Monday, 24 October 2011

Maybe I'll Walk This Way

Yesterday (Sunday) on what was a beautiful sunny autumn afternoon in my hometown of Victoria, B.C. I decided to go for a walk. The walk was to be "spiritual" in nature (as it happens, pun intended as it wasn't just about appreciating the visual attributes of nature - though they were stunning - the full palette of autumn colours were set ablaze by the afternoon sun, which created quite literally, a breath-taking experience at points along the journey). So while the walk wasn't purposeful in the "I have some errands to run - it's such a beautiful day I think I'll walk and get some exercise" sense - and in fact though I left home in a particular direction, there was no predetermined destination - how would I know when I arrived one might ask - actually the aim was to be "there" all the way along the route (which was to be determined moment to moment). For one such as me that can be given to very definite ideas of how things should be and how they should unfold - it was to be an exercise in "letting go" and "allowing"

As mentioned earlier the first leg of the journey had me very aware of the splendor of Mother Nature's artistry - as much as I was able, I invited the joining with the experience rather than view myself as being entirely separate from (even for my oft hyper-rational mind I could embrace that this was becoming a distinctly visceral experience therefore I wasn't just seeing - I was involved). Before long I was walking along side of one of the cities large Cathedral's (Anglican as it happens) - I "remembered" that on it's grounds was a Labyrinth - which I then decided to walk. While crossing to it's location I was again awe struck by the beauty of the sun illuminating the gentle giants that have stood their vigil for many seasons (judging by their size) among them, Garry Oaks and Maple trees. As I begin to walk the Labyrinth I realize the path is not clear (I don't mean that metaphorically - though in my case it certainly smacks of the truth) by that I meant that the discarded foliage from the surrounding trees was obliterating parts of the walkway. It occurred to me that the path would be more visible if the obstacles were cleared. Fortunately I'm just the man for the job I reasoned - though without tools my feet proved to be adequate in accomplishing my goal after which I realized that a significant portion of the Labyrinth had been covered. While moving the mixture of oak and maple leaves it occurred to me that though distinctly different the two types of trees coexisted here without conflict. As for their respected offerings (in the form of their discarded leaves) neither was of any less value to the cycles of life, as the remaining energy was returned to the earth as they decompose). I can't be certain, but I suspect neither the oak nor the maple is the least bit concerned about which offers the more dazzling autumn frock nor questions their value.

How is it that I can be so hung up on differences - comparing myself to others - what part do I play in the still existing divisiveness that exists in humanity - when shining the light of truth upon my own heart - what remaining vestiges of fear, ignorance, judgment, narrow-mindedness will I find there? If not blatant prejudices - what then exists in the form of wounds, familial or societal programming - it matters not whether a little or a lot - I must diligently seek them out and and allow them to be transformed - it is through the love, compassion & acceptance of others that I have been able to take those first shaky steps toward love of self - though painful the view in the mirror, it is expanding my capacity to love another.

From the center of the Labyrinth I turned and faced the monolith structure of the Cathedral, I marveled at the magnificence of the architecture - the skill of the trades people and artisans that tolled for untold hours to raise this structure - regardless of the theology within it's walls - I acknowledge the power of Creation as expressed through the human hands that built it. From this same center I consider the words carved upon the wall along the roof line (attributed to Jesus) and at the same time notice high upon the pinnacle of one of the roofs a modern adaptation of the Celtic Cross - a talisman of the transition from the pre-Christian times of ancient Druidic spirituality that was eradicated by the early Christian church. Was it necessary (even advisable) that all that was practiced and held sacred by these early cultures give way to the religions of the colonizers? It would seem that some of what came in it's stead was built upon the underpinning foundations of the pre-existing practices - could there not have then been evolution without bloodshed? I am drawn to one of the largest oak trees (the oak being held highly sacred in the Druidic path) on the property where I then sit and meditate at it's base. On a pathway through my all too human heart - I ponder the components of my present experience, a dogmatic perspective will not allow them to coexist, yet on this occasion I see no need for one to usurp the other. Seated upon Mother Earth on land that was no doubt the traditional territory of one of the First Nations bands beneath the sacred oak from which outstretched limbs reach toward the heavens and gather the wisdom of the universe for those of us not tall enough to reach it. In the background the Anglican Cathedral embossed with the words of the teacher Jesus (whom they for one, claim to represent) with the Celtic Cross towering above the labyrinth. The prevailing energy I am experiencing at this time is harmony - of course I am alone, even the introduction of one more person with whom to share my revelations might well open the floodgates of divisiveness once again - I feel intolerance creeping in - "it seems so simple to me" in my question lies the answer, first the intolerance in my own heart must be laid to rest.

I conclude my visit to the site with a prayer/contemplation session inside the cathedral and then walk down to the park and give thanks upon the First Nations burial grounds along the waterfront.

I am inspired to walk the labyrinth again but further to that to keep it cleared of autumn leaves that it is readily available to be walked by the next seeker. I therefore commit to clear the site for the next 30 days. What do I hope to gain from this - at the very least I want to honour the sacred (does the sacred have to be comprised of some sort of spiritual practice? Perhaps not, possibly the treating of something as sacred, in one's life becomes the spiritual practice - conversely there exist those who "practice religion" but don't hold life itself sacred. It is my vision that my life moving forward be purposeful, that it uphold that which is sacred to me without compromising the sacred space of others. I have also had surprising opportunity created by following what has presented as a "hunch" albeit not necessarily for so "public" an undertaking - who knows where the path leads?

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Though I haven't always been conscious of what there was present in my life to be grateful for, in fact quite the contrary, I always supposed a certain set of conditions would need to be present first - often they were most apparent to me in the lives of others and of course absent in mine.

Currently I am acutely aware of the multitude of reasons I have to be grateful. The interesting thing to me is though I may be without some of what we are told by our culture via the media, represents the true measures of success, I feel no apparent lack - of course I discontinued cable service so I am grateful for the lack of commercials in my life not to mention I not only don't know what celebrity is doing what to whomever - I don't even know who most of them are.

This is a one hundred and eighty degree turn around from being someone that was very concerned with the external/material world. I can remember as a young boy begging my mom to bring some old ratty towels off the clothesline because didn't want the neighbors to think we were poor. I can't say to this day how I came to be so worried about such things - so young, I was told that I need not take the views/opinions of others so seriously - the lesson was not to come home to roost for many years. I am therefore grateful to my mom for this valuable life lesson and that she is still around to let her know I got it.

I am very grateful to my former wife - once it was decided to end our marriage we set the intention to part ways honouring each other with mutual love and respect - an intention we upheld throughout the whole process. I am grateful we worked through the dissolution on our own without the use of lawyers. Come to think of it our separation and divorce was probably one of the most beautiful things we created together.

I am grateful to live in Victoria where the beauty of nature is so readily available in such wide diversity. I'm grateful to live in a country that is not at war within it's borders and where we can express our views without fear of persecution. I am grateful for my health and even though I am not presently at what I consider to be my optimal fitness level I know exactly how to go about getting fit again. I am grateful for my condo that gives me comfortable shelter at a very affordable price and is close enough to town that I can walk in when I choose.

I am grateful that my life's journey has resulted in the healing and opening of my heart which has been the catalyst of discovery through which I am getting access to creativity expressed through singing, playing/writing music and writing.

I am grateful to have been led to the Unity Church where I am free to continue to explore my spirituality that has (and continues) to involve examining different paths which continues to affirm for me the oneness of humanity and the need to honour each other. I am not told what I must believe, there is a presence of inclusion and I find there a growing sense of community in an atmosphere of support where the spirit within each of us is acknowledged and given food for growth. I also enjoy singing with the choir or in the congregation that never fails to lift my spirit. There are always a wide variety of learning opportunities offered through the church - in fact I first heard of the writing workshop that led to this story there. I also learned about "Compassionate Communication workshops (also known as Non-Violent Communication) through them - the principles of this paradigm have been instrumental on my path of "self-discovery" as well as giving me new tools for interacting with others.

I am grateful to the vast number of people that were there for me when I decided that my life had become unmanageable due to drug/alcohol addiction. I had no idea the journey of self-discovery that would unfold from this decision. This began what I describe as my consciousness awakening and was the spark that now has become the flame of passion to know for myself - connection with God of my understanding. I am grateful to all those that have written the dozens of books that grace my shelves. Each in it's own way opens my mind to different possibilities, inspires and points to the inherent wisdom available to each of us.

I am grateful for all the events and circumstances of my life past and present that have served to make me who I am. I am grateful for a growing awareness of those aspects of my personality that are throwbacks to a time when I believed them necessary for my protection.

I am grateful for all the love in my life, stemming from some I have known for considerable time and others whom have been present in my life only a short while. Most of all I am grateful for a growing sense of love for myself. I am grateful to have found three half-sisters and a half-brother, though I have only intermittent connection what a blessing to have made that connection. Ironically my lack of familial connection, which has been the source of a lifelong story which in turn supported my sense of disconnection, though no longer rings true for me, the discovery of these family members in itself didn't bring this about. In truth the greater reason for this feeling of disconnect stems from a lack of connection to both Self and the Creator - without out this (or seemingly the conscious pursuit of this connection) nothing from outside myself will provide that sense of connection. I therefore am grateful to come to know this - though the practice of living this knowing, learning to trust in and deepen this relationship is a work in progress.

We Need a Clean Sweep!

Popular local consensus seems to indicate there is a need to get all the addicts and pushers off the streets – this aroused my curiosity – so I decided to spend some time downtown and see for myself. I must concede the rumours are true – the streets were full of addicts. If you will indulge me further I will expand upon my observations.
Now I state up front I am no more qualified to make this assessment that anyone else – it just so happens I have some time on my hands. I know there may well be those that are actually more qualified to fulfill this purpose, but they are too busy working and as far as I have been able to determine the rationale largely supported by our cultural consciousness, is that they are doing so to support the economy.

So to kick off my list, imagine how much elbow room we could create on our streets if we cleared out all those addicted to the consumer economy (you know who you are, you pay for a membership at a big box outlet, so that you can line up to get in – load your wagon full of stuff your not sure you need but it was “such a good deal” then you line up to pay for it and line up once again to get out the door). This may be one of the gravest addictions I have observed – people are truly pathological in their pursuit – they can be heard uttering in a zombie like trance “I owe – I owe so off to work I go” all the while largely holding the work and everyone they work with in contempt (as evidenced by the moments of truth witnessed at the annual staff Christmas party). Anyone that isn’t behaving in kind is vilified (“I resent my tax dollars going to support these vagrants”) it is the height of hypocrisy – the same person can be heard ranting about the criminals in government taxing them to death – but then it comes right around full circle – “well at least I’m supporting the economy”. Doesn’t matter what their doing – as long as they are working - could be building hand grenades or producing pesticides or napalm somehow that is preferable to someone that isn’t be paid for their work but are working nonetheless – trying to for example, save a stand of old growth trees, some rare caves (sacred burial sites) or trying to protect one of the many endangered species.

Once one becomes enslaved to the addiction of consumption – all forms of inhuman behaviour and attitudes come into play, this violence and acts of cruelty are supported by all levels of government and people from all ends of the socio-economic spectrum. As for the pushers, well can you just imagine the difference in the skyline if absent were the myriad of big box retail outlets that continue to supply the addicted with their next fix. Surely it must be getting close to the tipping point – it seems people have so much stuff that they have to purge their homes, leaving the previous stuff - that once was imperative to have - out on the lawn hoping that some one that is perhaps more conscious of the philosophy of recycling will come along a take it away.

Go out on a weekend and witness for yourself whole yards strewn with stuff – with people fighting over it – so that the can take it home thereby creating the need to purge their own home. Listen up here people – forget going out and paying retail for more new stuff – just go out your front door, stand on your porch – wave to your neighbor across the street and then arrange a time to swap the contents of your respective houses. Next year repeat the process with the neighbor in the house one to the right and so on.

Next on the list would have to be all those clambering over each other to be first in-line for a coffee and of course their dealers. Now I’m not going to pick on Starbuck’s in particular (far too cliché) for the purposes of this study I am including all caffeine outlets. This can be broadened in terms of those seen in attendance, to include they whom are succumbing to multiple addictions i.e. sugar and petroleum products (and by extension their car) one need only observe the drive through line to make this correlation. While on the topic of sugar this would mean we would have to round up those that make available all those designer chocolates. Dubious about caffeine being included – I present as exhibit A: anyone of those individuals in the line –up (should they doubt that they have lost control) - demonstrate for them what happens if you should position yourself between them and the counter – if not convinced yet take an informal survey around their workplace, with regard to the quality of interaction one might expect from our subject if he/she sleeps in and doesn’t get to the java dispensary before showing up to the office – they may even be convinced at that point to organize a intervention. Finally would you just look at the prices these people are willing to pay for their drug of choice (not unlike gasoline I believe sky’s the limit – more griping for sure, but no noticeable reduction in sales). Once again those dually (or more) addicted are appeased with the likes of “double whipped – whatever –a – ccino’s at about 5000 calories per cup.

Now Joe (or Josephine) taxpayer/economy booster can frequently be heard around the water cooler pontificating about how much it is costing them (personally) to support those that so happen to use, not as widely socially acceptable, forms of drugs, one wonders if they have stopped to consider what it costs them to subsidize their (or their co-workers) 2nd triple bypass (because they “work hard for their money”) and no one is going to deny them their 20 oz. coffee drink and accompanying cream filled crispy kritter - or whatever those things the young athlete’s are always flogging in the shopping center parking lot are called.

Next, thanks to the advent all these electronic communication devices, we can link those that are addicted to their “crack-berries” (or other P.D.A’s), cell phones, laptops, cars, shopping & coffee/sugar. Use of and participation in, can be seen happening simultaneously at any major intersection – God knows (no offence intended to the atheists or agnostics) I suppose if we are sweeping the streets we better include anyone that uses as a crutch (anything or any entity) other than a crutch (should one be required to remain upright) – how they are actually in control of that motor vehicle. But don’t let the concern for public safety stand in the way of the fact that they paid taxes on all that stuff – therefore they’ll use it anyway they see fit – “it’s a free country”………………….. isn’t it? Well actually it is in as much as you are free as long as you partake in the culturally acceptable addictions (you of course are free to “scratch your itch” your own way) but all those that still believe they are in control will scapegoat you.

See they have bought into “the American Dream” (never mind they are living in Canada) they can be forgiven though as there is so little Canadian content on the T.V.S they are addicted to how can they be blamed for this influence – besides – is there even a Canadian dream in existence? Work hard; pay your taxes, save your money (can you start to see where the wheels start to leave the rails?) then eventually you’ll be able to retire to a life of leisure. So my second to last addiction on the list is to the afore mentioned illusion. Last but not least, to short circuit the need to spend a lifetime pursuing the dream just keep buying those lottery tickets?

Well now imagine how I must feel to realize the state of the streets of my hometown, this is an outrage – I want all these addicts and pushers off the streets – and I want it done before the Winter Games – after all I paid my taxes.

Perhaps I am Now Teachable

Luke Skywalker had his Obi Wan Kenobi, Kwai Chang Caine his Master Po – the “Peaceful Warrior” series of books centers around the life of Dan Millman and the transformational influence of a mentor/teacher he met at an all night gas station whom he call Socrates.

I must admit that upon learning that such a relationship was possible I was saddened by it’s apparent absence in my life, encouraged that it can still occur – i.e. “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” and positively inspired upon becoming open that such a person could be developed from within me.

The idea of a presence in my life that would teach, guide, and encourage, wisely knowing just the right amount of pressure to encourage development – knowing when to back off and let me find my own way and at what point there presents a teachable moment, where wisdom relevant to a life well lived would be imparted holds for me great allure.

Many people cite one or both parents as having been an invaluable role model in their lives. There are those too that go on to shape their lives in direct contradiction to the lives of their parents. Though there is no question that I have found examples of admirable human attributes in both my parents I would hesitate to deem them as being mentors. This is not meant to hold them in a disparaging light. In fact they are not even being held responsible, as is the popular practice in our culture (or at least in some schools of thought within our culture) for what I might, consider to be lacking. They are in fact held on equal footing with virtually everyone that I have come in contact with throughout my life and that is, that there is no one person, who singularly stands out, as having had a profound influence on me.

Ironically it may well be that those absent from my life have been the catalyst that has been a compelling force in my life – by this I mean that having been adopted as a baby my birth parents are unknown to me. How can they then be seen as having had any influence on my life one might ask? Well of course they weren’t present to have taught me anything. Strangely though, their absence has always been a presence.

I feel as though I have searched my whole life for the feeling of belonging – of connection – my place in the world. A catch-22 was found instead – I continued to drift through different circles of people with different interests – deeply curious not only in how to fit in but just in how it was they were “doing life.” Invariably I found I simply didn’t feel connected or even that I could relate, and therefore would move on. It was this sense of disconnect that prevented me from forming the sort of lasting relationship that might lead to the sort of intimacy, that would give cause to the openness to be taught anything by anybody.

It has taken many years and variety of experiences, so many in fact that to me, my life as it stands, represents such a disjointed mixture of pursuits that if examined one could be forgiven if they were unable to extract a particular purpose or direction, still despite this I am clear that absent more than any mentor or life coach was a connection to myself. Having said that, the question occurs to me, if in fact I was not connected to myself to what was I connected, that compelled me to bring about the various changes in my life – sometimes in the form of what I doing, other times in who I’m being?

Clearly I have not remained in the same circumstances nor am I the same person that I was when I was currently in those circumstances. What then do I attribute the awareness to, which brought about the desire to be or do anything differently? A look at then and now pictures which were being used in conjunction with a high school reunion of mine, taking place next year indicates that from a strictly physical standpoint change has occurred, this I can assure you is the least significant of all the change that has taken place.

Spirituality, self-development, transformation, healing these are areas (if indeed there is a need to delineate) that I have a passion for. Certainly there are countless authors and their work that have held captive my interest from the first book of this sort I got hold of. Further to that as is often the case these authors cite quotations from various sources that leads me to read work of theirs or to at least know more of their lives. So unquestionably I have been inspired by a great many different people and those that have inspired them. Still beyond this, what is it that becomes inspired? What is it that cares enough, to go through what is necessary to bring about change, that it first realizes a change is necessary and then generates the required attributes, to continue in pursuit of this change? It exists from within though I’m not clear I can take credit for it – choices I’ve made that didn’t necessarily serve a higher purpose (or so it seemed at the time) obviously originated with me) still that part that opts for change “recognized” that those present circumstance at a given time no longer were acceptable – but acceptable to who? It was never enough that people in my life at those times thought I should change – in fact those that asserted a change was necessary often found one forthcoming, usually it came in the form of my no longer continuing to have them in my life. So within me there was something making choices that seemingly brought about results that were undesirable and yet the recognition of this, which brought about the growth and development necessary to transcend this challenge also came from within – so do they originate from the same source? Are they separate entities? Am I being guided by the seemingly “negative” current circumstance as a result of being uncomfortable or by some part of myself that sees more as being possible – prompting the development of those attributes that would make what is possible – manifest.

So from within comes the need to create certain realities in my life some of which might be considered undesirable or unsuccessful by some estimations. Yet also from within comes the idea (in the form of a desire) for something else. Are these opposing influences or are the seemingly disagreeable circumstances brought about for the purpose of digging deeper in order to show up as one that possesses greater depth and capacity than previously believed, or that would be necessary to remain unchanged. Who demonstrates in my life that something else is possible for my life? Sure seeing different things playing out in the lives of others can bring me hope but no lasting impact comes until I have experience I can call my own.

Therefore as I ponder who has been a teacher/mentor in my life that has been responsible for bringing about life altering changes – I would answer with the statement “the idea that “I am the one I have been waiting for all my life” takes on whole new meaning. “

Frying Pan to Fire or Phoenix from the Ashes?

The time frame was the mid-eighties. I had been working in nursing for half-a-dozen or so years when my department manager had called me into her office to discuss my pattern absenteeism. She had noticed or someone else had noticed and pointed out to her (I remember thinking to myself “don’t people have anything better to do with their lives than stick their noses in other peoples business?”) that my sick days were never in the middle of my block of scheduled shifts they always followed my regularly scheduled days off. I was working twelve-hour shifts at the time so routinely had four or five days off. I was quite heavily into the party scene in those days so much so that I wasn’t always feeling prepared to come back to work however I wasn’t about to indicate that anything of this sort was going on – after all I was a health care professional I would know better than anyone if there were an issue with my health so I covered my tracks with an intricately woven series of lies which she seemed satisfied with at the time although she did indicate that although nothing at this time would go on my record the situation would be monitored.

Unbeknownst (at least so I thought anyway) to anyone I worked with I essentially lived a (at least) double life I was out drinking and carrying on during my days off – often with members of my softball team all in the name of team spirit and camaraderie and then I would return to work often much the worse for wear (hard to say who was sicker at times the patients or me) as indicated earlier I would often realize the night before I was due to come back that I was not going to be in any shape to work the next day (in some cases was still on a bender) so I would call in sick (sometimes from the bar or house party I was attending). I had minimal difficulty utilizing my sick time in this fashion as though I was not sick in the sense that we were afforded sick time however there is no question I was often legitimately physically ill – I was not at that time prepared to reckon with there being a problem (even though I it had occurred to me at times – I was always able to shrug it off the next day or so) and so the cycle went.

This pattern went on for quite sometime and even the intermittent conflict over my drinking with the woman I was dating/friends with at the time made me stop and think briefly about the situation, I would soon thereafter right it off as being her problem. Certainly no problem existed with me.

I suppose it would be useful to add at this point that I had by this time numerous encounters with police and a variety of other issues that all had in common my drinking still when considered individually I was able to minimize their significance and I suppose at that point I never cared to dwell on them collectively.

That was about to change the catalyst being the women I was seeing and her announcing to me that she was pregnant. I still recall that even though I at that time had no personal experience with being in touch with my feelings – hell most of my feelings were sought through sources external to myself – something sure sunk – I believe I knew I was not at a place in my life where I would have been a good parent. Knowing this however didn’t prevent what would surprise even me when the words came out of my mouth – “don’t worry I will be there for you – I will stand by you “. I believe I meant this quite sincerely at one level but God help the child (and this women had we embarked upon that path).

After a few days passed though we hadn’t seen much of each other I got a call – could we meet there was something we needed to talk about. We got together and she informed me that she was planning on going back to school to finish her nursing and that there was no way a child figured into that plan – she had decided to have an abortion. You might have thought I would feel some sadness around this however I really just felt relief – I was convinced that I had offered to “do the right thing” and now the matter was out of my hands. I of course said I would be there to support her through this decision.

Well the procedure was booked and it got down to the evening before she was scheduled and I was supposed to spend the evening with her for moral support. Earlier that afternoon I decided to go to the local legion and play some pool have a couple of drinks and then call her and head over for our visit. I had ever intention of being there – but once again one drink led to another and before I knew my promises were not so much entirely forgotten as they simply became less of a priority until they were ultimately broken altogether. Eleven o’clock that night I called her and now hanging on to a great deal more delusion than what was left of my promise. Of course she was both devastated and furious – I was told where to go, how to get there.

I was absolutely deflated and bewildered – not that she reacted this way I understood that – it was more to do with how did this happen – I really did care about this women and yet here I was, having completely abandoned her when she needed me most and for what? All the questioning of whether there had been a problem – all the incidents involving alcohol and drugs all of the whole sorted world of altered consciousness combined to give me a glaring moment clarity – “I WAS AN ALCOHOLIC/DRUG ADDICT”. The realization struck both relief and terror simultaneously within. I consoled myself with the notion albeit one of significant naiveté – that this meant, I could get help I had no idea what the journey I was about to embark on would entail.

I booked a meeting with the same department manager that I had met with only a few months prior – during this meeting I revealed to her that the reason for my absenteeism, which we had discussed earlier was that I had a drinking problem (I divulged to her neither my drug use nor the incident that led to my coming to her with this admission). She arranged for me to begin counseling through Employee Assistance Program through which I gained access to drug and alcohol treatment on an outpatient basis.

As I look back I realize that the relief though it would return was replaced by the fear and realization of just how pervasive drinking had become in my life – many social situations that were made possible with just the right amount of chemical lubricant (of course what the right amount was continually eluded me) presented significant challenge now newly sober. Things such as dancing and not to mention intimacy (of all forms) what in God’s name was that? Who knew people actually do these things sober? When I sought help I was 28 years old (going on who knows - I start playing around with alcohol at 13 so perhaps emotionally I was closer to that age). I was pretty sure at times that this whole idea of abstinence was far more than I was capable of. Stress management was an unknown entity to me – previously I was not conscious of my stress, it was rendered nonexistent or at least replaced temporarily by the alluring arms of oblivion – that soon changed though.

I had thought the worst was behind me after a few months of treatment I was back at work in good stead – my friend and I had resolved the conflict between us and she was both forgiving and supportive that I had entered treatment. I had been sober for 3 or 4 months when the addictions doctor recommended that I go on Antabuse (a medication that was designed to bolster ones resolve to stay sober) – it was essentially benign unless you took a drink and then having the medication in your system in combination with alcohol would result in one becoming violently ill – this was supposed to make you think twice about picking up a drink. I reluctantly agreed to go on the medication.

I wouldn’t learn until afterwards that a small percentage of people have psychotic reactions to this medication – would have been useful information to be informed of before hand but then that’s not how pharmaceutical products are marketed.

For (actually I’m not sure to this day) a number of days I slipped in and I guess out of various altered states – including being while at work. I look at it now with humour but at the time it was very frightening – now I wasn’t missing days – I was showing up on days I wasn’t scheduled to be there – dressed in shorts and a tank top (instead of a nursing uniform). I was doing, being and saying all a variety of things, inappropriate to the time and place (or so I was told when this was all over). From my perspective I was awake (as in not sleeping – in fact I don’t think I did sleep for whatever period of time this was) though I could be clear what was real and what was a dream?
I was terrified that I was losing my mind – ironic given the vast quantities and varieties of ways I had previously in my life sought to escape reality – but now I had chosen reality – but couldn’t seem to join that which was the shared reality of those around me.

Somehow my behaviour was brought to the attention of my parents who in turn contacted the addictions doctor – she told them to keep me with them and discontinue the medication. Within a day or so the episodes subsided.

Having satisfied all concerned that I wasn’t intentionally using drugs or at least my intention for using the drugs I was wasn’t for the purpose of getting high – I was to resume work. Easy enough for all the rest of them to determine – I was now faced with returning to my former place of employment where I had been witnessed exhibiting at the least behaviour that was not typical of me. How was I to deal with the invariable barrage of questions? I couldn’t say if the gossip in this environment is any worse than any other work place but it is second to none. The way I saw it I could have them believing I was either stoned, or had some sort of departure from my mental faculties or explain that though the former was true, it was only temporarily brought on by a medication given to me to treat my alcoholism and drug addiction.

I felt humiliated and ashamed I never had intention to disclose my “going into treatment” it may be fine for the Hollywood crowd but my preference for the most part was to fly under the radar. Anxiety mounted – how could I face these people? Could I face these people? What would they think of me?

Then anger came up from within me that ignited within me an attitude of “bugger them – if and when I leave that place it will be when I decide and not a moment before”. Even though this was uncharacteristic of how I saw myself to be, I could see that it would serve me in this case. This was the awaking of my spirit – and I constructive use of my anger it wasn’t turned in on me – it wasn’t used to lash out at someone else it became that which pushed me through what seemed a unsurpassable roadblock in my path.

There have been many “jumping off” points both in my early sobriety and since where I have been chased to the precipice by my former ways of being – though turning back has never been chosen it is always considered – but would I be able to determine how far back? As I consider this the fear mounts – no I can’t take that chance I can’t possibly go back there – but what of moving forward – couldn’t I be given a hint of what is in store? Apparently not – that is why it is known as a leap of faith? Which at times for me would probably more accurately be a “leap of I don’t think I like the alternative.” In A.A. I was introduced to the idea of a “Power greater than myself”- admittedly I turned to this power only in times of desperation but it was a beginning.

So despite my fears I decided to return to my place of employment, I decided the lesser of the two evils was to come clean and tell them the truth. I received a great deal of support and well-wishes which I might add came from many that in my mind would have been the least likely to step up in this way. In hindsight I guess this might have been the beginning of the development of not taking myself too seriously.

I have been sober now for 22 ½ years and as they say “I wouldn’t trade my worst day sober for my best day drunk.”

This began a spiritual odyssey that continues to this very day, at which point, I am again at a place where I am in the process of reinventing myself, which continues to offer new insights, the discovery and development of various gifts and which as close as I can determine may well become known as my finest hour. The relationship with the God of my understanding continues to grow and evolve providing for me both a source of strength and inspiration.

Slayer (Who me?)

Its presence has been palpable for nearly as long as I have had consciousness of myself. Though at first vague and undefined nonetheless the safe direction at most of life’s crossroads had been chosen to avoid an undesirable encounter. The years rolled by and though there had never been a sighting – avoiding this unseen menace was beginning to have a noticeable effect on the shape of my life.

No longer satisfied with the status quo – I began to search, though I had no idea what I was looking for or what I would find. The search began by examining some of the past events of my life – the events themselves didn’t offer a clue but a pattern began to form that outlined its presence. It became clearer that its influence had been in affect for quite some time.
As the pursuit continued the external circumstances of my life reflected it’s continued presence – though as yet unidentified, I was getting closer, and the acrid stench of it’s breath was now in the air.

The search continued aided by the written wisdom of masters of the ages and by the continued aid of spirit guides whom when asked, were willing to illuminate the path and bolster my courage to continue the inquiry.
Before long the trail became warm – footprints became visible, as did mile upon mile of mounds of my partially digested dreams. For years I had fed them to the beast allowing it to grow stronger its force invisible yet its effect was consistently devastating. Small battles had been waged and won along the path albeit those engaged were merely minions of the foe that lay in wait, nevertheless each in it’s own way tempered the sword and honed the hand that would wield it.

My quarry preferred a weakened opponent, illusions presented along the path designed to distract and dispirit, all were rendered hollow and cast aside when subject to the truth.

A confrontation was now imminent and unavoidable for there was no turning back, to do so would be grasp at the threads of ignorance that remained of the cloak of my denial.

I rounded the next corner and stopped immediately in my tracks for there piercing through the darkness were its phosphorescent green eyes, the glow of the fire burning deep within the beast cast a light upon its fangs from which hung thick cords of bile.

This was it I was face to face with my lifetime nemesis. I summoned the help of all those that had led me to this moment – despite the sincerity of my plea and the gravity of the situation I looked around only to realize I was very much alone.

Even if I had wanted to turn back it was now to late, the eyes of the great beast were focused upon me and it turned to face me – it long serpentine tail swinging menacingly – the fire from within now visible through it’s nostrils.

It threw back its head let forth an ear-shattering roar and the ground shook as its thundering footfalls carried it rapidly in my direction. I uttered one last plea to my God – “why have you left me alone when I need you the most?” As I prepared for what I was sure was my end – a voice from deep within said, “all is well – you are not alone nor have you ever been – though there is no one but you that can defeat this beast as it of your creation.”

Not feeling particularly reassured I stood my ground braced myself, raised the sword high over my head, closed my eyes and swung with ever ounce of strength I could muster harnessing the power of every muscle fiber from head to toe just as the beast’s assault was about to bring it upon me.
The sound of the blade striking the stone path rang out and echoed throughout the caverns. The force of the swing had thrown me off balance and landed me on the ground inches from where I stood. I opened my eyes expecting in the next second to be devoured but as I looked around I realized there was nothing there but me.

I sat dazed as I considered what had occurred – for a lifetime this nebulous form had dogged my every step. I tracked it – found it and saw it to be that which surely would be my end and yet once confronted I found it never to have existed.

As I pondered my newly found skills that included creator, defender, truth-seeker, and freedom fighter the mind reeled at what was possible.

Now That I’m Here – Where Am I?

How barren the life that is compelled by and uses as it’s catalyst the appeasing of deep-seated fears and the quenching of the appetites of others to map it’s course; or alternatively the most base desires within ones self become the motivating force. Cast adrift upon an ocean of sorrow this traveler while on his journey is propelled onward without the benefit of guide, aboard a rudderless ship, course changes most often made possible only as his vessel is assaulted by the waves of some great storm or after careening off some unseen reef, leaving him battered and forlorn – he then swings about 180 degrees knowing that to stop and assess the damage might result in taking on too much water resulting in the ship being lost entirely, disappearing completely into the abyss. Within the hold of the ship there is a colossal volume of cargo none of which existed on board when the vessel embarked upon the voyage; all had been accumulated on route and very little, if any was required for the journey to continue. It was not until the traveler realized that he could no longer outrun the rate at which his vessel was taking on water that he reconciled in desperation the need to examine it’s inner structures to see for himself what existed in the form of solid timbers with which to rebuild.
It wasn’t until the ship had been raised from the water and laid to rest within the confines of the dry dock that the traveler had time and inclination to examine the ship’s log (within which had been dutifully and accurately recorded each day of the journey thus far) so relentless in his pursuit of the next port of call was the traveler, that he had not for considerable time reviewed the contents. As he poured over the pages he was soon struck by the vast territory he had covered – never before now had he appreciated where he had been nor spent any appreciable time considering the impact of the paths he had crossed, the lives that he had touched (or been touched by) or how any of it might have influenced the continued journey. He was deeply and profoundly saddened when simultaneously the log and the examination of the vessel revealed that largely the journey had been primarily about a search for a guidance system (to better inform the journey) while at the same time and unbeknownst to the traveler he had been running from that system which existed all along within the very vessel he used to facilitate his escape.
So many questions now occur to the traveler with relation to the use of this newly discovered guidance system – not the least of which include: can it be trusted? As he examines it further he realizes that somehow so much of the undercurrent of sadness, remorse, grief that he had varying degrees of awareness about throughout his life (but had done his utmost to avoid or at best had taken on a posture of resignation) was directly connected to the ignoring of (no, more like complete abandonment of this guidance system). What is this system and how is it possible that it remained effectively hidden from the traveler for so many years – it was in fact his own heart, that, which would allow him access to all the infinite love the universe has to offer – but so intent was he to find this love (though he didn’t know at the time that was what he was so desperately in search of) that literally the last place he looked was within his own vessel.

Much was revealed when the traveler began now to examine the “log” which was contained within his heart. Much of this consisted of the pain that existed that though his heart was ever at the ready to provide direction that would be of great benefit to the traveler on his journey. Instead he chose to ignore it all together which both created a cycle of insatiable yearning and inflicted further wounds to his heart – which of course created the continuance of a search for the existence of some balm “out there “ that would salve these wounds. Amongst the greatest of sadness’s was the realization that seldom (if ever) did the traveler ever enjoy the true heartfelt connection with another human being – this was the case with the members of his family growing up – it was prevalent through any of the “friendships” he had known (though they were more likely to have been deemed acquaintances as he would frequently move on) it existed largely in the relationships he had with various women on his journey. He observed the way in which women interacted with each other and it seemed to him that the ability to share love within their circles was so natural and done with such ease. He longed for this connection – as he examined his heart further he realized it was not just with women that he wished for this connection it was with men. Why was it that the dictates of his society seemed to shape the beliefs and behaviours of men (and even the women’s attitude towards men) this deep emotional connection was reserved only for women. He realized he did not even know the men in his own family in this way and this deeply saddened him. Men were taught to behave as though none of this was important to them but – how then could this be – he was in fact a man even still it became clear to him that his heart perhaps his very soul was yearning to know and be known to experience love within himself and to be able to share this love and connection with both men and women.
The traveler knew full well that which had been revealed to him would see to it that he would never again ply the same waters – once the voyage resumed he knew that the guidance was to come from a entirely different source – he also felt a certain sense of foreboding as he realized he may well not be sailing along the familiar trade routes but may well be embarking upon a voyage through largely uncharted waters thereby he may at times find it challenging to find a crew that would not either mutiny or abandon the ship altogether – still he knew that there was no returning to the way things had been.

Spinning Wheels

What goes up must come down
Spinning wheel got to go round
Talking about your troubles it's a crying sin
Ride a painted pony
Let the spinning wheel spin

Blood Sweat & Tears (1969)

I decided once again I’ve got something to say (it happens every so often between waves of overwhelm, apathy & inadequacy)

The wheels started turning when I heard one of the “Westshore” mayors (on a local radio station) suggesting that Greater Victoria’s representation of commuter congestion known as the “Colwood Crawl” no longer carry the moniker of his municipality (oops there’s goes the anonymity) and from this point forward be known simply as “the Crawl”. Now I suppose to be fair – the good people of Colwood are not entirely responsible for the snails pace at which traffic flows during the morning and evening commutes. Coincidentally the radio station that carried this story quips “that anyone that says the enjoyment lies in the journey hasn’t driven the Malahat on a Friday afternoon”. I began to connect the dots and reasoned, of course a radio station that dismisses a regional environmental and traffic issue so lightly would give air time to a politician that wishes to distance his municipality from the growing problem that is being created by his municipality along with his colleagues in the neighboring municipalities and their collective hyper-pro development policies and insatiable appetite for increasing tax base. So as I listen between the lines I hear – the acknowledgement that the congestion is a recognizable problem – but rather than offer any hope of relief or initiate a conversation on solutions or responsibility and rethinking an elected official opts to suggest renaming it.

Wasn’t there a joke about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?
The second element that became the catalyst for an end to my silence was brought about by a move to simplify my life I started going through a cd collection with the idea of reducing the clutter in my living space (and generate a little additional cash for a trip I’m taking). Just so you know – though I have a car I walked into town carrying two bags full (approximately 100 cd’s) into town both to reduce the use of my car and to get a more immediate sense of what a burden to me personally this “stuff” really is. I stopped for a noon hour meditation at a local Buddhist meditation centre (yes with the vestiges of over consumption that represents an ongoing quest to rid my life of addiction. (I will be the first to admit my wake-up is slow and of the incremental variety-but – I was told progress not perfection – so don’t I get some points for reducing my attachment?)

Anyway between two retail outlets that deal in used cd’s I only manage to get rid of about half of them (for a very small fraction of what they cost originally – which I expected but I didn’t bargain on them not wanting all or most of this stuff) – so I end up giving it away to a Thrift shop.

So now to go full circle and integrate the Blood, Sweat and Tears lyric (come to think of it the name of the band is relevant to my point too) – I have been riding that “painted pony” for so long now the paint has completely faded and my butt has become the saddlebags. Around and around – get in the car – go to work – collect the cheque – buy more crap – which goes on to consume me: my time, my space, my energy, my soul (yes I’m aware I mentioned attending a Buddhist meditation session and now I reference a soul – what can I say I’m a potpourri of contradictions) then to cap it all off – the stuff is arbitrarily declared obsolete which begs the question – why did I bother getting this stuff in the first place? Not to mention all the other ethical questions – packaging, shipping, minimum wages, resource exploitation, (okay enough I hope to sleep tonight).

I must find my way off this “spinning wheel” of consumption/redundancy. Does my admission of consumerism make me a hypocrite – maybe but better to wake up late than not at all?

Apparently I’m not entirely recovered – I found an awesome little hand drum in the Thrift store – which may come in handy as I adopt the sentiments of another song “I Don’t Want to Work – Just Want To Bang on the Drum All Day!”

Seaside Theatre

As the light recognized it's now tenuous hold upon the day I perched myself upon the rocks which themselves disappeared into and were nearly entirely surrounded by the sea. I took time to exchange my energy from the day at work, which had only moments ago completed and allowed the peace and tranquility to be absorbed as I listened to the steady rhythm of the tide kissing the shoreline below.

I waited in anticipation for what figured to be a dazzling display made possible by an unseasonably clear October evening, which provided the ideal canvas for the artistry of the setting sun. It was to be a command performance; I had "soul" possession of this front row seat.

The moon hovered at stage left preparing to take the lead role as celestial master of ceremonies once the sun had relinquished centre stage. The air was still, yet brisk; the view across the straight was unencumbered, allowing every detail of the snow-capped peaks to be visible. The show began without fanfare, the curtain opening to reveal a formation of feathered aviators, unconcerned by the approaching darkness, winging their way to points unknown.

The sun no longer visible, having now quietly slid behind the horizon cued the performance to begin. The amphitheatre came alive with visual splendor. Wispy clouds previously undetectable came a glow, the brilliance of the various shades, which embraced the heavens, commanded attention as the mountains in the foreground were reduced to silhouette.

Not about to be outdone, the moon, a day or two from it's full spherical form cast it's light upon the waters surface which unfolded before me a luminescent path which extended an invitation to journey from current reality to dreams yet unrealized.

Cutting through the darkness the lights cast from the homes of distant inhabitants sparkled like stardust cast from the surrounding heavens, sprinkled knowingly to illuminate the distant horizon so not to be entirely lost to the indigo presence of dusk.

The air temperature, which only moments ago enveloped with warm loving arms, soon presented as the chill of a lover spurned. The trembling of my body as it attempted to fend off the penetrating cold only added to the sensual feast that by now I was devouring with sheer delight.

The sun though long since invisible insured it would not soon be forgotten as it hurled skyward a seemingly endless variety of the most intense colours which altered moment to moment across the blackened skyline.

The water remained calm and still as though held in rapture by the spectacle unfolding above.

As the last of mother natures infinite palette drained from the night sky the curtain closed bringing with it the darkness of night abbreviated only by a blanket of stars shining brightly reminding me of the infinite scope of the universe and humbling me as I considered my place within it.

As I bid goodnight to both stage & performers and made my way back across the beach my thoughts turned to enjoying a hot chocolate while I pondered had I just been spectator, participant or co-creator?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Less is More

If I lived my life in a more connected way - by which I mean more in harmony with the planet that sustains me, more in adherence to the laws of nature, my "life-style" might look entirely different than it's current configuration. I might well be far more self-sustaining - living with far more autonomy - less dependence on external sources and therefore less impacted by the fancy and folly of entities, that at the end of the day have very little concern for my well-being. So for example, as autumn now approaches I might be more concerned with the change of season soon to be upon us - perhaps the harvesting and preserving of a summer crop, the gathering of seeds to ensure the future viability of an ongoing food supply and perhaps beginning to prepare for the planting of a winter crop. Each season has it's considerations - each represents a cyclical period when particular opportunities abound and a specific way of interacting with the earth at these times is called for.

As I consider this rudimentary knowing of a living-breathing world that is inviting all it's inhabitants to come into a harmonic relationship - I ponder my remedial expanding consciousness around an interdependent relationship and my observation of life, within the urban environment within which I reside, and by which I've been influenced and how to reconcile the incongruence of the way I live relative to this heightened awareness.

I find myself in some sort of existential limbo as the reality that seemingly is losing it's hold on me, though still represents an air of familiarity; one that is more inclined to see the seasons as a means to delineate themes for retail sales has lost it's allure, but it is not immediately clear to me how to go about creating a new reality or what it would look like.

A recent 2 1/2 month "walk-about" in Europe during which time I lived out of a backpack and small tote bag has further led me to believe that one can get by (in fact thrive) on considerably less than the volume of stuff that fills my one bedroom condo. As it was I was ridding myself of some of what I had packed to lighten my pack, I began to realize I'm not wearing this or reading it, why then am I carrying it? When I arrived home I was immediately struck by how much there was in my living space (and this is keeping in mind it is only a 748 sq.ft. space and I have been "consciously" working at simplifying). I had none of this along with me while away and was perfectly fine without it - didn't miss it, clearly can live without it and yet notice varying degrees of angst considering further things to get rid of. Where went that sense of freedom that I had as I traveled unencumbered by my stuff. Was I ever really free of it or was this more a kin to a prison "work-release" program, a temporary furlough to experience, reintegrate, with life outside the walls. How quickly my stuff reminds me of it's ability to become the chains of incarceration.

It would seem I'm not alone in this - apparently we are being compensated for the late arrival of summer weather by it being extended as autumn approaches - this serves both those weekend bargain hunters known as "garage salers" and those that have such surplus within their walls that are required to host garage sales. I happened upon one such sale when walking home the other day - I was drawn in from the sidewalk by what I thought was a Celtic design belt buckle which was gleaming in the sun (God knows I need one of those - maybe I was a crow in another life - something shiny always attracts my eye). Anyway it wasn't Celtic at all and when I picked it up I soon discovered it had been significantly heated sitting out in the sun - perhaps this was the universe helping me uphold my resolve - I certainly dropped it quickly.

Once in amidst the eclectic inventory I was struck by the largest number of knives I have ever seen outside a specialty store, in fact I asked did the proprietor run a store that sold knives and these were left over. He informed me that no, that was not the case he was just a "collector" of sorts, knives and record albums (which was evidenced by the tables full of boxes of records which were also now up for sale). Now I have some familiarity with this "collecting" and of course shouldn't go projecting what was going on for me on this fellow - but this business of collecting where I was concerned, was one part obsession another retail therapy - took the shape of books, cd's, guitars and was always the next purchase away from arriving at Nirvana.

The question becomes at what point does a shift occur and instead of me owning the stuff - the stuff owns me? First there is the need to work to earn the money to acquire it, then there's storing it, maintaining it, insuring it. On top of this is a world economic system that is dependent on whatever we have now, simple is not and never will be enough - the system is buoyed up by endless consumption. I don't know about anyone else but I believe I have very nearly reached the point of ENOUGH! I can't with any authority speak to whether this production/consumption is sustainable or not - but I can say I'm not inspired to sustain my participation in it. I walked past a store (same day as the garage sale) there were big signs in the window "up to 40% off" I thought I can save 100% by not going in there!

I wonder if lifestyle might be better determined by what I can do without instead of what I think I need.
I'm quite sure my answers will not be found at the mall - I mean I could go to the bookstore and read a book about trees or the seaside or I could just go to either and let them tell me their story.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Could The United Nations Work Like This?

Nearly two weeks have elapsed since my return home from a two and one half month spiritual odyssey through five different European countries (seven if you count briefly touching on an additional two countries which served as stop-over - or re-directional hubs in order to carry through to another country). So much went on throughout that period of time - I seem now to be back in my present reality long enough now to become more physically rested, but also to begin to unravel what the significance was of some of these experiences and in some cases even just revisit and be with that which went on.

I sat with my guitar upon "Beacon Hill" an idyllic vantage point on the Victoria water front looking across toward the Olympic mountains from the perimeter of the park that bares the same name. One observation I make is that Victoria's park though perhaps smaller than some I encountered on my journey holds it own, in terms of beauty and surpasses with respect to upkeep and ascetic presentation.

After playing a few familiar tunes - I began to seek out the creative field - feeling inspired to try and honour my Celtic ancestry with an original piece of music that at least had an air of authenticity to it's sound. It would likely now be a good time to mention - that my "direct" association with Celtic culture in some ways, only began at the beginning of my trip to Europe. I had gone to Ireland to take part in a circle that was in part a continuance of energetic/healing/spiritual work I had been participating in. The other piece was that I had been adopted as a baby and had began to focus on the fact that though I had no knowledge of the identity of my natural father, he was of Irish ancestry (which of course meant so am I). So without really knowing what the experience of being on Irish soil would provide, I hoped that it might give me some vague sense of part, of my heritage. In all honesty I had no idea what to expect - some upon learning that I was going and the ancestral focus - acknowledged that yes it is important to have the foundational sense of origin and self - no one prepared me for the variety of experiences I would encounter during my time in Ireland. While I can never lay claim to the life experience of being steeped in Irish culture - having a world view shaped by the impact of day to day life in Ireland which in turn has been affected by the various historical influences on the peoples of the country. Still having now been there I can say - that I was deeply moved by and connected to the whole experience of being there. Having said that though I have ideas around what makes that possible - I don't suppose many of them would stand the test of "scientific" scrutiny.

I sat and ponder all of this as I continued to search for a melody that might somehow convey any of it. As I recalled the time spent in Ireland - what I saw, the people I connected with - what I felt - I was overcome with emotion - I could feel my heart opening reaching out to reestablish the connection. Well it goes beyond requiring any evidence needed to satisfy some external inquiry - I'm living it - I don't need anything else to verify my experience. I grant you it is difficult for even me though having the experience - reconciling that - I was born in Canada, lived my whole life here, circumstances aligned and created an opportunity to go to Ireland - and somehow - in a matter of the two weeks I spent there - a heart felt connection has occurred. My inherent skepticism though softening over the years - to a position more like - okay, I can maybe see something like this being possible (for someone else) - but not me. Now to maintain that perspective I would need to deny my own experience.

But it goes beyond the trip to Ireland - I went on to travel through Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and Italy. I have heart felt memories, connections with people, experiences in each of those countries all of which combine to be life changing (well at the very least perspective changing). I wonder can I now state accurately that the music I'm trying to create is inspired by Ireland - meanwhile I'm having this heart-warming experience of all my travels - all these countries - the people, the impact it has all had on me as a person - would I not have to say the song, is influenced by the whole thing? It is coming through my heart which at the same time is filled with the joy, love and connection that was brought about while traveling. This within the numerous ways these various cultures differ from mine - and I use the word "mine" in the loosest possible terms (i.e. there were items on certain menus that I might - without giving thought to cultural diversity - just say is wrong - but really, only just for me and that is really only because my belief system has been shaped culturally to hold a different view - I don't even have a personal experience to uphold this particular belief - never ate said menu item - yet a knee-jerk response of sorts would have me initially "believe" it shouldn't actually be on a menu in the first place). I am so grateful to have had the grace and good fortune to have had these open-hearted connection opportunities with so many different people. It showed me without any doubt that the superficial differences between cultures - though often weighted as being very important - can be allowed to fall away in the space between two people - that when honoured and respected by each for the other - that clears the way to connect through the heart where there are no differences. If it can work one on one (and my experiences convinces me that it can ) and it can work in larger circles of people (when that is the intention set within the circle) then it can work internationally, politically, but it would take each to demonstrate a willingness to place the beliefs, needs and feelings of the other on a equal footing with their own (it is not necessary to adopt the beliefs/practices of the other - the aim is to understand the view of the other (without judgment) find the common humanity and then seek a mutually agreeable solution that honours both parties. There cannot be open-hearted connection if both are so intent on upholding their viewpoint or making the other wrong - this will only result in creating a atmosphere of defensiveness. 

I don't think it would be an accurate portrayal of the "western world" to say everything is that is being done is wrong - any more than everything that is being done is right. I do question what appears to be the inclination of the so called "first world" nations to presume to know what is in the best interest of other nations or cultures - it's just not true. Why is it around corporate board rooms - political "roundtable committees" etc. the idea can be embraced that the strength in these team approaches is derived from  the collective energies through harnessing the diversity of gifts brought to the table. This idea of collaboration would carry over beyond regional, religious, political, cultural divides if, it could be agreed that the desired outcome would result in win - win. It would pre-suppose that all bring something of value to the table - would acknowledge and honour the diversity present and see it as an aspect of what is available toward the creative process not  a justification for divisiveness.
 Unity between groups large or small across political, religious, geographical spectrums can take place in an area which is defined by the size of the hearts of the individuals concerned.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Can You Fail at What You Love?

I'm reminded of an old book title "Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow" - even in that book I seem to recall there were examples of people that underwent hardship pursuing their passion. Some, were not able to sustain themselves financially - others found it necessary to let go of a good many other things in their life, to make space and direct more of their energies, still others worked at some other concern to provide their base income (or to bridge the gap) and pursued their passion in the form of a hobby. Of course the book cited specific individual examples - it is not possible to capture all the variations of experience, paths or outcomes of those that have followed their heart. It must be realized that the writing of that book was much like a "snap shot" in time - any number of different scenarios might have spun off from any of the circumstances outlined in its stories.

So I think it worth mentioning that one could gain insight from the stories of others, both of inspiration and heightened awareness around some of the challenges they faced on their journey - that has been called,  (again I refer to a book title) "The Road Less Traveled". I really must read that someday - if for no other reason than I have on innumerable occasions been told I'm traveling it. Which brings up a question in my mind - will I learn more from reading a book that I presume was researched by someone that made such a journey or would there be more value in embarking on my own journey thereby gaining firsthand experience and perhaps a story to tell. Though perhaps entertaining as well as illuminating someone else's experience can only go so far. If what you are looking for is to duplicate their result, then there could be value in mimicking the methodology they used, certainly there can be found worthy guides, teachers, mentors with expertise in most any given area - still you can experience their pursuit but at some point, you might want to pursue your own experience.

Really a written account of another's experience is in many ways like a map left behind after they completed a particular journey (and if you read my previous post you know a little about my relationship with maps). So in general terms the "map" gives you an outline of how to reach a certain destination from a known starting point. It may also depict certain "landmarks" you could expect to encounter along the way (should you in fact follow the route outlined - otherwise you are apt to see something different). Which raises the question what do you want to see? How many times while engaged in a conversation about a planned trip have you heard ................. well if you're going to.................. you have just got to see.........................! Or, you went all the way to.....................  and you didn't see..................? So here's the thing, what if I don't want to see.................? What if I do get around to seeing it and I conclude "well okay I've seen it - not really all it was cracked up to be!!" Does that invalidate the experience/opinion of the other person - well no, and in fact that would not necessarily be my intention - but just the same, my experience is every bit as important - especially to me! So what if while following "the map" I'll go way out on a limb and suppose I get lost, but in doing so I come across this beautiful "lake" and go on to have some variety of personally fulfilling experience. Now - said lake was not on the authors outline - might not have even showed up on his/her map and even if it did (it was not "the" destination - might have even been relegated to the "if you get to the lake you've gone the wrong way" subtext) - but how can it be said to have been wrong if I have such a life enriching experience?
This begins to point to the paramount importance of the needs, experience, guidance (calling if you will) of each person. The road less traveled was given it's name because it is in the literal sense accurate - it is so, because it is far easier to follow the well worn paths - there are energies and influences including pressures of conformity that discourage many from "their" path. It is easier to justify and rationalize not following one's own heart as it is simple to find many others who would readily support that choice as it assists to uphold theirs.

Consider though this idea (attributed to Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of St. Thomas one of the "Gnostic Gospels"): "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." If taken at face value this idea is rather compelling - though I'd hazard a guess it is not necessarily the catalyst behind many a life plan. Why is there so often a divide between what people love to do and what they spend so much of their time doing? Of course there are the realities and expense of living in this modern world - but many of those are created by expectations or beliefs that one must have, do and be, according to a corporate sponsored world view which results in scores of people showing up day after day to places they don't like with people they'd rather not be with - working at something they don't believe in - to be paid the money they require to buy the things they don't need.

What then of following the heart's path - I think it worth mentioning that to hold a romantic's view that it will be perpetual bliss & ecstasy would be certainly not my experience - still to ignore this innate yearning would seem to bring on a variety of angst that will be soothed by none other than what it calls for.
So my particular stand on the question posed in the title would be you can fail to pursue that which you love that which your heart calls for - but in the continued pursuit lies the success. It is not determined by whether money, property or prestige is acquired as a result of the pursuit it matters not if there are others doing it and they do it "better."
No I would say the only form that failure can take in this regard is "failure to begin" or allowing outside influences to sway the choice to continue - then one is engaged in a failure to self - which fortunately can be rectified in an instant by choosing again.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Are There Angels Among Us?

Today I wish to delve into another realm or perhaps, the topic directly involves life here on planet earth and it is more a question of appearances & perceptions.  Belief might come into play though it doesn't necessarily change the fact that nothing is necessarily how it appears, a great many things just are - whether they are widely accepted as true or not - though on a person to person basis, experience and opinion will no doubt be shaped to provide evidence which will uphold a particular belief - I submit that many (likely infinite realities) exist independent of anyones knowledge or belief. It is the height of arrogance to suggest something doesn't exist, because it can't be explained or proven using existing assessment criteria that more often than not are already biased in their inception to yield a particular conclusion. At the risk of over-simplifying and with all due respect to the lifetimes of education behind those investigating that which I have no awareness of, nor it's significance in day to day living - I will still submit that if before entering into an investigation you are not prepared to find anything but a predetermined variety of results - then though perhaps not conclusive, I believe the chances are highly likely that the end result will be limited by the preexisting expectation.

The previous can be thought of as setting the stage - the story to follow is a true account of a series of events that occurred recently while I was in a town called Mostar (in Bosnia) it neither claims to prove the existence of nor lays claim to a definitive answer to the question posed in the title. All the events described in the story occurred as described the reader will of course draw their own conclusions (as I'm sure it will be argued is the case with me) the difference perhaps is that I, on an ever increasing basis am becoming less inclined to close the door of conclusion on a great many matters. To do so I've discovered in my life - creates a reality which severely limits "what is possible." What of the need to have some sort of base line beliefs etc. well I guess I can say at this point one need be where they're at but it doesn't seem to be of benefit to remain entirely invested in where that is - because at any moment "new information" can become available and suddenly that deeply entrenched way of seeing evaporates like mist upon the vale when warmed by the sun - then what?

So having been in Mostar for a couple of days and experienced a "guided tour" by my host a gentleman that was born and raised in the town and has lived it's history and also becoming familiar enough with the historic old town near my hostel that I now feel compelled to embark upon a self-conducted tour further afield - off I go equipped with two feet and a heartbeat. Now what you should know about me is that contrary to the popular consensus, that men won't ask for direction - I have no qualms about seeking direction, however something breaks down after I have received them i.e. within a few blocks of setting out it's as though I never received them in the first place. Doesn't mean I don't get where I'm going - in fact I always do - it might not be where I was "directed" - but without question I will arrive exactly where I was headed. Often times I will even get to the place originally intended - it just might involve a few (perhaps in the mind of others) unnecessary but nevertheless frequently delightful "side trips."Maps are marginally useful - they do draw my attention to the existence of certain places, but recent experience exploring the labyrinth which exists within the metropolis of Rome showed me that upon "checking in" with the map occasionally after significant meandering - I would discover I was at times 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where I had set out to find. But you know - there is always something beautiful and well worth seeing there too and eventually I see the other attraction (or not - never did see the Pantheon - but I don't feel in anyway as though my experience overall was diminished as a result).

So as I commence on my tour by crossing the bridge across the Neretva River to begin exploring I wander through various parts of the city and am struck by the presence of buildings of modern design some of which house retail outlets which carry fashion apparel and accessories made popular in various other parts of the western world largely through mass - marketing, coveted by many and commanding the high prices which afford those that worship at these altars the prestige the label affords them in a variation of the emperor wears no clothes kind of way i.e. the true appearance of many of these items is obscured by the presence of said label, rendering blind those that seek them and are willing to enslave themselves to possess them. Across the streets and there are the remains of buildings that at one time were representative of a completely different time in history -  left in various stages of collapse having been nearly completely demolished by shelling and mortar fire during the war. Those walls that remain contain majestic archways defiantly demonstrating the strength and integrity of their design as they managed to survive the relentless assault of a war ravaged city. Many homes are abandoned to this day left by their terrorized owners fleeing for their lives - some never found refuge, others became refugees within their borders - others began again (or at least that is the story line of the romantic, how life continues for each of these displaced souls is indeed their story to tell) in foreign lands that opened their borders in a time of need.

As I wandered further and further from the business district of the city I came up a wooded area and could see partially hidden within the remains of what appeared to have been a enormous structure at some time but again it had undergone partial demolition. I was inextricably drawn to explore this site having seen a great many ancient ruins in various countries on my journey I was soon making my way toward my discovery with a mixture of energies that might be said to include adventurer and naiveté one part Indiana Jones the other part Fool on the Hill. I hike in using a winding access road that quickly reveals that the area has seen frequent visitors for whom their main focus is to numb themselves from their existential pain with alcohol - bottles and broken glass are strewn everywhere. After rounding the corner my previous assessment is confirmed as I encounter a group of half a dozen young males sitting around the remains of a concrete foundation smoking, drinking and though speaking a language  inaccessible to me - the visual suggests that the interaction within the group is not unlike any other group of young men - not hard to imagine them engaged in banter over who's football team is the dominant force in the universe or just generally taking turns elevating themselves at the expense of one of the others in the group. I attempt to glean from any of them what the significance of the ruins are I'm approaching - the consensus among them seems to be that no one knows or perhaps no one cares to provide me with the information at any rate I pass largely ignored and unscathed with the exception I'm sure, that someone in the crowd would elevate himself with glorious pseudo-esteem by perhaps making disparaging remarks about my mother or comparing my face to the fertilizing end of some barn animal.

The serpentine road rose higher and higher into the skeletal remains of what once must have been the crowning glory of some architects career (not to mention the artisans that laboured toward its completion) even though much of it had been laid to waste - the remaining portions dirty and adorned with graffiti various sections overgrown as nature began to reclaim the area still speak of it's majesty.  I found lying in the tall grass various what looked like flat paving stones lying around. Closer inspection revealed that they were engraved with names and dates - I began to get a sense that an air of reverence was required though being completely unfamiliar with local tradition or the true significance of my present location - I soon wondered if just being there placed me in violation.

I wandered further into the ruins, upon turning I was taken aback by the realization that though I was unaware of his approach, I now had company and he wasted no time in getting up close and personal. My companion appeared to me to be of local ethnic origin his overall appearance was somewhat disheveled - absent were any of the designer clothes I mentioned earlier in favour of more modest apparel. Overall he appeared to be not so much a man of leisure - I suppose one could say driven hard and put away wet. As I mentioned he was apparently not schooled in the principals of personal space, encroaching upon anything that might be considered neutral territory and as he appeared to be rather agitated as I attempted to digest his verbal assault, I couldn't help but notice a significant number of teeth missing. I would guess his tirade was being delivered in Bosnian (and even if I could get a word in edgewise my "hello" "goodbye" and "thank you" would seem to be woefully inadequate under the circumstances). I asked if he spoke english - he continued his admonishment - punctuated on occasion by gestures of slapping himself on the forehead. I think it valuable to mention I have no judgment of those living on the streets and no fear in their company - but the language barrier and what seemed significant anger did make me wonder where this was going. It carried on long enough that I reasoned if he were going to assault me or rob me he would have done it by now - so I carry on speaking to him in english he carries on speaking to me in Bosnian the whole thing has an air of the surreal to me. At any rate after sometime he leads me by the arm out the roadway opposite to the way I came in - all the while still laying into me. I am relieved to be moving though acutely aware that my friend isn't offering to carry on from whence he came and leave me on my merry way. The road winds around and through the woods down a hill and eventually we have left the area completely and now we're walking through a residential area. A few blocks later we enter a large courtyard of one of the big churches - my escort brings me to a fountain that has on one side a pipe with running water he "suggests" I get a drink - at this point I am becoming more adept at body language - he is somewhat less agitated though he still occasionally looks at me and slaps his forehead and I begin to wonder about the soundness of his mind. Next he leads me to a bench under a trellis which is overgrown with grapevines - he invites me to sit and then joins me on the bench. He then wipes his forehead - points at the sun and with a sweeping gesture of his hand points out that we are now in the shade. My Bosnian language skills are not improving but nonetheless we are beginning to communicate. Oh to be a fly on the wall - he "insists" on speaking Bosnian - I of course respond in english - neither of us understands a word the other is saying yet we are beginning to make some headway. He offers me a cigarette I politely (at least I hope I'm received as such) decline - he shrugs and lights one for himself he sits back about as relaxed as I seen him since we met and though I occasionally wonder what would happen if I were just to get up and leave, somehow  I wasn't inclined to even try, I was somehow really engaged in what was unfolding here (though not entirely sure what that was). Next he digs in his pocket and pulls out a laminated card which was some sort of Bosnian national id - points at the picture and name and them himself and gave the Bosnian Nationality a little extra emphasis by repeatedly pointing at it with his index finger. I pull out my drivers license introduce myself and indicate I'm Canadian - can't say that he seemed particularly moved with that info but he seemed satisfied I was someone from somewhere. He then held the ring finger of his left hand with his right - which I interpreted to be a question as to whether I was married I indicated that I was not and returned the question - to which the response was a corresponding no. So there we sat beneath the grapevines sheltered from the heat of the afternoon Bosnian sun just two single guys - shooting the bull - not a care in the world (or so I'm sure it must have appeared to those strolling through the parking lot one or two of whom passed close enough that I could ask "Anyone speak English - no - well thanks anyway................. right then, it's a beautiful day for a cultural exchange in the church courtyard). Eventually he finished his smoke and stood up motioning for me to follow and I'm now thinking, well of course after all we've been through together, I couldn't possibly leave now! So we go down the block and across the street and he leads me through the door of a tourist information office where he begins to speak rapidly to the women working in the office and again he slapping his forehead. They're all listening intently occasionally turning to look at me and smiling and then returning their attention to my guide and his story. Finally he stops and I begin to speak to the women - beginning with does anyone speak english here. Hallelujah they all do, so I begin to explain that myself and this gentleman have been keeping company for quite sometime this afternoon after we met at the ruins not far from here. I said that at times he seemed to be very upset, that he had been lecturing me (or so it seemed) despite my not understanding a word of it and my inability to get him to understand I didn't understand. One of the woman began to explain what he had told her - apparently he said he found me in the burial grounds of the partisan troops - where I had no business being and if that weren't enough he said that I most certainly should not have gone anywhere in the woods in that area because there could still be land mines throughout and I could blow myself to kingdom come. (I didn't think it appropriate to engage in my trade mark hair splitting by pointing out I wasn't in the woods nor intending on going there). Instead I was overcome by the potential danger that lay so near by to where I had unknowingly wandered and that I had in fact been "saved" by this fellow and that I had at times, wondered about the soundness of his mind (suddenly all the forehead slapping was making sense - the dialogue must have been something like "for God sake how could you be so stupid" - slap, "did you know you could have blown your fool - head off?" - slap etc. In that moment the tables were instantly turned - who's soundness of mind could be in question now? Hmmmmmmm?

I turned to thank my friend and he had vanished - I looked out through the glass door and he was nowhere to be seen I looked at the woman in the office and they just smiled and returned to the work at their desks. I left the office dumbstruck by the afternoons events left with the question "are there angels among us?"

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Ashes to Ashes

To many who may read this and to the vastly greater number who won't, this might seem a day of little or no significance a mid-summer day in July perhaps in many ways seemingly no different than the same day one year previous or to yesterday. But if one begins to consider that because it is July, doesn't necessarily make it mid-summer in some parts of the world.  Even those regions for whom the season is summer are experiencing any number of things that each person living in those regions categorizes as being part of what they associate with the season of summer or they are not. So now what becomes apparent is we are talking about perspective which gives rise to a entirely different experience for each, though they might be seemingly standing and observing the same event. So when I say that today is in fact an auspicious occasion marked by both the creation of a blog and it's very first post I really only can state that from my personal experience. It remains true that it is the first time I have both created a blog and written it's content - which in the spectrum of life experience called Rob is a highly significant event - there have been fifty plus years (this time around) of varied circumstances, choices and outcomes that have led to this very moment. It could be seen as cause for celebration - excitement, acknowledgement and recognition, each word after all is being written with in the container of "the first time" what does it take to embark upon that first time experience whatever it might be? Given the results of many first time ventures - what compels one to repeated attempts of the same action or to embark upon a new first time experience? So while this is a first, it cannot be seen as a ground-breaking event in the grander scheme of things - after all it's not like I've discovered writing and now I will introduce it to the world - having said that "new ground" is being broken by me and as I am in this world (well at least I can say I reside on this world ) is this world still the same as it was before I began to write and does what I have written, change the impact on the world as much as just the fact that I have now written?

There is no question that I aspire to, through me, using the vehicle of writing, generate that which will positively impact untold numbers of readers to touch, move and inspire; that will never be the case without a beginning - so today I write. To draw upon the title of this piece it is said we originate from ash and to ash we will return - so what of the time in between - of course you have to this point indulged me now I will formally ask that you do so, and invite you to accompany me to the following metaphor-perhaps upon my passing there will exist somewhere a stone upon which will be inscribed "Here lies Rob" or would that be "Here Rob lies"neither would be entirely accurate I've lied all over the place (it would get very cumbersome to mark  each location - but I do digress) it would then likely go on to say blah, blah, blah - depending on how much anyone would care to invest on said stone - I would hope anyone I would know would find a better use for their money - but again I'm trying to paint a picture here. So then it says  1959 - ???? so what is this "-" going to be all about? More importantly what or who is going to define it? Do you think that symbol was chosen just because it is the accepted punctuation in our lexicon (perhaps in part) I believe that a hint closer to the truth can be found in the size of the symbol which keep in mind represents the time (life) spent between birth (ashes) and death (ashes) - give or take the rate of decomposing. In the grander scheme of things the time here on earth elapses pretty quickly - it's just a blip on the screen (if that). How is that time being spent? Which brings me back to perspective - does anyone have to have read something I have written before it is significant that I wrote it? Is it necessary that I gain wide approval for what I have written before I can deem my writing a success or before it could be said what was written is having an impact on the world? What of the process that has led from hesitancy to be seen or heard - in written form or otherwise - if that has changed and a willingness now exists to become visible - does the process itself not represent something of value to someone that has not yet brought their particular gifts to fruition and shared them with the world? If a transformation has taken place affecting how a given individual shows up in the world is the world not subject to change? What after all was Gandhi referring to when he suggested we need be the "change" we wish to see in the world? In this case, if I was to wait for wide spread approval or even readership to affirm my success I might not ever write in the first place. Change shows up for me by not collapsing "success" with "approval" - success comes in the form of feeling guided to write and following through on that - where that goes is not my business. The distinction here is following ones heart vs. doing what is popular or will gain popularity or is the widely accepted path. I wonder what the world would look like if more followed the call of their heart? Yes I know there are practical considerations to living - how many of them have become necessary through the constructs of systems and widely accepted ways of being that have nothing to do with a heart-centered path (this is easily recognized by the number of people that are left behind by such systems and the destruction to the planet in their wake).
I therefore declare on this day July 19, 2011 I have been one hundred percept successful - I am in alignment - doing what I feel guided to do. I eagerly await dear reader (at this time I will employ a leap in faith that a reader will materialize) for the time and place when you will debut your heart song (in whatever form it takes) it will be a beautiful moment in time and the world will be forever changed!
Until we meet again!