On Alignment

Flower of Life

Life can line up in funny ways. Especially when we let it. I have been blessed to frequently find myself in the vortex of life’s synchronicity. I have seen life reveal its inherent balance, seeing outside mirroring inside, sensing deeply that everything is connected and quietly in tune. ‘As above, so below’, as the phrase goes. But we can so easily get in the way of this blissful harmony and find ourselves struggling and striving in vain, experiencing only discord. Eventually, however, whether due to exhaustion or insight, our efforts fall back into rest and we can reflect on the beautiful mystery of symmetry.

It could well be argued that balance is the law of the universe. Of course, there is little need to argue anything like this. I imagine those who sense this balance deeply, honouring it with gentle vigilance, are aware also of the futility of trying to convince anyone of anything through argumentative means. Discussion is one thing, but disagreement often backfires and strengthens stances. We can check our own intentions when challenging anything or anyone. Are we truly trying to help or are we just trying to be right? We would be wise to allow others’ wrong ideas to fall away on their own, from the inside out. Simply living in balance, modelling one’s peace and ease with life, is far more effective in showing others how to trust life’s leanings and learn from its endless lessons.

We already have all we will ever need. It’s just a matter of coming to see it that changes our whole experience of life. This realization may flicker and fade at times, and then rage forth and burn up old ideas and beliefs, past habits and stances crumbling under the lens of pure light. Real sight is a gift we have already been given. All we can do is relax and receive it. It turns the world on its head. It lays all battles to bed. It forgives all we have said. All we have done. Because we are already one.

This balance in life, this synchronistic alignment, can guide us through letting go of everything we have been carrying. It can help us to see what is essential and encourage us to set aside all that is not. Which is a lot. But in the place of all we had gathered and dragged we are given so much more. At least it feels that way. Soon we may come to see that we already had it all. The real juice of life is right here. Right now. All experiences are equally fleeting, despite the degree of debris left in memory. We can allow the deepest joy of life to step forward this very moment, completely uncaused, solely for the sake of itself. And then it spreads. Effortlessly.

RadiantHeart

As I traveled through Europe, falling in deeper alignment with life’s wonder and its nudges, I began to see through clearer eyes. Without trying to decode or unravel the mystery of symmetry, without trying to crack open each miracle and extract its meaning, I simply smiled and ‘tipped my cap’, grateful to feel as though I was on course. This seemed to accelerate my awakening to a truth that is so close it can’t be spoken. It’s so close it can’t be known. Not in the way most of us imagine we can ‘know’ things, at least. It can’t be held. It does the holding, so to speak.

On Friday night my brother and I watched Interstellar with our roommate and we shared waves of shivers as the story culminated, leaving us awash in tingling wonder. We talked afterwards of experiences in our own lives that went deeper than the obvious, deeper than that which made ‘sense’ to our logic. Our goosebumps grew as we shared, as if the room was full of the very vibrations which incite such sensations, as if an invisible string had been struck, and rung through us, reverberating and revealing our innate interconnection with everything.

We went on to a few readings from a beautiful, intuitive book by a friend, Dancing in the Mirror, and found it speaking with crystal clarity, reaching through to the very moment we stood in. My brother stood changing a light-bulb in the bathroom, then re-fastening the fixture to the wall, as I stood beside him reading through three brief passages, each echoing from a place of depth and truth, miraculously mirroring the moment. We laughed and hugged afterwards as I felt continuing connective vibrations rooting a subtle yet certain sense of presence. It was already there. It’s always here.

At the best of times I am without doubt about this presence. These, too, are just passing experiences, of course. But I feel in these moments a taste of the eternal. I find it expressed in life’s beautiful and broad balance, well beyond any framing. It is mysterious even when we embrace it, elusive and evasive when grasped at. But by trusting life, even in apparent contradiction, we can be carried through to moments of clarity where we can habituate intuitive understanding, past clouds clearing, and we can see through our illusions to realize who we are and release all we are not.

So let’s trust life’s alignment and try not to figure it all out. We can humbly embrace balance and let love lead.

Have a happy Monday!

:)

Recovery

Recovery

What a week.  I’ve been in bed for days.  It’s no way to live.  Not in the long run, anyhow.  I’ve watched an awful lot of movies and slept a lot.  It’s a luxury.  I know many don’t have the time to be as sick as I’ve been.  But this bug just wouldn’t quit.  Even now that it’s done, it hasn’t quit, exactly.  It left bronchitis in its wake.  It feels like I have butter in my lungs.  When I breathe deeply you’d swear someone was shaking maracas.  When this cold got going, I thought being sick might be kind of nice for a couple of days.  Cuddling up in bed with a few movies and some soup seemed a relaxing recipe.  But here I am more than a week later – my energy back, the fever gone – and I am still in recovery.

Maybe it never ends?  Recovery.  Is that such a bad prospect?  Never-ending recovery.  I suppose it all depends on context.  If we’re in it together, helping one another along, I think I could get behind it.  We could have a few laughs along the way.  It reminds me of a quote by Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home.”  That image comes to mind quite regularly.  There is something very true in it.  And this process of healing, like life, is often a few sloppy steps forward followed by one or two back, or maybe even stopping for a rest on a bench.  As long as we’re walking together, trusting the path, does it really matter where we’re going?  Whether we’re guided by some distant star, or simply the hand we’re holding as we walk along, isn’t the moving forward what matters?  I don’t really know.  Just musing.

Does the road to recovery go somewhere?  It sounds silly, I know, but is recovery a place?  Was there some past state where no illness tread?  What are we trying to recover?  What are we trying to recover from?  I really don’t know.

Recovery.  Now I am sitting here wondering about the word.  Recovery.  To RE-cover.  I don’t know about it.  It feels too much like covering something up – hiding.  To re-cover our wounds.  I much prefer DIS-covery.  Let’s break down all the walls and see what’s ticking inside.  That sounds more fun.  And honest, even if a bit reckless.

*   *   *

This blogging is a funny thing.  Here we are, talking to ourselves, many of us begging for attention.  If you pull the frame back and look at the big picture, it’s what we’re doing – chattering away to ourselves, hoping we notice.  So many of us live such isolated lives that we need to reach through these machines to have contact with life.  I’m not judging the internet.  It is neither good nor bad.  It is merely a tool.  But perhaps looking at it will help us make sense of it.

Some people make a living blogging.  Good for them.  Many offer content of real substance.  But many are out there just making noise.  Anybody who does a bit of blogging, however casually, has likely had their page ‘Followed’ or ‘Liked’ by various ‘professional bloggers’ looking to share their empowered lifestyle and offer opportunities to cash in on website clicks.  We look at their pages and wonder about the legitimacy of their claims.  But what are they actually saying?  Are they simply generating buzz and traffic so their sites will make more money?  This seems to be the case with many of them.

I guess I got thinking about this because I noticed a blog I “follow” asking for money.  It was one of the first blogs I ever followed.  I followed him because he was following me.  He found my page and liked it.  I thought he must have appreciated the content.  Now I realize he was likely just drumming up more traffic for his own page.  He has more than 100,000 ‘Followers’, and in his current campaign he has had only 8 donations (in over three weeks), totalling just over $100.  What does that say?  These ‘Likes’ and ‘Follows’ feel rather flimsy in this light, don’t they?

Why are we running around chasing our tails?  We so easily get caught in the trap of seeking attention, forgetting first to check if we have something to say.  I’m not claiming to be any better than anyone else.  We’re all in this together.  But I know that no amount of ‘Likes’ or ‘Follows’ will bring any lasting satisfaction or happiness.  It’s an inside out job.  So let’s stop accumulating and chasing things outside of ourselves.  Take a minute.  Take a breath.  Feel your heart.  See what’s already here.  (I’m reminding myself…)

As for this entry, I’m not looking for attention, or happiness.  I just started typing and this is what happened.  I wanted to honour my commitment to write a Monday blog.  Here it is, in all its raw, rambling glory.  It was supposed to be about recovery.  Maybe it is.  I’m still working on it.

:)

Here’s a nice little song about recovery.  I highly recommend it: New Buffalo – Recovery.

From the Sickbed

Not much energy to say a whole lot today.  I have spent most of the last three days in bed, sleeping a lot, dealing with quite a bug.  It’s a bad cold, I guess.  I have not felt sick to my stomach once, but these never-ending aches and overall exhaustion are rocking my body.  I have been glad to watch it all at times with a calm, meditative perspective, taking it as a growth opportunity.  That is obviously sunny-side thinking, which I am grateful for.  And I do believe it is an opportunity, as anything can be.  I really can’t do much but lay in bed, alternating waves of cold or heat rushing over me, so I have the time to be very aware of my thinking.  I see how it influences my reaction to this bout of illness.  At times I am so alert and aware that my mind falls perfectly silent.  These are peaceful moments.  I see that they are the foundation for all else – the silence.  Like I have learned in the past, a great storm has the potential to show you the calm at its heart.  I feel blessed to be checking in regularly with this calm.  That said, I could still benefit from some ‘good vibrations’ sent out from anyone reading this.  Send a positive thought of healing and perhaps I’ll bounce back a bit sooner.  Either way, all I can do is let it all play out.

As the bug was setting in, a part of me almost relished the chance to laze in bed for a day with movies and soup.  The reality is far from what I’d dreamt up.  I only managed to watch one movie yesterday, the effort of following it exhausting enough.  I didn’t manage any the day before, sleeping through most of the day.  Both yesterday morning and this morning I arose feeling as if it was fading away, but it seems to step up a bit and progress once I am awake.  So, I will keep patient and faithful and do my best not to wrestle with this.  I hope not too many have to face this bug.  It’s no fun.  Let this be a call to ratchet up your preventative measures!  Gargle hot salt water.  Drink lemon water.  Eat an orange.  Have some tea with ginger and honey.  If you’re bold, toss back a clove of garlic.  Drink lots of water.  Don’t get caught with your guard down on this one!

Time to crawl back into bed.

sickbed

 

It’s January Fifth!

The home of the J-5 Crew!

January 5

It turns out I have a whole bunch of friends born on this day. Two of my best friends share this birthday (and incidentally, they also share the names of my parents). We are going to head out to celebrate it tonight. It seems there are a few other cool cats who share birthdays today. A couple of my favourite random traveller buddies from my years on the road share this birthday, too. One of my current roommates is a fellow J-5 Crew member, as well as my Aunt, which I only recently learned about.  My cousin is due to give birth any moment, as today is her due date, so we may well be adding one more groovy soul to the J-5 Crew!

And that’s where my head has been at today. I thought about today’s full moon and wondered if it might give a wee boost to the baby waiting to jump out and join the world. Many suggest that the heightened energy of a full moon can offer a nudge to mothers-in-the-making. I just hope that everything goes well, whenever the young one joins us.

I was out for a swim this morning with my Godson James and his twin sister Josie (as well as their mother, my good friend Michelle).  They are just over a year old now and they were loving the swim in the shallow (and slightly warmer) waters of the nearby kiddie pool. I love being around learning. I love learning myself, of course, but in general it is a great energy to be around. Discovery. It can also be scary, which is why so many of us grow up and shut ourselves off from the raw power and potential of the unknown. We would rather be ‘safe’ and ‘stable’ than expanding and exploring. This is understandable. But I think we would all benefit from a deep dive into the murky waters of mystery once in a while.

It looks like this will be another quick Monday blog…and wholly off the cuff, as my holiday ramblings have tended to be. It’s dinnertime now and I am soon heading out to help a friend move some furniture. Then off for some J-5 birthday celebrations (and perhaps a Gold Medal celebration for the young Canadian hockey players…) I am heading back to Montreal in the morning and getting back into my work routine. It’s been a lovely break spending time with my family but it’s time to return to work.

I hope you all embrace the opportunity to grow into this New Year and dive into the unknown. Let it challenge and change you. You will only be stronger for it.

Happy Monday, Happy Full Moon and Happy Birthday to all the J-5 Crew out there!!!

:)

Surviving the Season

All we have to do is keep breathing.

Clark

This time of year can be very stressful for many of us. It is joyous as well, of course, but there is no doubt that it can be quite trying at times. We often find ourselves stretched rather thin. There is so much to do, so many people to see, and so much to eat that we can catch ourselves wondering, in the midst of the whirlwind, how we’ll ever make it out alive. But there is a calm at the centre of the storm, and it’s as close as our every breath.

I am blessed to enjoy the company of all of my family, but even still I have caught myself in moments where my patience is being stretched and tested, wearing thin at points. It’s at these moments that I stop and take a conscious breath, feeling it pass through my nostrils, reminding me that all things pass.  This is a valuable reminder, and can help us through even the most stressful experiences.

As fun as it may be to take a break from work to reconnect with old friends and to indulge our appetites, the flip side is that we can feel as if we are falling behind in our responsibilities, losing touch with people who once meant so much to us, and gaining weight all the while. But we need not add extra stress to the flurry of thoughts and mixed emotions that can pop up at this time of year. We can simply accept whatever is happening at any given moment, coming to appreciate that it is all equally fleeting. This is a beautiful realization. Even if we harp on things or harbour resentments, in the end they will pass. The joys pass just the same as the pains. By acknowledging this we can develop a greater ease with life, enabling us to broaden our sphere of compassion and undertake greater challenges.

With this wisdom, facing a week of excitement and occasional strain doesn’t seem so overwhelming. We can keep the Christmas craze in perspective and instead honour the stillness at the heart of the season. It’s here to appreciate, if only we’ll give it a chance. It won’t assert itself as all the Christmas music, movies, decorations and advertisements will, but it is likely the greatest gift of all.  So take a deep breath and feel your shoulders release as you exhale, letting go of any other remnant tensions that have accumulated. You don’t have to give everyone a Christmas card or a box of chocolates to maintain contact. But if you’re rested and relaxed, you may be able to offer them your real presence when next you meet.

Take it easy on yourself. Enjoy the coming New Year and dive back into whatever comes next rejuvenated and ready to roll.

I wish you all a wonderful 2015, abundant with love, laughter and a light heart!

Happy New Year 2015

Leisure of the Season!

Well. Here we are. In the thick of the season. December 22nd. I finished my 10-Day Vipassana meditation retreat yesterday morning and caught a ride with my roommate back to Toronto. It was strange to finally speak to these people I had been sitting beside, living and eating with for the past ten days, and I felt a lot of energy light up in my body, having become so sensitive to my insides throughout the process of intensive meditation. Ten hours a day for ten straight days. It can really put you through the ringer. But it feels great to come out the other side. Everyone is all smiles as ‘noble silence’ gives way to ‘noble chatter’. I would highly recommend anyone check out Vipassana for themselves.

I don’t think I will go on too long today. I just finished writing a long letter to a friend, having felt urged to do so during the silence of meditation. While there we are not permitted any distractions from the work at hand, so without pen and paper I found myself composing this letter to my old friend in my mind and I feel much better having put it all down. I told my Mom yesterday that Vipassana is almost like popping zits in your mind. I have also described it as bloodletting for the unconscious. Either description will do, as far as descriptions go, but only direct experience can really teach you anything.

Some might imagine one would emerge from such intensive introspection with grand insights on life, but I don’t feel like rattling off any of that today. I’ve been through enough of that for a few lifetimes, I suspect. It will surely still stir and surface from time to time, but right now I am just happy to be home with my family and eager to meet up with my friends. I came out of my 10-day sit with a deep sense of gratitude and simplicity, and further strength to monitor the vicissitudes of my mind with calm, detached clarity. We don’t need to take our own narratives too seriously.

After these day of quiet meditation (based upon the Buddha’s meditation technique) I didn’t even think it strange to head straight to church. Love knows no walls. I feel no contradiction between any religious tradition with love at its core. It’s all the same song. So after rising at 4 AM and meditating, the transition was surprisingly smooth as I found myself in the familiar pews of my home church buzzing with the wondrous music of the fourth and final Sunday of Advent. I grew up attending Islington United Church (my father being the Senior Minister there for 22 years now) and felt a renewed sense of blessing yesterday at the great gift of community and music we share there. I felt as if I was a tuning fork just vibrating in that pew. I sensed great communion with those around me. But it wasn’t in any magical or mystical way. Life is already magical and mystical enough without me trying to build it up with fancy language. We were just sitting there sharing the beautiful experience together very deeply, in complete simplicity.

This is a wonderful time of year for reconnecting with friends and family as everyone comes ‘back home’ for the holidays. Tonight I will head back out to the east end for some more soulful, groovy organ jazz at Sauce, just as I did two weeks ago before my retreat. Funky Monday is a strong draw whenever I am in Toronto. It will surely be a fine night.

So I think I will keep it simple, short and sweet today. I just want to wish everyone a lovely Christmas season, no matter what tradition you may come from, or what you may believe or celebrate. I don’t have trouble taking any excuse to pause and reflect on my blessings, no matter what the cue may be. Love has no story to sell us. It isn’t trying to convince anyone. It just shines like the sun, for one and all. Any chance will do to stop and receive the rays seems wise to me. I hope you let them in.

As I say to my friends this time of year, encouraging everyone to lean back and enjoy the calm at the ‘centre of the storm’, a hearty LEISURE OF THE SEASON!

Leisure

:)

Scatter Joy

Today feels like another off the cuff kind of day. I am staying at my parents’ condo in Mississauga for a few days, having arrived on Friday. I will be away from my room and routine in Montreal for about a month. My writing has been up and down in waves in the past months. When I got somewhat settled in Montreal six months ago I imagined I might soon be done revising the book I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. Nope. Just a bit more than 10% of the way there. Time to shake things up in the New Year, I think. Perhaps a new approach. I can’t say I’m all that concerned about it, either way. Those old feelings do pop up from time to time, but I don’t take them too seriously. I’ll just keep chipping away at it. I trust I can find a way to increase my efficiency.

A friend recently suggested I look at it as if cleaning out my drawers. I don’t need to fold every shirt meticulously in my first pass. Maybe I would be wiser to dump everything out on the floor first to see what is essential. I like this idea. I think taking a step back to look at the bigger picture is helpful. No need to get every hair in place if you’re about to cut it all off.

But enough about that. I am heading off on Wednesday for another 10-day silent meditation retreat. Vipassana. It will be my third sit. I finished one just six months ago. It will let out on the winter solstice, December 21st. I feel as though it is a nice way to lean into the wild Christmas season. I just guided a breath-centred meditation here in the condo building this morning, and many in attendance expressed their gratitude for this taste of ‘calm before the storm’. I think it is important to keep in touch with this fundamental silence, especially when life is about to ramp up into full gear. Everybody seems to get a little bit crazy this time of year. I am inclined to honour the calm at the heart of the season, no matter what else may be buzzing around the periphery.

As we sat together in meditation (along with a number of ‘first-timers’), I felt subtle vibrations emanating from my body. It felt joyful. It also felt intuitively ‘right’. I can’t pretend to understand it, but I simply sat there in a state of surrender allowing everything to be ‘as it is’ moment to moment, as I encouraged everyone else to do the same. We made a connection. It was a great start to the day.

Walking around my parents’ condo later today I bumped into a card on my mother’s bookshelf which declared “SCATTER JOY” in big letters on the front. It is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He has long been one of my favourites. When I first encountered his writing it hit to my very core, and it continues to stir me from the same depth to this day. Bumping into this phrase today felt like a little reminder.

I went for a walk in the cool air and felt like I was doing the simple work of scattering joy all around me, nodding and smiling to those I passed, even stopping to chat with some. It was all so effortless, so natural. None of it was planned. It just popped up in the moment.

It’s been a strange week – packing up shop in Montreal for a month and coming back here. I have had a busy few days with a variety of events since coming home; I attended a basketball game with friends on Friday; I attended a funeral for a friend (far too young to leave us) on Saturday; and I attended a family Christmas party yesterday. It’s been quite a broad range. But all the way along, scattering joy seems to be the best work I have done. Tonight I am off to meet a cousin in the east end of Toronto for some groovy, soulful organ jazz.  It’s called Funky Monday at a bar called Sauce. I trust I’ll have the chance to scatter some joy there, too.

Maybe if we all scatter some joy in our wake, wherever we go, life will brighten up for everyone around us and reflect back for us. That seems to make sense. It even sounds obvious. No need for any profound insights or ‘big ideas’ today. I’m just encouraging myself (and anyone else up to it) to scatter some joy. Get at it!

ScatterJoy

I won’t be online next week as I am heading off for a meditation retreat. So it looks like it will be my first missed Monday post in six months. See you again on Monday the 22nd!

:)