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

🙂

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

Short and Sweet (Winter Retreat)

Wintry Woods

I have just come home from an incredibly refreshing weekend in the woods with about eighty amazing people. We were inside, mind you, most of the time. It was an especially crisp and cold weekend, but very bright and alive. The sky was clear and the sun was strong. Five Oaks was our host – a gracious space to sing and dance, dream and plan, love, play and pray. I feel as though I have been bathing in waves of love buzzing all around us – within us and through us too – vibrating endlessly, breaking down walls and building bridges. This morning I watched a thin sliver of moon blend into a bluing sky as the sun rose on our final day. I saw it all as one – the grand play of light. We all partake, awake or otherwise.

Now home, our Family Day dinner digested, the last four days seem like a blur, a whirlwind. My mind feels like mush and I am ready for bed. But I want to write a few words reflecting on this wondrous weekend. I was blessed to participate in the Youth Forum Winter Retreat leading up to the United Church of Canada’s 42nd General Council. Many of us will reconnect there this summer, some of us making a cross-country pilgrimage. I feel honoured to be among those going on the journey from coast to coast, heading west to east, arriving in Newfoundland in early August. There is a lot of change on the table and I am inspired to see so many youth with the wisdom and will to work for new ways to express and connect with our sense of spirit.

It was such a gift to meet so many authentically spiritually-engaged youth. I feel excited and encouraged. And happily exhausted. Now doesn’t feel like the moment to dig much deeper into it all. I just wanted to put a few words up here before I lay my head down for a long rest. I hope my new friends from all over Canada have returned home safely (or are at least on course) and that we keep our heart’s fire alive!

Lots of love.

🙂

Expectations

DANGER-expectations

I have likely spoken of the dangers of expectations before. It is something I am well aware of, having learned time and again (often the hard way). And yet I continue to catch myself building expectations fairly regularly. Fortunately, I tend to choose gratitude over guilt or anger these days, glad to at least catch and discard them. But I still get side-tracked now and again.

Even with the best of intentions, I find I can build up a subtle narrative and then watch myself slip back to reality with a hint of disappointment. Last week, for instance, I wrote what I felt to be my best blog post in months. Having followed my blog’s recent traffic trends (encouraged by steady growth), I was excited that several new readers would get to enjoy the wonderful piece I had put together. Excitedly, I imagined the wave of peace and love that might spread out from my inspiring message. Instead, readership dipped down to the lowest I had seen in a LONG time – many months. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as my expectations were exposed. The high I had felt came crashing down to the ground. I didn’t feel discouraged or anything, but just humbled again. Back to reality.

All I was trying to share was a bit of wonder at the mystery of life, encouraging others to honour life’s balance and beauty, accepting little miracles and big obstacles alike, growing in spite of uncertainty. I figured that would be something to spread. I hadn’t been particularly proud of my recent posts, having rattled them off the cuff rather quickly and without much thought. But this one came out with a feeling of purpose and clarity, expressing my feelings and ideas in what I felt to be a beautiful way. So it seemed natural that others would engage with it also.

I don’t pretend to know why the post went largely unnoticed (generally speaking, I don’t invest energy in assumptions), but I immediately saw an opportunity to practice what I preach and simply let it be. I could accept it and move on. A couple of days later it occurred to me that I might use it as an example for my next blog post – THE DANGERS OF EXPECTATION. So here we are. I admit that a hint of my bringing it up today is a hope that some may be curious enough to look back and read what I am referring to. HERE’S ANOTHER LINK TO IT! 😉

But whatever it may affect on the surface – enabling some to trust their lives more deeply, empowering others to step up to face a challenge – I know that the real value of life, the quiet space we share in the depth of our hearts, remains untouched. This is a good thing. Honouring this pure, untouched part of ourselves can free us to be who we are and to express our hearts more deeply. Granted, it can be tricky to lean back on the ineffable, but in time we may come to see that it actually holds us up, along with everything else. By exercising courage in the face of doubt we can create habits of faith and bravery, paving a way to living lives of substance. Paradoxically, this substance often enters our lives via a realization of life’s impermanence. What is there to hold on to?

We are here. It is now. This we know without ‘needing to know’. This is too true to break down. This is where to invest our attention. No need of endless cycles of expectation and disappointment. Of course we can continue to learn and grow, letting mistakes inform our continuing attempts to connect, create and express, but we can become freer to lean out and make mistakes in the first place. This is a sign of a healthy heart.

So that’s it for today, I think. I’m ready to rest.

Happy Monday all! 🙂

Catch you next week…  Any topic suggestions?

Balance

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

– Albert Einstein

Balance

I used to feel as though I was walking a razor’s edge. I had it in my mind that I was navigating a particularly intense brand of balance. I imagined that my balance was especially broad, reaching out to extremes on either side. This was all a story, of course. It wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it was only a story. I was perpetuating it by believing it (and even more so by telling it).

I imagined that I could increase my freedom by increasing my discipline. While it could be said that I was slowly giving myself more and more permission to exercise my freedom through my discipline, I see now that complete freedom was already my birthright, as I feel it is for everyone. Accepting this simple gift is often the hard part.

I feel now as though real balance is effortless. It’s already here. There is nothing we can do to bring it about. This doesn’t mean we can’t work toward goals, but I think we become less likely to invest expectations in specific outcomes. Even as I work on various projects, I continue to be firm with myself at times and quick to forgive myself when I falter. It seems less and less important to arrive at an end result.

My self-discipline is no longer about expectations, but is based more on standards. I feel if we can set ourselves higher standards, accepting that we will fall short of them at times, we will nevertheless stretch and test ourselves, growing beyond what we thought we were capable of. In this light, being able to accept short-term ‘failure’ can actually strengthen us, helping us develop a greater sense of determination and resilience. This patient persistence, when steadily applied, can eventually bring us into the silence of our own centre – our own hearts – where everything unessential begins to burn up and fall away.

But on our way here, balance is clearly a key to well-being. Living in balance can be seen as a ‘sweet spot’ where we let ourselves move through life without getting tangled up in fleeting experiences. We can cherish and celebrate all parts of life as they pass, but we need not resist nor cling to anything we experience. Easier said than done, obviously, but this is keeping balance – not trying to manipulate events or relationships to unfold as we want them to, but simply honouring them as they are.

At times, however, our balance can appear rather delicate, even slippery and sharp. As I mentioned before, it can feel like we are walking a razor’s edge, rigid and slick on either side. But even this can be seen in perspective. We can stop, take a deep breath and re-frame our narrative, realizing we’re more than likely caught up in thought. Balance doesn’t require cracking some code or figuring anything out. It is more like giving life full permission to do what it will with us.

There are countless ways to look at balance – there are too many frames to fathom and factors far beyond our figuring. It seems then that living life in balance takes a measure of faith. Stomaching some uncertainty seems vital. A tolerance for paradox may help us along the way, while we’re at it. It even feels like being ‘out-of-balance’ from time to time can be a part of anchoring in our overall balance. That sounds a bit crazy, but I feel it is true.

A phrase came to mind some time ago which feels relevant here. When it first occurred to me I intuitively sensed a deep truth in it, even though it didn’t necessarily make logical sense: ‘A return to balance is inevitable. A departure from balance is impossible.’ It seems to point to the fact that nature is taking care of everything. We need not struggle and strain. Life operates in balance, even when it seems to be completely out of whack. After all, what do we really know about the big picture if we’re in the middle of it?

After tasting some of the extremes at either end of the emotional spectrum and realizing they eventually level themselves out (despite ourselves), I have developed both a deeper respect for balance and a greater faith in it. Now I see balance wherever I look. Occasionally I catch myself yearning for more, which seems crazy. More balance? That sounds impossible. I like to laugh at myself when I see a thought like that pass by.

It seems that real balance is beyond value judgements. It’s the centre. How could we possibly amplify it? At best, we can look inside and let it level us out. Despite being drilled with heavy doses of duality every day, our attention often being pulled in opposite directions, we can take time to be still and submerge in our centre. This is a shared space, beyond comparison, beyond competition, beyond conflict of any kind. In this quiet core, when we let everything else collapse, we come to see the balance that never needed to assert itself. It has always been here.  It is beyond measure. How can there be any less? How can there be any more than all there is?

Einstein

Trust balance. Keep moving forward.

🙂

De-cluttering Our ‘TO DO’ Lists: Honouring Responsibility Over Obligation

Image

WHAT TO DO?

What do you have to do today? Really. Look it over. Whether you have an actual list in front of you or just a stack of tasks gathered in your mind, have a good look at it. Ask yourself; is all of this necessary? Is any of it necessary? Who says so? Even if that voice in your head barks back ‘I say so!’, inquire. Who is that voice? Is it really you? Or might it just be a collection of expectations and obligations that a life of conditioning has imprinted upon you? This may be a frightening thought, that some entity other than ourselves is driving our minds. But this ‘conditioning’ need not be seen as intentionally oppressive, as if some evil perpetrator were sitting in a wingback chair, laughing, hands held together in a pyramid, fingers dancing back and forth while we silly mortals fall prey to some grand evil scheme.

SEEING THROUGH OUR CONDITIONING

Conditioning has just happened. This is simply how life has developed so far. It’s a part of our growth. And not all conditioning is bad. But when we are blind to it, it drives us. It fills up our ‘to do’ lists with endless things that we feel we must do. The extent to which we can see this conditioning at work is the extent to which we can become free of it. After all, it is in the nature of a mistake to disappear once we discover it. And then we can watch our ‘to do’ lists thin out significantly. They may go blank altogether. And they may remain that way for a while – empty. And that’s ok. After running a marathon, whether finishing first or last, it’s reasonable to take a moment to gather our breath, maybe have a sip of water and walk it off. Similarly, when we wake up to see we’ve been running in circles for most of our lives, we are permitted to take a bit of a breather, to walk it off. We may feel aimless for a while. (We’ll certainly appear it!) This is ok, too. Gradually, we can begin introducing new items to our ‘to do’ lists, when we feel up to it, and especially when we feel inspired to act from a place of conviction – a place of deep truth. We are no longer merely following commands, but seeing action arise from our natural impulse for love. We do what we want to do, what we love to do. We can begin developing ‘to do’ lists with intention. It’s our inattention that has kept us spinning in hamster wheels for so long. It’s time to rise and shine.

CLARIFYING OUR UNDERSTANDING

What I am talking about is a subtle but vital distinction which can revolutionize our lives. This is the fine line between obligation and responsibility. But what’s the difference? How do we discern which is which? Sometimes it’s a razor’s edge. And it’s more often not even about what we do, but how we do it. Are we doing something because we have to or because we want to? It is not always so simple, though this can be a good place to begin our inquiry. Fortunately, for fuzzier matters, a bit of patient reflection can help us understand which voice we should be honouring.

So what is obligation? Well, to feel obliged to do something seems to imply some sense of pressure, some external force, whether from the expectations of our family, our work, or society at large. These are tasks we would seldom take upon ourselves to perform. But responsibility is literally the ability to respond. Response-ability.  It’s all right there. This is an uprising of our truest self, a deep moral sense of right action, appropriate to the moment. And it always comes from within, expressing itself in a completely unique way through each of us. Still, it can be difficult to strain through the many voices chattering inside of us to figure out where each voice is coming from, where they would have us go and what they would have us do.

TRIMMING DOWN OUR BIG ‘TO DO’s

This is where thinning out our ‘to do’ lists can be so helpful. It’s a two-way street. It may feel a bit scary, at first, and maybe even a little crazy, but by stripping away our excess ‘busy-ness’ – if only for a few days, allowing ourselves to breathe and relax – we can begin to see what is truly important in our lives. It will emerge all on its own. And we can learn to prioritize more wisely. As we do this, we may hear old voices rising up inside, telling us we are letting people down, or letting ourselves down. But if we can weather this storm, perhaps we can stop worrying about ‘let downs’ and learn to let up and let go. Maybe we’ll realize that what we want is not what we need, and what we need is not what we want. Facing this can be disorienting. But if we can exercise a bit of bravery – just enough to take a small step out of our comfortable routines, letting go of our ‘to do’ lists for a while – perhaps we can become more of who we truly are, surrendering the rest, and ending up a greater help to ourselves and others, growing and serving in ways far beyond what we had ever imagined possible.

TAKE A CHANCE – RELAX

Why not try letting go? Maybe all you have to lose is all you need to lose to be truly free. Take a deep breath in and let go of everything else. Exhale and feel the release spreading through your entire body. This is our natural state. Inner peace is our effortless inheritance. There is nothing it asks us ‘to do’ but let it in. So be still. Go deep. And ask yourself, what do I really have to do today?

 Image

Honesty

honesty

Honesty is the best policy. We have all heard it many times before – and it seems a reasonable code to honour. But how often do we really live it from the depth of our hearts? I guess I can start by sharing that I don’t really know what to say today. Yet here I sit writing – for its own sake, I suppose. I have been in the habit of publishing a post every Monday for a while now, and I wish to keep my rhythm rolling. It is a routine more for myself than anyone else.

Even as I intend my writing to be an act of service, I am aware that relatively few people are reading these words. Perhaps my service is starting out simply – I don’t know. Either way, I try not to get caught up in chasing some vision of the future. I feel I can best serve others through complete honesty and unconditional acceptance of this moment as it is. As grateful as I am for every person reading these posts (THANK YOU!), I have to admit that just getting myself into the habit of outward self-expression is a large motivating factor. I feel it is a healthy habit, aside from what I might actually be saying.

Someone recently asked me (in reference to my blog) if I minded ‘hollering into a vacuum.’ I didn’t know how to respond. I wondered for a moment if we are all doing just that, on some level – hollering into a vacuum. At least we’re doing it together, I thought. But does it really matter if we get any notice for our work? For the most part, I don’t seem to mind doing my work without getting any attention or recognition. I am grateful to express myself. And if someone tells me that my post meant something to them, it is a feather in my cap, icing on the cake.

So when I came to face the blank page today, wondering what I wanted to holler out into this particular vacuum, I found myself looking over some old notes on balance. ‘A return to balance is inevitable. A departure from balance is impossible.’ I thought about re-working my notes into something for today’s post, but had to admit that I no longer feel the same way I felt when I wrote it. Not exactly, anyhow. And I also admitted that a part of me wanted to recycle my old writing just to get the ball rolling, just to have something on the page. That didn’t feel like a very honest motivation for self-expression. So I let it go.

As I slipped off to sleep last night I thought about how I was feeling (that being uncomfortably stuffed with hummus and mixed nuts), and I wanted to strip down any remnant layers of pretence and protection to be as open and honest as possible. I had been dreaming, the day before, of constructing a post that would inspire people and maybe relieve some suffering, but as I tossed and turned last night, mildly disappointed with myself, I didn’t feel worthy of standing on any soapbox and saying much of anything. I slept poorly and skipped my 5 AM alarm.  When I finally awoke at 8:30, I didn’t give guilt any room to roam. After a surprisingly strong yoga session and a very quiet and calming meditation, I arose to write.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s going on. I’m only just journeying through the mystery as we all are. These days, my certainties seem to crumble as quickly as they are built. I can’t say I mind. Even though well-intentioned, I recognize that I sometimes slip into some sort of ‘preachy’ tone in my writing. Though I want to share words of truth, nuggets of wisdom, seeds of peace, freedom and love – all born of my own experience – I don’t feel I have the right to tell anyone how to find anything in their own lives. I know there is something deep within us which we all share, but my saying so, and my desire to show people where ‘to find it’ may not mean much to anyone but me. At best, I can just speak my heart, whatever it seems to be saying at any given moment, and trust that to be sufficient in itself. Whatever it may spark in others is simply not up to me.

And in the spirit of total honesty, right now as I sit here and write, my body responding to our home growing colder with the seasons’ shifting, a bit of sunshine has made its way to my window and I am going to lie down on a sheepskin on the floor and just enjoy the warmth of the light for a while. I don’t want to waste this precious sunlight, abundant though it is. As the colder seasons approach, I am suddenly moved to take full advantage of every ray of light reaching through my window. I’ll return to my composition shortly. 🙂

peace

Hours have passed. I have combed through the above text now and dusted it up only slightly, and the sun has faded from the window. A thin ceiling of cloud now passes by, little blips of blue showing signs of the open space beyond. I am feeling fairly easy. I have not had the most motivated Monday, but I am at peace, and that seems good enough for me. I hope that, on some level, this simple slice of honest peace is serving the wider world.  See you next week.