Self-Disclosure

To what extent in this life do you share with others the truth about yourself, the good things and the bad?  Well, it depends on the you.  I think letting people know about my feet of clay, as well as my triumphal moments, frees up my body and soul … to flow.  And if the energy is moving largely unimpeded, I can touch other human beings.

Which brings me to Roberto Osuna.  He’s a relief pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, a young guy.  Imagine the pressure of coming on in the late innings with the bases loaded and the game on the line.  A few days ago, he did something remarkable: he told the world that he had anxiety issues and right then he was feeling “lost”.  So much for the male ego ruling the day.  Instead, the human heart had its say.  Well done, Roberto.  Some folks will be highly critical when you tell the truth.  Some will be clapping their hands.  But sooner or later you will have a tiny smile on your face.  No more charade.  No more looking over your shoulder to see who’s there.  No more being strategically careful.

I remember being in a meeting about the computer needs of a visually impaired student.  I’m okay with computer stuff but no whiz.  It seemed like everyone else in the room knew far more, and I too became lost.  What to do?  Fake understanding?  Cover up my terror with a big smile?  Press hard to control the shakes?  I chose elsewhere.  I told the assembly that I didn’t understand what people were saying, that I was feeling overwhelmed, and I needed to leave the meeting.  Which I did.  There was no tiny smile on my lips, just a red face.  The smile came later.

In Sunday’s sports section of The Toronto Sun, Steve Simmons had his say about Roberto:

“I can’t begin to tell you I know what Roberto Osuna is feeling.

I do know how troubling it can be when you lose a portion of yourself and you don’t necessarily know why.

But I can tell you with absolute certainty, from my own experiences, from the daily challenges, that the challenges of anxiety and mental illness aren’t easily explained or understood and they can be all-consuming.

Hopefully Osuna gets the kind of help he needs and finds the kind of peace all of us deserve.”

Well said, Steve
Well said, Roberto
Well said, me

Just a Glimmer

Well, I woke up this morning [Sunday] and that feeling of immense space was still with me.  How about that?  I felt some energy moving down my body, towards my stomach.  A very quiet energy.  The moments were there and there was nothing to add to them.

The morning cold was bearable but my body really turned it on in the p.m.  No nose breathing that I could discover.  And I was zooming along the 401 at 110 kph.  Those two facts would normally have completely dominated my consciousness.  But not today.  There was a subtle current of ok-ness below.  Scarlet was going so fast but I was very slow inside.

The space would often close in just as my nose did, sometimes as a car changed lanes right in front of me.  But the stillness kept edging back into my drive.  Sweet.

Now I’m watching the Nashville Predators battle the Pittsburg Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.  In the spirit of doing something about my problems, I’m shoving gobs of mentholatum up my nose.  But still precious little breathing.  And then there’s my stomach again – not a pain but a fine awareness down there.  It’s as if my body is helping me recenter myself, again and again.

And now the softness is gone and I’m my closed nose again.  Still I think of nasally normal moments in my future.  Will I be able to access yesterday’s peace at will when my body isn’t distracting me?  Maybe.  But it seems to me that I can create other distractions pretty easily.

And so what if I’ll often be able to reach an open state of being?  How can that better the world?  Assuming that I’ll be able to do this (without effort), perhaps other people will resonate with the same energy.  Maybe our minds will be so calm that our doing becomes a blessing.

Then again, all these musings could be so much horsepucky, the meanderings of a deluded one.

***

Shortly after the reference to horsepucky, I’d had enough vertical life and went to bed.  Where I slept for the next twelve hours, nose and all.  I’m up now and the spaciousness is gone.  Well, let’s see.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ll go searching.  But searching isn’t it.  That’s just more effort.  Peace is as clear as the nose on my face or it’s not there.  No.  Nothing.  But that’s okay.

Y’all come back sometime …

Circle of Peace

How strange that yesterday my mind was floating free and today I’ve come gently back to earth.  No pulses of energy behind my eyes, no sublimities.  And that’s okay.  We’re all rolling along within some unknown rhythm of life.

I did meditate today and an image presented itself.  I’ve been thinking of the type of sculpture I want for my bathroom and had settled on a human figure in metal – arms outstretched and head down.  But this morning came a circle, one composed of people, holding hands.  It was so vivid as I floated in quietness.  They were all smiling.  And I thought back to other circles I’ve known.

1982.  A suburban parking lot in Honolulu.  Christmas morning.  Perhaps one hundred of us held hands for awhile and then sang carols.

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
That’s the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway
 Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way
To say Merry Christmas to you

And then “Silent Night”.  So sweet a time in the presence of strangers who became not that.

Years later, fifty of us stood in another parking lot, joined in a prayer circle for my lovely wife Jody.  We held hands, we talked of Jodiette, and we prayed for her.  Sweetness again.  A fellow was walking through the lot and decided to join us.  We made room and he favoured us with tender words for my dear wife.

Hawaii and London, Ontario … just places where the heart resides.  And in a month of two, the same spirit will call my bathroom home.

 

Skating In My Mind

I don’t know how to skate.  As a kid, my ankles just kept flopping over.  I was scared to fall.  I was scared to look stupid, which I guess I did.  Come to think of it, I was scared about most things.  But I turned out okay.

Last night was New Year’s Eve and I didn’t know what to do.  My massage therapist told me that there was some sort of family festival happening in the early evening in Aylmer so I decided to go.

It was a short drive to the East Elgin Community Complex and I was greeted by a packed parking lot.  Lots of folks were heading to the entrance with ice skates over their shoulder.  Somehow I forgot mine.

Inside, the lobby was overflowing with festive types young and old, with the pull of the crowd leading to the skating rink.  I got myself a coffee and climbed the stairs to the upper level.  Below me were a hundred skaters looping around the ice surface.  I looked … and I marvelled.

And there I was, in teenaged female form.  The young lady was walking unsurely on her skates, with none of that graceful pushing off motion to the sides.  She jerked when gravity threatened to take over.  The fear shot through her body.  For several laps, she skated  alone.  But then an older gent, perhaps her father, came alongside.  They talked and smiled.  And my unknown friend kept going, undeterred by the graceful forms flowing by her.  Good for you.

The music of Abba was flooding the scene:

Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end

And on the world glided.

***

A young mom pushed her son in a wheelchair.  He was laughing every time around

Two ten-year-old girls skated unsteadily together, holding hands and sharing the latest news

A six-year-old boy burst past the slow ones in a flurry of speed and skill

A teenaged fellow tried to look cool as he moseyed along, hands in his pockets

A girl practiced her figure skating, shifting suddenly from one foot to the other, and then took a lap moving backwards

Parents on the boards smiled at their kids and shared the video they’d just taken

And a guy sitting in the balcony took it all in

Space

I spent years in the Rockies, hiking the trails above treeline and others deep in forests.  Long views were everywhere.  I had room to move, rather than some of my employment situations, where it felt like I was wearing a large cardboard box over my head.

Lately, my room to roam has been walking the fairways of Tarandowah, the golf course I love.  So sweet to be immersed in that world.  But are there other possibilities in Southern Ontario?

Heading west from Belmont today, I was imagining another golfing journey.  I know my route – south on Belmont Road, east on Yorke Line, cross Dorchester Road, cross Imperial Road, cross Whittaker Road.  But today I found myself turning left on the gravel of Whittaker, just to see what was there.

Well, I knew that further on was Lake Whittaker Conservation Area.  Jody and I had been years ago, but I couldn’t remember what it was like.  Lakeshore trail, I guessed.  Woods, meadows.  As I approached the park gate, I was pretty blasé.  Guess I’ll go for a walk.

But then …

Past some bushes, the lakeshore was revealed, as well as a hundred Canada geese floating serenely.  And their calls echoed above the trees.  I paused.

Then the woods.  Corridors of fir trees, with the late afternoon light slanting through.  I gasped.

Later, waist high grass in the fields, escorted by golden larch trees.  Everything shining.  I simply stopped.

My mind was large
My heart was open
My world was free

I Get To Go

I’ve been on many silent retreats at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts.  All of them have been at the Retreat Center, the facility at IMS which provides great support, and regular routines, for the yogis.  Basically, all one hundred of us would be doing sitting meditation at the same time – the same with walking meditation.  There’d be talks every evening to educate us about Buddhist principles and meditation.

There is another way at IMS … a second facility, called the Forest Refuge.  This is where you can work with a teacher in developing your own program.  Maybe really short walks and sits would be best.  Or a long sitting session of two hours (but for some yogis that would be far too long).  Fewer talks.

At the Forest Refuge, unlike the Retreat Center, yogis can read.  They can study some aspects of the Buddha’s wisdom in depth.  I’m especially interested in the Brahma Viharas: lovingkindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity.  I’d like to deepen them in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to apply for a month’s stay at the Forest Refuge.  I knew I could handle the independence.  So I did all the paperwork, including a detailed questionnaire … and waited.

One day stretched into two, four, seven.  I listened to what was inside.  “I’d love to have this opportunity.  I’m excited.  But IMS might say no.  I’d be sad.”  As time ran onwards, I watched my feelings ebb and flow.  And my thoughts would sometimes explode.  “What are they thinking?”  “Maybe I’m not good enough.”  “Of course I’m good enough.”

And yesterday, I just let go.  All is fine.

***

Lots of condo details to handle today.  Wrong toilet seats arrived – too big for the bowls.  Wanted to pick up the lights I’d ordered but some of them were still at the warehouse.  Kitchen counters won’t be ready until maybe September 26 but I can still move in on the 20th.

Take a break, Bruce.  See who’s e-mailed you.

And there it sat, titled “Your IMS Forest Refuge Acceptance”.  That last word barely registered.  Click and here was the letter:

Dear Bruce,

Your application for retreat at IMS’s Forest Refuge has been approved, and I’m happy to say there is currently space available for your dates of February 1-28, 2017.” 

And lots of etcetera.

I stared.  I get to go.  I cried.  I get to go

Thank you

One Taste

I enjoy reading the thoughts of Ken Wilber.  He’s a philosopher.  And his goal has been to pull together the wisdom of the world, as represented by spiritual leaders, scientists, business people, psychologists and many others, into a coherent whole.  Ken thinks that every perspective has something to offer and it’s a mistake to say “I have the whole truth.”

I find that spiritual ideas stay in my head a bit and then leave.  I’ve read many books but it’s rare that I can recall what they said.  And I want to remember something “important” when I’m writhing amid the daily grind.

I see potential for me in Ken’s phrase “one taste”.  He points to the ocean and the waves on it.  Each wave can be considered as one of life’s experiences: happy stuff, sad stuff, frustrating, peaceful, challenging, sublime.  Or how about each wave as a person you know – someone kind, someone nasty, distant, cozy, chuckly, morose.  But if I look at all these waves, what is their essence?  It’s true that some waves are big and some small, but what is the core of it all?  Why, it’s brilliant and obvious … they’re all wet.  A tiny ripple is just as wet as a tsunami.

All these experiences and all these people, as different as they are from each other on the surface, down deep are the same.  They’re all sweetly light and graceful.  They all have one taste.  How can this be?  Surely the bliss of bright colours in my condo is better than the pain of constipation.  Well, on one level, of course.  But maybe there’s another level that I can access at any time, even when the temperature is 35° Celsius (95° Fahrenheit), with a heat index of 43 (109).  Sure, my body would be massively uncomfortable, but what about my Spirit?

Here’s what Ken has to say.  His use of capitals may be offputting, as well as his inclusion of the word “hopeless”, but then there’s the message:

The desires of the flesh, the ideas of the mind and the luminosities of the soul – all are perfect expressions of the radiant Spirit that alone inhabits the universe, sublime gestures of that Great Perfection that alone outshines the world.

There is only One Taste in the entire Kosmos, and that taste is Divine, whether it appears in the flesh, in the mind, in the soul.  Resting in that One Taste, transported beyond the mundane, the world arises in the purest Freedom and radiant Release, happy to infinity, lost in all eternity, and hopeless in the original face of the unrelenting mystery.

From One Taste all things issue, to One Taste all things return – and in between, which is the story of this moment, there is only the dream, and sometimes the nightmare, from which we would do well to awaken.

Haida Gwaii … Islands Of The People

I was aboard the schooner Maple Leaf for seven days in June.  Thirteen of us experienced the wonders of Haida Gwaii, north of Vancouver Island.

Part of the learning centred on humpback whales, sea lions, black bears and many species of birds.  But there was more.

Haida watchmen are the guardians of ancient villages and their totem poles.  We got to visit five of these sites.  Many years ago, there were hundreds of villages scattered among the islands of Haida Gwaii.  Then came the white people.  Then came smallpox.  Ninety per cent of the Haida died.

For much of the 1900’s, another reality was residential schools.  Kids were removed from their homes and sent away, as far as PEI.  They weren’t allowed to speak their language.  If a brother and sister were at the same school, they weren’t allowed to talk to each other.  Their long hair, a deep symbol of identity, was cut.

At one of the villages, I stood beside Ken, a watchmen in his 30’s.  Do I ask him what I really want to ask him?  Yes.  I mentioned the smallpox and the residential schools.

“You folks seem so happy.  Have you forgiven us whites for what we did?”

Ken smiles.  “Oh yes.  We welcome everyone.”

Oh my.

The people are alive and so very well.  It was a privilege to spend time with them.

Shoulder

Such a simple little body part until it becomes complex.

I’ve sure enjoyed strength training over the last few months.  Globally I feel stronger and my biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, chest, back and glutes are all thanking me.  Up till a few days ago, my left shoulder was singing my praises as well but then something went wonky.

There’s one exercise called the lateral raise where I pull 5-pound weights up to the sides, so that my arms are level.  I think that’s what did me in (momentarily).  Last week I could do less weight on that one than previously, which I suppose should have been a red flag.  I guess moderation and caution are not my middle names.

It hurts when I’ve tried to lift my left arm to shoulder level.  I can only imagine what I’d feel if I had a dumbbell hanging off the end of it.  So no lateral raise, thank you.  I thought of the chest press machine and figured that was worth a go.  My hands were on the handles ready to push forward at a far lower weight than before.  I brought my energy to fierceness.  Ten seconds to go .  “Explode, Bruce!”  I pushed … and nothing happened.  The handles didn’t budge.  My mouth dropped open.  For a few seconds, the horror of it all washed over me but then I watched that fade towards peace.  A minute later, I was smiling.  What an elusive creature this human body is.  A motion that I never think twice about suddenly becomes impossible.  It’s humbling.

I also can’t swing a golf club, and that’s something I so much want to do.  It’s strange how last week I dreaded hitting a shank, where the shaft of the club hits the ball, sending the little white guy veering way off to the right.  Now I’d love to shank the ball or do anything else to it but the clubs are staying in my golf bag for awhile.

I changed course yesterday, mostly doing leg exercises at the gym, and walking several holes at Tarandowah.  I put myself in those places and did what I could.  No way is that joint at the top of my arm going to dictate my well-being.  That’s my job.

 

 

Tightrope

I haven’t felt like writing for several days, and so I didn’t write.  To just let that be is difficult for me.  What if in the next year I only blog once a week?  I struggle not to label that as “bad”.

In my worst moments, I visualize having nothing to say for the rest of my life.  But I know me … that simply is not true.  Something out in the world will get my attention and then I’ll find a way to relate it to my life.  So there.

***

I was driving in St. Thomas yesterday when I noticed a little black object way up high straight ahead of me.  A squirrel was scampering along the power line that stretched across the road.  Then he stopped, apparently eating something.  In a flash I was under him and gone, but he has stayed with me.

Mr. Squirrel was so calm up there.  Just dipsydoodling his way above the madding crowd.  I imagined myself on a rope, suspended above the gorge near Niagara Falls, holding on to my long pole for dear life.  Absolute terror!  Now it’s true that I don’t have the skill, and that I could possibly develop it, but to perform such a feat with my new friend’s ease?  Impossible.

What if I could hum my way through some activity that many people would find hugely difficult?  Do I do anything like that?  Well … now that you mention it … I’m writing this blog post.  Some folks, in contemplating the creation of words that will later fly off into cyberspace, would feel the same terror.  And although I’ve been in a scribing lull lately, when I do sit down with my laptop, I trust that I’ll have something to say, that the words will come.  Such as right now.  This paragraph is over.  I don’t know what the next one will be about.  And that’s okay.

“Celebrate, Bruce, that you can write with ease.  It’s all right if the quality is not so good on a certain day.  There’ll be plenty of really good posts.  Just let those fingers do the walking.”  And so I will.