Obonato

The anthropologist invited the children from the African tribe to play one game.  He placed a basket of fruit near the tree and announced, addressing the children: “The one of you who reaches the tree first will be rewarded with all of the sweet fruits.”  When he signaled to the children to start the race, they locked their hands tightly and ran together, and then they all sat together and enjoyed the delicious fruit.

The astonished anthropologist asked the children why they all ran together, because each of them could have enjoyed the fruit for him or herself.  To which the children replied: “Obonato”.  Is it possible for one to be happy if everyone else is sad?  “Obonato” in their language means “I exist because we exist.”

I don’t know who wrote this.  It’s not important.  We humanity wrote it.  Similarly, it doesn’t matter if I write a particular thing in this blog.  What matters is that it is written.

We lives and breathes and creates.  We brings joy and reverence for life.  is a mere shadow of what life can be.  The African kids got the message.  Can we adult Westerners, older and supposedly wiser, understand … and live from there?  The future is cheering us on: “You folks can do it!”  Let’s prove the future right.

Six Deaths

A few weeks ago, I was the host on a Zoom call with about thirty people. I was the one with technical responsibility, making sure that anyone with computer problems was assisted to the best of my ability. Partway through, there was an event which I’ll call an “emergency”: lots of people would have technical issues if I didn’t act NOW. My Zoom host training had prepared me for something like this.

“What happened?” you ask.

I froze. My mind blanked. I didn’t get the job done. Thanks to the person who was teaching that day, all ended up being well. The trouble was, I wasn’t well.

I’ve thought a lot about those moments. There’s no wisdom in piling on the self-blame or coming up with excuses. “Poor me” doesn’t fly, nor does blaming Zoom. I remain a curious human being about my imperfections.

And some images have come through:

The first was a wilderness canoe trip in Alberta. I was up front, my life jacket secure, and my inability to swim parked in the nether regions of my brain. Until, that is, conversation with my canoemate jolted to a halt. Ahead of us on the river were rolling rapids. On the shore, people were yelling and scrambling for their canoes. We had missed the signal that we were to come ashore at our future campsite.

I was dead … I knew it.

One gigantic spill later, one frenzied rescue, one being stripped of my wet clothes, I was a pool of jelly inside my sleeping bag. Not much rest that night.

The image of those marauding waves has stayed with me all these years.

I guess there’s nothing to do with the picture in my head. I’ve been to counselling, and I’m happy with my life, but every once in awhile I get zapped. Zoom goneness, for instance.

Five other times I’ve looked in the eyes of death. Two of them were similar to the rapids: I saw the end coming. In one of those, the finale spread before me for thirty minutes. The other three times, there was no warning, just a blast of lethal energy.

As you’ve noticed, I’m still here. Someone large has been taking care of me, probably knowing that I have much to give, and deserve to have the time to give it.

I’m smiling now. The past sits there like a lump – or in this conversation, seven of them. The present is flowing towards the future. Here I go, wondering at the mystery of it all.

Days, Weeks, Months, Years

I remember March 12, and the school secretary telling me that her family had to make a decision about going south to Florida for the March Break.  I suggested that they go, especially because all the kids were looking forward to the sun and sand, but I also mentioned that they should stay away from Disney World.  Seems like ancient advice now.  I was thinking “It’s only nine days.  Not a problem.”

Over time, any thought of “days” has become irrelevant in this time of coronavirus.  The discussion soon blended into “weeks”.  The Ontario Premier announced that after March Break, the kids would be away from school for a further two weeks.  “That’s okay.  I’ll have lots of time for meditating, and reading books, and watching cool movies.  Plus I’ll see the kids again on April 6” … which happens to be today.  School now won’t return until at least May 4.  “Hey, that’s only four more weeks.  We’ll keep our physical distancing going for that time, and then I’ll be able to go out to Boston Pizza for a beer again.”

Or not.

There’s a newer word that’s crept into the conversations of politicians and health officials – “months”.  Perhaps the school year is over.  I volunteer in a Grade 5/6 class in a school where the 6’s graduate.  So maybe I’ll never see them as a group again.  Perhaps there won’t be any US Open tennis tournament for me to go to at the beginning of September.  I’ve been so looking forward to being in New York City and watching the best players in the world hit the ball back and forth!

A few days ago, Doug Ford, the Ontario Premier, gave us dire projections of coronavirus death in our province.  Hidden amid the 3,000 to 15,000 figures (if we maintain physical distancing and good hand-washing) was a smaller number – “2”.  Ontario health officials  think that the pandemic could be with us for another 18 months to 2 years.  Oh my.

So it could be that not only I won’t see the Grade 6 kids again, but also the Grade 5’s.  Oh … immense sadness at the prospect.

Will it be two years before I can go to a party again?
Before I can have breakie with other local folks at the Belmont Diner?
Before I can hug my friends?

The future draws us forward with its unseen arms

1087 … 7801?

This is the 1087th post I’ve written on WordPress. A journey indeed. It all started on June 20, 2014:

I retired yesterday and decided to declare 4:00 pm as the end point of my teaching career. My wife Jody and I have a lovely home on a deep lot. At the back of our lot are maybe 20 metres of trees, and then it’s on to a farmer’s field and beyond that a wide expanse of trees leading down into a ravine.

Taking my trusty red fabric chair in hand, not to mention a Bacardi Breezer, I trundled off to a spot at the edge of the field and plunked myself down. It was 3:00 o’clock. The sky was blue. The wind whistled through the trees. The shade was cool. One hour away from being a retired human being.

That was many chapters ago in the patchwork quilt of a life. “Sitting and Watching” grew out of the person I was becoming since 1949. Reflecting on retirement wasn’t just a moment beside a field in Union, Ontario. The words spilled out under the influence of Toronto, Vancouver, Lethbridge and London; under the influence of accounting, teaching, social work, life insurance and real estate; and under the influence of confidence, depression, courage and wimpiness.

Five years after that first post, I’m still on the road towards the unknown. Who will I be in ten years? What current parts of Bruce will I have left behind? What outrageous newness will flood my being?

The journey hasn’t been a gentle uphill climb. There have been soarings and plummetings, twistings and turnings. More to come.

In 2030, I may not recognize the soul in the mirror. I may be living in New York City. I may be impossibly handsome. But whatever the world gives me, I bet I’ll be smiling.

Moving

Half an hour ago I was walking along Bloor Street in Toronto, reflecting on my current spiritual life.  And the word “current” seems right on, since things are moving inside me … in mysterious ways.

On my right was a storefront full of windows.  Inside was a series of chalkboards.  The middle message hit home:

Truly, God alone has knowledge of the Hour
He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs
No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow
And no soul knows in what land it will die

As a Buddhist, my spirituality has focused on the depth of the moment.  What do I see in this precious present?  How has time stood still in communion with Spirit?  What epiphany of love do I see in your eyes?  All is still.  All is beauty.  All is the lingering now.

There is sublime being here.  But things are also rolling … in the becoming of it all.  Where will I die, dear chalkboard?  What realm of Bruceness will I inhabit when the breath fades away?  I feel a train flowing over the landscape.  I’ve bought a ticket to … somewhere.  I forgot to ask Via Rail about the destination.

In a universe next to timelessness, nothing stands still.  Love unfolds like a red, red rose.  The future curls her fingers and beckons us forward.  Happy are we in the going.

What will we earn tomorrow?  Maybe that day will bring us gifts that we don’t deserve, and can’t imagine.  Grace may bestow them upon us.  May we welcome the blessings that are to come.

We roll on.

Hurtling Through Space

Many a time, I’ve written about something that I was feeling recently but no longer.  If the experience was real in my soul, the words reached others.  It’s even more special, however, when what I’m telling you about is still with me … such as right now.

I’m in a global community that’s exploring consciousness, especially what’s possible when two or more of us look into each other’s eyes.  Can we experience great freedom?  Can we awaken together?  The answer that returns is “yes”.

Last evening there was a live internet session with about ten of us.  I looked inside as the call started.  I was “space-y”, disoriented, “loose” – but not in a negative way.  The cognitive me seemed to have taken a back seat.  And the question was large: “Where am I?”  What realm of being has come calling?

Part of our time together is the opportunity to practice with another person as we look at each other through our computer screens.  As I sat with a fine fellow, images flooded me and I shared them.  For a bit, I was floating in space, untethered from my spaceship.  Suddenly I was beside the rings of Saturn.  I spun them like a frisbee.  Then I was hungry, and the moon beckoned.  We all know that it’s made of green cheese and I took a huge bite.  Next I grabbed the moon, and having conveniently gotten rid of the planet Saturn, I threw the moon through the rings.  Bulls eye!

Fear came by.  “Shut it down, Bruce.  He’ll think you’re weird.”  As soon as I uttered these thoughts, they floated away and I was back in deep space.  I gasped as the meteor that was Bruce blasted into the darkness.  Fire trailed my splayed arms and legs.  I was hurtling through space!  And I still am.

I’m experiencing being launched somewhere, at supersonic speed.  I don’t know what the “somewhere” is, and I don’t care.  There’s no sense of danger.  Just astonishing velocity.  I’m vibrating with it.

I’ve had many meditation experiences where everything stops.  The stillness and peace abide.  Right now that peace is also here – a great calm – but I’m being thrown into some future.  There’s a vacuum sucking me forward.  There’s a magnet pulling me in.  I’m on a bullet train to the next moment.

Here’s the fear again.  “Don’t publish this.  Leave it as a draft … forever.”

Sorry, worried voice.  I’m about to click “Publish”.  It won’t be a record of the past.  It’s still an awe of the present.  I’m Superman – “faster than a speeding bullet”.

Letting Go

I stood in my bicycle shop today, ready to take ta-pocketa home.  My road bike has served me well for twenty years, but there have been issues.  First the practical stuff:  My bike is too big for me.  I wasn’t fitted correctly in 1997.  And then there’s the skinny road tires.  Ever since the tendon transfer surgery in 2003, my balance has been off and the tires allow precious little room for error.  Second the emotional stuff:  My few days in the Tour du Canada zapped me.  I didn’t have the bike skills for downtown Vancouver and the semitrailers whizzing by on the highway terrified me.

Ta-pocketa has been part of me for so long.  But so had the home I shared with Jody in Union, Ontario.  A year after she died, I knew that I had to leave.  It was too heartrending to sit in the family room and imagine her cooking in the kitchen.  The chapter was over, and so I moved to Belmont.  I stared at ta-pocketa this afternoon and realized that this chapter was done too.  I need to be more stable on the bicycle.  I need to diminish my fear on the bicycle.  I need Betty.

Betty is the hybrid bike I bought a few months ago, fully capable of carrying me over the gravel roads near Belmont, plus the many paved ones.  I’ve never ridden her.

“Goodbye, ta-pocketa.  Thank you for the journey.”  I told Sygnan to sell my dear friend – $1000 firm.  I placed my hand on her top tube and remembered the good times.  But those times aren’t now.  I’m older and not as able as I once was.

The future is pulling me.  I sense that it will include cycling, but a slower version, on country roads.  No hurry to get anywhere.  Just enjoying the rhythm of Betty and me.

We must let go of the life we have planned
So as to accept the one that is waiting for us
(Joseph Campbell)

Narrowed and Wide

I was riding the train in Toronto today – the UP Express. I love the train, with its big windows giving me a chance to look out at the world. I see into people’s backyards and wonder what lives are being led on the other side of their windows. I watch a long string of cars waiting at a red light for their left turn … and feel sad for the folks inside. Life passes me by.

Today was different. I grabbed the last remaining window seat but there was a partition right in front of me. All I had to see out from was a sliver of vertical glass. My eyes tensed up as images came by too fast. I couldn’t linger on anything, and lingering is truly one of life’s pleasures.

And I thought of other things:

What would it be like to have no peripheral vision, just a small circle in the middle for focusing on things?

What would it be like to have a moderate hearing loss, where you can only catch a few words from each sentence?

What would it be like to have the beginning of Alzheimer’s, and you just can’t remember the names of those near and dear?

What would it be like to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and be racked with terror in the middle of the night?

What would not be touched by a narrowed life? What essence of me would still be there? And could I find it?

In August, 2018, my life is expansive. In August, 2019, it may not be. It’s time to feel into what will always be there.

Finding Your Feet

What a glorious movie!  I saw it tonight at the Hyland Cinema in London.  Take an upper crust 60-something wife (Sandra) who has been dumped by her husband for a younger woman, put her into the ramshackle apartment of her free-spirited sister (Bif), and watch life evolve.

Mrs. Socialite was such a privileged bitch for much of the movie, tearing down the people around her as she was overwhelmed by pain.  Sis got her out to a dance club where she first of all refused to join in but memories of her childhood dancing, aided by a video of her as a kid (supplied by Bif), slowly led Sandra to move her feet again.

We learn of Charlie, a friend of Bif, who is accompanying his wife on the last stages of her Alzheimer’s disease.  It was so heartbreaking to see him reaching out to her while she slapped him away, not recognizing her husband.

Gradually Sandra lets herself have fun again, especially in the dancing, and she and Charlie do a lot of smiling together.  But she’s afraid of being hurt again and stands back from him some.

As Bif is dying from stage four lung cancer (the very disease that took my dear wife Jody), she thinks of her true love who was killed in a car accident.  She chose never to give herself to love again, and pleads with Sandra not to make the same mistake.

Many, many slices of life flowed across the screen.  It was all very real.  I often saw my life.  I bet others in the audience did too.

Sandra eventually chose to make a leap of faith.  As the credits rolled, the song “I’m Running To The Future” blasted our souls and we the audience applauded in recognition.

And now I look at me.  It does feel that I’m running to whatever’s next.  What will the bike ride across Canada bring to me?  Where will my Mutual Awakening practice with folks from around the world have me land?  And who will I be in the years to come?

I welcome the unfolding

What Now?

I’m in Colorado for the next four days … sort of.  I’ll be attending (sort of) a conference on the future of the world.  Actually, I’ve subscribed to the webcast of all the presentations in the main ballroom.  Some of the most advanced thinkers in the world will be addressing topics such as:

Spirituality
Tribalism versus globalism
The disparity in wealth
Fake news and hate propaganda
The misuse of sexuality
Racial abuse
Environmental degradation and the denial of climate change
Immigration and protection

How do we deal with massive change?  How can we create an inclusive world in which we accept our differences and see them as an opportunity to build something new?  “What’s next for human evolution?”

The older I’ve become, the more I’ve been living in “I don’t know.”  Sure, I’m smart enough to think through complex issues but multiple mysteries of life continue to present themselves.  Perhaps the rational mind is only a part of the puzzle solving.  Can I open to insights that seem to come from elsewhere?

Starting tonight on my laptop, I intend to fall into “beginner’s mind”.  With the glass close to empty, what will Spirit fill it with?  What connections will emerge over the next four days?  What moments of serendipity will say hi?  To what extent could I have been a presenter at the “What Now?” conference?  I do know that I have a part to play.

Tomorrow through Monday, I’ll give you my take on what I’m hearing.  Perhaps windows will open for all of us.

If you’d like to join in, go to integrallife.com.  On the dropdown menu, choose “Live”.  Scroll down to “Upcoming Broadcasts” and pick “What Now?”.  Scroll some more until you see words in orange: “Click here to purchase the webcast.”  It costs $125.00 US.  If you become an Integral Life member, it’s $100.00.  You need Google Chrome or fancy browsers that I don’t recognize.  Internet Explorer won’t work.  The first session starts at 7:00 pm tonight.

See you there?