Monday, February 5, 2024


When that phone call comes out of the blue, life can change in an instant. The ground shifts between our feet. With our usual landmarks gone, and no direction, there's little we can do.

But there can be a few things:

We can look for something constant. 
  • Like our breath. It's always right here. 
  • Or the temperature of the air. 
  • Or the gentle pressure of gravity. 

We can do something simple to do that's in our control. 
  • Make a cup of tea. 
  • Listen to the birds. 
  • Work with our hands. 

That can give us enough time to catch our breath, to get a sense of our place in the world while things settle down. We may not find our footing right away, but the storm will pass. 

Sunday, February 4, 2024


Judy and I both love music. When we started music class in high school, we needed to choose what instrument to play. Since neither of us knew what to pick, we both tried flute.

Judy was a natural. I was not. She had an edge we both recognized. Her mouth structure was made for flute. Mine, we discovered, was suited to Baritone Horn and Tuba.

But our music teacher, for some reason, pitted us against each other - I guess thinking we'd both respond to the challenge and improve? The more Mr. H. pushed, the more it pissed us off. We both loved a challenge, but this wasn't right. We were there for learning and playing and loving music.

When a competition takes place on a level playing field, it can be glorious. When it's unfair, nobody wins.


I let myself be carried by the service in church. Usually I am attentive and focused; this day I simply relaxed and trusted in the good energy of the place and people. As I sat there enjoying the ambience, insight popped up, unasked for.

That's the way insight comes.

No amount of plotting or planning or analysis or willpower or hard work will bring insight. We can't sit down and say "Okay. Here I am. I'm ready," and expect insight to arrive in due order.

Insight is a gift that can not be captured at will. Nor can anyone can give this to us. It's not a borrowed truth. No matter how wise, no teacher can do this for us. When we experience that moment of illumination, it is ours alone.

We can make room for realization to land, though. Insight finds us when we allow our mind to relax: taking a bath, meditating, walking in the woods, any time we are in our own natural flow. It doesn't require any special tools. We just have to show up and relax.

The experience goes beyond intellectual understanding. Insight is not just another idea or concept, it burrows into our being, shifting and changing our mindscape. Suddenly the world opens up in a new way. We are new. It sticks, too. Its effects linger in our inner being long after the moment has passed.

When I'm easy with myself and with life, insight has room to arrive. It's as though it's been sitting nearby, waiting for me to settle down long enough to notice it.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Drop By Drop

One day, in a very timely manner, the following message came across my desk:

Think not lightly of good, saying, "It will not come to me."
Drop by drop is the water pot filled.
Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little,
fills himself with good.
– Dhammapada 122 –

It's a promise. It's also a message of hope and faith and optimism and patience.

It promises that things can get better even if we don't notice them at the time. And it suggests that we don't have to leap tall buildings to have it happen.

Little things, day after day, add up.

Twenty-five years after planting a sapling, we may look out our window and be surprised to discover the sapling has become a full-grown maple tree. Over the years, little by little, it has taken what it needed to thrive. The changes happened gradually, but that sapling continued to grow steadily. In the same way, we can gather good, "little by little".

Little things done often really add up. For example:
  • Catching a grumpy thought and changing it to a grateful one.
  • Spending a bit more time with people who are kind, and bit less with those who are not.
  • Saying grace at mealtime and really feeling thankful.

  • Listening to the birds.

Each little change brings about its own reward. These little changes are like simple pleasures they can be satisfying in and of themselves. Yet they add up, too. Drop by drop our lives change until one day, we look up and see that life is good.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Seeing Things

When we were first born, we had to learn how organize all the things we perceived into some sort of framework. A baby's eyes can roll around every which way until she figures out that they have to point over there to see that thing over there.

Once she figures out how to focus, watch what she looks at. It might not be you, but something she perceives in the air right behind your right shoulder. With parents to help, she will discover the difference between a red apple and a yellow banana. She'll learn what's important and learn to discard the information that doesn't fit into the current worldview.

Sometimes when I watch the grass, I see a pattern of concentric circles in it, large ones. I am usually soft-focused and calm at the time and not thinking about much of anything. And then there it is. It's just something that has come into view when I arrive at that relaxed mental state. Sometimes I see square shapes in a grid pattern. And then after a bit when I start thinking of other things, it quietly dissolves and the grass becomes normal again. 

In the baby's relaxed mental state something surely came into her view.

Perception is weird. I wonder how much we miss?

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Gray Pebble Story

I have a stone. A small grey pebble. It's smooth and tiny and I love the feel of its smooth surface in my hand.

I found this pebble at Wasaga Beach on a fine day. The sun was shining with the heat and energy of high summer. The fresh water from this huge lake rolled in, in waves that splashed in high refreshing particles. The energy was high, bright and cheerful that day as the pebble called to me and asked me to bring it home. When I picked up the pebble, I closed my eyes and relished the feeling of high, refreshing energy. Then I put the pebble in my pocket and brought it home.

Any time I want, I can hold that small grey pebble and feel my energy levels resonating with the high energy of the sun and water and wind that day at the beach. Each time I use the pebble and connect, I touch that rejuvenating energy.

A Sense of Play

Adulting is hard. It's easy to lose our delight in the absurd, our love of silliness, our sense of play.

Where does our sense of fun go when we grow up? When we were kids, we explored. We wondered what adventures would happen that day. We believed in ourselves. We charged into life with our heart and soul. We built, created, learned.

How did we forget that life works better with a sense of fun? Work moves more smoothly. It becomes easier to laugh when things go wrong.

Let's see if we can find some of that in us. The kids have it right. Life is to be enjoyed.

The Man in the Woods

I may inadvertently have created an energy construct many years ago to protect the tree forts and play structures the kids had built in the little forest down the road. One of the other kids has been acting like a bully and kept destroying their hard work each time they left the woods to return to their homes.

So I went to the woods and asked the divine energies there to protect the forts from harm and to discourage those who wanted to wreck their structures. It was a prayer fed by strong mama-bear emotion. I felt strongly about the desire to protect the play in the area.

A week or two later I heard stories from the kids. They told me that there was a "man in the woods" who they'd never seen but had heard that others had spotted from a distance. They told me the bully-kid was afraid to go into the woods because he kept seeing this man. He'd tried to get close enough to recognize the person but it seemed to vanish whenever he did. Other people had caught glimpses, too. But none of the kids who'd been working on the play forts had ever seen this figure.

It got me thinking. Did I create this from the prayer? Could the simple protective prayer have created something more tangible than I'd wanted? I wasn't sure.

If I did do this, I clearly didn't do the job well. I never wanted anyone, even the bully-kid, to be afraid of going into the woods.

So off I set again. Once in the forest I calmed myself and tried to sense the 'man' that they'd told me about. I didn't see it but I did get a feeling of presence. It was not harmful or malicious in any way. Just a presence. If this was a result of my efforts, I figured I'd best see if I could undo any damage I had done. If this was just my imagination, then setting out to right a wrong could do no further harm. I took my time and asked for assistance from the Angels of the woods. I apologized to the 'man'. I asked it if it would be willing to go with the Angels of the forest and let them take good care of its energy: deconstruct or re-purpose. I waited until I got a sense that the presence had left and then I went home.

The 'man in the woods' was never seen again.

Note to self: Be careful what you wish for. You may just get it.

Humour Has a Place in Spiritual Growth

Sitting in vipassana retreat. Silent. Very serious. I found it joyless at times. The teachers, while well versed in their field, took themselves pretty seriously too. I didn't see them smile much.

Anyhow, well into the first long sitting, a guy sitting in a yoga posture in the middle of the room started to do a loud, specialized, breathing technique. In that quiet, serious meditation hall, it was LOUD. I loved it. As I listened to him, my sense of humour kicked in. I was caught by the sound of it; it sounded a bit like a cat trying to throw up a hairball.

Spiritual growth has a certain dignity to it. Yet humour does too, when it's not pointing fingers, or hiding from the pain of reality. Real humour is about the absurdity of life. The longer we live the more we come to see that each time we try to settle on a truth or fact or take things too seriously, we find spinach in our teeth. Humour keeps us humble; it's what makes us human and it serves as a good counterpoint to self-importance or too much piety.

When I sat in that meditation hall after the hairball thing stopped, I could feel that the pressure in the hall had released, as though everyone had taken off a tight shirt. Even if it wasn't his intention, and even if it made the leaders frown, it was the perfect way to break all that difficult energy.

Taken at the same time, spiritual growth and humour invite a sense of tenderness in us, an understanding that we are all in this together.

No Regrets

In 1999, about 2 weeks before my Mom died in another city, I had a strong urge to go visit her. As events played out, I didn't go. People asked me if I regretted that. No. Not really. Whatever energy drove the impulse to go wasn't met, but there was no sense of loss. Mom's memory was long gone, and if I had gone, the woman I'd visit was just a shadow of the woman she had been. I loved her. She loved me. Wherever she is, she knows that. So I have no regrets.

A friend told me recently that she regretted some of the choices she'd made earlier in her life. I didn't like to see her thinking like that. If she could have made other choices at the time, she would have. When we make a wiser choice than we had in the past, it's a refection of who we are now, not who we were then.

"If I had just done this differently." We assume things would have gone better. But would they? All we can be sure of is that they would have gone differently. Not necessarily better.

All we can hope for when choosing well is to see a better effect in our immediate vicinity, and hope that the benefits will ripple outwards in a positive way. But we are not capable of understanding all the ramifications.

All we can do is our best and hope for the best.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Too Quick to Blame

Blame can come in so fast we don't even have time to think about what we just thought.

I saw a white tissue littering the ground beside the forest path. Annoyance swept in. Someone was being careless. My assessment and judgement came so fast and so quietly I almost missed it.

The tissue was not really a big deal. But that first reactive thought was illuminating.

As all this was running through my mind, I looked closer at the tissue. I could bring it home to dispose of it. But when I went to pick it up, I saw that it wasn't a tissue. It was my own handkerchief, one I had lost the day before.

Now I had no one to blame but myself.

How quick I'd been to jump to conclusions, when there was no blame to be found.

The Forest in the Dark

Distances become shorter when we can see the destination.* But most of the time we can't see what's coming next. Life can change fast, and when it does, our ambitions and goals have to change too.

I walk through the forest in the dark** fairly often in the good weather. Even with a headlamp, it can be disorienting without the usual daylight landmarks. 

So I don't try to figure out where I am. 

Instead I enjoy the walk itself: the way the shadows fall on the ground - Is that a branch or a shadow?, the sounds - which are different at night, the scent of the trees - which seem more available without vision, the feeling of presence which infuses everything.

When I come up to a fork in the road, I stop and orient myself. Once I decide which direction I want to take next, I let the path lead me and return to my joy in being in the presence of the forest.

**Although in the dark is best, the same thing is fun in heavy rain or fog because it limits the visual input. Wearing reading glasses would do the same thing.

* see this article: Are We There Yet?

Saturday, January 27, 2024


We often have a bit of an agenda when it comes to giving. We may want people to appreciate our generosity. We may want them to appreciate the thing we have given. We may want them to pay it forward, or return the favour. We may want our generosity to make the world a better place.

Of course we do.

Yet generosity isn't about any of that stuff. It's about giving and then letting go - giving the thing/time/whatever and moving on with no further thoughts about it. The giving is done. We are done with it. We are not just giving it over, but giving it up.

In terms of energy, we want to stop it from occupying a place in our mind/body. When I was a kid I was taught that when we give to anyone, we need to leave our names out of it. We are not looking for praise. We are looking to fill a gap for someone in need; we see that we can spare it, so there it is - done. The act leaves a refreshing gap when we have no agenda. As Lao Tzu said: "If your willingness to give blessings is limited, so also is your ability to receive them."

Generosity comes from the heart. When we give from the heart, the world gives back.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Walking For Pleasure

I'm walking the winter trail these days, and when there's snow it's harder going. I've found it becomes even more of a slog when I'm thinking how hard it is, or comparing my progress to other times. My neck and jaw muscles start to get tight as I push on, my dedication becoming stubbornness.

But I'm supposed to be walking for pleasure.

So my latest practice while we have snow to slog through, is to notice when the walk stops being fun. I relax the muscles that don't have to be tight, and start again, taking my cues from my body. When my body is enjoying the walk, then I am enjoying the walk.