Mayor’s Journal Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Getting out of bed this morning (Pumpkin allowed me a little sleep – he’s so sweet), the thought crossed my mind that it might be good practice for me to write an on-line journal for a while. I’ve been more of the secretive type for most of my life, the ultimate hermit in many ways, but last year it became clear that that had to stop. My first venture into a public forum was at the Monastery, and it was quite some challenge formulating thoughts that would be seen by who-knew-how-many-people. I’m sure all of us had looked back on some of our whispers at some time, and thought, “I wouldn’t write that now.” I guess it’s just more help for our process, seeing ourselves reflected in our writings.

Recent changes in my life
In one way or another, I have been involved in the building field for about 13 years, as a hands-on tradesman building or renovating houses. It became clear over the course of last year that the time for moving in was nearing, and with the downturn in the housing market, there was a clear ‘opportunity’ for stopping. I bit the bullet in February this year, and de-registered myself as a tradesman (a registration is obligatory, and very expensive, in France). Since then, things have gone a little haywire in my little brain (read: mind).

sunrise Building had been a great gift. It had stabilized me in so many ways, and had given me countless opportunities on a daily basis for practicing the change in mind Jesus encourages in us. For example, “I am not a victim of this hammer that just slipped and hit me on the foot.” There is always a temptation to anthropomorphize absolutely everything at a job – the wheelbarrow (in the shins), sand (in the eye), wood (splinters), etc.. All these objects could, and did, become the “enemy”. How totally mad! As if they were “doing it to me”. Yet that was, indeed, my immediate and initial reaction. Every time.

It was fabulous to see this reaction going on in the mind, and then to realize, no, this is just a physical sensation. There is no attack, nothing personal is happening. The hammer does not wish me any harm, as if inanimate objects could have a grudge against me, as I surely felt animate objects (people) certainly did because of my unspoken “crime”. The words echoed in my mind, ‘Any personal feeling about this, Bernard, is within you.’ And then I would see how clearly I felt a victim all the time. It was my constant state of being, or more accurately, of the being that I thought I was. There was all the time another “being” there, quietly looking on and observing with me. And when I slipped into that place of observation, it all seemed so comical and light. “Poof!” in the best sense. The drama and pain were gone. The hammer became once more just a hammer, no longer a fiend that had to be attacked in turn. It just sat there, ready to carry out my next wish. A friend.

Wishing the entire Village a wonderful day. May all your fiends be transformed into friends...
Love,
Bernard

PS Only one little letter "r" separates fiend from friend - what do you suggest it stands for?



Mayor’s Journal
Thursday, May 3rd, 2010
A perfectly clean slate
So my building activity came to an abrupt end in February, and I was left to contemplate the emptiness now left over from years of getting up and working hard physically from 8 am often till 7 pm. There was relief and a great sense of expectation, but also fear and a sort of agitation. The agitation spoke from my guilt, whispering, “You lazy bum, what’re you going to do with your life now? You think you’ve got things to give? You think you’re going to be able to make ends meet by doing what, selling a book? That’s going to keep the dog well fed (not even the cat – sorry, Pumpkin!), but what are you going to do for a serious activity?”

And it was with this background chatter that I drove to the accountant’s office for my end-of-activity statement. I knew he had been pretty sceptical about my ‘creative endeavours’, but I wasn’t ready for his downright negativity. As he sat there informing me that my only hope was to continue with the building trade, even though I was earning a minimal income, something welled up within me and said, “No.” I continued nodding, as he talked, simply waiting for that final handshake when we would part ways, and part philosophies.

I went to a sidewalk café afterwards (always the best place for serious life-changing thinking) and had a conversation with a wonderful internal friend (perhaps you’ve heard of Him?). We had a long talk about this sense of condemnation and imprisonment I felt, and He helped me see how silly the whole thing was. I was fine just as I was; all was really well in existence. Nothing had been done to shake reality to its core and make the Heavens tremble. There was absolutely no pressure, and no requirement for things to “work out”. Suddenly my coffee tasted that much sweeter. Life seemed to include me once more in its constant flow toward harmony and unity. There was no forcing against the current or trying to make things work. Whatever happened would be fine, because He was there. I was not alone, and not unloved or disapproved of.

I didn’t know how, but somehow I felt this new direction was going to work. It had been a long time since I had felt this kind of resolution, the kind that is not just about externals, like, “This new situation/project is going to work for me.” But rather it said something like, “You’re going to learn to adopt a new perspective on your life and you will bring this into your thoughts more and more till it fills your internal horizon. Eventually, this will become your entire life, and your old perspective will fade away. This is what you have been working towards. It is now that it shall begin to happen.”

sunrise It felt real; it felt clear. This was a turning point. I didn’t know what that meant, and had enough experience to know that a certain amount of heartache was probably going to be involved. But at least there was movement again, back in the right direction Homeward (in actual truth, all direction is really Homeward; there is no other direction). There was always the possibility of making mistakes, now that I was venturing into totally unfamiliar activities. But I had become accustomed to risk, and particularly adept at making mistakes. They didn’t really intimidate me any more, though they could scare me for a bit. As for learning from them, that often took time. But I always figured that was better than just sitting around doing what I knew best.

Suddenly as I sat at the café, I was transported several decades back in time. Mr Meltzner’s advice to me when I was thirteen had always stuck in my mind. At our high school we had to take a sport and there I was on the tennis court for the first time, together with kids who actually knew what a racket was for. I got my hand around the right end (okay, it’s difficult to hold it by the wrong end), and just went for it. Wherever that damn ball was, I was trying to hit it, much to the amazement and irritation of the other kids sharing the same side of the court with me. The balls flew all over the place, and my racket, too, at one point took off in an unorthodox direction (at least I was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be on the other side of the court). But I was in there, doing it. I was playing tennis.

After the session I thought the coach was going to give me an earful about my pathetic attempts and expedite me to the debating team (the last resort for the truly unsporty kids). He must have seen something like this in my eyes because he crouched down (he was a big guy), put a hand on my shoulder, and said, “I don’t care if you ever hit that ball or not. What’s really important is that you got out there and tried. Don’t let your fear ever stop you.

Suddenly I felt it was okay to make mistakes. That was it. No sin, no crime, just a mistake. It was years later that I felt Ken telling me the exact same thing, over and over, in his classes and in our exchange of letters. We will make mistakes. That’s just life here. Everything is a mistake. Getting up and breathing is a mistake. How could we think it possible not to make mistakes? The only thing we could conceivably do was to learn to live within our mistake-making frame of mind and constantly forgive ourselves for the long series of errors we would make from dawn to dusk. That was happiness and freedom. Freedom from any implication of sin or guilt, from judgment and condemnation.

A blank slate lay before me that was called “my life”, and it had nothing written on it. It was perfectly neutral. Now, the ego could chalk in all over it that there was some serious problem here, and some terrible mistake (i.e. “sin”) there. But those words were simply that – chalked in phrases on a blank slate. With a swift wipe of Jesus’ hand, the words fell away and revealed what was always there: a perfectly clean place, quiet, uninterrupted by thoughts or dramas of any kind. Peaceful.

A new day had just begun, and I left the café and made my way quietly home to see what this new “life” might turn out to look like.

May your day today be lived like a perfectly clean slate.
Many blessings to the Village.
Love,
Bernard



Mayor’s Journal
Friday, June 4th, 2010
This will be a short entry in the journal today, lots to do. I woke up and breathed my first breath and immediately noticed that I thought there were so many important and critical things to do this day. Welcome to the separation! “The ego always speaks first…” And so I tried to let the other Voice in for a minute or two (or three)…

sunrise Hmm. Maybe there were, indeed, a lot of things to do, but none for the reason I thought. None of them would be critical to my state of peace, or feeling of profound well-being, if that were my choice. At the end of the day, I didn’t have to be disappointed or irritated if they weren’t done. It’s a bit of a challenge for me, since I have been a “get-it-done” kind of guy most of my life. As I’ve worked through the Course it became obvious that there was another way of living and experiencing ‘existence’, and that each moment could be one of completion, instead of struggling to make the next, and the next, thing happen always in order to ‘feel better’, somehow more fulfilled, more complete. But if nothing is missing in eternity, then nothing would be missing during my day. I don’t usually get there, but it’s nice to try and for moments during the day there is this state of relaxation and lightness that settles in from time to time. Sweet.

Please note that Lawrence has indicated he will going on a year-long retreat starting this June 16th (his birthday). And thus we only have a few days left to get all we can out of this man! He will be cloistering himself away with some mighty Companions, and delving into the powerful silence that reaches to us all around within the illusion. Our thoughts accompany you, dear brother, on your future journey back Home.

Also, please note the post our local Monk has recently put up at the Monastery on Specialness. Like me, perhaps you will be amused by his poetic humour, but also moved by the intensity and wisdom behind it. Specialness is a constant issue for me, and one that made me very reluctant to start the Village. I know I have not yet managed to live without my drug. Its sweet sickness is there in the back of my mind, and too often makes its way into my words, written and spoken, despite my ‘best intentions’ and efforts to edit it out. I can only trust that the Villagers and other onlookers will understand the time it takes to wean oneself of this pervasive identity.

Wishing you a day of fullness and completion, in which the sickly sweetness of specialness begins to lose its deranged appeal, leaving place for our Brother to bring his gentleness and understanding into our minds and hearts.

Loving you all,
Bernard

P.S. I did not purposely choose a photo of a list with 'shave the cat' as one of the jobs to do today, although Pumpkin did not particuarly help me get a good night's sleep.



Mayor’s Journal
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
That same fateful day after my meeting with the accountant and my coffee shop resolution that “this change was somehow going to work” was the same day the Village came to life. Perhaps it was just a pure coincidence that I received an email that same day informing me about the changes at the Monastery. But it felt a lot like a hologram shift to me. You know, the kind of day when you shake your head and say, life wasn’t quite the same yesterday. It was like walking through an invisible partition into a different physical reality. Have you ever had moments like that? And this is where distinguishing between form and content can be so important. Of course, reality never really changes. That’s impossible. But what we think of as our ‘life’ can sometimes take such a sudden turn that it leaves you wondering about the fixed reference point you called ‘life’ in the first place.

sunriseAccording to quantum physics, there is no real ‘physical’ universe as such. It’s all just energy held together by thought. As Ken would say, even that thought itself is unreal, so there truly is no ‘anything’ to the ‘something’ we call this world. Even the atoms we consider our bodies to be are composed of other, still smaller particles with Startrek-like names. Even more puzzling, these particles are so small that the space between them is as relatively large as the space between the stars in the galaxy. This means, according to the physicists, that there is plenty of space amongst these particles for other particles to slip in, without us being aware. Which means that as we sit here reading this journal post, multiple other realities are sharing the exact same space. We don’t see them because the photons don’t interact with them; they only hit the universe we have decided to focus on. What gives coherence and consistency to the universe that appears before us is the train of our thought, which for the most part, as we know, is dominated by the ego and separation.

So there is a ‘me’ who never stopped doing building work, and another one who went off to start a flower shop in Paris, and another one who had a car accident on the way home and is lying in hospital with a handicap for life - all interacting within the same 'physical' plane.

Now, none of this is interesting as such. Why learn about the presence of other illusory realities when we can’t even get our minds around this one? The only reason I mention it is because, like all these forays into the abstraction of quantum physics, it helps us shake up our notions of what is real and what is not. And what is not real is hardly worth giving too much importance to. One set of pictures versus another.

What is very reassuring to know is that whatever happens to us today, it is just one series of pictures amongst many. What can give meaning and coherence to these pictures is learning to interpret them together with an inner Teacher – who is real. That is the only stability possible in this insane dimension we have imagined, composed of fluff and dust. And His interpretation will always bring us back to one perception about these pictures: underneath all images of separate and competing interests, of sensitive and needy bodies, there is a harmony and perfect order to all things. There is the absolute sameness of our interests, the deep desire to remember our constant Home, to exit the crazy perception of vulnerability and guilt.

No matter which universe we enter today, everything remains firmly held within a space of immaculate Love. We can hold out our hand amidst the images that come and go and touch our brother’s, being just a little less afraid of his reaction. We can smile that light, joyful little inner smile that says, “I am never upset for the reason I think – God did not create a meaningless world.”

Hmm. I didn’t plan on writing this today. So I guess that was a hologram shift, too. Hope it was a fun one!

Anyway, wishing you a happy day in your own personal hologram. I’m glad that your universe includes me for a while! Many thanks for stopping by.

Lots of love,
Bernard