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.

ūüôā

cleaning

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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 Рaiming 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.

The Power of Love Trumps Belief

I watched a very interesting documentary last night –¬†Going Clear.¬†It lays out a rather spooky story of madness and manipulation at work in the church of Scientology. Many of you will have already heard of the film. It was aired on HBO just last week, garnering favourable reviews and a good amount of press. I recommend giving it a peek.

The film got me thinking about how powerful belief can be, and how frightening it can be to stand free of structures of thought that had once surrounded us. Belief structures can act as both safety net and prison. It is certainly understandable how people are pulled into cults. There is a great craving for security in humanity. But living in a feedback loop of relentless reinforcement (whether positive or negative), it seems impossible to allow original thoughts to blossom. Even without overt ‘brainwashing’, most people are quick to dismiss and ‘explain away’ anything that doesn’t seem to fit well with their own story of life. But what about these worldviews of ours? How original are they? Did we consciously develop these views or were they mostly harvested in us?

*   *   *

Yesterday morning I attended an Easter service at a nearby church here in Montreal. I had passed by the church numerous times and even stopped to appreciate its beautiful architecture but yesterday was my first time going in to a service. I tend to enjoy seeing how all people celebrate life and faith in our various ways. Partaking has proven the best way for me to learn. I suppose the church would be called Evangelical, if we are concerned about labels.

As I walked in I noticed there was a relaxed vibe – comfortable chairs and casual dress. There was a lot of expensive-looking technical gear hanging around and big projection screens at the front. I admired the drum-set perched at the back of the stage. It felt more like a rock show than a church setting. Service kicked off with a big praise band. Plenty of people hollered out from the congregation as we sang. There was definitely a good mood in the room. Throughout the service, however, what stood out to me the most – from the music through the sermon – was the feeling that¬†‘our’ beliefs somehow set us apart from others. This was put forward as a positive. How wide is this ‘us’? I wondered. Why are any excluded? I could see it all came from a good place, these songs and spoken words, but they seemed more likely to divide than unite, at least on the surface level.¬†Why not invest in our common ground?¬†I thought.

As the service came to a close I got chatting with a couple who had been sitting behind me. They were members who attended regularly. The gentleman spoke about a lot of ‘spiritual darkness’ he saw outside of the church. I nodded my head and listened as he carried on, getting the feeling that I might be cast into the same shadow of ‘spiritual darkness’ if I expressed a belief which didn’t match his. Unconcerned about his opinion of me, I didn’t feel inclined to do so, but it got me thinking nevertheless about how we as people so often pool together in little pockets of shared beliefs, collectively sheltering and justifying one another. I am not claiming this to be necessarily good or bad, I am simply observing it. I wonder, though, if we can look at ourselves with the same critical eye we so easily cast on others. Jesus did say, after all, to avoid judgement, lest we be judged.¬†Have we ever truly explored our own bias?

This is difficult work, admittedly, perhaps even impossible if we expect to arrive at any concrete result. But it just might be worthwhile work. We might come to see the ways we limit ourselves, avoiding real connection with others. We might even come to see how we try to impose our worldview on others, in both subtle and obvious ways. But by seeing these things we can become free of them. These patterns will fall away on their own, once recognized.

I sense that there is a way to meet people in total honesty, free of ideas of any kind – a way to connect without any fear or any agenda. It may just be my idealism at work here, but having tasted these precious interactions, I feel we can foster them and see them flower, even allowing them to overpower all the walls we may have imagined into existence.

What an opportunity. But we may have to be willing to stand free of belief, if only for a moment. Can we do this? Is there not a shared ground without these ideas cluttering us? Without judging anyone’s story, I wonder if we can find a reality we are all an equal part of. I sense that if we can step outside of our stories for long enough, all we will see in anyone’s eyes is the reality of love reflected. Do any of us have a claim more legitimate than anyone else? Does it matter? Does love care about any of our distinctions?

I think not. I feel it too.

the-power-of-love

Have a happy week.  Much love all.

ūüôā