Sunday, 28 June 2015

Limited Performance Without Limits

No slight intended to the animators at Disney, certainly I have been entertained at one time or another by any number of their epic features, characters and soundtracks, however, it truly doesn't hold a candle to my "real life" versions.

I have described in previous blog posts the stirring hikes, nature sits, or otherwise just engaging with the world as I am listening to "random music" on my iPod. Today would be another such occasion. I had just finished a great workout and was coming back toward my place and came through the Garry Oak meadow (that again is frequently featured in my posts) I had intentionally brought along an energy bar, an apple and a smoothie to enjoy in the park. I knew that I would be hungry by then having not eat prior to the workout.

I scaled the flight of stairs that led to higher ground, which includes a rocky knoll that I like to meditate/contemplate upon. As I climbed the stairs I was struck with appreciation for my body and the ease with which it tackled the incline. It felt good to be enjoying the incremental return of fitness. I recalled that through parts of the previous year I had experienced what was at times, quite debilitating lower back pain. While at it's worst it was necessary to employ different forms of adaptation in order to put on socks, deal with shoe laces (slip on shoes became preferable) or deal with other routines of foot care. The cause of this given the multifaceted levels of being human was varied and not the scope of this post. It proved to be another wake-up call for me. Without any intention to "get on my case" my observation is that my journey through or with life, seems to be one of an ongoing series of these sort of calls. My attention is drawn to one spoke on the wheel through some form of wake-up experience and while I adapt and integrate that, I'm shown I am still "hitting snooze" somewhere else.

It was incredulous for me to consider that at one time "I" in this vary same body, used to play "back-catcher" which required one not only to assume a full squatting position (to offer the pitcher a "target" behind homeplate) but also one had to be very agile from that same stance, ready to spring up in an instant to chase a wild pitch or field a foul ball. The Garth Brooks song - "I'm Much too Young to Feel This Damn Old" was an apt metaphor at that time.

Fast forward to the present and once I perched myself on the hill top I squatted there for a while, as with a teaching I just heard from a First Nations dancer about crow (which he shared to introduce the "crow dance") it was said that crow sometimes hops to where it is going - "Just because it can," for the pure joy of it!

I stood up again and just as I was surveying my surroundings (the hilltop offers a panoramic view) the song "Circle of Life" began to play - I felt my heart open as I took in the beauty both near and far. A rush of emotion flowed freely through me and I marveled at how once again the music I was hearing became the "soundtrack" and all that surrounded me including me, came into sync with the peaks and valleys of the music. I sat down and looked up and to my right ...... "Circle, the circle of life" and a new character had entered "stage right" a hawk circled, effortlessly gliding on the rising thermals. It's continued circular flight tracked gradually further away, until it appeared to have been ingested by the sky.

One song concludes and another begins each piece of music cues in succession, the various dancers in natures ballet. I watched hummingbirds rocket skyward and pirouetting back and forth across center stage. Then there was a single dragon fly that dove from above it's iridescent body and wings brilliantly reflecting the morning sunlight. Then it was joined by a second dancer - theirs was to be an aerial tango. Admittedly I don't know what it means - just the same (insert idiom to feign Hipness) they were "killing it."

There were other birds (I'll call "chickadees" that at times flew so close to me I seemingly could have touched them). The back drop all the while, was a rich sky blue which had in various quadrants been airbrushed with wisps of white cotton candy. Then the finally appeared overhead a bald eagle in mature adult regalia deftly maneuvered with ease as two crows chased it around. The crows certainly seemed to be exerting far more energy as their wings were constantly flapping in order to keep up the chase and while the eagle just banked left or right to change direction, the crows seemed unable to soar in kind. Just the same, what they might have lacked in aerodynamics, they certainly more than made up for with tenacity. All the while as this dance continued (which may well have involved the crows ensuring the eagle was not allowed anywhere near their nest) the eagle was unable to gain any headway on the two crows, that were like a pair of border collies herding sheep. They "escorted" the eagle beyond where I was able to see them any longer.

For me, an exquisite teaching in being here now & appreciating deeply all that I see - though there will be another feature performance at the same venue another day, the same combinations of events is not to seen again.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Born Free - Live Free!

Yesterday marked a personal rite of passage (in as much as I declare it so), I don't know that it would be recognized beyond that. The end of this summer marks my fifty-sixth year (it's said in some schools of thought that major life transitional markers happen in seven years increments. That would mean I'm on the cusp of the eighth one. If text book indicators of human development are indeed valid, I can't say that I have proceeded "on schedule." However, I believe my soul development is right on track.

For 40 of those 56 years, I have pretty much always owned a car. Getting a driver's license represents quite a leap in terms of responsibility and independence, at least that's the supposition. For young men (& now more so) young women in our culture, this rather nebulous milestone is as close as it gets to any discernible rite. Unlike rites undertaken by young people in other cultures this one, of itself, doesn't necessarily assure maturation or anything in the way of self-discovery. It's coveted by youth that haven't achieved the grail, many parents I suspect, would just as soon delay the inevitable (for reasons of their own).

All this to say, I sold my car yesterday! It has been parked since the end of August last year. As part of reprioritization of finances and a general life reevaluation I had chosen not to drive it, but also decided not to be "hasty" getting rid of it. Since then I have walked, cycled and used public transit. Some ten months later - I'm recognizing, I've been "car-less" this whole time, what do I need it for?

I also became aware of a couple of financial statistics (one some time ago, the other upon the sale of the vehicle). The former I read on the public transit website - apparently "on average" it costs $11,000.00 a year to own & operate a car! I'm thinking, I could direct that sum into a variety of other quality of life directions. They didn't offer a breakdown to itemize this annual cost - obviously that includes insurance, gas and maintenance, perhaps incidentals like parking, and toll roads. I don't know if that would include yearly depreciation, which is part of the latter financial reality I mentioned. The car was gifted to me - almost eight years ago, at that time it retailed for $33,000 some -odd dollars. Now - the equivalent vehicle is listed in used car publications for $8500 -9000) A potential buyer had a pre-purchase assessment done which discovered $4000 odd dollars worth of necessary repairs - so rather than incur that, I sold it to a salvage buyer for $3000.00. Not even 8 years old and it "devalues" $30,0000! If I had purchased the car, in which case I would undoubtedly be making payments - the loan would far outlive the vehicle. I'm not sure I will ever own a new vehicle again. I'm no financial wiz-kid, but that makes no sense to me at all! Why? Why? Why?

As far as I'm concerned that's a couple thousand pound albatross off from around my neck. I'm not going to now jump on the environmental soap box and sing my praises because I'm no longer a motorist. I can't even absolutely say I'll never own some sort of vehicle again one day - but from where I sit right now, the energy exchange required to own & drive a car is not worth it to me.

What then of the association of a man and his car? Well.... I don't know what that represents to others. I'm of course aware of the stereotypes. None of which, do I (or have I ever) fit into. I'm just more comfortable with that now, than at earlier parts of my life. I am not entirely lacking in mechanical aptitude - however my attitude toward it is, I'm not keen. I usually avoid conversations with "car guys" because I'm left in the dust right out of the gate. Where I know considerable detail about my inner landscape & the "human condition" - just fielding questions about my car from perspective buyers illuminated for me - what I don't know, & have very little interest in knowing. I value greatly those that have the knowledge and inclination. While I was getting the car up and running (after it sat 10 months) it died on the road just outside my apartment parking, after having just getting it jump started. The tow truck driver that arrived to get me mobile, was nothing short of an angel. He provided me with some valuable information and presented me with a variety of strategies (& their associated costs) as well as "off the record" info (things he would consider doing if it were his vehicle, but that he wouldn't advocate a customer do, as there was calculated risk and associated company liability) - now, he could have "recommended" the most expensive of options (and given I - or rather my vehicle, was blocking traffic I was potentially the proverbial putty in the hand. I wasn't born yesterday, however given I was in a bit of a bind at the moment and didn't really have time to employ any due diligence with what he was telling me - I had to go with the intuitive path, which I'm happy to report served me well.

Without question I have come to know that I have been "identified" with various ideas, belief systems, jobs and a wide variety of things outside myself that have nothing to do with who I am. This however, would not include my car. There has been cover stories and compensatory persona - but again, the car has never served me in those ways. Though I may have lacked clarity in some areas of my life - a car has never been anything more or less than a tool to me. I appreciate the aesthetics of some of the "classic" cars - though I don't care if I ever own one.

Right now I feel freedom! I attribute this to following what I feel inspired to do, live the experience and be open to where it leads. This is clearly and cleanly what I want right now. I won't keep a car to walk in stride with the "Jones" - I haven't rid myself of one due to guilt or retribution for global warming, climate change, green house gases etc. I am conscious of my connection to the planet - even still, I'm not sure that my abstention from driving has had any baring on the environment. What I can say is it appeals greatly to my sense of conscious simplicity. I'm not convinced that everyone needs to own...... well frankly, so much of what they do. I am intrigued by the idea of more cooperative ventures - sharing. In that vein there are "car share" options - there are also rentals for intermittent need.  Mind you the son of the auto salvage owner that gave me a ride home yesterday after I relinquished my vehicle looked at me like I had a third eye, when I gleefully waxed on about my car-free lifestyle experience/vision. Understandable - it is their livelihood.

Let's face it - I'm not exactly a visionary where this is concerned, yes I'm following my current guidance, but the Amish have been car less for ever.  Though a personal experience, one that I can spin as an example of exploring possibilities, embracing change and sometimes less is more, I don't foresee myself at the bridge of a horse drawn carriage. Of course though not something I gave much thought to - it would not have been that long ago, that I might have said a car is pretty much a necessity!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Tell Me the Way to Go Home

As I was coming out the far side of the park today, on my way to the recreation center, I was surprised to see two chickens walking along the boulevard. Not that I haven't seen chickens before, and I am aware that even some of the municipalities that are largely suburban, allow for the keeping of some feathered livestock - it was just that I had walked that route many times and never seen any before this morning.

I did ask them what they were doing there, though it didn't occur to ask if they could shed light on the road crossing conundrum and besides they seemed content to hang out in the shaded grass. I looked around to see if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing or seeing me seeing what I thought I was seeing; a glance back reaffirmed that what I was seeing, I still saw.

I began down the side street (detouring from my route and intended destination) to see if I could see into any yards near by that might have a pen - reasoning these two were AWOL. Then concern crept in, what if someone sees me looking into yards and thinks I'm up to no good? How does concern for my fine feathered friends and/or their owners, suddenly become misconstrued by me and I know my motives are pure - don't I?

Next it occurs to me - just because this fowl play is occurring in my midst, it doesn't mean they live anywhere in this neighborhood. They could have flown/walked from God knows where! I decided that perhaps the fate of these chickens laid,  somewhere beyond my jurisdiction. I started back toward the recreation center and a women was getting into her car. I asked, "do you by any chance have chickens?" "Because two of them are on a walk-a-bout!"

She answered, "Yes, it's too hot in the coop to keep them there during the day - I hope they don't get lost or chased away." "Thank you for watching out for them - they know how to find their way home." She didn't seem to be the least bit concerned, which I'm not saying is wrong, but I did go away wondering, why I was?

The phrase "they know how to find their way home" continued to ricochet round and about within me, like an arcade pin-ball. It raised the question for me, which I suppose is encapsulated in the adage, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," when are intentions (good or otherwise) interference? What if, "we" all know how to get home, and "good intentioned" interventions are like on Star Trek - "interfering with the prime directive." I might think I'm helping - maybe even the person "being helped" thinks I'm being helpful - but are they really being helped? If I was driving down the road and picked you up, and when asked, you said "thanks for the lift, I'm heading home," and then I proceeded to take you to my intended destination and then said "glad I was able to help, fare thee well!" I think it could be agreed it wasn't helpful - given the objective was you going home.

What I'm getting at is, not only might good intentions be interfering - they might be conceived entirely based on erroneous assumptions. What a bag of worms that is! On a different tack, but I hope it will be useful to further illuminate my point about assumptions, I was reading an article online the other day. This article had to do with the high incidence of back pain in the western world and how frequently it can go from acute to chronic, the high incidence of surgical intervention which itself, can just as easily create long term problems. The article included pictures of what is always considered to be the "natural" (S-shaped) configuration of the spine. The problem is, in other parts of the world where there is less automation, automobile travel and more manual labour, the curvature at the cervical and lumbar spine is far less extreme. The studies suggested that muscle imbalances, weakness and inflexibility brought on by western living, distorted the natural weight bearing properties of the spine which made it susceptible to injury when called upon to bare a load. How then can, all the various disciplines weigh in on spinal wellness, if all their good intentioned intervention is based on an erroneous model of what constitutes a health spine? It's like to a cosmetic dentist, everyone needs braces!

Tricky business this perceptions and assumptions - what really is going on?

I went to the gym and walked back the same way I had come. Now on the boulevard where I had seen the chickens there was a cat, contently laying in the shade. Did kitty have squab for lunch? I don't know!

What I do know is - "how to find my way home."

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

It's All Extraordinary!

The sun-soaked amber grass warms both soles and soul. I envision the flowing energy of water as I execute a Qi gong form known as the turtle, whilst in the midst of a Garry oak meadow. At first blush one might ask how is it possible to visualize water surrounded by trees - my answer, it's all energy. I spend considerable time in the company of these trees and while I almost always see some of the more familiar of my standing tall clan, I am delighted and awed by the continuous new discoveries each time I go. As for the energy, to me it is easily recognizable, the same swirls and eddys once observes in the flow of a stream or the current and surge of the tides, can be seen in the grow pattern of the trees. It's there in some of the smallest twigs and branches and can be seen in the overall posture of the tree as it spirals towards the heavens, arms outreaching to accept the ongoing blessing of creation.

It's all there to behold - like wisdom held within the trees, I can learn to find the stillness and then simply watch (& listen) a cirque du soleil - esque extravaganza of life will most certainly become more apparent the more one can learn to pay attention. For example I sat on a rock after meditating and watched as two humming birds were catapulted out of the canopy of an oak tree like they were shot out of a cannon. They went skyward with such velocity, it was outstanding! Incidentally, their aerobatics assumed the same spiral patterns as they joyfully celebrated unencumbered life force energy. Think about it, it serves no practical purpose to do that maneuver - "shortest distance between two points being a straight line" (and all that) done I suspect, simply because they can and for the sheer pleasure of it. Consider the incredible power being harnessed to do that - oh sure they weigh next to nothing, but nonetheless they are generating the power to blast off like that, themselves! Try it, first thing in the morning, from the horizontal orientation of slumber try and launch yourself even upright, never mind airborne. If you're anything like me, the next thing that occurs is the disequilibrium of an all-consuming head rush, followed by a allemande left over some strewn articles of clothing with the finale becoming up close and personal as I kiss off the bedroom wall. I'll grant you it would make great "physical comedy" but might well run a distant second to the pirouetting humming birds.

As I said this meadow is constantly changing (as it remains the same) and is teaching me to appreciate the extraordinary where I may have previously only perceived the mundane. Boredom being the product of the "grasping mind" it can take some time and practice to seek, find and develop any degree of comfort with this stillness. It calls upon one to come to know themselves at depth and the world around them and then to discover the inter-relationship. Though I'm no biologist I seem to recall that during one of my waking moments in high school science, that same spiral pattern exists in the strands of our dna - though the lecture on genetics lulled me into a coma, I'm fascinated (now) with how deep these relationships run and how increasingly the illusory sense of separation vanishes.

I sat on that rock allowing some early morning vitamin D to embrace me sipping the coffee I brought along - how abundant is that?! This meadow is my cathedral - in part because it is only a 15 minute walk from my suburban condo (which faces onto a busy thoroughfare). In just a brief heart expanding stroll, I am literally in another world. I have shared heart and soul with those trees. They and their myriad of occupants willingly share in kind - wisdom and teaching always there for the asking.

As I was preparing to leave - I noticed a cache of empty beverage bottles and cans - I have never gone to the park with the sole intent of "cleaning up" but I do make a point of clearing the energy where the situation calls for it, as I said, this place is sacred to me. What a journey I have walked to go from one that at one point in my life, would have been the one desecrating just such sacred sites. I simply didn't know any better. I now don't hold myself or those that currently practice unconsciousness in contempt. I know the darkness of complete disconnection (even though illusory it can and does feel real, complete and absolute). Nobody awakens through the force of judgment or criticism, I know in my case my unconsciousness ultimately shook me into a state of awakening - I reckon others deserve the dignity of that choice as well.

On my way out of the park I placed the empty bottles and cans on the rim of the garbage can so the "binners" can collect this small windfall and avoid the undignified digging through the can. One of the colourful cans caught my attention - I picked it up to see what was being "marketed" why it was the "tropical delight" of a beer and grapefruit juice blend! Yuk, was my first thought - then I considered who knows, might taste ok - gratefully I will never know. I then marveled at the creative lengths humanity goes to, in order to achieve and maintain unconciousness. Back in my day - the beer choices were warm or cold and I had to walk all the way to science class drinking one or the other!