Only Truth Lasts

All I want to do is serve truth. It’s the only thing worth putting my life into. And it’s a complete mystery. It isn’t objective. It can’t be held in any shape or displayed in any singular way. It can’t be figured out ahead of time. This mysterious truth pours through us only when we’re open, when we’re being ourselves. In the end, it isn’t complicated at all…only when we want to figure it out, or try to explain it.

Trusting it is free. I’m still talking about truth. This is trusting yourself, ultimately. The very heart of life itself. Anyone can try it. It will show you how worthy it is of trust. But you can’t taste it beforehand. You can only lean out and give it a shot. No strategy can follow you into this space, even if it brought you to the door. Everything must be dropped.

I have no idea what I’m talking about. Really. 🙂 It can’t be conceived. It is conceiving. These words just tumble out. And I feel so lucky to be so deeply HERE. Nothing else exists. The rest is just memory or projection. These ideas still pop up here and there, but the host is this moment. Always now. Everything rests on this. This is what all the true sages and saints and saviours are pointing to. Right here. Right now. Don’t miss it. (Don’t worry, you can’t…not for long.)

This truth is what Easter is about at it’s heart, too. Conquering death by accepting it. We can be born to something that doesn’t die. It’s who we already are. There are many paths to the pathless present. No need to worry about finding ‘the right one’. It will find you. Just take a step.

Surrender to yourself. Your true self. Not the story. Not the habits and concepts. Your mind is not the doorway…don’t be fooled by passing thoughts. (And don’t get stuck on terminology…catch the drift.) Only the heart truly knows. But it won’t show you any more than the first step. Again and again.

***

I attended Easter worship this morning in a beautiful community of locals and ex-pats. The pastor spoke passionately and the energy was warm and inviting. The music was uplifting. The smiles were authentic…as were a few tears.

The pastor had us hanging on a valuable question from the scripture: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” The angels had asked this of the women coming to Jesus’ tomb. I had never focused on this phrase before, but it struck me today with considerable force. It got me thinking about where I invest my life. I want to invest it right back into life itself.

I feel that what is destined to die is already as good as dead. We are wasting our lives by feeding death so much attention. Death can be a vessel at best. Let’s not confuse what is truly alive. Why cling so desperately to what will inevitably be taken? Let go and see what is realer.

Some come to the cross still hung up on death. Others rightly see the cross as an opportunity to come back to truth, to serve life from a deeper space of our being. Let’s invest in this truth, this life, unfolding in this mysterious moment.

It’s hard to talk about this stuff. The subject doesn’t lend itself to inspection and intellectual clarity. The path of truth is unique for all. It’s usually obscure. We can’t seize it as we do normal objects and ideas. We are pointing back to ourselves, in THIS moment, right now – never to be captured. But we can allow ourselves to be who we are, to unravel a bit more, to explore our own hearts. This is where we grow.

***

I won’t go on much more now. The last few weeks have been beautiful, even when challenging. My writing routine has fluctuated a bit, but I keep coming back to the desk and chipping away at my work.

I have shared my writing at another Spoken Word event this past week, which went well. And I sang some songs at an Open Mic the night before. I have been connecting with new friends regularly, and seeing my path open up naturally…sometimes despite my best efforts. 😉

I am now sitting back where I was two years ago at Easter, looking out upon the green hills of Cuenca while writing. My then couch-hosts and now friends have left the flat to me for the next two months as they travel the world.

I just felt like sending some love and encouragement to anyone who may see this. That means YOU! Life is so deeply worthy of our whole hearts, our complete trust. Dare to lean out into the raw winds of change and let yourself grow. Become who you are.

🙂

Now, a few photos…

First Full Week in the Rhythm

The week has passed swiftly and I am developing a decent work routine.  Instead of the 5 AM wake-up call which I held to firmly during my previous longer stint of work on this project, I have been getting up at 6 AM.  That seems to be working well.  I drink a big bottle of water and then do roughly half an hour of yoga (starting slowly).  Then I sit still for half an hour and watch my body and thoughts do what they do (AKA meditation).  And by about 7 AM it is time to sit down and write.  This involves a lot of reading, in fact.  I am in editing mode and trying to thin the crop of words I gathered in my earlier work.  Some days move quickly, others a bit more slowly.  I get to laugh at some of the terrible garbage I wrote earlier (in some cases nearly as long as five years ago!), which makes for easy cutting.  I do at least three hours each morning, usually more.  Then I tend to check my email and get some oatmeal started.  I add some banana, raisins, chia and flax seeds to sweeten the mix…occasionally even some strawberries. 🙂

I have been keeping an eye online for local Gringo gatherings, keen to see what the city has on offer.  On Tuesday I attended a local writer’s group.  It was basically a little writing workshop, with about 15-20 different writers there.  We talked about writing great beginnings.  I shared a bit about my story and made some good contacts.  I look forward to continued involvement with this group.  I am hoping to share an excerpt of my current work at an upcoming evening of ‘Spoken Word’ where various kinds of writing are being shared.

On Wednesday evening I attended a group meditation and discussion about ‘spiritual growth’.  It was hosted by a local Gringo couple.  There were about 25 in attendance and the energy of the meditation was particularly potent.  They are continuing this event weekly and I will surely be a regular attendee.  The mood was beautiful and we gathered for snacks afterwards.  The guacamole was perhaps the best I have ever had.  (As it happens, guacamole has been a large part of my diet this week.  The avocados are so fresh and cheap that it is hard to pass up…)

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I have Spanish class.  My teacher, Mariana, is one of the sweetest women I have ever met.  Her two sons usually come by during our lessons (nearer the end of her workday) and they wait patiently for us to finish up before they head home together.  Every day I try to read over some of the work I have done thus far in order to keep it fresh in my mind.  I practice fairly casually.  (I skipped the weekend.)

As I was speaking with Mariana (in Spanish) about my interest in sharing guided meditations, she invited me to host them at the school.  It looks like we will start this Friday afternoon and keep them going weekly.  This is a great opportunity and I love to share in this way.  I am grateful it is all unfolding so naturally.

We held off on starting the meditations last Friday as I had a dentist appointment.  It went well.  I still can’t believe it only cost $15.  The dentist was very thorough, cleaning my 10-year build up of plaque.  He says I have terrific teeth and great overall mouth health. 😀  That was nice news.  I have still never had a cavity…a bit surprising considering all the sugar I used to eat!

Before I sat down to write this little update I was on my way to an Open Mic night down in the old city centre.  I found out (after waiting a while) that the buses are not running today.  Fortunately the Open Mic is a weekly event, so I will likely be in attendance fairly regularly.  It finally occurred to me as I waited for the bus that today is a holiday.  Carnival season has officially kicked off and the streets are filled with the voices of kids running around instead of the regular rumbling of buses.  Lots of water balloons are flying through the air, as well as bags of flour and plenty of foam spray.  The kids seem to be enjoying themselves.  I haven’t been too seriously attacked yet.

Throughout my week’s activities I have been hanging out a fair bit with a cool guy from New Jersey named Keith.  We met in the first hostel I stayed at in town and then bumped into one another again in the last hostel I stayed at before moving to my flat.  He is hanging around Cuanca for a while and we often grab a bite to eat together at Govinda’s or walk to the market to shop for incredibly cheap (mostly organic) produce.  We shared a meal and a movie on Friday night.  (Trumbo was a pretty good flick…)  It is nice to have a running mate as I acquaint myself with the city.  We are planning a hike in the national park some day this week.

He and I both enjoy the local street art.  Some of it seems to be sanctioned by the city and most of it is more standard graffiti but I love it all.  Keith has been amassing a greater collection of photos than I but here is a peek at some of my harvest this week:

I guess that will be it for now.  I will keep you posted on how things unfold.

Hugs all around!  Enjoy yourselves!

🙂

 

The Journey Continues…

Three weeks ago today I flew home from Rome. Now I am in Ecuador, having spent a wonderful Christmas holiday with my family and the past week in New Orleans with good friends. I arrived to Quito a bit wired, not having slept much during my ten-hour layover at the Fort Lauderdale airport. I stirred from wakeful rest on a bench by the luggage belt at about 5:30 AM to learn that David Bowie had died. I am just now listening to his last album, released only four days ago on his 69th birthday. He was a true artist. His video for the song Lazarus is hauntingly beautiful. It seems even his death was a conscious (and brilliant) work of art. Starting my blurry travel day to the news of his death was quite a shock. I listened to his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, on the flight here to Quito. It spoke to me in ways it never had before, as great art will.

I received a very warm welcome to the city of Quito. I promptly pulled my sweater off as I walked out of the airport and hopped on a local bus headed for the heart of the city. I dropped my bags in my cheap (but clean) hostal and set out for a stroll. After observing some of the old city I bumped into three interesting and friendly people crossing a street – one bald guy carrying a guitar; one girl with glasses and a small percussion instrument; and another girl with a Ukelele on her back and the Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt painted on her face.

I instinctively said, “Sad news today,” to the girl sporting the bright red Ziggy bolt. I mimed a tear falling down my cheek and turned to be on my way. But the bald guy carried on the conversation and in no time at all we were on our way together to a nearby friend’s house to play some music. We ended up hanging out for more than five hours, including an interlude where Zuro and Sol had to slip away for a radio interview and performance. They are currently on tour with AhoFest. This is somehow connected with GuruDeva and some Hare Krishna folks. (The evening proceeded mostly in Spanish and various details were lost on me…though I held up pretty well for my first day back into it…) These artists were very free and loving souls. We shared food and song, laughter and dance, and many stories. At one point one of us realized that we were a completely mixed bag of nations gathered: a Canadian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Argentinian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and one other girl that popped in briefly…but I cannot recall where she was from. I thought that was pretty cool. Meanwhile, I was totally sapped. My body was done in from a full day of traveling and very little sleep.

I tried to get up to leave a time or two but it never really took. As we got into singing some songs and dancing I found myself lifted up. Energy emerged from the mysterious depths. It reminded me of the amazing week of music I had been wading through in New Orleans. Occasionally my feet were tired from good days of walking around the Big Easy, but the music always lifted me. It literally blew my mind how much talent was simmering there, mixing and mashing up together. Aside from the ridiculous Las Vegas-y side of life, the vibrant heart of New Orleans came blistering to the surface. It was almost immediately palpable to me and steeping in it for a week with good friends only accentuated it.

But all songs come to an end at some point, if only for a moment of rest. And our New Orleans adventure did so along with David Bowie and eventually the great evening with new friends in Quito. As my new musical friends headed off to set up shop for the night in a dental office (arranged by the girlfriend of our host, Luis, who works there) I hopped a bus (for 25 cents!) back to my hostal. I showered up and crashed, sleeping nearly ten hours.

Today has been a day of orienting. I have been to a few different parts of town and have begun to acquaint myself a bit. I even found myself in a few familiar areas, having passed through here briefly about two years ago. I will begin looking more earnestly for long-term lodging in the next days and perhaps soon head south to Cuenca. One lodging prospect has already fallen through (due to a high ‘lowest possible price’), which simplifies the selection process. I trust it will all unfold as it needs to. I will keep following my heart as best I am able moment to moment.

I guess I will wrap it there for now. I just felt that it was a good moment to post a quick word to anyone curious to know how things are rolling down here.

And I will also share the last photo (of very few) I took in New Orleans. It ties in to Ecuador nicely as well, as the rainbow flag is also found in areas with Andean culture. Some simple advice: Be Yourself. I imagine Mr. Bowie would approve.

Taken near Frenchmen Street, New Orleans

Near Frenchmen Street, New Orleans

🙂

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!

🙂

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

The Beauty and Wonder of Being

It’s quite a gift just to be here. I am blessed to frequently find myself ‘stunned by wonder’. I have surely shared that before and I trust I will do it again. But it’s pretty wild just to be alive. In the midst of whatever the world may hurl at us there remains this incredibly calm centre – a spot to set up shop and just watch it all, even while apparently partaking.

It’s a party, this life. We’re all invited. None are judged. Nobody will be turned away from this door. It’s inside, so to speak. But all such distinctions fall apart here. Inside or outside, up and down, far and near – all of these words will be seen for what they are – just words. They are symbols. They attempt to express feelings. But we can easily become encaged by these words. Even enraged. When we take them too seriously, definitions will wrap us up. We choke ourselves for nothing. But I digress.

Though who doesn’t? Maybe I’ll carry on. Couldn’t life itself be seen as a great digression? So many of us get distracted from the simple truth in our hearts to chase trails of memories and expectations, reaching out for approval and acceptance, instead of just enjoying what we already have – everything! That feels like a digression.

But we can always come back. To where we never left. To where we already are. Though so many don’t see it. It takes time, it seems, for some of us to step out of our stories to see how free we have always been. And it can be an enjoyable journey, for sure, this life. But when we start pressing and squeezing it – scratching at the very heart of life itself – asking it to be something else, we are wrestling with what simply is. How can we fight reality? It seems ridiculous to even ask. It’s been said that the ultimate truth of life can neither be courted nor shunned. We can’t pursue it any more than we can avoid it. Consider that. How might this understanding lead us to live?

It’s all so simple that most kids already get it, only because they have yet to be convinced otherwise. It’s not to be figured out in our heads. It’s so natural. It pours out of our hearts. It’s just life – play – lila, some say. Yet so many of us are running around wildly bumping into ourselves, or walls we have imagined into existence, you would never know how fun it is. Just being here is a gift. Existence is inherently positive. Yet so many of us live in hiding, waiting and wondering why. It’s as though we’re hoping to break through to somewhere else.

It’s already all here. Patience and process is a part of that, too, mind you. So we can be very forgiving with ourselves as reality becomes clearer and clearer to us. A tree doesn’t struggle as it grows. It may lean and creak in the breeze, but it lets life unfold. A river rolls along as it is allowed, as it is able, demanding nothing. Whether growing wider or deeper, or once in a while running dry, it goes with the flow.

Our intellect, seen as such a gift (which it is), comes with a flip-side; it is an unruly master. Much better to let it serve. Come back to the centre – our heart-centre – and let everything stored up pour out. Then the silence can guide us forward. It may be wise to stop once in a while and check in. But know that life is supportive. Trust it and you will be shown the way. Humility is unavoidable on this path. Walking without it leads to a fall. From there we can dust ourselves off again and carry on.

Walking toward the light, we can set everything else down. Love is tending itself.

Light

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.