor asked me to have an EGG done. The results showed some “irregularities”. So Julie prescribed a treadmill stress test. Sure, why not? Cover the bases.

I talked to a few friends about the test and their basic response was “No sweat. You just walk slowly.” Didn’t sound like much stress to me.

It happened yesterday. Shorts, t-shirt, running shoes, electrodes on my chest, leads running everywhere. I looked like a member of the Borg, a sinister race of machines/humans on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV show.

And then the fun began. This was no walk in the park. Speed increased, as did the tilt of the machine . Sweat made its appearance, in large quantities. This was the MAXIMUM stress test. After 15 minutes or so, the deed was done. I was winded but doing fine. The doctor had engaged me in conversation about my bike ride the whole time and I had no problem keeping up my verbal end.

Now the results: “It took you 12 minutes to get your heart rate up to 90% of maximum. This is very unusual [i.e. good] for a 69-year-old. It’s more like what I’d expect to see with someone in their mid-twenties. You’ll be fine on the ride.”

Well …

I’m fine. I’m strong. I may even be amongst the fittest of the 20 Tour du Canada riders. I’m pleased and shocked.

The mythical “they” say that achieving any great result is 90% mental. And my mental just zoomed through the stratosphere.

What’s true? I am an athlete. Like all my fellow cyclists, there’ll be times this summer when I’m exhausted. But I can do this. I am doing this. See me fly!

Issuelessness

I’ve been listening to some of Patricia Albere’s conversations on the Evolutionary Collective website.  One in particular has stopped me in my tracks … the perception of issuelessness.

Can it be, that although problems will keep arising in my life, I don’t need to feed them energy?  I don’t need to define something as an issue, and allow it to bring me down.

I’m riding my bicycle across Canada this summer.  Last week, at the school where I volunteer, kids challenged me to run the 800 metres with them.  So I did it!  And now my ankles are nicely swollen.

So … issue or no issue?

In another realm, I look back at my life and the experiences that brought me joy.  I used to be an artist, creating batiks, a process of dyes and waxes on fabric.  Also, I’ve collected thousands of quotations, with the intention of sorting them into categories and publishing a book chronicling the world’s wisdom.  Will I return to these prior passions? I don’t know.

Issue or no issue?  Important to return or not?  One voice tells me to resurrect these activities and another says let them go.

I go back and forth in my assessment of realities: swollen ankles, no batik and no volumes of wise words.  In my better moments, there are no issues.  I feel such freedom, such peace.  And then there are the times I spend behind bars.

Such a work in progress, this living.

Finding Your Feet

What a glorious movie!  I saw it tonight at the Hyland Cinema in London.  Take an upper crust 60-something wife (Sandra) who has been dumped by her husband for a younger woman, put her into the ramshackle apartment of her free-spirited sister (Bif), and watch life evolve.

Mrs. Socialite was such a privileged bitch for much of the movie, tearing down the people around her as she was overwhelmed by pain.  Sis got her out to a dance club where she first of all refused to join in but memories of her childhood dancing, aided by a video of her as a kid (supplied by Bif), slowly led Sandra to move her feet again.

We learn of Charlie, a friend of Bif, who is accompanying his wife on the last stages of her Alzheimer’s disease.  It was so heartbreaking to see him reaching out to her while she slapped him away, not recognizing her husband.

Gradually Sandra lets herself have fun again, especially in the dancing, and she and Charlie do a lot of smiling together.  But she’s afraid of being hurt again and stands back from him some.

As Bif is dying from stage four lung cancer (the very disease that took my dear wife Jody), she thinks of her true love who was killed in a car accident.  She chose never to give herself to love again, and pleads with Sandra not to make the same mistake.

Many, many slices of life flowed across the screen.  It was all very real.  I often saw my life.  I bet others in the audience did too.

Sandra eventually chose to make a leap of faith.  As the credits rolled, the song “I’m Running To The Future” blasted our souls and we the audience applauded in recognition.

And now I look at me.  It does feel that I’m running to whatever’s next.  What will the bike ride across Canada bring to me?  Where will my Mutual Awakening practice with folks from around the world have me land?  And who will I be in the years to come?

I welcome the unfolding

A Tale of Two Teams

I spent the afternoon at a high school in St. Thomas, watching a basketball tournament full of Grade 5’s and 6’s.  I knew I’d love cheering on the girls and boys from the school where I volunteer.

There was a stark difference in results.  The girls lost their four games and didn’t make the playoffs.  The boys won everything … champions!  Both teams had struggled in the regular season so the boys’ explosion of offence and smothering defence were unexpected.

You might think that the contrasting results would produce different behaviour during the games.  Think again.

They’re all great kids and it shows up on the court.  Male or female, they cheer their teammates’ sweet plays and give them a pat when things go bad.  And they’re so intense! Blasting down the court with the ball, going wide around a defender.  Coming back furiously to cut off an opponent dreaming of an easy layup.  Rolling on the floor clutching at a loose ball.  Finding an open teammate with a cool bounce pass.  All marvelous.

The best for me was that I couldn’t see any drooping heads when the score was climbing against them.  Just keep pressing and enjoy the conversation when you’re on the bench.

When I was growing up I wasn’t on sports teams (except for Grade 9 football, when I never got into a game).  These kids have an opportunity that I didn’t give myself.  Good for them.  They’re learning about jump shots, hand-in-your-face defence … and life.

Give ‘er!

Not Necessarily So

Tonight I went to hear Archie Fisher, a British singer-songwriter, at the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club in London.  Here’s what I know:

1. It’s important to get there early.
1a. I got there at the last minute.

2. It’s important to sit near the front.
2a. I sat in the back row, virtually the only seat left.

3. It’s important to see the performer.
3a. I could see the back of Archie’s head.

4. It’s important to hear every word.
4a. I couldn’t understand a lot of the lyrics.

5. It’s important to remember the words and Archie’s comments that I loved.
5a. I’m sitting here not remembering any of them.

***

I loved the concert.  Archie’s spirit filled the room.  We laughed, again and again.  Occasionally I was close to tears.

I watched the people in front of me.  A man’s hand over his wife’s shoulder.  A young fellow singing along.

I bugged a woman in the next row and to the right.  “Would you please move?  You’re blocking the wall.”  She chuckled.

***

A standing ovation
Smiles all around
All is well

A Beating Heart

I’m thrilled that the lot where my new home will stand backs onto a farmer’s field.  It’ll be corn this year and beans the next.  Beyond the field, the land slopes up so my horizon is dotted with farm homes and silos.    Oh my.  I love long views and come September I’ll have one.

As an expression of obsession, I showed up yesterday after sunset.  The sky was still pink to the west and the spread of clouds above me covered the world.  I was in big sky country.  Dots of farmstead lights comforted me … my neighbours were home, enjoying their cozy living rooms and kitchens.

But what’s that?  A flashing dot of red way to the north.  I contracted.  It was the same reaction as I have seeing flashing Christmas lights on a house – no!  It brought up pictures of industry, stores and a frantic pace.  That’s not what I want.  But it’s what I will have.

I watched my body and my feelings fall on the negative side.  “Just be with it, Bruce.”  And I did.  The beat was slow, maybe 40 a minute.  As I gazed northward for awhile, there came a shift in energy, just a bit at first but then a stream and then a flood.  The light was love.  It was a heart.  It was Jody.  It was all the folks that I hold dear.  I kept looking.  The speed of the city intruded a bit but then gradually faded into the rhythm of life.

As I explored the perimeter of my lot in the darkness, I discovered that at certain points trees hid the telecommunication tower.  No red.  Disappointment … glee … disappointment.  So in the fall I’ll be able to embrace the heart or let it step aside.  To see a symbol of civilization or to feel the farms.  Life will rush towards me either way.

Southerly Journey

I’m sitting in the lobby bar of the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort, sipping a Spanish coffee and tapping away at my laptop.  I’m used to having trouble with my Internet connection in hotels and restaurants.  And that’s in Canada.  What about Cuba?  A friendly bartender has hung in with me, exploring how to get around all the security thingies.  And here I am … actually talking to you!

A little voice inside says that I should be on the beach right now, soaking up those intense rays.  But hey, it’s my vacation.  I plan to be on the beach every day but not right now, thank you.

Thursday seems like a long time ago but the memories are vivid.  I spent four hours in the morning – packing, organizing, thinking.  Weren’t you supposed to spread this stuff gently over the past week, my man?  Hey again … no supposed to’s.

I arrived at my Toronto hotel around supper time.  Then it was off to the nearest drugstore for some essential item that I had missed (and that now, inexplicably, I don’t remember).  I was so excited.  Even a saunter over to Shoppers Drug Mart was fun.  Back in my room, I messed around on the Internet for awhile and then took my sleeping pill.  Into bed and off to dreamland by 7:30!  Well … not quite.  I got under the sheets but sleep didn’t come.  As I tossed and sometimes turned, my 2:00 am wakeup call loomed large.  Gosh, I thought I was so smart, booking a hotel for my night before.  I’ll get 6, 7 hours sleep.  Actually, make that 1 or 2.  (Sigh)

I entered the Toronto airport at 3:30, perfectly stunned.  I travelled on the moving walkway for quite a spell and came to the conclusion that I was the only human being who stood still.  I clung to the right railing as a fair percentage of Canada’s population motored past.  I don’t know what it says about me or them.  I’m just different, I guess.

On the plane, I plunked down into my precious window seat.  Had a good chat with the fellow beside.  An hour into the journey, the movie was beginning.  Little screens popped out of the ceiling every four rows or so.  Then the announcement:  “So that your fellow passengers may enjoy the film without glare, please lower your shades if you’re sitting beside a window.”  Being a nice little Buddhist person, I half expected that I would go along.  After all, no one moment is better than any other.  However, I didn’t go along.  I wanted to see the world outside.  Either I’m a selfish so-and-so or someone who wants to embrace real moments, not just ones that show up in movies.  I prayed that glare wouldn’t be a problem for my companions.  I don’t think it was.

In the fullness of time, we were approaching Santa Clara, Cuba.  And then another troubling announcement:  “A disabled plane is sitting on the runway.  We need to land at the airport in Camanguey instead.  Once the runway at Santa Clara is cleared, we’ll fly back.  Sunwing Vacations is sorry for the inconvenience.”  Oh my and oh well.  “It’s really not important if I get to the hotel hours later than expected,” he said unconvincingly.

Half an hour later, we landed … in Santa Clara.  “April Fool’s!” announced a sunny flight attendant.  Have to admit, it was brilliant.  We laughed.

Going through customs was fine.  After that, we were supposed to pick up our luggage and proceed to one of ten shuttle buses.  But I couldn’t find my stuff.  I checked every “red and large” suitcase in the concourse.  None of them were mine.  Several staff members did their best to help.  Nothing.  Other flights were arriving and new belongings were speeding down the conveyor belt.  Not mine, however.  The inhabitants of my shuttle bus were waiting and waiting.  I was stewing and stewing but within that was a bit of my Buddhist peace.  Finally a gentleman in uniform came up to me to say that one of the bus passengers had picked up my suitcase by mistake.  All was right with the world.

And that’s true.  All is right.  The beach will appear in my life at the appropriate time … later this afternoon.  And my message to you here will no doubt go through.  I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.

Golf Lessons

Yesterday I had my first golf lesson in years.  Today I became a member of Tarandowah Golfers Club in Avon, Ontario.  What did I learn?

1. “Too weak, too inflexible, too old” are just words and need not rule me.

2. Taking the cost of the membership and dividing it by the number of rounds I expect to play in 2016 is an inaccurate way of assessing value.

3.  Old swing thoughts, gleaned from books, have taken up residence in my head.  They may be wrong.  Such as moving farther away from the ball if I’m hitting shots off the toe of the club.

4.  “I belong to a golf club that is stunningly beautiful” is valuable beyond measure.

5.  I can control the swing with my mind.  I can hit off the “sweet spot” of the club without moving my feet back.

6.  I can find other golfers who see the spiritual side of the game, and are willing to talk about it.

7.  “I hit the ball low and to the left” is not a guarantee of the future but rather a description of the past.

8.  Just as I’m surrounded in the gym by well-muscled young men, I will see many excellent golfers at Tarandowah.  Comparisons are irrelevant.

9.  I have the power to put my need for greater distance on the back burner as I focus on the sweep of the grass and the “just right” meeting of club and ball.

10.  I can contribute to the well-being of other members … as a golfer and as a human being.

***

Follow your bliss

Mastery of the Moment Part Two

Many people see life as A > B:

A = Something bad happens
B = I react … I say something or do something – e.g. with anger, fear, sadness

Another possibility is A > B > C:

A = Something bad happens
B = I look at the attitude I have to that event.  I have choices.
C = I respond rather than react

Here are 22 attitude choices:

1.
Love
Unrestricted caring and compassion, serving and honoring the other person
Indifference
Not caring what happens to the other person, treating them as if they’re invisible
Antagonism
Opposed to and critical of the other person, wishing them pain and disaster

2.
Relationship
Being “related to” the other person, feeling a deep emotional bond with them, hiding nothing from them
No Relationship
No emotional bond.  The other person is treated as an object, with indifference or antagonism

3.
Sufficiency
Knowing that you are whole and complete, lacking nothing, even though life continues to present its challenges
Deficiency
Feeling that life is incomplete, that there is always something missing
Scarcity
Feeling that there is a shortage of something, e.g. love, money, sleep

4.
Source Internal
The “beginning” or source or cause of the quality of my life resides within me
Source External
The cause of the quality of my life is outside of me

5.
Acceptance
Being okay with what life gives you moment-to-moment, while still allowing for the pursuit of goals
Resistance
Fighting life situations that you define as “negative”, trying to avoid or eliminate them

6.
Accepting What Is
See “Acceptance”
Evaluating What Is
Rating what life presents to you on scales such as good/bad, better/worse and right/wrong

7.
Letting Go Of
Releasing negative emotional energy, including the energy associated with the loss of a person, ability, material possession, etc.  Open hands.  No possessiveness
Holding On To
Clinging to negative emotional energy or to someone or something that you have lost.  Allowing emotions such as resentment and sadness to persist.  Closed fist.  Possessiveness

8.
Inclusion
Allowing yourself to experience all of life’s events, whether defined as “positive” or “negative”.  Welcoming everything
Exclusion
Attempting to eliminate certain things from your life, e.g. sadness, anger, illness, financial strain, certain types of people, etc.  Allowing only the “good half” of life

9.
You and Me
Concern for the well-being of yourself and the other person.  “Win-Win”
You or Me
Concern only for yourself.  Life as a battle.  “Win-Lose”

10.
Oneness
Experiencing an identification with all living beings
“There is nothing that is not me”
“The seamless coat of the universe”
Me / Not Me
“Me” means everything from the surface of the skin inwards.  Anything outside the skin is “not me”

11.
Person
Being in awe and wonder of all living beings, experiencing their beauty, love and mystery
Thing
Experiencing the other person as an object that can be used for some purpose

12.
Animated
Seeing the true magnificence of a person, as if a light had been turned on to reveal their beauty
“Flat”
Seeing only a “piece of meat” standing in front of you, an object with no character or zest

13.
Enhance
Intending to contribute to the well-being of the other person, even if at times this includes the use of criticism
Diminish
Intending to decrease the well-being of the other person

14.
No Comparison
Not rating a person or comparing them to oneself or other people
Comparison
Rating a person by comparing their quality to that of someone else   Better/worse

15.
Action
Acting appropriately, being the source or cause of the action
Reaction
Acting (sometimes inappropriately), seeing the other person as the cause of your action

16.
Opportunity
Everything that life gives you is an opportunity to learn
No Problem
Not experiencing severe emotional distress, even though a challenging life experience has to be dealt with
Problem
Experiencing life’s challenges as “horrible disasters” and creating severe emotional distress for yourself

17.
Not Important
Seeing that “negative” life occurrences are not important, that they need not diminish your well-being
Important
Experiencing “negative” life occurrences as hugely important, being a great threat to your well-being

18.
Solution-Oriented
When faced with a problem, looking immediately at possible solutions
Problem-Oriented
When faced with a problem, focusing on who’s at fault and how bad the situation is

19.
Immense
Seeing life as infinite in scope, wonderfully rich and magnificent
Focused
Reducing your awareness of life only to the immediate focus of attention, e.g. another person’s behaviour, a disappointment

20.
Mystery, Not Knowing
Being in awe of the infinite unknowns of life.  Realizing that there is so much you don’t know, and may never know
Certainty, Knowing
Being absolutely sure about what life is.  Being certain that life is limited in some way, e.g. only the physical dimension is real

21.
Learning
Acknowledging that you don’t know everything and that other people can teach you things.  Being open to the wisdom of others
Being Right
Having to defend your position as the right one at all times.  Exhausting!

22.
Love
Where it all began