what death asks of us

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As it happens, especially when the moon is full, I laid awake at 3 am and wrote the bones of this post in my head. I saw a striking image yesterday that demanded my sleep infused awareness. Earlier in the day, Deepak Chopra posted a picture of a giant skeleton laying on it’s back in Tivoli, Italy. He wrote underneath, “Where we are, he once was, where he is, once we will be.”

There is something hugely liberating about this. I almost wrote scary, disturbing, and upsetting which is all true but the word that pushed to the front of the line was none other than liberating.

There is a meditation on death from the Buddhist tradition which may sound morbid  but exists as a way to offer perspective and has even been linked to bringing more joy into our lives. It also reminds us that everything is in a constant state of change. All is fleeting and if we don’t keep check of our attachments, our obsession with things can lead to more struggle and suffering. Every time something breaks, ends, or changes, it is a way to prime ourselves to the ultimate change that we will all experience. It is a way to practice letting go a little bit at a time.

A few weeks ago in our women’s circle, my friend Jenn talked about how she often answers this poignant invitation: “Make every decision from the perspective of your deathbed. As I imagine laying there looking back on my life, will I be glad I did this?” I am trying this. Will I feel guilty about not selling hot dogs at my son’s baseball games? Will I remember the stress involved in selling this house? Will I lay there thinking about all of the things I could have done better? What truly matters at the end should matter all the way throughout.

Losing my mom was heartbreaking. But it was also an opportunity to keep her company on her journey and to experience the sacredness of death. From where I was, the only thing, the absolute only thing that mattered, was her relationships. It was all Love and kindness. It surrounded her every minute of every day. She soaked it up and shared it with us even when she was sleeping most of the time. It was a palpable energy and it too was freeing.

When I sat with her in the days leading up to her death, holding her hand, telling her it was okay to go and sometimes even singing, it reminded me of birthing my babies. Something mysterious and magical, albeit painful and hard, was happening. Something so totally out of my grasp of understanding and day to day living. The intensity of it swallowed me whole. I could only surrender and trust that this was somehow o.k and that she was laboring into a new way of being just as I had labored into becoming a mother just as my babies were also labored into being.

Beloved Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, says “Birth is a continuation.” Death is a continuation. This life is a circle. Every end, a new beginning. “Our nature is the nature of no birth and no death.”

When we contemplate death, it affords us a great blessing. It reminds us that we are here for a short blink of the eye in the universe. “Truth brings humility”, says Deepak Chopra. And truth sets us free.

Death asks us to be intentional about our living and reminds us to make our decisions from a seed truth of love instead of fear. When we choose from Love, we come from our highest, most authentic selves not from the ego. We come from a place of deep connection and intimacy and not a place of separation. When we put our egos aside and stop judging and doubting every little thing, we show up with our whole, true, compassionate hearts knowing that we are one and that somehow in some way, we go on forever.

 

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the soul in everything

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This morning on Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, I walked with my baby girl in her stroller to the sound of  birds chirping. From high up tree branches, they sang their little hearts out. Giving voice to that which needed to be sung.

I left my phone at home this time. With no temptation to pick it up and check messages, I felt truly anchored to the unfolding of life happening all around me. The messages that needed to reach me were not on my phone, they were outside in nature. Messages to keep going and stay connected. Messages to reach out. To practice gratitude every step of the way. And to keep giving voice to that which needs to be sung within me.

We can start over at anytime. We can mend and heal. A new day, a new beginning, a new intention, a new year.

And as a slight breeze swam through the humid air, it dawned on me that mother nature truly feels like a mother. Anytime we are feeling lost, plagued by a worrisome thought or just need a hug, we can head outdoors and be held by the beauty and unconditional love hidden in every leave, scurrying squirrel, singing bird, dancing tree, social butterfly and color in the dreamy sky.

They are there to keep us connected to our souls. When we connect to our own souls, we connect to the soul in everything.

It is a lullaby, a hushed comfort telling us that everything is going to be okay. On this new day of this new year, find your words, your tune, your melody and share it with those around you. We need your voice and all the voices of the world to keep us connected to the soul in everything.

fierce with reality

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When we open up to our brokenness, we begin the path to wholeness. 

When I was younger, I used to hope that when I turned 20 and then 30 and now 50, that I would be free from getting so humiliated or feeling fearful or anxious. I thought I just needed to grow up.

I still get humiliated, fearful, and anxious. But what is different now is that while I don’t particular enjoy these strong feelings,  I am more okay with them because I see them as passing conditions. They are simply tools to work with. And they don’t define me.

Wholeness is not perfection. Wholeness is acceptance. It is simply a willingness to look at all of it…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When we give voice to our brokenness, we in turn let light shine on and from these places.

And who knows how this light will change our lives and illuminate the hearts of others.

As Parker Palmer says, the way to God is down.

And when we are mindful of our pain, when we hear it and can identify it as sadness, anger, jealousy, grief, whatever it may be…we see our brokenness as something to understand and not necessarily fix. We change our relationship to it. It becomes something to work with and grow from.

It becomes a portal to awakening not a pathology to treat.

Barrie Davenport in her book, Peace of Mindfulness, writes, “Don’t add another layer of suffering by fretting over your suffering.”

There is nothing wrong with you. You are not perfect thank goodness! But you are beautiful in your brokenness. Because you are fierce with reality.

today trascendence

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“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” – Eckhart Tolle

Our anger, pain, and our sadness is fleeting. Our bad moods are fleeting. These emotional states often have such a grip on our hearts. But they are not who we are. We are the observer, the witness, the one that notices the rollercoaster of emotions.We are along for the ride.

These emotions, they come and go like a dense fog rolling into view and limiting our visibility only to later be burned off by the warming sun. And when the fog eventually lifts as it always does, a more sparkly, clearer, and truer sky is revealed.

Our souls are not fleeting. At the core of our beings, no matter what turmoil is going on around us, we are pure magnificence. Compassionate. Genuine. Loving. Light.

Even in death our light shines like a million shooting stars showering down on the earth blanketing those we love with a glowing embrace.

We are together in this. Our hearts, our souls at the deepest level are the same. We are one.

“In the end there are three things that matter. How well we’ve lived. How well we’ve loved. How well we’ve learned to let go.” – Jack Kornfield

We as human beings have this amazing capacity to be reborn at breakfast…everyday this is a new day, who will I be today? – Jack Kornfield

 

 

 

melodius

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There is Love in holding, and there is Love in letting go.”  –  Elizabeth Berg

“To see thee more clearly. Love thee more dearly. Follow thee more nearly, day by day.”  

This morning I woke to a sleeping house. What a rare and amazing gift! My husband was already awake and meditating so I decided to join him. Lord knows I need it.

We sat on the floor of our dusky bedroom while tiny dust particles mingled with the determined morning light. *We listened to the sweet subtle voice on my husband’s phone  as birds chirped along in the background. The gentle voice guided us to name our feelings.

Anger, anger, frustration, disappointment, anger, fear, sadness. And then…identify any sensations you are feeling and where you are feeling them...warm, warm, hot, hot, face, tight, stomach, throat, bubble, tight, tight, TIGHT!

By repeating the name of the sensation, the sensation itself starts to melt, losing its hold, losing its power and making room for more space. The sensation, neither good or bad, just is and often goes as quickly as it comes.

But first, it needs acknowledgement. Not judgement or understanding, just acknowledgement.

Then we soften because we allow. We feel it. Even if it stings and hurts.

Much like getting stuck in an undertow while swimming in the ocean, when we swim against the current, we lose our strength. But when we swim with the current, we find our breath and are able to let go and stay afloat.

We breathe. We flow. We keep going. We must keep going.

After my daughter left for camp today, I drove my son to his camp, and then took my baby girl to a coffeehouse I hadn’t been to in over a year. I went there yesterday too and then went back again today because it is just that warm and welcoming inside.

I felt comforted just by being there. Maybe even held. And as I was about to leave, I made a new friend.

She told me I was her hero when I said I had 3 kids. After telling me that she was a social worker with two kids who started her own business helping developmentally challenged adults and is also currently getting her Master of Arts in Psychology, I told her she was my hero! I could feel courage, confidence, and kindness emanating from her like the beaming sun.

Then we hugged. Twice.

Joy Joy Joy. Warmth. Grateful. Heart. Heart. Happy.

I’m not sure I would have had the space in my heart for joy, gratitude, and a new friend had I not allowed the anger and sadness the space to just be first.

We breathe. We flow. We keep going. We must keep going.

*We used the app for our phone Calm: Mediate and relax with guided mindfulness meditation for stress reduction at http://www.calm.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

special delivery

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The other day I got scolded by my mailman while walking with my baby and looking at my cell phone. “You are with her but you are not with her, leave that at home.” Who was he?  The Dalai Lama of the postal service? I was so annoyed. He should mind his own business for Pete’s sake! And so I huffed and puffed and almost blew my house down. The best part? I was researching mindfulness programs!

Earlier that day, I had been asked by a friend to teach a series on mindfulness meditation. My first reaction was YES. Then the barrage of thoughts like determined little leaf cutter ants came marching along screaming at me that I need more training and more experience in order to do this. I would certainly benefit from more training. But I have been down this path before and at what point is this train of thought really just an excuse to avoid putting myself out there? There is always another training and another certification or someone more adept at doing the job.

But I have learned from experience that often the missing piece is less about a lack of knowledge and more about a lack of confidence. So often what is really getting in our way is our ability to believe in ourselves and trust that we are enough.

We already possess that which we are meant to teach.

And they say that our most important teachers are the ones that push our buttons. The ones that reflect back to us what we most need to pay attention to. What was most annoying about my scolding from the mailman? He was right.

beyond duality

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In the natural world, we experience duality everywhere. The ebb and flow of the tides. The waxing and waning of the moon. Our inherit inclination to contract in the winter and expand in the summer.

I feel this duality as a parent too. As I watch my children grow, I am all too aware of the fine line between encouraging them to experience the world and protecting them from harm.

So much of life is spent residing in this duality that it can be so refreshing to step away from it for awhile. My meditation practice encourages this by enabling me to peek into the world of oneness by taking a break from a black and white way of living and settling into a soothing gray area. Taking a break from my attachment to things being a certain way is a huge lesson for me knowing that we suffer greatly when we want things to be different than they are.

As a mom of three and as someone who struggles with discipline, my meditations practice varies from day to day. Some days it may mean pausing and locating my breath for a few stolen moments while my daughter begs repeatedly to watch another episode of Full House. It may look like a centering, grounding quiet while I rock my baby in my arms and notice the green of the leaves through my bedroom window. Or if I am feeling ambitious, a 10 – 15 minute seated practice while everyone is out or sleeping.

However meditation comes to be in my day, this time of stillness allows me a vacation from duality even if it is for just a brief moment. And it feels so replenishing and nourishing much like a real vacation. Almost as good as a real vacation.

Here in this place of quiet, the thoughts that arise are not right or wrong, they are simply thoughts. In this space of oneness, there is no yes or no, good or bad, sad or happy. The joys and struggles inherit in life are just different chapters in the same messy but beautiful story.

This place of neutrality is a wide open field with tall grass swaying to the rhythm of the wind. The air, infused with freedom, holds no judgment or criticism, no expectations, and no attachment to outcome.

It is a practice that comes and goes but is always accessible by our one sustaining and life affirming breath. The inhale and exhale, the rise and fall of our chests is one long wave anchoring us to this moment. This one moment, the only one we have.

Leaving the world of labels and boundaries, rules and regulations behind, allows me to just be in a place that just is.