Ten Dollars

I’ve written before about my hobby: picking up garbage on the sidewalks and gutters of Belmont.  It makes me happy.  Today I left home for the Diner on Main Street a half hour early since I knew there’d be an aftermath from Sunday’s Santa Claus Parade.

I was right.  I picked up about 130 cigarette butts on my trip south, plus assorted candy wrappers … and one complete chocolate bar!  My goal used to be to find lots of butts, sort of like a sports event.  Now I’m older and wiser.  The goal is zero.  However, today it wasn’t meant to be.

On the return journey, I found that the northerly citizens of Belmont were just as prolific as the southerly ones.  I was in mid-stoop when I caught a glimpse of a mauve rectangle ahead, nestled against some wet leaves in the gutter.  My eyes widened.  It was a ten dollar bill.  On previous trips, I’d stumbled upon a quarter here, a dime there, but this was verging on the miraculous.

The thought came … find the owner.  Okay, now how exactly am I supposed to do that?  Knock on a few doors, have folks check in their wallets and purses, and figure out if they’re short a ten spot?  Ah … no.

Nearby, two fellows were talking on the sidewalk.  I held up the bill, looked at one of them and said “Would you like this?”  And from what deep recess of my mind did that thought come?  I know I’m altruistic, but still.  The gentleman laughed and replied “No way.  You deserve it.  You’re the one picking up litter.”  Okay, point taken.  I returned the smile and placed Sir John A. Macdonald in my back pocket.

As I finished my walk home, that little piece of plastic money weighed me down.  “You don’t deserve it, Bruce.  It’s stealing.  Give it to charity.”  And other mumbo jumbo.  Finally I just accepted its presence in my life.  It’s a gift from the ether.  Some unknown force wants me to have ten dollars.  I need to accept it with grace.  By the time I put key into lock, the money was truly mine.

I think of other gifts, especially people’s kind words and deeds.  “Put them in your back pocket too, Bruce.  And say thank you.”  Hmm.  Good advice.

 

Not About Me

Here I was, fresh off my trip to Newfoundland, full of memoried moments about the people I’d met. It was time to visit Julia, my hairstylist, to get my locks shorn. Our history together is that she loves hearing me tell my stories but usually doesn’t have much to say when I ask about her life. Well … history doesn’t need to be repeated.

Sometimes I don’t have many words either but there’s nothing like a vacation to replenish my supply of tales. As Julia was shampooing my hair, I wondered what picture I should paint first.

And then I looked at my friend. “C’mon, Bruce, what’s coming up in Julia’s life?” I gulped as the answer hit home: her son Kyle is getting married on Saturday, September 15. She deserves the stage. She deserves to be the painter of motherly love, far more than I deserve to describe the sight of 18 cyclists climbing Signal Hill.

So I asked about her family’s special day … and I listened.

Julia is so proud of her son. Kyle and his soon-to-be wife are foster parents for dogs, helping them recover from illness or injury before passing them on to adopting humans.

Julia is thinking and thinking about what she wants to say at the reception. The plan is to go up there with her hubby Kevin and build off each other’s words of love. Sounds good.

The rehearsal dinner is the first thing and Julia is grappling with the details. Just lasagna and Caesar salad or should she add some chicken? Frozen or fresh? The details need to be handled but my friend is revelling in the prep of it all, for it’s all for love.

Julia is guessing that the blessed couple will be starting a family soon, and she’ll be a grandmother! “I’ll be a good one.” Yes, you certainly will.

I stayed with Julia through her wedding twists and turns. She’s worried about being nervous. I tell her that my wish is that she savours the beauty of the moments, from the rehearsal to the wedding to the reception and to the couple opening gifts on Sunday morning. She smiled.

I’m so happy for you, Julia
Thank you for sharing your joy
And thank you, Bruce, for stepping back
And letting your friend speak her love

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)

Allowing It to Emerge

I’m in a global community called the Evolutionary Collective.  All told, there are probably two hundred of us exploring consciousness within a structure created by Patricia Albere.  Fifteen souls were on a live video call this afternoon.

Part of the experience is in pairs, with eyes open and connected.  For ten minutes, one person answers the question “What are you experiencing right now?” while the other silently moves her consciousness inside the speaker.  Then the two switch roles for the second ten.  During the third segment, the partners talk back and forth, responding to “What are we experiencing right now?”

It’s a mysterious process.  It’s easy to rattle on about concepts and ideas, feelings and bodily sensations, but Patricia is pointing elsewhere.  I was with “Mary” today and here’s where I went for my ten minutes:

I’m experiencing a lake, perfectly smooth.  I’m swimming with my head up – it’s the breast stroke – and you’re beside me doing the same.  Our motions are so smooth, so effortless, and we smile at each other.  Ahead is the horizon.  It’s a simple line between sky and water.  There’s no land.  I look around and see the same horizon everywhere.  I don’t know where we are but there’s a great sense of ease, of safety.

And now I’m diving, my hands touching ahead of me … down and down into the dark.  Hundreds of fish, of all shapes and hues, come to say hi.  They dive with me, with little smiles on their faces.  The water is cool and lovely and I can breathe easily.

Soon all is black and I continue to descend.  No fear.  Just a sweet sinking towards I know not what.  And now I’m experiencing a light way down below and I’m excited to see what’s there.  As I near the ocean floor, there it sits – a tiny gold ring.  Magically, I move my hands and arms and head through it and it settles around my waist.

I’m so happy to have found a golden friend.  Yes, the ring is alive.  It holds me gently on my stomach and back, just a tender pressure that’s so comforting.  I gaze down in wonder at the glowing and pulsing entity encircling my waist.

“Who are you?” I ask.

No words come back but the ring smiles just a bit and holds me some more, a touch firmer now.

***

Mary and I don’t analyze.  There’s no figuring out.  No evaluating.  Just the sense of something opening, inviting us to explore.  And we’ll continue to do that.

 

Traffic Jammed and Released

It took me a long time today to drive from London, Ontario to Toronto.  Near Kitchener and again while approaching TO, it was often bumper to bumper.  No big deal … I’ll get there when I get there.

I was creeping forward in the middle lane.  Ahead of me a semi-trailer on the right jerked wildly to the left, causing the car already occupying that space to slam on the brakes.  Yuck!  That’s how people die out here.  Peace withered away as I blasted the trucker from the safety of my insides.  Just like that, I had created an enemy.  What a dumb thing to do.  Maybe he or she was having a body reaction that caused the sudden movement.  Or the boss had blasted them an hour earlier.  But empathy didn’t seem to be my strong suit today.

Enemies need to be defeated, I reasoned.  The driver was back in the right lane and the seas suddenly parted for anyone over there.  Those folks sped ahead of those of us who were crawling in the middle or left.  Grrr.  (Look how easily my equanimity can be replaced by battle mode.  So humbling.)  Minutes later, the truck reappeared on the right, gradually being pulled back to me.  My heart soared.  Here was the true meaning of life – beat the other fellow.  All of my sinews thrilled as I edged past the bad guy.

And so went our slow motion back-and-forth tussle.  I bet it took me forty-five minutes to realize that I had given all of my power to Mr. Trucker.  His ebbing and flowing was controlling my life.  Why, oh why, didn’t I see this right away?  Guess it’s just my rampant imperfection.

Finally, I let the fellow or gal go.  I let the contest go.  They were just doing their job, probably being pushed by some supervisor to get from A to B 10% faster.  My body calmed.  My soul smiled.  Let’s be friends.

Ten minutes later, I was still in the middle and the trucker was on the right, virtually even.  And then … poof! … they were gone.  In my rearview mirror, I saw the truck pull off on the shoulder, flashers on.

I looked back and I was sad
Goodbye, companion of the road
No more waging war
Fare thee well

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.

 

 

 

Issuelessness

I’ve been listening to some of Patricia Albere’s conversations on the Evolutionary Collective website.  One in particular has stopped me in my tracks … the perception of issuelessness.

Can it be, that although problems will keep arising in my life, I don’t need to feed them energy?  I don’t need to define something as an issue, and allow it to bring me down.

I’m riding my bicycle across Canada this summer.  Last week, at the school where I volunteer, kids challenged me to run the 800 metres with them.  So I did it!  And now my ankles are nicely swollen.

So … issue or no issue?

In another realm, I look back at my life and the experiences that brought me joy.  I used to be an artist, creating batiks, a process of dyes and waxes on fabric.  Also, I’ve collected thousands of quotations, with the intention of sorting them into categories and publishing a book chronicling the world’s wisdom.  Will I return to these prior passions? I don’t know.

Issue or no issue?  Important to return or not?  One voice tells me to resurrect these activities and another says let them go.

I go back and forth in my assessment of realities: swollen ankles, no batik and no volumes of wise words.  In my better moments, there are no issues.  I feel such freedom, such peace.  And then there are the times I spend behind bars.

Such a work in progress, this living.

Thoughts for a Sunday Afternoon

Here are some musings from Patricia Albere, and a person whose name I can’t remember … and me:

“The yonder shore that is calling us”

When I was a teenager, I loved hearing Tennessee Ernie Ford sing gospel music. My favourite song of his was “Drifting Too Far From The Shore”. Mostly I was in love with his deep bass voice but part of me needed Jesus to keep me safe.

Why meet a terrible fate?
Mercies abundantly wait
Turn back before it’s too late
You’re drifting too far from shore

Nowadays it feels like I’ve set out across the waters of spiritual life. The way is often foggy but I trust that there’s a new shore awaitin’ – some unknown land that is beckoning me. Not “heaven” per se but something in the moment that’s beyond time and space. Something full of life.

“A wholehearted expression of fully being “met” in all dimensions of love – from simple, sweet human tenderness to sacred union”

The thought keeps returning: people don’t see me. They don’t know who I am, at a deep level. I yearn for contact, connection, a meeting of the eyes. Maybe no words would be spoken, or there might be a torrent of the soul’s work. Either way, the moment is complete. No opinions, no lecturing, no posturing … just you and me.

I want one of these oh so open relationships to include sexuality – the union of our bodies as well as our spirits. But that may not come to pass. I sense that one thing is not negotiable: the merging of consciousness so that the space between us is sacred. A wholeness that transcends and includes our individuality.

“The space between us became vivid and enlivened. As I continued exploring, leaning into it more and more, it became this vortex of consciousness, which had a momentum of its own. It was very compelling and had almost a “sucking in” momentum that was changing the experience of self, my sense of self, from someone limited in my body (kind of a consciousness inhabiting a body) to, in this case, two bodies being consumed by a vortex of consciousness. Being two was secondary to the incredible oneness of consciousness that consumed us.”

What if this vortex, this cycling of energy, was my common state of being? I’d be swept up in one long “oooohhhh” experience and I’d be sharing that with another human being. Astonishing.

“A stance of receptive surrender”

Such a tricky word. It’s not a giving up. It’s a letting go. Beyond the mind and beyond my feelings. But letting go into what? Perhaps that’s the idea. I let go into an unknown. Despite having “studied” spirituality for decades, I know not. Something brand new may be resting behind my eyes. I need to wait and see what approaches me, and to have it be okay that the depth of another person will come calling. May the energies reaching out to me be a revelation.

“What we see on the surface, and much of what we have been told is true, is a very shallow view of what exists.”

Oh my. Many folks have lent me their opinions about what is true. And most of my day features surface interactions. Still, what’s possible? Right now, I’m sitting beside a fellow in a concert hall, waiting for the music. His response to my hello was lukewarm at best. So again, what’s possible? Think I’ll say hi again.

***

Well, well, well. I drew him in. We talked about how we both love sitting in the front row, in the middle. And as for the guy on the other side, I offered to sing him “a little number”. He said yes. So I sang “Three”, which as we all know is a little number. Contact times two.

“Once they taste the mystical realm, their hearts are blown open and the flow of divine love overtakes them, and they cannot return to anything less.”

I’ve glimpsed divine realms, momentarily. I know they exist. And indeed I can’t settle for a longterm flow of anything less, even though I regularly encounter folks who want to stay on the surface of things. To be blown open, to be undone, unravelled, is a terrifying and sublime blessing.

“The first quality of mystical experiences is that they defy ordinary description or explanation. Those of us who have them find ourselves at a loss to effectively share them with others.”

But still I write, even though I fear I will be perceived as deficient and weird. I remember once I had no words for a woman so all we did was hug, for at least two minutes. It wasn’t sexual. It was communal. Afterwards all we could say to each other was “That was nice.”

“In Mutual Awakening practice, we do not speak about our experience; we give our experience a voice. We are not looking at our experience and describing it. We are allowing that experience to take us over and speak through us so that even we are amazed at what comes out of our mouths.”

Ha! Am I wide enough to just open my mouth and allow what comes out? I think so … when I’m talking to a beloved. And maybe, just maybe, there are a lot of beloveds out there waiting for me to sing them a little number.

Bring It To Mind

What if I could just think about something and have it show up in my life?  I wonder.

During last fall’s retreat, I often was able to reach a deep meditative state when sitting in the hall with other yogis.  I could feel energy behind my eyes and a “shimmering down” of something sweet falling to my neck and beyond.  It was a space of much love and peace.  Everything stopped as I was held in some mysterious embrace.  And then the whole thing would go away.  I learned to trust that it would come back.

Over the last month, this same feeling has occasionally flooded me during the plainest moments – driving down the road, walking downtown, sitting on the toilet.  How can this be happening in “real life”, apart from the seclusion of the retreat centre and the serenity of the meditation hall?  I don’t know, but it is happening … And it’s happening right now.

I’m sitting in a warming shed at the Wards Island ferry dock on Toronto Island.  I’m alone, and yet it feels like the universe is all around.  I’m tapping away to you in a space of “all rightness”.  It doesn’t matter what I say.  Whatever comes out of my thumbs will be just fine.

Last night I went to a concert with my friend Jane.  Afterwards we were sitting in a restaurant enjoying an appetizer.  We talked about lots of things.  At one point, I remembered the marvel of those peaceful moments I’ve just described.  I told Jane about it.  And just like that … I was there: the shimmering, the space enveloping me, the peace.  My eyes widened.  “Jane, what I just said – I’m there.”  How can this be?  It’s just like during sitting meditation.  All I did was speak the experience … and “Voilà!”

It’s three hours later now.  I’ve listened to a marvelous string quartet at the island church.  Most of the time, while listening or chatting, you could say I went unconscious, not at all in touch with the sublimity.  And that’s okay.   Once in awhile, the thought came up “I wonder if I can do this when I’m talking to someone, like with Jane.”  But that’s not it. There’s no doing.  The sweetness just showed up with Jane.  No prompting other than starting to talk about the experience.  No intention to unfold.  I actually tried to reach the space when eating brunch with five other folks … but no go.  Maybe a glimpse for a few seconds, but that was all.  It’s all right.  I don’t mind.

I just had a thought – perhaps saying a single word could foster the opening of Spirit.  How about “This”, in the sense of right here and right now?  As opposed to “That”, with the here and/or the now missing.  No, “this” doesn’t ring true.

During a particular flurry of bows and strings this afternoon, another word  showed up … “Listen”.  That feels better.  It could be a trigger to spaciousness when I’m in the middle of a conversation.  We’ll see.  But isn’t that just more doing?

Now I’m on the ferry back to downtown Toronto.  The peace is back, unbeckoned.  Such a mystery.  In the next few days, when I’m talking to someone, I’ll see if the forces of the universe open me, with or without a word on my lips.

It’s a grand adventure
No control
No pressing for a result
No me

Birdies Come Here

Nature keeps teaching me stuff.  I hope I’m listening.

I live in a condo in Belmont, Ontario.  It’s a separate building that backs onto a farmer’s field.  I love being here.  Last fall, our builder planted deciduous trees at the back, one for each home.  Mine is about 12 feet tall.

Just outside my bedroom window, I have two bird feeders – one with nyjer seed for finches and the other with sunflower seeds for everybody else.  I love hearing the birds in the early morning and seeing them crowd around the feeders.  There is even a crew of mourning doves that rummage on the ground for stray seeds.  They’re all family to me.

The last three days, however, it feels like my family has gone on vacation.  I haven’t seen a single bird at the feeders.  Some folks hang out on the bare branches but they keep their distance.  And I get to watch my mind.

1. “There are more birdies on the neighbours’ tree than on mine.”

2. “Something is wrong with the seed.  Maybe it got wet in all that rain.”

3. “The birds like the neighbours’ seed better than mine.  I probably made a poor selection.”

4. “They’ll never come back.  My family is broken apart.”

5. “It just goes to show you that things don’t work out in life.”

Oh, Bruce.  Such a Negative Nester you are.  Didn’t you just spend three months at a meditation retreat, sharpening up your mind?  Well … yes I did.  But sometimes my thoughts still carry me away.

Much of the retreat was about letting go of things and people that I thought I needed to glom onto.  A birdless feeder is simply another teacher.

Can I be happy even if the birds don’t come back? > Yes
Did I do something bad that caused the birds to go away? > No
How about if I put new nyjer seed in the feeder and see what happens? > Yes
Do I really want to tie myself in knots whenever something goes wrong? > No
Can I control what other beings do? > No
Can I let go of all this angst? > Yes

Good.  Now go to bed and sleep like a baby.