I used to be a runner.  Now I’m a cyclist.  Only recently have I been a stretcher.  And apart from a dabbling a few years ago, I’m just beginning to be a weightlifter.  I want to cross my country this summer on my bicycle ta-pocketa.  I need to have “all lights shining bright” (from a David Francey song).

I’ve started working with Marcin, a personal trainer.  He’s so supportive and so willing to challenge me.  Day One is lots of reps using light weights.  Day Two fewer reps and somewhat heavier weights.  And then there’s Day Three – today.  A couple of hours after our session, I was sitting in the Byron branch of the London Public Library, starting to read about my favourite Buddhist topic … being a bodhisattva, a person who hears and responds to the cries of the world.  And I just about fell asleep.  I managed a few pages and then realized that I didn’t have it.  Simply exhausted.

At one point in the gym, Marcin was coaching me in doing a leg press.  He chose the weight.  I pushed … and nothing happened.  The angled plate under my feet didn’t move.  Memories jolted into me and my normally high self-esteem plummeted.

I went back twelve years, when I had ruptured a tendon in my right foot and had surgery.  When the cast came off, the physio told me to move my toes to the side.  I pushed … and nothing happened.  Orders from headquarters mattered not.  I felt deeply sad then, and medium sad today.  And I let myself feel it this afternoon.  No judgment, just watching it all wash over me.

I went back twenty-three years, when my thirteen-year-old niece Diana beat me in an arm wrestle.  Lots of judgment back then.  Bruce was bad, weak, repulsive, un-male, deserving scorn …  Now I hold myself far more gently.

I did my best today.  The last few reps of a set were often really hard but my mind was strong.  Marcin settled on good weights for me, ones that stretched my everything.  I will be ready on June 20, 2016, in Victoria, British Columbia.  I will dip my rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean and head north to the ferry, and then east across Canada.  I will not poop out in Manitoba (a province halfway across my home and native land).  I will ride fast enough so that one or more of my Tour du Canada friends will choose to accompany me each day.  I will create enough energy for hills, headwinds, rain and bad roads.  And I will have enough left over to be good to my fellow riders.

For at least ten years, I’ve dreamed about this ride – seeing Canada, meeting Canadians, and blogging about it all.  I will do this before I die.

So there



I’ve often thought about how people hold their heads.  I don’t mean with their hands.  I mean the angle … as in centred, slightly left or slightly right. Also, looking down, looking up and looking with the head level.

I enjoy being centred in life, squared up.  Same thing with my gaze.  There’s power, I believe, in looking right at the person I’m with, the line of my shoulders forming a right angle with the direction my head is pointing.  A little one way or the other seems to lessen the contact.  And I want each moment I’m with another human being to hold the possibility of contributing to them.  Naturally my intention, my attitude, my words and my tone of voice are important, but I also sense that my alignment makes a difference.

And then there’s down, up and level.  As I was driving today, I passed a young woman walking with purpose, head down in mid-text.  She seemed so tight and contorted.  There was no flow.  But sometimes head down can be a blessing.  On meditation retreats, we walk with our heads down as a way to centre ourselves.  We’re asked not to make eye contact with other yogis. This is not to be distant, but to allow each person their space.  Even without eye contact, or touching, there’s lots of caring transmitted from retreatant to retreatant.

As for eyes up, that can show devotion or wonder.  “I lift mine eyes unto the hills”, lift them not only to the beauty of nature but also to the best in us, to whatever we experience God to be.  I remember as a kid sitting on the crumbling cement porch of my grandpa’s farmhouse, listening to him tell stories from his favourite chair.  He’d talk and smoke his cigar, and the people would come alive in me.  Devotion.

My favourite is to look at someone on the level.  Person to person, neither one better or worse, two people making meaning together.  As a teacher of many young kids, I’d usually kneel down as we talked, so that we could be eye-to-eye.  That felt good.  Whether with a child or with someone older than me, the meeting of the eyes, especially if we linger, is lovely. Communion.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven


Why Am I Doing This?

I drink Gatorade on my cycling excursions, and I’m an equal opportunity guzzler – blue, green and orange.  A couple of weeks ago, I looked in the orange container and there wasn’t even a scoopful left.  So I poured the bits into the blue.  Before my next ride, I tried to get as much of the orange pieces into the scoop as I could.  Same on the ride after that.  Lately, though, I’ve been taking a teaspoon and picking out the orange grains and dropping them into the scoop, unavoidably accompanied by some blue.

Today I was like a surgeon, moving aside the blue stuff with the teaspoon and getting every orange granule that I could lay my eyes on.  It took me about fifteen minutes to fill that scoop.

So the question:  What am I doing and why am I doing it?  And then it came to me:  I am purifying the blue container as a symbol of purifying myself.  All this time I’d spent and the true meaning of it was just under the surface of my awareness.

So what else do I do as an expression of Spirit?  And not doing it as a way to get something or arrive somewhere, but as a way to deepen what is already inside of me.  Here are a few of my idiotsyncrasies (Jody’s word):

1.  I replace burnt out lightbulbs quickly.  (Having my light and others’ shine)

2.  A small statue of the Buddha sits on the hassock near my man chair.  I turn it so that my friend is looking directly at me.  (Making contact with people, a timeless kind of contact)

3.  When I turn on my laptop, a little sign appears in the bottom right corner of the screen once things are booted up, announcing that I’m connected to the Internet.  I watch that sign until it gradually fades away to nothing.  (All things – good, bad and indifferent – must pass)

4.  We have a ceiling fan in the kitchen.  When I pull the cord to shut it off, I watch the blades turn … slower and slower … until they finally stop.  (I will die.  The body that is Bruce will weaken gradually and someday come to a halt)

5.  I could use a wall switch to turn off the ceiling fan but I prefer the pull cord.  (I am drawn to ancient rhythms rather than modern conveniences.  But I still use light switches!)

6.  I sometimes take my right hand and draw it to the right, palm up, and hold it there for a few seconds.  (In moments of spiritual awareness.  And the palm is up to open and connect)

7.  I park Hugo and Scarlet facing in to the space.  (I want to be with whatever’s next, rather than turning away from it)

8.  When I’m doing walking meditation at IMS on the circular drive, I walk right in the middle of the road, and step aside if someone is approaching me on the same line  (To be balanced in life.  And to yield to others rather than pressing forward)

9.  I place the coffee mugs on the shelf right side up instead of upside down. (So they’re open to the world, not insulated from it)

10.  I stand with my arms falling loosely by my sides.  (So the energy will flow)


I haven’t put all this on video yet
Maybe someday soon in a theatre near you

Meditating with Jody

It’s 7:00 am and I’m sitting beside Jody’s bed after she’s asked for a drink of water.  She’s dozed off again.  And so I’ll meditate.  I find that I usually can fall deeply within a minute or two.  The Buddha talked about “choiceless awareness”, allowing whatever thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that come up to be there, and just watching them as they arrive and later leave.

I used to wonder what to do with my hands, but why bother?  Now I just cup my right hand in the left, letting my right thumb rest on the left one.  I can’t hear my breath.  It’s very slow.  I’m very still.  Cozy.

I hear Jody’s slow breathing.  I smile and let it embrace me.  Sometimes there’s a break in the rhythm – a little grunt – and I smile some more.  All part of the symphony.  My breathing and Jody’s aren’t on the same beat, and that doesn’t matter at all.  Actually, nothing matters.  I just welcome the moments as they come towards me.

My stomach groinks, and then once again.  Jody’s replies with a similar sound.  My goodness, it’s a conversation.  Another smile.  I know that a small clock is sitting nearby but I don’t open my eyes to see it.  Wouldn’t do me any good in the dark anyway.  I hear the thought, “Find out what time it is. Find out how long you’ve been meditating.”  A smile and a gentle “No thanks” in reply.

Thoughts of being in the meditation hall at IMS bubble up.  Comparing this to that.  And I watch that go.  Such a blessing to welcome it all – the arriving, the abiding, the departing.

Then the itch.  A few inches below my right nipple.  “Scratch it.”  “Don’t.”  I let it alone, just observing instead.  It gets stronger but after a short time lessens to nearly nothing.  As I continue, the itch flares again (five more times!) and then recedes, over and over.

I turn my head way to the left, and then to the right, enjoying the crackle sound.  “Don’t turn your head.  Be still.”  Later I turn again.  “It’s okay, Bruce.”  No right or wrong when I’m meditating.  No deficit.  And increasingly, no yearning.  I like it.

At some point, with Jody continuing to saw logs, I open my eyes in the dim light, get up from the chair and lie down again on the foam pad beside her bed.  I don’t look at the clock.  Everything is fine.


Especially now that Jody is sick, I grasp onto the little pleasures that come my way.  It’s almost like sucking my thumb when I was a kid.  I did that until Grade 5, accompanied by my teddy bear Teddy.  I remember the overwhelming sadness I felt when Teddy’s head fell off.  Soon after that, my thumb started morphing into other pursuits – showing appreciation, creative twiddling, and eventually hitchhiking.

Today, I still need my teddy.  The first one is the London Free Press sports section.  I start on the front page, looking for stories that show human beings being human.  Let’s say it’s an article about the London Knights Junior A hockey team (young guys between 16 and 20).  If the article continues on page 3, I go there to finish it.  Generally though, I start on the first page and proceed on from there in order.  A lovely ritual or a deviant rigidity?  Who cares?  It makes me feel cozy.

I also love rows of sports stats, usually printed in the tiniest of fonts.  Jody has always called this particular passion my idiotsyncrasy.  Hey, it’s okay if it is.

I have a favourite ceramic mug.  Actually, I’m looking at it right now.  It’s tall and blends from a dark blue glaze at the bottom to a delicate pink one at the top.  And it feels just perfect in my hand.  Once my coffee or tea cools down a bit, I like wrapping both hands around.  The warmth spreads through me.  Ahhh.

I’ve mentioned my man chair before in these posts.  It’s a green upholstered Lazy Boy.  (And I just remembered that it’s featured in my photo for WordPress.)  I love pulling the lever to get the footrest to push out and the head to go back.  I get my knees up and prop my book against them.  More bliss.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sleeping on a foam pad next to Jody’s hospital bed.  I lay a flat sheet on the pad and cover myself with a second sheet and a blanket.  Then I arrange things by my neck just so.  The edge of the top sheet has to curl back over the blanket so the sheet is what I feel.  Since the sheet and blanket are loose at the bottom, I then throw my legs into the air, so the covers fall over my toes.  When I bring my legs back down, I’m snug as a bug in a rug.  Yum.

That’s all the symbols of soothing I can think of right now.  I’ll let you know if other ones float down upon me.

The Five Precepts

The Buddha had some pretty good ideas about how to lead a life.  Much of his wisdom focused on what he called the five precepts.  Here they are:

Do no harm to anyone
Take nothing that is not freely given
Speak truthfully and helpfully
Use my sexual energy wisely
And keep my mind clear

Can my happiness really be as simple as this?   Maybe I don’t have to read 1000-page texts written centuries ago.  Maybe I don’t have to dedicate an hour or more a day to formal sitting meditation practice.  Maybe I don’t have to remember a single phrase of liberated understanding.  How about if I just do five little things?


Don’t hurt anyone or anything.  Not even an insect.  Not even someone who talks rudely to me.  Not even someone who sees me as a “thing” to be ignored or brushed past.  Don’t get angry.  Don’t get even.  Love the transgressor as the victim they are.

Don’t misuse other people’s property or time.  Allow them to come towards me if they choose, and to stay away if that better meets their needs.  If they love someone else far more than loving me, even if I deeply desire that love, have that be okay.

Let go of the words of anger (antagonism, outrage, hatred, impatience, resentment, …) and deception (falsehood, hypocrisy, trickery, craftiness, guile, …) and embrace the words of love (tenderness, appreciation, fondness, cherishing, friendship, …) and kindness (altruism, sweetness, good will, gentleness, benevolence, …).

Let my erotica be I-Thou, you more than me, companions, making love, connection, transparency, without boundary, pleasuring, enfolding, caressing, allowing, joining and giving.

No Coors Light, no Cabernet Merlot, no Mai Tai, no shot glasses, no pitchers, no carafes, no woozy, no tipsy, no plastered.


Smart guy

Last Time

I like those two words so much that I often use them as my user name on Internet sites.  (Don’t tell anyone, please.)  I realize that any given moment could be the very last time I see someone or something, I do something, I experience something.  We just don’t know.

Yesterday Jody spent many hours being disoriented.  She slept well, thanks to an increased dose of her sedative.  When she awoke this morning (with me lying beside her bed on a foam pad), I sensed that Jody was “there” as she asked for water.  I wondered whether this was the last time we would have an oriented conversation.  And so, I began:

“I love you, my dear.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m glad you’re my wife.”

“I’m glad you’re my wife … (smiles) … husband.”

“Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

To be so present right then was stunning and truly wonderful.  Oh, if only I could be this way always with everyone, not knowing if this time is our last.  I’m thinking of an old friend Linda, whom I palled (or is that “paled” – no, that’s not right) around with at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Alberta, and later in Vancouver.  We had such good talks.  Linda was the older sister I never had.  And then we lost touch.  Miraculously, years later, I saw her on the streets of Calgary and introduced her to Jody.  And then she was gone, and she remains so.  Was I present to our moment of departure from each other?  I fear not.


When will be the last time that I:

– ride my bike ta-pocketa?

– eat pumpkin pie?

– go dancing?

– write a post in Bruce’s Blog?

– walk in the mountains?

– tell someone I love them?

– sing a song and play guitar?

– sit cozied up in my man chair, reading a good book?

– set foot in my home … 6265 Bostwick Road, Union, Ontario?

– wear a t-shirt and shorts?

– say something silly?

– speak?

– shave?

– be on a beach in the Caribbean?

– drive a car?

– josh around with people at Costco?

– make love?

– watch “The Razor’s Edge” and “Titanic”?  (my two favourite movies)

– am with Jody?

– awaken?


The mystery unfoldeth


Light Under Their Wings

It was 6:59 and my alarm hadn’t gone off as scheduled.  Today is garbage and recycling day and I hopped to it.  Everything out to the curb before the trucks roll by at 7:30 or so.  Focus … empty small garbage baskets into the big can, yank the clear bag full of fine white paper out of its holder (Heavy!), newspapers into a plastic bag, search for any recyclables and plop them into their appropriate bin, huge garbage bag out of the can, replace bag, empty small bag in garage into the big one, replace bag, slap on a sticker showing that I’m a legitimate taxpayer, one blue box inside the other and carry them out to the road, heave ho the fine paper bag out to the same location, try to be quiet as I roll our grey plastic garbage can (with the raccoon-proof lid) to join the others … There!  Done.

What’s next?  Well, pick up the morning paper from our mailbox, of course.  And while you’re out here, why not get the backyard feeders out of the shed and hang them for the birdies?  Okay, oriole one is up.  Walking with the hummer one towards its hook, thinking of coffee (Tea is for expansive days).

And then … I looked up.  The sky was full of seagulls flying right over our house, from the front yard to the back, coming from their overnight sojourn on Port Stanley beach to eat I don’t know what in the fields around St. Thomas.  I glanced up for a few moments and then dropped my eyes to the task at hand.  Until the voice inside said “Stop.  Put down the feeder.  Watch the birds.”  So I did.

The morning sun hadn’t touched our backyard grass, but it was animating the bellies and wings of my silent friends.  And it was silent.  Nary a flapping sound among the bunch of them.  Inside, I stopped as well, letting the flow of hundreds of birds wash over me.

I looked to the south to some big old deciduous trees on the horizon.  Seagulls kept appearing from behind those trees.  I saw one arrow shape of ten birds.  How cool.  Then there were lots of folks floating along in twos and threes.  But also the occasional one flying alone.  I wondered about them.  Did they want the freedom of a solitary flight, not having to make conversation?  Or did they pine for companionship, wishing that somebody would say “Hi”?  I don’t know.  They didn’t say.

I wanted there to be a minute when the sky was empty, so that I could anticipate the next convoy, but it never came.  Always there were birds, revealing themselves over the southern trees, showing me their colours, and then disappearing to the north, over the maple in our backyard.  I thought of an individual seagull – first they weren’t there, then they were, then they weren’t again.  But even if I could no longer see a certain feathered one, their bird essence was imprinted on my sky.  Nobody can ever take that away.

After five or ten minutes of being aloft, I picked up the hummer feeder and walked to its hook.  Slowly.

Just Do It

To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child
A garden patch, or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived

The last line.  Is that enough?  That at the end of my life, just one person would have been enhanced by my time on the planet?  What if I let this be okay, rather than indulging in grand fantasies about making a difference worldwide?

And then again … I wonder what freedom I’d let in if I completely let go of contributing to the lives of other people.  Experiencing no need to have any particular result show up in my life.  Perhaps I’ll do the experiment.

I could say goodbye to “Action > Result” and say hello to merely “Action”.  If my mind wasn’t being bothered with the ramifications of what I do or say, wouldn’t that free up a lot of energy?  And what would that look like?

Just love

Just smile

Just give

Just nurture

Just help

Just look

Just trust

Just meditate

Just empathize

Just write

Just kiss

Just caress

Just persevere

Just commit

Just initiate

Just forgive

Just adore

Just cherish

Just work

Just encourage

Just mourn

Just accept

Just giggle

Just include

Just enjoy

Just make love

Just empathize

Just lead

Just hold dear

Just do things

Just celebrate

Just thank

Just move

Just dance

Just cry

Just give

Just eat

Just walk

Just think

Just speak

Just rejoice

Just act

Just assist

Just buy

Just teach

Just create

Just reach out

Just listen

Just shine

Just live

People Passing By

I love watching people.  And one of the best places to do it is in the seating area by the snack bar at Costco.  A steady stream of consumers roll their carts by me on the way to the exit.  Yesterday I plunked myself down with representatives from three of Canada’s major food groups – hot dog, Diet Coke, and later, a chocolate waffle cone.

I watched my judgments come up as they walked by, and was happy to see the negativity quickly fade.  There really was no one better and no one worse.  The whole topic was irrelevant.  The shoppers were all human beings, each with their hidden story, each worthy of my love.  Here’s a sampling:

1.  A woman in her thirties with a bad patch of acne on her left cheek.  Two little girls, both yammering away, sat in the cart, sticking their legs out at mom.  (I though of my horrible acne in Grade 9, and looks of disgust from a few.)

2.  A young guy with closely cropped hair, shades perched on top of his head, a bouquet of lilies in his left hand, a bag of fertilizer slung over his right shoulder, no cart.  (I never had a girl to bring flowers to when I was his age.)

3.  A former Costco cashier came over to talk.  In his 60s.  Retired in June because he couldn’t stand for his 7.5 hour shifts anymore.  Loves coming back to chat with members and fellow employees.  Thanked me for giving him a hard time at the checkout.  (Gosh, I’m retired too.  Does this mean that we’re both getting O-L-D?)

4.  Three women walking with their almost empty cart, probably in their 70s, small smiles to each other, polyester wardrobes, happy.  (I never go out with the guys.  Doesn’t feel like I have any guys to go out with.)

5.  An elderly gentleman, thinning grey hair slicked back with some goo, more polyester, leaning heavily on his cart as he moves it forward slowly.  (Reminds me of my dad in his last years – the family grocery shopper, determined to be independent, had lost a step or two.)

6.  Middle-aged guy, baseball cap, short grey beard, t-shirt and shorts, driving his cart way too fast.  Has to slam on the brakes as the line slows near the exit.  (I remember the tension I felt as an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired.  Sometimes I raced down the hallway to the next kid.  Too much to do.)

7.  A 20-something hulk of a fellow, really motoring, sunglasses riding high, muscle shirt showing off arms as big as my legs, oriental tattoos on his upper arms and calves.  (I remember being scared of big guys like that.  When I was 15.  Or was it just last year?  Okay, both.)

8.  Two women, perhaps from India, strolling out of the store, garbed in black saris, with colorful scarves covering their heads.  Would you believe another pair of sunglasses adorning another head?  (What would my life be like now if I had been born a Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist in an Asian country?)

9.  A very tall teenager, hair up in a bun (sort of), wearing a black sleeveless top, with a black and golden sparkled purse on her shoulder, arms that didn’t seem to have any biceps, looking calm.  (I love seeing muscle definition in the upper arm, but this woman’s arm was just a straight line.  I wondered what her life was like, and why she felt the need to be so thin.)

10.  A hugely overweight woman in her 30s, bum jiggling in green pants as she pushes her cart, hair shaved close at the back of her neck, and poofing out on top, almost like a nest.  (What must it be like to be so fat?  Wouldn’t every little task cause troubled breathing?  Thank God I don’t have to cope with all this.)


All of us
No one left out
The same brightness behind the eyes