A or B?

Unity – the state of being made one; a condition of harmony

Separation – a break; a place where a split happens; an intervening space

Awakening – an act or moment of becoming suddenly aware of something

Dormancy – something that is not active or growing

Intrinsic – belonging naturally; essential

Extrinsic – not part of the essential nature of someone or something; coming or operating from outside

Mutual – feeling the same emotion, or doing the same thing to or for each other

Unilateral – (of an action or decision) performed by or affecting only one person involved in a situation, without the agreement of the other

Emergence – the fact of something becoming known or starting to exist

Stagnation – the state of not flowing or moving

Contact – the act of touching each other

Avoidance – the act of keeping away from

Resonant – something with a deep tone or a powerful, lasting effect

Muted – not expressed strongly or openly; (of a musical instrument) having a muffled sound as a result of being fitted with a mute

Transcendent – describing the rising above something to a superior state

Mundane – very ordinary and therefore not interesting

Include – to make part of a whole

Exclude – to shut or keep out

Love – an intense feeling of deep affection

Apathy – lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern

Visible

To be seen or not to be seen? Especially when I have no smile in me and my thoughts seem like bouncing balls in the basement of my mind. Or maybe I’m within the crush of life and the world is pressing down hard. Aren’t those the times when pulling the covers over my head would be prudent?

Speaking of which, who ever came up with that word “prudent”? The dictionary calls it “showing care and thought for the future”. Okay then … I disagree with myself. Being prudent sounds like a fine thing to do.

Hmm. Maybe this moment is a good illustration. Shouldn’t I just delete my righteous pronouncement about the word “prudent” in the interest of maintaining my dignity?

Speaking of which, who ever came up with that word “dignity”? (No, no Bruce. Don’t go there again.)

Now, where was I? Getting rid of the prudent and dignity discussion … so I look better. Naw. There’s no value in that. Picking out the good parts and hiding the naughty bits is a strange way to be visible. There’s contraction all around if I venture down that road.

What if I allowed the cool and uncool elements of Bruce to be plastered on some neon sign (such as this blog) and truly got that I’m the same as you – chock full of virtues and foibles, insights and nonsense, transcendence and stumbles? Well … perhaps that would be deeply okay.

Maybe I’m on this dear planet Earth to express myself, and then do it some more. So – write, speak, sing, smile, frown, bliss out and get pissed off. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe some other folks would see me as a worthwhile example of letting it all hang loose.

I’m participating in a global community of consciousness explorers. It’s called the Evolutionary Collective, and members of the group can meet live online as many as five times a week. Last night, Patricia Albere, the founder of the EC, asked for a volunteer to do the “mutual awakening practice” with her. The practice is a 1-1 half hour where the partners answer the question “What are you experiencing right now?”

I froze.

I’d shared in the group many times but this would be hugely different. I’d be groping my way into whatever I was experiencing, with an audience of forty people or so. And I was terrified. It felt just as horrifying as riding my bicycle beside those semitrailers three weeks ago.

I didn’t volunteer and fell into an agonizing pit of self-loathing. I love myself regularly, but not then.

I was not willing to be seen, in all my potential beauty and warts. (Sigh) As the clouds darkened and brooded, I sank lower. Thoughts jumbled. Fear screamed. And then – wonder of wonders – a tiny shaft of sun poked through. Somehow, somewhere, I was all right. The past moment of hiding away didn’t have to create a future of seclusion.

Next Tuesday evening, Patricia will be in the online session again. She expects to ask for more volunteers to do the practice with her. I’ll answer the call. Of course she may pick someone else but my triumph will be clicking the “Raise Hand” button.

On I go in my life. Participate or hide out. Express or fall silent. Live with huge sweeping strokes or tiny jagged lines. I get to choose.

Expression

I wanted to put energy out into the world today.  I wanted to do things, with no concern about how people would react.  So I did.

1. I watched an erotic video.  It was so cool.  Clearly the couple loved each other very much.

2. I walked to the Belmont Diner.  I could have driven.  Three minutes compared to twenty.  I love to walk, seeing the world unfold before me.

3.  At the Diner, I met a woman and told her my name was George.  Jean was sitting beside her, and laughed.  She knew my name was really Oscar.

4.  I had pancake and sausages.  Pretty fatty, Bruce.  Too bad, Bruce.

5.  I waxed poetic with a fellow at the lunch counter about Tarandowah, the golf course I love.  I talked about the beauty of the course, rather than scores and swings.  He was willing to share his favourite hole (13) as I shared mine (14).

6.  Back at home, I tried to figure out a grommet kit I’d bought, so I could line up my funky new shower curtain with the separately purchased liner.  Couldn’t make head or tail of the instructions.  Knocked on two neighbours’ doors for grommet relief.  Borot sat on my porch and showed me what to do.  Now I’m perfectly aligned with the universe.

7.  It was cold.  I drove to Tarandowah.  I walked some fairways.  I moseyed over to the farmer’s field beside the fifth fairway and searched for golf balls.  I found ten.  Yay!

8.  I walked the fescue mounds by the 14th fairway.  I found the highest spot on the course and drank in the 360° view.  Then I sauntered over to a mound behind the 6th tee.  From there I gazed out on eleven holes in the gathering gloom.

8.  Back to the clubhouse at twilight.  Nobody home.  I sat on the patio in the dark and ate the second half of my Subway sub from yesterday.  Cold cuts.  I wanted to donate my balls to the club but I couldn’t find a bucket.  Laid all seventeen on the patio by the front door.  The pro will find them tomorrow morning.

9.  Drove to Costco in  London.  My new sunglasses were ready.  Was thrilled to put them on my nose but they weren’t much good in the dark.

10.  I remembered my favourite Costco meal – $1.50 for a hot dog and drink.  Too fatty.  Ate it anyway.

11.  Drove downtown to the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club.  Sat entranced for two hours in the presence of a harpist from Ireland and a guitarist from England.  How they traded melodies back and forth!

12.  At the break between sets, I contemplated having a pint of Delirium Tremens beer (the best I’ve ever tasted).  Decided no … too fatty.  Had the DTs anyway.

***

Now I’m home, tap-tapping on the keys.  You may be liking what I’m writing or maybe not.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m doing stuff.  Stuff I want to do.  Throwing myself into my local universe.  Makes me happy.

Choosing A Golfer

It’s Saturday morning, “Moving Day” in golfing parlance.  During the third of four rounds, players often move way up or way down the leaderboard.

I’m about to head downstairs at the B&B for breakie.  Among the weighty matters I must ponder is  which golfer I will follow for eighteen holes.  Brooke Henderson is Canada’s sweetheart, an 18-year-old who’s pretty, hits the ball a long way and has a glowing smile.  She’s the obvious choice … but maybe not.  Cheering for Canada feels good but it has the sense of ethnocentrism – my group is more important than people outside my group.

Going with someone close to the lead seems natural too.  I feed off the drama of win-lose situations.  So Marina Alex from the USA is the head of the pack right now.  Wander with her … or perhaps not.

In the spirit of the human family, I could choose any twosome on the fairways of Whistle Bear Golf Club.  We all have the joys and agonies of being human.  I could watch life reflected in the birdies and bogeys of the golf course.  Just pick someone at random, Bruce.  Hmm.  No, I don’t want to do that.

Okay, I’ve decided.  I will walk with whom I perceive to be the nicest person out there – kind to her fellow golfers and to the fans, accepting of her mishit shots, loosy goosey on the fairways and greens, with an easy smile.  Lydia Ko from New Zealand.  She also happens to be the number one player in the world, but right now she’s eight strokes behind Marina.  I want to see a full human being.  I want to see her interact with other human beings.  I want to cheer her on.

Time to eat.  Time to walk.  And my day unfolds before me.

Beyond The North American Norm

I sat in a theatre this afternoon watching Michael Moore’s latest film Where To Invade Next.  It wasn’t about war and keeping the world safe for the American way of life.  Instead Michael visited Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Iceland, Norway, Germany and Tunisia in search of best practices – things that those countries are doing well.

Often, when Michael was sitting with a business leader, government official, educator or just plain folks, he’s tell them how things are often done in the USA.  In those moments, the movie was a study in astonishment.  I very much enjoyed looking at the quizzical facial expressions.

Here are some highlights:

Italy – Employees get eight weeks of paid vacation plus generous wages, and work fewer hours than we do.  When the owners of a factory were asked why they don’t keep more of the money for themselves, one of them replied, “Why would we want to be richer?”  They were committed to the happiness, and thus productivity, of their workers, who typically go home at noon for a two-hour lunch.

France – Elementary students eat three-course meals in the cafeteria.  When Michael showed a few of them photos of a typical American school lunch, their pained expressions said it all.  Plus no Coca-Cola, thank you.  The kids were happy with their water.  Lunch takes an hour and is also an opportunity for teaching the value of balanced nutrition.

Finland – There’s virtually no homework in the schools, no standardized testing, and a commitment from staff members to teach the children how to be happy.  School days are relatively short, with the students encouraged to explore interests and socialize with their peers.

Slovenia – University is free, even for foreign students.

Portugal – Drugs have been decriminalized and the focus is on rehabilitation for the users.  Police officers talked about the importance of human dignity.

Norway – In one prison, inmates live in cottages and wear their own clothes.  In a maximum security facility, the culture promotes caring about each other.  Prisoners working in the kitchen have access to knives, and no one seems concerned.  Guards don’t wear guns.  “Talk is our weapon.”

Iceland – Women are well represented among government and business leaders.  In the aftermath of the country’s economic collapse in 2008, the bankers whose actions precipitated the crisis were convicted of crimes.  No bailouts.  Many jail terms.

Germany – The Holocaust is remembered, not swept under the rug.  Public art includes replicas of notice boards with anti-Jewish messages, such as requiring Jewish folks to sit only on the yellow public benches.  Discussions are held in classrooms, acknowledging inhumane Nazi actions.

And … in one of the countries, the young people receive sex education focused on relationship, giving and receiving pleasure, and on effective birth control.  Michael suggested the possibility of abstinence.  The female teacher didn’t see the value of that choice.

***

It was a jolt of a film, dissing various forms of ethnocentrism in favour of people-centrism.  A you and me world.  I like it.

 

 

Mastery of the Moment Part Three

Where is the power in all these attitude choices?  How can they make a difference right in this moment?  Let’s say someone cuts me off in traffic.  How can I hold onto my peace of mind, rather than letting that driver control my level of well-being?  Am I supposed to remember the 45 possibilities among the 22 choices and magically pick 3 or 4 that allow me to stay calm?  Let’s see … which ones would I choose?  How about Source Internal, You and Me, and Not Important?  Yes, they’ll do fine.  But how do I access them at 100 kph on the freeway?  I could open my laptop with one hand, turn it on, go to “Posts” on my WordPress page, locate “Mastery of the Moment – Part Two”, and scroll down to find the choices that seem to fit the moment.  But maybe I’d better keep my eyes on the road!

For that presentation in 1988, I laminated 1″ x 2″ yellow cards listing the attitude choices.  Do I whip one of those out of my shirt pocket?  Do I start the week thinking about only three of them, such as the ones up above?  And then bring those ones to mind as I hurtle down the highway?  I could start with three new ones every Monday.

Maybe I should use all of the choices only in retrospect.  If I have an A > B moment (see Part Two), I could analyze it later to see how I might have handled the situation differently.  Perhaps enough analysis would automatically bring A > B > C to consciousness in the future, as my neighbour’s right rear bumper slips by Hugo’s front left.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to do.  The ideas are powerful.  The trick is to harness them, like a cowboy calming a bucking bronco.  I’ll figure it out.  I’m just glad to be along for the ride.

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

Standing On Guard For Thee

On Wednesday, a terrorist killed a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and then walked into Canada’s Houses of Parliament. He engaged in a shooting battle with security guards and was killed while standing only one door away from federal politicians.

Kevin Vickers is the person responsible for order in the House of Commons. He wears ceremonial robes and carries a large golden sceptre into the Commons as proceedings begin.  Many people see his role as a symbol of the past, as an example of unnecessary ritual.  Kevin shot and killed the intruder.

What should a good person do when faced with evil?  What would I have done?  “Thou shalt not kill.”  “Do not harm any living being.”  The calls of Christianity and Buddhism are clear.  And yet …

Kevin is a good man.  As his niece Erin expresses it, “He’s a thoughtful and considerate person.  He’s halfway to a saint in my opinion.  He’s a very capable human being.”  Clearly.  And he had never shot anyone before Wednesday.

I like to think that I would have shot that man as well.  That, in order to save the lives of others, I would have been willing to live the rest of my life knowing that I had killed.  And willing to grapple with the daily emotional pain.

I see sporadically that I’m on the planet not to become a better person, not to accumulate experiences, not to be smart and witty and rich.  I am here to serve and love.

Just So

Yesterday morning, I had just assisted Jody with personal care and had moved to our bedroom to give her some privacy.  I sat in a rotating chair and looked at my bureau.  The bottom drawer wasn’t closed  completely.  About an inch of the top surface of the drawer was showing.

I was torn.  The part of me that wants everything in its place started contracting.  A less developed section of Bruceness didn’t really care.  But I could feel the tug of the words “totally” rather than “partially”, and of “flush” rather than “offset”.  My goodness, what’s the big deal?  Aren’t there more crucial life issues that need to be addressed?  Well … yes, but something was pulling me in to its domain.  I sure wanted to close that drawer!

Larger principles beckon me, ones that present themselves symbolically to me in the objects of daily living.  Doing a job completely, for instance, before moving on.

Then there’s horizontal and vertical.  In our hallway, Jody and I have put together a collection of small framed photographs on a wall.  One montage of our vacations sits right next to a light switch, and sometimes it gets jostled.  So the others are all at right angles but holiday pics are leaning just a bit, far less than that tower in Italy.  Still though, it’s not right, says a certain version of my mind.  Down deep somewhere is the appreciation of the vertical as representing an upright life, and the horizontal as seeing all beings as equally wondrous in God’s eyes.

Dish towels need to hang loosely from the oven door handle, falling uncreased towards the mystery below.  Being bunched and jumbled somehow interrupts the grace of the infinite.  Toilet paper falls down over the front of the roll, revealing transparency, rather than descending from behind, and thus keeping hidden and unacceptable some part of its being.

“Bruce, you’re nuts.  Make sure nobody ever finds out about your questionable analogies, and the fetishes that unfold from each.”

“Shhh.”

It’s time for another great life experiment.  Let the tea towels bunch.  Let the montage lean a mite.  Let that bottom drawer show all the glory of its top edge.  Don’t fix things.  Everything’s perfect as it is.  Next week, I can always return to the appropriateness of feng shui principles.  And then return to mild disorder the week after that.

After all, as Walt Whitman said, “I am inconsistent.  I contain multitudes.”