Choosing “This”

Sometimes I look back on my life and ask what moments I’m most proud of. Right now, one stands out. Maybe thirty years ago, I had gall bladder problems. The pain was intense. I spent a few nights in hospital. I remember talking to a nurse who seemed sad, even depressed. I remember willing myself to contribute to her, to somehow lighten her load. My body hurt a lot but I managed to rise above that. How?

Abraham Maslow talked about a hierarchy of needs. If we’re really hungry or sore, he thought there was no way that our urge to love could come through. I loved your work, Abe, but I wonder. What beauty can we human beings create in the moment, no matter what the world is sending our way?

If my pain is 8 on a scale of 10, it’s some stretch to float my hand down a loved one’s cheek. But what if it’s 4? Do I need perfect comfort in order to give? I don’t think so.

In moments of heat or deflation, I often use a key word to remind me of what’s important. One is “this”. The opportunity is to embrace all that the present brings, rather than yearning for what is not here and not now … “that”. Another is “give”, which brings that dear nurse to mind. Am I willing to send love in virtually every circumstance? My goodness, what a challenge.

If I sit around waiting for life conditions to be perfect before moving towards another human being with care, I lose a lot of zest, connection and aliveness. Seems like a pretty expensive choice.


So … my future beckons. The world of people roams by my window. I choose to open the front door, walk down the path and say “Hi!”

Four Moments

I like moments.  When I pay attention to them, they slow me right down.  And some of them are magical … like these ones:

During my meditation retreat, my job was to stay present with what was happening in the now.  But sometimes I looked forward to next summer, when I’ll be crossing Canada by bicycle with an organization called the Tour du Canada.  Twenty-five of us will roll eastward from Vancouver, BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland.  Registration opened in October, but I was in deep silence then, and had no contact with the outside world.  Before I left for Massachusetts, I e-mailed the staff of the Tour and they assured me that I could register in December.

So a couple of days ago I filled out the form and wrote a cheque.  I had some of Jody’s books to send as well so I went to a post office in London.  There I was, envelope in hand.  I reached out to the postal employee, the paper was transferred to her … and the first step of riding the length of my country was complete.  Inside, I was transfixed.  My outsides handled the details of mailing stuff.  Within, though, time stood still.


Yesterday morning, I was at an elementary school, reciting “Twas The Night Before Christmas”.  As I signed in at the office, I noticed another name -an old friend of mine.  She was substitute teaching for the day.  I found out where her room was, and just before morning recess I walked in.  “Stephanie” was at the desk, hunched over some papers while a French teacher was finishing up a lesson.  I snuck up on her and just stood there.  She looked up, and the biggest smile crossed her face.  Up out of the chair, arms open wide, and we were hugging.  The moment of reunion.

As recess started, I noticed a Grade 7 girl standing near Stephanie and me.  I looked at her.  (Here comes another made up name.)  “Erin?”  She nodded through her smile.  It was the girl I auditioned with in September, for Jake’s Women.  Erin told me that she got the part of Molly and was so disappointed that I wasn’t chosen for Jake.  Her woe flooded me, and again time stood still.  Seeing Erin, I let my sadness come.  We hugged.


Later in the day I was at the workplace of a woman named “Dawn”.  I’ve thought about her many times over the last few months.  As of today, I’ve given away 790 copies of Jodiette:  My Lovely Wife.  Only once did I feel bad about the gift.  After I had left the person, I thought, “She didn’t want the book.  Why didn’t I pay more attention to her body language?”  I’ve lived by the credo “Do no harm” for years, and even more so after the retreat.  The person in question was Dawn.

I was sitting at a table, looking down at my snack, and became aware of someone standing in front of me.  I looked up.  Dawn looked down.  “I read your book this summer.  It really touched me.  Thank you for giving it to me.”

Oh my.  You never know if you’ve truly reached someone.  Until a moment like this.


Momentary snippets of life
May they keep coming