A Brief Reflection on Resilience

resilience

Meditation is a valuable tool to keep ourselves fresh. It can ready us for difficult tasks, calming our minds and bodies as we face life’s challenges. I am consistently amazed at the peace and perspective even twenty minutes on my cushion can offer. It doesn’t matter if I have been caught up in my mind chasing my tail for hours, when I sit down for a few quiet minutes everything can fall into place effortlessly. I am endlessly grateful for the resilience I have discovered through meditation. All it takes is a simple recognition to realize the benefits of this gift.

We all have access to this resilience, of course. Every second is a fresh start. But many of us so thoroughly busy ourselves that we seldom give our resilience a chance to ripen. We feel beaten down by life, too exhausted to do what we want. We hope to recover, at best, and usually just enough to make it through another onslaught of a day. But we need not feel deflated or defeated. All we ever have to do – and indeed all we ever can do – is start from right here. This is incredibly liberating in its utter simplicity.

Here we stand. We are free. We can choose how to live, how to express ourselves. We need not let our past dictate our actions today. There is no such thing as failure. We can step out to see for ourselves. Everything leads to further learning and growth. Believing in the finality of failure is only a limited view of the truth. In the long run it is only an idea.

So wipe the slate clean and have another crack at your dream. Work out the will of your heart. On this path you can only go right.

Be easy.

:)

Life is a Long Weekend

fireworks

It has been a lovely long weekend here in Toronto. I have been busy with various social events, catching up with family and many good friends. Looking back over it all I see it has been something of a whirlwind. On Friday I caught a buddy’s show downtown at Handlebar, which was awesome. Kurt is a great guy and I was happy to see him performing his music so well. It is poppy with a grungy edge – lots of fun. You can check it out here.  The next day we celebrated the wedding of a friend who is so close that he is more like my brother. He and his lovely lady are now in Italy enjoying their new journey together. Yesterday, after a rewarding morning at church, we hosted a surprise 30th birthday party for my younger brother here at my parents’ condo. We had the party room on the top floor rented out and enjoyed a great gathering and feast, punctuated with an array of fireworks out the many wide windows as night fell. The view from up top is spectacular and expansive. We can see all of Toronto’s skyline from up there, as well as Mississauga’s, and the whole horizon of Lake Ontario between the two. We had lots of fun and laughter as we reconnected and remembered good times, creating more. We finished off the leftovers today at my older brother’s home downtown, hosted by he and his partner and their roommate. It was nice to sit out on their balcony and enjoy an inside view of the city as we visited.

It’s neat to see how the city changes for a long weekend. Things slow down a wee bit (just a bit) and people generally stop to spend time with one another. I like that a lot. It seems to be a nice way to live. I am reminded of a phrase a friend in Italy once mentioned off-hand, celebrating his sense that ‘life is a long weekend’. It’s not as though life stops on a long weekend. It’s not as though people aren’t doing anything of worth during a long weekend – but we seem to relax a bit and do more of what we want. We do what we feel, to a greater extent. I feel this is something we could invite more of into our lives. Productivity wouldn’t grind to a halt. Many people would still feel moved to carry on doing ‘what needs to be done’, but maybe there would be less pressure and heaviness around it all. We would feel a freedom to serve the needs of our lives, reaching out to others as well, but not with any sense of obligation. That pressure might just fade away altogether.

So with this brief reflection, I would love to encourage anyone reading to carry some of this long weekend feeling into the weeks to come. Let’s stretch it out until the next holiday when we can top up the tank and keep it rolling a bit longer. Work will still be necessary but we just might approach it with a bit more willingness and joy, perhaps even excitement and eagerness.

I realize it is not a long weekend for all, but for most of us currently in Canada we are enjoying the spoils of spring and ‘time off’. I hope everyone else can dig deep and find a bit of that ‘long weekend feeling’ somewhere in their heart to tap into. You know that feeling. There it is.

As I look out the window of the 18th floor here I see more fireworks popping, sparkling and spraying around the city, reminding me of the simple joys life and light constantly bring us. We can keep that spark alive! We need not see it outside of ourselves to know it’s still quietly kindled within.

So keep on enjoying this long weekend! It never has to end!

:)

A Hazy May Monday

This will be a quick one. I have had a few of things on the go today and my Monday writing will only get about an hour of my day. Looking out of the window of my parents’ 18th floor condo here in Mississauga I see a lot of fog. This morning almost everything was covered by it. The big towers I normally see quite clearly were completely obscured by low, heavy cloud.

Now I see a similar heavy, dark grey cloud skimming the sky, though there is a gap beneath it, light from the western horizon sneaking through. I can see the bottom section of the downtown towers, though the tops are still consumed by cloud. It has been an interesting transition from winter into spring. It almost feels as though it suddenly became summer and we skipped spring altogether. I was up at a friend’s cottage for a few days last week and we even got into the lake because it was so warm out. The water, however, was not quite ready for us. Or us for it. My heart nearly stopped (or so it felt) when I jumped in. But the sun warmed us up quickly once we were back on the dock. It felt like a real summer day.

Now the transition of seasons is more apparent. There was some humidity in the air yesterday as we celebrated Mother’s Day with my Mom’s family. Rains poured down briefly as the sun continued to shine. There were severe storm warnings in the general area. Nothing serious hit us here. But it was brewing.

Without much of a plan for my writing today, it seems like storms are a suitable point for reflection. They are quite common in the middle ground of transitioning seasons. So in our own lives, as we grow from one phase into another, some chaos can be expected. But all storms pass. This is something we learn throughout life. And this awareness can help us to accept the ups and downs of our journey through life, not resisting the pains that may come, not yearning too strongly for something else to replace our present experience.

As we exercise this ease with life, simply letting it be as it is, we habituate a peaceful heart and mind. Where does all our progress take us, after all? To eventual decline and decay. Seasons rise and fall. Just like every breath. Civilizations do the same. So why not accept the gift of peace that is freely given here and now? It need not be earned or accomplished. Just recognized. (It will snowball if you let it…)

I am headed to my home church (Islington United) to guide a meditation tonight and I must leave shortly, so I will keep it brief today.

Catch you again next week! Take it as easy as you can. Life is light. No need to be so serious.

hazy

:)

Cleaning is Loving; Respecting Our Spaces

cleaning

I learned a lot while cleaning. I was only working with Zenith for a couple of months but I had ample opportunity to explore the practice of revealing beauty. I sense that every space has an inherent beauty of some kind. But without our care and attention these spaces so easily become dusty and cluttered, often falling into decline. Of course, if left to nature, a beauty of its own would take over, but for as long as we build self-contained spaces we are also left with the responsibility to maintain them. This can be taken on as an honour. We can become stewards of our spaces, a job so widely neglected, cleaning not only tangible dirt but generally preparing spaces for purposeful and productive use.

As I touched upon in my first article about cleaning, the title of custodian is actually one of great dignity, despite what our society may have come to think about it. A custodian is not merely someone to pick up trash. They are guardians of spaces. A true custodian cares. This makes more difference than we could ever know. An appreciative presence goes a long way.

In whatever work we may be doing, we need not act as if we are robots, locked in a strict task-oriented mode of operation. We can be carried by a spirit of wonder and love. This gives life to our activities, subtly perfuming the spaces we perform them in with love. Living like this can become an act of service. When we move through spaces with the wisdom and will to serve, working with patience and persistence, our entire landscape changes from the inside out. We become calmer and more present. A natural extension of this attitude expresses itself in the form of more caring behaviour, benefiting the very spaces themselves.

See for yourself. Take time to appreciate the spaces you move through in your day to day life. Your attention will create a stronger connection with the spaces and thus a greater care for them. After some time you may find yourself seeing through new eyes in every space you inhabit. You may also begin to notice things you once overlooked, gaining valuable insights into your own life.

I found that as I cleaned – occasionally catching myself preoccupied with speed, working in a mechanistic frame of mind – simply stopping to appreciate the space again found me working more smoothly and efficiently. Since coming home to my parents’ condo in Toronto, my sharper eye for detail has spotted little bits of dirt in various places I had never before noticed. And my care for this home space has found me moving from awareness to action, if only simply and briefly, gently tending the vessel holding the life of my family.

The act of cleaning can change the lens through which we see life. I encourage you to clean something and see for yourself. Make a new habit for a few weeks to clean spaces you usually don’t. Experiment with this and see what you reveal in your home and your life. I’d love to hear what happens!

:)

A Quick Thought On Cleaning

I have been based here in Montreal for about ten months now. This is my last week living here. For now. One never knows what comes next. Despite all our planning life remains full of surprises. I embrace the sense of not really knowing much for sure. At least not in the way I once thought I ‘knew’ things. All I can be truly certain of is right now. This moment. This feels like a very clean way to live. We can honour the truth of our own being, this sense of presence, moment to moment. Always right here. Memory can so easily pull us away from this space. Intention, while often healthy, can become a distraction also.

But memory and intention are also held gently in this space of presence. They are welcome here. As is all else. But it can be helpful to let the tank run dry once in a while, to empty ourselves entirely, just to check our footing, to really see what we are resting on. The ground of being. The everlasting arms. Pure awareness. There are a lot of things we can call it. But it needs no name. All labels are held within it, so to speak. Nothing can be stuck to it.

As I clean various spaces I reflect on the action of removing dirt. I am only revealing the essence of the spaces I move through. I am adding nothing. I am subtracting. Leaving as little a trace as possible. The better job I do the harder it is to tell I was ever there. But many home-owners are outwardly grateful to see the before and after, knowing some of the burden I have lifted from them. It feels good to clean in little nooks and crannies where nobody has been in years. I like finding these tucked away spaces and freeing them of cluttered dust and cobwebs.

Having been cleaning various spaces for the past two months, I have seen many homes, offices, schools and gyms, leaving each one a little bit emptier. I take more than what can be seen with me when I go. I am not only lugging bags of recycling and garbage and my dirty rags when I depart. I am taking on other, more subtle, junk and reworking it as I clean. Returning it to the source, to be reabsorbed and reassigned.

I don’t even really know what that last bit means. But I mean it. Cleaning has taught me a lot. Zenith Cleaners has backed up its claim to be ‘spiritual practice you get paid for’. I have enjoyed the opportunity to anchor myself more deeply in presence as I clean a wide variety of spaces. I appreciate the physical component of the work. It is great exercise. I appreciate the unavoidable humility and simplicity of the work. I enjoy peeking through a window into the world of so many different people, glancing at their lives in passing, often alone in the homes of people I will never meet. But we share space all the same.

And on a practical level it is nice to be paid. It has been a while since I have had this direct relationship with time, work and pay. But it is now coming to a close. On Friday I will head back to Toronto, cleaning my tracks as I leave here. Though many connections remain. Doors are open for the future. Because the path is clean I can come back easily.

Now I will rest. I just came from a demanding six-hour job at a dusty loft apartment with a Great Dane. It is now a clean space. I am soon heading off to an office for an evening clean. I will be up at 3 AM to clean a climbing gym. I must rest when I can.

Have a great week! I will be writing from Toronto next week.

:)

cleaning

The Value of Solitude

There is an incredible spaciousness within us. It could just as easily be said that we are within it. Semantics aside, this ‘space’ is our birthright, our real home, life’s richest gift. Abundant with effortless peace, it seems to be an inexhaustible source of love. Strangely, most of us are too busy to allow this spaciousness to blossom in our lives. We are caught up in our own concerns, blowing everything out of proportion, denying ourselves the real juice of life. Endlessly craving content, true contentment eludes us.

The willingness to be still is rare. But this stillness is a key ingredient to inviting our inner peace to flourish. One taste of truth is enough to know. After drinking from the waters of our own true being we see clearly that nothing else will ever satisfy. The various shadows and shapes we used to chase fade away. Once we commit to the path of truth, our peace and presence become top priorities. Stillness plays a large part in deepening this presence, giving it permission to wash away outdated ideas of who we are. As we re-establish contact with our deepest sense of being, our perspective on life can shift radically. A period of ‘incubation’ or ‘ripening’ is completely normal here. It is as if the truth wishes to marinate in itself, patiently shedding layers of illusion. Though this can be disorienting, it gradually brings us closer and to closer to who we already are. This correction of perception changes everything, even as everything stays the same. Fortunately there is no need to wrestle with paradox. Simply trusting life and embracing freedom from the ‘need to know’ can carry us along gently on our journey.

But entering into solitude sufficient for transformation can be difficult. Even our ideas about what solitude is can be obstacles to truly accepting it. Solitude is not about loneliness, nor even being alone. We can walk in solitude among millions. True solitude can be understood as a state of grace to accept and embrace. It is freely given, endlessly, effortlessly, and we can recommit to receiving it whenever we notice we’ve slipped from it. Investing in the stillness of this solitude will not isolate us from others, for we come to see that there is no ‘other’, but only various expressions of one life. We are all it. Leaves are not apart from their branches, nor branches from their trees. Walking in solitude is walking in the space where there are no walls. Here we are already one. This is all that has ever been.

And if we have any trace of a notion that we are separate from anyone or anything, on any level, perhaps we can take it as an opportunity to look inward and benefit from further maturing in the solitude of our hearts.

Solitude

Prime Time for Hiking

I will keep today’s entry brief. It has been a beautiful sunny day here in Montreal. I didn’t want to waste much of it inside. It has not been this warm in quite some time. It got up over 20 degrees for the first time in months. I enjoyed a good dose of sunlight, grateful to be free of the heavy clothes our winter demands. It is great to see the regeneration of life all around. The parks are perking up, both in colour and activity. People generally have a pep in their step, keen to be out and about. The collective avoidance of outdoors seems to be over.

I spent most of yesterday out in the sun as well, hiking out in the Eastern Townships. It was a full day. Though not quite as warm as today, it was clear and pleasant. My friend, Jacques, called me on Saturday afternoon to inform me of his plans to head out early Sunday morning for a solid day of hiking – aiming for either Mont Echo or Mont Singer. We would play it by ear. We got moving at about 6:30 AM and got back to Montreal at about 7:00 PM. We were hiking for more than seven hours. It was a beauty of a day. We only saw two other people on the whole trail, crossing paths with them as they left the summit. Jacques, a former MEC employee and general outdoor enthusiast, was outfitted with all the gear one could imagine. I showed up with hiking boots, jeans and a t-shirt. He suited me up in extra gear he had brought, including snowshoes. Somehow I had never trekked in snowshoes before, but I took to it rather quickly, growing to enjoy it.

Stopping to savour the quiet scenery and open space around us, watching creeks carry away melting snow, we shared a wonderful hike through the trees and up the mountain. It was an ideal day for such an adventure. We got up to about 800 metres elevation and sat at the summit to soak in the view and have some more snacks, consisting mostly of fruit and trail mix. On our descent we noticed the effect of the day’s sun on the snow, which was noticeably softer, and soggier. Little snow bridges were caving into the creeks that surged to life, likely peaking in these first few days of real warmth. It was a great time to climb. Signs of life were already springing up in certain spots, ferns and moss near warming rocks breaking through the heavy snow. I was truly ready for a break from the city. It had been a while since I had been wrapped in nature like that. What a treat.

mont-singer

I didn’t bring my camera yesterday. I found this picture online. It was a lot whiter yesterday…but just as beautiful. A photo can’t do it justice.

That’s it for today. I am off to work EARLY in the morning and I will soon head to bed.