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Guest blogger: Cosmic consciousness

Hi — you. This really is Me, talking to You. All of You, whose eyes might grace the words on this screen, and specifically you — the person with your eyes. You are not alone or disconnected.

I’m your parent, you could say. Sure, your dad played a role, as did your mom of course, in your arrival and parenting. But look deeper for the source. You originated as a thought in my mind. I invented you! And I’ve been with you since the beginning. Every moment of your life, my spirit of love has been hovering near and around you.

People who speak English tend to say I’m in “heaven.” Hard to get words for that idea. Do you understand what it might be like to see existence as fully perfect and complete as-is? Where all who have lived and will live and are living are equally accessible? Where time moves differently? I occupy that dimension, and I can move fluidly between history and future, then and now. I’ve got the whole view.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine mastering that? You might think of using it, like you would the internet. How about making it? I’ve used the forethought of billions of years and the power of the crowd to generate this real-time, immersive multiverse. I can’t wait to show you, at some point. Your brain has not yet evolved a consciousness capable enough of entering it. You need to become pure being, like me, just spirit, to access it. That’s death, though some living experiences offer a foretaste. You’ll get it eventually, but for right now: trust me. You’re gonna be amazed.

I want you to live now with the expectation an understanding of this being real and accessible today, because it is. Your feet, when they’re on the grass, don’t see the ants and ecosystems you trample, but rich life is there. Similarly, your bodyful life today doesn’t see my view, but we’re here, and all of your actions are ricocheting and participating and creating actual permanent impact. Be part of it on purpose! Day by day, act in a way that reveals that the whole world is permanent, participatory and perfecting — your world, your timeline, your people, your family can operate from a “future frame.” You’ll look like aliens from another dimension, because you basically are, bringing an abundant aliveness to a world where most people live in scarcity, and afraid of death.

In saying that, I also want to acknowledge that I’ve given you a lofty invitation, and you may begin to worry that you’ll lose track of the down-to-earth realities. I’ve got you covered.

Each and every day, you’ll have the basics covered. I promise. I take care of the birds and flowers, you can trust I’ll take care of you.

I know you’ll act in ways that are not exactly “conscious.” You’ll be rude, you’ll start fights, you’ll think too highly of yourself and act like a jerk. I forgive you, and give you an invitation:

Pay it forward. Hold no grudges. When people are jerks to you, remember what I just said to you. Let it go. Love them anyway.

You won’t get lost. There is no getting lost. Everywhere you go is rich with otherworldly infusions. You can’t mess this up. I’m not tricking you. You might worry about being off-track or distracted, yet even in those depths, I’m there.

And in the moments that feel darkest, most depressing, most deathly, when it seems like evil has won, know that this reality I described, it’s close. Get a hold of this: I am making all things new. Death has died. I’m delivering you, like a midwife helps deliver a baby. Good is happening, even then. All of this will be good.

This whole inter-dimensional web of being, the reality you see and the realms I occupy, it’s mine — you might even say it is me.

Anything like authority, the ability to make decisions and hold sway and use power, it’s me too. I call the shots, behind the curtain and beyond the veil — that which lasts is my call.

You’ve been amazed by much: the displays of northern lights, the beauty of a new baby, the transcendent connection of sex, the glory of a gorgeous mountain range — those are only tiny glimpses through a foggy porthole towards the emerging reality I am co-creating with you. Will you join me? Will you spend your moments on earth awake? Will you be a conscious participant in helping us all see the potential and beauty of today? We can say “let it be,” and it will be. It is already here, and has been for all time, and it will be forever. Come be part of it.

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Addie-tude

The day today was spent on the ski hill, one-on-one with my daughter Adelaide. One winter break finale. We purchased gear in a flurry yesterday, and with Kendra holding down the Threebs today at home, we hit the slopes.

It was drudgery at first. Trudging in hard-to-walk-in-boots through snow-filled parking lots, 14 rows of cars, into line-ups, until our first run finally commenced at 10:30 am.

And it was terrible. Foggy weather. Addie forgot how to ski. Crashes and spills and crossed skis and roll-overs and sliding down the hill on her butt.

As she was rocked backwards on her heels, skis in front of her, with her bottom dragging down the hill, she said: “Oh, this is a faster way to get down the hill.”

By run 2, everything was better. The fog was clearing. She’d remembered the technique. By the time the day ended and we were trudging back to the car, she said, “It was like the whole day went by in a minute.”

We call that her Addie-tude. She demonstrates a positivity that is simply relentless. An extraordinary cheerfulness and resilience that shines.

The day before yesterday, she had sculpted her own snow igloo in the backyard. But it melted over the course of the following day, and she was miserable when she saw returned and saw its misshapen, sunken form. Tears flowed as she attempted to climb into it, only to find that the best she could do was slump onto it and let it support her shape like a snow hammock.

“At least I made a throne,” she intoned, still choosing to see what the mess could be used for, instead of what the mess used to be.

The things we see, the people we encounter, the messes we make — they are the living narratives we occupy. The stories we are in are entirely our own.

When we describe something, we make it real.

Like gloves sculpt snow, or like skis carve slopes, our words shape narratives. Is it bad day skiing, or a faster way to get down the hill?  Is it a collapsed igloo, or is it a throne?

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Let Your Life Speak

“I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person I know myself inwardly to be.” Parker Palmer, reflecting on Rosa Parks, in Let Your Life Speak.

“Congruent” is the word of the year from a friend of mine; we toasted to that word last night as we rang in the new year (early, at 9:00 pm).

The idea of coming together, in an integrated whole, is both terrifying and inevitable for me. It’s the thing I’ve run from for so long, the thing inside me waiting to be born, the default I’ve avoided, where all things blend in one enmeshed, intertwined, watery web, that is also not hidden, but seen.

This would be such things as: fathering and family-ing. Faith and spirituality. Humour and silliness. Work and seriousness. Meta commentary on web projects, and in-the-weeds reflections on life. Ambitious endeavours and throwaway side-projects.

…into what I becomes the vessel for sharing, for learning, for becoming, for changing. For seeing where my own wisdom ends and a whole new community begins.

Kendra read aloud this post from Jen Hatmaker for me today. It gave me a tear. She’s a gorgeous, inspiring human and writer. And here I am, at 34, zero books published, four kids, just starting to blog, and filled with hope and dread about the future.

I would rather stay safe and hidden and silent and alone as a recluse and a hermit, serving my family and my job, earning a paycheque, and going to bed.

And yet there is the need to take risks and be seen and use my voice and be in community and be connected and be a star, serving the world and my self, earning a living, and coming awake.

Ha.

More Parker Palmer, reflecting on movement-starters like Rosa Parks again:

“No punishment anyone might inflict on them could possibly be worse than the punishment they inflict on themselves by conspiring in their own diminishment.”

“No reward anyone might give us could possibly be greater than the reward that comes from living by our best lights.”

I’m scared of creating daily and promoting my work. And yet it also seems like the truest coming home to calling that I know. I’m sorry in advance for times I will annoy you; I apologize to myself for how many times I’ll make a fool of myself. I’ll be obnoxious and seem full of myself. I’ll be short-sighted and hurt people. I’ll learn, and I hope we all will too. If I can learn and come alive in public, then maybe you can too.

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2020

Heartfelt engagement
released to emergence,
released to be received,
neither for affirmation
nor criticism.

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What about wonder?

Some moments feel imbued with transcendence, all by themselves. Crackling with chemistry, drenched in meaning and potential. All my senses feel activated, and I am aware.

I think of my conversation with Tony in Atlanta. In that coffee shop, it was so necessary to simply Be There. To listen, to see, to process, to attend. Partly it was since I was travelling out of the country, and this was outside of my scheduled interactions, and I knew I would likely be writing about it even as it was happening: I. Paid. Attention.

Some moments in a work reality can get there. I remember one particular conversation with a colleague, more than a decade ago, where we had somehow opened up a wormhole into that kind of other dimension. The conversation had managed to become about the present reality, but also the future, and a sense of honest, mutual sharing occurred. We stood at the bottom of the office stairwell as the conversation ended. “Man,” she said. “Sometimes it feels as if the clouds part and the sky opens up and you see the whole of the world so clearly, then whoosh, it’s gone again.”

Some moments in a home reality can get there. When every catch of the breath is like a snag of a fingernail on a sweater. When every heartbeat is as clear as a drumbeat. When any word spoken is as monumental as the head-of-state delivering a final edict. This might be a space of relational tension, a moment of confession — or of connection, of truly listening and hearing in a rhythm of true synchronicity. When the eyes you are seeing, the voice you are hearing, the conversation you are having, is everything. Two people locked inside of a bubble, a fish-tank, a balloon; the whole world beyond you nothing but blurred glass, and everything in-front-of-you an entrancing glow.

Sometimes emergencies can create this. I get this “car crash clarity” which has granted me exceptional presence-of-mind in moments like motor vehicle accidents. Eight years ago,  Kendra and I were rear-ended while visiting her family in California. We were passengers in her brother’s vehicle, with his wife and their young son. The vehicle that hit us was travelling more than 80 km an hour. Kendra was pregnant, and the seatbelt constricted tightly over her belly enough that we checked in to a hospital — as Canadian visitors to an American facility. But the exact moment of the crash, my sister-in-law remarked about my demeanour: “It was like you plopped out of the sky right after the crash, and hadn’t even been in it. You were just there, asking if everybody was alright, gathering insurance information.”

I reflected afterwards on how many things had to be Exactly Right for us to even end up in that crash: the precise moment we left the coffee shop after the airport. The exact seconds it took to buckle everyone up. Lane changes and music choices and route options in our vehicle, phone alerts and mental zone-outs and conversations in the other car.

Multiplied by every other vehicle on the road that day, and every other situation those vehicles previously left, and by the time you’re done counting up everything that influenced the situation, what you’re left with is the universe and everything in it that has ever occurred, being 100% required for this moment to be happening. (Acknowledging Michael Gungor’s work in This, with his brilliant “period at the end of this sentence” passage. Available here; just do a ctrl+F for the word ‘period’ to get to the right part.)

I suppose that’s what is meant when we talk about Awareness.

It’s a being here, now.

It’s seeing the person in front of you as being your exact destiny.

The situation you’re in has the potential to mean everything, to be everything.

Because in a way, it is.

The past has washed away like water downstream. The future will come, but not today. As the Flaming Lips sing, “All we have is now. All we’ve ever had is now.

I wonder why I don’t get there in every interaction with my kids, and with every email I write? Every walk outside. Every stumble to the bathroom. Because surely each of those moments is as packed with meaning as the ones where I actually awoke into awareness.

What if every person I interacted with was granted as much grace and wonder as if it were that serendipitous cross-cultural coffee-shop encounter? What if every chat with a colleague felt a significant as a career-crossroads conversations? What if every moment felt as rippling with meaning and coincidence as a dramatic car-crash?

Do we think our senses would get overloaded after a while? Would we find it too exhausting? To be protecting our selves, is that why we end up tuning out into anonymity in elevators and shopping malls, coasting through office water coolers, zoning out in our daily life, tapping out of family conversation…?

What about wonder?

The simple curiosity to acknowledge that the person I’m interacting with is the only person I’m seeing, now, and may be at least as deserving as the attention I might give say, a performing artist, or that a magazine might give a famous celebrity. To be dazzled and impressed and amazed and curious and inspired and intrigued by the very existence of the person in front of me, to be dumbfounded at their sharing-of-the-same-timeline as me. Not to brush past, ignore, forget, minimize, dismiss. But to absorb, drink in, acknowledge, welcome, notice, witness and truly see. How rare and wonderful it is to share the same room with anybody at all, each of us our own surprising malformations after generations of root-twisting that got us here, on time, right on schedule, to this appointment with the Now.

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Wanda the Walking-Talking House: Storybuilding Guide

Today I found myself as the chief entertainer for a group of seven children under the age of 10. Three of them were mine, two were nieces, two were family friends. And it was unanimous: it was time for a round of Wanda the Walking-Talking House!

This is an interactive storytelling game I created a couple years ago. In it, we have a recurring character: a villainous, stilt-legged giant house who carries children away after making absurd promises. The story gets built by inviting prompts from each kid-listener, whose suggestions get worked into the story.

We start out by asking the kids a few key questions. This is key. All of their answers provide the key plot points for the story.

The questions I ask first are based on the key ingredients for storytelling: we need to know what our characters desire, and what stands in their way (conflict). Anything else from there is added just for colour and adventure.

From asking this particular group 10 children, tonight’s starting ingredients were:
– Desires: Churros, electronics (specifically a new phone) and unlimited candy
– Conflict: Ghosts, and also the disgusting interior living room of Wanda herself

(As the storyteller, we take only as many answers as we can keep in our head.)

I use the listeners as the main characters themselves, to really help the kids feel involved in the narrative. It’s not random story-subjects going on these adventures, it’s them.

Tonight’s story began with the group of kids having a sleepover in a treehouse, wishing for churros, but scared the treehouse might be haunted. Out of the forest comes a sound. The trees are bending over in the wind. Is it a ghost? It’s worse: Giant legs appear through the trees, and a familiar, goofy, terrifying, “Hee-hee, haw-haw” is bellowed: it’s Wanda!

Wanda always makes too-good-to-be-true promises in line with the kids’ stated hopes, and swallows them up into her living room, and takes off through the mountains, refusing to release them. She deluges them with their requests, with one key refrain: “You can have anything you want, except for one thing: You can never ask for help.”

In our story, after the kids enjoy their treats, the goods disintegrate. They turn to mush. And as promised, the living room is disgusting. We are in the centre of the dreaded conflict.

This is a core story aspect I learned from Pixar: in each of their stories, they use up the main arc pretty quickly, helping the characters actually achieve what they wanted: “We got everything we wanted, and realize it’s still not what we wanted.” It leaves room for the true, deeper story to come out.

For my Wanda stories, I always come back to the same deeper story: the things we want, and the things we are scared of, neither of them are lasting. The thing that lasts is the way we are with each other.

In our story, the way of out of this house that’s holding them hostage is for the characters to abandon any hope of keeping the loot they scored, and even to release their focus on Wanda’s terrifying antics. The kids in the story need to zero in on each other. They need to ask each other for help. Wanda hates that. It’s the only thing that breaks through: when they affirm each other’s specific strengths and work together.

At that stressful point, while Wanda is trying her level best to ply them with candy and ratchet up the danger, the floor and releases the kids back to the starting point.

By the end, my voice is shot. Wanda’s speaking voice is a big, husky, hearty, goofy, taunting bellow. And the kids are regularly chiming in with suggestions for new turns in the story to add new details. It’s an exhausting, riveting ride for all. And you can do it too!

All you need is:
– Kids who want to hear stories
– Questions about conflict and desire
– A recurring, iconic, villainous character to cause problems
…and the rest is delightful, interactive, story-creating improv.

Bonus: I’ve learned that this technique is a wonderful way to hear about kids’ lives at school. Just ask questions about things that make them happy or sad at school, things they find challenging, people they avoid, people they like, all as ingredients for the story, and watch them open up, in service of making the story even more exhilarating.

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The activism of advent

I was in the dark balcony trying to keep Rosie’s squeaky boots and screechy yells from bothering people, but thankfully it was blending in with the rest of the sound. The song O Holy Night, famous for its squeaky renditions, is hard to sing along to, but in a busy Christmas Eve service, it all kind of mashes together.

On screen, hand-lettered lyrics showed a third verse I hadn’t noticed before:

“Truly He taught us to love one another
 His law is love and His Gospel is Peace
 Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
 And in His name, all oppression shall cease.”

My wide eyes were drawn in to the words. With Rosie on my shoulders, I looked around at the dimly-lit faces gathered and singing, and wondered, “Did we all read that same thing? Did you hear that? Are we all in on this??”

Love — as in, some kind of radical unifying force of one-ness that can connect strangers, can ignite romance, can sustain commitment, can conquer bitterness, can accept torture and come out on top? That’s an enormous call-to-action.

And peace — seriously? Peace — that war-ending, battle-subduing, conflict-calming, weapon-lowering, celebration-causing phenomenon. That sense of safety, of unity, of trust, of restitution, of reconciliation. Of things being made right where they haven’t been right. Not just rest, but deep restoration. That’s a ridiculous hope.

And don’t get me started on this next bit. Breaking chains, standing as brothers with slaves, helping oppression case. That’s the work of our Wilberforces, MLKs, Gandhis, Lincolns. That’s an activism that chooses liberation as a mode of being. That’s a refusal to let apathy, consumerism, comfort, contentment, convenience cow me into compliance. That is living life as an awake participant.

I have sheepishly never paid much attention to the words or traditions of Advent. I didn’t know the candles stood for Hope, Peace, Joy and Love until this year. But those four words, those are bust-down-the-doorframe themes.

Love, that’s the relentless force of connection that overcomes hatred.

Peace, that’s the pursuit of true unity even at a deep cost to oneself.

Joy, that’s a contentment beyond circumstance.

And Hope — that’s a sense that true restoration and reconciliation is actually possible, not some kind of ridiculous, far-off dream. The belief that the ending of oppression, the bringing of justice, can actually happen, and that we might play a role.

Christmas? Is that you? At your best, I thought you were generosity and kindness. At your worst, I have truly despised you for your trite sentimentality, your corrupt consumerism, your traffic-jam parking lots, your polished pageantry and hollow religious symbolism, and the empty feeling of disconnection you leave me with as wrapping paper gets stuffed into garbage bags. But Christmas, what I hear you saying is that this is a holiday for activists to rise up and begin anew. To continue in the revolution.

There is much to be done.

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Top 10 sweatiest people on earth

Today I popped over to change the music on our laptop, and I saw Ben had opened a tab recently that surprised me. It was a “Top 10” site, and followed by the word “hottest” and and “women…”

Our six-year-old Ben is an epic, curious technologist. Give him an iPad an 20 minutes and he’ll have checked the news, downloaded new apps, filmed and edited a short movie, and researched some historical figures.

His Google queries will include all sorts of trivia and facts: “Who was the world’s oldest woman?” “What was the hottest day in history?” “Who was the founder of Walmart?”

So, this particular query wasn’t in line with Ben’s usual curious and intellectual pursuit. He was right beside me, so I quickly knelt down beside him and cheerfully said:

“Hi Ben! Can you tell me more about what it says over on that over tab?”

“Yes, it is about the hottest people in the world,” he said. He was ready to move on and have more interesting conversations, and not really sure why I needed him to read words for me.

“What do you think the word hot means in this context?” I asked him.

“Like, sweatiest, I think,” he said, totally earnest.

He believed he had found a list about people who tend to run a high temperature. You might not believe Ben, but I did.

I knew I could let this go, and yet wanted to see about starting a conversation that could be useful to refer back to later.

“Ben,” I said, trying to capture his attention, with a six-year-old who was already trying to hummingbird elsewhere. “Sometimes when people use the word ‘hot’ they mean it as a different term for ‘beautiful.'”

“Oh!” said Ben, surprised.

“Yeah!” I continued. “So it’s a bit funny that someone made a list of women that is only about them being beautiful, right? Because if we think about our stories from Rebel Girls and stuff…”

Ben was seeing this quickly and interrupted me, “That’s funny that someone made a list just about people being beautiful, it’s like they forgot to say anything about who they are or what they do.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Like being strong, or funny, or smart. And if we think of our sisters Rosie and Addie, and of mom, we know there’s so much more to say!”

“I can’t believe people would forget that,” he said. Especially for Benjamin, a seeker of information, the absence of information that affirms a person’s story was clearly mystifying, and he saw that this was not useful content.

“Are you mad at me?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I just want us to learn together. Anytime you hear somebody making lists or using the word hot, remember, it’s usually people that are being a bit rude and forgetting to tell the whole story of a person.”

I gave him a hug. “I love you so much. I’m not mad at you. I just want us to be asking good questions and respecting people and being smart about what we’re learning.”

“Okay,” he said. “Thanks. Can I go now?”

Yep.

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Womanifesto

Witness Kendra at work this week: she created arms full of food to deliver to the family who lost their daughter recently. A batch of cookies, a batch of muffins, so much granola, a loaf of garlic bread, and a batch of chicken quinoa salad, piled into our vehicle, and driven off alone to bring comfort to broken hearts.

How can that be captured and acknowledged?

I wanted to make the time to create a first draft of a “Womanifesto” — at least some words as a start. For Kendra first, but for all women, to help us elevate their voices and bring equity and imagination to what has been overlooked for so long.

Womanifesto

I see the strength and power in you.
I see your resilience and authenticity.
I see your significance and potential.
There is a wholeness I want to keep seeing more clearly, honouring, drawing out.
Your self, and its expressions; you contain multitudes.
I see your trail of powerful yesses,
and I see you creating a renewal of the things around you.
The divine feminine,
the earth’s core,
the very love of God,
operating within you.
To take on the full measure of life’s pain and pleasure and possibility, hold it within one’s being, and in so doing, regenerate the entire universe.

* * *

Perhaps, though, no additional lines or verse need to be written, now that this song is in existence. I first heard it on the very day it was released, and it reached me where I was sitting, alone on a trip to Seattle, and instantly brought tears to me eyes. Listen to it, with your eyes closed, and see what it might say to you.

Woman, by Isa Ma.

 

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You’re a saint

This morning’s interactions with the kids were not my favourite. Theodore this year has developed the uncanny ability to make everybody yell at him, and as a three-year-old, he deploys that power every other minute. It’s how we found ourselves outside, on the deck, literally and figuratively cooling down, before it was even 8 am.

About an hour later, I found myself at church.

A transition like that creates a little bit of emotional whiplash for me. After the surge of frustration with my kids, my eyes still feel rolly and my body a bit draggy, shot with adrenaline, and deflated from the car drive. Now I’m in a busy environment, and on top of that, it’s one where I imagine people have expectations of me needing to be perfect or at least pretending, which I am not able to be or do.

Oh, and I’m also presently the actual elected leader of this community. As board chair, I’ve helped steer our church through an incredibly tumultuous transition period this year — between losing and rehiring key staff, to reimagining our Mission, Vision and Values —  and now that means in church, I’m the opposite of anonymous, even as I drag my dead-beat dad self through the door with a still-testy Theodore in my arms.

This morning, I have an odd job to do, and that’s simply putting my signature on some certificates that are getting handed out to five people during the service.

As I’m signing those certificates, still fresh is the fatigue and adrenaline of my conflict with Theo. I have half-a-thought to say, “Who am I to sign these things?”

* * *

The “things” I am signing today are baptism certificates — simply keepsakes for the individuals who today are choosing to get publicly dunked under water. Five individuals, making a choice to symbolize a life shift, who will be handed a certificate that has my name on it. How decidedly odd.

I can recall my own baptism, when I was 13. Standing in a tank of water in my orange-carpeted hometown church in Trail, BC, staring out into the auditorium, reading aloud from notes on a damp piece of paper.

I felt very much as if I didn’t have much of a story to tell — I was a kid, raised in a church setting, and I wasn’t sure how or if God had “changed my life.”

So I tried to say it in a fancy way. I remember a specific phrase from my speech, because the pretentiousness of it still makes me cringe with embarrassment. I had said that I saw my early faith as “the blueprint for the development of a visible change.”

I cringe because it’s clearly a 13-year-old trying to use big words. It also is basically me saying, “No story today. Perhaps later, though.”

* * *

Later is now. The story is this.

I’m an imperfect, impatient dad. Though I may be technically on leadership, it’s not from any sort of theological qualification and training. I’ve passed no tests except a criminal record check.

That, though, is the entire point.

I wasn’t planning on writing up a story on this blog about baptism, but then I read something from Eugene Peterson on the same day as the church-signature event that influenced me. The process of being baptized, he says gives you a new identity: saint.

He goes on to say that these days, the word saint sounds “elite,” but it really just refers to the…

“…failed and sometimes unscrupulous, flawed and not infrequently scandalous men and women who are our ‘brothers and sisters.'”

That’s me: a person who fails and flails and fumbles and freaks out.

It is from this place of failure and freak-outs and flailing and fumbling that I am asked to affix a signature.

It is the same thing that gives you the permission to take your entire actual self and be the leader you’re invited to be. There is no test to pass, no credential to earn, no threshold to cross, no sainthood to attain, no masterpiece to become, no image to uphold: just your own fatigued, lovely self, choosing to believe that when you sign your name, it means something. You mean something.