Fear of the Famous

I’m taking a live online course on relationships.  Eighteen of us from around the world have met for the past four Saturdays.  Our work is based on the ideas of Patricia Albere.  She sees the possibility that humankind can experience “mutual awakening” – the freedom of enlightenment experienced by two or more people together.

Part of our time together is spent listening to the teacher (Keren) speak.  And then there are times when each of us is paired with another participant for half an hour, doing an exercise meant to deepen the sense of connection.

During yesterday’s course, I pressed “Yes” to join my first 1-1 session and up popped … Patricia.  Fear coursed through me and words started racing: “The founder … famous person … smart person”.

Patricia went first and I watched myself flip back and forth between wallowing in my “stuff” and having my consciousness be inside her.  Again and again I brought myself back from terror and fell into the sweetness of relationship, only to see it slip away again.

When it was my turn, I told Patricia of my fear.  She got me.  And bit by bit another perception came through: That was a human being over there, admittedly one with great gifts, but in another sense quite ordinary, with the joys and sorrows that we all know.

We laughed a lot.  We enjoyed each other’s company.  I got to glimpse that I’m no more and no less than anyone else.  And maybe, just maybe, comparing is plain silly.

I started thinking of the Grade 5 and 6 kids I volunteer with.  I wonder if some of them are nervous around me, thinking that I’m a smart adult and they’re “just a kid”.  Hmm.  It feels like my job to talk to them from a “level” place, not like a pronouncement from on high.

Eleven-year-olds, Patricia and me.  All with something precious to give.

Little Peaks on the Graph of Life

Today was full of conversations, such as how Belmont survived the ice storm, the performance of the Toronto Maple Leafs and neighbourhood condo issues.  All of these are fine topics of concern.  My ears, however, are usually tilted towards the emergence of other moments, ones that transcend the norm.  And there were a few of those today:

1.  Walking down Main Street, picking up pieces of garbage on the way to the Diner and back home again.  Two small plastic bags full.  Quiet satisfaction.  For the greater good.

2.  Talking to an 80-something Belmontonian at the breakfast counter about raising teenage hell with a friend of his (long since dead).  A wistful look in his eye, and a tiny smile of remembrance.

3.  On my return trip home, a woman calling out from across the street “Thank you for picking up garbage.  It helps Belmont.”  (Smile)

4.  At the gym, a friend and employee looking me in the eye and saying “The future needs you, Bruce.”  (Astonishment.  I’d never heard those words before)

5.  Getting out of my car in the school parking lot and hearing “Hello, Mr. Kerr” coming out of a happy Grade 6 girl.  I felt so welcomed.

6.  Seconds later, a kindergarten girl wanting so bad for me to remember her name, and then the two of us taking turns hiding from each other behind a metal post.  For a few seconds, our gazes held each other.  Contact.

7.  A Grade 5 girl asking how my training was going for the ride across Canada and me telling her that I wasn’t feeling too well lately, and hadn’t been training as much as I wanted to.  Great concern for me in her eyes.

8.  Watching a girls’ basketball game after school, in which our team was being beaten badly.  Wondering at how our players continued to push the ball hard and guard their opponents closely.  No sagging heads.  I was so proud of them.

9.  After the game, telling one of the students that I loved seeing her usual reaction after missing a shot or having the ball taken away from her – a huge smile.  To which she replied with … a huge smile.

10.  Sitting down in the Belmont Arena for a senior citizen dinner – a free meal paid for by the Lions Club to honour us oldies.  What a sweet thing to do, I reflected, as I gazed across the sea of local folks.

11.  After eating, we heard a fellow sing the classics.  And two very senior women at my table mouthed the words to a few love songs.  They seemed afraid to sing way out loud, but their hearts were on full display.  It was a privilege to witness their memories.

***

I was above the usual roll and warble of daily life … eleven times.  Thankfully I often had the eyes to see these radiant blips.  Lucky me.  As for tomorrow, whether it’s one moment or twenty-three, I’ll be there.

 

Glistening

A light snow covered the world as I woke up this morning.  It clung to the branches and adorned the bushes.  And it had stopped falling.  The day was cloudy, with the soft light bringing all this to a quiet glory.

So you have bare trees in winter and you have bare trees today.  You have the events of daily life and you have those same events imbued with wonder.

What words can paint such a picture of illumination?  How about …

Glow
Love
Animation
Vibrancy
Magic
Luster
Shine
Gleam
Halo
Oh my

What will it take for me to see with these eyes throughout the day?

What will it take to animate the gentleman sitting across from me right now in the library?

What will it take for me to see the beauty around me always?

And what will it take for me to be moved by it all?

***

Will

Angles

I’ve often thought about how people hold their heads.  I don’t mean with their hands.  I mean the angle … as in centred, slightly left or slightly right. Also, looking down, looking up and looking with the head level.

I enjoy being centred in life, squared up.  Same thing with my gaze.  There’s power, I believe, in looking right at the person I’m with, the line of my shoulders forming a right angle with the direction my head is pointing.  A little one way or the other seems to lessen the contact.  And I want each moment I’m with another human being to hold the possibility of contributing to them.  Naturally my intention, my attitude, my words and my tone of voice are important, but I also sense that my alignment makes a difference.

And then there’s down, up and level.  As I was driving today, I passed a young woman walking with purpose, head down in mid-text.  She seemed so tight and contorted.  There was no flow.  But sometimes head down can be a blessing.  On meditation retreats, we walk with our heads down as a way to centre ourselves.  We’re asked not to make eye contact with other yogis. This is not to be distant, but to allow each person their space.  Even without eye contact, or touching, there’s lots of caring transmitted from retreatant to retreatant.

As for eyes up, that can show devotion or wonder.  “I lift mine eyes unto the hills”, lift them not only to the beauty of nature but also to the best in us, to whatever we experience God to be.  I remember as a kid sitting on the crumbling cement porch of my grandpa’s farmhouse, listening to him tell stories from his favourite chair.  He’d talk and smoke his cigar, and the people would come alive in me.  Devotion.

My favourite is to look at someone on the level.  Person to person, neither one better or worse, two people making meaning together.  As a teacher of many young kids, I’d usually kneel down as we talked, so that we could be eye-to-eye.  That felt good.  Whether with a child or with someone older than me, the meeting of the eyes, especially if we linger, is lovely. Communion.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

 

Less

First of all, I think of food and drink.  I just don’t want as much as I used to. And it’s not that I’m trying to lose weight.  I just like the semi-empty feeling.  It’s soft inside my body, and spacious.  My stomach just sits there, instead of pressing against my pants.

I have a long history of “more” in the arena of nourishment.  My former wife Rita and I regularly went with her parents to Erickson’s Family Restaurant in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Just about every time, I’d eat so much, usually prime rib or steak.  And after an overflowing sweet dessert, I’d invariably undo my belt and the button of my pants (discreetly, of course, under the tablecloth). Today I’m shocked that I found this normal back in the 1970s.

Up until a couple of years ago, Jody and I would go out most Friday nights to Longhorn’s, a roadhouse in St. Thomas.  And more of the invariably – I’d down 30 ounces of beer, then feel horribly bloated, and then fall asleep at home within an hour of our arrival.  Normal all right – normally vacant in the head.

And it’s not just food.  I want less noise.  I want less speed (and I used to love playing the video game “Need For Speed”).  I want less TV.  I want fewer clothes.  I want less small talk.  And it seems that I want less talk of any kind, even discussions of spirituality.  More and more, I want to be silent – still very much with people – but quiet.

But then I also joke around a lot with folks, including strangers.  I don’t want less of that … I guess … Gosh, I’m just not understanding myself very well right now.  But wait a minute – maybe I want less of that too.  Understanding stuff, exploring the mind of reason, having an opinion.

I truly wonder what type of human being I’m becoming.

 

Meditating with Jody

It’s 7:00 am and I’m sitting beside Jody’s bed after she’s asked for a drink of water.  She’s dozed off again.  And so I’ll meditate.  I find that I usually can fall deeply within a minute or two.  The Buddha talked about “choiceless awareness”, allowing whatever thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that come up to be there, and just watching them as they arrive and later leave.

I used to wonder what to do with my hands, but why bother?  Now I just cup my right hand in the left, letting my right thumb rest on the left one.  I can’t hear my breath.  It’s very slow.  I’m very still.  Cozy.

I hear Jody’s slow breathing.  I smile and let it embrace me.  Sometimes there’s a break in the rhythm – a little grunt – and I smile some more.  All part of the symphony.  My breathing and Jody’s aren’t on the same beat, and that doesn’t matter at all.  Actually, nothing matters.  I just welcome the moments as they come towards me.

My stomach groinks, and then once again.  Jody’s replies with a similar sound.  My goodness, it’s a conversation.  Another smile.  I know that a small clock is sitting nearby but I don’t open my eyes to see it.  Wouldn’t do me any good in the dark anyway.  I hear the thought, “Find out what time it is. Find out how long you’ve been meditating.”  A smile and a gentle “No thanks” in reply.

Thoughts of being in the meditation hall at IMS bubble up.  Comparing this to that.  And I watch that go.  Such a blessing to welcome it all – the arriving, the abiding, the departing.

Then the itch.  A few inches below my right nipple.  “Scratch it.”  “Don’t.”  I let it alone, just observing instead.  It gets stronger but after a short time lessens to nearly nothing.  As I continue, the itch flares again (five more times!) and then recedes, over and over.

I turn my head way to the left, and then to the right, enjoying the crackle sound.  “Don’t turn your head.  Be still.”  Later I turn again.  “It’s okay, Bruce.”  No right or wrong when I’m meditating.  No deficit.  And increasingly, no yearning.  I like it.

At some point, with Jody continuing to saw logs, I open my eyes in the dim light, get up from the chair and lie down again on the foam pad beside her bed.  I don’t look at the clock.  Everything is fine.