Dull

I told you a few days ago about my eyeglass adventures.  I need a new prescription but to keep my cool frame I had to send the glasses away for seven to ten days.  Since my only remaining pair is sunglasses, my visual life has two choices – dark and focused or light and blurry.

I’m on Zoom a lot with the Evolutionary Collective.  No sunglasses since with them I couldn’t see the screen and people wouldn’t be able to see my eyes.  Part of the time I’m in Gallery View, seeing anywhere from fifteen to forty-eight folks … fuzzy little rectangles.  When I’m doing a practice with a partner, that person is large in Speaker View, and also is fuzzy.  Not a real problem.

Watching tennis or a movie on TV, I need the focus, so on go the sunglasses.  My living room, day or night, is pretty dark.  Really only a minor inconvenience.

But something is happening to me over these days.  More and more, I’m vacant, faded, dull.  How very strange.  I’ve enjoyed working on my physical fitness over the past few Covid months but I’m a universe away from hopping onto the ski machine downstairs or my bicycle out on the roads.

I’m not tired.  I don’t have a headache.  No nausea.  No angst.  But I am slow, especially mentally.  There’s a floating feeling that’s not at all blissful.  And the slowness is not a graceful dance.  It’s a plodding.

There’s a sense of “Where am I?” without the wonder of spiritual mystery.  It takes me back many decades (1985), spending two weeks in a Vancouver hospital with a heart condition.  That time was far more urgent than what I’m experiencing now but there’s a parallel.  I remember being allowed out of bed, and my room, to sit in a wheelchair.  I was on morphine.  Spirits floated down the hallway, moaning.  Their feet never touched the ground.  Their gowns waved behind them as they passed by.  So slow the journey past my eyes.

Well, that sounds dramatic.  No painkillers in the here and now.  No see-through humans.  But the same vague distaste.  The same veil covering my aliveness.  The same feeling of not being home.

Costco … please hurry up

The Mall

I had to buy five greeting cards today.  I knew that Carlton Cards was in White Oaks Mall  so I headed there.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I realized I hadn’t been in a mall for months.  Jody and I used to go often but that time is no more.

I entered by way of the east entrance, as I had done a hundred times before.  Inside though, I began to feel strange. The t-shirt-making shop that I had used to create unique messages on my chest was empty. The folding transparent door stood like a guardian before the empty space within.  I remembered standing at that counter, now lost in a sea of bare floor.

I knew that the card shop was at the far end of the mall. “I’ll just walk through the food court like I always do.”  As I moseyed between the tables packed with eaters, I glanced at all the mini-stores on the edges. There was Taco Bell, Manchu Wok and New York Fries. Cloudy sky bathed us through the skylight.  Strangely, it felt surreal, almost a “Where am I?” feeling.  This conglomeration of commercialism would be so foreign in Senegal, even though perfectly normal here.

But it’s more than that.  My life just doesn’t include malls anymore. Yes, I went to Best Buy last week and bought a TV but all these stores crammed together in White Oaks seemed like a foreign country.  I’m certainly not a “better” person, but I am different from the fellow who five years ago strolled through malls as a form of entertainment.

I passed by well known brands:

The Body Shop with its infinity of fragrances
Cinnabon, home to the aroma of cinnamon buns hanging in the air
Walmart … where you can get almost everything you want
Tip Top Tailors and its racks of dark suits that I haven’t worn in twenty years
La Senza, with all the fancy bras and panties that a woman could ever desire
Yankee Candle. A whole store about candles?

This stuff isn’t a bad thing. I simply bought a TV rather than a suit. But it’s disorienting to me right now to walk amid the world of “more, better and different”.  It’s a bit of a mystery … what kind of person I’ve let go of, and who I’ve become.

Day Forty-Two: Home

It’s been such a long road, and now I’m back in my world of orange brick and red walls.

I arrived home late yesterday afternoon. In Senegal I had lost my house key but I knew there was a spare on my back patio, under the statue of the Buddha. Before seeking entrance, I stood on the street and looked at my dear sanctuary. I knew it very well … and yet I didn’t. I felt disoriented after weeks of other lands, other cultures.

I tipped Mr. Buddha and there sat the key. Reaching down, I discovered that it was firmly attached to the paving stone beneath. I stared. I whipped out a credit card and tried to pry the key loose. No go. My next thought was to knock on a neighbour’s door and ask for a flat screwdriver. As I walked down the driveway, I glanced back at the open garage and realized that my toolbox was sitting in there, complete with the instrument I needed. How strange … what was dulling my mind?

I knew there was a concert at the Cuckoo’s Nest folk club in London last night. Despite the long journey, I felt drawn to go. I didn’t even care who was playing. As I walked in, there was a deep breathing. Something was easy here, familiar. I sat down and looked around. My eyes were drawn to the huge stone fireplace. Many a time I’d heard melodies and harmonies while the stone framed the performers. I smiled a wee bit.

Then there were the big windows looking out on the night, with stained glass panels at the top. Another sigh. Finally the long wooden bar stretched out, reminding me of previous escapades in this very room with the Belgian beer Delirium Tremens.

The Andrew Collins Trio enchanted us with their instrumental treasures, including a Bach masterpiece arranged for two mandolins and the deep tones of a mandocello.

All was right with the world. The tunes and the wood and the stone were welcoming me home. I slumped in my chair and closed my eyes.

Forty-two days are done.

Upside Down

I’m a fairly intelligent person and I know how the world works.  You start with A and get yourself to B, whether that’s an easy task or something that requires great effort and creativity.  After that, it’s on to C.  Etcetera.

Or … maybe I’m wrong.  Life just might present us with stuff that doesn’t make any sense, that’s bereft of logic, often just plain weird.  Could it be that these moments are immense windows into another way of being?

I’m looking back at jolts, discontinuities, strangeness.  One happened a couple of days ago, when I was doing a Mutual Awakening practice with someone online.  I can’t even remember who that someone was, which is a bit of a jolt in itself.  In these practices, images often bubble up.  I’ve let go of figuring out where they come from.  This time, I saw a man looking at me with his eyes closed.  I could tell they were about to open.  Instead of the eyelids rising to reveal the eyes, they came down from the top.  When the eyes were fully visible, the lids didn’t stop at the bottom.  They continued down his cheeks, gradually showing an iridescent turquoise interior.  It was shining and it was huge.  Seeing into the man’s eyes, I realized that he was me.

My lips tightened.  My head tilted.  And I was transported to another place.  I knew almost immediately that I would talk to you about this mystery that takes the breath away.  Here it is Sunday and I’m talking.  It doesn’t matter how you react to this.  It’s clear to me that this break in normal reality needs to be communicated.

***

I’m thinking back to a vacation that Jody and I had in the Dominican Republic.  The dining room was close by a lovely pond bordered with tropical colours.  Long-legged pinkish birds walked in the shallows, seeking a fish buffet.  After a minute of watching the birds tense into their pouncing, I noticed their legs.  My mouth opened and I stared.  Their legs bent the other way … folding backwards.  What ever happened to A, B, C and D?

***

Last night, I went to a BeeGees tribute concert in London.  Towards the end, many of us were moving and grooving on the dance floor that was the narrow space between Row A and the stage.  One young man danced like … I don’t know what.  His fingers were jabbing in time to his neck moving back and forth, sort of like a chicken but not really.  More staring from me.

***

When the breaks in reality flood me, I get disoriented, wavery, hanging not so loose in some in-between space.  The questions explode in my head:  “Where am I?  What is this place?  How come I don’t recognize any landmarks?”

This is all okay
Just embrace the fog
Walk inside
It’s safe

Wobbled

The Grade 5 and 6’s often play volleyball in gym class and I get to participate.  I crouch when preparing to return serve.  My eyes bore into the opponent on the far side of the net.  My arms are extended, ready to bump or volley.  Every fibre of Bruceness is alert.

The contrast to athletic focus seems to have started during my long meditation retreats.  Sitting in the hall for as long as an hour several times a day, I sometimes felt a “shimmering down”, the falling of energy on my face.  It settled me.  Long sighs came from some place way deep inside.  Sitting here right now, the descending flow is with me.

More recently, in my work online with the Evolutionary Collective, I get to practice with someone for half an hour.  We ask each other the question “What are you experiencing right now?” and then see what emerges. In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been doing this practice with many different people, there have been transitions.  Away from “How am I doing?” and towards the essence of the person who faces me through the laptop screen.  Away from an urgent seeking for something to say and towards an allowing of the mouth to open, and a pause to see what wants to come out.  Away from doing it right and towards loving my partner.

If the volleyballer in me is seen as a perfectly vertical line, the gazer into eyes that I also am is a tilting, a wobbling.  Sometimes it’s even a gentle fall to the side, while knowing that my landing will be soft.  Often there is a sense of being cradled, of some sweet being crouching low to bring me softly to the ground.

Both while practicing with the EC and also just sitting around home, questions can wash over me:  “What’s happening?”  (No worry, no urgency, just curiosity)  “Where am I?” (Being lost and not needing to be found, okay with having no familiar landmarks)

It feels like some entity is behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain … wobbling me.  And I’m very willing to be moved, to be touched, to be influenced as I amble along.

***

Sometimes I write about things that happened in the past – events, people, experiences, feelings.  That’s good.  Even better, though, is being in the middle of what I’m talking about right now.  And so it is in this moment.  I’m disoriented, buffeted by some grand breeze, slumping here and swooning there.

All is well

Wall Art

Some changes are gradual.  I’ve gained thirteen pounds over the past few months and my fitness has declined.  Last week, I started with a trainer at my new fitness club.  “Derek” and I are looking longterm to get me stronger, more flexible and trimmer.  I won’t go from 178 to 165 by Sunday but June 3 is doable.

Life, however, isn’t just about increments.  Some changes are sudden, jolting and disorienting.  Transformations.  It’s like yelling “Ah ha!”  It’s being in totally unfamiliar territory, maybe a neighbourhood where you don’t recognize any of the street signs or buildings.  You’re swooning, groping inside a fog, asking yourself “Where the heck am I?”

I like symbols.  They point me towards truths that my brainy mind just can’t grasp.  Such a one showed up yesterday.  My sister-in-law Nona shared a post from designyoutrust.com on her Facebook timeline.  It was called “Before and After Photos Show the Power of Art to Transform Boring Buildings”.

This content is so visual, of course, and my writing is not.  But I’ll give ‘er a go.

Consider the blank wall.  It makes sure the offices and people don’t fall out.  But crazed painters see far beyond the cement.  Here are some jolts:

1.  From two-dimensional to three.  Imagine steps in the middle climbing high between two apartment buildings.  A pub full of celebrators on the ground level.  Folks on the stairs and leaning out of windows.  Flags and flower boxes.

2.  In real life, a small tree grows in front of a bare wall.  And then … Voilà! … a giant redheaded girl in a flaming dress is holding a watering can above the little one.

3.  A three-storey building is painted in robin’s egg blue.  Very nice.  Until one wall explodes as the night sky.  Blue, pink and green nebulae swirl against the blackness.

4.  A mass of grey disappears in favour of two orange stucco homes framing a river, bridges and the sky beyond.  A simple wall now vibrates, sucking me into the scene.

5.  And consider the hills of Palmitas, Mexico.  Whitewashed homes cover the rising land … briefly.  Part Two is a riot of pastel colours that swirl before my eyes.

***

Huh?
What is that?

The world now shines

Lost in Love

“Write about this.”

“I can’t write about this.  I’d get a paragraph done and then have nothing more to say.”

“Is this real?”

“Yes!  Supremely so.  It sings in my soul.”

“Sounds good.  Just begin and see where it goes.”

“Where it’ll go is fifty words tops.  Far better to write about that.”

“Does that sing?”

“Well … not really.”

“So what kind of writing would that be?  I’d call it CRAP!  Write what you love or shut up.”

“Hmm.  Okay.  Fifty words here I come.”

***

I was on the Evolutionary Collective Global call on the internet tonight.  There were thirteen of us.  We began with the teacher teaching a bit.  My face started pulsing.  A soft energy encircled my eyes.  There was a sense of falling.  My muscles were falling.  I was slow.  I was soft.  Woh …

“What’s happening to me?”  I still felt safe but the space around me was huge.  It seemed endless.  My eyes were glazing.  I felt like I was swooning, falling into a very deep hole.

And then it was time for the thirty-minute practice with one other person, selected randomly.  “Pam” and I started.  We looked way into each other’s eyes.  More falling.  The thought came: “I’m lost.”  And somehow delightfully so.  There was no danger.  The swirls of energy on my face intensified.  Sharp edges disappeared.  All was blending.

I became disoriented.  “Where am I?”  Again, no sense of deficiency.  Just floating free, untethered from the mother ship.  As I looked into Pam, she appeared as The Beloved.  There was no feeling of romance, no hint of sexuality.  There was merely and fully loving my friend, wanting all good things for her, wanting her to be supremely happy.

I teetered on the edge of unconsciousness.  No joy.  No bliss.  Instead, there was awe … and a supreme dissolving.  There was no Bruce.  There was no Pam.  There was simply love.

The group had an opportunity to share towards the end of the hour.  I told the folks what I’ve told you.  Others touched on a similar lostness.  We were falling together.

Two hours later, I’m not as deeply in, but the space still surrounds me.  I’m wondering how I’ve been able to type these words.  All is soft.  All is sweet.  All is well.

***

Hmm.  Quite a few more than fifty.