Thursday, 13 September 2012

Be the Change

Be the Change I deeply value inclusion, which then could imply I am adverse to exclusion. But more than that I don't understand it. I simply can't embrace those aspects that differentiate one group of humans from the next as cause for divisiveness - I can't and I won't. The irony is that paths (religious & "spiritual") that contain tenets such as love and compassion become the very forces that uphold and justify further divisiveness and separation. How is this possible? How does "Love thy neighbour" break down so entirely that it becomes rampant intolerance? As a baby I was adopted, most of my life has been devoid of many of the robes of identification that are for many, the mainstay by which they define themselves and differentiate from the next person or group. There has been a void with respect to my ancestry/roots resulting on the one hand, a deep yearning to know myself and a connection to something greater than myself, on the other, truly not understanding why people made such a fuss over their heritage which seemed so often, to go beyond affinity and reverence, to the darker side of nationalism frequently leading to lack of cooperation at best, widespread violence and genocide at worst. My own healing journey has led me to the discovery of and union with, multiple generations of my natural mother's side of the family. My father's identity remains a mystery but documentation indicates Irish ancestry - a journey to the country of my forefathers yielded personal experiences that though lacking in the validation of "empirical scientific evidence" demonstrate to me I am, strongly connected to that land - genetic testing has since verified that indeed the genetic information from my father's side is highly concentrated in Ireland. The ramifications of this are still unfolding for me - just the same another irony exists. The yearning I described earlier - the desire to know myself as part of and connected to something greater than myself, can only be partially resolved with this ancestral information. To a certain degree it doesn't matter (although it does) in as much as the continued searching has led me to broaden and deepen the quest to connect with the power and presence that created it all, me, the world, the universe, that is in fact, the universe, everything in it and beyond. "We" are all a piece of that. We are all connected by that - in that, we are no different, within our differences lies our oneness. Strip away the nationality, the religiosity, the political stripes and affiliations, your favourite corporate branding, and at the risk of complete and utter blasphemy "your" hockey or football team and we are one. People are living and sadly dying, over differences that really are illusory in nature, distractions from the truth of who we are. While wrapped in the flag, and/or the armour of the collective self-righteouness of their respective religions, crusades are waged, politicians rally support for their agendas with "us and them" rhetoric, in sports "colosseums" (recall the atrocities that took place in the original "sports venue") violence is encouraged both on the field and then spills into the audience justified merely by the wearing of a different coloured sweater. All of it ignoring the common denominator - the divine within each, that the harm brought upon another is a harm done not only to one's brother and sister but to one's self. What will it take? What then is to be the catalyst to celebrate the differences, to embrace the oneness? Will it ever happen? Is it even possible? A walk a couple days ago seemed to provide a disheartening answer - I walked through a neighbourhood where a brand new Mosque is being built - work continues on the inside, the exterior far enough along to appreciate the beauty of it's design. I can hardly wait for it to be completed so I can go and experience the worship held within. As I walked by I noticed that on the ground inside the construction fencing were copies of some of the "free literature" that one of the Christian groups in town distribute. This in the capital city of one of the provinces of Canada that touts itself as a "Multicultural Mosaic." I was saddened by the desecration, the irreverence, the "message" seemed to me to be saying "what you are doing is wrong - here, let me show you the right way." Jesus did not ask to see a birth certificate or turn and walk away from someone, based on their political or religious affiliation - love knows no limits. As it happens more recently (last night) another experience provided me with different answers to those same questions. I attended the "World Day of Prayer" gathering at the Unity Spiritual Community. During the course of the evening we were blessed with representation from the local First Nations, two gentlemen from the Muslim community in Vancouver, and a Jewish "lay-person" they shared about their paths and the place prayer takes within, for each. They all stood on the platform together with the Unity minister - we witnessed Amazing Grace being sung in the First Nations language by a husband and wife that had been through the residential school system (had their language stripped away) and now sung their prayer in a venue that was formerly a United Church (now Conservatory of Music performance venue)the Muslim leaders and group from the Jewish community sat together and each filled the space with the splendour of their traditional prayer and shared the importance of prayer in their lives as a means to come closer to God. Each in turn touched my heart where I knew in an instant what John Lennon sung about, there present is the love that Jesus demonstrated, that made Gandhi's stand unstoppable that infused the words of Martin Luther King. Each of these men believed strongly enough in this love that they lived unshakeably in it, their demise demonstrating that love transcends physical death. Indeed the walls of separation must come down and as Gandhi said "You (I) must be the change I wish to see in the World" which means to me I must continue to heal my own heart remove any remaining vestiges of borders, boundaries and walls that keep me separate from the Love that is all.

Monday, 10 September 2012

What's Your Hurry?

It never ceases to amaze that by merely walking fifteen minutes from my condo which is ensconced in urban suburbia to a local public golf with perimeter chip trail that I am instantaneously transported to a place of satiety for mind, body and spirit. I say transported as there do exist portals along the trail, but I will get back to that later. Through a focus that became more sedentary that I've been for years, last winter I managed to accumulate some unneeded extra baggage (as if the emotional stuff wasn't enough to contend with). So this year has been about continuing my less active pursuits reading,writing, meditation but also insuring there is ample physical exercise. I have incorporated both a Qi Gong and Yoga practice - I give myself full permission to advance slowly in the pursuit of both, largely because my fifty something body pretty much insists on it. The chip trail was first used just for a good brisk walk and now some six months later I am back to running for longer stretches (I like to call my "program" intuitive intervals) which essentially means I run when I feel like it and walk briskly for "recovery" intervals. Gone are the dictates of a high tech watch, log book or "run-leader" all vestiges of an illusory time when I thought all that was necessary to get fit. I much prefer my new regime - I don't remember the last time I wore a watch - as far as I concerned now there is no place for a clock in my recreation/leisure time. The interesting thing about my intuitive intervals is that I recall from my certification training as a fitness professional that the "talk test" or P.R.E. (Perceived Rate of Exertion) the former being a suitable exertion level determined by ones ability to only be able to speak in short phrases or the latter, measuring one's perceived level of exertion on a scale of 0-10 (0=no effort, 10=about to have a stroke) you wanted to be in the 6-8 range, either way studies showed that when heart rates were monitored the correlation demonstrated that individuals inherently knew the correct intensity for their activity. I mean no disrespect to those that are training for competitive events - there are both training and injury prevention benefits from a well documented and regulated program. For me if I get off the couch and out there - I've already won the competition! Besides I have lost 14 pounds so far, even pants I bought just before summer are baggy now so I will let the tale of the tape speak for itself. So, my last run was a couple days ago and as I said my fitness level is gradually improving and therefore I'm able to run longer intervals which feels great - I actually can perceive the flow at times where the cadence of my body in motion, the feel of the breeze on my face, the twisting and turning trail and of course the eclectic soundtrack provided by my iPod all blend into one transcendent experience. Oh if my grade nine gym teacher could see me now! Suffice to say back then when it was announced that the activity for the one hour class was to be cross-country running this meant to me one hour to get away from the school (and the teacher he was back at the gym timing us) during which time I would just goof off with some friends. This was until the teacher informed me he was going to accompany me on the run, his rationale being he was sure I could post a better time - I tried to assure him no, actually that's the best I can do, but to no avail. Well needless to say I finished the route in considerably shorter time than usual - because I actually ran and faster than I cared to (anytime I slowed up some I hear) "come on Mason" pick it up, unless you want to come after school and do it again! Well, I finished in "record" time, though I felt like my lungs were on fire and would come up through my throat any moment, I couldn't for the life of me understand why people would choose to do this, it largely put me off running for quite some time. I chuckled to myself, here I was out running by my own choice and was actually enjoying it. I love the accompaniment of my music, the varying beat providing the tempo, sometimes the motivation sometimes the distraction. Without question some of the up beat 70's classic rock still gets the adrenaline pumping - Enya or some of the other more meditative tracks just don't cut it - great when it's time to chill, but when it's time to get it done, Nazareth "Razamanaz" or Bad Company "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" now those songs power me up and over all the hills. On this particular day I was apparently sharing the trail with a group of the afore mentioned competitive running crowd. Good God they ran fast - I could actually feel them coming before I could see them! Impressive, what with their athletic physique's and of course it being summer the apparel left very little to the imagination, they were like animated anatomy text book pictures. Huh.... so if I had a six pack that's what it would look like. I was pretty happy that my navel was visible these days! Just as well they were running in the opposite direction - it was less obvious how many times they would have lapped me while I was doing my one 3.6km loop. I decided that I could embrace both their dedication and athletic presence at the same time honouring my progress and personal goals. Frankly I couldn't see the point of running that fast unless something or somebody was chasing me and really at that rate I'm sure they weren't seeing the splendour of the surroundings along the way. As I said earlier the are portals along this trail, for example their is a long corridor where there are various archways created by the overhead growth of some of the trees, the same stretch of trail has a beautiful canopy of lush green - the air is noticeably cooler through their and I always stop and pay homage to the nature spirits and ask permission to enter, I am invariably blessed with some very valuable insights when passing through these spaces. You can't possibly be attentive to such things when your running like the gym teacher is chasing you! Then there are the assorted oak trees and their resident spirits - one stands limbs outreaching as though ready to embrace those about to pass by or perhaps is guarding the trail, another stands right in the middle of the trail in the trunk is unmistakably the face of the spirit that inhabits the tree - I always pay my respects before passing. You see it is not just my physical fitness I am attending to when on these jaunts, it is very much about my mental, emotional and spiritual wellness as well and for these to be considered their must be due diligence to connection. Where that is concerned the young athletes are missing out (oh sure they have the camaraderie within their group) but try and flash them a smile when you pass and they are going so fast and working so hard they aren't looking for that variety of connection. Now, the people that are walking their dogs and other recreational runners, different story, I can tell you with absolute certainty that some of the smiles exchanged in passing have not only touched my heart but were the physiological equivalent of the afterburner on a jet plane, if my legs were feeling heavy before hand upon the exchange they were given new life! Speaking of connection I was guided to stop at a particular part on the trail and do some Qi Gong exercises - I had thought it was because it was at the crest of a hill and there was a commanding view of a large expanse of the golf course. Even given this was so, the true reason was soon to be revealed - just as I looked skyward to do an exercise known as "pulling down the heavens" the iridescent form of a humming bird was shimmering in the sunlight as it did a series of aerobatic loops and turns this I must add happened just as a particularly inspiring passage of music from the soundtrack of "August Rush" was reaching a crescendo - I was literally moved to tears, it was beautiful. Now as I said timed intervals, coaches and competition may have their place but for me fitness/wellness is now more about connection. So if you ever want to join me on the trail you are more than welcome - but leave your watch at home!