Moving On

Last year I volunteered in a Grade 6 class. I loved those 27 kids, and I still do. They’ve gone to another school and I rarely see any of them.

Today was a regional track meet for elementary schools in the area. I watched our Grade 5’s and 6’s in the morning and stayed to see some of my old conversation partners in the afternoon. They’re 13 and “on the road to find out”. Adults are okay but they need to be with their friends.

At various times, eight or nine kids came up to say hi. Last June they approached with hugs as we said goodbye for the summer. This time no hugs but still big smiles. Mostly these new teenagers didn’t have much to say. That’s okay. When I asked what they were most enjoying these days, shrugged shoulders were the norm. And that’s okay too. I was so pleased to see them. Soon they were off with their best buds, getting ready for their events or just hanging out. I smiled as they walked away. I know I’ve touched their lives but I’m of the past and the present has so many wonders to behold. May they have eyes to see.

Some of these kids may reappear in my life … or perhaps not. I’m fine with both. Go see what’s out there, dear ones, and who’s out there.

Mid-afternoon, one of the Grade 7 girls came over to talk. We yapped about this and that for fifteen minutes or so. It was lovely. And then she was bouncing away.

Remembering the past is pretty cool. Imagining the future widens my eyes. But any gifts I offer to the world are only in this very moment, repeated over and over till I die. Just like the kids, I’ll move on to the beings who choose to grace my doorstep.

Emerging

A few weeks ago, I was leaving the Aeolian Hall in London after a concert when a young woman said hi. I knew Noelle fifteen years ago when she was a Grade 6 kid at the school where I worked with a blind student. I also remember her sister Renee and their friend Hillary. Noelle told me that the three of them have formed a music group called The Pairs, featuring homemade songs and strong vocals. She told me they were part of a concert on March 23 and invited me to come.

My brain went into compute mode. March 23 was smack dab in the middle of a five-day trip to Toronto although nothing was on my schedule for that evening. The commute time was about two hours.

I said yes.

I would drive to London, take in the show, and then drive back to Toronto, no doubt getting in at midnight or later. Some people would see such behaviour as weird but not me. Seize the day, as Robin Williams told us in Dead Poets Society.

I stood at the front, listening to the girls sing. Except they’re 28 now. Young women. Great harmonies, great songs and a lovely caring among them. I smiled and clapped a lot. The Pairs are finding their way in the world and who knows where their musical path will take them.

The concert was a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Noelle talked to the crowd about how important it is that we be good to each other. She spoke of “relentless kindness”, a sweet turn of the phrase I thought. It was clear to me that these three women were becoming full human beings, contributing to the world. And it became even clearer when I heard them sing “Woman”:

Oh I’m woman, hear me roar
Oh I may not fit where I’m supposed to be
But I do what I need to make my heart soar
Oh I’m woman, hear me roar
And I won’t let you make a man outta me

I talked to Hillary, Renee and Noelle after the music. They were all pleased I had come. Me too.

Reconnecting with folks who were once young students is rare for me. Last night was a privilege. Many kids who were in my life have now stretched their wings in ways I’ll never know about. Good for them. I like to think I’ve made a contribution to many 12-year-olds. Actually, I don’t have to think it. I have.

Day One

I’ve watched the first session of the “What Now?” conference.  My laptop beams me to the ballroom of the Omni Interlocken Resort in Denver, Colorado.  Some of the world’s most expansive thinkers are tackling the issue of unprecedented change and how to create a more inclusive world.  Issues on the table include spirituality, consciousness, business, technology, culture, race, sexuality and politics.

As I listen to the speakers, it feels like coming home.  Consistently, their attitude mirrors mine:  Love, kindness, compassion and respectful assertiveness must win.  Here are some quotes:

“Your mind will be stimulated
Your heart will be opened
Your views will be challenged
Your time will be well spent”

“To lead from a place of love, presence and fearlessness”

“To move beyond our mental and emotional powers and into a realization of who we really are”

“What a wonderful thing to be together with likeminded souls”

“If the world that’s unfolding is not the one we want, what is our generative response?”

“How can I be a generative force that moves the ball forward?”

And in response to social ills:

“We get to fight
We get to be fierce
We get to say no
We get in the game
It’s not just about being an observer
This is not okay”

So today, Sunday and Monday, I immerse myself in fostering the good, the true and the beautiful in the midst of chaos.  I welcome the journey.  I’ll tell you more tomorrow.

 

What Now?

I’m in Colorado for the next four days … sort of.  I’ll be attending (sort of) a conference on the future of the world.  Actually, I’ve subscribed to the webcast of all the presentations in the main ballroom.  Some of the most advanced thinkers in the world will be addressing topics such as:

Spirituality
Tribalism versus globalism
The disparity in wealth
Fake news and hate propaganda
The misuse of sexuality
Racial abuse
Environmental degradation and the denial of climate change
Immigration and protection

How do we deal with massive change?  How can we create an inclusive world in which we accept our differences and see them as an opportunity to build something new?  “What’s next for human evolution?”

The older I’ve become, the more I’ve been living in “I don’t know.”  Sure, I’m smart enough to think through complex issues but multiple mysteries of life continue to present themselves.  Perhaps the rational mind is only a part of the puzzle solving.  Can I open to insights that seem to come from elsewhere?

Starting tonight on my laptop, I intend to fall into “beginner’s mind”.  With the glass close to empty, what will Spirit fill it with?  What connections will emerge over the next four days?  What moments of serendipity will say hi?  To what extent could I have been a presenter at the “What Now?” conference?  I do know that I have a part to play.

Tomorrow through Monday, I’ll give you my take on what I’m hearing.  Perhaps windows will open for all of us.

If you’d like to join in, go to integrallife.com.  On the dropdown menu, choose “Live”.  Scroll down to “Upcoming Broadcasts” and pick “What Now?”.  Scroll some more until you see words in orange: “Click here to purchase the webcast.”  It costs $125.00 US.  If you become an Integral Life member, it’s $100.00.  You need Google Chrome or fancy browsers that I don’t recognize.  Internet Explorer won’t work.  The first session starts at 7:00 pm tonight.

See you there?

Just a Glimmer

Well, I woke up this morning [Sunday] and that feeling of immense space was still with me.  How about that?  I felt some energy moving down my body, towards my stomach.  A very quiet energy.  The moments were there and there was nothing to add to them.

The morning cold was bearable but my body really turned it on in the p.m.  No nose breathing that I could discover.  And I was zooming along the 401 at 110 kph.  Those two facts would normally have completely dominated my consciousness.  But not today.  There was a subtle current of ok-ness below.  Scarlet was going so fast but I was very slow inside.

The space would often close in just as my nose did, sometimes as a car changed lanes right in front of me.  But the stillness kept edging back into my drive.  Sweet.

Now I’m watching the Nashville Predators battle the Pittsburg Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.  In the spirit of doing something about my problems, I’m shoving gobs of mentholatum up my nose.  But still precious little breathing.  And then there’s my stomach again – not a pain but a fine awareness down there.  It’s as if my body is helping me recenter myself, again and again.

And now the softness is gone and I’m my closed nose again.  Still I think of nasally normal moments in my future.  Will I be able to access yesterday’s peace at will when my body isn’t distracting me?  Maybe.  But it seems to me that I can create other distractions pretty easily.

And so what if I’ll often be able to reach an open state of being?  How can that better the world?  Assuming that I’ll be able to do this (without effort), perhaps other people will resonate with the same energy.  Maybe our minds will be so calm that our doing becomes a blessing.

Then again, all these musings could be so much horsepucky, the meanderings of a deluded one.

***

Shortly after the reference to horsepucky, I’d had enough vertical life and went to bed.  Where I slept for the next twelve hours, nose and all.  I’m up now and the spaciousness is gone.  Well, let’s see.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ll go searching.  But searching isn’t it.  That’s just more effort.  Peace is as clear as the nose on my face or it’s not there.  No.  Nothing.  But that’s okay.

Y’all come back sometime …

Ramping Down

I think driving is such a metaphor for life, and what someone does on the road is a fair indicator of how they treat their family and friends.

I often take Highway 401 from Belmont into London, Ontario.  It’s a freeway, and I usually go about 110 kilometres per hour (65 miles per hour).  The Wellington Road exit ramp is a long one, maybe half a kilometre.  It blends into a city street, where the maximum speed is 50 kph (30 mph).

When I move onto the ramp, I take my foot off the gas and coast towards the 50 kph sign.  Invariably I’m tailgated and at busy times there are four or five cars bumper to bumper behind me.  I’m curious about this but not really surprised.

Life is full of transitions from one condition to another.  I enjoy blending from the first to the second, instead of jolting.  On the 401, it’s the coasting rather than the slamming of brakes.  At the dinner table, it’s a pause between the main course and dessert, rather than launching into pie as soon as the dinner plate is empty.

Life for sure has its twists and turns but I’ve never been keen on the hairpins.  It seems that my spirit is happiest when I embrace the changes and let myself flow through them.  Abruptness will come my way, such as the morning I woke up with a blood clot in my leg, but overall the transitions feel smooth.  It’s like a dance – and a waltz instead of a frantic disco tune.  A soaring symphony rather than the smashing of a drum.  A film full of love rather than the latest shoot-’em-up thriller.

Am I “right” about this?  Not at all.  It just feels good.

Not Writing

I haven’t put pen to paper (so to speak) for a week.  I’ve just been too tired.  I’ve hired an interior designer to prep my home for listing on June 25 and to help me create great spaces in my future condo in Belmont.  Jane and I have been working full speed ahead to declutter in a major way.  There have been loads for an auction company, one for a donation centre and two for the dump.  Wow.  Jody and I accumulated so much stuff in thirty years.  Objects that were important to her, me or us now don’t hold meaning … and so I let them go.  It’s a cleansing.  A new start.  But still infused with the spirit of my lovely wife.

I feel guilty for not writing, but I’ve always considered guilt to be a useless emotion.  So bye bye to that too.

Tomorrow I fly.  First to Vancouver for four days of exploring my old haunts.  And then another plane will take me to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands).  I’ll get on a tall ship and sail amid the islands for eight days.  Oh my goodness, I’m really doing this.  Good for me.  Humpback whales, an infinity of birds and Haida elders.

I think I’ll be a different person by the end of my trip, or maybe just a deeper Bruce.

There’s no Internet on the ship and I’ve decided not to take my laptop to Vancouver.  So another period of not communicating spreads out before me.  I’ll resume my blog during the week of June 20.  I hope you’ll tune in.

Be well
Be happy
Be you

Saying Goodbye To Stuff

Yesterday Jeff and Rick from Shackelton Auctioneering came by to pick up items for their spring lawn/gardening sale.  It was the first step in getting rid of things that Jody and I shared for years but that I don’t want at my condo.  I thought the process would be sweatless.

Nope.

Even though they were just “things”, some of the objects held the love that Jody and I still share.  A round patio table inlaid with dark shiny squares accompanied by matching wicker chairs.  Jody and I sat there in a little alcove at the front of our home, enjoying a lemonade.  Just chatting.  A large rectangular table with ceramic squares on the deck out back … the site of many summer meals.  Two comfy loungers where we’d sit beside each other, reading our books and listening to the birds.  All vehicles for togetherness.  Goodbye vehicles.  The magic that you hold will stay in my heart, alongside my lovely wife Jodiette.

Then there was the Roper lawn tractor that breezed over the grass for many a year.  How marvelous to change the world from scruffiness to parkland in an hour.  And our snowblower.  I felt so accomplished in transforming impassible to a clear path for Hugo and Scarlet.

Later in the day, I struggled with weights in my strength training at Wellington Fitness.  Odd, I thought.  I didn’t have trouble with this amount of weight a few days ago.  Then I realized … not odd at all.  The emotional and the spiritual morph into the physical.  Such a journey we’re all on, of gain and loss.  May I embrace them both because both is what I will continue to receive.

Old chapter, new chapter.  Nice book.

Condo … Part One

Here I sit in my big home, surrounded by nearly an acre of grass.  This is where Jody and I thrived and suffered, and thrived some more.  My dear wife is everywhere here, cheering me on.  I’m looking over to the couch where we cuddled for many a movie.  And there’s the kitchen, where Jodiette created brilliant meals.  (Sigh)

What’s true is that I don’t want to live here anymore.  The energy within is loving.  It’s also of the past.  I need a new start.  Part of my bursting forth is becoming a member at the Tarandowah Golfers Club near Avon, Ontario.  I love the beauty there.  Saw a red fox a couple of days ago.  But Tarandowah is a 40 minute drive from Union.  Can’t I live somewhere closer?

Two weeks ago, I discovered the aura of Belmont, a town of maybe 2000 west of the golf course.  I was trying to create the perfect golfing day, and unearthed a breakfast spot (The Belmont Diner), a place to read (The Belmont Library) and a pub (The Barking Cat).  Cool.  But now that I had set up my perfect day, where would I hang my hat?  (Actually I don’t wear one.)

On Friday, April 29, I asked Chrystal, the owner of the Diner, if there were any condos in Belmont.  I was guessing there weren’t.  “I think that one of my customers is building some out on Manning Drive.  Go check it out.”  So I moseyed over to the northwest edge of town and found lovely new single family dwellings … but no condos.  Oh well, I guess Chrystal was wrong.

A few days before, I stood in the presentation centre of a future condo building in St. Thomas, a city of 35000 just north of Union (about 30 minutes from Tarandowah).  I liked the layout of a small unit and over time decided to put down a deposit of $5000.  I didn’t really enjoy the area of town, but it was a condo, and I didn’t want any more yard work.

On Saturday, April 30, I left home with a cheque in my pocket.  I remembered that Chrystal had said she’d talk to Glenn, the builder, about me being interested in a condo.  Oh, what the heck, why not drive out to Belmont for breakfast first, and then go back to St. Thomas for the deposit?  Couldn’t hurt.

It didn’t.

 

Creating Happiness

 

A few days ago, I went to a London Lightning basketball game with two friends.  Last night, I was at a London Knights hockey game on my own.  I didn’t like either game.

I’ve always loved seeing sports events but clearly “always” no longer fits.  It’s more of the same internal conversation that I’ve been having with myself since coming back from the meditation retreat – “Bruce is …” > “Actually no, he isn’t.”

There weren’t many people at the basketball game.  “That’s it.  I feed off the crowd’s energy.  No wonder I was flat.”  But there were 9000 souls in Budweiser Gardens last night.  Lots of crowd noise.  Except for the guy sitting in Section 303, Row H, Seat 6.

“I need to share the experience with someone.”  Jody and I went to lots of Knights games and had a good time.  Well, my friends were right beside me at the basketball game but none of us “entered the excitement”.

Last night, I was way up high in the arena.  It was a good view, but the players looked really small.  “Okay then, I need to be close to the action, to feel the thrill of Mitch Marner exploding down the ice and blasting a shot into the net.”  However, we sat only ten rows from the court at the basketball game.

Well, Bruce.  You know this.  Happiness is an inside job.  You can keep adding marvelous events to your life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Actually that’s exactly what you’re doing in the next few months … Toronto; Cuba; Haida Gwaii; Cambridge, Ontario.  But what will you bring forth in those strings of moments?  That’s up to you.  It appears that team sports no longer draw you, even though you enjoy the sports section of the newspaper.  But the experiences that currently animate your life – lovely friends, concerts, beaches, tall ships and golf tournaments – are all on the outside.  Bring forth you.