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.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Unfolding Origami Thoughts

...Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

-Rumi- Mathnawi, III, 3769-3766                                                   

This mathnawi excerpt filled my mind with images of the dizzying zig-zag patterns of flocks of birds in flight. You know how they are all clustered on the ground and then in absolute perfectly flowing unison rise up all together? There are so, so many of them and yet, they're all flawlessly in sync.  I wondered if we humans could ever move like that. On a large scale. When it mattered. 
Soon, my mind wandered to the predicable pattern of visualizing these thoughts and resulted in the photo above. It's very meditative folding several origami doves. You should try it.
With each fold, I find I'm manipulating the wings in different ways and thinking about the expansion and contraction of the self. I wonder about going into that deep presence that Rumi talks about, and if that awareness would make actions more thoughtful. 
As my origami flock increases, I know feelings and thoughts are uniting inside me around the recent indelible story of the late Tanya Brooks. She was metaphorically paralyzed for most of her life and her story has now paralyzed me.   

Friday, 17 November 2017

Ruminating on Rumi

There are periods of time when I just can't get thoughts out of my head. Sometimes it's to the point that I find it hard to focus on other tasks. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just today. The thoughts are mainly preoccupations with living, justice and analyzing the meaning of a collective Canadian identity. Today it's about living. In Payam Akhavan's lecture series, "In search of a better world"(part of the 2017 CBC Massey Lectures), he begins with a reflection on a quote from the ancient Persian poet, Rumi:
     "The wound is the place where light enters you." Crystal Crescent Beach, N.S   08.'17

After hearing this line, I immediately illustrated it in my mind and remembered a photo I had taken during a hike with my brother, Jude. Every time I hike, walk or ride, I visit wounds. This photo reminds me of the threatened light in wounds. Both forces are present. The pain and (the hope of) healing. Simultaneously. The will to survive and have hope can be darkened so quickly. This tug-of-war can be likened to the personality of the Atlantic ocean as we experience it in Nova Scotia. The ocean cycles through many intense states but always steadies itself beautifully. That fierce, icy blueness makes the rugged land brighter somehow. I think the wound is the place where light enters us. It's a continuous choice though to recognize and accept that guest.  

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

her North End

I was invited into a dear friends' life yesterday. We walked through her North End in Halifax. For over 20 years, her small core team has provided a funky and warm drop-in centre for travelling and homeless youth. The Ark on Gottingen street is filled with stories and memories. They are laden with sadness, escape, violence, drugs, sickness, dreams, music, life and death. I learned that some youth saw themselves as travellers, passing in and out of safe spaces in different cities. Others were fleeing violence and homeless. Most of these stories were illustrated in the art prints that decorated every inch of wall space. Silent voices lamented in the quiet of the recording studio downstairs. And, pleas for any type of help were displayed in the cardboard poster 'gallery' in the laundry room. The cozy 'bedroom' has allowed several people to lay their head down briefly and experience warmth, safety and hope. This little room also has served as a no-strings-attached part-time primary care clinic to many youth who have no paperwork. No birth certificates = No health card = No access to health care. 
It's funny, I left Ark feeling heavily light. I had no idea. I just had no clue. That space is pulsing with pain and beauty. 
I don't know what street life is like. I don't know what fleeing violence as a child is like. I don't know what it means to have friends overdose or contract Hep C. I don't know what it feels like to sleep in abandoned schools. I just...don't know. But, I do know that Ark exists and so many lives of our youth are at risk. Right here. In Halifax. In the north end.