Withdrawal

I was lying in bed just now and the voice inside said “Just be natural.” Hmm. That’s odd, I suppose, but maybe not. And definitely a good idea. I don’t usually lie down in the afternoon but I’m feeling dull, floaty. And I don’t have to search far to see why.

Part of the introductory work with my new trainer was having him take my blood pressure. 154 over 101. Ouch. What exactly has happened there? During my recent adventures with bronchitis, my exercise time plummeted. That’s probably a factor. Derek has been having me look at a whole bunch of lifestyle choices and one prominent word in my recent past has been “caffeine”. Oops. I’ve been glossing over that one.

I figure that for the last year at least, I’ve been consuming about fifteen cups of caffeinated coffee a week. What I’ve noticed is the yummy flavour, not the impact of such a decision, such as elevated blood pressure. I have a BP monitor at home and since the 154/101 moment, I’ve been doing the deed. Yesterday the score was 135 over 92 – a lot better but still not the epitome of health. “So, Bruce, let’s drop caffeine, or at least reduce it drastically.” Okay.

In the last three days, I’ve had one caffeinated cup and I’m in the middle of withdrawal. Feeling slow and not so easy, vacant in the head. It’s such a teacher. Die early because of explosive blood pressure > No thanks. Get off the stuff and go through what the body says it needs to accomplish that, even if it amounts to several days of discomfort > Yes, I’ll take Door Number Two, please.

Sitting here in the middle of this shows me vividly what I don’t want my life to be about. How can I possibly be of assistance to other people if my brain is floating along in super slo-mo? Well, I can’t. And beyond anything, contributing to others is my heart’s desire. “So, dear Bruce, suck it up.”

I wonder what other purifications are needed for me to be of the deepest service. No more alcohol? Not participating in any more toxic conversations? Diminishing the small talk?

I’m on a path here. I can feel it. And the destination? Address unknown … and yet decidedly lovely.

Twenty Flights

Perhaps I’m crazy.  Over the years, several people have volunteered that opinion.  I seem to be throwing myself into life in an unprecedented way.  I’m going here, I’m going there.  And mostly I’m flying through the air (with the greatest of ease).

Between now and early January, I’m stepping aboard twenty airplanes.  This will involve a major dip into savings.  It’s not that I haven’t considered the financial fallout … but I’m doing it anyway!

It’s all about love.  And the physical distance between my loved ones and me will decline to zero, again and again.  I will be looking into the eyes of Canadians, Americans, Belgians and Senegalese, and I will see beauty there.  I will truly be a world traveller, something that has not been true in the past.

Here’s my itinerary.  The dates are approximate but you’ll get the idea:

1.  March 19 – Toronto to San Francisco for the Evolutionary Collective Base Camp three-day weekend

2.  March 27 – San Francisco to Toronto

3.  April 30 – Toronto to San Jose, California for the EC five-day event “All Together Now”

4.  May 9 – San Jose to Toronto

5.  June 5 – London, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta for my nephew Jaxon’s high school graduation

6.  June 13 – Calgary to London

7.  June 28 – Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my friend Sharyn in Mannville, Alberta and my brother-in-law Lance and his family in Longview, near Calgary

8.  July 12 – Calgary to Toronto

(What?  One day between!  You’re nuts.)

9.  July 14 – Toronto to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

10.  July 15 – Amsterdam to Brussels, Belgium to visit Lydia, Jo, Lore and Baziel

11.  July 20 – Brussels to Rome, Italy to go ‘splorin’ with Lydia, Jo, Anja and Curd

12.  July 30 – Rome to Brussels

13.  August 4 – Brussels to Amsterdam

14.  August 4 – Amsterdam to Toronto with Baziel (Lydia and Jo’s son – age 14) and Olivia (Anja and Curd’s daughter – age 14)  to explore Toronto, Niagara Falls and Belmont for two weeks

15.  December 15 – Toronto to Amsterdam

16.  December 16 – Amsterdam to Brussels to visit Lydia and her family

17.  December 22 – Brussels to Dakar, Senegal with Lydia and ten other Belgian folks to visit the kids we sponsor in Toubacouta, Senegal

18.  January 4, 2020 – Dakar to Brussels

19.  January 8 – Brussels to Amsterdam

20.  January 8 – Amsterdam to Toronto

***

Why did I tell you all this stuff?  So you’ll think I’m super cool?  So you’ll think I’m absolutely full of myself?  Well, no. These trips are an expression of my need for contact, true communion, “being with” across the miles.  There’s some power surging up in me, demanding I pay attention.  My beingness has been deep for years, and that will continue.  Now it’s time  to get out there far more and do things – Bruce actions that make a difference in Belmont, San Francisco, Nukerke, Pompeii and Toubacouta.

Whatever happened to that recent fellow who wanted to hang out in rural Massachusetts for three months … in silence?  He’s still here.  It’s just that he’s been transcended and included.

On I go

Mitch and Jonas

What do I love about sports? It’s the individuals who play them. What do I love about those men and women? What’s so special about them?

There’s the incredible artistry of brilliant players. I’m in wonder when Mitch Marner floats down the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, twisting and turning and slipping a soft pass to a teammate. But there’s far more. I want my heroes to be full human beings, people who see beyond winning and losing, beyond personal glory … to a life of service. Mitch knows his fame is a tool, and he uses it to impact the lives of children, especially six-year-old Hayden Foulon. She’s in the middle of leukemia, and Mitch is with her. “His impact reaches all the way down to her heart, a beacon of hope in a young life that has experienced far too much pain.”

Mitch isn’t the only athlete who has seeped his way into the smiles of Toronto fans. Up until a few days ago, Jonas Valanciunas played centre for the Toronto Raptors basketball team. Then he was traded to Memphis. Whether or not it’s a good move on the court, it’s hard for the fans, including the journalists who cover the team.

(Steve Simmons)

You get lucky once in a while in this business. You get to cover someone like Valanciunas. Someone real. Someone unpretentious. Someone with great pride, little ego and a sense of humour. It was our pleasure.

(Eric Koreen)

[Years ago, a rookie reporter was interviewing a rookie basketball player, a fellow who was learning English]

In hindsight, though, the only moment that mattered was that momentarily frightened look he gave when he saw my notebook. It was a clear moment of humanity. Journalists live for those. More than really explaining the cap mechanics of a trade, more than speaking truth to power in a thundering column, more than getting a scoop, we want to capture those moments.

…..

Of all the players I’ve covered, Valanciunas is right near the top on the list of those who were transparent about their emotions and humanity.

“He gave me the start. He gave me that boost,” Valanciunas told me in October about his relationship with former coach Dwane Casey, who was part of the reason Valanciunas’ goals and role were always being re-defined. “He gave me something that let me still be here. If I’d started with a different coach, maybe I’d be out of the league or playing in Europe or being the third big somewhere. He gave me something that kept me here. He had that trust in me. I can only say good things about that. There was so much talk: minutes, touches, likes, dislikes. Over those six years, he had some feelings, I had some feelings. But the end of the story, I can just say thank you to him because he gave me a big boost, big confidence. He had big trust in me.”

…..

One moment stands out the most. Last year, veteran Toronto Star beat writer Doug Smith was hospitalized shortly before the playoffs started. Doug is always around the team, and it is profoundly strange when he is not. I was walking away from the court before Game 6 of the Raptors-Wizards series began, through a tunnel toward the visitors locker room at the Capitol One Arena. Valanciunas had just finished his warmup, and was headed in the same direction. He put his massive left arm around me, and inquired about my colleague. I told him what I knew, and he expressed hope that Doug could return before the playoff run was over.

“That’s what matters,” Valanciunas said of Doug’s health. “Not all this stuff.”

(The man and woman on the street)

The worst part of being a fan is seeing the guys we grow to love and see as family get traded.

You made us cry, man.

If you’ve ever met him, the first thought that pops into one’s head is “What a nice man.” An absolute natural in making people smile. There’s good things ahead in life for Jonas Valanciunas.

***

Waydago, Jonas
Waydago, Mitch
You done good

Day Three (and Four!): In Love

I’ve been totally absorbed in supporting the members of the Evolutionary Collective as they meet in New York. So I haven’t blogged since Friday. I’ll make up for it over the next few days!

***

(Saturday) Usually when we hear that someone is in love, we think of a couple. Yesterday, I was “within love” with thirty other people. The eastern part of the Evolutionary Collective Core is meeting in New York for three days. And I get to assist. Although it’s not appropriate for me to share the specific practices we do, I can give you the flavour of our togetherness.

In this work, we make contact with other human beings. We “see” each other. Maybe that’s where the word “core” comes from. And we also go far beyond the relationship between two or three people. We’re participating in the evolution of consciousness in the world towards a place where no one is left out. Someone walks into a room and the group’s response is “Super! Another person to be with, to learn from, to love.” I sense a yearning in the world to touch – physically and spiritually. May love evolve through all of us.

(Monday) I’m in Scotty’s Diner on Lexington Avenue, waiting for my friend “Terry” to join me for breakfast. Yesterday late afternoon, we two assistants sat in the lobby of the Affinia Shelburne Hotel, realizing that all our EC friends had left for airports, trains … for home. I felt a momentary loneliness but then it came through clearly – neither distance nor time can separate us. They’re all with me as I sit here tapping away.

Before our meeting was to start yesterday at 10:00 am, the room manager “Denise” realized that the candle at the front of the room had burned out. The hotel didn’t have any appropriate replacement so I volunteered to find one downtown somewhere. Mr. Google told me about Diptyque a few blocks away, and it was open! The candle shop was down some corridor in an office building. Even with the shortness of time, I trusted that all would be revealed to me in moments. It turned out to be many moments. And when I got there, the store was dark. Ahh … truth in advertising.

I looked inside and wondered at my calm. 9:35. Clearly it was time to discover the glories of riding a cab in NYC. Bed Bath and Beyond was about ten blocks away. The cabbie was friendly and efficient. He commented that traffic was so light this morning. Okay, not exactly my perspective.

Into the store I rushed and asked for candles. “Downstairs, turn left, way down the aisle past pet supplies.” Sure, I can do that. I found a lovely round candle in a clear glass container … looked kind of elegant. I paid for my treasure and was soon back on the street, arm up, flagging down a cab like a local. 9:48. The driver heard the hotel address and headed for a freeway ramp. Yay for local knowledge.

9:57. Therough the door of the meeting room. Candle placed on the round table at the front, accompanied by a lovely bouquet of floors. A box of matches sat there, invitingly. Done deal.

This morning, in the darkness of my mind, I stubbed my toe on the two-inch rise from the kitchen to the bathroom. Oww! And now, after breakie, it still hurts a lot. Strangely and miraculously, though, I’m not adding anything to the pain. No “Ain’t it awful?” No angst about how life is treating me unfairly. Clearly the human beings I’ve just spent three days with are having their effect. Once Terry leaves on his bus for New Hampshire, I’m off to explore Central Park … slowly.

There, I’m back on track with you. Wonders of New York are ready to welcome me. Please walk with me over the next four days.

Day Two: Being of Service

Today was the first full day for the Evolutionary Collective Core weekend. The core folks have been living this consciousness of care and inclusion for years. I just began last April. There is much for me to learn, but today such an opening was balanced with an intense focus on serving the participants.

The support team was setting up the room well in advance of the 10:00 am start time. I admit I’m meticulous about such things – virtually anal. The cloths on the round tables at the front had to hang just so, a few inches above the floor. No dragging. The flip chart legs had to be exactly level. No tilting. And the carpet had to be absolutely clean. No lingering flotsams and jetsams. I bet that last task took me half an hour, picking up little offenders with my thumb and first finger. I was taught decades ago that I shouldn’t let anything distract the learners from absorbing the teachings.

Throughout the day, I was a mic runner. The idea was to be prompt, gentle and essentially invisible when Patricia called on a volunteer to speak. Watch them like a hawk for a slightly raised hand. Ask them to stand up if they haven’t already (I wasn’t good at that). Make sure the mic is on! Know when to take it back from the speaker. Co-ordinate with the other mic runner to cover the room. It was an art form, a dance, an imperfect support of the soul’s shares.

Finally, the photos. The folks had all given permission for candid shots but I didn’t want to be intrusive. I roamed around the room, looking for the best angles. I sought faces that were exploded in joy, or looking deep into their partner’s eyes. I looked for the heart of the inside clearly displayed on the outside … and found what I was looking for. After the day was done, I sat in the hotel lobby, zoomed in on several pics, and created some tender close-ups. It made me happy.

New York was on the back burner today. Human togetherness took centre stage, as it should.

Day Ten: The Beginning

I’ve been jolted over the last week. Life certainly has the ability to do that to each of us. Here are a few of my lowlights:

1. I was at a stop sign at an intersection. The road to the left curled to the right up a steep hill, with trees blocking my view of descending traffic. As I started forward on ta-pocketa, a car swung down the hill and blasted past me at full speed, missing me by a couple of metres.

2. I stopped to get a power bar out of my CamelBak water backpack. I couldn’t open the clasp with either hand to get the backpack off. Everything just felt so weak. After five minutes of trying, I put the clasp between my teeth and bit down. A power bar entered my mouth a minute later.

3. Yesterday, I was sitting in my hotel room with my left hand on my thigh. The fleshy spot between my first finger and thumb began to vibrate, and I watched, fascinated, as my body did its thing for a few minutes.

All of these painful days are now in my past. I figure there’ll be some residue of fear and sadness for awhile, but basically the question is “What’s next?” What will I bring to life over the next weeks and years?

I take inspiration from today’s World Cup soccer game between England and Panama. England was up 5-0 at halftime. Panama had never scored a World Cup goal. Late in the game, they knocked in a beauty, and fans in the stands and at home went nuts! It didn’t matter that the team was way behind. We can still bring forth joy. So … I commit to:

1. Bringing joy into people’s lives

2. Having conversations that mean something with everyone who’s interested

3. Talking to children and giving them one example of a caring role model

4. Engaging with folks from around the world, as we explore the depths of relationship possible through the Mutual Awakening Practice

5. Making people laugh

6. Being generous with anyone who needs my attention, time and money

7. Being love

***

Here are some wise words spoken by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

First Aid Insights

Not what you might expect.  There weren’t any great revelations about doing CPR or dealing with breathing problems.  Instead, Sarah was a very funny instructor.  She could be a regular at the Yuk Yuks Comedy Club.  How refreshing to have a teacher who wanted us kids to have fun. along with learning a whole bunch.  And the first aid manual seemed topnotch – up-to-date, with clear explanations.

I got to experience what I’d experienced before … a sadness at not remembering what to do.  Sarah spoke fast and moved fast and I couldn’t keep up.  When it came time for the hands on, I was often lost.  After my initial panic about this, I found myself sinking into the rhythms of the day, absorbing what I could in the short term, knowing that the manual would help me for many tomorrows.  Contentment washed over me, knowing that I’m a work in progress about addressing emergencies.  I accept my foibles and celebrate my desire to assist human beings when they’re injured.

Sarah was not just a fun machine.  She knew her stuff.  She complimented us on our effort.  She thanked us for our good natured spirit.  And she looked right in our eyes and said, “Do what you can.  If you freeze, maybe your contribution will be to call 911.  And it may be that sometimes all your good efforts won’t save the person’s life.  Honour yourself for trying.  Be good to the human being who wants to help.”

So when I ride my bicycle across Canada next summer, I may keep an injured rider alive until medical help arrives.  I may fall short of that goal.  Or the worst incident may be a small cut.  Whatever the story, all my being is ready to serve.

First Aid

Before I venture forth into the topic at hand, let me talk about right now.  I’m sitting in the restaurant of the Husky House on Highway 401.  I picked a window table because I wanted to have a view of the gigantic Canadian flag that soars above the lanes full of cars.  Minutes ago, I looked out the window to see the pole but the high-flying flag was beyond the overhanging roof.  (Sigh)  My urge to be up close and personal with the symbol of my country was blocked.  Feeling sorry for myself, I again looked lazily out the window.  A car was parked in front of me.  And wonder of wonders, the windshield reflected a flag, stiff in the wind, and brilliantly red and white in the sun!

I’m tempted to go deep into an analysis of what this means but some wisdom is saying not to.  Just smile.

***

Many topics entered my mind on my recent meditation retreat.  One was first aid.  Over the years, I’ve taken many courses but the knowledge faded.  And apart from small cuts, I never used what I learned.  People told me that in an emergency I would know what to do but I never bought that argument.  I’m sad that I can’t remember much of the course content.  I comforted myself with the thought that since I didn’t have opportunities to practice first aid, naturally the “what to do’s” flew out of my mind.  But that really was no comfort at all.

Tomorrow and Thursday, I’m taking a first aid course in London.  “Oh, Bruce, it’ll be just another in a series of failed attempts to absorb the knowledge.”  Well, that’s a rather silly voice.  I don’t think I’ll listen to you, friend.  How about something completely new?  How about forgiving myself for not being committed enough to have first aid principles stay in my mind?

I am committed this time.  “Why?” I ask.  Because my life is about service, about being present with every human being I meet, about loving without fetters.  If that’s my commitment, then I need to include the times of emergency.  Blood scares me.  So what?  Help anyway.  No breathing scares me.  So what?  Get in there and do what you can.  Not knowing what to do scares me.  Okay … and now it’s time to do something about that.

For years, I’ve called myself a determined person, and I am.  “Suck it up, Bruce.  Bring that determination to all avenues of your life.  Be ready when a fellow human being is in physical trouble.  It could be a dear friend.  It could be my nephew.  It could be a stranger.  All are to be revered.  All deserve to have their life continue.”

I’ll let you know tomorrow night about Day 1.