A Cook Named Bruce

Long ago, in a fantasy land called Vancouver, I invited my girlfriend over for supper.  I don’t remember the main course but dessert was special.  You’ll be happy to know that I had lovingly created a chocolate pie with a graham cracker crust.  It was cooling in the fridge.  With great aplomb, I opened the door and reached in.  As I pulled out the pie, I noticed that there were waves on the surface.  To my horror, I gazed down at Lake Chocolate.  I hadn’t got the memo that the pudding needed to be cooked.  My friend was so gracious.  She spooned up her soup with grace.

This memory has stayed vivid for close to fifty years.  All those decades have reinforced the basic concept: “I can’t cook.”  Jody was marvelous in the kitchen, creating so many yummy meals.  I was marvelous in the kitchen too, except that my office was the sink rather than the stove.

Now I’ve started with Derek, such a knowledgeable trainer at the fitness club.  He’s not only gung ho about strength and cardio … nutrition is a biggie too.  He’s lent me a book called Gourmet Nutrition.  Last Thursday, being well aware of my lack of culinary art, Derek challenged me to make a meal on the weekend, following one of the 120 recipes in the book.  “It can be the simplest thing, Bruce.  Will you do it?”

Yes.

This afternoon, I gazed over at Gourmet Nutrition.  It was sitting there on my end table, sticking its tongue out at me.  “How insensitive!” I moaned.

Two hours ago, I flipped to “Breakfast”.  And all was revealed to me on page 42: “Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal”.  Actually, I had already scoped out the recipe after Derek placed cheffing in my ear.  I went to the grocery store to locate the large flake oats and the coconut milk.  Except when I got home, I saw that my hand was full of coconut water.  Clearly I haven’t exercised cooking muscles so far in life.  But I laughed at my mistake!  And that felt good.

Now, the prep.  I felt like such a fish out of water but I surged ahead anyway.  “In a small pot, bring milk and coconut milk to a boil under medium heat.”  I can do this.  Five minutes in, the milks didn’t seem to be doing anything so I cranked it up to high.  Maybe two minutes after that – you guessed it – the white concoction breached the pot, despite the lid that I’d set at a jaunty angle.  White goo flowing over black stove.  And strange after strange, I laughed again.

“Add the oats.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until milk is absorbed (approximately 7 to 10 minutes).”  Again, nothing seemed to be happening.  Again, I cranked the knob – up to medium-high this time.  I stirred like a banshee (assuming such people stir).  Twenty minutes later, I called it quits, declaring that the milk was sort of absorbed.  So … hotter than recommended, and far longer than indicated.  Gosh, cooking is a mystery.

Eventually, I poured a mélange (that’s probably a cool cooking word) of banana, protein powder and water over my coconut-flavoured oatmeal and headed for my couch.  On the first taste, my heart soared.  The flavour was fine.  That wasn’t my joy.  Very simply, I had done it.  I had created something delicious and nutritious, using an actual stove.  Oh, what a good boy am I!

Could this be the start of something really, really big?  Time will tell.

Fresh

Take one aspect of your life where it’s been “same old, same old” for a long time.  It’s comfortable but there’s something missing.  You’re going through the motions.  Little frustrations nip at you but you don’t seem to have the energy to make a change.  That pretty much sums up my experience at the fitness club.

Jody and I started going to this gym about ten years ago.  It was fine – a reasonable variety of machines, super low cost, friendly staff.  After my dear wife died, I simply carried on, sometimes sporadically, usually without much enthusiasm.

Yesterday, a voice inside said “You’ve been sleepwalking.  Wake up.”  So … I got my gym clothes together and set off for a workout.  I considered it an experiment in paying attention.

A staff member whom I really enjoy was at the front desk.  She was all excited about a job she’d just got at a high end pub in London.  She wasn’t sure if she’d also continue working at the club.  “Really, I feel done here.”  Could that be my voice speaking?

I thought of the many staff members I know.  They’re fine people.  A few of them have been especially kind to me.  Is that enough of a reason to stay?

This visit I really looked around.  The main room was sort of … dark.  A few machines had “I’m sick” signs attached to them.  Was I creating a reality here or was the environment just plain blah?  And so what if it was?  The most important thing is what I create, rather than what the surroundings offer back to me.

I went into the locker room to change.  The soap dispenser took several seconds to deliver a dollop to my palm.  Assuming I’m a fairly mature person, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Maybe this is all mental.  Nevertheless, I kept looking.  The paper towels wouldn’t rip properly from their machine.  Cubicle doors banged hard when they closed.  Months ago, I asked the manager to buy some little fuzzy pads for the doorjambs but she never did.

After stretching, I reached my favourite elliptical machine.  I knew it was my favourite because none of the others worked perfectly well.  That’s okay.  At least I had my own personal steed.  After pressing the start button, I realized that the intensity was too high.  My first few minutes are usually a stroll in the park, but immediately it was a grind.  Soon I got into the flow pretty well, but on the cool-down, I had to struggle rather than relaxing into the end.  Hmm.  Are inanimate objects in the habit of sending coded messages to human beings?  Perhaps.

The last couple of months, I’ve been going to a sports medicine clinic for my knee.  I’m not really worried about the joint because after all I have a spare on the other side!  This clinic is located in a downtown fitness club.  Guess I’ve been sleepwalking on that journey too but today I decided to go there and ask for a tour.  I opened my eyes upon arrival.  This is a “clean, well-lighted place”.  (A quote from Ernest Hemingway).

A smiling receptionist (who earlier in the day I had sung with as I left my physio appointment) ushered me to a little table.  Right away, another smiler approached me with her hand out in greeting.  “Jessica” made gentle eye contact and clearly had no interest in some canned sales talk.  Actually she did more listening than talking.  And there was absolutely no sense of hurry about her.  I realized that she was “seeing” me, something I deeply value.  As members walked by us, my new friend greeted many of them, and clearly each was happy to see the other.  Hmm again.

As we talked, I counted many smiling conversations happening near me.  And there were a lot of folks here to exercise.  I listened to the energy in the building and it was happy.  Jessica was happy.  Gosh, I was getting happy.

At one point, I said “Okay, sign me up.”  Jessica looked over and said something like “Really?”  There was an amused and quizzical look on her face.  I had sensed into the truth of this place.  This could be home.  I didn’t need the grand tour or pricing options or a long list of benefits.  I knew.

I had my tour.  I signed on the dotted line.  I clutched my free gym bag and water bottle to my chest.  All of that was fine.  But Jessica’s care and the glowing passersby did the deed for me.

I had walked in the door at 6:55 pm.  I walked out at 9:00.  Towards the end of the evening, something that Jessica said made me wonder, and I had to ask the question “Was your shift over at 7:00?”  >  (Pause)  “Yes.”

I intend to pass all this goodness on to the people I meet here.  Naturally I want to get fitter but more than anything I want to create a new community for myself, to contribute to the members and staff every time I walk in the door.  It’s a fun thing to do.

Day Sixteen: A Market Like No Other

Lydia promised us something special yesterday morning. We would go by bus or moto to an authentic Senegalese market, in a village that rarely sees white people. Bring it on … give me the real deal.

We gathered at Lydia’s house. I sat across from Aziz in the open air, both of us in living room chairs with wooden arms. He did a bit of drumming and I repeated his rhythm. Then I started a new one, and the young fellow followed my lead. Soon we set up a frantic pace. I leaned across the coffee table to him, reaching with my arms. Our hands touched and then released. And on we went – Aziz forward and me back, Aziz back and me forward … a dance.

We were off. Some of us in a little bus and six of us on motos. I was on the back of Curd’s bike. We rolled through the streets of Toubacouta and then onto the highway. Way ahead a monkey scampered across the road, but I wanted more. I scanned left and right for the big red fellows. And I thought back almost fifty years, when I worked at a hotel in the Canadian Rockies. Deer were everywhere in the townsite and we employees loved laughing at the tourists who got all giddy when they saw one. Now I was the tourist and I wondered what my new Senegalese friends thought about the Canadian who went ga-ga over monkeys. Ha! What a good lesson.

Curd and I turned off the highway onto a sand road, which often narrowed to a strip of beach between two tracks. Lydia had told me that I needed to stay very still on the back because balance was essential. We could fall if the front tire dug deep into the sand.

I let go. I trusted the universe to care for me. I trusted Curd to be the best moto driver. It was one big exhale as we streamed through villages and across dry flats. I told myself not to look ahead, to just focus on the back of Curd’s ball cap, but I’ve never been good at following my own advice. So I watched the ruts ahead, the sidehill dips, the imaginary sand castles looming high. And the universe said “Thank you.”

In the little villages, kids would come rocketing out from behind walls made of branches or concrete blocks. They all seemed to be waving and screaming “Bonjour!” Occasionally I heard the word that sounds like “hallal”, which means money, but mostly the kids seemed to be waving just for the fun of it.

The market was completely, radically, new to me. Imagine a very narrow dirt street packed with human beings, with the women wearing outrageously colourful dresses. Donkey masters sat on top of loaded carts urging their beasts on with whips, and motioning wildly to get us out of the way. Live chickens, vegetables, jewelry, brightly coloured fabric, Islamic books, clothing – all were on offer.

I took three photos, two of a family and one of the street scene. Then Lydia came over and told me not to take pictures. The people don’t like it. So I put my phone away.

Everyone was black except us. Some responded to my “Bonjour”s with a smile and a “Ça va?” (How’s it going?) Others stared. People were jostling into me. Suddenly Yo stopped and Iced Tea was beside him in a flash. Someone had picked Jo’s pocket and his wallet was gone. Red alert zapped through our group and I moved my backpack over my chest, with cell phone and wallet inside. Iced Tea confronted the thief. The fellow dropped the wallet and ran. Nothing was missing except a few hundred heartbeats.

We slowed again as life for us in the street turned gentle once more. I went into a stall with Lydia and a few others to purchase some fabric for a tablecloth. I found an explosion of red and green circles on a blue background that shouted “Senegal!” to me. Eva coached me on being vigilant at every moment as I dipped inside the backpack for some francs CFAs. Bill out of wallet while wallet is inside backpack. Wallet stuffed back in. Bill out of backpack in a closed hand. Other hand zips up the pack. Piece of cake.

Now we were in a long line through tiny passages, ducking under hanging clothes and passing close by hanging carcasses. I hardly noticed for awhile but our friends Yusefa and Mamadou were always bringing up the rear, watching for thieves and making sure none of us got separated from the group. I told Louisa that I loved being in massive crowds. She smiled and said she felt the same.

The energy of the market was intense. All those voices crying out in languages I didn’t understand. Local folks moving fast when there was space – on foot or on donkey carts. The squeal of chickens who were tight together in large mesh bags. The tooting of moto horns. The braying of donkeys. The dust blowing over our faces. The sun doing its job. Wow! A world beyond my life, and yet I was a vital part of it all.

I rode home in the bus so that others could experience the wind on the bikes. I sat beside Yusefa. “Merci pour me protéger dans le marché.” (Thank you for protecting me in the market) He smiled. It was a fine moment of communion.

More to come …

Day Ten: Toubacouta Tour

I slept till noon and it could have been far more. The kids were lounging by the pool and there were no adults in sight. I had the thought that they were still sleeping but I found out they’d all gone over to Jo and Lydia’s house. After breakfast, they had decided to let me sleep. I got about five hours of shuteye – their total must have been two or three. And how exactly did they manage that?

I put my Speedo on (!) and sat by the pool a bit. My slow brain finally figured out that the kids needed to be with their friends – no adults please. By this time Jan, the father of another clan, had dropped by. He offered to walk me over to the house because I didn’t know where it was.

Outside of the B&B, I saw the real Toubacouta. Small cement homes, lots of folks walking, the occasional goat or chicken, dirt streets, a few stalls for selling things. Not at all what I experience on the other side of the world.

As Jan and I walked into the house, Lydia was there to greet us, dressed in a flowing African robe of many colours. We all had slept well. She had asked Iced Tea to drive me around the village on his motorbike. The smiling man was clearly happy to do so.

We visited some neighbours of his, often folks who were standing outside of a business. Everyone seemed to be happy. On one stop, we met his mother and a young woman peeling some vegetable. Instant smiles came my way. Mom-in-law especially glowed. After we set off again, me holding Iced Tea’s waist from the rear, he told me “I like you. I will do anything to have you be happy here.” And he absolutely meant it.

Iced Tea took me to see his house under construction. It was basically just a foundation. He stood in each room, proudly pointing to bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. He held up a concrete brick as I snapped his picture, so proud of his future.

I told Iced Tea that the boy I tutor wanted to contribute to the village, and that I had decided to put the money into his home. His eyes widened and he surrounded me in a hug. Thank you never felt so good.

Later on the ride, Iced Tea stopped at a neighbour’s, and a 3-year-old girl bounced toward him. She settled in front of her dad with tiny hands on the handlebars. We were three for awhile. So sweet.

Iced Tea took me to the local hotel where several of our group were sitting at the bar, enjoying a drink. A few cheek kisses later, we were laughing. I paid for Iced Tea’s Coca -Cola when he wasn’t looking.

***

It’s now many hours later, almost midnight, and I’m writing this in bed. Out in the distance there’s the sound of drums. A soloist sings a line and then a chorus responds. It’s a goodnight that I’ve never experienced. May it come my way again, both on this trip and many times in the future.

Day Nine Some More: To Dakar and Toubacouta

We’re in the air to Dakar. I’m in the window seat beside two black fellows who don’t speak English. The guy next door is massive. He appears to have muscles on his muscles, and he’s totally wedged into his seat. I’d give him mine so he could stretch out but then I’d be wedged – into the overhead bin.

My goodness … what awaits me in Africa? I’ve seen photos of smiling kids and adults. There are a few haunting ones of small children with huge eyes peering into the camera.

I’m looking forward to meeting a fellow aftectionately called Iced Tea. He’s been a leader in the village in making sure the kids get an education. Jo and Lydia are thanking him by raising money in Belgium to build a house for him and his family. It’s under construction.

I’ve been tutoring a kid in Belmont. I asked the family to donate my fees to a charity that he thinks is important. The young man decided to split the money between a local mission that feeds people who are down-and-out, and something for the kids in Senegal. I’ve decided to contribute his funds to the building of Iced Tea’s house. I’ll have a few photos of me on the site so the student can see the impact of his generosity.

We’re here. Actually it’s hours later now but I was too exhausted to write then. At the Dakar Airport (about 1:00 am), two friends of Lydia and Jo were loading our luggage into two vans. In the space of five minutes, four Senegalese men approached me for money. I’ve often used the word “no” in my life and it got a good workout last night. Jo coached me that these folks are trying to survive, trying to take care of their families, and some of them will push to get what they want. So different from what I’m used to. And that’s fine.

My head kept dropping in the van on our four hour ride to Toubacouta but I was conscious enough to see a world so beyond my life.

The land was spotted with the silhouettes of trees that I’d seen in photos. Deciduous ones that sit wide and close to the ground. My blurry eyes joined with shadows of moonlight and I was lost in something so astonishingly new.

We passed many villages and they were full of what appeared to be mud buildings. What I couldn’t get my head around was that people were sitting together in front of their homes, or gas stations at 2:00 am, 3:00, 4:00 and even 5:00. Jo said that many of them sleep during the hottest hours of the day.

The trip was surreal. Towards 6:00 am, we reached Toubacouta. We reached our bed and breakfast. My bed. My closing eyes.

Day Five: Friends From Away

Lydia, Jo, Lore and Baziel are officially my Belgian family. They care about me, want me to thoroughly enjoy their country, and laugh with me. Having lived alone for four years, I feel blessed that they want to spend time with me.

Lore’s name is so difficult for me to pronounce. I won’t even try to explain it to you. But I’m determined. It’s been three days and I’m getting a little better. I know at home I feel the same way – people, such as “Johanna” (Yo-haw’-na), deserve to have their name pronounced correctly. It’s a huge part of who they are.

Lore invited me to go walking with her and her horse Jackson this morning. She’s 16 and a most kind human being. We set off on the main road and then narrow country lanes and then muddy paths through fields. All three of us were having a grand time. Lore absolutely loves horses and Jackson is the prime example. She can see herself owning a riding stable someday, and both massaging and shoeing her four-legged friends. I just know she’ll do it.

We came upon a fellow named Didier on a country road and stopped to chat. What a great smiling guy, and he knew English so I could fully participate. He and Lore talked some in Flemish and I was happy to stand back and listen to the cadence of the language.

Further on, we stopped at the home of one of Lore’s friends. The girl was still sleeping but no worries – her mom came bouncing out of the house to say hello. She only spoke Flemish but I thanked her with my English for the yummy cookies she had made for me and the rest of the crew. What she understood was my eyes.

Our third stop was at Lore’s old elementary school. Young kids were out for recess and crowded the fence to get close to Jackson. All those bright eyes. The Canadian couldn’t compete with the horse, and that was fine.

Lore, Jackson and I talked so easily together. It didn’t matter at all that our ages were 16, 3 and 69. We were simpatico.

***

This afternoon, Lydia, Lore and I took the train to Ghent, to be joined later by Jo and Baziel for dinner. The trip was a flow of green fields and red slate grooves, but then there was our arrival! Ancient murals adorned the walls of the train station, and as we exited the building a panorama of classic European architecture sank into me. I stopped and stared, again and again. Canals and bridges welcomed us here and there … and everywhere.

Happy people rode by on their bikes (with nary a helmet to be seen!) Couples strolled arm in arm. Little kids zoomed between the tall folks. Trams flowed along. Sirens occasionally wailed, and had me realize that I’d never heard this authentic European sound except in movies.

There’s an energy in Ghent that’s palpable, fueled in part, I believe, by the large university population … it seems to be simple happiness. And I fell into it almost immediately.

I sang O Canada twice today – once to the two hostesses in a jewelry shop and once to Baziel as our family (!) meandered through the curvy streets after dark. The lights of Christmas animated the old buildings, casting shadows over the brick. “C’est magique!”

I am loved in Belmont. I do believe I am loved in Belgium. And I give it right back in both places. Salut, mes amis!

Over There

I’m part of a global online community based on the “mutual awakening” work of Patricia Albere. One of the relationship principles that Patricia talks about is being “in and for” the other person, to move my consciousness inside you, to feel the sacred space between us. There’s a practice we do in pairs that has the power to bring forth great contact, great love.

A couple of weeks ago, Patricia told us about a grandmother who was familiar with mutual awakening. She was babysitting her infant grandson and the kid was upset about something. Grandma moved her consciousness inside the young man’s head – no force of energy, just being there. And immediately he stilled. Hmm. Is this really doable? What if I took a day and gently placed my consciousness into everyone I met? Today, for example.

So I’m giving it a go. And I’ve had my moments, such as during the classical music concert I just attended. Young adults took their turns on stage – singers, pianists, violinists, violists and cellists. I went inside them, sporadically, and just rested there. I wasn’t beaming love at them. It didn’t feel like I was beaming anything. I simply hung out.

Back and forth I flipped, resting over there and stumbling over here. So brand new. I thought about my favourite colour – red, absolutely! It felt like I was now saying yellow was the best and was awkwardly trying that on for size. But the pull of red was enormous.

Now I’m in a Tim Hortons, sitting beside a young couple enmeshed in a political discussion. I feel myself moving away from their content, and being thoroughly inside me. Abiding in them seems worlds away. My distaste for politics is clouding the migration of my soul. Fair enough. My red tendencies continue to have a powerful magnetism.

When I walked in, I was hungry and my left foot was sore. Any possibility of yellow was gone. In fact I wasn’t even aware of the colour. But really, what else would I expect? What does it take to bring something new into my world? A lot, I’d say.

I’m going to three short concerts today. Just left the second one. During it I almost fell asleep, and again yellow was nowhere to be seen. “That’s okay, Bruce. Who do you think you are – Superman?” Well … no chance there.

What to do? Just begin again, over and over. This isn’t like the mutual awakening practice, where both of us are committed to going inside each other. I’m sitting in a pub and it’s time to try again. The other person will have no idea of what I’m doing, and that’s fine. So here goes …

The bartender and I were talking about the Greek salad that’s just arrived. I put myself inside her. No fireworks in me or her, no reaction at all coming my way. Not like the kid who went quiet. Maybe I’ll just keep throwing myself outwards with no expectation of anything coming back. Yes, let’s do that.

Then there’s Marvin on the next stool. We talk about the World Cup … and I’m inside. I decide to tell him what I’m doing. He smiles. “I knew something was happening.” Thanks, Marvin. Connection.

I’m in concert number three. There’s no pressure to do anything but I’ve floated inside the musicians again. The feeling is soft and yielding. Think I’ll stay for a bit.

Where is all this going? I don’t know. But here I am in Oz. I don’t feel like the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow or the Tin Man but I’m definitely here to find what I need. Might Kansas fade away in the rearview mirror? We’ll see.

Without Distinction

“We are aware of a desire to value all persons equally, responding to their integral concrete being as unique selves, rather than ranking them according to certain abstract qualities by which they can be classified.”

Beatrice Bruteau

I like some folks far more than others.  I find some women sexually attractive and some not.  I don’t want to spend time around mean or distant people.  I love the spontaneity of kids and don’t enjoy being around humans who never use the word “fun”.

Okay.  That sounds like a normal human being.  I include some, I push away others.  Overwhelmingly though, I include.  But what if I could broaden my range of vision to embrace everyone?  What if the quality of consciousness beaming back to me didn’t matter?  What if the only thing that counted was what I put out there in life?

As I read what I’ve written, it sounds simplistic, pollyannaish.

“I know it sounds that way.  But don’t you see, Bruce, that we naturally rank those around us, in order to discover who we want to spend time with?” 

“Well … yes, I get that.”

“Could it be, though, that while one level of your being operates that way, there are more inclusive realms that you can touch?”

“Well … maybe.  But I have favourites, you know.”

“Oh yes, I know that.”

“So stop trying to make me into a Superman.  I’m no perfect person.”

“Yes … I certainly agree with that!”

“Just leave me alone, will you?”

“Okay.  But may I plant a seed?”

(Sigh)  “Sure.  Plant away.”

“What if, once in awhile, you looked out at the world with different eyes?  Most of the time, continue with your comparing mind, but save a little space for something brand new.  As in human beings just don’t go there.  Would you enjoy doing something that you’ve never done before?”

“I don’t think “enjoy” is the right word.  And what you’re suggesting just sounds so weird.”

“Perhaps new stuff is always perceived as weird by people who don’t want to participate.”

“Probably.”

“So give me a chance here.  What do Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump and Karla Homolka have in common?”

“They’re extremely mean people.”

“Many of us would agree with you.  At the same time, they all need love.  They all want to be included in the human race.  They were all kids once.”

“Oh …puleese!”

“The possibility exists of being good to people simply because they’re on the planet, knowing they face the same sorrows and illnesses and fears that we do.”

(Silence)

“It’s easy to love the lovable folks.  They probably receive lots of that.  As for Adolf and Donald and Karla, love is probably in short supply.  Perhaps we should send them some.  No one left out.  No one alone.  No one thrown out of the human heart.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“Maybe …”

Nothing … Something … Nothing

And how exactly do you write about nothing?  Maybe I’m done right now, but I don’t think so.

I meditated for two hours yesterday morning.  That’s a long time but it’s not new for me.  Usually in a meditation sitting, I have periods of “quiet mind” and others of “monkey mind”.  You get the idea.  Quiet means relatively few thoughts, and those float away quickly.  Monkey means a constant spewing of negativity, and thoughts that pile on top of each other.  Yesterday was neither.

After a few minutes of settling, I went into a lengthy period that was brand new: no movement at all, either physical or mental.  Virtually no thoughts.  No words came to mind, even when I tried to create one, such as “love”.  Probably for the first hour and three-quarters, all was still.  My body slumped to the left and sometimes I brought it back to vertical, but there was no thinking.  Just this big space inside me.  And a supreme sense that whatever was happening was perfectly fine.

One random thought showed up: I should curl my lips upwards in a tiny smile, to beam loving energy to human beings.  But no smile came and instead there was some global sense that the love was right here right now with no intentional thinking or movement.  This awareness was all-encompassing, unspoken and undeniable.  It didn’t seem to be a discrete thought.

Okay, I feel myself moving into censoring mode.  “You’re not making any sense.  People will think you’re crazy.”  But whatever is going on right now as I type, it doesn’t feel “rational”.  Something else is here.  And I don’t care what it is.  I’m just glad to be along for the ride.

One thing I’ve never done is write about a recent meditation experience, then begin another period of meditating, and then write about that too.  So … off I go to my bedroom and my meditation chair.  Will I be thirty minutes or three hours?  I don’t know.  Either way, I’ll talk to you soon.

***

Ha!  I lasted 26 minutes.  I fell asleep three times and a brightening consciousness kept saving me from toppling to the floor.  Not exactly an experience of “nothing”!  I started analyzing why today’s meditation was so different and came up with zero other than my recent overzealous caffeine consumption and the fact that I haven’t had any coffee today.

I decided to go to bed.  “Too tired for meditation.”  An hour later, after lots of coziness but no sleeping, I’m up again.  And how strange – I’m very happy.  The word “symphony” is flooding me, that my life is made up of so many different experiences and they blend to create a perfectly fine whole.  Did I want to repeat yesterday’s nothingness?  Yesiree.  Am I devastated that this didn’t happen?  Nosiree.

What now?  I think I’ll read my book.  And maybe return to my meditation chair a bit later.

To be continued.

***

I’ve just come out of another period of meditation – 70 minutes this time.  And the nothingness returned … unbidden, unforced.  I just watched.  After awhile, partial images came.  At the end, I looked back at the hour and the picture of a blob showed up.  The blob was nothingness and occasionally a something would poke its head up, covered in blob goo, and then recede.  The appearances had no staying power.  They would partially form and then dissipate, gently fall apart.

First there was a fragment of a moment.  It was at night.  I was stepping off the sidewalk to cross the street.  A car with headlights on was heading towards me from the right.  Then … Poof!  Gone.  Next was a series of faces, barely formed and unrecognizable.  Each in turn faded away, to be replaced by another silhouette which also dropped from sight almost immediately.  Just the blob again.  Then a thought would start, but couldn’t resist the gravity of the blob and would sink down again.  Also a word or two, I think.

For the last few minutes, it was just the nothingness again.  And then, without thought, it seemed to be time to go.  I opened my eyes.

***

Well, isn’t this a wonder?  I’m soft and quiet and open to whatever’s next.  I hope nothing comes back.  It may or may not.  I’m all right with either.

 

New

I sat with “Trevor” for a few minutes yesterday.  He’s a Grade 6 student at South Dorchester School.  I looked at him and wondered if he could create something new in the world.  Then I asked him.  “I have a challenge for you.  Think up some way that people could be happier.”

Trevor didn’t look at me like I was crazy.  He just looked at me … thoughtfully.  Then he said, “I’ll work on it.”  And I know he will.

What if each of us considered what we could add to this place, rather than merely wanting all our desires to be met?  What if we could focus on the level of consciousness we present to others, rather than just checking off items on our bucket list?  What if we committed to living in accord with our highest values?  It’s possible.

Long ago, in my travels as an itinerant vision teacher, I came upon a classroom teacher named Patty.  Every morning, she’d write a “Thought for the Day” on the board.  I liked a lot of them, but then one day …

You were born an original
Don’t die a copy

Whoa!

That one hit me hard and it’s stayed with me over the years.  “Original.”  Something new on our planet.  Yes.  I can do that, and so can each of us.  I doubt very much if I’ll ever invent something that makes our lives easier, but would I really want to do that anyway?  “Easier” is nowhere near the top of the mountain.

Perhaps my uniqueness can revolve around the present moment, and all the ones to follow.  Right now, what can I bring to the table?  Well, this particular Right Now finds me tapping the keys of my laptop in a Tim Hortons coffee shop.  I’m not talking to anyone, other than the fellow I gave my order to.  What can advance the world’s happiness as I sit here?  Well … I can simply wish people well.

You are loved
May you have peace
May you touch others
May you feel the sorrows of those around you and let your heart quiver in response

As I complete this blog post, and ready myself to leave the restaurant, maybe there’s a kind word that will escape my lips and land in someone’s heart.  We’ll see.

Part of my uniqueness shows up in the meditation hall on retreats.  After a few days of settling in, I can feel my heart opening, offering love and peace to those nearby.  I don’t think I fill the room … but perhaps someday.  “Come on, Bruce, other people do this too.”  Of course, but it is a gift I’ve been given.

My newness may mostly show up in group meditation but my environment is full of more traditional venues – classrooms, diners, libraries, my home, other people’s homes, on the trail, in the public washroom, sitting on a bench.  Folks come by.  What can I offer?  Quite a bit, I think.

And as for you, Trevor, I welcome your words.  See you on Tuesday.