1 … 2

I am me.  Could I be we?

Walt Whitman knew a thing or two about relationship.  His poems often sang with love, and although many words passed through his fingers, my favourite ones are these:

We were together.  I forget the rest

To create a girl or boy, you need a partner.  All the solitary wishing on your part won’t bring forth a new life.  It takes two.  And to create the most exquisite spirals of consciousness, I also don’t think one is enough.  We are meant to unfold each other into realms unknown.  The whole thus revealed is way beyond the sum of the two parts.

Last night, I had a dream
We were inseparably entwined
Like a piece of rope made out of two pieces of vine
Held together, holding each other
With no one else in mind
Like two atoms in a molecule
Inseparably combined

So true.  May we entwine each other.  May ribbons of light float between our eyes.  May we see the beauty.  I sat quietly tonight and waited for the majesty of communion to emerge in a song.  What a marvelous thing – this brain – for the title came to me: Old French Lane.  From somewhere in my past, a very long time ago.

“Yes … this is what I want to share with my WordPress friends.”  But Google was silent on the matter.  YouTube was no help.  And I abided, feeling into the way home.

“Bruce, you wrote about Old French Lane years ago in your blog.  Search.”  And so I did.  And so it is here.

Seven jewels lie in the channel
South of England’s shores
Where you and I once walked together
Where I’ll walk no more

Hand in hand we would go
In the sun and in the rain
Through the streets of St. Helier
Down the Old French Lane

With Jersey sunshine falling on your hair
Shines in strands of red and gold
And eyes of green like the emerald sheen
Of your ancestral home

That was so long ago
Red and gold turn silver now
But eyes of green will never change
In my memory somehow

 

The Transmission of Love

A few hours ago, a voice in my head said “You will write in your blog tonight about the transmission of love.”  Most of my evening has been about online group calls with likeminded souls in the Evolutionary Collective, calls about deepening contact with other human beings.  We’re done now and here I sit at 11:44.  I don’t know what to write.

I’ve learned over the years to tell the difference between the raucous demanding voice and the quiet one.  I trust the softness that spoke to me earlier.  But now what?

The loud voice spews out an opinion:  “Who do you think you are, some author of personal growth textbooks?  You’re not exactly ready to create a treatise on love, bunko!”  Bunko?  Where did that come from?  Anyway, time to tune out Mr. Loudness.

So how does the depth of love move from one person to another?  Anyone can read a Hallmark Valentine’s card and speak similar sentiments but words without the soul’s participation are meaningless.  You can be a champion at sex, know where all the sweet spots are, and be well equipped for the task, and still have the other person feel like a thing.

I think the transmission of love comes down to these objects:

Two hands … as in holding
Two feet … as in playing footsie
One hand and one foot … as in rubbing
Four arms … as in lingering within a real hug
Four eyes … as in holding a soft gaze for a long time

It’s a short textbook but it’ll do just fine.

Over There

I’m part of a global online community based on the “mutual awakening” work of Patricia Albere. One of the relationship principles that Patricia talks about is being “in and for” the other person, to move my consciousness inside you, to feel the sacred space between us. There’s a practice we do in pairs that has the power to bring forth great contact, great love.

A couple of weeks ago, Patricia told us about a grandmother who was familiar with mutual awakening. She was babysitting her infant grandson and the kid was upset about something. Grandma moved her consciousness inside the young man’s head – no force of energy, just being there. And immediately he stilled. Hmm. Is this really doable? What if I took a day and gently placed my consciousness into everyone I met? Today, for example.

So I’m giving it a go. And I’ve had my moments, such as during the classical music concert I just attended. Young adults took their turns on stage – singers, pianists, violinists, violists and cellists. I went inside them, sporadically, and just rested there. I wasn’t beaming love at them. It didn’t feel like I was beaming anything. I simply hung out.

Back and forth I flipped, resting over there and stumbling over here. So brand new. I thought about my favourite colour – red, absolutely! It felt like I was now saying yellow was the best and was awkwardly trying that on for size. But the pull of red was enormous.

Now I’m in a Tim Hortons, sitting beside a young couple enmeshed in a political discussion. I feel myself moving away from their content, and being thoroughly inside me. Abiding in them seems worlds away. My distaste for politics is clouding the migration of my soul. Fair enough. My red tendencies continue to have a powerful magnetism.

When I walked in, I was hungry and my left foot was sore. Any possibility of yellow was gone. In fact I wasn’t even aware of the colour. But really, what else would I expect? What does it take to bring something new into my world? A lot, I’d say.

I’m going to three short concerts today. Just left the second one. During it I almost fell asleep, and again yellow was nowhere to be seen. “That’s okay, Bruce. Who do you think you are – Superman?” Well … no chance there.

What to do? Just begin again, over and over. This isn’t like the mutual awakening practice, where both of us are committed to going inside each other. I’m sitting in a pub and it’s time to try again. The other person will have no idea of what I’m doing, and that’s fine. So here goes …

The bartender and I were talking about the Greek salad that’s just arrived. I put myself inside her. No fireworks in me or her, no reaction at all coming my way. Not like the kid who went quiet. Maybe I’ll just keep throwing myself outwards with no expectation of anything coming back. Yes, let’s do that.

Then there’s Marvin on the next stool. We talk about the World Cup … and I’m inside. I decide to tell him what I’m doing. He smiles. “I knew something was happening.” Thanks, Marvin. Connection.

I’m in concert number three. There’s no pressure to do anything but I’ve floated inside the musicians again. The feeling is soft and yielding. Think I’ll stay for a bit.

Where is all this going? I don’t know. But here I am in Oz. I don’t feel like the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow or the Tin Man but I’m definitely here to find what I need. Might Kansas fade away in the rearview mirror? We’ll see.

Day Eleven: The Plane Again

Off I go into the wide blue Eastern yonder. In my life as well, the yonder beckons. Unknown. Moments that show up unbidden, by grace.

My day started in the breakfast room of the Abbotsford Travelodge. I sat near a gentleman named Tim and we got talking. I wavered between drowning in my sadness and rising above it. As expected when I’m in the throes of something, I started coughing.

Tim told me it was his birthday. I know me … I had to sing “Happy Birthday” to him but my throat was saying no. “Don’t listen to it, Bruce. Sing.” So I started, soon losing air and grinding to a halt, but then beginning again. I finished the birthday wish. Tim smiled.

I found out that my companion sells health products with an accompanying commitment to improve the immune system of malnourished children across the world. Scientists have developed a powder that’s added to local food. So far, 14,000,000 servings have been shared with kids. My goodness, wow.

I realized that I was sitting beside a true hero, although he would never describe himself as that. Deep down, I saw that my commitment to humanity is no less than his. My focus is just different … deepening the quality of the moments I share with folks who come my way.

I’ve often glimpsed that comparing myself to others is without merit. Just do and say what my heart is leading me to. “And while you’re at it, Bruce, hold your head up high. The world needs your elevation, not your descent.” Okay. Tim gives. I give.

22F was my spot on the plane from Abbotsford, B.C. to Edmonton. A window seat, selected on purpose, and I hardly glanced outside the whole trip. The reason? A young woman named Kalysha sat down in 22E. She was pretty, and that’s nice, but our contact was infinitely more than that.

Kalysha is a committed Christian and has recently been a missionary in Nepal. Soon she’ll be heading out on another spiritual adventure, to Papua New Guinea. Right now, she’s going home to Mayerthorpe, Alberta to be with her family for a few precious weeks.

Kalysha’s eyes glowed as she talked about Jesus. She clearly has a deeply loving relationship with Him. I told her that I was a Buddhist, and later asked if she was tempted to lead me away from the Buddha towards Jesus. She smiled and basically said that she speaks what’s true for her and leaves it up to the other person to make their decision. Cool. So there we were, talking about our spiritual lives, enjoying each other’s presence. My coughing came and went and I felt great acceptance from 22E.

Beyond the words about her family and the Grade 5/6 kids who await me near Belmont, Ontario, there was a stillness between us. Age doesn’t matter. Contact does.

Now I’m on the leg from Edmonton to Toronto. I’m sitting beside an elderly couple. I ordered a burrito bowl and couldn’t open the plastic tube of guacamole. My neighbourly guy did the deed with ease and pleasure. His wife told me they were out west visiting the fellow’s brother, who was sinking through dementia. Yesterday the two had reminisced for a long while, exactly the intention. The couple’s ticket had been selected for today. This morning, in the wee hours, the brother died. Two seats away from me, a grief-stricken senior had opened my guacamole package. Heroes everywhere.

Tomorrow afternoon, I going to the school where I volunteer. There’s a Grade 5/6 potluck at noon and a school play day till the buses pick the kids up. The final event is a water balloon fight between the graduating Grade 6’s and the staff. It was so much fun last year. This time, I’ll be a sitting duck. I can’t throw with my injured right hand and trying to throw overhand with my left would be something to behold. So … I’m going to wing the bombs lefty underhand. No way those kids are going to get the better of me!

Talking to Tim, Kalysha and my current companions has been so therapeutic. The sun is now shining brightly. I can’t wait to see who I can greet on the flight from Toronto to London, Ontario.

On we go.

Experience Squared and Cubed

I wonder if my mathematics is off. I’d say that’s likely. But whatever numbers I choose, I’ll have them point to a hierarchy: okay … good … great.

I’m looking at the moments we have during our days. Most of them seem quite ordinary, hardly noticed in the bustle of life. Then there are the special ones – they get my heart beating faster. But beyond that are moments that defy description, ones that take me to the centre of life, far above the hum and the drum.

I could rank life’s experiences on a “1, 2, 3” scale but that doesn’t seem grand enough. How about “1, 5, 10”? Getting there. No, I propose “10, 10², 10³”, or more simply “10, 100, 1000”.

10 can be life’s ordinary moments: talking to someone about sports, politics or local gossip; doing your income tax; navigating traffic. Ho hum.

100 represents the awesome play in sports, such as a great pass, a long putt or an impossible catch. Transcendent. Or the most exquisite performance of a lovely song. John Lennon’s “Imagine” comes to mind. These are moments that transport me to bliss, thanks to what another human being has brought into the world.

1000 is a different kettle of fish. I see it when I look deep into another person’s eyes and them into mine. True contact, connection, communion … so rare. I’m taking a live course on the Internet about relationships – deepening my moments with any human being willing to “be with” me. Today I gazed into my laptop screen and saw a woman from Oslo, Norway and later another one in Sacramento, California. We told each other what we were experiencing. Words like “comfy” and “cozy” came out of me. And the times of silence were sublime. At one point “Lynne” from Sacramento and I were skydiving – arms and legs all horizontal, floating free together … no fear. Then we were deep in the ocean, dancing. So sweet.

***

There’s no doubt in my mind: the numbers are real
There really are levels here
May I bring myself into a cubed world, again and again

Astonishment

I participated in an online course about relationships on Saturday.  About twenty-five of us spent two hours together.  Most of it was a presentation about “mutual awakening”.  We reflected on what’s possible between two human beings.

And then it was time for dessert.  I had propped up my Samsung phone on a book.  The moderator’s face disappeared, replaced by a sign inviting me to “Join breakout session 9”.  I said yes and suddenly there was a woman looking at me from her living room in Alberta.  I’ll call her Megan.  Time stopped as I looked into her eyes and said hi.  And she was just as happy to see me.

The moderator had coached us about the process.  We’d start by having Megan ask me “What are you experiencing right now?”  I’d take ten minutes to reply and then we’d switch roles.  No censoring of the words spilling forth.  Not trying to make them sound reasonable.  The listener doesn’t say anything, and doesn’t evaluate the speaker’s words.  She simply stays “with” the other person.

During the final ten minutes, we’d answer the question “What are we experiencing right now?”  For that last bit, we wouldn’t be sharing “What I think we’re experiencing”.  Instead, we’d ideally move our consciousness into the other person and sense our unity.  Oh.  That sounded like a tall order.

Having been assured that there was no right or wrong way to do this, I let go.  I was in wonder, facing this person so far away geographically and somehow so close in my heart.  “How can this be?” I asked myself.  I just met Megan minutes ago.  It was clear that we had willingly entered a sacred space together, where anything that came out of our mouths was perfectly fine.

“I’m astonished.”

“I feel happy … new … wonder … chuckly … at home.”  Megan smiled and I was at peace.  I was receiving wonderful permission to be totally me in the moment.

When Megan spoke, I went inside her, or so it felt.  The first thing she was experiencing was “bubbles”.  How sweet.  And her smile spoke volumes.  I could tell she trusted me, this stranger from Ontario.

The whole group came back at the end, for comments and questions.  I put up my hand.  “I’m so astonished.  I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life.  I’ve read Patricia’s book and I’ve gone on lots of retreats … ”  And then I was silent, shaking my head in wonder for all the folks to see.  As much as I love words, sometimes there are none.

The journey continues for the next three Saturdays.  I feel so open to what these mutual awakeners will bring me and ready to let go of thought in my communication with them.

Majestic Moments

My life, like yours, is made up of a long string of moments.  Most of them seem to escape my notice.  Too often, I’m thinking about something else or dreaming about somewhere else.  And that’s a great loss.

So what can I do about this?  Right now I’m in Mai’s Café at a tiny table for two near the front door.  I’ve written about this spot before – it’s just so cozy and cute.  I’m looking out on the shops of Wortley Road and watching folks roam by on their feet and in their cars.  Across the street, a young couple sit at a window table, looking at their menus.  So those people are momentary in my life.  Moments like this, when I’m alone, allow me to feel my environment, including the inner one.  (My tummy is delightfully full of pad thai and banana fritter!)  I can animate these solitary moments by shining a light on them, having them glow.

Even better are my times with other people.  The same environmental noticing is available but there’s something extra.  Last night I joined Louise and Jeff for supper at Chaucer’s Pub.  It’s warm and dark and quiet.  No big screen TVs showing me the wide world of sports (although I often enjoy such settings).  My back was to the fireplace and the warmth toasted me all over.

We talked of life, of music, of adventures, of community.  We talked of real people in our lives.  We talked of them with appreciation and tenderness.  Through all of this, we created a special time.  But I knew there could be more.  I’ve been studying the insights of Patricia Albere, about what’s possible when two or more people are together.  With Patricia in mind, I looked at my new friends.

Jeff and Louise are good people.  I could feel that.  As I listened to them speak, I threw my consciousness inside each one, trying to feel them from within.  And for a second or two, now and then … I did.  It wasn’t me being with them.  It was me being them.  Oh.  Completely different from other mealtime conversations I’ve had.  “Goodness.  Where does Bruce end and Louise begin?”  I didn’t know.  “Who is Jeff?”  Somehow I was part of the answer.

Our shared words continued … but there was a shift.  I was inside.  What if I could create this majesty at will?  What if another human being chose to join me in this experience of touching and being touched, of living inside each other?  The words “Heaven on Earth” come to mind.

It appears that I’m not here and not now for a fair slice of my day.  Nothing to get all grumpy about but I dream of what could be. 

Time for a grand experiment, perhaps?

Angel of the Piano

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, anticipating the keystrokes of a virtuoso pianist – Sir Andras Schiff.  Beside me sat a young Asian woman and we got talking.  She’s a student at the Glenn Gould School of classical music performance.  We chatted about the beauty of Koerner Hall, especially the violin-like wooden sculpture that adorned the ceiling.  It reminded me of waves of energy, and I wondered if the love and peace I felt coming off me was anything like that.

I told Linda about my meditation retreat and I do believe she was enthralled.  “I’ve wanted to do something like that.”  She was one of very few people in such conversations that didn’t say “Oh, I could never do that.”  I mentioned the Buddha’s instruction “What you contemplate, you become.”  She seemed to see the wisdom of it right away.  Before Andras took the stage, we discussed more of life’s ups and downs.  It was a lovely time.

Sir Andras lived up to his billing, with exquisite runs, explosive passages and tender melodies.  I closed my eyes and a quiet crept over me.  Soon I was deep in meditation as his fingers created the magic.  I opened my eyes a few times, occasionally to see Linda leaning way forward, head down.  I wondered if I had something to do with that.

At the break, neither of us wanted to go anywhere.  We talked of love and peace.  Linda told me she was a pianist and was presenting a recital in the evening, in another hall at the Royal Conservatory.  I said I would come.  She smiled.  “But it won’t be as good as this.”  “Let’s try that again.”  I said I would come.  “Thank you.”

And so the evening.  Mazzoleni Hall was an intimate yellow brick and wood enclave.  Linda strolled onstage wearing a gorgeous cream-coloured gown.  Sadly, the audience was nine.

Linda launched into Haydn with a sometimes flurry and an often caress.  Her face was with the music … a passionate “Oh!” and then a sweet “Ahh.”  I was entranced.  She may be decades younger that Mr. Schiff but the heart was just as open.  Chopin, Bach, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky were cheering her brilliance for the rest of the evening.

I gave Linda a standing O, accompanied by a “Bravo!”  So richly deserved.

At the entrance to the hall, I said, “Thank you, Linda.”  We hugged.  We bowed.  “It was lovely.”  “Thank you so much for coming.”

And I was gone into the night.

Norman, The Kids And Me

I journeyed south from Williamstown to Stockbridge, Massachusetts this morning.  My destination was the Norman Rockwell Museum.  For decades, I’ve enjoyed his paintings of relationships and everyday life.  Norman saw the beauty in us all.

I wanted the Grade 6 kids near Belmont, Ontario to see some paintings, and perhaps to see themselves in them.  I texted some pics.

First up was “The Runaway”, featuring a little boy on a stool at the local diner, sitting beside a burly police officer.  A middle-aged cook leans forward on the counter, cigarette dangling from his lips.  I ran away once, from a summer camp on the shore of Lake Simcoe in Ontario.  I was scared and lonely.  One night, I walked to the shore, turned left and headed home to Toronto.  And there I was in a Rockwell painting.

Then there was a little girl, also sitting on a stool, gazing at herself in a large mirror.  A magazine was on her lap, flipped open to the image of a Hollywood starlet.  At her feet were a jar of makeup, lipstick and a hair brush.  Maybe those girls in Southern Ontario could relate.

A large painting was filled with people and apparel from across the world – young and old, male and female.  They all seemed to be gazing at the lower centre of the picture, where these words hovered:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Indeed.

Finally, a moving van has pulled up to a suburban home.  A black girl carries a white cat, and is accompanied by her brother.  Three white kids face the newcomers, with a black dog amidst them.  Baseball gloves reside on both sides of the painting.  The Canadian children’s response?  Here’s Tiffany, their teacher: “They think that regardless of the black and white contrast, their pets and sports will bring them together.”  Well said.

Google Maps tells me that the Grade 6 kids and I are 738 kilometres apart
(459 miles)

Not really

Day Fifteen … Loved Ones

So it was off to the ferry for me, with Georgia Strait and Victoria beckoning.  When I arrived at the terminal, I saw that I wouldn’t make the next voyage.  It would be an hour-and-a-half wait, which was fine.  That would give me a chance to write a blog post.

I thought that Starbucks would get the creative juices flowing, so I joined the line.  There was hardly anywhere to move since half of Vancouver was surely wanting to go to Victoria.  I turned to the two women behind me and said, “Is the terminal always this busy?”  And so began a journey to fast friendship.  During our conversation, I mentioned Jody and soon Kitty and Kathy were saying yes to sharing a copy of our book.  I got one out of Scarlet and told them that I’d see them on the ferry.

Retiring to a pocket of shade, I discovered that I didn’t have any Internet.  No matter.  I’d compose in Word and send it off to whoever’s out there in the evening.  So I tapped and slurped and yapped to a young couple at the same table.

Done.  (Actually, it doesn’t happen quite that fast!)  I decided to find my new friends.  As I approached their car, I saw that Kitty was reading Jody’s book, and she was crying.  Oh my.  It was time to load so I got back in Scarlet.  As our lane was given the go ahead, I looked in the rear view mirror to see a car on my ass, revving his motor.  Good heavens … tailgated on a ferry ramp.

Kathy, Kitty, her husband Craig and I sat together outside on the deck at the back of the ship.  I looked around at the Pacific Ocean and the layers of islands that stretched away forever.  “Do you think that some local people don’t see this beauty anymore?”  “Yes.”  So sad.

We talked about this, that and the other thing.  I mentioned that I had arrived with a bag of Costco’s Almond Clusters so that I could feed the hovering seagulls off the stern of the ferry.  Except that there were no seagulls.  (Sigh)  I have great decades-old memories of throwing food in the air and having the gulls swoop down to catch it in their beaks.  But not today.  At one point, I leaned over the railing and tossed a symbolic cluster up high.  Nobody came by.  The ocean swallowed it.  Thuwup.  (My best guess about cluster-sucking water)

And here comes a pretty young woman to talk to all of us.  She’s a naturalist and has lots of things to say about marine flora and fauna.  She knew her stuff, even that glass sponges (an animal) exist.  But worlds beyond that, she glowed with joy.  Her face was a symphony of expressions and her body extended, twisted and danced as she spoke.  I was blown away.  It’s nice that she was pretty, but that physical beauty was animated by her soul.  I went up to her afterwards and said, “You have such joie de vivre.  And you are a teacher, far beyond your subject matter.  A role model for us all.  Please don’t lose that.  When you’re 40, may you still show such spirit.”   She cried a wee bit and said thank you.

Kathy, Kitty and Craig laughed at my stories and shared some of their own.  It was fun.  I hugged the two women upon farewell.  And that’s it, really … “Fare thee well.”

And now – Ta Da! – my girlfriend.  I fell in love with her maybe 40 years ago and I haven’t seen her since.  We’ve never written.  I don’t even know her name.  And she’s not even human.  My love is a statue in Butchart Gardens north of Victoria.  The truth is that the main reason I came to Vancouver Island was to see her.  (I know I kid around a lot but this is not that.)  Decades ago, I read a book called Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse.  I was enthralled to hear of Goldmund’s love of sculpting … the chance to catch the glory of life in stone or wood.  Ever since, I’ve kept my sculpting mind hidden from everyone I know.  But it’s still there … the need to create an image that captures the soul.  When , oh when, Bruce, will you start that journey?

It took a while, but I found my girlfriend in the sunken garden.  I sat near her for nearly an hour.  She appears to be a teenager.  She crosses her hands over her chest as she looks skyward.  I thinks she’s missed me.  I know I’ve missed her.  There wasn’t much to say.  We just sat together.  Afterwards, I looked up to the towering arbutus trees in the evening sun.  Their reddish bark glowed.  Me too.  Then I went to the bandshell and watched about fifteen couples dance the waltz and fox trot to a live band.  I could smell flowers.  Most of the folks were in their 50’s, 60’s or 70’s and they all moved so gracefully.  I smiled.

Quite the day.  Here’s to many more of them.  Salut.