Compassion

It’s an astonishing painting, by Alex Grey. It hangs in my hallway just inside the front door. I could go on and on about the beauty of it all but I’m sure the message is clear to you. There is giving and there is receiving, with the giver knowing deeply that he or she is being given to as well.

We had an art class this afternoon. The lesson was on perspective, how a line of trees can appear to be stretching to the horizon. The teacher and I roamed around, offering feedback and encouragement. One young man (I’ll call him “Brett”) had his head down and I asked if I could help. He was shaky. When I looked at his pencil drawing, I saw the mistake he was making and I coached him about how to fix it. Then I moved on to other kids. It was fun to offer a hint here and some praise there.

Ten minutes later, I glanced back at Brett. His arms were propping up his head and he was crying. I walked over. “What’s wrong, Brett?” He turned to me and away from the students beside him. “This isn’t any good and my dad will be so mad.”

My eyes welled with his. I flashed to my father and to the unconditional positive regard he sent me, even when improvements needed to be made. Clearly home was sometimes not like this for Brett. I wanted to assist him and I wanted us to have privacy. We found a table off in a corner and sat there with each other, both of us making some marks on the paper. We worked towards the OKness of any tree that emerged from Brett’s fingers and shared the creation of perspective – two tall trees on the left and right edges of the paper, two shorter ones next door and two itsy bitsy versions in the middle of the paper. By the time the first bell rang for home, Brett was calm.

Such a key moment, that one with the tears. Each of us needs to be ready with a helping hand. The Bretts and Lucys of the world deserve our care.

Unapologetic Greatness

In the Evolutionary Collective, people from near and far meet on the Internet to explore consciousness together, to further the growth of deep love in the world. There is a practice we do, usually 1-1, in which a profound connection often emerges. We glimpse the possibility of a unblemished unity flowing between members of the human family.

Sometimes on our calls, a teacher will ask for a volunteer to practice with her or him in front of the whole group. We see everyone onscreen by way of Zoom, a technology similar to Skype. The intention is for all of us to learn as the volunteer leaps in, sometimes missing the mark, sometimes hitting the bullseye. The teacher gives feedback. Ideally, the volunteer accepts it with grace.

I’ve been terrified of such encounters and have never volunteered.

Until last night.

Without thought, I found my finger tapping the “Raise Hand” button … and there I was, naked in the digital world. I opened to the moment and let the emerging words flow out. My expression was outside of the realms of “good” or “bad”. It was simply real.

Once we had moved on from the coaching, I felt warm inside. Glowing. At peace.

For many months, I’d labelled my timidity as fear of failure. But I wonder. Could it be instead that the image of me having outrageous power to do good in the world was just too terrifying? What would my life become if I was consistently “out there” in a huge way? Could I cope with the fierce bolts of electricity? Would I end up alone?

***

Afterwards, I remembered a woman who spoke piercingly about the fear of being great. I didn’t remember her name. I didn’t remember her words. So I just sat quietly, hoping that a phrase would come back to me. And it did:

“Playing small does not serve the world”

Mr. Google did the rest.

***

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Tensing Up … Letting Go

For all my driving life, some unknown entity has tightened my stomach at a certain moment. I’m approaching traffic lights, which are green my way. The orange hand is flashing and there’s no countdown to yellow. There it is, some deep physical worry that I’ll have to stop for a red.

I consider myself a fairly mature person but this gut response has long fascinated me. After all, it’s a hopefully long life. What difference will it make in the span of time if on this day I arrive at my destination a minute later than hoped for? The answer to my unaddled brain is clear: none. But so often the cranium addles itself.

Tonight I was driving on Veterans Memorial Parkway in London. Traffic on this particular road zooms along at 90 kilometres an hour or so. Way ahead of the intersections are lights which come on in a flashing way to show cars that they need to slow down for an impending yellow. Oh, my history of seeing the light start flashing when I’m almost upon it, and then blasting down the gas pedal to “make it”.

Not tonight.

For some elusively mature reason, I let up on the gas in that moment. Some force did it … there was no intention. And then the yellow came on and I stopped, without a heart smashing my chest. Hmm. Perhaps this is wiser. Maybe it’s better to feel into the flow of driving rather than jerking around with the gas and brake.

And then there’s life. I wonder if “making it” happens when I smell the roses. They’re awfully sweet, you know.

Haunted House

Imagine a small elementary school. Imagine its tiny stage. It’s dark. Soft spiderwebby stuff hangs down. Lights glow and flash. There’s a severed hand over there. A small doll sits up, a beam illuminating its melancholy face. On the table is a cauldron of brains, better known as spaghetti. Organ music fills the space. Ten human beings stand or lie or hide behind the curtain, in various states of distress. Nine are young, one is old. All are grotesque.

Do you get the idea?

We have a manager – “Tammy”, a Grade 6 student. She orchestrates our visitors, who range from age 6 to 12, plus some hesitant adults. They are ushered into our home in groups of two or three. If it’s a Grade 1 child, we mostly laugh rather than scare. For the 12-year-olds, however, it’s full on terrorizing.

We played our roles for an hour-and-a-half. I cackled, moaned and invited folks in for dinner. A glob of spaghetti dripped from my right hand. Green stuff adorned my left.

Oh my God, we had fun! Our victims hopefully are having lovely, terrorless evenings as an entry to soft sleep. But they’ll remember their excursion into the Twilight Zone.

You are travelling through another dimension
a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind
A journey into a wondrous land
whose boundaries are that of imagination

Thanks for coming with me to the wild country
Sleep well

Getting A Bang Out Of Life

I should be a better waterer.  I moved into this condo in Belmont two-and-a-half years ago.  My neighbours and I each have a separate building.  The back of mine faces a farmer’s field.  Shortly after I moved in, my builder had a locust tree planted in my mini-backyard.   It was already ten feet high when it hit the earth.

I didn’t water my leafy friend.

Now, as the leaves are emerging, there are several skinny and very dead branches.  Time to do better, Bruce.  I took a photo and rambled over to my local garden centre, where Jim knows about all things plant.  “Lop off the dead stuff, create an earthen bowl around the trunk, and give it a good watering once a week.  It’ll be fine.”  Ahh … the joy of friendly expertise.

I bought some topsoil and headed over to the rental place, which had just what I needed – a tree pruner.  Long wooden handle for one hand, a rope to pull the blade shut for the other.  Piece of cake.  This was yesterday afternoon at 2:45.  They closed at 3:00.  See?  The Gods were with me.

I was too busy doing nothing at home to get the project underway yesterday, but today was my rendezvous with destiny.  I was out there in my home maintenance clothes, ready to get covered with soil, and all set to show off my tree pruning skills.  The first dead branches were about six feet above the grass.  Insert blade opening around the offending bare one, pull the rope gently, and watch the twig fall gently to the ground.  Oh, what a good boy am I!

Hmm.  That one’s higher and a lot thicker.  I was at a bit of an awkward angle, maneuvering around the live branches.  Pull with right hand, left one on the handle > Nothing.  Pull harder > Pretty much nothing.  Okay, this isn’t working.  “Why don’t you just grab the rope with both hands and really reef ‘er?” > “Okay, I’ll do that.”

[And now for a pause that refreshes: You handy men and women in the crowd may possibly be gasping right now.  How could this homeowner be so … stupid?  Doesn’t he see the probable consequences of his proposed action?  Was he born in a cave, somehow managing to stay there until this moment?]

I pulled like the hero I no doubt am.

Schmuck!  The handle smashes into bone just above my left eye.  Falling.  Soft grass.  Warm flowing.  Heading to lights out … but no.  I stumble up, lurch to the garage and grab the paper towels.  Glasses in one hand.  Masses of white grope from the other to my face.  Red trickle down the lens, pretty against the amber and purple of my frames.

Brain exploding.  The neighbour’s doorbell.  Maddy’s hand on my shoulder.  “Come in.  Sit down.”  She gently removes the roll of paper towel from my elbow.  I keep pressing.  “Lean back against the wall.  Breathe slowly.”  Fading in and out.  Gary appears with a bag of ice.  Later, two big bandaids.  Thank you, my friends.

Twenty minutes later, I’m lying on my bed.  Far from sleep.  Exhausted.  “Go to the hospital.  You may have a concussion.  You’re okay to drive.”

Was I?  I knew I didn’t want to bother Maddy and Gary.  Who knows how long I’d be in Emergency?  “I can do this.”  And I did.  The twenty-five minute drive was almost uneventful.  I was slow and steady.  A wee bit of blood dripped from under the bandage.  I wiped it away.  No big deal.

The wait seemed long but it wasn’t.  My ice bag was now a cold water bag.  The staff were so friendly.  The doc had been around the block a few times.  No concussion.  A few sutures needed.  I gulped at that news, my wimpy relationship to pain coming to the surface.  Injecting the freezing agent hurt some but the four stitches were … seamless.

***

It’s hours later.  There’s a little smile on my face, just as there was during some hospital moments.  Some pain in my noggin.  What a silly guy, but essentially lovable.  It was another rich life experience.  I’m sure there’ll be many more.

The Bicycle

It hurts when I let something stop me in life, when my fear takes over. I dropped out of the 2018 Tour du Canada bicycle ride after three days and never got back on the bike. I knew this was putting a lid on my energy, and having me make far less of a contribution to people.

I stewed and moaned and succumbed. I created in my mind a dilemma that hovered over who I most deeply am. And finally, I said “Enough!” Finally was yesterday morning.

Thank God I’d chosen to get rid of the clipless pedals that have been a part of me for years. Basically, the cycling shoes attach to the pedals via a little metal cleat on the sole, so that I’d have stability and power. Sadly, most of the time I managed neither. I was in the bike shop a few days ago trying out new and improved pedals. I sat on the device that keeps a bicycle steady (a “trainer”) and tried over and over again to clip in. My bike guy even took hold of my foot and set it in the perfect spot for attachment. Only with his hands on could I get the job done. Not a single time on my own. So I took ta-pocketa home with flat pedals on.

I was so nervous in the morning, with horrible memories flooding back: getting my cycling shorts caught on the saddle repeatedly while a crowd of TdC’ers looked on, encouraging me; falling I think four times on my three days of the ride, accompanied by various gashes on my legs and arms; feeling the wind of the semi-trailers two or three metres away as I worked on creating a rhythm; getting stuck in too hard a gear as we climbed a long bridge near Vancouver. Oh … major yuck!

First, put your bib shorts and jersey on. I chose a dragon design. The beast was not me – it was an insidious outside force that was ready to pounce. The clothes felt vaguely familiar and immediately strange. Had I moved so far away from being a cyclist?

Fanny pack, house key, helmet, full water bottle. I took ta-pocketa out of the garage and pressed the button to close the big door, exiting by a human door. Good … all locked up. But where was my fanny pack with the accompanying key? On the hood of Scarlet, I remembered, safely ensconsced in said locked garage. I bowed my head. A detail that at other times would be ho-hum looked like a game breaker. After a spurt of angst, I remembered that a spare house key sat under the Buddha on the back patio.

I had taken off the handlebar mirror at the bike shop when I offered to transport a woman’s bicycle on my rack to her home. I now replaced my navigation device but I couldn’t remember how it fit on the handlebar. Ten minutes of anxious fiddling and it finally looked sort of okay.

Driveway. Street. Right foot on right pedal, ready to push off with the left. Almost a year of absence from the unimpeded road. One very large sigh. Would I catch the darned shorts on the back end of the saddle … again? The answer was no. I was up and rolling down Robin Ridge Drive. My eyes were wide. I’d actually returned to cycling! There was a jolt of ecstasy and then I just concentrated like hell.

I rode for fifty minutes on country roads. There was a two kilometre stretch of really rough pavement, including a downhill section. I wobbled a lot. I steadied myself. Cars and trucks came close. I stayed about two or three feet from the edge of pavement – a legal maneuver but one that angers a lot of motorists. The memories were there. I kept pedalling. The quiet expanse of Yorke Line had me breathing again, had me flowing again. I didn’t experience any power in my dear legs but I was moving forward.

Back at the hacienda, there was no burst of joy. The insides of my body were vibrating. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. But I did it. I got on my bike again.

Day Five: The Mind at Work

At the heart of the work of the Evolutionary Collective is the willingness to feel what’s true in the moment and to go into that deeply.  During this morning’s session, I felt myself being pressed in upon.  There was a heaviness, almost a collapse.  Emotionally I was a mess, buried in “I’m bad” and “I’m scared of people in this group.”  My goodness, where did that come from?

At the break, I sat outside with a woman who asked me “How are you?”  My answer?  “I’m happy.”  It was a lie.  The rest of the break was a swirl of woe and self-condemnation.  I was a jumble inside, being out of integrity with myself.  Sometime before lunch, I approached the woman and told her “I lied to you.”  We talked it out some (with her infinite support) but the prime moment was the first, offering me the relief of the truth.

Later in the day, we explored attachment, frustration and rejection.  The thinking is that each of us has one of these as a dominant theme.  I saw my fear of being rejected, especially in a group.  An image appeared: a bunch of people walking away from me, shaking their heads.  Being left alone.  If rejection is a two-way street – fear of it happening to me and actively saying no to others – then I have a jolt coming in how I experience me.  I’ve always thought of myself as a nice person – caring, compassionate.  Could it be that there’s also a part of me that has no use for others and wants them to go away?

Another today event was looking at past traumas.  Being pushed into the deep end by a swimming instructor when I was eight.  Dumped out of a canoe in rapids, and I still couldn’t swim.  Being hit by lightning.  Clinging to a sloped icefield for half an hour above a near-freezing lake.  Clinging to footholds on a cliff five hundred feet above another mountain lake.  Crossing an intersection on my bike with a speeding car coming through a few feet away.  Running across an intersection at a crosswalk while another car narrowly missed me.

What’s true is that I’ve never examined these incidents with a counsellor.  I saw today that I need to.

So … it was a day that rocked my world.  Am I willing to move towards the eruptions of self-image or will I retreat meekly back into a daily peace and love resting above a basement of fear?  I choose to look.

I See Me

Long long ago, in a Canadian province far away, I worked with a psychologist in giving personal development seminars.  I was also active in the est organization, particularly The Hunger Project.  One of our local TV stations thought it would be a good idea to interview me about such matters, and so it happened.  I was nervous but engaged as I answered the interviewer’s questions.  Afterwards I was pleased with myself.

In a week or two, the TV folks provided me with a video tape of the interview.  I put it in the VCR and started watching.  Two minutes later, I turned the machine off.  I never looked at the tape again.  I was horrified to see how I looked and hear how I sounded.  Just swimming in “not good enough”.

I’ve pushed this incident to the back of my mind and it’s stayed there for the last thirty years.  A month ago, I got to participate in a “Love Panel” online.  Four members of the Evolutionary Collective Global community were being interviewed by an EC teacher.  The intent was to have people with some interest in Global hear from us what we’ve experienced.  I spoke from the heart, and laughed some.  Afterwards I was pleased with myself.

And now a week ago.  Patricia  Albere, the founder of the EC, sent us an e-mail containing news and teachings.  There was also a P. S.  Basically, click here to watch a 30-minute interview with four Globalites.  I stared at the words.  I froze.  I moved on … fast.  Thirty years and still the same fear of seeing myself.

And now last night.  A voice said, very calmly, “Watch it.”  Miraculously, just as calm, I said “Okay.”  I tilted my head in wonder.  Is this the Bruce I know speaking?  Maybe not.  It could be the Bruce who’s just emerging giving voice to wholeness, sufficiency, connection.

Thirty minutes later, I sat here on my couch, stunned.  I was loving the man who spoke.  I was seeing his beauty.  I was seeing his heart.  There’s no deficiency here.  There’s one marvelous flavour of human being just as yummy as all the other flavours I meet during my day.

Perhaps I am free.

 

 

Integrity

I’m in a worldwide group called The Evolutionary Collective.  Mostly we meet online to explore consciousness together.  For the next three-and-a-half months, I’m taking an EC program called Base Camp.  Our current theme is integrity.

On one level, the word is pretty simple – being “whole and complete” – being appropriate to life, having nothing hidden, telling the truth.  Another way to look at integrity is keeping your word, and if you break it, go to the person involved and clean up your mess.  Even though you didn’t do what you said you’d do, you can still be in integrity.

I can be out-of-integrity if I know what to do and don’t do it.  And when I fall short, it’s not about beating myself up about it – just recognize the problem and fix it.  Before Monday night’s online session, I thought I was “squeaky clean” but alas that was not the case.

I’ve asked myself “Do I need to address every moment of not being in alignment with truth, even those itsy bitsy things?”  The answer coming back was “Yes.”  Doing so releases great power to do good in the world, unencumbered by regrets.

Moment Number One

Last June, I quit the Tour du Canada after three days.  It was the cross-country bicycle ride I was on.  I was exhausted and terrified of the semi-trailers bombing by a few metres away.  I came home to Belmont traumatized.  As school opened again in the fall, I was still deeply afraid to get back on my bicycle.  One Grade 6 girl has been very curious about me, and observant, since we met a year before.  She’s wanted to know if I was going to Toronto on the weekend, and noticed when I bought new shoes.

In September, “Molly” asked me if I’d gotten back on my bicycle.  I admitted that the answer was no.  I told her that ta-pocketa, my skinny-tired bike, was for sale and that I had bought another one – with stable knobby tires.  I said it wasn’t in yet.  Molly kept asking me if the hybrid bicycle had arrived in London.  Later, when I told her that my bike guy was setting Betty up for me, I got lots of “Is it ready yet?”  >  “No.”

I didn’t want to let Molly know that I was still plenty scared to ride again.  I hid … in lies.  “The bike isn’t in yet.”  After a bit, that wasn’t true.  “The bike isn’t ready yet.”  After more bits, that was another lie.  What was true was that I was praying for the first snow, so Molly would stop bugging me about riding.

I look back now and see the psychic energy I’ve wasted.  Every time I saw Molly, Betty was right before my eyes.  After Monday night’s integrity session online, I saw the prison bars.  As far as I know, lying to Molly was my only diminishment of integrity, but it was huge.  “Clean up your mess, Bruce.”

So I did.

I went to Molly this week and told her I had lied about my new bicycle.  I told her that I was still terrified and gave her permission to challenge me again when the roads are dry and the temperature warmer.  I apologized … “I’m sorry, Molly, for lying to you.”  She didn’t know what to say but her nod was all I needed.

Just like that, I’m free.

Until this morning.

Moment Number Two

I went to breakfast at the Belmont Diner and noticed the fellow who was replacing the floor mats with new ones, taking the old ones away for cleaning.  I was backing Scarlet up in the parking lot and didn’t see how close the gentleman’s truck was.  My back bumper hit its front one – not a real smash but at least a nudge.  What did I do, given my newfound integrity?  I drove home.  (Sigh)

As I pulled onto Robin Ridge Drive, my home road, I started feeling sick, and faint.  “C’mon, Bruce.  A little bump and you’re falling apart?”  Well, actually … yes.  What has become of me when one “little” misstep is unacceptable?  It’s not unacceptable that I hit the truck, but taking off was.  I came to the roundabout on Robin Ridge and went all the way around, back from where I came.

On Main Street, I was praying that the floor mat company’s truck was still there.  It was.  I heard some noise inside.  I knocked on the door.  An assistant came out to say hi.  And then here was the boss, walking across the parking lot, heavy laden.  He too smiled as I told my story.  We checked his bumper.  Nothing was detectable.  “No problem, man.”  >  “Thanks.”

I drove home with my own smile.  I was whole and complete again.  This integrity feels like the floor on which I can dance.  So cue the music, maestro!

Jet Lag

I knew it would be a challenge – arriving in Toronto yesterday and feeling half-decent today. The advice that many people had given me was to stay up until a decent bedtime in the new location. Okay, I can do that.

We landed in Toronto around 3:30 pm yesterday new time (9:30 pm old time). I figured I needed to stay awake until 10:00 pm (4:00 am). Picking up my car and driving to Anne and Ihor’s was a piece of cake – an alert twenty-minute journey. This jet lag stuff was overrated.

My friends were all decked out in traditional Ukrainian clothing and were heading off to a Christmas Eve dinner. We said we’d talk later about Senegal and their recent trip to Cuba. I settled onto the couch and created the last blog post of my trip. It was both joyous and sad to tap out the words. I posted the journey’s end around 6:30, certainly tired but very pleased with myself. Todd, a longterm resident of the B&B, came to sit with me in the living room.

And then, slowly but surely, my world began to collapse. My head heavier, my eyes vacant, my confusion growing. At exactly eight o’clock, I swirled inside of “What’s this?” Of course I knew what it was, to the tune of six time zones. I sensed that it wasn’t as simple as saying it was now 2:00 am Belgian time. Some unknown but diabolical force was at work. I looked at the clock again. It was 8:07. “What? Seven minutes! How in the name of all that’s good and pure was I going to last till 10:00?”

Downward flowed the mind. I started babbling. My only strategy was to watch something exciting on TV – maybe a movie with lots of explosions and premature death. I usually hate that stuff but something had to be done to keep my eyes open.

The guide said that I could find Independence Day 2 on the telly. Perfect. Mayhem that I previously panned in the theatre. Basically, I started yelling at the screen, much, I suppose, to Todd’s amusement. But I didn’t really know. He was barely a blip on my radar screen. Anne and Ihor walked in and asked if I wanted to talk. I blurted out something to the tune of being totally incapable of such behaviour.

Some grotesque alien face was advancing on tiny humans. I have no idea what I said but I was sure giving him hell. And the commercials – some car was able to keep a good distance from other vehicles on the freeway without human intervention. I gave Toyota hell too, robbing me of my power to be.

I was incomprehensible. I was drooling. I was lost. Sure hope Todd didn’t make a video. 9:12. Forty-eight more agonizing minutes!

Somehow, by the grace of God, 10:00 pm eventually showed up in red. I grabbed the blanket I had wrapped myself in and stumbled upstairs. Just your basic local zombie.

Magically I fell asleep and stayed that way till 1:00. Then, for maybe two hours, I suffered through spiky wakefulness. Something evil kept poking me towards the abyss. Is this what my next few nights are going to be? Maybe I’ll just stay home from now on. I’ll try Belgium again next lifetime.

After countless fits and starts, I awoke again at 7:30. Now it’s 2:00 pm and I’m prepping for the drive to Belmont. Tired yes, zombie no.

May the force be with me.