There’s Something Bigger

I was driving from Cambridge, Ontario to London this afternoon when a moment came upon me, and it’s stayed through the hours since.  It was a sense of … completion … sufficiency … total allrightness.  It was, and is, quiet.  Almost not there, except it is.  What’s it look like, you ask?  Well here goes:

I don’t need now to be anything other than what it is

There’s nowhere to go

There’s nothing to accomplish

All is still

I simply am

That’ll do for starters.  I know that goals are good but they’re far off in the back of my being right now.  I’ll strive towards things in the future but at the moment I sense that I won’t be tied to the results.  I know that I need to be concerned about injustice and to act appropriately when it comes my way, but that’s smaller than whatever this is.

Time for some specifics:

1.  I haven’t written a blog post for 24 days. This morning that was a problem but not right now … There’s something bigger than the need to write to you.

2.  What if I never write again? … There’s something bigger than ever writing again.

3.  I have a cold and am all stuffed up … There’s something bigger than this discomfort.

4.  My left foot hurts when I walk.  I wonder if it’s plantar fasciitis.  I’ve had it before … There’s something bigger than plantar fasciitis.

5.  I want to lose weight in preparation for the 2018 Tour du Canada cycling trip.  So far not much has happened … There’s something bigger than losing weight.

6.  I want to improve my cardio and strength in preparation for the Tour.  To this point, there’s just a bit of improvement … There’s something bigger than getting fitter.

7.  I want to ride the Tour du Canada … There’s something bigger than crossing my country by bicycle.

8.  I want to be in a loving relationship.  I don’t see any potential life partner on the horizon yet … There’s something bigger than being in a romantic relationship.

9.  I want to live in my new condo for many years … There’s something bigger than having a lovely home.

10.  I love the kids in the Grade 6 class where I volunteer.  I hope than some of them love me … There’s something bigger than being loved.

11.  I love being around people and making them happy, making them laugh … There’s something bigger than spending time with human beings.

***

On one level, I don’t want colds and I do want to say good things to the folks I meet.  Right now, though, I’m immersed in a sense of sufficiency that is just sitting here with me.  Will it be on the bed when I wake up tomorrow?  I don’t know.  But there’s something beyond having this sweetness continue uninterrupted.  The fact that it’s here right now suggests that it will come back after it leaves.  And that’s good enough for me.

 

Gone … No … Here

Writers are supposed to speak to their audience, use words that they’ll relate to, be comfy to them so that meaning flows easily from me to you.  Well, perhaps not this time.

I’ve just come out of one-and-a-half hours of meditation, and the world is big.  There are spaces between my cells.  It’s not quite like a pause button, and it’s not really slow-mo, but those words are in the territory.  And “coming out of” is not true either.  That suggests some trance state of blissful nothingness.  What I’ve just experienced is sweet nowness, fully aware of the traffic on Belmont Road and the wind ripping at my condo.

It took maybe twenty seconds for me to go deep.  How can that be?  During my recent retreat, I often couldn’t reach peace during an entire sitting.  The mind was just too chatty.  “Couldn’t reach” suggests effort and I know now that there’s no loving cheese down that tunnel.  By grace do I flow.

Today, I mostly felt complete stillness, and such an alertness.  Many times before, my stillness was punctuated by ripples of energy running under the skin of my face, including some sort of movement under my eyeballs.  Don’t know what that looks like since I’m inside the show.

Wo.  (I really don’t know how to spell that.)  Half an hour later, in the midst of tap-tapping on the keys, all is quiet.  Somewhere way back in my head is a tiny voice.  “You’re not making any sense.  They won’t understand.  They’ll think you’re weird.”  But that voice is so small, just about not there.  What is here is love, and peace, and okayness.  Hmm.  It’s very nice.

Bathing in this land of sufficiency is warm and comforting … but now what?  Do I head to the nearest cave and pray for world peace?  Do I stay downtown and see if this space can show up in daily conversation?  Do I chuck it all out the window and just obsess about the Toronto Maple Leafs?  Think I’ll pick Door Number Two.

Ain’t life grand?

Letting Jake Go

Last September I auditioned for the part of Jake in the Neil Simon play Jake’s Women.  The director chose someone else.  I was sad, and that sense of woe has been a frequent visitor in the months since.  I so much wanted to be Jake.

The play is about a writer who lives in his head, working on characters and plot while largely ignoring his wife Maggie.  Jake has conversations (some imaginary and some real) with the women in his life – his current wife, former wife, daughter, sister, therapist and new girlfriend.

Jake’s Women opened a few days ago in St. Thomas, Ontario.  I went last night.  I’ve known for months that I would see the production, rather than staying away from something that represented pain.  The truth is that I love the play.  It has both funny and tender moments.

I got there early and scored a front row seat.  The set was spectacular, especially Jake’s home office at the top of the stairs.  I sat quietly for half an hour, and all sorts of thoughts came my way.  I wanted the theatre to be full (about 150 people).  I wanted the theatre to be virtually empty (How small of you, Bruce).  I wanted the actors to be great, totally inhabiting their roles.  I wanted the actors to stumble over their lines.  I wanted Jake to be superb in his happiness, sadness, anger, giddiness and love – the best Jake ever.  I wanted him to be ordinary so I could think I would have done better.

As the story unfolded, I realized that it was a first class rendition of Simon’s play.  And Jake was brilliant.  Perhaps far better than I would have been.  I enjoyed the evening immensely.

At the end, as the actors were fanned out across the stage for their bows, I stood, clapped and smiled.  They deserved the standing O.  Although I had planned to see Jake’s Women once this week and once the next, I won’t be coming back.  I am complete with Jake.  What’s in him is in me.  On we go.

Nothing To Say

 

I can’t think of a thing.  What would happen if I just sat here and waited?  Guess I’ll find out.

***

I’m just watching my thoughts … the words that bubble to the surface.  I’ll write them down.

***

“Where in the world am I going?”  February 26-29 – Toronto.  April 1-15 – Cuba.  June 7-10 – Vancouver.  June 11-19 – Haida Gwaii.

***

“Why am I going there?”  To meet people, maybe to meet that very special love.  To watch people, in their infinite variety.  To talk to people, to learn about their lives and what makes them “fly”.  To love people, and then let them go.

***

“What kind of person am I?”  Curious, caring, open, determined, sad, happy.

***

“What’s important?”  People, including me.

***

“Will I live a long time?”  I don’t know.  I hope so.  So many moments to sit in.  But maybe I’ll die tomorrow.  It’s been a great life and I know I could happily let go of it (but even more happily enjoy the continuing ride).

***

“Do I want to be with a woman … to give love and receive love?”  Yes.

***

“Is that relationship near or far away?”  I don’t know, but it’s coming.  In its own sweet time.

***

“How come I was never a sports hero?  Or a singing hero?  Or an acting hero?”  I don’t know.  Perhaps none of that is important.  I still want to act but celebrity is not the way I want to contribute.

***

“Okay.  How exactly do I want to contribute?”  It doesn’t feel like a doing.  It feels like a momentary thing … over and over again.  Just show up in people’s lives and stand there … with love.

***

“Do I want to keep talking?”  Actually no.  I can’t think of anything to say.

Asking For More

This afternoon I picked up three tickets for the London Lightning basketball game next Thursday at Budweiser Gardens.  The woman at the box office found me some good seats.

The three of us had the opportunity to get better seats than I’ve ever had in my life – probably first row courtside.  Some player leaping for a loose ball would likely have ended up in my lap!  To secure these gems, all it would have taken was a request to a powerful person that one of us knows.  We decided not to do that.

Would I have accepted front row if the gentleman in question had given it to us with no prompting on our part?  Yes.  But the idea of asking for what hasn’t been freely offered makes my stomach turn.

For me, happiness doesn’t come from the accumulation of pleasant experiences, even though I love pleasant experiences.  Happiness shows up when I know I’ve shown integrity, and when I’m present as I enjoy the people who show up in my life.  I’ve discovered that happiness can even be there during times of sadness, as contradictory as that sounds.  When I touch something immense, no matter what the surface emotion, something sweet bubbles up.  It’s a vastness.  Holy.  And infinitely more rewarding than pushing to get courtside seats.

Next Thursday, we’ll be many rows from the action, and yet we’ll feel the ebb and flow of the game.  We’ll come out of our seats at a slam dunk and groan over a missed layup.  We’ll have a great time with each other.  And that’s certainly enough to put a smile on my face.

Sufficiency

There is no need for what is happening to go away
Or for what is not happening to appear

So says Ashin Tejaniya, a Buddhist teacher.  But what does it mean for my life?

Such as right now.  I’m sitting in my man chair, typing.  It would be lovely if Jody could sit beside me and let me rub her feet, something we did so often.  I’d get to send physical love to my dear wife.  But in this moment, I don’t need Jody to be here.  I don’t need wonderfully wise words to fall out of my brain into my fingers.  I don’t need to look in the mirror and see some outrageously handsome dude looking back.  I don’t need my feet to be warm and toasty.

Just as I am.  Just fine.

But what about if life was throwing me a few curve balls?  What if I was sitting here sad because I’m alone in life now?  My best self wouldn’t need the sadness to disappear.  What if now was just like the fall of 2003?  Seven-teen weeks on crutches after tendon transfer surgery, plus lots of pain.  Perhaps I wouldn’t need the cast and the angst to disappear.  What if I was being condemned by my colleagues for being a poor teacher?  I don’t think I’d need the hurt to go away.

Just as I am.  Just fine.

Can I really live this way?

Less

First of all, I think of food and drink.  I just don’t want as much as I used to. And it’s not that I’m trying to lose weight.  I just like the semi-empty feeling.  It’s soft inside my body, and spacious.  My stomach just sits there, instead of pressing against my pants.

I have a long history of “more” in the arena of nourishment.  My former wife Rita and I regularly went with her parents to Erickson’s Family Restaurant in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Just about every time, I’d eat so much, usually prime rib or steak.  And after an overflowing sweet dessert, I’d invariably undo my belt and the button of my pants (discreetly, of course, under the tablecloth). Today I’m shocked that I found this normal back in the 1970s.

Up until a couple of years ago, Jody and I would go out most Friday nights to Longhorn’s, a roadhouse in St. Thomas.  And more of the invariably – I’d down 30 ounces of beer, then feel horribly bloated, and then fall asleep at home within an hour of our arrival.  Normal all right – normally vacant in the head.

And it’s not just food.  I want less noise.  I want less speed (and I used to love playing the video game “Need For Speed”).  I want less TV.  I want fewer clothes.  I want less small talk.  And it seems that I want less talk of any kind, even discussions of spirituality.  More and more, I want to be silent – still very much with people – but quiet.

But then I also joke around a lot with folks, including strangers.  I don’t want less of that … I guess … Gosh, I’m just not understanding myself very well right now.  But wait a minute – maybe I want less of that too.  Understanding stuff, exploring the mind of reason, having an opinion.

I truly wonder what type of human being I’m becoming.

 

Just Some Extra Skin

I have a flap of skin hanging out between my neck and right shoulder.  I think it’s been there for a few months.  What I know is that every day, several times a day, I reach over with my left hand and flibble it, pull it, or otherwise bother it.  After some vigorous pulling, the flap usually ends up red and sore.  Doesn’t seem to stop me, though.

I figure there’s a teaching here for me.  I guess it’s not all right that I have this projection sticking out from the surface of my body.  Sometimes I feel the smoothness of my inner arm and like it a lot.  That’s what my physical being should be, so I say – smooth and beautiful.  Like the runway models. Except I’m a guy.

Clearly, my brain tells me that I should do something about my tag of tissue, such as get rid of it.  That interruption of sleekness makes me deficient.  So … why not splurge for a commercial product?

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Clearly a popular item, and just what I need to be a whole human being.

Or

I could make this tiny fleck of matter an object of meditation.  In the vipassana tradition of Buddhism, when thoughts come, we just observe the passing display without judgment.  I could simply watch my need to touch the spot, and watch my hand reach over to feel it.  I can have the aspiration to touch not, as a way to experience the perfection of all parts of my body, just as they are.  And the compassion for myself when I do grab hold.

That’s what I’ll do.  Starting now.

Lost and Found

Since bedtime last night, Jody has been crying a lot and angry a lot about what looks like oncoming death.  Such profound despair.  And such a natural reaction.

What can I do?  From way down inside comes “I don’t know”.  When Jody is lucid, I think my words make some difference.  When she’s not, all they seem to do is feed the flames of her anguish.  When I read to Jody, it seems that my voice soothes her.  And I brush her hair.  She softens then.  Last night, she didn’t want me to touch her, so I sadly withdrew my hand.  I tried to breathe in her pain and breathe out my love for her, but I was too lost to keep that up for long.  So I just sat beside.  I was in her presence.  She was in mine.

Often it feels like I’m being ripped apart, or disassembled.  What I’ve taken to be Bruce (happy, witty, determined, spontaneous) seems to be dissolving.  You know, that person, that separate entity walking the earth.  As Jody’s crying goes on for an hour or more, there’s a profound letting go in me.  Something remains after the personality fades.  I don’t know what it is.  I guess it’s okay to not know.

Do I need these moments of heartbreak to open to what’s next for me?  Perhaps.  It feels like a cleansing, maybe more like a violent dermal abrasion in that it hurts while it heals.

I love Jody so much.  At times like these, it doesn’t seem important what comes back from her.  It doesn’t seem like there’s much of a me for it to come back to.  Beneath my sadness is a big open space and immense quiet.  The intensity of my need for the usuals falls away: quality conversations, high self-esteem, physical comfort, getting enough good food, having alone time, breaking an hour for the time trial on my bike ta-pocketa, reading a good book.  Okay without that.

No movement away from the present moment
No deficiency
No needs

When Death Comes

When death comes, like the hungry bear in autumn
When death comes, and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me
And snaps his purse shut
When death comes, like the measle pox
When death comes, like an iceberg between the shoulder blades
I want to step through the door, full of curiosity
Wondering “What is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?”
And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood
And I look upon time as no more than an idea
And I consider eternity as another possibility
And I think of each life as a flower
As common as a field daisy, and as singular
And each name a comfortable music in the mouth
Tending as all music does towards silence
And each body a lion of courage
And something precious to the earth
When it’s over, I want to say
“All my life I was a bride married to amazement
I was a bridegroom taking the world into my arms”
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
If I’ve made of my life something particular and real
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened or full of argument
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

As my wife Jody struggles to stay alive, then despairs, then lets go … and does it all over and over again, I look at my own death.  After I die, I will be remembered fondly by many … for awhile.  My friends will go on in their ever evolving lives, most likely thinking of me less and less as the years pass.  Eventually they will all be dead and I will be an unknown person in historical time.  Maybe this blog will survive and some post will touch someone way down the road.  Or maybe not.  I realize today that I’m okay with all traces of me disappearing from the planet.  I don’t have to write that book.  I don’t have to resurrect my batik and have people enjoy the works of art I create.  I don’t have to burn my love into anyone’s soul so that it stays there eternally.

I don’t know what’s next.  Multiple lifetimes?  Sure, I’m open to that.  The candle of my soul flickering elsewhere in some unknowable realm of being?  Okay.  But perhaps nothing, zero, the void, the end.

I know that when my last hour falls upon me, I will be happy, at peace.  I can feel that already.  To die with a smile on my lips … I think so.  Looking back at countless moments of contact, not at achievements.  Looking back at silence inside, not the chatter of society.  Looking back at standing still, arms by my sides, head bowed, sufficient in the universe.