Praise

There were about twenty of us tonight on an internet call of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community. I enjoyed practicing 1-1 with one of those folks, assigned randomly by some computer. And then the group had about ten minutes at the end for sharing.

“Tessa”, a woman that I had met in Asheville a couple of weekends ago, started speaking. I never know what people will say, but usually their words come from deep down in their experiencing. What a treat to be on the receiving end of such realness.

Well … “receiving end” indeed. Tessa began talking about me (!) She mentioned the deep love that I show in these internet gatherings. (Gulp) She told the group about my love for my dear wife Jody, and the book I had written for her. (Gulp again)

I wanted to avert my eyes away from the cast of rectangles that lay before me. I wanted to hide. But I decided not to. “Just look, Bruce, and listen.” Tessa had moved on to talk about someone else but I was still writhing and sighing, writhing and sighing, within her words.

My small brain had its typical response: “You’re not that great, Bruce. Actually, you’re quite ordinary. You’re a nice guy, but nothing off the charts.” Plus “Don’t let your ego run roughshod here, my friend. You’re not exactly the next incarnation of Jesus. Get a grip!” Or “Tell them about the times you’ve been mean to people. They need to hear that stuff too, you know.”

Thanks for the feedback, small brain. But what’s true here?

1. I’ve very rarely been purposely mean to anybody. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did that.

2. I’m extremely unusual. I’m likely more spontaneous than 99% of the population. I love the word “silly”, and “weird” is a pretty good concept too.

3. My love for my fellow man is immense. I am deeply compassionate towards those of us who are suffering. I want each one of you – family, friend or “stranger” – to be supremely happy.

I don’t often get praised so directly. I don’t have much practice in dealing with it. Perhaps I should simply accept it with grace and return to loving the next person who comes my way.

Yes, that would be a fine thing to do.

Light Without … Light Within

I’m so much enjoying being online with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  We often reach a consciousness together that includes all and loves all.  Really, it’s addictive to be with other human beings in this expansive way, where I look through my laptop screen and see my brother or sister.

So … I was going to a concert last night at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in downtown Toronto.  It was a fundraising event for the Wounded Warriors, an organization committed to supporting veterans of combat, and first responders, who are walking the rough road of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The concert started at 8:00 pm.  Our EC call was scheduled from 7 to 8.  Google Maps showed me that there was a small park across the street from the hall.  “I’ll go there, be with my friends for fifty minutes or so, and then rush to my seat.”  How strange, part of my brain said.  Sounds like an addiction to me.  And I guess it is – an addiction to loving.

I found a bench in a well-lighted area of the park.  The Selfie view on my camera showed me that there was a lot of light falling on my face.  In fact, there was a lot of light everywhere.  The buildings were aglow, especially one which had a huge mural on its side, suggesting gift wrapping paper being pulled away to reveal the treasure within.  Yes, the image was surreal.  I thought of rearranging myself to offer a more neutral background but some deep part of me said no.

Just as the call was starting, with folks from all over showing up on my screen, a fellow came up to me:

“Can you spare some change?”

I said no.

“How about $20.00?”

“No, I don’t want to do that.”

“You need to give me money.”  (A louder and closer voice)

“No thank you.”

His face contorted and he moved still closer.

I walked away … briskly.

I was carrying my phone as I escaped and no doubt the online folks experienced flashes of pavement and grass.  A minute later, I was back to my spot and my aggressive companion was nowhere to be seen.

I guess my sudden departure scared people.  Sorry, folks.  “Nicole”, our hostess for the call, asked me if I was okay, if I was safe.  I said yes, with a big sigh bubbling up.

***

Soon it was time for the 1-1 portion of the call.  As I talked to “Ben”,  my fear began to fade.  We both marvelled at all the folks who were strolling by my bench.  I worried that me holding up the phone would look like I was videoing them, but then that contraction also floated away.

Somehow, and magically, both Ben and I experienced Toronto strangers as a flow of brothers and sisters.  They were with us, not against us.  And the lights of all these buildings in downtown Toronto seeped into our collective hearts.  I was the source of my well-being.  The gentleman wanting money didn’t carry the day.  I did.  And there was goodness all around me.

Pollyanna?
Naïve?
I say no
An inclusive future beckons us

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.

Skunked

On Thursday evening, I was doing a Mutual Awakening practice online with a woman in Vancouver.  All was mellow.  And then … a God-awful banging started downstairs.  Peace evaporated.  My heart revved up.  Home invasion?  Beam collapse?  Or an animal?

I returned to my friend, with visions of a raccoon roaming through my family room.  After we said goodbye, I headed down, resisting the urge to grab a blunt object.  And there, rapping on a basement window, was an all-in-motion white and black furry thing.  A skunk, trapped in the window well.  He or she was ripping apart the screen but I didn’t care about that.

Two parallel thoughts came my way:

1. They’re going to die in there. Claws won’t do much good on four feet of vertical metal.

2. They’re really going to stink up the house.

I felt momentarily guilty about my smell worry but then I reasoned that human beings sometimes obsess about dreaded futures.  I’m a human being so it all works out fine.

As I laid myself down to sleep, the imagined scenario switched to Bruce trying to get furry one out of the window well and getting sprayed in the process.  Halfway through the night, there was still the banging and scratching.

On Friday morning, I girded my loins, grabbed a stepladder and tippy-toed towards the window well.  Such a hero!  I peeked over the edge … and the only thing down there was a plastic bag.  Impossible!  Was I dealing with Super Skunk?  Looking more closely, that bag seemed to be full of something.  I went back into the garage and emerged with a long-handled cultivating tool.  I nudged the bag – and it moved!  A slight rip showed something black-and-white beneath.  I wedged the ladder against the well and headed off to embrace the day.

Late yesterday afternoon, I drove into the driveway.  Another timid peek showed the same full bag.  And then I remembered – skunks are nocturnal.  Reason soon faded away, however, as I imagined my friend dying alone.  I fretted through the evening until engaging joyfully with a friend on the telephone.  Then to bed.  A half hour later, the banging and scratching resumed.  I confess an impatience with the gorgeous-looking animal.  “Haven’t you seen a ladder before?  It’s your way out, your road to freedom, your release from the prison of life.”

I slept fitfully, partially because of an early morning wakeup for a church breakfast, and also due to the furry one.

6:55 am.  No sounds.  Clothes on.  Outside.  Peeking number three.

Mr. Skunk was gone

I’m so happy that my companion didn’t die.  He’s no doubt out there in the woods with his friends and family.  And I’m more than a little pleased that I didn’t have to zoom off to the grocery store for a year’s supply of tomato juice.

On to the next ridiculous adventure …

 

Skunks

It’s after sunset now and I just went outside to bring the Baltimore oriole and hummingbird feeders in.  If I don’t do that, chances are good that raccoons will climb the poles and go for the goodies, breaking some plastic stuff in the process.

It’s really dark at the side of my home and I was thinking about something as I rounded the corner to the backyard.  And … Zap!  Munching sunflower seeds below my other feeders were three skunks.  My heart pounding skyrocketed and I was rooted to the spot.  And then my mind took over:

They’re going to spray you.  Get out of there!

I consider myself somewhat evolved but there I was, back in cave man days.  Fight or flight.  It’s all about survival.  I could feel my body shaking and I was universes away from appreciating the grace of the animals.  The person I thought Bruce was had disappeared … in a flash.  I had no control over my consciousness, and I scurried back around the corner.

Back in the living room, I turned on the outside lights.  Two of my black and white friends were still chowing down.  The white stripe on their backs formed a Y shape and their tails were pointing to the sky.  And I realized that they are indeed very beautiful animals.  It was like they were models wearing tuxedos.

Skunks aren’t the only creatures that I react to with knee jerk responses.  Certain groups of humans bring automatic negative thoughts out of me.  I’m sad that this is the case.  My job is not to act on such explosions of judgment.  And when I turn on the light of living, I see that these beings are lovely to behold.  They need not reduce me to fear but instead can unfold me into brotherhood and sisterhood.

 

Visible

To be seen or not to be seen? Especially when I have no smile in me and my thoughts seem like bouncing balls in the basement of my mind. Or maybe I’m within the crush of life and the world is pressing down hard. Aren’t those the times when pulling the covers over my head would be prudent?

Speaking of which, who ever came up with that word “prudent”? The dictionary calls it “showing care and thought for the future”. Okay then … I disagree with myself. Being prudent sounds like a fine thing to do.

Hmm. Maybe this moment is a good illustration. Shouldn’t I just delete my righteous pronouncement about the word “prudent” in the interest of maintaining my dignity?

Speaking of which, who ever came up with that word “dignity”? (No, no Bruce. Don’t go there again.)

Now, where was I? Getting rid of the prudent and dignity discussion … so I look better. Naw. There’s no value in that. Picking out the good parts and hiding the naughty bits is a strange way to be visible. There’s contraction all around if I venture down that road.

What if I allowed the cool and uncool elements of Bruce to be plastered on some neon sign (such as this blog) and truly got that I’m the same as you – chock full of virtues and foibles, insights and nonsense, transcendence and stumbles? Well … perhaps that would be deeply okay.

Maybe I’m on this dear planet Earth to express myself, and then do it some more. So – write, speak, sing, smile, frown, bliss out and get pissed off. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe some other folks would see me as a worthwhile example of letting it all hang loose.

I’m participating in a global community of consciousness explorers. It’s called the Evolutionary Collective, and members of the group can meet live online as many as five times a week. Last night, Patricia Albere, the founder of the EC, asked for a volunteer to do the “mutual awakening practice” with her. The practice is a 1-1 half hour where the partners answer the question “What are you experiencing right now?”

I froze.

I’d shared in the group many times but this would be hugely different. I’d be groping my way into whatever I was experiencing, with an audience of forty people or so. And I was terrified. It felt just as horrifying as riding my bicycle beside those semitrailers three weeks ago.

I didn’t volunteer and fell into an agonizing pit of self-loathing. I love myself regularly, but not then.

I was not willing to be seen, in all my potential beauty and warts. (Sigh) As the clouds darkened and brooded, I sank lower. Thoughts jumbled. Fear screamed. And then – wonder of wonders – a tiny shaft of sun poked through. Somehow, somewhere, I was all right. The past moment of hiding away didn’t have to create a future of seclusion.

Next Tuesday evening, Patricia will be in the online session again. She expects to ask for more volunteers to do the practice with her. I’ll answer the call. Of course she may pick someone else but my triumph will be clicking the “Raise Hand” button.

On I go in my life. Participate or hide out. Express or fall silent. Live with huge sweeping strokes or tiny jagged lines. I get to choose.

Day Nine: The End

I left the Tour du Canada this morning. I’m exhausted and have been terrified. I’m so sad to be disappointing you folks who have been cheering me on. I’ve failed as a cyclist, at least as far as what it takes to ride across the country. I know, though, that I haven’t failed as a person.

I went to bed last night extremely tired. Before I dropped myself into the tent, I managed to leave my mess kit’s cutlery somewhere and my next day’s clothes piled in some unknown location. In the morning, I was just as exhausted and couldn’t conceive of riding 90 k today. I’d tossed and turned since the wee hours and went to breakfast depressed. My body was making the decision for me: I’m simply not strong enough to do this right now.

I’m so afraid of the fast traffic that’s been whizzing by me a couple of metres away. And when there’s a drop off to the right, I worry about falling down the slope. So I’ve been riding too close to the white line. The bottom line – I’ve been riding too close to the cars. I’m not a safe cyclist.

I don’t know how to control my bicycle at low speeds on angled slopes. Yesterday I missed one of these downward ramps, lowered my head and started crying. “I don’t know how to do this,” I told my companions. And then I blasted myself: “Bruce, you should be far stronger mentally.”

I should be this, I should be that. I’m quite a mess right now. I want to find a hole and crawl into it. I don’t want to be with people, which is so unlike me. But strangely … I’m writing you.

It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone this morning. So many people to thank for helping me. I started crying again … and I’m doing it again right now. I tell myself that with my Buddhist training I should be better than this, but it’s not working out.

So now … the rest of my life. I know I can’t wallow in this. There is much I need to contribute to this world. But right here and right now, at the Travelodge in Abbotsford, B.C., I’m deeply down.

After the cyclists left this morning, I knocked on the door of the campground manager, looking for advice about how to get my bike and me home. Judy and Bernie were so kind as they helped this rattled tourist find solutions. They listened without judgment. They gave me coffee. And throughout the hour I sat in the living room, their dog C.C. licked my legs. Judy said she’d never seen him do that before so that’s a very welcome plus.

I suppose this post sounds too dreary. Oh well. It’s what I have right now. I arrive home late Monday night. It’s up to me to push myself out into the world on Tuesday. I will do that.

Day Seven: Orientation

I’m overwhelmed. I’ve usually thought of myself as mentally strong but right now I’m mentally weak. I don’t want to sing the refrain of “Woe is me” because that doesn’t serve anyone. So how do I pull myself up?

Yesterday I received many messages from home, encouraging me, loving me. Several Tour du Canada riders have been especially kind. So now what? Pull yourself up, Bruce.

The bike shop at UBC fixed my bicycle yesterday. Apparently something called the headset was a mess. Also the derailleur settings were off. Alex at the Bike Kitchen made me his “afternoon project”. He also put flat pedals on ta-pocketa, since the ones I’ve had, which attach to metal cleats on the bottom of my cycling shoes, weren’t working for me.

When I tried the new pedals out in the evening, I kept catching my shorts on the saddle when I tried to get going. Maybe six of my fellow cyclists watched me stumble, again and again. They made suggestions and also adjustments to my equipment. I died a thousand deaths of embarrassment. Here I am, surrounded by nineteen strong and skilled cyclists, and I can’t even mount my steed. Oh, the sadness.

Okay, all of that is said and done. Time to keep going. I’m not giving up. With a little help from my friends, I’ll roll into the campground at Mission, B.C. this afternoon.

Thanks for listening.

Day Three: Self-Esteem

It started at breakfast this morning. Four of us sat outside at a café. My personal choice was pesto pasta. The others talked about their cycling lives … and I was overwhelmed by fear. “What am I doing here? Bruce, you’re so out of your league.” Depression came to visit but I tried to put on a neutral face. I didn’t want my fellow cyclists to have to deal with my angst.

In general, my self-esteem is high, but this was not general. This was piercingly specific. My Buddhist training has taught me to be curious about my thoughts and there was no shortage of material to work with today:

You’ll never finish this tour

These folks are so fast and confident

You’ll be so slow and so alone all the way across Canada

Your balance is abysmal
You can’t even get the water bottle out of its cage

I’ve learned in life to abide by the truth. Today’s truth was dominated by fear and at some points I chose to express that to my new friends. “Don’t do that, Bruce. Don’t bother them.” I chose to ignore that advice, risking that they’d reject me for being so wimpy. Somehow, it seemed that this personal nakedness was an act of courage.

Tonight eight of us went out to dinner. The flood of “not okay” swept over me again as several folks recounted past bike tours or bike club adventures.

Now was the moment: either wallow in despair or pull myself up into sweeter air. And rise I did, thrusting myself into a few conversations when all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and sink beneath the tablecloth.

Time and again the battle raged, most likely unnoticed by my companions. There was no clear winner.

But still … I’m left with a freshness of spirit. The seven human beings I’ve met so far will be worthy recipients of my gifts and I’m a worthy recipient of theirs. Together we will create something new, despite my terrors and the woes they hold inside.

We are bigger than this

Thumbs Up

I did a long bicycle ride on Wednesday.  With about 20 kilometres to go, my right thumb stopped working.  I use it to press a button which moves me to a harder gear.  I pressed … and nothing happened.  The thumb just collapsed.  A very big “Oh, oh!”  And a very big panic welled up.  No thumb, no gear changes, no Tour du Canada.

I let the fear take over for a minute or two.  There was a compression in my body and a sadness in my soul.  Then an inspiration: I moved my right hand to a place where I could brace the heel on the handlebar, and pushed the button with my index finger.  It worked!  Gosh, I’m so smart – until that finger buckled.  I then moved to my middle finger (you know, the one that’s so good at saluting) and finished the ride that way.

I woke up on Thursday morning with an aching thumb and wrist.  I deduced that I wouldn’t be able to see a physio until after my plane to Vancouver takes off (next Friday) so instead I went to Shoppers Home Health Care for a brace.  The woman helping me was brilliant and found a sturdy one that addressed arthritis and the particular joint that was sore.  It definitely helped but I still had trouble turning the key in Scarlet’s ignition.  I figured the digit needed rest for a day or two.

And then this morning I awoke to the word “physio”.  In the shower, I couldn’t squeeze the shampoo tube.  And the fear rose.

Off to St. Thomas and the physiotherapy clinic I’ve patronized over the years.  It didn’t matter that an appointment was unlikely … some force was propelling me there.  The receptionist was polite, but informed me that the earliest available session was on June 14, the day before I fly.  (Sigh)  I was about to walk out the door in search of another clinic when a voice behind me said “Maybe I can help you.  I don’t want you to have to leave.”   And there stood my guardian angel.

“Emma” smiled and told me acupuncture could help.  “Oh, please yes!”  In the loveliest of serendipities, a client had cancelled for right then.  Emma took my wrist in her hands and there was a crunch – all those bones rearranging themselves.  Then she sat me down and inserted five needles from my hand to my elbow.  What an odd, slightly stinging sensation.  I felt some relief when Emma took the needles out.  Plus she’s making room for me on Tuesday.

Off to the health food store to stock up on herbs for my big trip.  The woman behind the counter gave me a dab of Kalaya Pain Rub, full of wondrous natural ingredients.  Soon after I took off the brace to receive the ointment, my hand started shaking.  I watched, fascinated, as my friend explained about electrical activity.  It was very cool to watch.

Next was a message from the ether – “Go to your bike shop.”  I figured it was just to get some emotional support, as I struggled with the possibility of not riding across Canada.  Once in the door, I approached Sygnan and heard myself saying “Is there anything you can do for me?”  I really didn’t think there was.  Going over to a display bike, I tried pressing on the same type of button as I had on ta-pocketa, and I couldn’t budge it.  (More sighing)  But Sygnan, my hero, found a rotary gear shifter in a catalogue, one where I’d use my whole hand to change gears rather than putting pressure on my thumb.  And he also located a brake lever that was far easier to move than what I had.

I drove over to a shop in London to pick up the shifter, and the brake levers should be in on Tuesday.  So I can have them installed by Wednesday, have Sygnan partially dismantle ta-pocketa and pack her in a bike box, and head to Toronto airport on Friday morning, on the road to my summer adventure.  My dear right thumb won’t be needed.  It can take its time to mend.

So … there are forces in the universe holding me tenderly, supporting me in my vision of crossing Canada and being good to all the folks I meet.  I am surrounded by love and am being pulled towards the future.  There’s mystery and grace and sweetness in the world.