Love Spoken

I returning to volunteering in the Grade 6 class yesterday.  I was only gone for ten days but gosh I missed those kids!

“Jeremy”, the teacher, asked me if I’d like to say anything to the class about my trip.  Yes, I certainly did want to.  I could have talked about the beauty of the hills around Asheville, North Carolina as the trees were starting to turn.  But no, there were more important things to say.

I asked the kids if adults should tell children the truth, even if it’s possible that they wouldn’t understand.  The verbal and non-verbal messages coming back to me were clear: “Yes.”

I spoke about how the 32 of us in Asheville experienced a deepening of love, and not only for family and friends … for everyone.  It’s the type of love where you want the other person to be so very happy.  I told the kids that I loved each and every one of them.  It’s so clear in my heart that I want the best for them.

During the rest of the morning, sprinkled amidst the work that needed to be done, I had a few conversations with individual children.  As we talked about this and that, I felt great relief inside, and peace, that I had told them what was true for me.

***

Last night I was online with the Evolutionary Collective Global community.  I think there were fourteen of us.  Half of the hour is spent doing a practice with one other person.  After that, there’s the chance to share your experience.  I had my screen set up in Gallery View, so I could see everyone.  As different folks spoke their hearts, I just gazed at my friends … in awe and love.  Then I pressed the “Raise Hand” button:

“I’m looking at each of you in Gallery View, one after the other.  And I’m loving you, one at a time.  It’s why I’m here on the planet.”

Again, I spoke what was true, and again I sighed into the sweetness of it all.  Loving people is what I’m meant to do.

Eight years ago, when I went to my first meditation retreat in Massachusetts, there was a moment in the hall when an interior voice came through so clearly:

Love them all
Light the world

Let’s do that together

Day Nine Some More: Naked

Oh, I had clothes on last night, but three strangers got to see what I’m all about.

During the Mutual Awakening internet calls, the heart so often spills out. In response to “What are you experiencing right now?” adjectives such as “soft” and “flowing” describe, emotions such as “love” and “peace” bubble up, and images such as “a cobblestone path” and “the beating heart” sparkle before the eyes. We talk these experiences to our randomly chosen partner. It is so often intimate.

Once more, I was on the campus of Ohio State University, this time enjoying the library. I talked to a staff member about the possibility of reserving a small room from 7 to 8 so that I could be on the Evolutionary Collective Global call. She said that because I wasn’t an OSU student, I couldn’t reserve. “Just walk into an empty one, with no one booked for the hour you want. Probably no one will join you.” Cool.

So here was a small room, with space for twelve humans to sit around a square table. My 7:00 pm aloneness danced with the togetherness of fifteen internet friends from here, there and everywhere. All was well.

Then there was 7:10. Two young men and one young woman walked in and sat down, with their texts and laptops in tow. (Gulp)

The fear went deep. Was I doing something bad? Of course not. Was I speaking words that could easily be misinterpreted by someone unfamiliar with the practice? Yes, indeed.

The image came of the three of them rushing at me with a grey blanket, covering me up … shutting me up. I whipped off my earbuds and talked to them for a few seconds. “Some of this may sound weird. It’s about consciousness.” All three smiled and someone said it was okay. I breathed deep and returned to the call.

It was time for the 1-1 part of the hour to start. When “Karl” appeared on my screen, it was me talking first. “What are you experiencing, Bruce?” > “Terror.” I told him what was happening. Karl stayed with me, feeling into what I was experiencing, “being with” me. Thank you, Karl.

The students could only hear my end of the conversation, but there was plenty to absorb, such as a virtual blanket being shoved into my mouth, then a release, and then the sense of my hands reaching out to the students. I expressed love for Karl, all the while having the contraction of fear alternate with the ease of a lingering exhale.

Near the end of our pairing time, peace flooded me. The five of us showed up in my mind as a circle of humanity, our arms around each other.

There were a few minutes for sharing in the whole group. I told the story and flipped my phone around so everyone could see the young studious ones. And they were far more than that. Smiles all around. I thanked my new friends as I left the room.

I can do this. I can embrace life and speak my truth with folks who don’t know these practices. And I will emerge from such moments whole and complete, perhaps having planted a seed or two.

An Extraordinary Woman

I had coffee with a friend of mine today and talk turned toward her mother.  “Emily” is 86-years-old, a long retired teacher.  My friend glowed as she recounted her mom’s exploits.

Emily was about to graduate from Grade 13.  A recruiter came by to see if she would be interested in teaching in a rural schoolhouse – Grades 1 to 8.  Emily, age 19, said yes.  “It was pretty easy.”  Really?  Eight different lessons most of the time?  Apparently the older kids were brilliant in helping the younger ones.  It was just what you did.  And no yard duty at recess – the senior students watched out for the young’uns.

For part of her career, Emily taught in a region that had lots of black folks.  As a young adult, she was often approached by white parents who didn’t want their kid standing next to a black child in the school play.  Her answer was always the same:  “If that’s how you feel, you’ll have to take your child out of the play.  I’m not moving one student away from another for no good reason.  All children need to be respected.”  Pretty gutsy and marvelous from a young teacher.  Some parents complained to the school trustee who supervised Emily, wanting her to be removed.  The trustee remained firm in support of his teacher.  He no doubt knew a quality human being when he saw one.

At one point, Emily moved elsewhere and applied for a teaching position in the new district.  The board offered her a salary far less than what she had been receiving.  Emily simply said “No.”  If they wanted her to teach, they needed to pay her what she was worth, what she had been paid before.  The board caved in.

For the bulk of her career, Emily taught Grade 5 and 6 in a little village.  She loved the energy of those kids.  She taught the children of her former students, and even the grandchildren.  Virtually everybody in town knew Emily, and her kindness to all was legendary.

Emily’s had some mobility issues recently but she still gets out to the local grocery store.  Her daughter was worried about how mom was getting the groceries from the store into her car, but Emily allayed all fears: “Last week, I asked the cashier if someone could help me with the bags.  Further back in line, a 60-ish fellow said ‘It’s okay, Mrs. Smith, I’ll carry them out for you.'”  Emily had taught the gentleman fifty years ago.  Love lives on.

Dear Emily, I hope you write a book about your storied life.  I’ll be the first in line to buy a copy.  Thank you for giving who you are.

Unlike Them?

I enjoy reading many of the articles in The Athletic, a sports website.  They go far beyond the score and the thrilling plays to find the human beings.  That’s what I’m interested in – how other lives can relate to mine, how there are lessons out there for me to learn.

Yesterday I read about Tyler Parsons, a 21-year-old prospect with the Calgary Flames hockey club.  A couple of years ago, while I following the progress of the London Knights (my local junior hockey team), Tyler was the goalie.  I loved seeing his spectacular saves and he seemed like a good person.  And that’s where my pondering about him ended.  But who knows what’s beneath the surface of our skin?

The article laid bare Tyler’s emotional life, with his blessing.  It was so unlike the culture of male professional sports, where one need to be tough, without feeling, totally focused on achievement.

“I finally spoke up.”  Indeed he did, and well done, young man.  Here’s what he had to say:

I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me.  I’m better now.  But before all this happened, I thought mental health and all that stuff was a bunch of bullshit.

One thing builds into another.  You start with a small issue, and it seems to just build up and build up and build up till it becomes physically and mentally painful.

Problems in your life are what molds you.  I’ve been through so much in my life in such a short span that it grew me as a person.

If I wouldn’t have opened the doors and started talking, I wouldn’t be sitting in this chair right now doing this interview.  I probably wouldn’t be playing hockey.

I’m not going to sit back here and hold it in when my words, my story, can change somebody else’s life.  If I can help somebody get out of that state, possibly save their life … because there were many times when I was in that state that I didn’t want to be alive.

It seems to me that when the world is collapsing, it’s just ME … my feelings, my woes, my long victim-laden story.  Tyler has found a way to spend time in US … empathy, kindness and compassion.  May we all find this togetherness.

 

 

 

 

Unlike Them

Last night, during a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Florida Panthers, Maxi Domi of Montreal tried to goad Aaron Ekblad into a fight.  As they tussled, Max punched Aaron with his glove on.  But Ekblad didn’t want to fight.  Then Domi whipped off the glove and smashed him in the face with his bare fist.  Aaron was bleeding and left the game for concussion testing.  Max was ejected, and today was suspended for five games.

The culture of hockey has always included fighting.  The general expectation is that you stand up for yourself, that you fight if provoked.  But here comes a fellow who doesn’t want to play that game.  He wants to play hockey.

What does it take to create a paradigm shift?  Well, a few brave souls for one thing.  I don’t know of another sport where fighting is acceptable, where assaulting another human being is seen by many as “being a man”.  Congratulations, Aaron.  By saying no to violence, you’re beginning to create a new groove in the sport, one that will deepen as more courageous athletes join you.

Speaking of shifts, a couple of days ago, the teacher I volunteer with presented the kids with little plastic boxes for the books they’re reading.  His first question was “Who wants a pink one?”  As well as a few girls, six boys put up their hands.  I wonder how many of them would have done that 20 years ago.  (Zero)

Who are other pioneers of change in our world?

1. Women who opt for careers in areas traditionally dominated by men, e.g. police officers, plumbers and professional coaches

2. Men who opt for careers in areas traditionally dominated by women, e.g. hairstylists, primary school teachers and ballet dancers

3.  Men who cry

4.  Women who demand to be heard

5.  Kids who have ideas for bettering our world and speak of them assertively

6.  Elders who dive into sports

7.  Folks with a physical handicap who get out there and make things happen

8.  Religious leaders who see God in other faiths

9.  Politicians who applaud the good ideas coming from members of other parties

10.  Those of us who think of all of us

Come on down, you movers and groovers!

 

Parallel

I was sitting in the living room this morning with Ihor, my Toronto B&B host. We talked about life. He mentioned that his all-time favourite teacher was Mr. Whiteside in Grade 7. He helped the kids feel like human beings, like they mattered.

Years later, Ihor saw Mr. Whiteside on the subway one evening. He was snoozing. Ihor decided to leave him alone. He no doubt was exhausted from a day of teaching, marking and creating lesson plans. The intended message was simply “Thank you.” But there was no joyous giving and no likely joyous receiving. Ihor was sad in the years proceeding that he didn’t speak up.

I listened … and remembered the same. It was about 1970 and I was a student at the University of Toronto. As I approached an old stone arch on campus, I looked through to see “a little old man” coming towards me from the other side. Closer, I recognized the fellow: it was Lester Pearson, the recently retired Prime Minister of Canada. Pearson had been a leader in promoting peace in the world. He was a true Canadian hero. “Say something, Bruce!”

And now we were both entering the arch. I looked towards him with a dry mouth … and averted my gaze as we passed by. (Sigh) My sadness lingered for many years.

Ihor nodded.

Then he began again. “Many years later, I was walking on the Lake Huron sand near Wasaga Beach. A guy was walking towards me. It was David Crombie, known as ‘the tiny perfect mayor’ of Toronto. Visions of Mr. Whiteside. I walked right up to him and said ‘Hi.’ David smiled back and we had a good talk.”

I nodded.

Then I shared the story which took place in Bruno’s Fine Foods, a few decades after Mr. Pearson. I wheeled my shopping cart into the next aisle, and there at the far end was a little old man, pushing his. Closer. I knew him. It was King Clancy, a former player and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now he was 80 or 90. He reached for his shelf and I reached for mine. Soon we were cart to cart …

“Hello, Mr. Clancy.”

(Big smile) “Hello.”

“Thank you for your contributions to the Leafs and to hockey.”

“You’re most welcome.”

And we talked some more.

***

Lesson learned, eh, Ihor?
May we always remember

Two Folks

I met two fine human beings today. In the spirit of “scarcity”, I could tell you about one of them now and the other tomorrow. Then it would be smooth sailing. I wouldn’t have to create a topic from the events of Saturday.

I’m now shaking my head “No”. That’s not how I want to write this blog. Right now, I’ll talk about what’s fresh … and that means both people. Tomorrow something else will emerge.

***

I’m staying at my friends Anne and Ihor’s B&B in Toronto. Last night I met another guest and she beat me to breakfast this morning. Lucy is from Beijing, China. She’s been here for a week, helping her son get established at his new school. I couldn’t help it – I had to find out her Chinese name. “Zhao Yu.” I asked which name she preferred and it became clear that her English was very basic. Eventually she understood my question, and said “Lucy is okay.” After a bit more prodding from me, she smiled and said “Zhao”.

I struggled to understand Zhao’s English and yet I could glimpse the full human being across the table. She worked so hard to have me get her messages. At one point, she got a container of raspberries out of the fridge and offered them to me. So sweet of her.

Zhao had bought bacon at the grocery store but didn’t know how to cook it. Our hostess Anne was going to help out here. I could feel judgments creeping into my brain but as I let them be there they soon floated away. The woman simply hasn’t had any experience with bacon.

Zhao was all excited that I live in London, a two-hour drive from Toronto. She wants to visit there someday. Anne pulled out maps of Ontario and the world and it became clear that Zhao thought I lived in London, England. Again judgments intruded and again quiet looking allowed them to fade.

Zhao is an accountant in Beijing and had stories about the city of 30,000,000 souls. Absolutely crammed sidewalks, roads and subway cars. Clearly this was an intelligent woman and the real problem was my inability to grasp her words. She was groping through a language that was foreign to her, offering me raspberries along the way. Thank you, Zhao!

At one point in our meeting of minds, I learned that Zhao was scared last night as she walked along Weston Road near the B&B. The reason? Because there was virtually no one on the street. Anne explained that in this intense heat people stayed indoors.

Toronto (3,000,000) is in between my home Belmont (2800) and Beijing. I experience Toronto as crammed with folks and Zhao sees it as empty! Perspective is a lovely thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Zhao. We hugged our goodbyes.

***

I just spent an hour with Barry in the Tim Hortons at Bloor Street and Dufferin. I was sitting at a table with my only company being a toasted bagel. Since the place was full, he asked if he could join me. I was happy to say yes.

Barry said it’s important to ask permission, not just to barge in, and I immediately liked him. I sensed that here was a fellow with cool things to say. Good sensing, Bruce.

My new friend tows large passenger planes away from their berths at Toronto Airport. It’s a job with a huge responsibility to keep people safe. Barry’s been doing it for thirty years and knows how to avoid accidents and deal with emergencies. He quietly admitted that he’s saved a few lives along the way.

The more Barry talked, the more I sensed that he’s been the topic of conversation at many supper tables over the years … all complimentary, I’d guess. He’s stood up for probational employees and taken more than a few of them under his wing to teach them the subtleties of the trade. He’s told his charges that if there’s a big problem, and only one tow-er of the two gets to come home that night, it’ll be the one who’s learning. He takes care of his guys.

Barry’s the one that management calls on when there’s a bomb scare and a plane has to be moved away from the terminal and far out on the tarmac. It’s volunteer work and he always raises his hand.

I was sitting across from love and courage. It was a privilege to be there. We shook hands goodbye, with deep respect flowing through them.

***

I’m going to a folk music concert tonight at Hugh’s Room
Will another vessel of motherhood or brotherhood come by?
I say yes

Stand Up

Sue-Ann Levy writes for the Toronto Sun newspaper.  She speaks her mind about the city’s ills, such as guns and violence.  Another straight shooter is our new Ontario premier, Doug Ford:

We’re coming after you.  We’re going to catch you and you’re going to end up in jail … If I were you, I’d think twice before you pull out a gun because you’re going to get caught.

On Thursday Ford announced that the province was committing $25 million for Toronto to fight gangs and violence.

And what was Sue-Ann’s take on Ford’s announcement?

There was no hug-a-thug talk about the root causes of violence …

There was no deferring to political correctness and blaming systemic racism and poverty for the epidemic of gun violence in Toronto …

It’s about time somebody had the balls to do something.

Indeed.  I’m a Buddhist, a man of peace.  That does not mean, however, turning away from the injustices in the world.  If someone does something that hurts others, there need to be logical consequences for that behaviour.  Just like in school: If you beat on a kid at recess, you don’t get to go on the class trip.  In extreme circumstances, the police are involved.

The tyrants of the world, whether down the street or in the halls of government, need to be resisted.  Canada needs to have sanctions against regimes that allow the abuse of human beings.  The “Letters to the Editor” section of newspapers should be full of reasoned responses to hurtful words and actions, responses that don’t demean anyone but that call a spade a spade.

I believe we’re meant to express what’s true for us, rather than hesitating because someone won’t like what we’ve said.  In my life, some people love me and some have no use for me.  I leave my detractors alone.  They will not prevent me from looking at the current moment and expressing my reactions to it.

Waydago Doug and Sue-Ann.  And my mom agrees.  She always said “Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” which for the uninitiated refers to a big basket.  Thanks, mom.  You were right.

 

Unknown

All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4% of the universe.  The other 96% is made of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend.

These mysterious substances are called dark energy and dark matter.  Astronomers infer their existence based on their gravitational influence on what little bits of the universe can be seen, but dark matter and energy themselves continue to elude all detection.

“The overwhelming majority of the universe is: Who knows?” explains science writer Richard Panek, who spoke about these oddities of our universe on Monday at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) here in Manhattan.  “It’s unknown for now, and possibly forever.”

Clara Moskowitz

***

We have an enormous amount still yet to discover and understand.  For instance, science now knows that 96% of the known universe is invisible.  It’s called dark matter and dark energy, and it’s called “dark” because you can’t see it.  But here we are, in the 4% that’s visible, and I say to people: If we’re going to make materialism our life path, we’re essentially giving our lives over to the 4% solution.  Because the 96%, the invisible part, we’re just completely ignoring.

Duane Elgin

***

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns.  There are things we know we know.  We also know there are known unknowns, that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.  And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Donald Rumsfeld, former United States Secretary of Defense

***

Difficult indeed.  And if Duane is right, and we can legitimately move from the physical universe to how we lead our lives, what now?  How do I do, feel and think on this planet if immense mystery surrounds us?  Do I swan dive off the solid cliff into the mists below or do I hunker down in my all-inclusive?

The task of letting go seems monumental.  Maybe I can start exercising my 96% muscle by simply doing one thing in a new way.

I get together several times a week with the online global community of the Evolutionary Collective.  For the latter part of our hour, we can share in the large group.  You simply click on the “Raise Hand” button.  Tomorrow, when the time comes, I’ll click even if I have no idea what to say.  That’s a start.

***

Love is always a leap into the unknown.  You can try to control as many variables, and understand a situation as you can, but you’re still jumping off a cliff and hoping that someone catches you.

Lisa Kleypas

 

Who Is It That I Say I Am?

Who is this Bruce, anyway?

Conventional wisdom points to what I’ve done, what I’ve said … an accumulation of the past.  Sounds logical.  Perhaps, though, I can choose to move beyond reason.  Could it be that hidden beneath “unreasonable” things, the truth abides?

Maybe “Bruce” is fresh at every moment, a flow leaning into the future.  Nothing to do with my mistakes, insensitivities and misadventures – all stuff that’s dead because it’s in the past.  Beyond the reality that society honours, I could simply be a spiritual presence, moving in love.

What if a thousand people said to me “Don’t be silly.  You are your history, your body, your ideas, your joys and sorrows, your relationships, your home … the sum of your life experiences.  There is nothing else!  Grow up and march to the music.”

And what if I said:

No

I seek companions on this journey and I believe I’ve found one.  Her name is Beatrice Bruteau.

The emotional personality may feel like life to us.  The life story that is called by our name may seem to be our only way of conceptualizing our life.  That is why it seems that we would be losing our life if we were to give up identifying ourselves in these ways.

[The word “metanoia” means “a transformation of the heart”]

Metanoia is a shift in our sense of where our selfhood is located, from the dead periphery of the personality description to the living core of transcendent and creative freedom.  The metanoia is said to be like dying and being reborn.  It is a shift in our sense of real being, our sense of being alive, from the emotional personality to the transcendent spirit … By seeming to die, we release ourselves from identification with the dead, and by realizing ourselves as transcendent persons, we establish ourselves in true life and can begin to do divine things.

Airy fairy … dumb … pie in the sky … true … ridiculous … infantile … lost marbles

***

Is the pull of the past so strong that brand new things can’t enter the world?
Is the pull of collective opinion so overwhelming that anything else is rejected?
Am I strong enough to stand with Beatrice?
What could happen if I did?