Authenticity and Transformation (c) by Bob Paris


By Bob Paris


Most of my adult life has been driven by two fundamental concepts: An active, ongoing quest for authentic living. And a willingness to reinforce this search by undertaking regular bouts of personal transformation, no matter how difficult the path, or uncertain the outcome.

To me, this approach represents a living, breathing answer to the one core question each of us must eventually ask ourselves: How shall I live? When we strive to answer this foundational question in an honest and insightful way, we can discover our own truest desires and individual purpose. Beyond all else, my experience tells me that this is the best way to travel the path with heart. It represents an inner pilgrimage that transcends religion, dogma, selfishness and us-vs.-them myopia.

To be certain, looking deeply into our lives to find the authentic (and to continuously embrace transformative efforts) isn’t necessarily the easiest way to live. In fact, facing the truth of our own lives can present enormous challenges. It is, however, a quest that provides great personal reward of the sort that really matters – the ever-evolving journey toward profound personal integrity, fueled by sincere, heartfelt compassion and understanding directed first toward ourselves and (perhaps most importantly) radiating outward to others travelling through their own unique pilgrimages. It is the first step in being able to walk-a-mile in another’s shoes. And in these troubling times, when it often feels as if the world is once more slipping off its axis, a deep understanding of ourselves and others may be the only way to cross the turbulent storm-ravaged river of today.

So, how to go about doing this – establishing an authentic, transformative way to live – without walking around so deep in philosophical thought that we stumble off a cliff and into the abyss of our own self-absorption? To answer this question, it’s vital that each of us understand our own unique story, learning to embrace that which works, allowing for the development of strategies for effective change. In other words, open your eyes to your own lived experience and set your priorities according to what you believe will take you in the direction where your own authentic purpose resides. This all begins by understanding that, beyond basic survival, your needs and longings are your own. At your true core, you must come to realize that you aren’t an anonymous cog in a meaningless wheel. On the contrary: You matter. Each one of us matters. It is essential to understand and embrace this.

In my experience, nothing can replace a healthy respect for your own individuality in the search for personal transformation in service of authenticity. So many times the most well-intended self-improvement plans fail because they don’t take into account how unique we all are. Understanding that we are each unique in our desires and outlooks represents, in itself, a personal challenge. But, I truly believe that inside our challenges lay opportunities for tremendous life-altering growth.

To illustrate how one might consider approaching all of this, let me use my own individual journey as it relates to one of the most central tenants of life itself, and one that causes so many of us a world of confusion: FOOD.


I was raised in the U.S. – in the deep Midwest, an area where north and south blended together in both culture and cuisine. Much like everyone around me, I grew up eating a diet one might call deep-fried everything. From chicken to catfish to pork tenderloin – if it used to be alive and was headed for the supper table, it could be battered and fried (and often smothered in some kind of gravy). Generally these fried-meat-centric meals were accompanied by side dishes of over-cooked, heavily buttered vegetables, potatoes and so forth. All of this was served in gigantic gut-stretching portions. And we were expected to eat every bite, apparently because there were starving children on the other side of the world who would love to have that last giant helping of meatloaf and corn-fritters.

Then my parents divorced and – at 15 – I went to live with my dad. Neither of us was what anyone would consider a great cook. So, eating became a fairly random affair of utilitarian grazing on a blend of fast-food and whatever happened to be at hand.

After a year of living and eating this way, a miracle took place in my life. On a swampy summer day, not long before school let out for the summer, one of my teachers sent me out in search of a fan. This search led me down a dark hallway at the back of the basketball gymnasium. Inside a small storage room, I discovered a dusty, cobweb-covered weight machine. As an artistic, athletic (and self-destructive) young man, I made a discovery that literally saved my life. I threw myself into weight training as a young bird takes to the air. It was both authentic and transformative.

When I later discovered that there was an actual sport to be had as a result of all my efforts – bodybuilding – I made the choice to also transform the way I approached food. If my goals were to be met, I needed to see the way I ate as a tool, just as fundamental as the carefully constructed, intense weight workouts I pushed myself through. For the next decade of my life, my meals became intentionally utilitarian; highly structured, but not very interesting. On point, but very basic. I knew exactly how many calories, grams of protein, carbs, fat (and so forth) were in each bite. I had to know all this; to do otherwise would be akin to being an accountant who doesn’t understand math.

Then, I retired from competition and very quickly moved away from bodybuilding (and all that it entailed) and toward an even more authentic calling – becoming a writer. And as I transitioned away from my sport, almost immediately, my eating habits reverted to the casual style I’d had as a fifteen-year-old. I grazed and satisfied myself with anything that was at hand. Food was a total after-thought. Not being a natural foodie, I was eating to live, rather than living to eat.

Then, another miracle: I met the great love of my life. And one of the things I loved right from the start was Brian’s passion for food – and by this I mean healthy, well-prepared, proper meals. I once again quickly understood that I needed to transform my own outlook toward the way I ate.

Brian’s love of food grew out of profound personal hardship. Starting when he was sixteen, he began having frequent bouts of cancer. This led him on his own transformative journey toward authentic living. If cancer was going to chase him, he was going to stand his ground and fight back with every tool at hand. He became an expert on what was good for the body. Healthy meals became his sword and shield – an alchemic method for transmuting rage and fear into a loving, nurturing craft.

I still remember going to Brian’s house when we first started dating (we’re now twenty years into our marriage). I wandered into his kitchen and opened the fridge (I must confess, I was looking for a beer). What I saw inside hit me like a bolt of lightning. It was packed full of fresh vegetables and fruit and fish and home-made healthy snacks – and beyond all of this, there were also twenty containers filled with these healthy meals he’d made for himself, for the entire week. I was truly amazed. And transformed.

As Brian told me about his marathon cooking sessions, he also explained his medical history and how, having been raised in a loving home where good cooking and family meals were common-place, he had found this truly authentic way of approaching food. I also learned that Brian would devour cook books the way I would ravage a stack of literary novels. I saw genuine passion in action. I saw the future.

These days, we make our home on one of the Gulf Islands of coastal British Columbia, abutting old-growth woods and the wild sea. It is truly a healthy food paradise, with a mild climate that allows gardening all year round. I still look on lovingly as Brian selects what’s fresh and in season and then undertakes his Sunday cooking marathons, packing our fridge with the healthiest, most delicious meals one can imagine. I have actually allowed myself to evolve away from my natural tendency toward utilitarian grazing (or boring tool-like structure) and truly appreciate the wonders of the kale and chard and beans (and so forth) we gather from our garden – or from the local farmers’ market, or farm-gate stands. We harvest apples, pears, cherries and walnuts from the trees in our yard and buy salmon and shell-fish right at the local dock. After decades of trying to get it right, I am finally home – and it’s a place filled with amazing food and tons of love.

As I count my many blessings, I remind myself that the authentic path is truly possible – if we simply allow ourselves to embrace our own true nature and work toward transforming that which doesn’t work into the journey that overflows with all that makes our own individual hearts soar.

Bob Paris (c) 2017 all rights reserved


Would you believe me if I told you / Can I tell if you believe me / When I ask these very questions / Every day yeah every day / And would you like me if you knew me / Will I like you when I know you / Will the world start spinning backward / Any day / Yeah any day / Would you see me if I showed up / Can I ask you now to hold me / Since I ask these very questions / Any day yeah any day / And would you hate me if you knew me / Will the world keep spinning backward / Every day / Yeah every day now / Any day / Yeah any day

ANY DAY YEAH ANY DAY by Bob Paris ©2017

UNTITLED 11.22.2016

Ask the wind and the rocks

How we shall ever breathe

That sweet flow of springtime

Ever last ever fleeting

And I will sing to you a dirge

Of lives cast down upon seas

Ever restless and then

Build a shrine to knowing

Unwound as yarn across

A cold stone floor

That this though ought

Oh downcast gaze oh aye

Here is a meadow even

A sun dapple side glance

If it be a dream of loss and

Yet I lay me down under

Gathered midnight

UNTITLED 11/22/2016

By Bob Paris (c)

photo: Art Zeller, 1990 (c) Bob Paris

On New Year’s Eve 2015 By Bob Paris ©2015

Along this star washed road walking

We see all around the promise of

A vast and sacred sky and there

Angels wave to goddess and beyond

To sun and moon and cedar shadowed

Oh shining mourn gently touched

Sung out boldly from rippled memory

Thou shalt never find a heart so aflame

Burnt intertwine with this spectral oh

Remember oh remember

Oh do you darling mine

Magnificent gods race through frosted glade

Whispering bough dances with a kiss

While night lay bled and day crouches hidden

Behind racing tide before a door that opens

As love comes on a lingering flicker

Of perfumed and expectant wind

On New Year’s Eve 2015

By Bob Paris ©2015

Photo: Brian LeFurgey (taken as I was writing this poem)

WINTER SOLSTICE 2015 By Bob Paris ©

You are lovely to me as that moon

Waxing gibbous now above

This distant dapple canvas oh so near

In the spread of four o’clock dusk

Crawling proudly as ample fog afloat

Our favorite riverbank near the rush

Of blue ice tumbled over mossy stones

And light with me together candlewicks

That we might sing ourselves hopeful toward

The promise of tomorrow’s brighter dawning

WINTER SOLSTICE 2015 By Bob Paris ©

TO LINGER By Bob Paris

This hank of life that waits on none

More than a glance shimmered across

Wire and coupling that hold a heart such

As mine together along switchback trails

Into clouds that ring mountaintop and down

Among volcanic coolness held in a whispered

Fault line that bears no image of fault

Or reason or impulse or single explanation

Nor belief nor doors flung open by wind

Made visible and haunting inside

Swirls round to find a mind unstilled

By steady race of pulse and blood and light

And pause in which to linger


By Bob Paris © 8.25.2015

INFINITE HEART by Bob Paris 5.3.2015 (c)

A golden day sings me

Sweet surrender and thus

It is in my nature to answer

Each call in kind

So I say to the trees

How are you today

And they reply that they are just fine

Ta sure ta very much and so

The sun falls on my neck and I move

My chaise lounge over to the shade

Of a fully flowered lilac

That has grown toward the south

Over so many years

And years

Sweet melody grand symphony

The fat robin sings ore there yonder

Ruby throat fleeting wing

A swarm floats through

Of hummingbirds like jets over

The place my dreams singled out for me

As a boy with his head

On a late springtime pillow

Plotting paradise in the bows of

An everlasting infinite heart

INFINITE HEART by Bob Paris 5.3.2015 (c)

The Beaten Whir by Bob Paris (c)2015

Out there along that distant point

In here around my beaten whir

Race yet along leapt paradox

That takes me here nor there 

And when I see your shadow fall

Upon the path doth lead yet yonder

Past hallow come and ghost upon

This rubble in mine breast


Then I shall know beyond all doubt

A truer heart not ever known

This rose upon my vision hast

A dying breath bequeathed 

My darling oh my darling love

I sing you yet to heaven’s shore

For up from this here pyre of bone

A flame licks all the sky 

You were you were so young

So fair

So eager to go forward

And I shall sing you evermore

Here in my beaten whir


By Bob Paris ©2015 all rights reserved

WINTER SOLSTICE 2014 by Bob Paris (c)

Fear not this dark, dear companion / Luxuriant depth swallows whole / A hundred million questions tenfold / That you carry on your heart but silent / Hidden away for a moment fleeting / Down in this valley of the moon / Rejoice that we are here, sweet shadow / For how shall we truly know light / Now so far away beyond that ridge / Except to cradle her twin sister / Tender as a newborn / Understanding that at least / Our next step leads upward / Toward a racing star / So sing with me, my true friend / A fresh Winter’s knowing dirge / Enfolded in this depth, we’ll go now / And leave behind all fear

WINTER SOLSTICE 2014 by Bob Paris (c)

DECISION by Bob Paris (A Snippet of Prose Poetry) (c) 12.4.2014

"We arrive on the scene at a flutter of indecision. Picture it. Here he is, paused upon a moment of great import. See him teeter along the edge of things. Neither flute nor oxen, nor paw-paw pie. Between and beholden. He can feel it, there in his chest, gnawing a lung and shoving a shoulder against his ribs. He knows that turning back would be simple. Like switching off the stove. Like brushing dust off a shoe. Like saying goodbye. Until next time, perhaps. But here’s the thing. In spite of this lukewarm handsaw wind, he chooses. He steps forward, through the door marked ‘Do Not Enter.’ The circling hawk calls out that nothing will ever be the same again. And that makes him very happy, indeed. Oh, indeed. It’s thus decided."

DECISION by Bob Paris (A Snippet of Prose Poetry) (c) 12.4.2014

ELUSIVE by Bob Paris 9.24.2014 © all rights reserved

Them millions of lights flick elusive

For here my gut feelings reveal

An orbit pulsed through

By a sure thing

Won’t wriggle away as an eel

Yeah that’s right

You read right

A glittering shimmering electrified eel

That million gazillion megawatt eel

Glides over the brim of us worldly

Deep under the waters in there

And I can see tail flick and vanish

As a whisper trails an echo

Which leads me to wonder

And ponder

And wonder In ragged and curlicue loops

Which is it what is it

This life we be sweating E

ach movement each gesture

A fret or bloodletting

Be it heaven or hell

Or a purgative wash

All over our bodies

Away down that gulch

Does it matter at all

Will it flick yet a jot

There it is there it goes

As the eons do tumble

Here we go yet again

Do discuss
ELUSIVE by Bob Paris 9.24.2014 © all rights reserved

THAT VELVET MIDNIGHT by Bob Paris © 9.12.2014

This midnight realm above

Like scattered diamonds

Tossed by a reckless goddess

Over a departing shoulder

Burnt by late summer sun

To fall hither skither

On that rumpled bedspread

Of black


That we call this night sky

Around these alien parts

Forever separated

Forever together

Where Apollo fleets

And Diana quivers

Down to the underworld of Pluto

And away to the far reaches of Aries

Of always and beyond

Under the stern and squinted gaze


Remind me


I forgot which day this is

It happens

Which era

Which lamb are we to slaughter

What alms shall be offered

In deference to pregnant thunder

To threat of everlasting retribution

Avert the flame alighted

This ripened fruit that bursts upon

An exacted altar

What song doth please

The ever shifting realm

Which passage true

Which false

No matter

For above me spreads a diamond scattered

Rumpled cloth

Black velvet yet a moment

Then peach and violet at each edge

Then spectral

And my heart beats on

As does yours my darling

As does yours 

THAT VELVET MIDNIGHT by Bob Paris © 9.12.2014 all rights reserved

BETWEEN by Bob Paris © 8.6.2014

Noble heart yearning soul

Quickened by longing requited

Calmed through acts undertaken

Moved with force as if amplified

By crackling strings that run

To stars and firmament and faraway

Ground of ties to the space in between

Molecule and movement

Wave and particle and arcing light

All that weaves in mighty quiet

These laneways of shimmered stillness

In transit of a single knowing smile

BETWEEN by Bob Paris © 8.6.2014