Looking … Seeing

I enjoy the difference between those two words. We all look at things. Our eyes take in the colours and shapes before us. No big deal. The big deal is seeing … absorbing, making connections, feeling empathy with the people seen, going to the very centre of what is beheld and lingering there. I like seeing.

Take this street scene in Ghent. There is much to see and reflect upon. I’m tempted to not say a thing about the photo, and just let you discover. Hmm … good idea. You take a few minutes. I’ll get a coffee.


Okay, I’m back. I’ll tell you what I see. First of all, if you can enlarge this picture on your phone or laptop, that will be helpful. The discoveries will still be good if you can’t.

I love curves … also windows. So many of the windows in Ghent have a little curve on the top edge. Passageways as well. It’s also très cool to have brick walls, plus so many colours of brick. And how about windows that are set into the roof? Things that suggest an artistic flair.

When I think of buildings in Canada, everything seems horizontal meeting vertical. How amazing to have diamond shapes show up on a wall. And the roofline of that building isn’t straight. There’s an angle there.

Now for the cool semi-hidden stuff, which will be vivid if you can enlarge: Look near the right edge of the photo. One of the windows is stained glass – barely visible from the outside. But what must it be like to be sitting in there on a sunny day?! I say marvelous.

Finally (Now wait a minute – this isn’t final. Who knows what other mysteries may show up?)

Somewhat finally, gaze at the orange brick wall. Someone is happy to be seeing from above, perhaps blessing us who pass by. And I wonder what is hanging from her mouth.

Only a few homes on only one street in only one city

May we open our eyes wherever we are

Light Arrives

There was an old Hassidic rabbi who was asked by his students …

“There are special prayers we’re supposed to make just as the day begins.  But how can we know the moment of dawn when we’re supposed to make these prayers?”

“Is it when you can see a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s an olive tree or a plum tree?”

“No,” he said.

“Is it when you can see an animal on the hillside and know whether it’s a sheep or a goat or a dog?”

“No,” he said.

“Is it when you can begin to discern the lines on your hand?  Then you know the day has begun.”

He said “no”.

“It’s not until you can see any person walk toward you and know that this is your brother or your sister that the day has begun, and until then it’s still dark.”


What will open the eyelids of the heart?  What will show us the endless vista covering the world?  What will ask us to sigh into the moment, again and again?

Love, my friend

What We See

Walking down Main Street. What do you see? Is it each individual separate from everyone else – whether that person is strolling alone, holding hands with a loved one, or in a group that takes over the sidewalk? Maybe you like some of them, don’t like others, and don’t even notice the rest. Maybe you evaluate: too young, too old, too fat, too sloppy, weird clothes, stupid expression on their face. Or compare: better than me, worse than me, equal to me. Perhaps you want them all to go away, so you don’t have to talk to anyone. Dogs are better.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to see. Luminous vision is available.

Jack Kornfield writes: Thomas Merton, the Christian mystic, was walking down the street in Louisville, Kentucky – at Fourth Street and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district. Right now, there’s a monument there. It’s the only monument I know that the government has put up to a mystical experience.

Thomas Merton reflects: I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, and that they were mine and I theirs, and we could not be alien to one another. It was like waking from a dream of separateness. It was monastic holiness. The sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such relief and joy that I laughed out loud. I saw the secret beauty of everyone that was passing, and the only problem was that I wanted to fall down and worship each one as they went by. No more need for war, cruelty or greed when we could see each other in this way. This is really the miracle – that each person who passed me is walking around shining like the sun.

What if Merton’s way of seeing could become normal?


That’s what I’m feeling tonight. Electricity is surging through me. It’s not a power that could hurt anybody. It simply wants to flow out into the world … to give. It’s bursting out from my body like an explosion. It flies high into the sky and then falls as rain at a great distance.

I’m taller tonight. I can feel it. My spine isn’t a rigid rod. Instead it stretches me far above my expected height. I’m rising … through the ceiling and above the rooftops. A vista of wide open spaces reveals itself ever more widely as I climb, except I’m not doing anything. Some energy is lifting me.

I’m walking into a mist, with a lilt in my step. No hesitation, even though my eyes can’t see the path ahead. I’m reaching into the void, knowing that my fingers will close around something precious.

It feels like my insides are opening, creating space between the muscles, blood vessels and bones. There’s so much room to breathe! And my structures have made way for my heart to see, far beyond the boundary of the skin.

I’m making no sense at all and not caring in the least. It doesn’t matter if you understand. I merely soar. My arms are impossibly long and flow around the planet … embracing.

All is well.

Dark or Blurry

My near and distance vision has been declining over the past few years.  There’s no way I pass cars anymore since judging speeds, especially at night, is difficult.   Tiny words on tubes and bottles might as well be in another language, and buying a magnifying glass has been on my “to do” list for months.

It was time to take action.  I made an appointment with my optometrist.  That appointment was today.  The eye doctor is a genial fellow who’s got a vast array of high tech equipment.  His verdict?  “Your eyes have changed significantly.”  Still … don’t worry, be happy.  It’s an age thing.  Okay, I’m getting up there.  I accept the emerging realities of my senior life.

I headed over to Costco, the home of super-sized quantities and very friendly optical employees.  The woman who greeted me was the same person who found my red and purple and yellow frame two years ago.  She remembered me and my glasses.  I ordered the new and improved lenses, but there was one tiny detail: my dear frame had to go off to Toronto or somewhere for about ten days.  Hmm.  Well, what can you do?

The staff member asked if I had a backup pair.  No.  Guess I’m not much of a backup person.  I’ll just wear my sunglasses.


I’m several hours into my shortterm visual life, and there are things to say:

1.  It’s dark

How strange.  Everything I look at is muted.  My lovely red EasyBoy chair is less red.  The sky out there feels like an eclipse has moved in.  My world feels lifeless, listless, subdued, tiresome.  There’s a shroud hanging over things, and I can’t seem to remove it.

If it’s not number 1, then it’s …

2.  Blurry

“Just take off the sunglasses, Bruce, and the light will come back.”  That’s true.  But I can’t see the words on the white feather that’s in the soil across  from me: “Dream on.”  I can barely make out the birdies who are perching on my feeder.  And writing this blog post is “by guess and by golly” until I move my eyes to a point six inches from the screen.

Physically is one thing

What must it be like in the heart
of someone who’s spiritually dark or blurry?
Where anger, fear and depression colour the day
Or where all is muddled, disorienting and not worth the effort

May the light and clarity return to us all


I wonder why I’m here. Or maybe I don’t … I know I’m here to love. I’m here to enhance the juiciness of life. I’m here to open my palm to everyone I meet.

It’s such a journey – from infant to senior, from me to we, from scared of you to embracing you.

The two of us … what shall we build together?

I enjoy the story about the traveler in the middle ages who happened upon a large work site in the center of a village. He had been traveling for many days, and he was eager to talk to anyone who would engage with him.

He walked up to a worker at the site and asked, “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker scowled a bit and said tersely, “I am cutting stones.”

The traveler decided he would find little conversation there, so he moved on to another worker. When he asked the same question, the worker paused for a moment and explained that he was cutting stones so he could support his family.

He had a wonderful wife and two small children who depended on him to provide them with food and shelter. They chatted about the project and the village for a few minutes, and the worker turned back to his large pile of stones.

The traveler moved to a third worker and asked the same question: “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker put down his tools, stood quite tall, looked the traveler in the eye and said with a warm smile, “I am building a cathedral. It will be the tallest and most magnificent structure for miles around. Its beauty will delight people for centuries to come. The stone I am now working on will go near the front door where people will enter for shelter and kinship. I will probably not see the final product, but I know my work is part of something very important.”

(Lyn Boyer)

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord … to the beauty and kindness and intelligence of all who come our way. Higher and higher, to the light above the clouds.

I Want to Teach

The core of the Evolutionary Collective is the mutual awakening practice, in which two people simply look into each other’s eyes and answer the question “What are you experiencing?” To learn the practice, there’s a four-week course. I want to teach that course. I want to teach it to children and teens.

Are these folks too young to understand the deep connection that’s possible between two human beings? Some people think so. I don’t. Aren’t kids so concerned with fitting in with what their friends want that they naturally exclude some children? There’s no way that they’d embrace a philosophy of “no one left out”. My response is “Maybe … maybe not.”

Today in class the teacher allowed me to talk to the kids about this:

“What should you do if people tell you something is impossible but you feel that it’s what you’re called to do?”

“I want to teach kids to be outrageously happy.”

“Think of the classmate that you’re most distant from in this room. (Don’t look at them!) There’s a real possibility of making an emotional connection with this person. Not that you’d become best friends but that you might become comfortable with them.”

“It will take me some time to develop this course – maybe even a year or two. Who knows if parents would be supportive? Who knows if any of you would be interested?”

At that last question, three or four kids put up their hand. Hmm … Is this potential work with children part of my future?

I’m so pleased. I did it. I said to these young ones what I wanted to say. I put my vision out there, not knowing how I’ll accomplish it. I risked the possibility that they’d all return blank stares to me. A few did. Most did not.

There’s a meeting room in Belmont that would be a perfect space for us to meet. Maybe eight to ten kids. I see it. I see them sitting in pairs, doing the practice. I see them talking to the group about their thoughts and feelings in response.

Why not throw this commitment out into the universe?
Why not take steps to transform a dream into a reality?
Why not do something outrageous?

Day Twenty-Four: Longing

The Evolutionary Collective welcomed 125 people from near and far to its New Year’s Day Internet call. Patricia Albere, the founder of the organization, led us in exploring the topic of “longing”. Part of our time together was in groups of two and three. We looked at what aspects of society we’d like to say goodbye to. Later, what were our visions for the world we’d love to inhabit?

I felt into the questions and stayed open to the images that wanted to emerge. There was no “figuring it out”.

Here’s what I’m saying no to:

1. So rarely do we physically touch each other.

2. Kids respond rather than initiate. Their ideas are not as important as those of adults.

3. We are afraid of each other. Our tendency is to move away rather than go towards.

4. I’m right and you’re wrong.

5. “Home” is our own needs and wants.

And then there’s the vision of what is yet to be:

1. We laugh together at how silly life is.

2. We look deeply into each other’s eyes. We linger there … and feel the beauty.

3. We value ideas from whomever they spring, regardless of age, gender, status or what your peers think.

4. We go slow, seeing the moments of the world unfold before us, and we smile at what is revealed.

5. We hug, easily and often, including all in our positive regard.

It was a lovely two hours together. With Zoom technology, we could see 25 folks at once on our laptop screens. A simple click and there were 25 more faces. The infinite variety and grace of human beings was on full display. It was a privilege to come together like this.


Earlier, I sat in a comfy chair near Keur Saloum’s pool. To my left was a black family: mom, dad, son and yappy little dog. They were talking in English, and clearly enjoying each other’s presence. I decided to let them be. My vision for the future revolves around reaching out to new humans but it didn’t seem right to be intruding into their joy. The power of contact, however, was initiated by an unexpected being – the little doglet came close and really turned up the barking.

Mom apologized for “Simba”. I smiled and said it was fine. And then it came to me: tell Simba that my name was Mufasa (Simba’s father in The Lion King). So I did. Mom and dad laughed … and we were off to the races.

Where do you live? > For the next year – in Dakar [the capital of Senegal]. After that, back in the United States.

Where in the States > In California

Where in California? > Near San Francisco

Where? > Berkeley

In eight days, I’ll arrive in Berkeley. I’ll be staying for a week > (!)

Oh my. What can be created, what can emerge, when we simply move closer to each other? I think it’s called magic.

I told Penda and Solomon that I volunteer in a Grade 5/6 class in Canada, and that months ago three girls asked me if I would bring them something back from San Francisco. I said yes, in the spirit of rewarding kids who speak up. It turns out that they all wanted a necklace. Actually the very same design: the tree of life.

Do.you know where I could find “tree of life” pendants in Berkeley? > Yes. Your conference site [The David Brower Center] is only a few blocks away from a bunch of street vendors who carry stuff like this. Walk east on Allston Way to Oxford Street. South on Oxford to Bancroft Way. Three blocks east to Telegraph Avenue … et voilà.

So there!
From Toubacouta, Senegal
across the world to Berkeley, California
There is really no distance between us

Frozen II

At the movies tonight, I was swept up into the blast of Elsa and Anna.  I didn’t see the original Frozen and that didn’t matter.  The intensity of II was extreme and I fell in love with the two heroines.

Right now, I can’t remember much about the film, which is thoroughly strange, since I just got home.  So how the heck can I write about it?  Somehow I’m confident that what will come out of my mind will touch home.

Elsa and Anna have huge eyes and the contact between them goes deep.  There’s an aliveness in the relationships here, a sense of going to the core of things, casting off the trivial, and seeing the beauty of the human being facing you.

Elsa hears a voice calling her forward to the unknown.  The music swells as she steps out into the fullness of life.  At one point she walks resolutely into the mist, somehow knowing that she will be safe as the landmarks disappear.  Hers is indeed a calling, and she holds her head high as she embraces the mystery of it all.

There are separations and there are joinings.  The ebbs and flows of living are well represented but the ebbs can’t stop the surge of spirit.  When Elsa sings, there’s a brilliant intensity, a full-throated volume as her mouth opens.  No half measures.  Something huge is propelling her into the marketplace of life, grappling with shallow forces and keeping wide eyes on the vibrancy beyond the mundane.

So it remains for all of us to reach out, touch our dreams, stay true to the world we know in our hearts and want to bring forth in reality.  You don’t have to be pretty or handsome, young and virile, or wise beyond your years.  You just have to see it and want it real bad.

Elsa and Anna stand tall in their vision and in their love for each other. They beckon us onward to our own individual promised lands and to a world that serves all beings.  We dare not settle for less.

We Can Change the World

Pie in the sky?
The musing of a fool?
Irrational and irrelevant?

Perhaps not


Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die . . . It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.


It’s the outsiders who change the world.


A socially accepted or cultured person can never change society. By change it means something that society has never imagined before.


One smile has the power to …

Calm fears
Soften stone walls
Warm a cold heart
Invite a new friend
Mimic a loving hug
Beautify the bearer
Lighten heavy loads
Promote good deeds
Brighten a gloomy day
Comfort a grieving spirit
Offer hope to the forlorn
Send a message of caring
Lift the downtrodden soul
Patch up invisible wounds
Weaken the hold of misery
Act as medicine for suffering
Attract the companionship of angels
Fulfill the human need for recognition

Who knew changing the world would prove so simple?


Love people who hate you. Pray for people who have wronged you. It won’t just change their life … it’ll change yours.


The world is changed not by the self-regarding, but by men and women prepared to make fools of themselves.


I’m just tired of feeling like the way things are is the only way they can ever be.


Burn so bright that the world comes to life.


No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.


I’m not a Starbucks guy. I’m a Dunkin Donuts guy, but I like to pay for the coffee of the other folks behind me in line. It typically costs me less than $10, and makes the other people feel good, but more importantly, it makes me feel so good, and random acts of kindness change the world, one person at a time.


When you are told “You cannot change the world”, it is because you are already doing it.


Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.


I believe it’s time that women truly owned their superpowers and used their beauty and strength to change the world around them.


We have to raise the consciousness. The only way poets can change the world is to raise the consciousness of the general populace.


Kids really have a lot more power than they think they have. They have the power to change the world. And they should know it.


You have a mind. And you have other people. Start with those, and change the world.


It’s hard to tell the truth
When no one wants to listen
When no one really cares
What’s going on
And it’s hard to stand alone
When you need someone beside you
Your spirit and your faith must be strong

What one man can do is dream
What one man can do is love
What one man can do is change the world
And make it young again
Here you see what one man can do


Age, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, personality, money
Do not matter
Do something you love