Day Seven: Living Fully

During the Evolutionary Collective seminar on the weekend, I got to experience some attitudes which allow us to make a powerful difference in the world.

***

One participant shared that she often felt like she was squeezed between the luggage on a bus.  Our leader countered that we need to take a seat on the bus.  Hmm.  So … I’m just as important as anyone else.  I belong.  I have a part to play.  I deserve to be here.  Who cares if someone else has more life experience, more smarts, a more open heart?  Not important.  What is crucial is that we talk to each other and allow ourselves to influence each other.

I’m no better than other passengers and no worse.  In fact, the whole comparison business doesn’t serve anyone.  Together we can flow towards the future, sharing our connection while also allowing each person’s uniqueness to blossom.

***

At a social gathering full of adults and kids, a four-year-old girl came to the centre of the action and said “Everyone stand up.”  They did.  “Now hold hands.”  They did.  It wasn’t a bunch of grownups humoring a kid.  It was a natural response to the power of another human being, who just happened to be very young.  Our age, gender, personality and knowledge don’t matter.  We get to throw ourselves out into the world and impact others.  We each have the juice inside to to be forthright and assertive.  Now, can we bring that to the outside?

***

Let’s say you have a negative pattern that keeps repeating.  You’re awfully tired of it.  What’s possible is to quietly say “No.  I’m not doing that anymore.”  A determination without fanfare.  A declaration.  I realize that some deep traumas (such as the ones which reside in me) need a more extensive strategy but others are perfectly susceptible to a sudden stop.  “I don’t like what caffeine does to me.  I don’t like what aspartame does to me.  That’s it.  No more caffeinated coffee or tea.  No more Diet Coke.”  So there.

***

I don’t have to shut myself down.  I don’t have to settle down.  I can be a very big Bruce, even if some folks say that’s too big.  And I can find someone to share my life who won’t back away when I’m being powerful.  She won’t run away.  Instead, she’ll beckon me closer.  “Give me all you’ve got.  I want all of you.”  Sounds pretty rare, both in the giving and the receiving, but why not?  Why should I tone myself down in my passion and commitment because someone might get uncomfortable?  Well … I shouldn’t.  The planet needs all of us to be at the top of our game – to be willing to express, to give, to disrupt the status quo.  If not us, then who?

***

Stand up
Stand up straight
Look the world in the eye

Day Five: Out and About in NYC

There’s an Evolutionary Collective internet gathering at 2:00 pm. Terry and I have just said goodbye, as he catches his bus to New Hampshire, and me the subway to Central Park. At the corner of Love and Power, we looked way deep into each other’s eyes and said what was inevitable. We are together, him and me, in the service of life evolving on this planet. Distance means nothing.

Speaking of power, consider the express train northward. It hurtles through space, blasting past local stops, rocking and rolling and surging. I feel the power within as the subway shakes in the power without.

Speaking of love, consider the black woman standing in front of me. She wears a shining black heart-shaped backpack, with a gold zipper. The whole thing vibrates. And she has no idea how moved I am.

I need to be on time. Being more than a minute or two late means not being on the call. Out of the subway staircase, it looks like three blocks to the park. Turns out to be four. I need to be away from the street noise and onto a bench. At 1:57 they are missions accomplished.

As the call begins, it’s time for my toque, hood and mittens. Joggers are flowing past. “Deb”, my partner in the mutual awakening practice that makes up half of our time, is sitting in her home in California. She loves seeing the cold and the runners and the bare trees. It’s clear to both of us that these moments are far beyond her and me. The folks passing by are part of us. We include them in our caring.

A young girl and her dad, both bundled up against the weather, come strolling along. She moves right up to me and points my way. I shift gaze from my Californian friend to my new one. Smiles both ways. “Hi” from me. “Squirrel!” from her. She was pointing to the bundle of fur that was scampering behind me. Yes, let’s include everybody. A minute later, she and dad are waving goodbye. Me too.

(Tuesday) Later it’s a beer and nachos in Dylan Murphy’s, an Irish pub on Third Street. Cozy. Gemma, the bartender, has a lilting accent and a soft smile. We talk about life. She asks me why I’m in New York. I tell her about the work of the EC. I sum it all up with the word “eyes”, as I look into hers.

I’m an evangelist but naturally people don’t like to be cornered, compressed, told they should do something. So I simply say, “If you want to know more, Google ‘Evolutionary Collective.'” Absolutely enough said.

Today I’m heading to the MET – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ll let you know all about it in a few hours.

Day Two: Being of Service

Today was the first full day for the Evolutionary Collective Core weekend. The core folks have been living this consciousness of care and inclusion for years. I just began last April. There is much for me to learn, but today such an opening was balanced with an intense focus on serving the participants.

The support team was setting up the room well in advance of the 10:00 am start time. I admit I’m meticulous about such things – virtually anal. The cloths on the round tables at the front had to hang just so, a few inches above the floor. No dragging. The flip chart legs had to be exactly level. No tilting. And the carpet had to be absolutely clean. No lingering flotsams and jetsams. I bet that last task took me half an hour, picking up little offenders with my thumb and first finger. I was taught decades ago that I shouldn’t let anything distract the learners from absorbing the teachings.

Throughout the day, I was a mic runner. The idea was to be prompt, gentle and essentially invisible when Patricia called on a volunteer to speak. Watch them like a hawk for a slightly raised hand. Ask them to stand up if they haven’t already (I wasn’t good at that). Make sure the mic is on! Know when to take it back from the speaker. Co-ordinate with the other mic runner to cover the room. It was an art form, a dance, an imperfect support of the soul’s shares.

Finally, the photos. The folks had all given permission for candid shots but I didn’t want to be intrusive. I roamed around the room, looking for the best angles. I sought faces that were exploded in joy, or looking deep into their partner’s eyes. I looked for the heart of the inside clearly displayed on the outside … and found what I was looking for. After the day was done, I sat in the hotel lobby, zoomed in on several pics, and created some tender close-ups. It made me happy.

New York was on the back burner today. Human togetherness took centre stage, as it should.

Gabrielle Daleman

Gabrielle is a Canadian figure skater who has done well at home and internationally. As with most elite athletes, she has devoted much of her life to her craft.

At the Canadian Figure Skating Championships this week, Gabrielle was leading after the short program. Then it was time for the long skate, which would decide who gets the gold medal:

But the 21-year-old from Newmarket, Ontario, a bronze medallist at the 2017 world championships, fell twice in her free skate, and nearly fell twice more, plummeting to fifth place. She burst into tears after her marks were shown.

I saw her face fall to her hands, and she wept deeply. My eyes moistened. There was a human being in agony on the other side of the TV screen, and she was me. We’ve all been beaten up by life at times and we simply need to know that others care. Both of her coaches put their arm around her when the scores came up.

We’d like to do well whenever we enter the arena of life but there are times when it all falls apart. Strangely, I heard today about the exact opposite: my nephew scored with a few seconds left to win his high school basketball game. The gym erupted in joy. Ecstasy and despair – strange bedfellows, but they show up for each of us.

Gabby was interviewed on TV after the competition. First of all, she showed up. No hiding under a pillow. Tears rimmed her eyes as she spoke, and her gaze was strong as she looked at many thousands of us. Head up … speaking the truth. I was blown away.

This athlete has mental health problems and has admitted so publicly. What an example for each of us – nothing hidden, the warts exposed as clearly as the shining smile. Wow.

“Athletes who are attracted to figure skating are perfectionists, which is about being concerned with the achievement of perfection,” said Rebekah Dixon, who holds a Master’s degree in developmental psychology.

“This leads to being more focused on other people seeing you as perfect, which in itself is a problem, because you’re focusing on something that is unattainable.”

Gabrielle sunk low for awhile, and spent months away from skating, dealing with her demons. How many of us face similar gargoyles every day, but no one else knows? It might be physical problems, relationships, money – all most likely under the umbrella of self-esteem. How important is it for me to see every person I meet as probably in the middle of a life problem that’s very tough? Very important. A kind word, a smile, a hand on the shoulder … can heal.

The rink was a great place for Daleman. She experienced success and accomplishment – satisfactions that were far harder to come by at school. Daleman has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a learning disability. The challenges she faced in the classroom led to teasing and bullying by the other students.

Even with acid comments and demeaning looks coming her way, Gabby skated. She trained. She persevered. And she will continue to do so.

I’m glad you’re on the planet, Gabrielle Daleman
You inspire me to be great
Thank you

Dancers

I was off to another local high school this morning, this time to see a dance extravaganza with the Grade 6 kids.  I like the teens but my heart beats most deeply with the 11-year-olds.  There’s an enthusiasm, spontaneity and innocence that captures me.

There must have been fifty dancers onstage at various times.  I loved to see that their heads were up, in contact with life.  I couldn’t tell if they were truly making eye contact with us or if they were focused on the back wall.  No matter … they were engaged.

The auditorium was pretty full when we arrived but there were seats off to the side.  Soon after we sat down, I realized that there were lots of developmentally delayed kids near us.  Excellent.  And they enjoyed the whole show, which had to be at least two hours.  What a great demonstration to our students that everyone needs to be included.

One young lady in the front row often stood up and did her own twirls in response to the performers.  Good for her.  And good for the staff member sitting beside who let her express.  Some teens made occasional spontaneous noises as the dancers danced, and one student seemed to be having breathing problems.  It was all a welcome part of our gathering.

Almost all of the dancers were girls.  There were maybe five boys.  That made me sad.  It was such a great performance that I’m hoping some male elementary students were inspired to join the fun once they show up at high school.  The boys who danced were very expressive.  I imagine it took some courage for them to be up there, given the possibility of razzing from some friends.  Congratulations, guys, for being willing to do what you want to do.

The dance troupe was a celebration of difference – racially, culturally, age, body type and cognitive ability.  None of those distinctions mattered.  I saw a heavier girl take centre stage and do various flips and swirls with grace and strength.  She was a star.

There were so many different costumes … even top hats were on proud display.  The music was all over the map, including Queen’s We Are The Champions.  Many of us in the audience sang along with that one.

What a mass of work it must have been to pull this performance off – the dancers, the stage crew, the lighting crew, the teachers.  I hope each participant left the stage knowing that they had contributed to something big, that they had enthralled many of the elementary kids, and that possibly they had recruited some future Grade 9 students.  They also touched this volunteer who still loves to dance.  Thank you.

 

 

 

Extraordinary Ordinary Folks

I was walking down Weston Road in Toronto yesterday and told myself that I needed a hot dog. I didn’t, really. What I wanted was a visit with Rosina. She and her husband George own a tiny restaurant called God Blesses Canada. My history there has been yummy ice cream cones but my shivering bones weren’t up for that particular menu item. A hot dog would do nicely.

Rosina came out from behind the counter to greet me, and once I had unbundled from my winter togs, she gave me a big smile. How lovely to be remembered.

We must have talked for fifteen minutes before I got around to ordering anything. Rosina’s calm reminded me of the folks in Senegal, and I reminisced about their beauty. She was interested in my journey and was happy that I had been welcomed so.

“Any kidnapping of white folks in Senegal?” Ouch. “No, not at all.” > “It’s a big problem where I’m from – Nigeria. I don’t want to go back. Canada is home.”

Rosina told me about her mother. The family lived in the jungle. The women were naked. The men wore some large leaves around the middle to cover the naughty bits. When mom was 12, a man of maybe 25 returned to the home village from the big city, looking for a wife. He picked Rosina’s mother. It was arranged that the girl would live with him in the city. She and her grandma travelled there. The girl, and maybe both of them, entered the city with no clothes on. Can you imagine the trauma and disorientation for the child? The new husband swiftly found her some garments.

Rosina, like her mother, was deposited in an arranged and essentially loveless marriage. How very sad. Since then, Rosina escaped her husband, went to Canada, and fell in love with George. She’s a committed Christian and has served many homeless people in her coffee shops in Toronto and Keswick, Ontario. Rosina wants to adopt a child from Haiti and bring him or her to Canada.

I read a sign in the restaurant that talked about brutal conditions in Nigeria and how Rosina gives in Canada. I looked back at her and saw a glowing face, a kind person. Someone who undercharges me for a hot dog and bottle of water. Thank you, Rosina.

Next on my menu was the Weston Arena, built a very long time ago. It’s the home of hockey teams and a snack bar. I was hoping that the chuckly fellow I’d seen before would be serving up “The World’s Best Fries”. (Sorry, you Belgian readers) And there he was … chuckling.

I asked Wayne “Do you have any of those French fries that are second best in the world?”

“No! They’re the absolute best in the world.”

Okay, Wayne, okay. I’ll stop arguing the point. We continued to say silly things to each other. I sang a snippet from a song to Wayne’s admittedly grumpy co-worker. The guy stared. Wayne doubled over in laughter. I’d like to get to know this guy.

I entered the frozen arena with my world’s best and a Diet Coke. I could see my breath, and in the background were two teams of 12-year-olds – mostly boys and happily a few girls. They were skating like the wind and sometimes getting weak shots on net. It was so cool to see. What was uncool were the two male coaches. They took turns throwing around the F-word, aimed at the referee or an opposing player. What a contrast to Wayne and what dubious role models for all those young folks.

Think I’ll rest my brain cells in memories of Rosina and Wayne. Extraordinary.

Swollen

I’m sitting in the Bloor-Gladstone Library in Toronto, watching the life of the city unfold before me. So many folks heading to so many places. Very cool. And now my gaze moves downward … to my left foot. It’s quite swollen and a challenge to walk on. I’m tempted to analyze the heck out of the situation, to come up with the hows and whys, complete with action plans and a furrowing of the brow. But no. Instead I just look long at my foot, with love. And with curiosity. The arteries and veins are hidden beneath flesh and the ankle bone is similarly obscured from view. There is no sorrow, no fear and actually no problem. I’m going to a concert tonight and I’ll simply take a short subway ride rather than hoofing it.

The word “dictionary” comes to mind and then “larger than usual” emerges. More looking, more feeling into. Perhaps I’m becoming bigger than the reality I’ve known. Maybe old versions of myself are moving to the background and a birth is in process. It could be that the bubble of Bruceness is beginning to stretch outwards, so that the surface of my skin isn’t the end of me.

How much of life, how much of humanity, will I choose to include? Will there even be a boundary? It sounds pretty scary not to have one. Will I continue to exclude certain life experiences and certain people or will all of that fall away like snow off a steep roof on a sunny spring day?

Will the voice inside cease its fearless roar of “Not this, not that” in favour of “Yes please”? Will I share my resources with the homeless fellow on the street? Will I let fear and sadness blossom when they knock loudly on my door, demanding my attention, and bid them “Arrivederci” when it’s time for them to go? Will I look deeply into the eyes of the folks who come my way and welcome the souls peeking out? Will I embrace the differing hues and intensities of the rainbows who stand before me?

Will I fall into the moment, again and again, letting the thoughts float away in favour of the boundlessness of it all? Will I listen to the music of muses, rejoice in the smiles of strangers, bless the acts of kindness that are all around? Will I float above the Earth, arms and legs spread wide, letting the air currents take me where they will? Will I jump into the flame of transformation, feeling the burn and the shock of things totally new?

Will I be alive, in my body and soul, throwing streams of light into the world, exploding with other human beings into the vast unknown?

The Spirit that animates us all needs me to swell, to meet the emerging planetary consciousness face-to-face, to evolve with all those interested into a fuller humanity, where love moves past achievement and intelligence and wealth.

Young children will inherit what we adults choose to create.

Day Ten: The Beginning

I’ve been jolted over the last week. Life certainly has the ability to do that to each of us. Here are a few of my lowlights:

1. I was at a stop sign at an intersection. The road to the left curled to the right up a steep hill, with trees blocking my view of descending traffic. As I started forward on ta-pocketa, a car swung down the hill and blasted past me at full speed, missing me by a couple of metres.

2. I stopped to get a power bar out of my CamelBak water backpack. I couldn’t open the clasp with either hand to get the backpack off. Everything just felt so weak. After five minutes of trying, I put the clasp between my teeth and bit down. A power bar entered my mouth a minute later.

3. Yesterday, I was sitting in my hotel room with my left hand on my thigh. The fleshy spot between my first finger and thumb began to vibrate, and I watched, fascinated, as my body did its thing for a few minutes.

All of these painful days are now in my past. I figure there’ll be some residue of fear and sadness for awhile, but basically the question is “What’s next?” What will I bring to life over the next weeks and years?

I take inspiration from today’s World Cup soccer game between England and Panama. England was up 5-0 at halftime. Panama had never scored a World Cup goal. Late in the game, they knocked in a beauty, and fans in the stands and at home went nuts! It didn’t matter that the team was way behind. We can still bring forth joy. So … I commit to:

1. Bringing joy into people’s lives

2. Having conversations that mean something with everyone who’s interested

3. Talking to children and giving them one example of a caring role model

4. Engaging with folks from around the world, as we explore the depths of relationship possible through the Mutual Awakening Practice

5. Making people laugh

6. Being generous with anyone who needs my attention, time and money

7. Being love

***

Here are some wise words spoken by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Day Seven: Orientation

I’m overwhelmed. I’ve usually thought of myself as mentally strong but right now I’m mentally weak. I don’t want to sing the refrain of “Woe is me” because that doesn’t serve anyone. So how do I pull myself up?

Yesterday I received many messages from home, encouraging me, loving me. Several Tour du Canada riders have been especially kind. So now what? Pull yourself up, Bruce.

The bike shop at UBC fixed my bicycle yesterday. Apparently something called the headset was a mess. Also the derailleur settings were off. Alex at the Bike Kitchen made me his “afternoon project”. He also put flat pedals on ta-pocketa, since the ones I’ve had, which attach to metal cleats on the bottom of my cycling shoes, weren’t working for me.

When I tried the new pedals out in the evening, I kept catching my shorts on the saddle when I tried to get going. Maybe six of my fellow cyclists watched me stumble, again and again. They made suggestions and also adjustments to my equipment. I died a thousand deaths of embarrassment. Here I am, surrounded by nineteen strong and skilled cyclists, and I can’t even mount my steed. Oh, the sadness.

Okay, all of that is said and done. Time to keep going. I’m not giving up. With a little help from my friends, I’ll roll into the campground at Mission, B.C. this afternoon.

Thanks for listening.

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!