Scared

Last week my doctor phoned to tell me that my recent ECG had some “irregularities”.  Gulp.  She prescribed an echo cardiogram (happening tomorrow) and a stress test – on a treadmill, I suppose.

For the last few months I’ve been training hard, in preparation for this summer’s bicycle ride across Canada.  The medical news sent fear coursing through me.  I asked myself what’s true.  Well, all this work on the elliptical has certainly increased my endurance.  My performance on the beast has gone up at least 10% since I started working out in earnest in December.  So how could my heart be weak?  No way.

Have I gone at it too hard, sometimes to the tune of several hours a day?  Maybe.  The organizers of the Tour du Canada told us riders that we need to accumulate 2000 kilometres on the bike from January 1 till mid-June.  I’ve figured out an elliptical equivalent for cycling, based on calories burned.  As of today, I have 1980 kilometres in the bag.

So I worried a bit and watched my mind a lot.  My meditation has sure helped me on that score.  How easy it is to create a doomsday scenario, I laughed (Friday).  You’re fine, Bruce.

Yesterday morning I was on the elliptical for two hours, and I felt more tired than I’d expected to be.  No big deal.  This morning, however, I scheduled one hour, and the result was all-consuming.  I was exhausted after 45 minutes and dragged myself to the finish line.  Then I sat down in the locker room, surrounded by “What’s happening?”

Could I really have a problem?

Is it just that I haven’t had enough rest days?

How would I cope emotionally if Julie told me I shouldn’t go on the ride?  Would I abide by her doctorial request?

And so I sit, bathing in uncertainty.  Stewing in fear.  Letting it all fall out of me.

Just now … a small smile.  I’m bigger than this issue, more expansive than the events of my day, not tethered to the earth.  I will cross the bridges that come my way.

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.

Where Does The Universe End?

Ha!  I’ve wanted to write about this for years … and I have no idea what to say!

I just stared at the sentence above for ten seconds and started laughing.  Usually when I write, I have a vague idea of what I want to accomplish, but not today.  My words will be deeply within “I don’t know” and quite possibly irrelevant to many folks.  And I don’t care.  Something is pulling me towards this topic and who am I to resist?

I’m looking at my coffee cup on Anne and Ihor’s dining room table.  They’re my B&B hosts in Toronto.  I know things.  I know that there’s “coffee cup” here, and right beside it “no coffee cup”.  That’s the way the entire world works, isn’t it?  Well, maybe.

Some folks say that the universe is endless.  What in God’s name does that mean?  How can there be something where there’s no inside and no outside?  More on that later.

Being an inquisitive type, and totally enamoured with Google, I launched myself onto the Internet to seek answers to this mystery of life.

Where does the universe end, and what is it surrounded by?

“I think everyone should try to be the next person who comes up with the theory everyone ridicules, just like half of the big names in science in the past.”

“The Hindi Upanishads say that the universe is infinite.”

“Peanut butter”

“It’s anyone’s guess.”

“I recommend you find a nice spot away from the city and the lights, have a cup or glass of your favorite drink, look at the night sky and reach your own conclusions.  Who knows?  You might find a new perspective, a new glass for humans to look through.”

“The universe is expanding into nothing.  Can our brains comprehend nothing?”

“Mindblowing endless nothingness”

“It’s totally irrelevant.  It as nothing to do with your happiness or personal progress.  Waste of precious time.”

“If the universe is defined as everything that’s exists anywhere, what could be beyond it?  What is not a thing?  Is a thought, a ghost, a soul, a spirit or a god a thing?”

“Perhaps beyond our universe is just an infinite amount of other universes occupying an infinite amount of space.”

“We humans just don’t want to accept something that never ends in any direction.  That’s because our entire lives involve things with beginnings and endings.”

“Kinda crazy thing to comprehend, huh?”

“The universe ends outside of the Milky Way, and then it becomes Mars bars.”

“Everything has to start and end somehow and somewhere.”

“Nobody knows, and that I know as a fact.  Please don’t write back with some scientific answer.  There is not one.  The End.”

***

All righty then.  Contemplating the end of the universe feels like a Zen koan.  Unanswerable by the rational mind.  So what can I let go into that will allow me to sit peacefully with endlessness?  What has no beginning and no end?  Is there a state of consciousness that is timeless and spaceless, eternal in the sense of being beyond time rather than “a very long time”, everywhere in the sense of beyond the idea of locations rather than including all locations?

Is it possible that the infinities that I occasionally touch within my mind mirror the infinity of the universe?  Is there something in my head that indeed has no beginning and no ending and is totally consistent with an endless universe?

Gosh .. I guess anything’s possible.  What would my life be like if I let these unformed thoughts escape from their corral and pour through the fences I’ve erected, to embrace an unknown that mostly I can’t conceive of?  What would be unleashed in me if I welcomed such freedom despite the likely admonitions of my fellow man and woman?

Perhaps I’ll set off to find out.

 

I Know Things

There was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which Jean-Luc encountered a race of people who looked like they weren’t too smart.  Their leader kept saying “We know things.”  It turned out that they were a crafty group.  Ever since, I’ve borrowed their phrase, usually to express a lack of knowing on my part.  Such as yesterday.

Three items for your consideration:

1.  While trying to mow the lawn on Friday, I turned my tractor to the left and the front right tire came off the rim.  It rained Saturday and Sunday and the grass kept growing.

2.  No hot water in the house since Saturday morning.  I tried a brisk hair wash in the sink but it wasn’t much fun.

3.  Monday afternoon, a fellow knocked on my door, wanting to seal my asphalt driveway.  It had been about fifteen years since I’d last had it done (by me!) so I told him to go ahead.

Monday morning, I thought I could get the tire back onto the rim with a big screwdriver, and then pump it up with my air compressor … but no go.  Phoned my lawn tractor guy and he told me how to get the wheel off the axle so I could bring the tire in for a redo.  And I actually did it!  Such a handy guy.

The water heater company had given me a four-hour window (10:00 – 2:00) for their technician to show up.  He’d phone fifteen minutes before arriving.  It was 11:30 and tire guy would only be at his shop for another couple of hours before heading out for appointments with desperate homeowners.  Do I take the tire in or wait for water heater fellow?  I decide to go.  And as I went, my cell phone rings.  I pull over.  No, the gentleman couldn’t go see another water heater customer first.  If I wasn’t home in fifteen minutes he’d cancel the appointment and I’d have to rebook.  I was already twenty minutes away, zooming towards the tire shop, scratching my unwashed head.  (Sigh)

I dialed water heater company.  Magically, they were able to give me another appointment that day, technician #2 to arrive by 5:00.  Magically as well, lawn tractor guy put a tube in my tire and I was out the door lickety split.  Definitely on a roll.  “Make sure you put the two washers back on and the clip that holds the wheel on.”  Sure, I’ll do that.  After all, I know things.

Back home again.  Plastic Nitrile gloves on (cleverly avoiding greased hands), wheel on the axle, washers too, and now for the clip.  It was a little horseshoe-shaped spring-loaded dealie that fits into a groove on the axle.  I got a screwdriver and tried to jam it in.  Nyet.  More pressure, and sproing … off the metal guy flew into my uncut grass.  Search, search, search … ahh – there it is.  Since discretion is the better part of valour, I phoned lawn tractor guy.  “How do I get that clip on?”  “Take a pair of pliers and squeeze it.”  Okay.  So I squeezed the left and right sides of the horseshoe, which didn’t make any sense since that just put more pressure on the groove, rather than widening the clip.  Grunt and grunt.  And off she went again, over my right shoulder.  Far away, I believe, into the bush behind me.

Thinking that the clip might be deep within the grass between me and the bush,  I got out my Whipper Snipper and mowed down the tall blades, never considering that if the clip was on the lawn, it could easily be ejected into kingdom come by the rotating trimmer cord.

Meanwhile, driveway sealer guy was starting to edge the asphalt and the tractor was partially in the way.  No clip.  I needed to push the tractor fully onto the grass.  I had raised the offending wheel with Scarlet’s jack.  I inserted the long rod into the hole in the jack and turned left to lower the wheel.  My Nitrile gloves wrapped themselves around the rod, pretty much immobilizing my hands.  And here comes edger fellow.  More grunting, plus a ripping of plastic gloves that reminded me of Superhero Man.  Finally my hands were free, the tire was back on terra firma and I pushed the tractor away from my new friend’s trimmer, just about to the point where the wheel fell off the axle.  But not quite!  I know things.

Trimmer man, also known as driveway sealing man to his friends, shut down his machine, and started groping with me through the grass.  (Hmm … I don’t think I said that right.)  Still no luck with locating said clip, and the grasses were grinning at me with their very long bladed mouths.  So thinking at the speed of light, I reasoned that I needed a magnet.  I knew that Jody and I had one but God knows where.  However Tony, my neighbour, knows everything and has everything.  So off I went.  He found a little disk magnet, about an inch in diameter.  He came back with me and we groped together.  Same result.  Then Tony simply said, “Well, Bruce.  We have the same lawn tractors.  I’ll take a clip off mine, we’ll put it on yours, you can mow your grass, then buy another clip from the tire shop, and give it to me.”  Of course.  Why didn’t my all-knowing self think of that?

One more conversation with lawn tractor guy.  “No, you don’t squeeze the sides of the clip.  You set it in partially in the groove, take the pliers and squeeze the top of the clip and the underside of the axle.”  Oh.  Tony was all set to do the deed, but I said no.  With the fine motor ability of a surgeon, I did the squeeze and the clip popped into place.  I then mowed part of the lawn while my driveway transformed into glistening blackness.

And there you have it.  I absolutely, positively, for sure know things.  Plus I had a shower last night.

What To Possibly Say?

I’m back from my 9-day silent meditation retreat.  I feel very open.  Actually it’s like there’s space around each of my cells.  Breathing room.  And I don’t know what to say.  Most of you probably haven’t had the experience that I’ve just lived through.  How can I have you understand?  I’m sure you’re all smart people.  It’s not that.  But you may not have the context to hold whatever I have to say.  And so the likelihood of me being misinterpreted is great.  Maybe I’d try to talk about A but all you hear is B.  Such as the word “surrender”.

What I do know is that I want to communicate with you about what the past week has meant.  Part of me doesn’t know how.  But I know that part of me does.  I’m willing to risk being misunderstood.  So I will put fingers to keys over the next few days … and see what happens.

It was a fine journey, and continues to be so.