B-ball

Today I went to the lunch hour practice of the recently named girls’ basketball team at school – a whole bunch of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds. They’re such nice kids, each very much her own person. Some of them are shy and some are a force of nature. Both are perfect. They’ll all be fine adults.

Most of my life is medium intensity – no incredible spurts and no lolling around. Today was different in the presence of these girls. Take defense for example: arms full out, fingers inches from the opponent’s face, eyes wild. Unlike an NBA arena, I got to be intensely close to the action. And it was exciting. It mattered not a whit that these players were 4’10” rather than 5’10”. The fire burned … and there was no way the opponent was going up for an uncontested basket.

On offense, there’d be stutter steps and surges to the left or right of the defender – blasting into another gear. The ball would go high off the backboard and either clunk off metal or swish in the middle of things. It was all speed … and at such close range for this guy sitting on the stage.

Isn’t it supposed to be true that when I get “older” I settle into being mellow for the rest of my life? Perhaps not. Maybe there’s lots of room for explosions, sprints and orgasms of the spirit.

Bring ’em on.

Fresh

Take one aspect of your life where it’s been “same old, same old” for a long time.  It’s comfortable but there’s something missing.  You’re going through the motions.  Little frustrations nip at you but you don’t seem to have the energy to make a change.  That pretty much sums up my experience at the fitness club.

Jody and I started going to this gym about ten years ago.  It was fine – a reasonable variety of machines, super low cost, friendly staff.  After my dear wife died, I simply carried on, sometimes sporadically, usually without much enthusiasm.

Yesterday, a voice inside said “You’ve been sleepwalking.  Wake up.”  So … I got my gym clothes together and set off for a workout.  I considered it an experiment in paying attention.

A staff member whom I really enjoy was at the front desk.  She was all excited about a job she’d just got at a high end pub in London.  She wasn’t sure if she’d also continue working at the club.  “Really, I feel done here.”  Could that be my voice speaking?

I thought of the many staff members I know.  They’re fine people.  A few of them have been especially kind to me.  Is that enough of a reason to stay?

This visit I really looked around.  The main room was sort of … dark.  A few machines had “I’m sick” signs attached to them.  Was I creating a reality here or was the environment just plain blah?  And so what if it was?  The most important thing is what I create, rather than what the surroundings offer back to me.

I went into the locker room to change.  The soap dispenser took several seconds to deliver a dollop to my palm.  Assuming I’m a fairly mature person, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Maybe this is all mental.  Nevertheless, I kept looking.  The paper towels wouldn’t rip properly from their machine.  Cubicle doors banged hard when they closed.  Months ago, I asked the manager to buy some little fuzzy pads for the doorjambs but she never did.

After stretching, I reached my favourite elliptical machine.  I knew it was my favourite because none of the others worked perfectly well.  That’s okay.  At least I had my own personal steed.  After pressing the start button, I realized that the intensity was too high.  My first few minutes are usually a stroll in the park, but immediately it was a grind.  Soon I got into the flow pretty well, but on the cool-down, I had to struggle rather than relaxing into the end.  Hmm.  Are inanimate objects in the habit of sending coded messages to human beings?  Perhaps.

The last couple of months, I’ve been going to a sports medicine clinic for my knee.  I’m not really worried about the joint because after all I have a spare on the other side!  This clinic is located in a downtown fitness club.  Guess I’ve been sleepwalking on that journey too but today I decided to go there and ask for a tour.  I opened my eyes upon arrival.  This is a “clean, well-lighted place”.  (A quote from Ernest Hemingway).

A smiling receptionist (who earlier in the day I had sung with as I left my physio appointment) ushered me to a little table.  Right away, another smiler approached me with her hand out in greeting.  “Jessica” made gentle eye contact and clearly had no interest in some canned sales talk.  Actually she did more listening than talking.  And there was absolutely no sense of hurry about her.  I realized that she was “seeing” me, something I deeply value.  As members walked by us, my new friend greeted many of them, and clearly each was happy to see the other.  Hmm again.

As we talked, I counted many smiling conversations happening near me.  And there were a lot of folks here to exercise.  I listened to the energy in the building and it was happy.  Jessica was happy.  Gosh, I was getting happy.

At one point, I said “Okay, sign me up.”  Jessica looked over and said something like “Really?”  There was an amused and quizzical look on her face.  I had sensed into the truth of this place.  This could be home.  I didn’t need the grand tour or pricing options or a long list of benefits.  I knew.

I had my tour.  I signed on the dotted line.  I clutched my free gym bag and water bottle to my chest.  All of that was fine.  But Jessica’s care and the glowing passersby did the deed for me.

I had walked in the door at 6:55 pm.  I walked out at 9:00.  Towards the end of the evening, something that Jessica said made me wonder, and I had to ask the question “Was your shift over at 7:00?”  >  (Pause)  “Yes.”

I intend to pass all this goodness on to the people I meet here.  Naturally I want to get fitter but more than anything I want to create a new community for myself, to contribute to the members and staff every time I walk in the door.  It’s a fun thing to do.

Singing Like There’s No Tomorrow

I ask myself what can launch me into an altered state of consciousness. But it’s more than that. The deepest beauty is being launched into a state of communion with another human being, or with a group of them. What can propel me into the power of selfless love?

Seeing a person perform an act of kindness is one trigger. Or even reading about it. Looking way deep into another’s eyes is also transforming. And then there’s singing. Eighteen months ago, I stood alone on the outdoor stage at Tanglewood in Massachusetts … and I sang. It was Someday Soon by Ian Tyson. My audience was two.

I gave it all I had – loud, head up, joy on my face:

So blow you old blue northern
Blow my love to me
He’s driving in tonight from California
He loves his damned old rodeo
As much as he lives me
Someday soon, going with him someday soon

Singing so lustily opened something in me. There was a freedom beyond thought. I sang to my friends at the back of the hall, and I believe they “heard” … to the depths of their being.

Cynthia Bourgeault has something to say here:

We know in a very personal way that singing will often bring into play a heightened range of emotion not accessible through speaking alone. The lyrics of a song – say, “Silent Night” – can look bland and harmless on a page, but when you actually sing them (particularly with others), a magical transformation occurs.

On Saturday evening, I saw two films. I’ve written about the first one – Stan and Ollie. The second was A Star Is Born. Lady Gaga plays Ally, an aspiring singer who catches the eye and heart of a famous rocker (Bradley Cooper as Jackson). She’s written a song. He’s created an arrangement for it. And during a concert, he challenges her to come onstage and sing it with him. The lyrics open with the man singing and soon it’s time for the woman’s response. As the moment approaches, Ally is trembling offstage. Suddenly her face tightens and seconds later she walks towards the microphone. On cue, her voice and soul explode to the audience. Face shining, mouth wide open. Nothing held back.

We in the theatre and they in the stadium are transported. There’s thunderous applause in the company of a woman who’s flooding the world.

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

Infinitely far from the shallow. “Up where we belong”. My head rises. My heart beats in unison with Ally’s. There’s work to be done in this world and I’m here to do my version of it. Thank you, Lady Gaga.

New York City

I’m back from nine days there and the feeling is so strong: I love the place. I think about it right now and start smiling. Woh. This is strange. I’ve been to other amazing cities over the years, such as San Francisco and Toronto, but none of them have forced my eyes open wide. Not even Vancouver, where the mountains meet the sea. I lived there for two years but it didn’t leave me shaking my head. But New York does.

So many people rushing down the street, ignoring red lights and “Don’t Walk” signals. Homemade signs next to giant neon. Impatient drivers honking at trespassers every minute or two. The wail of sirens flying to the next emergency. Subway trains available 24/7, and absolutely packed at rush hour. Musicians moving and grooving in the tunnels as five million people a day stream past. Impossibly tall buildings smushed up against each other, some built a hundred years ago. Canyons of wind. Seemingly a pub on every corner. The best bagels I’ve ever tasted. Endlessly helpful people for the Canadian who’s trying to find his bearings. Times Square! Broadway!

I’m a meditator. I like quiet. So what’s going on? How can this hustle and bustle feel like home? How come I slept through the noises of the night? Where, oh where, is this head of mine?

The rational mind can’t figure this out. And that’s fine. I’ll just let the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park beckon me back to the city … sometime soon. Next time I’ll come with a companion and we’ll trip the light fantastic. New York deserves all of our joie de vivre. I’m up for it.

Power

I was walking to the library yesterday afternoon when I came upon a schoolyard, of the cement persuasion. Through the chain link fence, I saw about a hundred pigeons – most of them grey, some white and a few golden brown. There didn’t seem to be any food to eat. They were simply hanging out. I smiled. They were just like us. We come in all shapes and colours and we too like being close. Really doesn’t matter what we’re doing as long as we’re together.

I was feeling all warm and fuzzy. Then, on a hunch, I glanced upwards. The fence was twelve feet high, and along the top rail sat maybe eighty more brothers and sisters. Peace evaporated as my brain sent me straight to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds, where flocks of crows terrorized a small town.

Ahh … the mind. An instant association and I’m transported from heaven to hell. It feels like I’m triggered many times a day. The past leaps up and grabs my throat. Doesn’t seem to be a very wise way to live.

I say the question is how long do I linger within the horror of Hitchcock . How quickly do I return to the beauty of pigeon heads nestling down in their feathers to ward off the cold? Let’s have it be speedy fast.

I ask myself where “source” is in my life. Is it me or is it all the events of my day? Where does my experience of living begin? What if I really get that the power is right here in this body and heart of mine? What surges of energy would be made available if I stopped feeding a good/bad analysis of my moments with people, places and things?

Woh. Bring it on.

The Hip … A Step Forward

It’s intermission time at London’s Aeolian Hall. I’m here to see The Strictly Hip, a tribute band for Canada’s great rock group The Tragically Hip. It’s been decades since I’ve been to a rock concert (other than dancing to Five Alarm Funk at Sunfest) and here I am in the front row.

Straight ahead of me, fifteen feet away, a young man wields an impossibly long bass guitar, his head bobbing and weaving. The lead guitarist plays some incredible licks with a macho flair that has the girls swooning. The drummer is brilliant. Still, the star of the show is the Gord Downie lookalike, complete with cowboy hat. I can barely make out the words but he’s belting out the hits as folks wearing Hip t-shirts move their bods in front of the stage.

Sometimes I close my eyes and feel the pulse of the drum in my heart … it moves right through me. The guitar runs, the deep bass parts and Gord’s strident vocals flood me with the juice of life.

***

And now it’s later. A little girl is jumping up and down by the stage and Gord reaches down to shake her hand. She bounces giddily back to her seat. The way ahead of me is crowded with dancers. A couple slow dances for a slow song. Friends jump straight up and high five for the fast ones.

I don’t know the songs but clearly just about everyone else does. I don’t feel like dancing and I wonder if that’s because of my recent ankle and knee problems. I take a second to poop on myself and then that smallness magically disappears.

I’m loving the energy in the room but then a thought comes: this group surge is nowhere near what I feel when I’m online with members of the Evolutionary Collective global community. That energy bubbles up from within. Tonight’s source is the wild band in front of me and their songs – some raucous and some tender. The truth is that I don’t need rock concerts to expand. Just give me a few open-hearted folks and I’ll bring forth love. A subtle and yet immensely powerful surge.

I continue to change in the world. Old versions of me are honoured and included in what’s emerging. Thanks, Gord and friends, for being on the journey with me.

Tomorrow?
A delightful mystery

Next year?
Perhaps a Bruce I can’t even imagine

Bring it on

Energy In … Energy Out

Last Wednesday I was sitting in my bike shop, talking to my good friend and mechanic Sygnan.  He’s done so much marvelous work for me over the years and our conversations are rich.

What are you going to do tonight, Sygnan?

I’ll watch a movie at home.

DVD?

No, I have a box.

And so we began chatting about the wonders of an android box, through which just about every film in existence, including those still in theatres, is available  for home viewing.  Plus it’s legal.

My heart quickened.  I admit I was zeroed in on Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, but any movie?  What an orgy of delight!  I love love stories … bet I’ll be able to find a hundred great ones.  I love history stories … the whole past of the world will soon be laid out before me.  Night after night of watching the best in cinema.  Heaven.

Sygnan told me where to buy the android box and I headed there forthwith.  The salesman was knowledgeable and friendly and soon I was heading home with my treasure.  I plunked the valuable little device on my washer and knew that tomorrow I’d hook everything up.

Thursday was a busy day and that evening I just didn’t feel like figuring things out, so the box continued its sojourn with the washer.

Friday I had places to go and people to meet.  No time for reading long instruction sheets.

Saturday I glanced at the washer as I was heading out and thought “That’s odd.  I haven’t done a darn thing to make this happen.  Oh well.”

And then there’s today.  As I allowed my eyelids to part in the early hours, and as my brain started to put two and two together, it came to me:

I don’t want to watch endless movies

I lay there and thought deep about the person I’ve become.  My excitement as I drove from the bike shop to the computer store was an unconscious variety.  An old version of Bruce was gung ho for an old version of what was fun … prolonged sessions of absorbing the best in cinema.  Apart from my aberrant interest in the latest Mamma Mia, I don’t want to sit on my couch letting the energy flow into me.  I want energy to flow out of me … to my fellow human beings.  I want to participate with other voyageurs in the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  I want to sit down and have heart-to-hearts with local folks.  I want to write these blog posts, every day if I’m up to it.

(Speaking of “Bruce’s Blog”, you’ll be happy to know that, on average, I’ve posted every day for the last 69.  Occasionally I’d miss a day, but in the spirit of anality perhaps, I’d double up the next day.)

So, for the remaining 38 years of my life (good luck on that), I intend to put things out there far more than drawing in movies, books, newspapers and TV sports.  And if I’m reading a book or watching some remarkable recently released musical, I’ll do so in the spirit of being nourished so that I may nourish others.

Who I was yesterday is not who I am today
Who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow
I wonder who that person will be

Shaking Again

After I quit the Tour du Canada, my body took over.  I was so scared on those B.C. highways, and my right hand shook sporadically for days afterwards.  Pure stress.  Pure imagining my death on the side of the road, brushed aside by a semitrailer.

Today was worlds away from terror, but the result was magnified: my whole body shook.  I’m taking a course on relationships – it’s live on the Internet.  For some of the time, we do a practice with one other person, who could be living anywhere in the world.

A woman and I were having a fine old time this afternoon.  In response to her question “What are you experiencing right now?” I found myself clinging to a huge ball, and so was she, and so were many other folks.  As my mind let go, our arms lengthened and soon we were all holding hands … and smiling. The ball was rolling and there was a great sense of ease among us.  When the ball rolled over someone, he or she would pop up laughing.  Nobody knew where we were going but we all knew it would be good.  We were safe.

I’m loving these images when suddenly some huge energy ripped through me.  My arms, my legs, maybe even my internal organs were vibrating madly.  And this lovely human being was watching me unfold from her side of my laptop.

I had experienced something like this before, during a long meditation retreat.  But now I was on public display.  Embarrassment flew from me to her but my friend stayed with me.  I could feel her calm presence inside my head.  “No thing is wrong,” she said.  So comforted, I let go into it.  I wanted to name the energy, figure it out, but that mind subsided … and I just shook.  And then, near the end of our conversation, it stopped.

Back in the large group, it was time for sharing.  I decided to tell the folks about my ungluing, from the safety of “This happened back then.”  So I did.  Partway through my words, the shaking resumed.  “Here it is again,” I told my companions.  Now it was naked time.  Something that others might label as negative was coursing through me … right now.  No escape from the eyeballs of my fellow travellers.

Soon it was on to the next sharer but I knew that if the participants had their screens set for “Gallery View” they’d continue seeing all of us, in little rectangles.  My head jerked a bit and my arms wouldn’t stop.  The laptop on my thighs jiggled.  Some energy, of a spiritual nature I thought, was having its way with me.  I closed my eyes and let it be there, also trying to be okay with the attention of others settling on my trembling body.

There is no badness here, no deficit.  Our evolving group consciousness seems to be stirring something deep inside me.  “Well, Bruce, let it stir away.  Who knows what worlds you’ll visit?”

Hours later, I’m still.  In the days to come, as I go back online with these folks, the universe will decide how it wants to use me.

Energy Spikes

I wonder what I mean by that title.  The words just came to me.  They don’t seem to be about running the 100 metre dash in ten seconds, or lifting twice my body weight.  Some other energy is afoot.  I sense a sudden inbreath of astonishment – a moment that moves me, jolts me, and in some sense frees me.

***

We had a farewell assembly today for the teachers who were leaving, including our marvelous resource teacher, who offers certain kids extra academic help.  At the end of the ceremony, she was sitting right beside me by the wall of the gym.  From the far side, a Grade 5 girl rushes over in tears and gives the teacher a long, gentle hug.  The 11-year-old’s love shone from her.  It was a holy moment, and a privilege to witness.  How we can touch each other.

***

Yesterday a neighbour of mine died.  He was so sweet to everyone, and always interested in how my life was going.  His granddaughter goes to my school and I couldn’t imagine her showing up for the final day.  But she did.  “Emma” sat there in the assembly, looking vacant.  At lunch recess, I knew I wanted to say something to her but the yard was a flurry of kids.  What chance did I have of finding her?  After aimlessly walking around for awhile, I spotted a few kids in a little opening in the trees.  One child emerged – Emma.  I approached her and said what I needed to say.  I believe she felt the love behind the words.

***

Assembly number two featured one of the school’s bus drivers.  “Fred” walked onstage with his guitar and launched into “Puff The Magic Dragon”.  He had a lovely voice.  A song or two later, he began one of his own compositions.  It was the story of his riders.  As he followed his route in the verses, each child’s name was mentioned.  I scanned the room and saw face after face come alight as Fred shared one of their fine qualities.  On one level, I was amazed that he could memorize all this.  Far deeper was my joy as light after light turned on.

***

Last recess.  One of my favourite kids asked if I was going outside.  I said yes.  We walked together for a bit and then sat down at a table.  She and I talked about our summers – camps for her and music festivals for me.  She encouraged me about the early end of my bicycle ride.  The differences in our ages didn’t matter.  It was two people talking about important things.

***

I was invited to this evening’s staff party.  It was so generous of the teachers to include me.  We sat in a big circle and the banter whizzed around.  Usually I love these situations but tonight was not usual.  Just like yesterday’s foray onto the 401, I felt fear, and my hand started shaking.  As the conversation sped up and the laughter grew, I couldn’t handle it.  Too many inputs.  Too much energy whirling this way and that.  I was so much not myself, and yet for these three hours my tense silence was Bruce.  I let myself fall into the fear … and how very unpleasant it was.  I stopped trying to manufacture happiness, and my eyes widened in response.  As I left the party and said a few words of explanation, the smiles on faces said they understood.

***

These are the moments that stood out today.  Whether I enjoyed them or not, they brought me to an deeper vibration, and for that I am thankful.

The Jets Are Fading in My Mind

I love sports, or so I tell me.  I have favourite teams and players and have been known to exalt or wail, depending on the results.

Let me give you a rundown of my heroes:

Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey)
Winnipeg Jets (hockey)
Toronto Blue Jays (baseball)
Toronto FC (soccer)
Toronto Raptors (basketball)
Brooke Henderson (golf)
Denis Shapovalov (tennis)

Enough champions to make anyone happy, wouldn’t you say?  Well … maybe.

Last night I started watching the Jets on TV.  If the team won, they’d be in the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The game was in Winnipeg, where just about all the fans in the building wear white and wave towels like crazy.  So exciting!

Within ten minutes of game start, something happened to that exclamation mark.  It was … fading.  The fans were still jumping up and down, Winnipeg and Nashville were taking turns roaring down the ice, but I was no longer engaged.  Instead I was mystified. “How can I not be excited?  This is the playoffs!”

In my perplexity, I thought of my other sporting heroes.  No juice there either.  Was I becoming a blah blob?

No, I wasn’t.

Some force is moving through me, pushing me towards a deep sense of relationship with human beings.  There’s a beauty and a spirit that I can’t name but it’s lifting me up.  The majesty is far beyond the thrill of a breakaway, a slam dunk or a three-wood nestling close to the pin.  It’s like a 60-watt bulb compared to a spotlight.

Am I becoming the next version of me?  Are the old me’s taking their rightful place in the background?  I don’t know.

I’m open to where this roaring river is taking me.  A destination that I can’t even conceive of.

Not knowing
Not planning
Not a care in the world