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!

🙂

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

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.

🙂

She Who Laughs Lasts

Laughter

Yesterday I awoke and noticed snow falling softly outside my window. It made me smile. It was actually gathering on the ground for the first time this season. The cool winds of change I have been feeling of late seemed to have suddenly delivered winter. I decided to change up my regular morning regimen and attend the Montreal Laughter League instead of doing my usual yoga and meditation. I figured the laughter would provide a work out of its own, so I suited up and headed out. I had been meaning to join the Laughter League for some time, having noticed their poster up at Burritoville. They meet on the first and third Sunday of every month and I was glad to be finally dropping in. It was only about a ten-minute walk from where I am living right now. As I approached the door I noticed a gentleman crossing the street headed straight for the same place. We greeted one another and entered together.

Sporadic laughter was already issuing from within. I introduced myself to the few folks already gathered and felt immediately welcome. A few more folks trickled in and we got started. We went around the circle introducing ourselves and breaking into laughter afterwards. We were encouraged to put it forward even if slightly forced, allowing the laughter to become more genuine once it got rolling. I wasn’t immediately fond of the notion of forcing a laugh, but the power of momentum surprised me more than a few times. The phrase ‘fake it until you make it’ came to mind. I was amazed at how quickly forced laughter became real. I occasionally pictured my Mom and a couple of cackling Aunts getting carried away in their hilarity, which consistently spurred me on. Even just looking around at the others in the room was often enough for a laugh. The sheer ridiculousness of the setting and our behaviour became a common cause for continued laughter.

We practiced several specific styles of laughter, interspersed with rest periods. We passed laughter around the circle at random; we partnered off for close eye-contact laughter; we pointed at ourselves and laughed, and we even tried to suppress laughter as if we were ‘little schoolgirls’. My cheeks were hurting early on and I was grateful for our moments of down time. We were guided through breathing exercises and encouraged to shake our sillies out from time to time (laughter often emerging from the silence). We also stopped to study the phenomenon of laughter itself.

We learned a lot about laughter. It seems to be a global language. It is a natural reaction to life. It is not something that we strictly pick up from social cues. Even deaf and blind babies laugh naturally, never having ‘learned’ it. We watched our bodies as we laughed to see where it was coming from, belly, chest or throat. We identified a few basic variations of laughter – the HA HA HA, the HEE HEE HEE, and the HO HO HO – and observed the unique characteristics associated with each.

I got really going a number of times and I was sweating before long. Experienced laughers spoke of the importance of dressing in layers so you could gradually strip down when you got overheated. I was grateful for the pitcher of water on the table in the middle of the circle, but we were warned to drink with caution as it could easily go down the wrong pipe with even the slightest chuckle.

After about an hour or so I noticed that my brain was hurting. It wasn’t exactly a headache but it was becoming slightly uncomfortable. It was pulsating pretty intensely and I felt like new parts of it had been ‘laughed to life’. My neighbour mentioned a similar sensation just as our leader began winding us down for the closing meditation. I was grateful for the rest.

As we fell quiet (for the most part), the meditation melted my body and mind. I felt a million miles wide. Already having a great deal of experience in meditation (often following the exertion of yoga), I was surprised at how deeply I relaxed. I feel it was such a deep meditation because of the stark contrast with the intense workout. All that laughter had been quite a release. It was a different sort of exertion than I was accustomed to leading up to my meditation. As we wrapped up, we decided as a group that ‘she who laughs lasts’. It felt like a valuable nugget to walk away with.

As I strolled slowly homeward I thought about the importance of contrast. It seems we are constantly oscillating between opposites, often to extremes. The very nature of growth seems to bounce us between tension and release. In exercise of any kind we first strengthen before trusting our muscles. Learning to let go of our ‘picture of perfection’ and to simply accept life as it is can be such a skill. We can develop and deepen seeds of peace through active surrender, accepting the fluctuations of life’s various storms and seasons.

The ultimate contrast we seem to be experiencing is between being and becoming. Though it can seem chaotic at times, the wisdom of a wider perspective can help us to embrace this strain with a smile, perhaps even a laugh. A favourite teacher of mine, Nisargadatta Maharaj, said that “it is in the nature of being to seek adventure in becoming, as it is in the nature of becoming to seek peace in being.” This feels intuitively true and it has certainly been the case in my life. What we can come to appreciate as we bounce back and forth is the strengthening of our centre. Our balance can become both broader and stabler as we continue learning and growing, oscillating between the extremes of rest and adventure. Patience and persistence are ever our allies on this journey. But it is helpful to remember that resistance to life’s vicissitudes can halt our development. Simply accepting what is seems to be the wise way forward (as difficult as it can be).

As I look out my window again this morning, I smile to see the softly falling snow. I am reminded of all I love about winter, knowing also that summer wouldn’t be what it is without it – the cold affords the warmth. I am willing to suspend, for the moment, thoughts about winter’s less attractive traits, grateful to laugh and see that this snow is beautiful in itself. I accept this gift as it is right now, looking no further forward.

winter-snow-fun

Reflect On What You See

Poppies

This is a time for reflection. It need not be loud. It need not be wordy. But with an earnest heart, this time of reflection can lead us to see more clearly. We can come to see ourselves more clearly, as well as our place in this world. We can come to see just how much has been sacrificed for us to live as we do today. Realizing the incredible freedom so many fought for, we can begin honouring it by living lives of integrity and service. They need not be flashy. We can even serve in silence. But before running around ‘putting out fires’, I feel we would be wise to take this opportunity for remembering.

I started this blog on Remembrance Day last year.  My first post was about Remembering. I talked about the two sides of memory and the importance of remembering wisely – remembering with perspective. I won’t say much today. If you really feel like reading, look at last year’s post. There are a lot of words there. They are heartfelt, even if a bit pointed. But right now I am more interested in inspiring silence. This is where the real work of remembering is done. Silence is the invisible ground we’re all standing on, so to speak, whether we know it or not. This is the space we all share. We each have equal access to this silence in our own hearts. There are no borders or boundaries here. I am not speaking metaphorically. I encourage you to take ten minutes to unplug and listen to yourself. Remember who you are. This is perhaps the most powerful way we can honour the fallen. By remembering ourselves more deeply we broaden our capacity for service.

As we remember more of ourselves we become freer – freer to see and freer to serve. By allowing ourselves to see into our own hearts more deeply we release the chains of ignorance and reclaim our clarity and strength. This is an effortless process – which can nonetheless be very hard work. The willingness to be truly still is rare, but if we try we’ll see this willingness grow – and it is vital to carry on.

If we allow ourselves to be truly still – in heart, mind, and body – everything we have failed to face will step forward. This may be frightening at first, but the more light we shed on these shadows the stronger we’ll grow, building courage with every step. As we face these neglected parts of who we are, allowing ourselves to remember more fully, we gradually become freed from the clutches of fear.

So I encourage you to brave your own inner-silence, facing whatever battles you must face to break free. In this brave endeavour we can remember that the wind is forever in our sails. All we can truly do is allow everything to unfold for itself.

Mundane Monday

This Monday will be a quick one. I sense it will roll off the cuff and be what it is. No looking back. That sounds like an interesting exercise. What if I agree now not to edit a single word of today’s post? I have done a few of those, though with minor tweaks here or there. And I have posted many of the opposite sort. But right now I feel like letting it all hang out, hang loose.

I’m a Godfather now. Yesterday little James was baptized, along with his twin sister, Josie. It was a great day. Their Mom, my friend Michelle, shared the sermon from the pulpit, and it all felt very fitting. They are undoubtedly very cute babies and they are fortunate to be surrounded by so much love. It made me reflect on my own childhood, and all the love that I had the benefit of bathing in as I was raised. Yesterday was also my Dad’s 63rd birthday, and we had a nice dinner out with the family, minus brother Stephen, who is still out in Montreal. I will head back there tomorrow.

I plan to dive back into work on my book, revising and editing the occasionally overwhelming mass of words I have gathered. But the story inside it all is so pure and simple. I can feel it. I can see it at times. And I think that is pretty much like all of our lives – simplicity at the centre, wrapped up in clutter and occasional drama. We often oscillate between the extremes. I know I have.

But that’s all just a story, too. The real source is quite silent, so it seems here and now. It amazes me how much music and bright colour issues forth from such a deafening emptiness. On Saturday night I went with a dear friend to take in the Mississauga Symphony. I had won tickets from the radio, having called in one morning last week. There was a young Russian soloist on violin who transported me with his incredible expression of emotion.

I got interrupted during that last sentence. There was a knock at the door. It was my uncle from the condo next door. He was checking that Grandma would get some lunch. So I am warming up the oven and I will put in a gluten-free pizza for she and I to enjoy. It was plain cheese, so I put some tomato slices and fresh basil leaves on top. That’s what’s going on. For the moment.

No great aspiration to say anything particularly ‘special’ today. Just laying out what is going on around me. I feel pretty calm at the centre of it all. In recent weeks I have been feeling a great deal of energy coursing through my body, at times with incredible intensity. And when it is flowing free of any intention on my part it is very peaceful.

But that’s neither here nor there. Maybe it is everywhere. It could be both. As far as I understand that’s all there is here – energy flowing. It rises and falls, vibrating at varying frequencies, taking various shapes, and we are watching it all pass by, occasionally identifying with and investing in shapes and names that are empty vessels. This fleeting nature is rather beautiful. It can be very freeing. Nothing in life need be so heavy. We can let it all fall as it will.

It’s wonderful to watch. The leaves descending. I see out of the window from my parents’ 18th floor condo and look at all of the lovely colours of these autumn trees. Even on this grey day. Even in the midst of what could otherwise be called a ‘Mundane Monday’, there is such peace and beauty. Everything is full of light. We need not see it to know so. We need not know so to feel it. We need not feel it for it to be. We are already here, calm and centred, seeing the play of life dance by. It’s pretty special – this gift of life. There’s nothing we need ‘to do’ to make it all work. Allowing it to be is not an action.

The oven is warm enough to receive the pizza now. It will be transformed by the time it slides out. But I am in no hurry. I think I will go play some music with my cousin today. That feels about right.

I hope you all have a lovely Monday, mundane or otherwise. Maybe take some time to stop editing everything you do and say and think. That said, I look forward to continuing editing my book when I get back to Montreal….unlike this piece, which I have not touched. It is a river of words representative of the feelings and thoughts as they flowed over the past hour or so.

Mmmmm…pizza.

Pizza

🙂

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Rodney Falls

I woke up yesterday morning with a rather silly song lyric spinning through my mind, repeating over and over. “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.” That’s right. TLC. Who would have guessed?

I couldn’t account for it. I haven’t listened to that song in a long time. I don’t think I ever actively tried to listen to it (though I did just look it up on Youtube to double-check that I had recalled the correct lyrics). It seemed to be everywhere when it came out in 1995. It was all over the TV and radio. My older brother listened to it enough at home that it must have become embedded somewhere in my consciousness. But as it hit me yesterday morning, stirring from a deep Sunday sleep-in, I sensed there may actually be a valuable message tucked into it.

Laying there in bed about to start my morning yoga routine, it occurred to me that perhaps the song was suggesting we take life at its own natural pace. It seemed to be telling me that there was no need to force anything. We can simply let it all flow. The song even suggests that there may be a price to pay for jumping to extremes. Already living with this general ‘go with the flow’ philosophy, I nonetheless welcomed the morning reminder. As the lyrics continued to pop up during my yoga practice, the message continued hitting home.

Ultimately, what I saw it pointing toward was balance. I had just fasted for another couple of days and though I try to observe the importance of easing back into eating after fasts, sometimes my first bite back makes me want to gorge on something. I often joke about it with my roommates, my bouncing between feasting and fasting (although my snacking tends to be relatively innocuous – rice cakes and carrots dipped in hummus, or mixed nuts and raisins). Either way, taking it slowly seems to be the wise way.

After my yoga and meditation, I checked my email and Facebook and soon found myself clicking open a number of tabs and reading various articles. As I read about some of the ‘chaos’ happening around the planet at present, I noticed my stomach tensing up. How could I avoid the waterfalls in the midst of all this? In our noisy and fast-paced world, tuning in to the calmer waters can be pretty tricky. I decided to switch gears and began watching a bunch of Bob Ross clips on Youtube. I watched him paint a calm pond and a few happy little trees, bathing in the patience of his endlessly soothing voice. What a sweet soul he is, I said to myself. He reminded me that we can choose what to focus on. If you don’t know him, or even if it’s been a while, I highly recommend checking him out.

I then met a friend for an autumn walk up the mountain at the heart of Montreal. I felt the good of the woods reaching into me and settling my soul even more. The sweet peace of the open air and colourful fall leaves put me at ease. It reminded me at times of my six-day summer hike in Killarney Provincial Park. Much like I had then, I was enjoying the simplicity of nature and casual companionship. I was doing my best to stay out of the way and let it all flow.

Later in the evening, my brother and I met with our parents in the Old Port, arriving just ahead of them to the hotel where they are staying the next couple of nights with our dear Austrian friend, Edda. As I made my way through the meal, declining offers of alcohol and sweets, I felt myself honouring the calm waters, no longer chasing the waterfalls of a sugar rush as I would have done in the past, or the buzz of a beer. Though I have no particular problem with either of these substances, I feel it is important to keep our relationship with them in check. I know what they do to my body and mind, and I don’t tend to tangle with them anymore.

We met with our parents again today for a nice lunch near my brother’s restaurant and I suggested afterwards that they go for a walk up the mountain, taking it nice and slow, enjoying the great view of the city. Back at my brother’s restaurant I thought about sitting to write a while, knowing I wanted to compose my Monday blog post. As I was hanging about the kitchen, my cousin asked me if I wanted to join him for a walk. He has been off of cigarettes for two weeks now (I have been a big supporter in the cause) and, going with the flow, I thought it would be nice to hang with him for a while. We strolled down to HMV and I watched the busy city bounce around us as we passed, trying to keep some of my attention on the calm in my core. Don’t go chasing waterfalls…I reminded myself.

When we got back to Burritoville (my brother and cousin’s restaurant), I asked my friend Gabe what I should write about for my blog today. He paused a moment and told me to write about “the central attraction of the Pacific Northwest”. That seemed strange and vague, though par for the course for Gabe. I came home and had a quick peek online, imagining big trees to be a central draw to the region, and nature in general. Waterfalls popped up as a main attraction and seemed perfectly fitting. I’ve been rattling away for about an hour or so now. So here we are.

I have not edited a thing. This has just tumbled out of me as you see it. No surprise, I guess. In the course of my research on the song, I discovered that Paul McCartney released a song of the same name fifteen years before TLC, with very similar lyrics. Whoever sang it first doesn’t seem to matter much – it remains a message worth repeating – don’t go chasing waterfalls, folks. Just relax. Take it easy. Trust life. Have a great week.

🙂

Take It Easy