Archive for September, 2009

Tao 28/Day 42 “If you accept the world, the Tao will be luminous inside you.”

September 29, 2009

“You’ve changed.”  My wife is not the only one saying this about me lately.  And, while it’s easy for people to focus on the physical changes my reverent runs are having on me – more energy, better sleep, increased muscle tone and cardiovascular health, etc. – something luminous is being detected when they say it.  They are sensing an inner transformation — and it comes from me ‘accepting the world’ to a greater degree than I ever have before, not from me covering more miles on foot than I ever have before.

‘Accepting the world’ means I now accept that the world can’t ‘give me a life’.  People aren’t going to rearrange their schedules just to insure I get a run in, no matter how ‘spiritual’ it feels to me.  Likewise, my wife and two young sons can’t ‘give me the space’ to write this book just because it feels ‘aligned with the Tao’ to me.  We’re still in a phase where they need me when they need me, and no amount of good intentions or will power will cause them to suddenly start prioritizing my Tao-life instead of their own.

In fact, as I write these words, Maureen is careening around the house looking for a wet wipe because Logan is bragging about pooping in his diaper and then taking it off without telling us.  In the past I might have gritted my teeth and repeated ‘PleaseJesus’ over and over until the storm passed, but now I stop writing and join in the wet wipe search, knowing it’s just as effective a way of illuminating a ‘spiritual’ principle as trying to hang onto whatever the Tao was trying to tell me before this latest ‘interruption’.

The same principle holds true regardless of the size of the seeming dilemma.  Part of listening for the Tao has to include not resisting the world, or I will become trapped in judgements that will drown out the spaces – tiny at first – where It is suggesting an opportunity to co-create a different reality with me.  When I stop projecting my ego-desires ONTO the world, I can start allowing Tao-desires INTO the world.

By the same token, I accept that the world can’t ‘keep me from my life’ either.  This 4th of July weekend, for example, in addition to all ‘normal’ family activities, included a picnic trip to an ocean park, a follow up this morning to the boys’ favorite playground park, and an afternoon excursion lakeside for the annual strawberry festival.  By the time the kids were rounded up and back safe at home, the window was closed for running or swimming or anything else outside the house.

I felt frustrated for a moment at what was getting left off my wish list, but something inside pushed me into our basement for what became the best hour of yoga I’ve had in a long time.  It was also exactly what I needed to do today, and demonstrated to me once again that not only does the Tao know best, but that nearly every negative mental or emotional state I experience is primarily a result of resistance to the world as it is.  Accepting the world means no excuses for not fulfilling divine intent, and no illusions that my initial man-made plans for doing so are ever anything more than a starting point.

Yet it’s easy to have expectations of the world.  We’re taught that if we do what the world says we’re supposed to do, it will give us a life worth living.  But the world can’t give me a life.  I have to give myself a life.  And I have to feel that I deserve that life.  The only way I know to do that is to ‘run with the Tao’, while accepting ‘the world’.  The more I can practice and manifest that balance, the more my inner light will shine.

Tao 41/Day 39 “When a foolish man hears of the Tao, he laughs out loud.”

September 27, 2009

“If he didn’t laugh, it wouldn’t be the Tao” immediately follows these two lines, and it is actually this second phrase that becomes my mantra as I make my way around the magic path once more.  As I meditate on its significance, I start to see how I even came to be on this path at all in a new light.

The ‘outer’ circumstances which led to my family’s move from Alabama to Canada, briefly stated, were as follows:  A crashing economy put my job in jeopardy, a crushing diagnosis (Liam registers on the low end of the autism spectrum) put my ability to afford his additional care if I lost my job (and its insurance) in jeopardy, and my Canadian-born wife’s best friend lived in Victoria, married to a physician.  A move across the border could guarantee our ongoing health insurance regardless of short-term work status, and we could plug in to the medical community without missing a beat.  – It is this ‘outer story’ that has been the basis of my communications with family and friends, and they have been either totally supportive, or kind enough to withhold their concerns about such a drastic move, whenever they’ve heard this version of reality.

But the ‘inner story’, the Tao-story of the journey, is far different, and I have not been as forthcoming with that story — primarily because I have thought many would laugh out loud thinking I was the foolish one.  The Tao-circumstances, briefly stated, unfold more along this line: I’m a teacher, and my wife is a healer.  Our attempts to practice allowing this to flow through us while still tapping into our other gifts and interests (me as a film actor and writer, she as a pop singer and massage therapist) eventually landed us together in a double-wide trailer on the parking lot of a large indoor flea market we ran in semi-rural Alabama for seven years.  Only after this time in the Tao-wilderness were we ready, together, for the next step of the journey, and when Maureen said, “Greg, I don’t know how, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Liam will thrive and your career will take off if we move to Victoria”, we were gone.

Now, to be fair, by ‘career’ she meant my acting career.  But Liam IS thriving, and, truthfully, even though Victoria is ninety minutes by ferry from acting work in Vancouver, I’ve already had more positive developments in two months than in the last ten years elsewhere.  I’m not here to say how our dharma will unfold.  I just know that this book is well under way and that this move has been about the Way, not our wallets.

Yet I’m still hesitant to allow others to hear of this Tao.  As I finish today’s run, I now realize it’s not because my family and friends are ‘foolish’, or because they’ll think I’m foolish, but because I AM foolish.  I’m the one that hasn’t grasped til now how embodying this Way will certainly produce its share of disbelief and guffaws.  Not in order to label others as unenlightened, but to demonstrate that it is in fact the Tao at work.  If there wasn’t a fair share of laughter, it wouldn’t be the Tao, right?

And so I’m the one that needs to step out — not just on this path but in all areas of my life.  When asked what I do, I’m the one that needs to reply not that I’m looking for a business or even auditioning as an actor again, but that I’m finally allowing my dharma as a teacher to manifest however the Tao sees fit.  The thought of such a reply is scary at first, but soon has me laughing all the way around the path, and all the way home.

Tao 20/Day 36 “Other people have a purpose; I alone don’t know.”

September 25, 2009

I ran the lakes three days ago, but have been slow to process its unique merits. Perhaps I’ve simply been scattered.  I taught my first workshop in years is this past weekend – maybe that muted my muse.  Or prehaps the sudden death of Michael Jackson on the same day as the run had something to do with it.  We were the same age, and, like so many others, I’ve sung and danced to much of his music since I too was ten years old.

Maybe my wife’s new self-appointed efforts as my ‘image consultant’ have distracted me.  Yes, I probably do need to mix in an extra visit to the dinner table and the weight room if I’m going to run this much without turning into a scarecrow, but hey – I’m practicing putting inner fitness first here, right?

Anyway…I’ve now been to the gym twice since the run.  Bought a weight-gaining supplement, too.  – And the strangest thing has happened.  It is exactly these ‘outer’ efforts that have brought the next inner awareness into sharper focus.  Before, if I heeded Maureen’s advice on such matters, I would do so while silently thinking that I was above such concerns, that I was just ‘doing it for her’.  Now I realize the judgement in such an attitude.  I’m the one turning life-enhancing possibilities into vanity, not her.  In reality, there isn’t a single external effort that cannot be guided from an internal insight, if only I’ll commit to prioritizing presence in every practice.

But it’s hard to always do that.  Everything in a gym, for example, encourages an opposite outlook.  All the weights are numbered.  All the reps are counted.  All the exercises are usually pre-determined.  All the radio stations are pounding.  All the people seem to be there for very specific purposes, and vanity often seems to top that list.

Yet somehow, I find that my inner compass is waking up even here in the weight room.  I realize that running has been an easier path to practice letting go, but that it’s possible amidst this cacophony as well.  I let go of how many times I’m going to do how much weight for how long a workout, and start listening more closely to what my body is telling me – and what the Tao is teaching me – TODAY.  The funny thing is I again end up accomplishing more this Way, and I start to consider how this practice might work in even more ‘difficult’ situations – like in the workplace, or at family-of-origin gatherings.

You would think that such a practice automatically produces a greater sense of knowing and purpose, but that is not my experience.  When I run or engage in a workout like I’ve described above, I experience a reality more in line with the quote at the top of the page.  Using Tao-purpose more often than not initially produces a feeling of dis-orientation, of NOT knowing.  – And that’s a feeling we’re taught to avoid at all costs.

Yet ‘not knowing’ is exactly the state of mind required to access the Tao.  If I’m constantly filled with purpose, there’s less room to be filled with presence.  The toll of being ‘on’ all the time can be seen everywhere in our celebrity culture, where our brightest talents reach the spotlight only to find they aren’t allowed to leave it, even for a moment.  When life is forced to be ‘on-purpose’ all the time like this, extreme mental and emotional distress is not an unusual reaction.  It is a subtle violence not in keeping with the Tao, and I resolve to cultivate a greater appetite for not knowing, in order to guarantee a greater sanity in navigating the road ahead.

Tao 8/Day 31 “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”

September 20, 2009

Another week since my last run.  A nasty cold Liam picked up from a cousin in Calgary has since worked its magic on the rest of us, and today is the first day I feel like trying again.  The Tao opens up my schedule at 4:30 p.m., and off I go.

The pace is again quick.  A sore back loosens, knee joints and calf muscles and lungs feel solid and strong, and I find myself fairly dashing around the rowing teams and fishermen that dot the lake to my left.  But my mind has trouble coming along for the ride.  Perhaps the reason has something to do with the reality of illness.

The Tao Te Ching says of the Way that “you can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life” (Stanza 14).  It’s one thing to be at ease when I’m feeling great, the boys’ behavior is angelic, Maureen thinks I hung the moon, and money isn’t a concern.  It’s quite another level of ease when none of those things are in play.

It is in just such situations that I want to KNOW it in order to be at ease.  “When am I going to get better?  Where’s the money going to come from?  Do Liam and Logan need to see an exorcist? (kidding!)”  – But I can’t ‘know’ the Tao in order to be at ease.   I have to BE the Tao in order to be at ease.  Taken a step further, one might say that the extent of ease I display in every situation of my life is the most accurate measure I have of whether or not I am ‘being’ the Tao.

Which brings me back to the run at hand.  It takes well over half the path for me to mentally release what my body was able to let go of as soon as it stepped out of the car.  I realize my mental difficulty is intertwined with comparisons and competitions, both real and imagined, that make it hard to accept only two runs in the last two weeks.  I’m ‘supposed’ to be writing this book quicker.  I ‘should’ be getting physically fit faster.  I ‘ought’ to be able to achieve such seemingly benign and noble goals without succumbing to everyone else’s ailments and attitudes.  But that’s the Tao, and if I truly want to be more than just its fair weather friend, that’s what I need to allow myself to be at ease with, too.

This is the essence of being ‘simply myself’.  I don’t take my circumstances and use them to compare or compete with anyone.  Rather I use them to align myself with deeper mysteries and energies, and let the results speak for themselves.  This proves true on the run when I pass, for the second time, a man running in the opposite direction.  For just a moment I start calculating when I first passed him, in order to determine whether he or I was running faster.  When I quickly catch myself and let that competitive comparison go, I am flooded by a wave of joy and clarity.

I remember, as if for the first time, that even as a small child my two greatest loves were running and singing.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have been transported across all the competition and comparison and education and effort engaged in since those innocent years — right back to my core connection with Source.  And I know that if I can just continue to BE that Source, running and singing are again going to be the conduits for expressing that connection.  I am filled with the knowledge that such simple expressions will result in everyone’s respect – including my own.

Tao 10/Day 24 “Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course?”

September 18, 2009

I’m struggling to plug back in this morning.  Last week was spent with my wife’s side of the family, and all I managed was one half-hearted jog.  Though it was wonderful to see the kids playing with their cousins, and even more wonderful to hear Maureen describe the healing she and her sisters experienced by being together over the weekend, the groove I was in before leaving seems lost.

Maureen perceives my predicament, and proceeds to give me a pep talk, Tao-style.  “You’re putting so much energy out there on behalf of our family.  Just know that a big shift is coming your way.  All you’ve got to do now is allow it to happen, and know that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.  Get a run in today, get a haircut tomorrow, get ready for your Thursday meeting, and keep allowing the abundance in.”

Whew!  Easy for you to say, I’m thinking, but her calm certainty and support do affect me greatly.  My steps out the door seem lighter and faster, and – whether from the extra leg rest or the extra inspiration – I reach the path in record time and maintain a quickened pace.  My heart and mind are open wide, and I begin silently chanting ‘allow’ with each inhalation and ‘abundance’ each time I exhale.

The first abundance I become aware of is the air I’m breathing.  It’s so easy to forget that there’s never not been enough of it, regardless of where I’ve lived or how much of it I’ve needed.  The second abundance comes via my imagination.  I see fish willingly taking a fisherman’s bait, and fruits and vegetables willingly dropping from the trees and plants that nurtured them.  The vision leaves me feeling that abundance is in fact the natural order of things, if I could live simply enough to allow it.

I then become aware of the distinction between ‘allowing’ abundance as opposed to merely ‘receiving’ it.  Jesus is said to have told his followers “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”  If receiving abundance is what we do with our right hand, it is just as vital for our left hand to be dispensing that abundance to others – all the while practicing the mind of ‘not-knowing’.  To truly allow abundance, my left hand has to be as active as my right.

Many ‘prosperity preachers’ have framed this dynamic in terms of initiating greater giving in order to initiate an even greater receiving, but to be Tao-gererous is more about simply recognizing natural balance.  Maybe I need to give first, maybe I need to receive first, but once a balance between my right hand and left hand is found, the velocity of both can quickly increase.

This insight of inner fitness reminds me that balance precedes speed.  We tend to focus on the speed of a downhill skier, but really what we’re looking at is whether or not someone can maintain their balance at more and more challenging velocities.

I’m running faster and farther today than I ever have, and today it’s okay to allow such abundance.  An inner fitness insight needs an outer fitness demonstration today.  Events that began a week ago by taking me out of my element have taken their course, and the vital matter of allowing abundance has been made abundantly clear.  Having waited a long time to arrive at this new (balanced) understanding, I look forward to applying it in more and more challenging situations, at greater and greater speed.

Tao 36/Tao 11/Day 17 “The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast.” “We work with being, but non-being is what we use.”

September 16, 2009

One reason I’ve been able to run so many more times since relocating to the island is because I’m practicing not being wed to a hard and fast schedule concerning running. When something comes up that interferes with my preconceived notion of when I was going to run that day, instead of resisting the interference and telling myself I’m prioritizing ‘self care’, I give myself as completely as I can to the ‘interference’ and tell myself that I am prioritizing ‘Tao care’.
Of course the flip side of this ‘softness’ concerning schedule is that I also have to release all excuses and accept whenever the Tao does present an opportunity. I can’t say I’m going with the flow on the one hand but not the other. This has unexpectedly led to a big increase in positive ‘spur of the moment’ experiences of all kinds, as well as many more times actually out on the path than would have occurred otherwise. Truly the soft does overcome the hard, at least in regard to my own rigid thinking.
Softness is a necessity today as I drop the boys off to play with a friend, pick a new starting point on the trail, and almost immediately feel a fiery muscle pain between my right calf and ankle. Though my lungs are longing for a quickened pace, my legs are not, and I now tread very softly on a path that suddenly seems a lot harder than it did only a few days ago. When I determine the problem is intermittent, I decide to continue – guided by pain to remain very present and slow. To force anything faster would quickly mean the end of the run. The slow indeed overcomes the fast in this scenario, and I am able to continue without raising additional concerns.
It has been said that pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional. It is truly amazing what happens when those two seemingly inseparable aspects of reality start to uncouple as the Tao is experienced more and more. Once I release my expectations of how far and how fast and how hard I’m supposed to push today, the pain that still bites the back of my leg from time to time actually becomes a great teacher and encourager to stay present as I make my way around. Because of that practice of presence, I am able to not only spot the smallish snake that winds my way, but enjoy its brown color as I pass behind him, and appreciate that this warmer weather may bring many more like him across my path in the coming months.
The run is a joy, with more than enough outer fitness benefits as well. As I allow myself to go deeper and deeper into what is transpiring within me, the second Tao stanza for today comes vividly alive in an experiential way. “We work with being.” Today, ‘being’ is the body, the trail, the tangible elements of my existence made available to my senses. That’s what gets “worked with”. “Non-being is what we use” to work with the body. Using non-being’s ‘soft edge’ of compassion, acceptance, and presence produces a slowing down which becomes the key to succeeding with the body intact. It is the use of non-being which makes this entire experience possible. – I finish with a grateful smile.

Tao 2/Day 14 “When her work is done, she forgets it. That’s why it lasts forever.”

September 14, 2009

The heat has subsided, the sky is overcast, and conditions are perfect for another run.  I start to get excited to think that I actually might complete my sixth 10k jaunt in the space of two weeks.  I’ve never run this much in my life, under any circumstances, much less as a middle-aged man, without any outer fitness plan, focusing almost solely on the inner lay of the land.

As I complete my final stretches and set sail, I’m instantly burdened by the whole notion of how many times I’ve run, and how far, and in how long a stretch of time.  I then realize why:  I am already ignoring the wisdom of today’s Tao words.  “When her work is done, she forgets it.”  I’m already crafting a monument of remembrance to the tiniest of achievements — a real master wouldn’t even remember what such ‘achievements’ were.

I become mindful of how many coaches implore their teams to forget the last game as a necessity for preparing to play the next one– often by tactics of fear.  “This next team is going to embarrass you in front of your families if you don’t stop reading your own press!” barks such a coach.  The Tao suggests that the same motivation is possible simply by realizing that when my mind is heavy with the burden of yesterday’s feats or failures, I have less presence available with which to meet today’s challenges.  – I choose to practice presence rather than fear failure and keep running.

The wind is calm and the lakes are smooth as glass.  I’m on the 10k circuit, which has inspired me in the past, but now it starts whispering — telling me that I am a fraud because I’m still looking for the markers on this path when I should already know the way.  In other words, being overly interested in knowing how far I’m running keeps me from experiencing how present I’m becoming.  I am demonstrating that my primary focus is still on my outer rather than my inner fitness.  Instead of expressing my creative nature as a first priority, I’m still just ‘getting into shape’ along with everybody else.

“That is why it lasts forever.”  Tao wisdom says that we are all here to express our inner fitness, our creative nature.  To run.  To tend a garden.  To paint.  To raise a child.  To explore the galaxies.  Such expressions carry the imprint of eternity.  Only when I get too caught up in remembering my expressions do I lose touch with their source.  When the distances to cover and the regulations to follow become just another way to measure winners and losers, the deeper play of the Tao is lost.

– How self-sabotaging my mental habits are!  At the very same time I’m receiving these insights I realize I’m still looking for the distance markers to see how far I’ve run!  It’s hilarious!  What does that knowledge have to do with anything, other than to serve as the starting point for yet another dialogue with myself to focus on the next step and not the next mile?   Far better at this point to deliberately take the unmarked paths and not bother with such mental gymnastics at all.

It may take awhile to be able to forget what I am doing as soon as I am done, but the least I can do right now is to stop mentioning how far I’ve run as the culmination of every page I write.  From here on out, no more prioritizing my outer fitness to that extent.  – We’ll see if I can stay present enough to honor such a worthy resolution.

Tao 13/Day 12 “See the world as yourself. Have faith in the way things are.”

September 13, 2009

When I think of ‘the world’, it is rare that the world of my thoughts immediately comes to mind.  Usually it’s a particular stretch of earthly geography, or a particular slice of human society.  Yet somehow these present excursions keep bringing me face to face with the nature of my mind more than anything else.  – And today my mind is wandering.

As I plod along in the unseasonable heat, I repeat Tuesday’s practice, breathing in the present moment and exhaling my mental projections – adding physical movements to assist in pushing them away.  But thoughts can be clingy, and wrestling with them is taking energy away from completing my run.  If ‘resistance is futile’ in this scenario, what is the solution?

For today at least, relief comes in not just allowing these wandering thoughts but in completely identifying with them.  In other words, only when I begin to see their world as also my self, and have faith in THAT way that things are, do I start releasing the tension and judgement they otherwise activate in me – which is exactly what has to happen before I can release the thought itself as soon as its present usefulness is over.  “Is this thought part of the world?  Yes?  Is it part of me?  Yes?  Do I have faith that it has served its purpose?  Yes?  Can I release it now?  Yes?”  – GONE…

I suddenly breathe into an awareness that this process can be understood as one of REFLECTION.  Not ‘reflection’ as I’ve always thought of pondering the past or considering the future, but rather reflection as a present-minded process more akin to what a mirror does.

A mirror doesn’t omit anything held before it.  Nor does it hold on to anything once it’s gone.  As a ‘conscious mirror’, can I recognize the world, identify with it (without judgement), have faith in it — and then reflect back to the world any part of it that doesn’t serve the present moment – such as a stale thought?  In this way I stay both present and open, while creating the space for miraculous manifestations to inevitably break through.

“Stop thinking, and end your problems” says the Tao Te Ching.  Today’s insight tells me that I’ll stop throwing myself out of the present moment when I stop perpetuating the illusion that my self is separate from the world.  If I can step out of that kind of thinking, I will begin to see the world of my dreams becoming a reality.  It is a natural process, ‘the way things are’, and I can have an unshakable faith in it once I see the world and my self in this light.

I finish today’s sojourn with energy to spare – though not without some concern that today’s insights may be difficult to translate into understandable words.  Since such a translation nevertheless remains a present intention, I choose not to suppress but to recognize my concern, identify with it without judgement, have faith in its purpose as part of the way things are — and then reflect and release these thoughts of concern back to the world.  They no longer serve the present moment — I’ve got some writing to do.

Tao 6/Day 10 “It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want.”

September 11, 2009

Wow it’s hot today.  And wouldn’t you know, the only time the Tao offers me to run with It is between three and five in the afternoon.  I’m barely underway and already I’m thinking I won’t make it.  Still, ‘You can use it any way you want’, right?, so I practice inhaling the present moment, and exhaling my mental projections about how today’s run will prematurely end.

This meditation succeeds in carrying me onto my beloved path.  As I enter it my desire immediately changes.  I use Tao-power to practice appreciation, first for the cool shade, and then for anything else that consciousness brings to mind.  I appreciate the sun that humbles and warms and saps me at the very same time it keeps me from over-exertion and injury.  I appreciate that my shoes and the years of accumulated dirt underfoot work together to create a firm but forgiving path on which to run.  I appreciate the dandelion fuzz blowing into half-inch drifts along the sides of the path, creating the cooling illusion of a snow-lined mountain pass.

I again pass the boathouse, and notice three teenage boys there laughing and slapping each other on the shoulders.  I’m suddenly very appreciative of team sports, and the joys that come from them.  I am also increasingly aware that I am indeed not going to make it much further without slowing to a walk.  In all my athletic and other endeavors, I have always appreciated winning.  I have also always tried to be a ‘good sport’, and to honor the accomplishments of every worthy opponent.  But now a powerful new thought arises to meet my current reality.  – Have I ever really APPRECIATED LOSING?  Have I ever fully appreciated that losing has taught me more about how to not fear losing than winning ever did?

Now I know that this perspective is not honored very much in our culture, and especially not among many of our elite professional competitors.  Fear of losing is supposedly what drives the great ones to their greatest achievements.  – But as I meditate on why this perspective ultimately goes against the Tao, my mind goes not to Michael Jordan but rather to Abraham Lincoln.  Here was a man who lost so many elections for offices so much smaller than President of the United States that it’s a wonder he could get up out of his rocking chair, much less find the strength of character required to be universally recognized as one of the two or three greatest leaders the free world has seen in the last two hundred years.  On some level he must have known that something was always present within, regardless of the outer scoreboard, and that that something could continue to be used any way he wanted to use it, regardless of what anybody else said or thought about that decision.  By being able to lose fearlessly, he was able to fearlessly make the most of when he won.

I pass the 8K mark and decide to begin walking.  As they say in golf, the course has humbled me today, but I couldn’t be more appreciative.  The Tao is still present within me.  I can still use it any way I want, and today I decide to use it to appreciate what I did not accomplish. I do this knowing that today’s effort has eliminated many future fears.  I’ve survived and lived to tell the tale – a tale that will take its place among greater and greater challenges, and greater and greater successes.

Tao 53/Day 8 “The great Way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths.”

September 5, 2009

It’s Sunday morning.  I’ve been seeking a church – or at least some kind of spiritual community for my family – since we moved, but for some reason it’s been hard to find a fit.  Perhaps that’s to be expected.  I grew up Southern Baptist, my wife grew up Catholic, both of us stepped away from institutional religion years ago, and both of us carry conflicting feelings about immersing our children in similar situations.  Yet we’re equally conflicted about our own capacity to personally provide a sufficient context for their spiritual development when so much of the rest of their world will ignore it entirely.

When Maureen reminds me of my afternoon responsibilities, I wonder aloud if perhaps I ought then to try and get a run in now.  She supports the notion and so – even though I had hoped we might all be having a ‘spiritual’ experience together on Sunday mornings by this time – I take to the road that leads to the path that leads to the lakes.

Once I reach the water I decide on a counter-clockwise direction, the opposite of my usual steps.  I’m surprised to find that this way clearly marks the 10K route far better than my previous guesswork.  When it seems to quickly lead me away from the waters’ edge, I’m forced to consider that maybe I haven’t covered as much ground on my previous attempts as I thought.  But as my surroundings become familiar again, I soon realize that this well-worn pilgrimage, this sacred path, is in fact going to be easier than the other side paths I’ve traveled over the past week.

Maureen and I had exchanged some harsh words on my way out the door, and they bother me even as I start to meditate on the great Way being easy and being sacred at the same time.  Before an insight arises, I notice several people milling around the Victoria City Rowing Club boathouse.  Without thinking, I detour toward them to ask about classes for beginners  — Maureen has often stated a lifelong interest in someday rowing with an eight-man crew.  They graciously offer answers and encouragement, and I’m quickly on my way again – the memory of the morning’s harsh words subsiding via this simple direct effort to serve a loved one’s heart’s desire.

The rest of my run is one big smile fest.  I gain the gaze of nearly everyone I pass heading in the opposite direction, and the smile I offer is returned nine times out of ten.  I come across three guys hauling a sleek kayak back to their vehicle, and another brief but friendly conversation with them tells me all I need to know about where and what to get my wife for Christmas.    The endorphins kick in, my breathing comes hard and fast like a joyful noise, and I am struck to realize that my church is HERE.  It’s here – nature, water, athletes, artists – an experience without a teaching.  The great Way.  It’s here, and it’s EASY, and yet people will forever continue to prefer the side paths.  – Which is totally cool too, because the side paths can also get you around the lake, and can also be part of a process which eventually leads to choosing a completely different direction.

As for my hopes for my two boys, ages two and four, and our ‘spiritual’ direction as a family, let’s just say that my first sight upon returning home was that of two little guys out in the back yard with their beautiful Mommy, all blowing bubbles and laughing while trying to catch them in the gentle breeze.  What a great, SPIRITUAL Way to spend a Sunday.  Everyone home, and each comfortable in their own skin…their own church.