Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Meditation Retreat



I finally started a regular meditation practice last fall.  15 minutes every morning.  In theory, meditation seems like the easiest thing to do, because there is nothing to do.  That’s the whole idea.  Just sit.  No moving.  No thinking.  But why is it so difficult?  We’ve become so dependant on distractions.  Always busy.  Constant restlessness.  Living in our heads.  I still suck at it.  But the more I practice, the more I feel myself eventually settle.  Accepting.  No longer trying to run away.  Many underlying issues arise.  Meditation teaches me about me.  And now, in the midst of this global pandemic.  Self-isolation.  Physical distancing.  Quarantine.  Lockdown.  Everyone being told to stay at home.  We have been asked to sign up for a meditation retreat.  That alone is difficult enough.  Not knowing when this retreat will end makes it much more difficult.  Face-to-face with our Covid-19 fears, we feel immobilized.  We can’t run away anymore.  But what if we were to accept being forced to stay home as an invitation to come back home?  What if we looked at being stuck mostly indoors as an opportunity to turn inward?  Maybe the best way to survive this pandemic is to approach it as a meditation?  Let it break us.  Let ourselves become undone.  Blessed with more family time.  Talk to each other.  Get to really know each other.  Be afraid together.  Heal as a family.  Let it show us what’s really important.  What if we use this time to fertilize the birth of a new level of family connection?  The choice is ours.  Stay safe everyone. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Earth


Our planet is very sick.  We’ve known this for a long time now, but it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore.  We have been taking much more than our earth can give.  It has been trying to adapt.  Trying to readjust.   But we just keep upping our demands.  Maybe Covid-19 is its way of forcing us to stop and pay attention?  Its way of giving itself the time that it needs to heal?  Earth’s wisdom is infinitely greater than human’s intellect.  We’ve become so self-centered and materialistic that we have lost sight of the fact that getting what we think we are owed is destroying our home and the life that is sustained by it.   Is our ego-based way of thinking going to eventually be our demise?  Our relationship with earth is more than a connection.  We are one with it.  Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust.  Earth is us.  We are earth.  It’s impossible for humans to be healthy living on a sick planet.  When are we going to realize this?  How long will it take for Covid-19 to go away?  As long as it takes for our planet to heal?  As long as it takes for us to change our ways?  Standing at this crossroad.  Our planet has spoken.  Are we going to wake up?  Or keep putting profit above people and our planet?  There is no question whatsoever that this pandemic is going to forever change us.  But will it be for better or worse?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Stay Home



Imagine living in a place without a health care system.  I’m not talking about the absence of free health care here.  I’m talking about being on your own if or when you became sick or injured.  Canadians have a hard time imagining such a setting since we have always taken for granted the fact that when we are unwell that there will always be doctors, nurses and hospitals ready, willing and able to help us get better.  Broken leg.  Certainly painful and not fun, but most often totally fixable.  Appendicitis.  Something that people almost never die from.  Heart attack.  Serious, but still not always fatal with modern treatments.  Certain cancers.  Often curable if caught early.  Without our health care system, these ailments would change from often fixable to pretty much almost always fatal.  Think about that for a bit.  If you’re not afraid of dying if you get infected with the Covid-19 virus, think about dying from something usually treatable after the collapse of our health care system.  Still in denial that this could ever happen?  A few weeks ago I could not imagine what we are facing right now in North America.  Never.  This is serious.  This is World War III.  This is unprecedented.  Please support our front-line troops fighting for us.  Stay home.  Practice social distancing.  Minimum 2 meters distance from each other.  Even when walking outside.  Self-isolate if asked to do so.  Stop visiting friends and family that don’t live with you.  Please.  I am begging you to take this seriously.  Hoping this all just goes away isn’t enough.  We’re all in this together.  Let’s not screw it up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Covid 19




The words immobilized.  Or maybe just so many of them coming up that I don’t really know where to start?  Writing is usually very therapeutic for me.  But the last few days have left me speechless.  Paralyzed.  Frightened.  Anxious.  In 2002, my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  I vividly remember the deep fear and sense of helplessness that I felt during that time.  Nothing else mattered but her health.  We adapted.  Things got better.  And she is doing very well today.  The last few days have brought me back to those days almost 18 years ago.  Overwhelmed by the same fear and feeling so very helpless.  Trying to surrender to the uncertainty that we are facing even if it is so very unsettling.  On one hand, I am concerned about how Covid-19 will affect me and my family if we become infected.  On the other hand, I am terrified about the burden on our health care system.  We could survive the virus but die from another curable ailment a few months later because of a collapsed health care system.  Are we doing enough, soon enough, to flatten the curve?  The repercussions on the economy are inevitable at this point.  Denying this fact by allowing non-essential offices to remain open only contributes to spreading the virus.   They keep telling us not to panic, but look at how that worked out for other countries that are a few weeks ahead of us in this pandemic.  Maybe we’re not panicking enough?!  Everything but non-essential services should be cancelled and closed immediately. Actually, they should have been cancelled and closed last week.  What does that look like?  Basically, it looks like Christmas day.  A few places open to purchase food, pharmacies, gas stations and obviously prisons and hospitals.  Everyone isolates themselves from others except when absolutely necessary.  We’re all in this together.  Life as we know it is going to be very different for a while now.  My hope is that when things return back to a certain normal that all of our friends and family are still around to see it.  Isn’t that what we should all be aiming for?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Water



Water.  Born deep in my gut.  Fluttering up through my heart.  Spilling out into the corner of my eye.  Pool overflowing.  Trickling down my cheek.  Undone.  Uninhibited.  Such a seemingly harmless delicate melody.  Allowing.  Flowing.  Tears.  Crying wasn’t always effortless for me.  I used to be really good at holding everything in.  Years and years of relentless practicing.  My self-containing skills reaching an expert level.  My abilities so outstanding that my emotions had become inaccessible.  Straight face.  Stoic front.  Numb.  Disconnected.  Even in a safe setting, alone, I still couldn’t feel what I was feeling.  Weeping was just something that I could never do.  A prisoner of my own fortress.  The music an escape.  Poignant tunes.  Romantic, sentimental, happy, sad songs that wake up my inner aliveness.  Strangely, I have been noticing how I often feel happiest when I’m sad.  Maybe simply allowing myself to feel the sadness makes room for the happiness that lives behind it?  Like how I always felt so much better after crying it out as a child.  We are taught that sadness is something that needs to be fixed.  Maybe it just needs to be experienced?  There is nothing bad or wrong with sadness even if it can be unpleasant, seemingly unbearable at times.  Repressing it is what makes it dangerous.  Maybe depression isn’t too much sadness?  Maybe depression is too much repressed sadness?  Sadness is part of being alive.  Part of everything beautiful.  Part of romance. Part of death.  Sadness is what gives life meaning.  Love cannot exists without a certain sadness.  How deeply are you allowing yourself to feel it?  Water.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Fight




Fight.  Standing there.  Eyes closed.  I begin to see.  Never stop fighting is what everyone keeps telling me.  But I don’t feel like a fighter.  I mostly just feel tired.  Tired of pretending.  Tired of fighting.  Tired of pretending to be a fighter.  My fatigue is not desperate, depressed or hopeless.  Yes, my body aches.  But most of all, it’s my soul that’s exhausted.  Drained from compromising myself.  Burnt out from faking it for so long.  So spent, I forget who or what I am fighting for.  There is this template that the cultural engineers are selling us.  To solve all problems, first find the culprit.  Identify who or what is to blame.  Make it the enemy.  Then, go to war.  Battle and conquer.   The problem with this constant fight is that it is making us become one of them.  Not better.  The same.  Making us stoop down to their level.  Propelling us towards hate instead of love.  The loss of our inner peace.  Our inside disposition mirroring our outward struggle.  Our external battles slowly infecting our inner harmony.  The fight eventually becoming against our own selves.  Looking back, I now realize that I never was a fighter.  Always uneasy with confrontation.  Avoiding altercations as much as possible.  I have always preferred peace above powerfully forcing my beliefs and virtues on others.  Maybe, in the end, fighting doesn’t really solve anything?  Maybe, in the end, there are no winners in fighting?  Maybe, in the end, we all just come out as losers?  Maybe the world doesn’t need more fighters?  Maybe what the world needs right now is more healers?  Fight.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Enough



Enough.  How do we know?  What does it look like?  Does it have a sound?  What about a smell?  How does it feel?  How do we recognize enough?  Good enough.  Rich enough.  Skinny enough.  Pretty enough.  Far enough.  Fast enough.  How do we know when to say when?  Fear and the never ending cycle of trying to get ahead means gathering more than enough.  Stockpiling, just in case.  We call it saving for a rainy day.  We assume more is better.  But when does it become a sickness?  Not enough is undeniably not good.  It’s certainly insufficient.  It can even be lethal.  But too much can also be as harmful.  Human animals are the only living beings that take more than we need.  Wolves don’t kill all of the rabbits.  Just enough to keep them fed.   Human business models built on never ending growth are always eventually unsustainable.  Living cells that abnormally divide more than enough is cancer.  Never enough is destructive.  A trap that many get caught in.  A black hole that swallows us whole.  A disease.  An infectious illness that is wreaking havoc on our health and on our planet.  Enough requires patience.  Enough requires self-restraint.  Enough comes from a place of love.  If we love each other and feel like we have each other’s back, there is no need to save for that rainy day.  You are already enough just the way that you are.  Enough is your wealth.  Are you tapping into it?  In the end, enough will simply always be.  Enough.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Winter's purpose





Even with the extra day, February sure seems to have come and gone quickly.  March.  Such an unstable month.  Some days feel like winter will never end.  Other days feel like the sun has slowly started turning up the heat.  In many ways, it was a tough winter for me.  Not because of the cold and snow.  It was mostly a discrepancy between how I physically felt and how I thought I should feel.  Expectations and measurable benchmarks are bitches like that.  Sunday morning, I felt a yearning to venture out to the pavilion.  I knew that the main trail would be rideable, but I wasn’t sure about the dead end pathway leading up to it.  It wasn’t cleared at all.  Untouched snow drifts.  The snow crust was almost sturdy enough to ride on.  I would make it 5 – 10 meters and then my fat tires would break through the top layer and I would come to a halt.  I alternated between riding and walking, eventually making it to the pavilion.  I had never been out there in winter.  Sitting on the frozen bench.  So very open.  Strong, cold wind blowing.  Snow dust dancing.  Feeling hollow as the gusts penetrated me.  Purifying.  Soul sterilizing.  Winter blues purging.  There’s something comforting about being at the pavilion.  An inner peace.  A reset of sorts.  Huddled as much as I could against the wind chill, I drank some tea.  As much as it stills feels like the dead of winter, it’s like I can feel the life, including my own, slowly awakening under the snow coat.  Maybe winter’s purpose is to highlight the eternal fire that burns in our hearts?  Or maybe that warmth that I felt was just because of the steamy tea?  Either way, I felt reassured as I headed back home. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Self-love deficit




There is a major self-love deficit in the world today.  I’m not talking about narcissism.  I’m talking about loving and accepting our own self as we truly are.  As imperfect human beings.  With our flaws, shortcomings and limitations.  The highly competitive society that we have created is breaking us.  The so-called losers are falling short.  Society indirectly sending them the message that they are less than.  The so-called winners aren’t really winning either.  They never really feel full because they still always have room for improvement.  Sitting on the top echelon, they live in fear of being taken down.  They have tasted victory and understand its fickleness.  We have been sold the idea that competition is the best way to push progression.  But have we reached a level where the price has simply become too expensive?  Mental health issues have increased significantly over the past decade.  Yet, we keep increasing expectations.  A dog eat dog mentality brings out the worse in people as they desperately try to build themselves back up.  It cultivates greed, hatred and fear.  And greedy, hateful and afraid people aren’t very kind, compassionate or generous.  I mean, competition is good on a fundamental level.  It‘s a survival instinct.  It‘s the foundation behind evolution and natural selection.  Utilitarian in the animal kingdom, but do we really need to cultivate it as much as we do in our human societies?  If what we truly want from life is to be happy, is winning more the answer?  We can build our minds and bodies to perform at an elite level, but if we neglect to also build what’s in our hearts we’ll always feel a certain inner void.  Lost in chasing higher numbers, we lose our emotional selves.  We will never be able to eliminate competition completely but has our spirit become overly competitive?  There are many things that I don’t know.  But I’m pretty sure that more competitive ambition isn’t the way to fill this self-love deficit.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Silence



Silence.  So very rare in today’s world.  So much racket.  So much chitter-chatter.  So much ambient babble.  So used to all of the background noise that we don’t hear it anymore.  Our definition of silence obscured by all the commotion.  True silence all the more terrifying.  So unusual that we’ve become allergic to it.  A deep panic sets in when we come face to face with it.  Our minds not knowing what to do with the quietness.  Our brains unable to speak the language of its nothingness.  Tirelessly trying to avoid it by listening to the radio when driving and keeping the television on when not watching.  Silence has simply become unbearable.  One of the things that I love about winter is its silent stillness.  Nature’s dormant season, not as lively as the rest of the year, so very tranquil.  Something about the blanket of snow muffling the surrounding sounds.  It’s one my favorite things about a cold winter day out in nature.  It has a way of making the silence more inviting.  Its peacefulness uncovered.  Like an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper, silence is the foundation on which life is created.  Silence is what we’re born from and what we’ll eventually return to.  Maybe the purpose of life is to become comfortable with the silence?   Maybe the purpose of life is to learn how to be alone in it without feeling lonely?  Silence is divine.  Silence is fertile.  Silence is patient.  Silence is sincere.  Silence is the food that our soul feeds on.  Only after we have emptied ourselves into the silence can we begin to understand.  Stop losing yourself in the noise.  Come home.  Silence.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Winter Fade

Photo credit Don Ricker / Skylight Photo


Winter fade.  My toes nestled against my merino wool socks inside my winter boots.  The crunchy echo of the fat tires buzzing across the frozen packed snow.  The wind chill pecking at my exposed nose.  The stiff cold air infiltrating my lungs.  The toasty warm feeling stirring in my working legs.  The cozy warmth creeping up from my quads into the rest of my body.  The cool morning stillness.  There is a certain awakening feeling about the cold that you don’t get with summer warmth.  A feeling of aliveness.  A feeling of purposeful movement.  My body enters into this heightened state, becoming less lazy as it revs up in order to start ramping up heat production.  Each effort and movement actually helping it do its thing.  My fat cells living up to their purpose, as insulation, and as a source of energy.  Nothing more is needed.  Proficient simplicity.  Just the ease of this moment.  Body, mind and soul melt into my bike.  The bike and rider disappear.  All that is left is the riding.  Winter fade.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Illuminate


Illuminate. Humans are the only living beings that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s not that other organisms don’t feel sluggish, tired and unmotivated during the winter months. The difference is that they don’t fight it. They hibernate. They sleep. They hole up. They lie dormant. They embrace the stagnation of the lifeless season. They understand and recognize winter as a time of rest, recovery and preparation. Humans don’t have much compassion for winter. We have a hard time seeing its purpose. We mostly just see it as a nuisance, something that we need to endure. We also expect to keep the same work hours and productivity level year round even if our bodies are most often telling us that it goes against our natural biological rhythm. We have no respect for winter’s weight. An attitude of dissociation from the natural world that we ironically are also part of. Riding up into this open area last weekend, my eyes caught a glimpse of the bright high noon sun shining down. Feeling like I was running on empty, I stopped to soak it in. Standing there alone, looking directly at the light, letting it gently kiss my bare face, I felt myself mercifully being filled up. We constantly try to fill our energy deficit with caffeine and food. But what if one of the best remedies for the winter blues is simply natural sunlight. Illuminate.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Pain Cave



Pain cellar.  There is this place deep inside of me that I am no longer willing to go to.  Actually, it’s more than an unwillingness.  It’s more like a newfound inability.  So many years spent regularly venturing there.  Relentlessly practicing.  Going deeper and deeper.  Mind over matter.  Mobilizing every last bit of willpower.  Attempting to overcome.  Forcing it.  Fighting against my own body.  At war with the very framework that keeps me alive.  Physically thrashing my own life-giving anatomy.  My body’s instincts begging me to back off.  Still stubbornly pushing through.  The lactic acid burn of each effort highlighting the smoldering effect of my inner hellfire.  A desperate attempt to release what I have been suppressing for so long.  The rescue method that I have used so many times before, without realizing that it only releases the pressure, but never really cleans up the mess.  Aggressive force can never shine light onto repressed darkness.  This is the type of pain that can never be conquered.  It requires a merciful approach to melt it away.  Riding for me is no longer a form of self-punishment for the pain that I cannot feel.  It’s a friendship with my body.  A harmonious camaraderie with my soul.  An act of kindness.  A gesture of self-love.  A peaceful coaxing.  A prayer inviting what is no longer serving me to check out.  How clean do you keep your inner basement?  Pain cellar.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Open Spaces


Open spaces. Feeling lost. Still knowing exactly where I was. Part of me trying to run away. The other part of me trying to find my way. The unplowed snow covered gravel service road so much slower than when I had last ridden it last summer. The loose rock surface now completely covered with deep tire ruts in the firm snow. In my mind, the distance that I had to cover seemed so much less than what it felt like as I was pedaling through it. The boundless energy, and engaging conversation with the old lumberjack over an hour ago, were but a distant memory. The humble logger had reminded me of my dad. He was impressed by my bike, not expecting to see someone riding way out here, especially in the dead of winter. We were both impressed by how gorgeous and peaceful it was in the woods that day. I struggled to keep moving as the road crested. Out of the forest, into the open. Against the frozen field backdrop, I felt as lifeless as this iced meadow looked. I thought about the dormant life under the heavy snow blanket. Buried. Unable to move. Its vitality also concealed. Idling. It knows that its time to blossom and shine will come. The pasture isn’t in a rush as it waits for Spring under the snow. Nature is never desperate. It just patiently waits. Winter’s pace is definitely slow-moving. But, it’s still forward. Open spaces.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Woodland


Woodland. My eyes infatuated with the smooth white lane in front of me, my gaze diverges just enough to notice the trunks and branches go by on both sides of the blurry tree corridor that I am riding through. The singing and humming of the fat studded tires rolling on the packed snow create such a pleasant melody that echoes under the forest canopy. The deep rumble, different from the sound of riding on dirt, gravel or pavement, but just as beautiful. A drumroll in anticipation of the next drop or banked turn. No struggle. Just allowing. No thinking. Just, in the moment, flow. Winter mountain biking conditions literally at it’s absolute finest. My riding mindset has definitely changed the last few years. My eyes no longer look for the fastest lines. My mind no longer focuses on the wheel ahead and behind me. It’s more about seeing and carving the trail’s smooth fun lines. Taking the longer line to carve a turn or hit a jump. The urgency of the race has left my reason. It’s absence creating space. Space for the exhilaration of the ride experience to surface. My riding is less about the adrenaline and more about the serotonin. The trail system no longer my proving ground. It’s my playground. Woodland.