Day Four: Giving and Receiving

As the Evolutionary Collective met this morning at Asilomar, I looked around the room at the beauty there. More than eighty of us sat as a coat of many colours, fine examples of both unity and uniqueness. I love the image of an ice cream cooler full of different tubs. I’d grab a spoon and dip into Rocky Road, then Pistachio, and how about some Pralines and Cream? All delicious.

Just before lunch, Patricia announced that we’d be receiving a gift. One member had created “bracelets for the women and key chains for the guys”, each emblazoned with the words “Awakened Love”. I smiled and then frowned. My heart wanted the bracelet. I don’t care about key chains. In January, Ali, a young Senegalese boy, had tied a glass bead bracelet around my wrist, a gesture so clearly of love. The first two nights I took it off to shower but then it hit me: this symbol will stay next to my skin till the day I die.

Today I approached the giver of jewelry and asked if I could have a bracelet instead of the key chain. She thought she had an extra one in her room so the future looked bright. Minutes later, a woman showed up with just what I wanted. Turns out that one of the female participants wanted a key chain! Later, at lunch, Cindy rushed up to celebrate. She had her treasure and I had mine. Both of us had been brave in asking for a change … and the universe smiled on our intentions.

Other moments of grace:

1. I had a big sunburn from yesterday, and no sunscreen. Denise noticed my dilemma. Seeing that I was about to head to the beach after lunch, she pointed to the goop that she had kindly brought to the meeting room.

2. On an evening walk, Lara played us a phone call she just received from her young daughter back east. “Goodnight, mommy. Please come home soon.” It’s a keeper.

3. I’ve been seeing a counsellor to deal with past traumas. She’s at the conference. When I was feeling so very small this afternoon, I reached out to her for five minute of coaching. I left her with compassion for myself that I sometimes get triggered and immediately go into a knee jerk collapse. I celebrated that I brought myself back within a couple of hours.

4. About thirty of us went down to the beach this evening to see the sunset. The big ball popped below the cloud cover just before diving beneath the horizon. It wasn’t a grand show. The grandness was in our eyes, which often turned from the sun to each other. We were together. That was enough.

***

Simple moments, full of grace. Enough to fill a day with quiet satisfaction.

Day Three: And So We Begin

I walked out of my door this morning to the scent of wood. There’s a pool at the motel and workers are erecting a fence around it. It’s redwood, and the smell was sweet. I just stood and breathed it in, and life entered as well. There is great beauty available on the inhale.

The fence is composed of long horizontal boards, with a few inches of air separating each piece. From the window table of the breakfast room, I gazed at the design. The walls create the feeling of sanctuary but the openness allows contact with the world beyond. And we humans need both: a sense of home, of safety, as well as the need to reach out to others. I love symbols.

Kaitlyn and Ryan were back for breakfast and I was looking forward to talking to them again. Although they were friendly, they said no to my request to join them. As I watched them head to their room, I was sad. I felt the intentional distance. And I wished them well, knowing I’ll probably never see them again.

This afternoon, we members of the Evolutionary Collective begin our adventure. We’re at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, a collection of old stone and wood buildings created by Julia Morgan, one of the first women to break through the glass ceiling of architecture. And breakthroughs in our lives are possible for all of us over the next five days. Perhaps one hundred people will share the consciousness that is both personal and global, timeless and evolutionary, raucous and sublime. What will come to be? I don’t know.

***

I walked my suitcase to Asilomar this morning, and greeted kindred souls in the lobby. I knew there would be an online mutual awakening practice at noon, where we see each other in little rectangles on our screens. I decided to bolt for the beach with my smartphone. One boardwalk looked like it would go there, and I sallied forth. Sand dunes full of tiny exotic plants came my way. As I walked at some distance from the resort, I finally figured out that the boardwalk was climbing. 11:48. Push on or admit defeat? I stood for a bit, and soon was retracing my steps.

Another boardwalk seemed to be seeking water. 11:54. I trotted across 17 Mile Drive and there was the expanse of sand. Rocks to the right at the water’s edge. I plunked down on a fairly flat one and checked out what the worldwide folks would see, using selfie view. Yes! Waves rolling ashore and bubbling up on rocks. At 12:00, my friends from here, there and everywhere got to see the Pacific.

I could only hold up my phone for so long and then I dropped my arms, leaving people seeing me and the sky. After a little rest, here came the seascape again. And the pattern repeats. I was determined to give my best, to have the world see the beauty. Along the way, young families strolled by. I loved the wee little kids. And surfers in wet suits. And a school class eager to dig for tiny crabs. All of us together.

***

Now it’s late. There were 86 of us in the room, including 13 newbies to this depth of the work, including me. We did a practice where groups of five EC Core members would beam love to us new guys. All told, I got to stand and sit in front of thirteen groups of fine souls. At the end of it all, I knew I belonged, in a way that also thoroughly respected my uniqueness.

***

I am very tired. Time for bed, my friends. See you on the morrow.

Day Six: Lost and Found

I spent much of Saturday in a compression, feeling the world crushing me.  I was small, almost invisible, and the dangers of life were towering over me.  Traumas of the past came rushing in and the future was invisible.  All was lost.

I woke up early Sunday morning and just lay there for an hour.  In my mind, I saw a little boy sitting on the floor, arms pressing upwards to ward off the terrors.  I lay there and loved him.  I didn’t furrow my brow and force him to lower his hands.  He was doing what he needed to do.  It was such a new experience, not trying to fix things, to turn my world into roses and champagne.  Just being with what was true in the moment.

And lo and behold, there was peace.  There was breathing again.  Within the slowing, the little kid remained, still pressing hard.  I smiled, the first for many hours.

When the seminar started a few hours later, I spoke to the group about little Bruce.  I told the folks that I was scared of them.  “Scared” says it so much better than “afraid”.  And my friends in the chairs were with me.  One person said “Your voice if different.”  Over the day, I received several “Welcome Back”s.  I was alive again, powerful again, connected again.

I need to address the drowning eight-year-old boy, to look him straight in the eye.  One of the leaders of the Evolutionary Collective is a psychologist and I will meet her on video conference for as many sessions as needed to make friends with my moments of terror.  I’ll do this not to be a better person but to ensure that far more of me is available for other human beings.

On I go.

Skaters

It’s the flow of it all that’s so magical.  I’m in awe of the leans, the little jumps, the tentative spins.  Tonight was the Carnival presented by the young people of the Belmont Skating Club, and I got to be there.

Parents, grandparents, friends and the rest of us seemed to cheer every little glimpse of excellence in the routines of the four-year-old and the fourteen-year-old.  There were tumbles.  There were ending flourishes held high before the applause.  It was just plain lovely.

I watched “Jenny”, a twelve-year-old girl in the class where I volunteer.  She swooped and swirled on the ice, bending her body every whichway as she moved to the music.  There was grace and power and dancing hands.  A few minutes later, Jenny was back out there as a “program assistant” , encouraging the tiny ones dressed in green.  For me, her cheering was just as special as the flow of her solo work.  Create beauty and then assist others to do the same.

I love several of the solo skaters.  I know them.  And after tonight I also know them in a new way … expressing their passion, telling stories with their legs, their arms and their smiles.  I was so proud of my young friends.

A visiting troupe of synchronized skaters graced the ice as well.  These twelve- to sixteen-year-olds formed three trios and  pushed forwards and backwards together like the Snowbirds precision pilots in air shows.  The movements backward especially took my breath away.  Those were such symbols of transcendence.

I applauded eleven soloists and several group acts, which were mostly young kids.  The individual skaters were all girls.  I enjoyed their artistry immensely.  At the same time, I missed the presence of boys.  I know they’re off playing hockey but I dream of the time when they also explore the melody of dance.

“Marcy” is a student I volunteered with two years ago.  She performed to the music of “Always Remember Us This Way”, from the movie A Star Is Born.  The lyrics skated beside her:

Lovers in the night
Poets trying to write
We don’t know how to rhyme
But, damn, we try
But all I really know
You’re where I wanna go
The part of me that’s you will never die 

Marcy told the story.  We looked on in wonder.

Day Twelve: It’s All About the Kids

When I’ll remember this trip to Senegal, it’s possible that the overwhelming image in my mind will be looking deep into the eyes of the children. Such as today. Lieselot, Sabrine, Anja, Curd, Camille, Olivia and I are staying at the bed and breakfast, and this morning we walked over to Lydia and Jo’s home. As we came through the gate, Iced Tea’s daughter Nima was sweeping grass off the dirt of the front yard. The broom was so much bigger than her, but she was brushing for all she was worth.

The big group of us walked over to the store. In front stood an old man named Moustafa and his donkey Black. On the cart behind were many bags of rice, to be distributed by us to fifteen families whose children Lydia and Jo sponsor.

We set off to the first home. I said hi to lots of people throughout the morning, some of whom spoke only French and a Senegalese dialect, and others who only knew the local language. No matter. We made meaning.

Aziz, one of Jo and Lydia’s kids, took my hand as we walked and held on for half an hour or more. Father and son in my mind. Wow. Aziz’s older brother Ansou walked with us for awhile, often flashing a wide smile.

In front of one home, the family had a darling little girl. Several of us took turns holding her. Me too. What a treasure in my arms.

Mareama helped me yesterday to have a pair of Senagalese pantaloons made, and today she and I picked them up from the tailor. As you’ll see from the pic, I’m basically a handsome African fellow.

We’ll talk again soon.

Light Without … Light Within

I’m so much enjoying being online with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  We often reach a consciousness together that includes all and loves all.  Really, it’s addictive to be with other human beings in this expansive way, where I look through my laptop screen and see my brother or sister.

So … I was going to a concert last night at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in downtown Toronto.  It was a fundraising event for the Wounded Warriors, an organization committed to supporting veterans of combat, and first responders, who are walking the rough road of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The concert started at 8:00 pm.  Our EC call was scheduled from 7 to 8.  Google Maps showed me that there was a small park across the street from the hall.  “I’ll go there, be with my friends for fifty minutes or so, and then rush to my seat.”  How strange, part of my brain said.  Sounds like an addiction to me.  And I guess it is – an addiction to loving.

I found a bench in a well-lighted area of the park.  The Selfie view on my camera showed me that there was a lot of light falling on my face.  In fact, there was a lot of light everywhere.  The buildings were aglow, especially one which had a huge mural on its side, suggesting gift wrapping paper being pulled away to reveal the treasure within.  Yes, the image was surreal.  I thought of rearranging myself to offer a more neutral background but some deep part of me said no.

Just as the call was starting, with folks from all over showing up on my screen, a fellow came up to me:

“Can you spare some change?”

I said no.

“How about $20.00?”

“No, I don’t want to do that.”

“You need to give me money.”  (A louder and closer voice)

“No thank you.”

His face contorted and he moved still closer.

I walked away … briskly.

I was carrying my phone as I escaped and no doubt the online folks experienced flashes of pavement and grass.  A minute later, I was back to my spot and my aggressive companion was nowhere to be seen.

I guess my sudden departure scared people.  Sorry, folks.  “Nicole”, our hostess for the call, asked me if I was okay, if I was safe.  I said yes, with a big sigh bubbling up.

***

Soon it was time for the 1-1 portion of the call.  As I talked to “Ben”,  my fear began to fade.  We both marvelled at all the folks who were strolling by my bench.  I worried that me holding up the phone would look like I was videoing them, but then that contraction also floated away.

Somehow, and magically, both Ben and I experienced Toronto strangers as a flow of brothers and sisters.  They were with us, not against us.  And the lights of all these buildings in downtown Toronto seeped into our collective hearts.  I was the source of my well-being.  The gentleman wanting money didn’t carry the day.  I did.  And there was goodness all around me.

Pollyanna?
Naïve?
I say no
An inclusive future beckons us

Day Seven: Honorary American

I was so taken with the Waffle House restaurant that I decided yesterday to visit another of their stores – on the way from Cincinnati to Columbus, Ohio. Maple syrup and me!

I walked in the door and was soon greeted by all four employees: Jess, Juanita, Annabelle and Ashley. Four smilers. Beyond my menu choices was true contact – American to Canadian and right back atcha.

We joked around, I sang “O Canada” and other customers joined in the chuckling. How can I feel so at home in a chain restaurant hundreds of kilometres from home? Easy, when it’s populated by human beings.

As my mouth is waffling its way through breakie, Juanita appears with … a gift. It was a little paper hat, adorned with the stars and stripes. I was being declared an honorary American! Thank you, Juanita. I wore it proudly, both then and in Scarlet on the freeway.

And then it was time to hit the road. I exhibited the beginnings of wallet-emerging behaviour but Annabelle cut me off at the pass. “It’s on us.” I felt the twinges of protest but they blew away in the breeze. “Thank you.” We all waved goodbye … honorary and honoured, planetary human beings.

On to Columbus, a smile firmly planted on my face. Partway there, I pulled into a Shell station to get online with Evolutionary Collective folks. “Wear the hat, Bruce.” So I did. Soon, five other people were placing hats atop their heads – a ball cap, a couple of toques, a wide-brimmed jobbie and (from our friend in France) a beret. Well-hatted, we opened the hour with our companions. Sweet.

We affect each other
We see each other
We love each other

Day Six: The Riders

Today has arrived. I’m here in St. John’s to welcome the Tour du Canada riders as they climb Signal Hill and complete their cross-country trip to the tune of 7600 kilometres. These cyclists are my heroes.

I’m sitting in the Bagel Café, a few blocks from the start of the climb. I have my lawn chair and my feet are ready to go. I’ll talk to you at the top, or earlier if I’m pooped.

***

At the top! Complete with a pounding heart. It’s so humbling to be far less fit than I was two months ago … oh well. It’s still a fine life.

I’m pretty sure that Webster, when he was doing research for his dictionary, found the definition of “steep” on Signal Hill. An old gentleman, not from the tour, was riding his bicycle up the 10 to 15% grades. Later I saw him descend and I tried to warm him with applause. He didn’t acknowledge me at all. Once I was settled beside the ancient tower at the very top, I glanced over to the parking lot and saw him again. My goodness – he was doing laps!

On my way up, I passed lots of folks walking down. I decided to say the same dumb thing to each one of them: “You’re not even breathing hard!” Most of them smiled. That’s the thing about people new to me: they’ve never heard my silly lines before.

A few minutes after plunking my lawn chair down out of the wind, I see two more bicycles crest the parking lot. And these ones have the telltale TdC reflective triangles under the seats! I hurry down the path to the smiles and handshakes of Tony and Chris. So glorious to see them again. Neither has words yet for what the tour has meant to them. That’ll come.

Jim from Colorado is the next rider to top the hill. I head out into the wind with my hood up and sidle up to him. “Nice day to finish riding across the country.” “Yes it is, Bruce.” So much for surprising him. We stood on top of the tower and talked about the journey and about how very much Jim longs to be back with his wife Margaret. A little smile.

An hour later, there’s a whole string of cyclists climbing the hill. As they reach the top and dismount, the world is full of smiles and hugs and handshakes. I join in. “So happy to see you.”

The wind whips letters off a poster that family have created. “Congratulations, Carolyn” becomes “Con ratulatio s, arolyn.” A great family portrait ensues.

Then there’s Paul’s crew, all the way from Nanaimo, B.C. Large orange signs laud the achievements of “Paul/dad”. Three women are beaming at the man.

Soon it’s time for the group portrait. Nineteen cyclists, Bud our tour director and Grant our truck driver pose in front of the tower. I look on from afar, bittersweetness filling my mouth. Congratulations, my friends. May your monumental achievement touch the rest of your lives. I was part of your family for awhile. In fact, I’ll be part of your family forever.

Tonight’s the Tour du Canada banquet. I’m going. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Sleep tight.

The Danforth

I’m sitting in a coffee shop on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. Four hours ago I was having breakfast at the New Sarum Diner, near my home in Belmont, Ontario. I had just been joking with the server that I should have one of their real and delicious milkshakes, made with ancient equipment and metal tumblers, sort of a breakie dessert. And … I actually had a vanilla one. So good!

I was pleased with myself as the tall glass emptied. Just sat back and sighed. And then my eyes widened and the voice came through crystal clearly:

Go to the Danforth

Toronto is two hours from home. Sunday evening a young man took out a handgun and started shooting people on Danforth Avenue. A girl and a woman died. Thirteen others were injured. It’s Toronto’s second mass shooting in four months. Horrifying.

I’m at a counter by the window, watching traffic crawl by. Across the street is the Second Cup, where the gunman fired shots. The place looks so placid and normal right now. Couples walk by smiling. The terror is long gone … except in people’s hearts.

Why am I here? I don’t know. I could feel the pull from New Sarum.

It’s time to walk again. I wonder what I’ll find – on the street and in my soul.

***

Now I’m sitting on a bench steps away from where the shooter killed himself, surrounded by police officers. Above me, on the brown bricks of the Danforth Church, stretches a rainbow banner simply saying “PEACE”. Perhaps not such a simple thing to keep alive in the world. But then again, that’s up to us.

I search for the Demetres restaurant, where Julianna, 10-years-old, died. Why can’t I find it? Finally Google tells me to cross the street. Behind a large truck sits a building, its name covered with a green tarp. In front is an arc of flowers and candles, accompanied by chalk messages on the sidewalk. About ten of us stop to think of Julianna.

There’s a message on the glass door, written in white marker: “How many times have we walked through this door on a warm summer night like any other?” And another on the window: “Julianna – gone but never forgotten. Rest in peace, baby girl.” The tears come.

On the sidewalk, a chalked message says what I need to hear: “Love abounds.” An hour later, after a lengthy cloudburst, I walk by Demetres again. The love is longer visible but it’s there.

At the parkette near Danforth and Logan, a large fountain is embraced with flowers and messages. This is where 18-year-old Reese was shot and killed. “Dear beautiful Reese. You were brave. You will always be in our hearts.” Yes. Onlookers like me snap photos and go deep inside to grieve. I sit on a curved stone bench, perhaps in the very spot where Reese was chatting with her friends.

***

What now, Bruce?

Cast no one out of your heart
See the beauty of all who approach
Give them what they need

The World Cup of Spirit

I love watching the soccer games in Russia this week and I wonder what they can say to me about a transformed life.  Are there perspectives open to me that can bring alive the events of the game and point to other realities?

The World Cup is about nations, people cheering for their countrymen.  It’s about belonging to a group, and what a fine feeling that is.  But what if the group was … everybody?  We could cheer for all the great passes, shots and saves, no matter who made them.  We could cheer for players who push the ball forward, launch lots of shots at the net, throw themselves through the air for a header, rather than those who play defensively, hanging back, not risking a pass in heavy traffic.  I would like that.

I love watching the ball fly through the air.  When a right-footed player curves a ball towards the goal, and it looks like it will miss to the right, but then tucks inside the post, it’s a thing of beauty.  It makes me think of times when something I’m doing isn’t working out right but somehow providence intervenes and I’m being carried on the winds of goodness to a safe landing.

I love seeing the fans go crazy when their team scores – the ecstatic smiles, the hugging, the jumping up into the air.  Especially little kids, maybe with painted faces, their eyes so wide with delight.  What if we could have the same explosion of joy because we love each other – a celebration of including everyone in our human family?  No one left out.  What if a man or woman walks into the room and our immediate response is “You’re here!  I’m so glad to see you”?  That would be lovely.

Near the end of the Portugal – Uruguay game today, Edinson Cavani, who had scored both of Uruguay’s goals, fell to the ground, injured.  Portugal’s Ronaldo, acknowledged by some as the best player in the world, helped Cavani limp off the field.  What life is all about, I think.  Fierce competitors, yes.  Companions on the human journey, even more so.

And then there were the national anthems.  It looked like every player on both teams held their head high and belted out the familiar lyrics.  What if we all expressed ourselves that way, looking into the eyes of those around us and saying what was true, expressing ourselves without antagonism or a beating of the breast?  That would be so fine.

Sport points to the truths of transcendence and community and love.  May we have the eyes to see that winning and losing are pale shadows of what really matters.