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

🙂

Technology and Nature

I am riding a train at the moment, traveling from Toronto to Montreal. It was a quick turn-around trip. But it was packed with activity. I arrived around noon on Saturday and had a brief meeting regarding my summer job as a pilgrim coordinator for the GO Project, then enjoyed a couple hours of basketball before heading home for a shower and some family time. I met up that evening with a handful of good friends for a game of cards and a lot of laughs. I attended a stirring worship at Islington United Church on Sunday morning, enjoying various visits during the following coffee hour, and got downtown for a longer meeting about our cross-country pilgrimage this summer. Twelve of us from across Canada met online and chatted with the aid of a conference call and various little video windows on our computer screens. It was pretty cool – a bit overwhelming at first, but eventually just great that we were able to connect in such a way.

It amazes me how connected we are today. And yet the balance remains. The more absorbed we are by our devices, the less available we become for those around us. The gifts always seem to come with challenges. Not to say any of our technological capacities are not worthwhile. It obviously boils down to how we employ them, ever-mindful of the need for balance. Here I sit on a moving train – passing through small towns, crossing softly rolling rivers, sliding beside golf courses – and I am able to be typing a blog post which will instantly reach anyone who wants to see it. That is pretty incredible. And yet the reflection of the setting sun on my screen reminds me to be mindful of the really important things in life – the light, namely. We wouldn’t have much without the power of the sun pouring upon us. I am grateful to keep perspective as I engage with technology, remembering the real foundation of life. The more immersed we become in technology the greater the risk of slipping into a strictly mechanistic view of life, wherein we more easily lose touch with the reality of nature (and the nature of reality?), in some ways so delicate, in other ways capable of teaching us harsh lessons for our ignorance.

So I suppose this is a call for awareness. If we were all more aware of our natural foundations, I feel we would be living in a more harmonious way with our environment and our neighbours. If we truly understood how connected everything is we couldn’t help but respect our surroundings, honouring the delicate and dynamic balance of nature, upon which all else rests. But life teaches us when we find ourselves wandering ‘off course’ – are we listening?

Nature&Technology

I think I will wrap it up there for today, keeping it short and sweet. I want to watch out the window as the countryside slides by. I wish everyone a wonderful week. For those celebrating Easter, may you have a blessed Holy Week! I fondly recall Semana Santa both in Spain and South America. Enjoy the revitalization of the spring season! I am relieved to see most of the snow melting, certainly feeling ready for the renewal of green over grey.

🙂

The Snow Falls Still

I guess I got a bit excited last week when we had a couple of warmer days. The snow was melting and I was leaning myself optimistically into spring. But the winter spoke up again and reminded me that it is not yet through with us. Montreal saw a good deal of snow fall early yesterday, though the bitter cold of the past weeks seems to be gone. I remain optimistic as the days grow longer and the sunlight feels warmer. We make our official transition into spring this Friday as we reach the equinox.

Just about six months ago I wrote a post on the equinox – the balance of night and day – while trying to ride the momentum of the shifting seasons in ‘turning the corner’. I still find myself trying to ‘turn the corner’ now and again, often related to my food or work habits (input and output). ‘One more day of indulgence,’ a voice says, ‘and then I’ll get back into my discipline.’ I sense this voice would go on forever if we let it. Even in my most productive and disciplined phases, this voice constantly pushed for more, never satisfied. I trust we have all seen these conversations taking place in our minds. I feel it shows the duality of life. There seem to be two of ‘us’ taking part in our internal chatter. Doesn’t this seem odd? Who are we talking to? Who is responding?

In the midst of our inner tangling, however, there is a silent observation that often goes unnoticed. This is simply clear sight, not leaning one way or another, but just observing all that pops up. We are usually so caught up with our thoughts and where they might take us that we seldom appreciate the quality of pure awareness itself which makes cognition possible. But this quiet awareness – completely unbiased alert observation – is nonetheless the foundation for every thought, word and deed. This ‘ground floor’ is where I have been endeavouring to invest my attention of late. This is the process of meditation, essentially, a return to the wholeness that we already are (but may not see).

In this space all dualities come to union and rest. Their continuing play of apparent opposition is seen from a place where they never left. Every equinox and solstice, whether in our skies or in our lives, can be seen as a sign of balance, expressing itself through our oscillating nature. Every season, every tide, every ebb and flow, high and low, can come and go in this space with ease and freedom. Every duality and division, all conflict and contradiction, can be understood more deeply, equally embraced by the loving silence of clear sight, unconditioned and uncreated.

This Friday’s equinox falls in line with a new moon and a total solar eclipse. There will be no shortage of opportunity to ‘turn the corner’. Perhaps we can recommit to clearer sight and see what happens. Though only those in Greenland or Iceland will get anywhere near the full effect of the eclipse, much of Europe and North Africa will be blanketed in the shadow of the new moon, itself leaning close to earth on the perigee of its elliptical orbit. It all seems to be a chance to respect the rise and fall of seasons, on every imaginable scale – from the rise and fall of our every breath to the expansion and (inevitable?) contraction of our universe – and come in contact with that which remains solid and unswayed by the winds of change.

I try to keep this sort of thing in mind as I cross any kind of threshold.  Because on the surface, transition is all there is. It is truly constant. But just beneath our surface experience of life, it is all quietly embraced by the ‘everlasting arms’ of presence. There is a deep peace and grace issuing endlessly from this space, given freely by this inconceivable presence. This is where I want to hang out. This is where I’d like to meet you.

Seasons

I wasn’t planning to get ‘deep’ when I started writing today. I am planning to make a juice today (a lengthy and involved job) and I have a few other errands I need to run, so I was just trying to rattle off a wee entry for the week…but this is what happened. So take it lightly and in stride. I’ll do the same. 🙂

And I’ll close with a quote of Rumi’s, which I love:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

Routine: A Double-Edged Sword

power generator

At the end of this long weekend, as we dive into what is essentially a new season, I feel inspired to share a few quick thoughts on the power of routine. This moment seems a valuable opportunity to become more conscious of our daily routines, as so many of them shift from ‘summer mode’ back into ‘work mode’. Though it remains business as usual for many, so much of our western society runs on the momentum of the school year. We can scarcely avoid its effect. So perhaps this is the perfect chance to take stock of some of our routines, both individual and collective, and to consider a bit of tweaking and trimming.

The more we examine our lives, the more we come to see the staggering influence routine has over us. I feel it can be our greatest ally or our most dangerous enemy. Like anything else, I believe it exists in balance, and we are free to do with it as we see fit. The more aware we are, however, the more effective we can be in intentionally developing healthy habits in service of growth and well-being, both for ourselves and others.

***

Sculpting and practising new routines can be very difficult. It can even be scary. For many of us, routine is a blind comfort that we don’t even question. It seems to us as though it has always been there, and we would feel naked and lost without it. But maybe there is some value in rocking the boat a bit. Why not stretch and test ourselves with a few experiments? Perhaps we are capable of more than we imagined. One positive flip-side of developing new routines is the sense of accomplishment we can derive, aside from the greater positive impact we can have on others. Beyond that, simply discovering a strength or a skill in ourselves that we didn’t see before is a reward in itself.

So where do we begin? Well, it helps to be aware of which habits we have taken on unconsciously and which habits we have chosen to exercise. This can be the first sorting station. Is there some behaviour that we repeat simply because we have always done it? Can we remember why we do it? Is it serving anyone or anything? These are questions we can ask ourselves to get closer to the roots of our routines.

Beyond that, we can further examine our routines, whether conscious or otherwise, and discern which are self-serving and which are in service of others. This can be a sloppy process, and is not necessarily cut and dry. I feel, from my own experience, however, that the more we serve others, the more we ultimately serve ourselves. (Beware –  it may not work so well the other way around…) If we simply do something good for someone else that nobody will ever find out about, we will automatically feel the good we’re doing for ourselves alongside. Another writer referred to this as ‘enlightened self-interest’ – a fitting term, I feel.

This project of exploring our routines and their foundations need not be a major overhaul, though it could end up taking some much further than they imagined. In my case, I felt compelled to go deep, exposing well-cemented selfish patterns (work ongoing…) and bringing their folly to light. It becomes hard to continue investing in such habits when their fruitlessness is clearly seen. Throughout this process, I have identified and eradicated many extreme habits and stances, including a negative view of routine itself, which I once held firmly.

For the longest time, I was trying to escape from routine altogether, evading what I felt to be something imprisoning me. The more I grew aware of the influence of routine the more I wrestled with it. Now that I have accepted the balanced nature of the power of habit, I strive to develop healthy habits and continue to identify and eliminate old patterns that no longer serve anyone.  Regular ‘check-ups’ can be helpful.

I have found that the so-called ‘mundane’ routines so many of us lead can dull our senses. This is one of the dangers of routine. It can blind us from the beauty and interconnection of life, simply because everything feels ‘the same’. We see the same people, go to the same places, and do the same things, and our senses become dull as a result. When we meet new people, in new places, doing new things, we perk up and become sharp, exercising our attention – we become alert and awake. This is not necessarily an anxiety-based wakefulness (which many mistake it for), but there is undoubtedly an element of vigilance at work. This heightened awareness, once habituated, can then be turned inward to observe ourselves and the various dysfunctional patterns and habits at work.

This is precisely what happened with my first year of cycling and traveling around Europe. After habituating this heightened state of alertness, having travelled widely and steadily, my attention was turned suddenly inward (due to heartbreak), and I finally surrendered all of my schemes and routines. I had to exercise this surrender again and again (even still I recommit), emerging afterwards to continue aiming for the lofty ideal of healthy habits in service of love.

We need not necessarily expect to accomplish anything specific with our routines (they are cycles, after all), though I feel it is important to work toward something. Understanding the subtle difference here is important. Redeveloping our routines for maximum efficiency and effectiveness is not necessarily about a finite, concrete outcome.  Nevertheless, in assessing and reshaping our routines, understanding our intentions becomes paramount. Expecting a particular result can actually become an obstacle here. Instead, we can find ourselves a less-tangible (though no less bright) guiding star and carry on working in service of our dreams.

Routine

Working from this little image above, perhaps we can blend the two, honouring the power of routine while still seeing the beauty of ‘the new’ always around us.  The ideal may well be to routinize as many healthy habits as possible without losing our awareness of their ongoing novelty as we move through them – we don’t want them to become empty rituals. With this approach, we can free up more space in our lives – more space in our hearts and minds – and we can offer this free space to those in need, through simple acts of service and love.

***

I don’t really know anything, mind you – I’m just spit-balling here. I’m simply expressing myself honestly in the moment, with the intent to incite and inspire, through relatively gentle means.  But maybe a shake would do us some good, too.  You should look inside and be your own judge.  Test yourself, if you feel called.

For instance, I just finished a 12-day juice fast, not eating any solid food the whole time – just juicing vegetables and a bit of fruit (…not blending…JUICING…a big difference). It proved to be a great test and cleansing process, and I feel so clear and clean after, even more ready to recommit to my lofty ideals, unafraid of the failures I may face along the way. I continue to trust patience and persistence to guide me.

However simply it may be, perhaps it’s time we all have a look at our routines (and our intentions) and readjust them for wider service of the greater good.

Healthy-Habits

PS…Love is always the answer.

🙂