Bigger Than This

To me, “this” refers to the present moment, as opposed to “that”.  It might be joyous or sad, inspiring or frustrating, or everything in between.  It has adventures and it has movement from one thing to the next.

A couple of days ago, I experienced stillness, no movement, just being here now.  It was so sweet, and then it faded.  I figured it was by grace that such sufficiency showed up and I vowed to simply wait until this light shone on me again.  Trying to make it happen, such as by feeling into the current event and trying to make it stop, was a useless endeavour.  Effort doesn’t lead to the timeless.

Then there was this morning.  What if I found a mantra and simply repeated it throughout the day, hoping that it would trigger the downward flow of energy that I was experiencing recently?  Sounds like a strategy but not really effort.  That might work.  But having things “work” seems contrary to the letting go that came upon me before.  Still, I decided to do it.

How about “Not this”?  I tried that for awhile but no sweetness came my way.  Then I realized that negating the present moment wasn’t it.  I needed to honour present happenings while opening to something beyond them.  Maybe “Bigger than this”.  Worth a shot.

I was driving into London, going with the flow of the traffic, when I let “Bigger than this” seep into me.  Immediately the quiet flow of energy fell softly from my throat to my stomach.  And I was there, fully aware of the cars, but absolutely quiet inside.  I started congratulating myself and right away lost the immense space.  “Just watch the fullness (or emptiness), Bruce.  No analysis or conclusions.”

I got to my bike shop, to pick up ta-pocketa.  Unmindfully, I had broken my pedal last week.  “Come in.  We’re open” said the sign.  A smaller, handwritten one said they had to close unexpectedly for a few hours.  After a minute of grousing, I remembered my mantra … and the world opened once more.  The frustration of driving to Lambeth but not getting to take my bike home was still there but it was … small.  I smiled.

My afternoon was at South Dorchester School, volunteering with wonderful Grade 6 kids.  Right away, I had a conversation with two girls about drawing, and my mantra disappeared.  It stayed disappeared until I remembered it while talking to two women at the end of the day.  In between, I had many glorious moments, such as staring at a computer screen, surrounded by 12-year-olds, trying to guess who’s who from 27 baby pictures.  I got one right!

You could say that I was present for all these interactions with the kids, and I was, but how deeper could the moments have been if “Bigger than this” had augmented the already beautiful?  I don’t know, but I’m thrilled with the possibility that I can access the infinite often within daily life.

Tomorrow there’s more daily life on the schedule.  The Grade 6’s have a class trip to Western University in London.  We’ll be playing 4 or 5 different sports and “new” games.  And I have a challenge:

Stay present
Stay open
Stay fully alive

I can do this
Effortlessly

You Shine in a Very Lovely Way

Another day, another concert for me.  Hugh’s Room, an iconic folk music venue in Toronto, has reopened after financial trouble.  Saturday night was a gala fundraiser, featuring fourteen excellent musicians.  Being in the small hall was like coming home.

There were gentle songs and raucous songs, and everything in between.  I was happy.  Then Laura Smith stepped up to the microphone.  I’d say she’s in her sixties.  And here’s what she has to say in “The Blues and I”:

Everything is moving
So why am I standing still
Looking for a star?
Let there be a star …
Guiding me

The words are lovely but Laura onstage is inexpressible.  Her face has the hollows of an older person.  The eyes reach out, warm and wet.  The mouth holds the words gently.  The voice soothes.  But the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts.

When Laura began, all of me stopped.  Only one other time in my life has a person filled the room like this.  She was a teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts.  And Laura was right there with her.

I said hi to Laura after the concert.  She smiled.

***

Wow.  There’s nothing to say.  The written word doesn’t get the job done.  You’d have to be there and listen.

Only twice in my life.  Has a human being of such transcendence ever come your way?  I think you’d remember if they had.  In fact, I know you’d remember.  Inside your head, you would have heard …

Oh my God!

Include

I’ve always wanted to attend a concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall and last night “wanted” became “did”.  Loreena McKennitt sat on stage way below me, with a cellist and guitarist.  They were accompanied by five tall candelabras, each hosting seven candles.  Soft light was everywhere, including the ceiling, which reminded me of a cave’s stalactites.  Massey Hall is a grand old building, erected in 1894.  It has two horseshoe-shaped balconies.

And then there was Loreena, she of the soaring voice, and a love affair with the Celts and their music.  She has travelled the world in search of their stories and we are the richer for it.

How can a blog post describe that voice?  It flowed through me, vibrating.  And so did runs from the cellist.  I was brought to silence and then to wild clapping.  Everything stopped inside and out.  I believe we were all touched.

Within this aura were other things:

1. Staff members walking left and right across my field of vision during songs – at least thirty times.

2. The young woman sitting in front of me usually leaning forward, partially blocking my view of the performers.  She had lovely long hair.  At intermission, I asked the guy beside me a question about the ceiling lights.  The person in front turned around to answer … and it was a man.

3. The cell phone of the woman beside me went off during a song.  She managed to get it shut off but soon was perusing the glowing screen to find out the latest from her world.

4. I needed a bathroom break but so did a hundred other men.  Washrooms were located next to the merchandise table so it was pedestrian gridlock, of the bursting bladder variety.

To all of which I say “So what?”  The context of the evening was transcendental.  No amount of life’s tiny travails could change that.  I glowed along with Loreena.

Artsy Fartsy

That’s what an ancient friend of mine used to call herself.  Kath was an art student at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.  A very nice person.

Yesterday I got to explore some of this world at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.  I showed up for the “Mystical Landscapes” exhibition.  There must have been 100 paintings created by masters such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Georgia O’Keeffe and Bruce Kerr.  (Wait a minute … that last guy doesn’t fit.  Must be an interloper.)

I consider myself a spiritual fellow.  No doubt I would be moved to tears by all of the works.  But not so.  Only about five paintings hit me.  The rest were too brownish, dark or complex for my eye and soul.  Naturally, that’s just me.  Joe sitting beside me probably saw transcendence where I saw none.

I’ve collected quotations over the past three decades, but usually didn’t write down the name of the author.  Same thing here.  I can’t remember who painted some of the creations that touched me.  Oh well.  Not important.

Exhibit number one was vivid red hills in front of a misty sun, with circles of light emanating from the centre.  So simple.  So red (my favourite colour).  And the power of those circles!  I thought of passion and the possibilities of contributing to my fellow man and woman.

Next was a crew of black coniferous trees against a bright yellow sky.  Such a contrast.  I thought of one of my two favourite words – animation – and how the yellow brought everything alive.  I would like to be that yellow.

Then there was a pastoral background, replete with woods, fields and a meandering river.  The foreground, however, showed a long building with a sandbagged entrance and two soldiers wearing gas masks emerging.  A sickly yellow cloud hung above it all.  Death colouring life.

I do remember one artist’s name – Lawren Harris.  His triangular mountain, plastered with a huge angular glacier, reached to the sky.  Such a symbol of the world beyond the physical.  I was lifted up.

Finally a night streetscape, with twin lines of lights receding into the void.  There was the suggestion of trees to the right and a looming office building to the left.  A bit scary, but not really.  Nature and civilization hanging out together.

***

After supper, I went back to the AGO to hear Ross King talk about Claude Monet.  He was so funny, not at all like my stereotype of art historians.  Ross told us about Monet the person.  He wanted people to be happy when they looked at his water lily paintings.  His vision was to have six-foot-high images wrap around the walls of an oval room.  And after his death, it happened.  Waydago, Claude.

***

Next lifetime, I’ve decided to be a master