Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Giving, Praying, Fasting

 Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent reminds me of cycling trips to La Baie de Sainte Marie on the French shore. Maybe it's because I find long distance cycling a spiritual journey. It's also a reminder that even beautiful things involve hard work. Cycling here is just the best. I have cycled and re-cycled the same route multiple times.  Not for martyring purposes. I just can't get enough of it. It's my 'hear God' route. And, yea, it takes a 300 km drive and hundreds of kilometres of riding to get there. 

I remember  
this particular ride in these pictures. I had planned a new route and had woken that morning feeling tired from not having slept. The heaviness in my limbs indicated something else wasn't right, too. Somehow, I pulled myself out of bed (pretending not to be sick) and rode in the heat for about 60 kms. My goal was 100 kms that day but the fever was starting to make me dizzy by about 30 in. It was Saturday, I knew I had the next day to try to crack the rest of the 40. I turned around. I pushed, I rested, I pushed again, I thought about flagging the next truck down, I rested, I wondered about having a faster bike, cursed my heavy metal, averaged under 15 km/hr and got home. 

                                                                                            "One fever at a time..."

Lent, to me, is a call to cycle La Baie. Only, this time, every day for 40 days for those 100 kms/day. We are being called to self-examine, love harder, pray deeper and fast. This will be my first attempt to fast in Ramadan style. Well, kinda. I'm nervous but also ready to possibly feel all those thoughts and feelings I had during that feverish ride. I don't know if I can do it, but I'll try. I've also asked myself, "why?" and then, "Is this a holiness project?" It's definitely starting out that way I have to admit. But, maybe, I can take it one fever at a time and delight in the outcomes.  

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Alpine dream

Sometimes dreaming big feels just like that - a BIG. FAR. AWAY. DREAM. I'm here, there, and definitely not "nowhere". I'm going somewhere, and yet experience that 'where' as this cascading avalanche.
It's chasing me down the mountain. And, guess what, I have no idea how the story ends.

Maybe this is what pressure is...or, maybe this is what dreaming is....?

This is what my dreams look like...
  Whistler, B.C. 2018                                          Photo taken by: Jude Andrade

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Our Backyard

"Behold the weeps its life away drop by give forth its flame of light." -                            Payam Akhavan

Vanessa Brooks
Vanessa (Left) sharing at the NI's hearing in Membertou, N.S

Payam Akhavan, a professor of international Law at McGill University, shared this childhood prayer in the chapter 'On the knowledge of suffering.' He continues to reflect on the meaning of those words in his book, In search of a better world "...that like a candle, our light shines in the darkness only if we are willing to burn."

As I read these lines, my thoughts turned to that morning. Vanessa Margaret Brooks, a Mi'kmaq woman from Millbrook First Nation, invited me into Canada's backyard. Her sister, Tanya, was murdered in 2009 and dumped in a North End school yard trench. Her murder remains unsolved and part of the statistic in the growing MMIWG crisis in Canada. Vanessa testified in the National Inquiry's hearings in November in Nova Scotia. She, the candle, wept for our nation. She burned so that we could see. Last Monday, Dec. 11th, she spoke of and showed me her scars. Not for attention or validation, but because that's her reality. In three hours, I became dizzy with the flight of memories that spun in their childhood home, arrested at the echoes of lament from the pow wow grounds, sickened at the stories of violence against self and others in their community and shattered in spirit that this, dear friends, is in our backyard. 
Vanessa burned bright for our nation. She, drop by drop, recounted pain. She, in between smokes, laughed at our cultural idiosyncrasies. She, the undaunted, had no filter. Just like her shirt proclaimed during the MMIWG hearings. I left feeling emptied, and all I did was listen.  

One week later, I find myself still wondering how to respond to all this...

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Belonging in/to our Thoughts

2017 CBC Massey Lectures - In Search of a Better WorldOn Belonging:
I'm thinking more about the Rumi poem in my 'unfolding origami thoughts' post. The 'balance' and experience of the 'deepest presence' in oneself has made me reflect on what that means in my life. The result was another reflection on our intrinsic and uncompromisable need for human connections.

On Origami and Thought:
Origami is an accessible art form easily available to all ages. And the goal is creating something simple and beautiful. I think about peace and living well in the same way. Though I know these aren't simple concepts in and of themselves but the root of them is. Just as easy as it is to begin origami, it is that easy to find presence in a thought. A thought about wanting the same for others as you want for yourself.

This leads me to the November CBC's Massey lectures with *Payam Akahvan. His fourth lecture of the series, "In search of a better world", urges us to think about, "how long will we persist in the absurd belief that our welfare is separate from the welfare of others?"

On Thought and Humanness:
Even though the inspiration for his question came out of the world's apathetic response to the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and then America's impulsive response to the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, we don't need to look too far to know the meaning of apathy when it comes to others.

There are 1200+ MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) in our country, Canada. There are probably as many missing/murdered men to match that stat.
I try to understand what the number even really means, and my child-like response kicks in. I tell myself, "well, I don't belong to that community, there's obviously a problem there", "...there are organizations to take care of these kinds of things, right?', "...I don't know any Indigenous people." Naturally, I think our minds unintentionally go into protection, problem-solving-deflection mode because that staggering news is too much to bear. There's also the belief (and hope) that we are separate from this reality because of the relative normalcy of our lives. Lastly, "I don't know what difference I can make" finally seals the thought box.

Beyond Thinking:
I have learned that the difference one can make is simple, listen. Begin by listening to the defensive and separatist thoughts in your own heart. Wonder about them. Write about them. Talk about them. It's ok. Accepting and thinking about others' suffering without having experienced it is hard work. Then, do something. This can be as passive as reading an article about the issue. Or, as (safely) active as joining a local social justice/action group on FB. It could also mean wondering about your own circle of friends' lives and finding that 'deepest presence' Rumi talked about when you ask how they are doing.

Living is walking with others. In thought and deed. In every aspect of life. It begins with a thought.


*Payam Akahavan - Is a human rights activist and was recently featured in CBC's Massey lectures 2017. It's a series of 5 lectures which can be listened to here:
Alternatively, they are in print form and can be found in stores and online.  

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Awake My Soul

Weymouth, Nova Scotia  2017

When I cycle, I feel liberated.
From my sometimes burdensome thoughts.
From my seemingly exaggerated hope.
From my duties to others.
From the chokehold of worry.
From suffocation.

Awakened only to the limitations of my physical body.
It's the only time when panting and breathing deeply are synced.
It's the only time that my legs can quiet my mind.
It's one of the three times I'm assured of Faith.