Wednesday, 18 March 2015

He Whom Wanders - May Not be Lost?

I was prompted again today to do some writing. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that one of the ways I am guided to return my attention to writing is I keep finding writing implements while out and about. Less than a week ago I found both a pencil and a pen. Today while waiting for a bus sitting right there, is another pen. I acknowledge the guidance grab the pen and proceed with my intention for the morning. As it happens on this pen is embossed  the words "cash money." I'm guessing it came from the "Money Mart" down the block - but to me, it is rather explicit. Not only am I supposed to be writing, clearly there is income involved. When? doesn't matter, it's coming! Does that mean the next thing I write is the "money-maker?" I 'll let ya know! What I know for sure is that the "journey" of writing is taking me somewhere and I suspect not writing is a bit like parking the car. Which is not to say that's a "bad" thing, sometimes those road side oasis' are well worth extending the ETA on the "intended" destination, however staying too long might way lay a door waiting to open.

So the question come to mind - what is it that I'm going to write about? As the day begins to unfold I conclude that the writing, as with the day will take care of itself, I just need to get myself and my laptop together.

My intended morning destination was to be the Interfaith Chapel on the University of Victoria campus. I have intermittently attended various gatherings there - it is both a gift to the students and faculty and to members of the community such as me. There is such a broad variety of offerings there representing different faith & spiritual paths in combination with the exuberance of youthful energy, inquiry and passion. I am always inspired when in attendance at one of their meditation circles to see so many young people expanding not just their minds in the halls of academia but there hearts & souls as well. I might add - there is no question that at times these "students" are my teachers!

Today's menu included four hours of various practices that are associated with Christianity (though not the dogmatic, rational theology which is frequently served up in those "hallowed halls." There was to be chanting in the style of Taize, contemplative meditation, walking meditation, a labyrinth. Most all of these "practices" are associated with Eastern spirituality, or other practices deemed "new age" to be kind - in some "Christian circles" they would be tagged blasphemy. Here in this environment I discovered a convergence of many of these practices, along with their transformative power and even juicy discussion regarding the teachings of the man Jesus which had in mind this very thing, before the practices were gutted and various religions were the resulting spawn. Clearly my biases are beginning to be revealed - so at this junction I will say I honour and respect everyone's right to believe what they choose, I am not trying to convert or convince anyone of anything. I simply sharing some of what I find along the way upon my ongoing journey.

I had originally thought I would ride my bike up to the gathering - then upon realizing it was raining opted to ride the bus so that I could arrive dry and not have to sit through the whole event soaked. As I sat on the bus I was deeply moved with appreciation that not even five minutes from my front door I could just board a bus that would take me all the way to the university campus. Nothing to do but just kick back relax and enjoy the ride up there. I had left enough time (or so I thought) to walk across campus from where the bus stopped to the chapel and be there in time for the event to commence. I say "so I thought" because though I knew the area where I would disembark from the bus and I had been to the chapel before, the difference was, I had previously always rode there and knew the route to the front door via bicycle. I had not transversed the campus and if I tell you that presently my sir name is Mason not Magellan, perhaps you might have some insight into what was to transpire once I got off the bus.

The bus arrived on campus leaving me fifteen minutes to walk to the chapel, ample time I reasoned. I walked past what I remembered to be the chaplain's office where I saw "signs" (literally) one outlining the event I was heading to and another featuring coming attractions. Next I saw a campus map which affirmed with a bright yellow star "you are here." I concurred - indeed I was here. I saw where the chapel was and noted some of the building names in between. I began "on time" and "on course" and then it would seem, there was a disconnect between the imagery of my intended route and where I actually walked.  I did see the names of some of the buildings I remembered from the map and then came to trails leading into the woods on campus. I couldn't resist the opportunity to walk through the natural world and reasoned it would be the perfect segue into the meditations and "surely the trails would lead to the chapel!"

It's entirely possible that if one is familiar with the trail network one could arrive at the front door of the chapel, without the afore mentioned familiarity instead a rather lengthy walk in the park ensues. I had dressed for coolish temperature and drizzle opting to layer one of my go to hoodies under a Cowichan sweater - this would have been perfect comfort for a short jaunt, however, for an extended hike I began to take on the qualities of a walking sweat lodge.

I came upon some signs in the woods at a fork in the trail both were names that were familiar to me however neither was meaningful in relation to orienting me toward the chapel location. I came across a parking lot and saw a couple of guys jogging along the trail so I walked toward them and asked them for directions. I went back in the direction they had indicated and began to travel along the "ring road" of the campus which at some point I was going to leave and get back in the woods and would see signs for the chapel. As I walked along the road I began to see buildings that I saw while on the bus when I first came onto the campus. Not far from here and I'm back out and off campus I reasoned. I must need to double back to where the runners told me I'd would enter the woods! I wondered to myself how is it that when traveling I often seem to be literally oriented one hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction of where I intend to go? (not realizing as I pondered this, that I was once again doing the same thing!) Back in the woods I go. It was a beautiful walk - I released concern for being "on time" along with self talk that was not helpful, in favour of staying present and enjoying the walk. It occurred to me there was little point getting myself all emotionally twisted on route to meditation - it would serve me better to simply enjoy the journey. I entertained briefly both the idea that should I "never" find the chapel I got in a great walk and momentary concern for arriving late and disrupting the program already in progress. I checked in with myself - did I still want to go to this? Indeed I did! I had been looking forward to it and whatever I got to would be perfect. I wasn't going to let concern for what others would think of me arriving late be the cause for abandoning what I wanted to do - what they thought was their problem! It would give them something else to release in their meditation.

To be clear I'm not diminishing respect for and valuing of others - their time and or space. I actually prefer to be early. This extended departure from my original destination became the perfect opportunity for me to "let go of outcome" & to enjoy where I was and what I was doing rather than obliterate it with self-admonishment and concern for what I would encounter should I ever arrive at my original intended destination. I know full well that to do so means I don't enjoy where I'm at and may lose precious time at my destination extracting myself from the emotional vortex created, so that I can begin to be present again.

I came out of the woods and onto one of the roads outside the campus. Once again I began on my one hundred and eighty degree reverse trajectory. I realized this when I saw a large empty lot that belongs to the university that is utilized by people to exercise their dogs. I knew from another time in my life if I continued in this direction I would wind up at the water front. So...... about face!

I was amused as I considered ...... though I most definitely envision more travel in my life I can just as readily be exploring and discovering newly in my own town (& I've been here 55 years!) It's a bit like being dropped on any number of the different panels in a mosaic quilt - I know many of them individually quite well, but not necessarily, the territory that lies between and joins the two. Interesting to note that when I did arrive at the chapel I realized that at times I was closer than I thought and somehow "decided"  I was going the "wrong" way & took myself off course.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

On my way back to what would be the next intersection and road that skirted the university grounds I "discovered" another trail system part of a recreation center which includes some outdoor exercise stations! I made a mental note to come back here on my bike sometime and see the whole circuit. This beautifully coincides with my want to address my overall wellness including physical fitness employing some creativity with respect to financial resources. The other plus is that this now gives me another option that is outdoors immersed in nature! I have certainly spent my fair share of time at indoor gyms - but I have to say when I walk/run the chip trail around the golf course adjacent to another local recreation center - I find an irony when I round one section of the trail past the floor to ceiling windows in the gym where people are walking or running on treadmills looking out at the trail and natural beauty. It's awesome to have these centers as options - but for me I feel like a gerbil on a wheel on those machines and somewhat like what I imagine wildlife feels when kept in a tank or pen - you can see the natural world and freedom right in front of your nose, but nonetheless there you are walking/running in circles.

As I got to the next intersection I recognized the street name and I realized I was now at the location that I would utilize if I were on my bike - in other words nearly at the chapel! Rather than go all the way down the side road to the driveway, I entered at a gate the led into the campus gardens (which I knew to be adjacent to the chapel. Upon entering the gardens I was captivated! The early spring-like temperatures had certainly gone a long way to awakening many of the inhabitants. Whether the "biblical Eden" existed or was metaphor and allegory, I now knew in my heart what it looked like. Regardless of my proximity to the chapel, I simply couldn't allow haste to detract from where I found myself. Without a doubt the proceedings under way within the chapel would be nourishing, and comparison would be futile and not my intention. However, part of the aim of the activities inside were focused on becoming present with the "here & now" & I was already right here, right now, surrounded with all forms of living beings both indigenous and "exotic" I just couldn't reconcile rushing in from this breath-taking setting to go sit in a chair and become aware of my breath?

The air was fresh and cool, the rain continued to fall which played a staccato rhythm upon the canopy of the trees. I took my time walking the pathways that wound through the gardens, while I marveled at the diversity of creation. The cloud cover was thinning just as I rounded a corner in the path at the very moment when a magnolia tree in full bloom with white flowers was cast a glow by the sun's rays bursting through. What a dazzling display I was privileged to witness. The energy emitting from this garden goddess put me in touch with the divine feminine within me, bringing insights into how I repressed those faculties as one of the ways I rejected myself. The experience brought to mind how deeply I feel connected when in nature and had me reconsider whether my being diverted from my original destination was me be "lost" at all. Quite the contrary, to feel the depth of connection and love in this moment was extraordinary and something that had seemingly eluded me most of my life or at the very least, I had been convinced that to feel this way had to come from somewhere, something or someone outside of myself - not so! This is priceless experience, as without the personal knowing of it - no matter how many accounts I read, or heard others alluding to, they served only to highlight my lack of it, skepticism and my harbouring further mistaken beliefs that this was somehow due to my either doing something wrong or was not worthy of the experience. I am delighted to discover the erroneous nature of these beliefs.  As I continued to enjoy the emotionally stirring magical mystical garden, I began to wonder what I was "missing" in the chapel. Of course in truth I wasn't missing anything, it was more a question of did I still choose to go to the remainder of the program or carry on where I was at?

I decided to go inside, "bookmarking" the gardens for a return visit. I thanked the botanical community for welcoming me into the fold and carried on inside.

As I mentioned earlier, as it turned out I only missed the first of the varied program. I was greeted with a warm welcome and reassurance that I was free to relax and take my time to settle in. I took that cue to find the facilities and "freshen" up at little and then joined the group as they were just being introduced to the next part of the program.

What followed was a couple different rounds of seated meditation and some walking meditation followed by a short break - I chose to return to the garden and do some Qi Gong forms (by this time the sky was clear and the sun was radiating the entire garden. The water droplets upon the garden foliage made the outline of each appear to be bedazzled in luminous pearls. We were encouraged to remain silent throughout the various meditations and transitions. This suited me fine as I was happy to stay immersed in my experience.

The rest of the program was great - I wish though, only to focus on the what was the last activity before the lunch serving. We were given a number of options - I chose to spend time walking the indoor labyrinth they have at the chapel and were making available as one of the offerings. I am particularly drawn to this practice. I aim to have my book published later this year that centers around a forty day labyrinth practice I developed for myself - but that's another story.

The labyrinth at Uvic rolls out and covers the better portion of the inside of the chapel gathering space. Given it's size - a mindful walk within it's pathway takes an appreciable period of time. It also allows for a number of people to be walking at once. For the most part - when I did my morning practice (the focus of my book) I was alone as I walked. This time, there were six or seven of us - which offered for me a myriad of different metaphors as we walked. To begin with I employed the same "body awareness" that was being encouraged in the Qi Gong classes I've been taking over the last while. I was aware of my breathing, consciously employing the "abdominal breathing" from class while at the same time being mindful of each and every step. I felt each foot as it contacted the floor and the articulations within my feet as I walked. I became more aware of the orchestration of multiple muscle groups working harmoniously as I negotiated the S-turns of the labyrinth path. I recognized that a mindful walk had nothing to do with whether I maintained "perfect" balance in the turns and though the path is clearly delineated - there is no need to remain strictly within the outline. One can "colour outside the lines" and still remain  "on course." The dance I became further aware of occurred when I encountered some of my fellow travelers within the labyrinth and we were passing by each other on parallel paths. It was not necessary to change tempo, or give up on the intended destination. It was readily possible to remain mindful of one's own "journey" while considering the trajectory of another and making the necessary adjustments to pass in a non-disruptive manner. It was the perfect metaphor for life (or at least how life could be). Each participant determined their own pace within the labyrinth. Though we all walked the same path (at one time or another) nobody walked it for someone else. There were times when one was "alone" in sections of the labyrinth and other times when a leg of the journey was "shared" with someone on parallel path. The pathway itself wove a serpentine route that seemingly came very close to the center (destination) and then took you entirely away from it, where it might be imagined you would not come to see the center again.  Each could decide how long (or if at all) the spent sitting on cushions in the center and then there was the return journey back to the "outside" where one could then consider how they were to integrate the insights gained while upon the inner journey, now that they were returning to the external world.

Though the morning for me required nothing further to constitute a glorious experience we were then treated to an absolute feast to conclude the event.

After leaving the chapel I walked through the campus and became more clear as to a more direct route to and from the bus terminus. The icing on the cake for me was as I got within spitting distance of where my return bus would arrive, there was two people that had just got off another bus. They stopped when they reached me and asked for directions! I laughed out loud at the irony of only hours earlier being so "lost" on campus and now I was to offer directions!