Points Taken

11

October 15, 2018, Prescott-

Every day, there is a lesson to be drawn,

and most days, there are several,

for those who are awake,

even awake in spite of themselves.

I am far from being a saint,

and most definitely am not  a prophet.

So, the lessons I need to draw,

have sometimes been put off

or ignored.

Among the points I have taken,

from recent days,

are practical:

When meeting someone,

know the road the person is using,

and focus on it-

not on the nearby road

that I took.

When with a person,

who is speaking

with intensity,

even about seemingly

light matters,

give total attention.

Put the watch away,

and leave the cell phone

in the car.

Shut out everything

in the field of vision,

or the range of hearing,

except the person speaking.

For that matter,

DO NOT assess,

or base your response on,

the  level of gravity

of what someone is saying.

If it seems frivolous,

treat it with the same

degree of respect,

that you would

a discourse

on nuclear fusion.

We live in a very hard age.

We live in a fragmented society.

Each person I encounter,

each person

who pulls away

from me,

imparts a lesson.

Active listening

was  a huge part of my life,

from the 1980’s through the 2000’s.

I am sorry I let it go.

I am not sorry that I am

bringing it back.

Godpseed, and forever peace, to my teacher.

 

 

 

Burning the Mask of Obligation

6

October 13, 2018, Prescott-

Obligations are things one takes on, in order to please other people.  They could become passions, which are those things one takes on out of sincere spirit and pure love.   Parenthood, spouseship and a sane and intelligent patriotism are examples of the latter.

In this life, however, there are obligations each of us take on, which raise the person to whom we feel obliged to the status of superior, or master.  Unless one feels passionate about the activity  in which s(he) or he is involved, the obligation becomes a false one.  Many holiday celebrations, for example, become empty rote activities- none of them memorable.  Going to the place of employment, for all too many people, is an empty obligation.  Even having a conversation, if there is no passion, involves putting on the mask of caring, almost a political and vapid exercise.  It fools no one, except, perhaps, oneself.

I have been in the process of shedding obligations, for the past seven years.  Marriage was an act of living love, and never felt like an empty obligation.  There were plenty of moments of misunderstanding, but the passion did not disappear.   Fatherhood is an act of living love, even when miscommunication and physical distance seem to create a sense of discord.  The passion does not disappear.

Working with children and youth is an act of living love, even when their behaviour seems to be enough to drive one to the edge of insanity.  The passion cannot disappear.

Growing as a spiritual being is the greatest of passions- otherwise I would likely dissipate as a person. This means two things:  Do not filter communication, no matter how seemingly drawn out it may be.  Presence is a burden, when viewed in the least obligatorily.  It can only be viewed, from a passionate viewpoint, by not filtering the subject presenting self, in any way.  This requires being totally non-judgmental, as to what is worthy of one’s attention and to what is trifling or frivolous.  How many wars have been started, and fought, because of a perceived or real slight?

So, as I look at obligations, great and small, and bring those that matter to the level of passion-I must chance the burning of the masks of obligation, that I may show the real face that comes with passion.

NEXT:  The Mask of Self-Disdain

 

Dream Baths and Real Soap

15

October 10, 2018, Prescott-

The most surreal, yet most affirming, aspect of last weekend’s Convergence at Arcosanti was Sunday night’s “Dream Bath”.  A couple from Tucson offered spoken word and salsa music, which evoked Carlos Castaneda and what probably transpires at a peyote ceremony. I actually did fall asleep for an hour, whilst listening with my fellow convergers.

When I awoke, the pair were offering their farewells, and more New Age musicians appeared, calling for the group to find one or two people, with whom to snuggle.  My eyes almost did a roll at that one, as I have heard of this being an occasion for unwanted groping and worse.  To the group’s credit, there was none of that.  I was welcomed by a few young folks to be part of their hugging and gentle back and foot massages.  A couple did seem to bond during this time, and it felt beautiful to see them connect.  There was no sexual intercourse, or any other inappropriate contact, though, anywhere in the room.

It was actually refreshing, to have that many people in a room, and to just feel an honest, loving energy pervade.

I did not sweat profusely or get filthy during the weekend, thus escaping the need to do much more than sponge bathe.  It did feel good, though, to get back to Home Base and encounter real hot water and soap, come Monday afternoon.

Convergence and Re-emergence

6

October 9, 2018, Prescott-

It was a consummate joy to have been in Arcosanti, for 2 1/2 incredible days.  The social climate felt different to me than last year’s- in an incredibly beautiful way.  I think that is a continuance of the greater self-confidence I have felt this year, both at work and at leisure.

In one sense, the trials that come along have sparked incidents that have actually augmented the lessons which the trials themselves are meant to impart.  The vandalism to my Elantra, in Montreal, was followed by an evening of healing and joy, at Auberge Bishop, a visit to my Grandma’s hometown and the incredible celebratory weekend in Philadelphia.  A solemn, but blessed, visit with my mother-in-law, was followed by an affirming day with an old Baha’i friend in North Carolina and two days in the sun, with two other friends, in eastern Tennessee.

I felt my rhythm come back, that Sunday night in Montreal, explode in Philadelphia and flow like heaven, this past weekend.  A powerful new friend helped greatly in that regard, and more than she may realize.  Then, too, the music we enjoyed and in which we reveled, was a huge part of this flow.  There were academic presentations as well,  plus I served in the kitchen and in the Monday morning transition to another workshop week.

Insightful, talented men and women brought us to our feet, engaging body and soul.

Most powerful of all was Daniel Hirtz, whose love of the drum, as a sacred instrument of healing, imparted several affirmations of my own growing love of this instrument.  While a few sad, misguided people tried to interrupt Daniel’s session with us, it continued, until the group felt fulfilled.  Drumming and breathing are keys to healing.

Returning to Prescott, I resumed work with another  friend of power, who needed help with getting a safe living situation. That work has partly been achieved, and will continue, albeit around my other endeavours, until it reaches a sense of permanence.

As for my trip to California, it has been delayed by two days, so that the above-mentioned work will see a few more steps achieved, and that a dental procedure can be completed. More details about the coming Thursday-Sunday, in the next post.

For now, I am grateful to Daniel, Pam, Eliana, Tom, Jess, Nick, Conor, Beth Ann, Dave, Ray and all the kids-of-all-ages who made Convergence 2018 such a surging beginning to Autumn.

The Flow of Consciousness River

16

October 6, 2018, Prescott-

Today, and for the eight days that follow, I will be on Fall Break from my place of work.  As ever, much of this break will be spent in service (today, tomorrow and Monday), dealing with the details of life (Tuesday) and focused travel (Wednesday-next Sunday).

I woke this morning, in a focused, but rather detached state.  Going through the regular grooming routine and dealing with news of the outside (more of the same back-and-forth, between right and left; the stock market, once again, dealing with good economic news by imagining future bad stuff; the Navajo Nation dealing with yet another collapse of its western lifeline road).

Nothing earthshaking has happened in my little world, overnight, and I have much to get done in the next hour, before a long, freely-chosen, day of service activities, so I will be brief about this:  I am now in a very detached, almost surreal state of consciousness. No substances have been involved, I just woke up this way and am still in a very aware, but unusually calm, state of being.

This will work in my favour, through a Baha’i gathering, two hours hence and the Convergence at Arcosanti, where I am serving for the second year, at a gathering of various groups to ponder and discuss the direction of society.  Hopefully, there will be no disruption of a meditation session, which I hope to join. Last year’s session was obliterated by a loud and pushy group, who represented the antithesis of meditation.

I will have more to say, in snippets, over the next few days, but will be mostly offline, until Monday night.

Love to all.

What I Keep With Me

13

September 30, 2018, Prescott-

I stayed home, most of the day.  Only a breakfast with fellow American Legionnaires and a trip to the laundromat, took me outside these four walls.  It was a day of reflection, lots of reading of blog posts that were inspirational and a lot of thinking about what lies ahead.

I know that I will work for at least the rest of this academic year, though some have warned me that health is an issue.  I am taking proactive steps, in that regard, because not being a nuisance to my family and friends is a top priority. Also, I am useful in my current post- and will provide continuity in the next academic year, if certain other personnel changes occur.

There will be changes in my family, also.  Therefore, I need to maintain a flexibility, with regards to 2020, and beyond.  I can’t say anything specific, just that my heart is delighted with news that I have received from some family members and solemnified, with the status of one of my in-laws.

Today would have been Penny’s 64th birthday. I got past the maudlin renditions of the Paul McCartney song, and pondered all that she still gives me, on a daily basis, in terms of insights and guidance.   So, I keep her with me- the small cameo photo, that goes on road trips, the framed photos and small 3 x 5’s that are prominent in the living room and the wedding photo that remains in the bedroom.  I keep her thoughts and her feelings about things we discussed, sometimes argued but never let get between us, for more than an hour or so. I keep her smile and her gentle singing voice. I keep her undying love.

Tangential, Part 1

15

September 8, 2018, Prescott- 

This morning, on a visit to Prescott Farmers Market, I spent a few minutes sitting on a bench, near where the  guest musician was playing an acoustic version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, accenting the powerful words of the sometime party tune.

I began to get caught up in the presence of his delightful little family, noting his daughter’s interaction with a another little girl, about her age.  As I smiled at a nearby vendor’s waving and goofing around with the singer’s infant son, the mother looked at me quizzically and I gave her the  proper explanation, as to what was happening, before excusing myself and going off to finish my purchases for the day.

I was challenged, earlier this morning, as to having been short and to the point, in my communications of late.  Simply put, I felt a lot of pressure this week, especially at work, with hard things happening to my team members, and a difficult person inserting herself into the classroom mix.  I have no problems, in particular, with the person who sent the message this morning.  We each are highly intuitive, but intuition, on a human level, is not foolproof.  One’s own fears and challenges get mixed in, invariably.  I take my own intuition with several grains of salt, and end up doing the same with other people’s observations, regarding my life.

Prescott Farmers Market, and the local Planet Fitness franchise, are places I frequent.  I notice that, with one or two exceptions, the management team in each of these places tend to keep me (though not their favoured few) at arm’s length, most likely for good reason-but what that reason has to do with me, specifically, I’m not sure.   Conversely, having the managers of a given establishment be my well-wishers is not why I avail myself of its services.  The Market does have several stalls, where I am on good terms with the vendors and can chat for several minutes, without the emotional door slamming in my face. The gym provides me with a reliable set of full-body machines and the incomparable Hydrobed, a next-gen version of the Ceragem massage bed that we had, in the Phoenix house.  Besides, the manager’s front desk assistants are uniformly more personable, and actually seem happy to see people come in, who are less than buff.

This leads me, again, to the whole culture of anonymity that seems to pervade the urban American West.  This puzzles me.  No one really seems to enjoy living as if under siege, but each of us does it, to some degree.  I have made some headway, walking to and from downtown and Yavapai College, and joining in more group activities, especially in the past two years.

I am approaching a crossroads, of sorts, which I had hoped would not be imminent until at least Autumn, 2020.  Still very much hoping to complete this academic year in one piece, the difficult academic specialist aside, I go to work each day and give it my best.  Still hoping to be of value to my Baha’i and other communities, I am a regular at scheduled and spontaneous events.  Still hoping to keep my head above water, I listen, carefully, to the voices of both support and of criticism, to glean the necessary lessons.

Part 2:  Affirmations and expectations

 

The 2018 Road, Part 2: Learnings and Observations

12

September 3, 2018, Prescott-

In any stretch of time and effort, be it work or leisure, there are learnings.  Some come to us because they derive from novel experiences.  Others arise, because we become complacent, set in our ways.

I didn’t read the details closely enough, that morning in Elkhart, IN.  My eyes told me the dinner was that very night.  It would have been convenient-for me. The words actually read “tomorrow evening”.  That was convenient for the main party.  Read carefully, completely and in a wakeful state.

I crossed the bridge, from Warren, MI to Windsor, ON, without hesitation, this time.  I stayed in the proper lane, unlike on my previous run to Vancouver, three years ago.  The Canadian highways are no mystery-they’re essentially the same as on this side of the imaginary line.  Most of the problems we create in our minds are pointless.

For many years, since losing an electric cookpot to a raging maniac, who threatened to hurt my disabled wife (long story), I had been relieved of nothing.   My car’s interior had been left alone, for many years now.  On a Saturday evening, in Montreal, my lengthy walk to the Baha’i Centre gave someone, or two, a window of opportunity, which they smashed.  Gone were my seven-year-old laptop and my passport.  The computer has been replaced. The document waits for me to retake photos, which happens tomorrow. Use the money belt, even here in North America, and put the laptop in the trunk, if it is even necessary to leave it in the car at all.

When one is on the road, there are several options for accommodation.  Many people can’t abide the idea of not staying in an expensive hotel room or rented house/apartment.  Be aware of surroundings, but don’t rule out hostels, guest rooms, (clean) couches, campgrounds or even highway 24-hour, or 12-hour, rest areas.  The only things that matter are safety and hygiene.

Observations-

Even in a rundown, construction-heavy community, there are ways to mail a letter.  I don’t even remember the town, but somewhere in Missouri or Illinois, I mailed a letter back to Prescott.

People don’t seem to tailgate as much, or pass on the inside as often, the further east one drives.   At least, that’s been my experience.

Warm-hearted people may be found anywhere.  The same is true of the icy people. Most often, they work side by side.

Pay attention to body language, even when tired.  Some men of a certain age only communicate with head nods and grunts.  Then again, so do some teenagers.

Research different ways, ahead of time, to stay connected, when in the car.

Know that, in a pinch, it’s okay to cross back into the U.S., by car, from Canada, with a valid U.S. driver’s license and VA  photo id.  The reverse is not true.

Terra Shield, by do Terra, works very well, in keeping bugs away.

Lake Champlain,  Chesapeake Bay’s Western Shore and Richard Russell Lake are enchanting places, even when it is stormy.  Lake Oconee is the stuff of dreams, and crazy expensive. (No, I didn’t stay there.)

There is nothing better, when tired of the road, than just sitting for two days, in a family home, watching TCM and dipping in the pool.

Teen girls can cook, and cook well- the little breakfast place, off I-95, in Timmonsville, SC, offers proof.

Single African men also can cook well.  The little apartment which I visited, in Salisbury, NC, offers proof.

Eastern Tennessee has its share of “Heavens on Earth”.  I spent two days in just such a place.

Next time, whenever that is, I will set aside more time for  Denver, for Chicagoland, for Elkhart and for Amarillo.

 

 

 

Back to The (Changeable) Future

10

August 19, 2018, Prescott-

“You’ve lost your shimmer!”- So I was told, this morning.

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Before sitting down for the last four posts of “The 2018 Road”, let me indulge with some reflections on yesterday.  August 18 has been an auspicious day, since 1984, when my then best friend passed on, suddenly, in the midst of getting his truck unstuck-of all things.

I joined a newly welcomed friend, on a hike around Lynx Lake.  We walked at a leisurely pace, from the north trailhead to the south side of the lake.  As it was rather sunny when we got to the small south side beach, I suggested that we continue, counterclockwise, along the more rocky eastern shore.

In all my circumference hikes along the lake, the last being in 2016, the trail has been dry as a bone.  It was not so, today, with three water crossings along the east side-hardly surprising in a monsoon that has been second to none, as Lynx Creek and Salida Creek flow into the lake, from the east and the dam’s spillway has a few inches of water flowing.

So, we each had a new experience, she with the lake itself and I with the different dynamics of the trail, in wet conditions. Then, there was a spot where the trail was washed out and I had to follow a bushwhacked area, much to the chagrin of the five people who were “depending on (my) knowledge of the trail.”  All made it back to the north side safely, though.

In the course of this hike, a long conversation ensued, about who I was and where I was headed in life, as well as the same, to a lesser extent, with respect to my hiking partner.  Most of this is confidential, but I will share a couple of insights she had about me, which explains the remark at the head of this post.

The things I can share are: 1.  I would do well to get out more, socially.  2.  I need to be open to possible sudden, drastic, very specific life changes.  These remarks, she said just by looking at me.  The second has occurred to me recently, given the precarious state of my MIL’s health, and despite her (MIL’s) occasional insistence that she will make it to the age of 100, (she is 92), and to my son and his fiance talking of marriage, within the next ten months (No further specifics yet, so please don’t ask).  As for the former, I am getting out more, socially.   Intuition is a marvelous thing, though, as I’ve found out, some of it puts one at risk of, “Well, duh!”, in response.  No one really likes to be  second-guessed.

 

Burned, but Not Broken

22

August 4, 2018, Prescott-

As I stood, gazing at the sunset, this evening, admiring just how beautiful this city is, I think of different people here, and also realized:

You the disaffected one, silently snarl,

and greet me sullenly,

no longer by name,

just a perfunctory “Hello“.

You’d like me gone,

because I’m not who you want me to be,

WHAT you want me to be.

I’m still here,

as it’s the Universe,

not human beings,

deciding what I am going to do,

and where.

You, the gym managers, greet me by name,

because you see my heart,

and your only agenda

is to love and serve.

You, the busy entrepreneur, make time for me,

when it fits your schedule.

That’s okay, as

I was brought up

to honour people’s privacy.

You, the children and youth, smile

when I walk in your space,

or into the classroom,

because we share

a tenderness of heart.

You, my co-workers,

know of my undivided loyalty,

and support,

because we share a love

for the youth we serve,

and all else is secondary.

I have no real enemies,

just people who read me  wrong.

I suffer no lasting injury,

just the temporary wounds

which those in dire pain

want so badly to share.

As I looked at the sunset,

I realized the wounds are healing.