I am told that the reason we move out of energetic form into the human realm is so that we can have a ‘sensual’ experience. In other words, we are here to learn and grow through the art of feeling.
Through my study of death, I have learned not to fear what comes next, as we will shift back into a different, less tangible form. This is a far cry from my childhood belief that we live, then die and simply cease to be.
Despite this shift in perspective, I still don’t have a relationship with the concept of heaven and hell, as I am certain those are human constructs of manipulation (no offense). I tend to believe that those are possible realities right here on earth, depending on your circumstances.
As I walked home from my parents’ house last evening, feeling a mist of rain and wind upon my skin, with the sensation of my heart filling at the sight of the Tabebuia tree in my neighbor’s yard, which is in stunning full bloom the color of sunshine, I was overcome by the urgency of this experience.
It was as if the Universe was reminding me to drink it all in… every sensation and emotion, so that I will be able to carry them with me when my body ceases to house my soul.
As we leave the womb of our mother, we emerge into the light. As we grow we are exposed to so many experiences that offer learning and growth to the consciousness of the soul, and every lesson is deepened by touch, by sound, by taste, by sight, by smell, and by the words we are able to share with one another.
On the other side of the veil, we continue to learn and grow, but it is very different in the absence of corporeal form. Imagine being educated about love without the tenderness of a caring caress. Imagine learning more about courage without feeling fear for the temporary nature of the body. Imagine trying to understand passion and desire without all of the elements that go into the experience of attainment. Imagine wrapping your love around someone without ever feeling their embrace.
There is so much here for us to learn, and it has nothing to do with marketable skills. If we are not placing value on the way the wind makes us feel as it runs wispy fingers through our hair, or how the gentle rain consecrates our sacred bodies with holy water from the sky above, or how the fire warms our skin and brings illumination to our camp songs and ghost stories, or how every inch of earth supports and nurtures our every footfall, we are horribly missing the point of this human experience.
Offering our love to others in the form of words or physical hugs is something that we can only do in human incarnation. When we flow back into the infinite energetic force of all that is, we will be nowhere and everywhere, all at once. But our loved ones may not know it. Doesn’t that make being here now of greater importance? Doesn’t that make you want to go out and dance in the rain with anyone whose touch you will one day long to feel along the surface of your skin?
Textures, emotions, colors, the physical sensation of the elements of nature, tangible expressions of love, affection, and adoration… we cannot take these things with us. Allow your mind, body and soul to drink in every sensual encounter as if it might be a hundred years before you have the chance to feel it again.
If we are mindful and present in every moment, there will be nothing to regret when we finally shed this mortal skin and rise into the freedom of what comes next. What a glorious thought! To know that we get to carry forth such luscious gratitude for every little thing.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I am enormously happy that you are here.
My friend Brian called from Oregon this morning. He wanted to thank me for the Valentine card I mailed last week. As we were catching up on the details of the lives and loves of one another, he made a suggestion.
We talked about the toxic workplace in which we met, and about those who are choosing to leave for their own mental health… and of course, celebrating our own choices to leave. For each of us, leaving was one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves.
As I shared with him the workshops that I am creating to share a sense of mindful manifestation with others, he exclaimed, “You make such a difference in the lives of those who know you. You should share my story! I’ll never forget what you asked me that night that we had dinner together, while my organs were literally shutting down. You said, “Brian, What is your joy?” That one question changed everything!”
I have told this story before, in an article that I wrote for Elephant Journal, and in another blog post called More than Grateful. Frankly, Brian has no idea how significant his story is and how often I share it, but I’ll share a brief version here, as well.
Brian was one of the first people I met in the company I went to work for after being liberated from my long-time workplace in 2017. It was love at first sight – you know, the way you meet someone and you instantly feel you’d like to know them better? Well, we had little opportunity to do so, since he would be working remotely and only coming to town periodically. But as fate would have it, we managed to find time to make a connection.
Of the many executives I worked with, he was the only one who seemed to be heart-centered. Sharing a meal with him during his visits was the one thing work related to which I looked forward. We loved our time so much that we continued meeting for dinner even after I left the company that October.
It was at dinner in February that he shared with me his diagnosis and prognosis. He had prostate cancer that had metastasized in his bones. That was when I looked deep into his eyes, refusing to react with tears or pity, and asked, “Brian, what is your joy?”
It was not lost on me that this sweet man had been given a deadline, and here he was risking his health by getting on an airplane each month to come into a workplace who obviously didn’t care for his well being. Exposing an immunosuppressed sacred being to the hazards of viral and bacterial boxes of in-flight holding is criminal.
His immediate reply to my query was, “Melissa, no one has ever asked me that before.” He promised to go home and think about it. It turned out that he flew home early, and went right into the hospital. An experimental medication his oncologist was giving him had begun to shut down his organs.
I almost lost my dear friend before he was able to answer this all important question. If that alternate reality had come to pass, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I never would have understood the magnitude of my great loss. In as many ways as I have blessed his life and brought about a more mindful existence… he has done the same for me.
Brian’s courage to share his truth with me that day brought forth that morsel of wisdom that came through me. Ask the question, to help someone find their own solution.
His reply came to me on Valentine’s Day, ten days after I posed the question. He wrote to me: ” My joy: spending as much time with Derek as possible.” It was then that he told me he had been in the hospital for a week after returning home, but I was not yet aware of the close call he survived.
It has been a year since Brian made this declaration, and it has been three months since he began pursuing his JOY full time. When the cancer started spreading again in September, I convinced him to start working on an exit strategy, so that every moment of the time he has left can be dedicated to soul fulfillment.
He shared today that his last check up was pretty good. He feels good, and he is filling his days with more joy and less stress. This makes my heart so happy.
As for me, my joy is getting to connect deeply with others. That kind of surface connection just won’t do. I want to know what makes your heart happy. I want to know what makes your soul sing. I want to know… if you were to be given a terminal diagnosis tomorrow (heaven forbid), how you would choose to spend the rest of your days.
I was blessed to be able to take an early retirement of sorts, so that I can be present with the extra care that my parents need at this time in their lives. But as all caregivers should, I feel it necessary to find more balance in my life. Knowing that they are safe and well is gratifying, but there are days that are more difficult than others, and I need to have something that fills my needs while I am filling theirs.
The workshops that I am facilitating is a part of that plan. In fact, my next workshop is dedicated to finding just that. As the wheel of the year turns, and we greet the growing daylight in the northern hemisphere, we will celebrate the Spring Equinox. Twice a year, day and night are equal, and we are reminded that our needs are not unlike those of Mother Earth.
At my second workshop on March 30, Persephone Rises – and we will be Finding Balance at the Equinox. Just the thought of it makes my heart push through dark, moist soil toward the expansion of the sun. We shall throw off our cloaks of winter and don the brilliance of springtime.
The intentions that we developed in February should be starting to take root, and it is up to us to ensure their freedom to grow.
I know that for me, finding balance means ensuring that I am creating ample opportunity to refill and recharge. Spending time with those I care about brings me joy, as does listening to live music – so I’ll be having more of that. Also, I’ve dedicated to doing one of these workshops every 8 weeks or so for the year, and even the planning brings me joy. Honoring Persephone as she emerges from the underworld makes me squeal with delight! But then… there will be the time spent with others who are willing and eager to seek something deeper for themselves and to become the joyful gardeners of their own lives. More than anything, I love to be witness to the growing glow of others.
So, tell me dear ones… What is your joy? I really want to know.
May the words in this graphic that I designed be a blessing upon all of your days. Thank you for walking this path with me. Your presence is also my joy.
Today, I am clearing the way for something more. This ‘more’ is not ‘something’ that is defined, but something that is divined.
Last year, as I let go of what I used to be and do and started working toward what may or may not come next, my days were filled with questioning and searching. In that process, I gathered books on death and books on writing. As the end of the year arrived and found my father in and out of the hospital and rehab, my life found new meaning… to serve my parents through the complicated process of aging. The study that went with those books took a backseat to the importance of their care.
For me, when I serve others, it tends to come with a fullness of presence and holding space for those who await the gentle coming of peace. That ‘full’ offering sometimes leads to an utter, if unintended, depletion of energy. As a consequence, my home, or rather every surface within, had become a place of holding space for me. The ottoman was holding the books I gathered for the writing course I took in the fall. The table was holding all of the papers and files that came home from the hospital or my parents’ home, as I try to bring some organization into what we’ve all been through in the past several months. The chair by the door was holding random objects like birthday cards and ribbons from my recent 50th birthday. The chair by my portrait was holding the different purses that I have used recently – the tiny one for daily use, the mid-size one for an extended day-out, and the large one for trips to the doctor’s office with dad. Frankly, chaos had spilled onto everything in sight.
Yesterday, I started the process of offering my beloved sanctuary more care. At first, it seemed daunting. If I picked up papers in the living room, where were they to go? As I stepped into the library, more papers were stacked with no obvious home to be found. To be honest, there is space for everything if only my mind can find the space for clarity and designation. I simply wasn’t gifted with the a-type personality that ensures that kind of follow-through. In truth, filing always was the least favorite of all tasks in my past-life.
Eventually, though… as I walked back and forth from one room to another, things started falling into place… even if its place was in a random drawer. Whatever. I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not!
I finished my day yesterday having vacuumed the whole house (except, of course – the ottoman where my cat spends much of her time – sigh…). This morning, I once again set to light my candle of intention, lit some incense, and turned the music up. I steam mopped everything and then went back around the house with a stick of sage.
I smudged every inch of the house with the intention that the elements of fire and air would cast out all negativity, illness, dis-ease, and residue of harmful thoughts (against me or from me). I started at one corner of the library and walked through the dining room, kitchen, bedroom, guest room, bathroom, dressing room, hallway, living room, and back into the library with sacred smoke rising and filling every nook and cranny of the space that nurtures me and keeps me safe.
Next, I lit a stick of Myrrh incense and repeated my steps… singing a little chant that rose to the edge of my mind with words and melody magickally matched, “Even More Love”. (Okay, full disclosure… I don’t necessarily retain these things that are divinely inspired (swiss cheese memory – you know), so I’ll just say the chant went something like that.)
I sang into every corner of my sacred space my willingness, my desire, my expectation to invite into my life and this holy home of holding… more love. You see, there is already loads of love contained here, but I just made room for more. I cleansed and cleared, and welcomed the universe to fill it right back up with more goodness, more light, more happiness, more joy, more peace, more comfort, more contentment, more laughter, more music, more friends, more companionship, more divinity, more love.
Today I am ready for something more. I don’t have a design on forcing that something to be specific or limiting. I don’t have a vision of something more because I understand that my life experience has been only a small scale range of the possibilities the universe may provide. I am unwilling to define something more to the universe, which clearly knows far more than I about what more may come.
I am ready for something more, and I am ready to be WOWed. Thanks Universe! I love you most.
If 2018, for me, was about LETTING GO of my former self… the ‘me’ I had been for 25 years, in a career of supporting the wellness of two corporations, then 2019 will surely be about BECOMING the ‘me’ of my future self.
I have to say that being officially retired and thrust into daily care for my parents who are aging and facing struggles with body betrayal and memory loss, has offered the total immersion that has allowed my subconscious to sever the bonds that once tethered me to that former identity.
I no longer worry that I will have to return to that world or what it is that I should be doing with my time and energy. It seems that my time and energy, for this moment, is meant to serve my parents.
Full disclosure, as my 50th birthday approaches this weekend, there are times that I feel a little sad about where we are. I mean, I had once dreamed with childhood friends who also reach this milestone birthday in 2019, that we would make a celebratory trip to Greece or back to Ireland together. But retirement living offers a different budget and being that far away for a length of time feels impossible.
But then… I come back to gratitude. I asked the universe for prosperity that would allow freedom from the corporate world, and it provided in an unexpected blessing (in the form of the IRS 72T loophole). I thought I would still need to work a full time job (for less pay), but it turns out that I can live simply and have all I need on a quarter of my former income (for now).
I asked to be guided toward a meaningful purpose, and I thought I was led to becoming an end of life doula. Now, I’m not so sure that was for a path of prosperity as it was a path to peace. Spending a year studying death has brought me into a respectful relationship with what once was feared.
A doula is ultimately a transition / transformation guide – one who holds space for and supports those who are moving from one phase of life to another… a birth doula walks with the maiden as she becomes a mother, and the death doula walks with the mother who has become the crone as she makes her way back to the mystery of what comes next. (fill in the masculine phases as well, of course)
I recently made the mistake of looking up the meaning of doula online, and the Greek origin of the word means ‘female slave’. I am currently seeking a different word.
My family’s new year is not off to a particularly joyful beginning. On new year’s eve, I brought my 81 year old father back to the emergency room for an issue that has been ongoing since October. He was admitted, and then after a procedure, he went back to Rehab for strengthening his ability to stand and walk. Nine days later, my 77 year old mother was t-boned by a careless driver while on her way to the store. So, back to the emergency room we went. Gratefully, major bruising was the extent of her injuries. Well… and serious trauma, of course.
The fact that I am childless, single, and retired means that I have the freedom to be fully present for my parents. A lovely consequence is a deepening of our relationships with one another… A healing of old wounds, and a more patient and compassionate communication style. I feel that the three of us are learning and growing together in this period of transition. But to be clear… this is hard!
I am not really living for myself at the moment, but this is temporary. I have taken on multiple roles – sometimes nurse, sometimes accountant, manager, booking agent, driver, housekeeper, etc. I am working as hard or harder than I did in the corporate world, but without a paycheck… and yet, feeling valued and appreciated by my parents feels like a great reward.
Somehow, the universe will guide me to finding balance. I will learn about other resources to assist us on our journey, and I will learn how to surrender to the kindness of others. I will be available for the care of my parents, and I will not abandon myself and my own needs to a former belief that everyone else’s comfort is more important than my own. I will continue to open to the mystery of receiving, which was not available to me as long as I was always giving. I will meditate, take hot baths, and nap when I need to, because the energy that I give to others must be replenished. And somehow, I will create opportunities to do a little bit of living for me.
There is great sorrow in the obvious decline of our parents, and in the sense of loss of ourselves as we serve others. There is an overwhelming sense of alone-ness (not always loneliness) at the end of the day, lying in bed awake with the worries of what lies ahead, without a companion to remind [some of] us (me) that everything will be okay.
But there is also great joy in the way that we are reminded that we are not walking alone in darkness, as those who love us are standing by, ready to shine their beautiful inner light of wisdom and support to illuminate the path forward, and to give us a good squeeze when we feel that our guts might spill onto the earth below. There is incredible peace in realizing that everything we need is provided, falling into place with divine timing and often great surprise. And enormous gratitude that things should be turning out exactly as they are, because this moment… in all of its darkness and light, trauma and recovery, solitude and togetherness, is somehow terribly and wonderfully perfect.
Thank you for walking this path with me, dear ones. I can feel you surrounding me, and I hope that you can feel me in your circle, as well. I love you more.
This morning I woke with an image of connectedness. With the awareness of our mutual suffering, and that of Mother Earth choking on the waste of our shortsightedness, I felt a yearning for us to move beyond this primal ache that resides somewhere between hearts and bellies, and into the healing light of transformation.
There are days that I have checked the reach of my writing to discover that right here, within this sacred circle, are beautiful beings from all over the world. In truth, if you are reading these words, know that you are here beside me being held within this emerald green light of my heart’s devotion. I am grateful for your presence in my life.
In this reading, if you feel safe and moved to do so, I wonder if you would imagine taking my hand into yours. If so, I would have us gather with every beloved heart that I know, that you know, and that those who have joined us here know… be they still upon the earth, or those who have passed into the mystery of what comes next. Let us stand within this circle, connected through hearts and hands, a circle so broad that it could encapsulate the world with the luminous light of love.
With the power of our togetherness, we elevate the vibration of the waves of energy that we cannot see with our eyes. The atmosphere that surrounds us has become muddled with so much oppression, fear, loathing, and unkindness that we can barely breathe. As we mingle our energy, and hum a soothing Om into the atmosphere, the walls that were being built by intolerance and self-hatred cannot withstand the reverberation of loving kindness and come crumbling down.
If you are troubled or care for someone who is suffering, consider stepping into the center of this circle of human kindness to be filled with the light of love.
I carry this image in my heart of standing in the center of darkness, surrounded by those who love and support me without condition. There is firelight beyond them, which illuminates their profiles, but keeps their faces in darkness. They remind me that though I stand in shadow, I am not alone.
As you imagine yourself standing in this shadow of winter’s introspection, can you make out the silhouette of those who surround you? Can you sense their presence, their adoration, their love as it flows through you, surrounding you with the light of hope? Even if you are geographically distant, without a doubt, you are still enveloped by their love.
Imagine, if you can, walking toward each sacred being and reaching out for their embrace. Spend some time here, and consider who stands firmly within this circle. They may be members of your family, your tribe, or they could be loved ones who have passed beyond the veil, or even spirit guides and guardian angels (energetic beings of universal wisdom) whom you have never seen with the eyes, but whose presence has been evident when you thought you were alone, and suddenly felt the warm glow of comfort and loving kindness.
Let each embrace be held at heart’s center, imagining chins over left shoulders as heartbeats come into unison and knowledge is exchanged without words. When you have connected deeply with each sacred soul, choose a spot within the circle where you would like to stand, and take the hands of those beside you.
As you make this palm-to-palm connection a golden light begins to flow in a clockwise motion around the circle. This light expands to encase all who gather. But it doesn’t stop here. It continues to grow like waves upon sand, slowly reaching further, leaving a glittering glow as it retreats and then surges beyond previous reach.
Witness the glowing expansion as it presents itself to loved ones who may also glory in the return of light. See their faces awash with radiance and reverence.
Let this light be carried into every dark corner of the earth, and let every heart be healed. Love this light into ancient soil, and nourish and revitalize the Mother who gave birth to all life. This human experience is only made possible by her love.
NOTE: I was writing this yesterday, when my computer decided to take a break on me. As I toiled through troubleshooting on how to fix the issue with my brother and pc support guy three hours away, my phone rang. My mother was in the hospital following a car accident. Gratefully, she was relatively well, considering the appearance of her vehicle, which was t-boned by a large vehicle… but we spent the rest of the evening in the ER running tests – just to be sure. It was not lost on me that SHE is the mother who gave birth to my life, and that MY human experience was made possible by her love.
This, folks, is another one of those moments of gratitude in awareness. I am aware that the universe conspired to set me free from the workplace in 2017, and enabled an early retirement income so that I could live simply and be fully present for my aging parents. As for this particular piece of writing… I have needed these virtual hugs more than anyone could possibly know.
The day before the accident, my mom and I set in motion the work necessary for me to handle financial matters on my parents’ behalf, when the time comes that I can assist further with their care. As I sat in my own living room last night, having settled mom into hers, I reflected on how things might have gone differently… how our intentions might have missed their mark. I’m so grateful that, for today – having just heard her voice on the phone, informing me that she is awake and well – everything will be okay.
I hope that all is well with you and yours, also. Thank you for walking this path with me. I can see you bathed in golden light, and I’m so glad that you are here.
My sweet Pop is back in the hospital. Year 81 has been pretty rough for him, and he is not even half way through it. It’s hard to see beyond this day to day mire, when the truth is that it really won’t get much easier.
Friends ask me what I am doing for self-care, as my entire world revolves around assisting my parents and friends facing serious health issues these days. Since I am experimenting with early retirement and an income a quarter of what it once was, the truth is that self care, at the moment, looks like sitting at home… alone.
So yesterday, I came home from the hospital and crashed hard in the embrace of the couch I bought when Arthur died. A traumatic loss, the cat who looked at me with such adoration – like no human I’ve known – dead within two hours of sneaking past me at the mailbox check. If you are gone, never to claw my furniture again… I’ll show you. I’ll get a new couch. But, oh… to yell at you to stop, once more. Sigh…
I slept on the couch for at least an hour, certain that I had become a stone memorial in repose from a Gorgon’s glance. When I woke, I turned on the telly for background noise, and picked up my journal. More often than not, this is my journal, but my soul-daughter gave me new book for Yule, and it called to me.
Netflix was showing a season of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and she started each session with greeting the house, and asked the inhabitants of each home to reflect on gratitude – thanking the house for its shelter, and to consider how they see their home in the future. So… guess what I wrote about.
I wrote a love letter to my house. My conduit of self-care.
Dear, beloved, gracious home~ Thank you for the protective shelter you have been for me these many years, and for the many years ahead.
I love the way you hold sacred memories of my personal history. I see, as I glance toward the kitchen, Nanny placing a chair at the sink, so I could help her wash dishes. I see granddaddy serving me a bowl of crumbled gram crackers with milk at the dining room table, and the secretary desk opened for me to sit and draw, when my feet didn’t reach the floor from the chair they placed there for me.
In my mind’s eye, I can see the place in the hall where the wooden cabinet granddaddy built held the green rotary dial telephone with the long spiral cord (I can still hear it ring – delivering voices no longer heard upon the earth). In the library, I recall the mural on the wall that always reminded me of the hunting scene in Lucille Ball’s movie – Mame. And I remember Nanny, in the hospital bed… holding her hand as it hung in the air – my final memory of her in this lifetime. Her spirit remains in this space… and in the kitchen, as well.
I see the faces of family and friends who have gathered here for more than 20 years (or 50 years, if we count those before I made you my own). Every guest who has stayed, Tribe rituals that altered our lives and connection with the divine. Laurel dances from the hall into the living room, Rabbit prepares us a meal in the kitchen, StarJasmine pours us a glass of wine. So many sacred circles in this space has turned it into a vortex of tangible magick. People comment on this feeling as they enter, and I just smile with a nod to the ether.
This home has given me peace, comfort, happiness, and joy. Every departure leaves me longing for return… as I enter and walk into a hug. (An acknowledgment of your warmth from our friend, Joe.)
Oh, and the beloved pets who blessed my life, kept safe in your embrace… I love that they are all four still here, only one in corporeal form.
For our shared life to come, I thank you for sheltering and nurturing a loving caring, healthy, reciprocal relationship for myself and the responsible, committed man who enters my life and pursues my heart with laughter and grace, then stays. Nanny smiles upon us, witnessing the long awaited love that we have all dreamed of, but had not previously found.
This love, for both of us, has been truly worth the wait. It heals hearts and souls throughout our genetic line and for lifetimes to come. This partnership brings freedom and prosperity, and this home is nurtured and caressed in new and loving ways – making room and extending time for even more love to grow.
Thank you for all of this and for all that is yet to come, my beloved safe place and sanctuary. I love you so!
That last part is obviously just a dream of a possible future, but these things happen for others… why not for me? (Wouldn’t it be great if… ?) I’ve decided to be happy, regardless of outcome. Life is more fulfilling that way.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I can feel you here in my sacred space adding to the magick that resides here. Come by anytime, and sit for a spell.
This morning I woke to the awareness of closure. Several hours from now, we will close the door on the year 2018. I have friends who do an annual letter to summarize the year for themselves and their families each Christmas. For someone with swiss-cheese memory, where huge chunks of what happened yesterday tend to fall through the holes, the thought of reviewing the year seems like a herculean task.
So, I called to mind the metaphor with which my soul daughter gifted me in a reading this year. Each time I asked my psychic friend what I should be doing with my life, she assured me that I was already doing it. She said that my guides were showing her a long dark highway. She saw me in my car with a full tank of gas. My car was safe and my GPS was guiding me forward. On this safe but unknown journey I could only see what was illuminated in my headlights. My only need was to pay attention to what may be revealed in that glow without worry of what lies ahead. My instructions were to just keep driving.
When I consider this metaphor for the year that I leave behind, I see that road as a highway with big green signs overhead. In my mind’s eye, I am driving through 2018 from start to finish, as I drive beneath the signs of direction which I followed without hesitation, signs for rest areas where I received love and healing, signs for nourishment which came through more than food, but also through sharing art with others, and signs of arrival and departure as I made new friends and let go of people and clutter that littered my highway.
Every time I sit down to write, I start with a blank mind and blank page, and wait to see what my fingertips reveal to me. I can’t wait to see what I find at the end of this imagined ‘road trip’.
I finished 2017 having departed a beloved workplace of nearly 16 years, and then working briefly for a company that felt toxic enough to inspire me to take the rest of the year off. I entered 2018 having no real direction beyond overcoming fear and seeking a job that would bring more of the same. After all, what does one do with a 25 year resume in a single role?
So, the new year started with an updated resume and the encouragement and support of seven executives I had cared for, in one form or another, in years passed. I received daily notification of job postings, but none bore any appeal, and worse, the very review of tasks involved turned my stomach. After a few months, I was determined not to work somewhere that would feel like a betrayal to my soul, and cashed in my employee stock savings into which I had invested for a decade and a half.
While determining what I was NOT willing to do, I continued to be grateful for what I was now free and available to do… to rest, reflect, recover, revive, and to serve my beloved community. When a full-time job was in the way, it was difficult to find the time and energy to be of service to others. I was already giving nearly everything to a corporation, and for the last few years I was there, the stress consumed so much of my life source that my social life was malnourished.
In this new beginning, I was able to serve my parents with more presence, and assist friends who were dealing with serious health issues. I became an occasional driver, wheelchair maiden, medical witness and scribe, communications director, and healthcare advocate. While I wish that my parents and friends had no such need for support, I am grateful that I could be present… holding space for each challenge and celebration of overcoming.
Looking back, I wonder how I ever had time to work a full time job (kidding / not kidding). There was so much living to be done, and I was missing it. I ran into one of my retired executives earlier this month who said practically the same thing… “Melissa, I had no idea what I was missing while being so devoted to my career.”
Each day of this year, I have been thankful to the powers-that-be for expelling me from that job I thought I loved. The truth I have found is that it was always about the people, and once those people were gone, so was my reason for being there.
When I look in my rear-view mirror of 2018, I see the sign posts for things I have chosen to leave behind. I have driven beyond the need to be validated by a boss, a job, a title, or a salary. Living simply, I no longer feel the need to fill my home or my closet with objects that serve no purpose but filling an unacknowledged void.
The excursions I took as I followed the signs of synchronicity were far more important than I dreamed they might be. My friend Brian’s terminal diagnosis led me to the study of End of Life Doula, which has taught me a great deal about how to plan for the future that is certain, and to live more fully with uncertainty.
The invitations I received to travel with friends were accepted without hesitation, since I didn’t have to accrue vacation time, or ask permission to leave my desk. Each trip taken allowed me to connect deeply with friends who own real estate in my heart. The signs I followed took me to New York City on two occasions to see Broadway shows and experience the city from different perspectives… once from Astoria in Queens, and once from Harlem. We saw Kinky Boots in April, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in May. Back home, I was blessed to enjoy the theater with friends. This year we saw Lion King, Hello Dolly, and thoroughly enjoyed Aida, the Musical and Elf, the Musical at the high school where our friend runs the drama department. With each of these rest stops, I was reminded of the importance of making time for arts and culture in our lives. The energy and efforts of artists, of any medium, delivers a unique experience of joy… and they are doing it all for us! How could we possibly fail to receive the gift of such heart and soul from another?
Two trips to Georgia – first for a brief art-cation with my life-long friend, and second to visit the boss who raised me as she performed in a play with fellow retirees – were paths joyfully taken. Signs also led me to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia in the summer, and back to North Carolina in the Fall. These journeys allowed me to connect with friends rarely seen beyond social media, and to nurture my relationship with nature, which had been too long neglected. With each of these blessings, I was reminded of the importance of connectedness. Breathing deeply and sending energetic roots into the earth to feel the comfort and love from Mother Nature and from those who love us without condition, is absolutely necessary for our survival.
There were dark roads illuminated by moonlight, as I planned and led sacred ceremonies for connecting with loved ones lost, for healing through friends’ worrisome diagnoses, and for deepening connections with the Universe as one grows closer to becoming one with all that is. For me, meditation and ritual provides a space for letting go of that which no longer serves us, for mindfully gathering intentions for moving forward, and a deep healing of mind, body, and spirit. The grand finale of these events this year was writing and officiating my goddess daughter’s handfasting ceremony. The handfasting bound the souls of two lovers, and the commitment of their community to support their marriage. What an honor to behold. This brought the arrival of extended family, and the departure of a young couple at the jumping off place of their new beginning.
The longest, darkest road this year has been the bumpy, unpaved path of my father’s declining health. He was in and out of the hospital, each time for over a week, and then in rehab for an entire month. Though he is now at home, it is obvious that he grows more weary and frustrated with the betrayal of his body and loss of strength, each day. I have learned that I can only care for him to the best of my ability and hold space for his suffering… I cannot bring him happiness that he could not find for himself. I have also learned that my empathy for him is very physical. I often feel his pain in my body, and realize this is a skill I will need to explore further in an effort to either use it to benefit others, or shield myself better with stronger boundaries.
Darkness was always sprinkled with light. Time with friends in summer alerted me to the awareness of a financial planner who would remove the road block of having to figure out what I would do for a living. He revealed to me the ability to collect a monthly income from my retirement fund, without penalty. In October, I collected my first check! Also, I am assisting three strong women with their private businesses, utilizing my intuitive wordsmith ability and administrative experience. I yearn to create healing retreats for women in the future. Beyond that, I continue to see only what falls within sight of my headlights, and know not where my GPS ultimately leads.
Throughout this year, the highway that has transported me without incident has been my writing. I wrote a book of seasonal guided visualizations (I even recorded one for sale on cdbaby.com). I wrote a book about my journey through self-loathing to wholeness alongside the archetypal feminine, and started working on a book about thoughts that rise in the study of end of life doula work. And of course… since writers need a following in order to be published… I started a blog. Aside from the healing and self-discovery I’ve witnessed in my headlights, I have loved seeing the tiny flags that represent readers from around the world who have offered their valuable time to sit in my passenger seat for a while. I’m so grateful for your company!
As for the road ahead, the year 2019… is surely paved with magick. When I turn 50 at the end of January, I will move into a ‘twelve’ year (in tarot numerology). In the graph of my life chart, wonderful, amazing, life altering things have occurred in these years. In my first twelve-year I found My People and planted the seeds that would become a Tribe. In my second twelve-year, I went to work for a man who needed my light and saw my value (this partnership ultimately enabled my early retirement). In my third twelve-year, I traveled back to Avalon on a healing retreat to Glastonbury and Cornwall, where I got to reconnect with the land of my ancestors and check ancient goddess sites off of my bucket list.
2019 will be my fourth twelve year. I have no idea where that road may lead or what signs will be posted along the way, but I have the faith and wisdom to know it will be extraordinary! My plan is to keep on driving, enjoy the grace that is illuminated in my headlights, and anticipate with patience the moment that my GPS informs me that I have arrived.
My passenger seat is open. Would you care to join me for a stretch?
Wishing you an abundance of joy and everything your heart and soul may require to thrive in the year ahead. HAPPY NEW YEAR, DEAR ONES! I love you more.
If anyone has noticed my limited connectedness since early October, it is because I gifted myself with an investment in learning. It happened at the behest of synchronicity, which I consider to be the voice of my internal guidance system. Within one week it was suggested by two unrelated friends that I should consider writing for Elephant Journal… the second recommendation came with a link for Elephant Academy. The Academy is a quarterly online school for writing, editing, and social media. I didn’t hesitate to apply when I received the link. It was as if I was on autopilot.
I confess that I argued with myself about the cost, being newly retired and exploring the possibility of living simply enough to avoid returning to work. Ultimately, I decided that personal development and spiritual enrichment is worthy of every penny spent. Also, I figured I might meet some lovely people of like-mind.
I definitely hit the jackpot on that last expectation. I love it when hope is rewarded! Don’t you?
The first several weeks included a writing assignment that could be published in Elephant Journal. The gift of this process was the opportunity to receive guidance and feedback from editors. Either they would accept your work and make it elephant-ready, or they would provide two rounds of support, to help you get it there.
What I hadn’t counted on was that my 81 year old father would end up hospitalized after a fall, and spend the next month in rehab. Talk about synchronicity. Every ‘voice’ I followed this year led me somewhere wonderful… including the guidance that led me to a financial planner who enlightened me on 72T (detailed in a previous post). This retirement income has enabled me to be fully present for my parents during difficult days. If I had to work a full time job as well, the stress would have been overwhelming. I do not take for granted this great blessing.
My first article was published, and my last (thesis) article was published, but with daily visits to rehab, I chose not to spend more time on the articles that required editing. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be seen. One of them was extremely vulnerable, and I might just be relieved that it didn’t fly. Ha!
I feel that I have learned a great deal during my weeks in Elephant Academy, but far more valuable to me has been the relationships birthed and nurtured. The nature of writing for a journal dedicated to mindfulness leads to a kind of vulnerability and openness that one does not often find in community.
When we have the courage to be authentic with one another, we have no choice but to fall in love, just a little. It’s like exposing your fears and flaws to a room full of people who are willing to look you in the eye and say, “We see you. We accept you. You are one of us, now.”
The courage to be vulnerable is a gift to everyone in your orbit. Don’t you know that we love to see you twirl? We are points of light surrounding the globe, and we shine more brightly for the illumination we bring to one another.
And so, for the third time in my life, I feel as if I have found my people… my Trunk Tribe.
It may not be a journey for everyone, but for those who choose to accept the challenge – be it to strengthen your writing, find your voice, or learn more about navigating the world of social media, I have a feeling that falling in love will be in the cards. The people one meets will be extraordinary. It will feel like money well-spent.
If you are interested in reading what my classmates and editors helped me bring to birth on Elephant Journal, I will post links below. And should you choose to look around while you are there, I guarantee you will be moved by the strength and courage of the other writers in this beloved community.
Thank you for walking this path with me. You are the light that guides my way on.
In a couple of hours, I will gather with friends to celebrate the life of a dear one, recently lost. He left this realm on a day when the veil between the worlds was thinnest – stepping peacefully into the mystery of what comes next. As I prepared a sacred ceremony for friends who had lost significant loved ones in the past year or two, I held those suffering this immediate loss close, as well. Too soon for them to venture into the underworld, I chose to carry them with me.
As we began, at water’s edge around firelight, we called the names of those we have loved and lost, and invited them to stand with us in a sacred circle. In our mind’s eyes we could see each beloved step in to take our hands, heart to heart… love flowing in a sphere of gratitude and protection.
Next, we called to the elements – acknowledging their gifts which surround us and flow through us. When we call to air, fire, water, and earth, we are connecting to the love that resides within.
Into the East we cast our gaze to be witness to the dawning of the light of remembrance. We breathe deeply the clarity of the element of Air, that our loved ones may appear in mind’s eye unhindered. With open hearts and with gratitude, we honor the Air.
Into the South we cast our gaze upon ancient embers. Burning from the beginning of time, the element of Fire inspires us to go within and to reach out to those who have gone before. Illuminated by the beacon that calls our loved ones home. With open hearts and gratitude, we honor the Fire.
Into the West we cast our gaze upon the watery mist. Through floating drops of love and memory we focus upon the veil to witness the arrival of those we love as they step toward us. All fear and regret is washed in the element of Water. All that remains is the purest love. With open hearts and gratitude, we honor the Water.
Into the North we cast our gaze upon the lush green lap of the Mother. Grateful for the strength she gave us to survive great loss, we eagerly await her generous return. Our loved ones have been nurtured in the embrace of the Earth, and we are grateful for Her care. With open hearts and feet firmly planted in gratitude, we honor the Earth.
Next, we invited divine energy in the feminine archetype of nurturer and guide, which also surrounds us and resides within each of us:
We call upon the maiden of flowers and the goddess of the Underworld. Persephone, whose sacrifice to the dead brings a mother’s grief and a blanket of cold upon the earth. Persephone, whose great heart and deep love offers the rich red seeds of welcome to all who seek entrance into the world beyond that which the living may see. With reverence we reach to you with hope and gratitude, for the honor of perhaps connecting with those we love once more. We ask to be anointed by your sacred oil of clarity, that our third eye may be fully opened to greet them with the ability to see them and hear them clearly.
Persephone of the Underworld, our hearts are open to receive your blessing. We bid thee hail and welcome.
As I wrote the words that would state the purpose of our gathering, I was once again astonished by the wisdom that flowed through me:
Tonight we gather as the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. We stand ready to receive our loved ones who are lost to us in body, but ever present to us in their energetic form. We wish to remind them of our love and devotion, and to show them that we have chosen to carry them with us into the future with reverence, and without regret, With joy and without sorrow.
We know that they left us early to remind us of the importance of living fully now. We are here to make that contract with them, to affirm that their loss TO us was not lost ON us. We each have chosen to step to the edge of the Underworld tonight, to take their hands and look into their eyes, to hear their words and receive our commitment.
I next led my sweet friends through a meditation where they would each meet with those they longed to see. It is difficult to know when to proceed from a pause in such a journey. One hesitates to interrupt an important conversation when unable to see the progress of the connection. But when it felt like the right time, I brought them back for acknowledgment and closure:
We know that time moves differently in the Underworld, and that though we long to be with our loved ones, we know that now is not that time. Tonight is a moment when time stands still, and here we were blessed to connect between the worlds.
But time will move on and we shall go with it. Much like when we connect in the realm of the living, it feels as if no time has passed… so will be the day when they come to greet us and take us from the temporary realm to the eternal.
Until then… we honor them by choosing to live in joy and happiness. It would be an insult to their sacrifice not to.
Finally, we said farewell to the spirit of the Universe that took form so that our consciousness could find connection.
Beloved Persephone, goddess of flowers and bones. Thank you for granting us crossing to the edge of your shimmering veil. Thank you for bearing our beloveds through initiation and into the freedom of limitlessness. We will carry your light within us through the long winter, until your return in the spring brings the bursting of color and fragrance upon the earth.
And to the energy that surrounds us and becomes us:
Spirit of Earth, elements of the North, thank you for your gifts of strength and stability, for wisdom and prosperity. Thank you for holding us close through every stage of our becoming.
Spirit of Water, elements of the West, thank you for your gifts of cleansing and emotion, for healing and fluidity. Thank you for washing us clean of fear and regret, nurturing our path forward.
Spirit of Fire, elements of the south, thank you for your gifts of purification and illumination, for direction followed by action. Thank you for lighting the chamber of our connection to those we love, and for keeping the flame alive until we meet again.
Spirit of Air, elements of the East, thank you for your gifts of clarity and new beginnings, for awareness and ideation to guide our future footfalls. Thank you for the breath that fills our lungs for singing the songs of our loved ones’ memory.
And so, our sacred ceremony was complete and we were grateful to have had a few precious moments with those we can no longer see with the eyes, but only feel with the heart.
I know that the loved one we celebrate today will be felt in the same way. And if you are missing someone dear, I hope that in some small way, these words may bring them a bit closer to your awareness. May you honor them as they would have you do… by living fully and in joy. It would be rude not to.
Thank you for walking this path with me. May your every step be sprinkled with bliss.
I have found myself in such an interesting place in recent months. I had heard the term before, from friends whose parents were aging and required a bit more attention and care, and while I don’t want to say that I am becoming the parent to my parent… I have to admit, it feels like we are moving into a sort of role reversal.
My sweet Pop has lived 80 of his 81 years with epilepsy, and in the last ten years it has really taken a toll on his body. I call it body betrayal, the way that simple commands the body once executed with barely a thought suddenly (or gradually) become tasks which require serious concentration and a concerted physical effort to perform. In 2008, Pop spent a good part of the year traveling to and from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Test after test failed to reveal what was causing symptoms which impaired his ability to walk, to feel his feet and fingertips, and eventually… his ability to find words while speaking. I will never forget the day he told me that he was deeply depressed, and that he didn’t think he would live out the year. I was heartbroken, but I was also still working in a high demand, stressful job in the corporate world, which didn’t leave me with much time or energy to be of service.
Finally, he saw a local neurologist who reviewed the same lab results that Mayo Clinic ordered and reviewed, and my beloved father was diagnosed with a serious B-12 deficiency. Apparently, his epilepsy medication, his age, and the fact he was living with a vegetarian had left him seriously depleted. I later learned from a friend whose pediatrician had the same diagnosis, that if it had not been discovered, he would have ended up in a coma. The end result of this oversight for such a length of time was permanent nerve damage and neuropathy in his feet and from a lifetime of small seizures, down his left side.
So, Poppy has been using a walker to get around for the last ten years, and he and Mom moved closer to me a few years ago. I’d never really imagined living seven houses away from my parents, but I have to tell you that I am really glad to have them so near. I worry less than when they were 45 minutes away with no neighbors around to check on them. I don’t necessarily stop in every day, but I can glance over on the way to my house to be sure all appears well, and can be there in two minutes if they call for assistance.
There are a few new things that we are experiencing this year. First of all, in my role as careholder, I am witnessing my father’s stubbornness when I ask if he has accomplished certain tasks for self-care, and he informs me that he has not. Twice in the last two months, we have been to the dermatologist, and both times he failed to mention wounds on hidden parts of his body until we were getting back into the car when the appointment was over. He’s been falling down a lot lately (scans show that a compression fracture in L4 and L5 may be to blame), because his left leg just drops out from under him, and a few times we’ve had the lovely men-on-duty at our local fire department stop by for a “lift assist” when he wasn’t able to get himself upright. This was the very best tip ever, that you can call ‘911’ and tell them it is a non-emergency and that you need a lift assist. When they hear you have an 80 year old man on the ground who needs a lift, they transfer you immediately to the nearest available fire department. Dad has offered on a couple of occasions to bake them cookies or invest in their children’s college funds. Seriously, we love these people!
Yesterday, he finally followed instructions and remembered to call me when he got out of the walk-in tub (I can’t say we loved the installation process, but we love that dad can get in and out of a hot-soak relatively well now). He said, “I’m out of the tub. You’d better hurry over before my toenails turn back to steel!” And within two minutes, I was serving at the feet of one of my heroes in his pajama bottoms, with reading glasses (for protection as much as for magnification) and a pair of industrial strength clippers. I made sure the talons were shortened enough, then applied lotion before putting on his socks. Next, I helped him put his shirt on and giggled as I exclaimed, “There he is!” as his head popped through the neck hole. (He’s a pretty good sport about it all.) I finished up my service by brushing his hair, and made him a bagel with cream cheese.
I am not sure what I thought this time in our lives would have entailed, but I’m sure I might have imagined it to be sad or tedious, but so far, it is not. For me, right now… it is joyful. I am one of the lucky ones, to have a father who is warm, kind and generous to all who are blessed to know him. He was a social worker who served the physically handicapped for over 30 years, after all. I don’t know if he imagined that some of the tools he made available to his clients, all those years ago, would be something my mom and I would be seeking for his comfort decades later.
Beyond any luxury that this year of freedom from the corporate world has given me, the freedom to care for my father, and be present for my parents is my favorite most sacred thing. I’m so grateful to have them in my life, to have them nearby, and to have this time to show them my love, my affection, and to be of service when the future feels shorter and less certain than they’ve previously known. I hope they know that every single day… they are loved.
Last weekend, I drove nearly four hours each way to see a girl about a wedding. Some may feel this would be too great a burden and wonder why a phone call wouldn’t suffice, especially for someone who is not a blood relation. Those people probably don’t have a Tribe. We made a commitment to one another beneath a full moon in February 1994, and that contract maintains our connectedness regardless of time and distance. We are bound by more than love.
While I chose not to have children of my own, I have been blessed to have several extraordinary children in my life. They are the daughters and sons of members of my Tribe, and I am referred to, by some, as their faery goddess mother. My eldest goddess baby is currently a music education major in college and is now busy planning her wedding, to be held at the Winter Solstice this year. Before she was born, I dubbed her Starlet… and I would sing to her through the mystical cocoon of her mother’s belly. The chant that I found most soothing, at that time, went like this: “The river is flowing, flowing and growing. The river is flowing out to the sea. Mother, carry me – your child I will always be. Mother, carry me out to the sea.” Think about it… she was encased in a saline ocean of her mother’s love and care… a sacred being on her way into the light of the world that would be made more sacred with her arrival. This weekend, I wondered aloud what that tune might sound like on the cello, her instrument of passion and choice. My heart did a little dance when she dashed upstairs to grab her cello and a blank page. I sang to her that old familiar tune, and her pitch-perfect ear deciphered the language of the voice into the music of soulful strings. (I recorded the outcome, and you can hear it here: https://youtu.be/N4Mpa1YLfko )
Unfortunately, due to geography I had to miss much of our Starlet’s growth and becoming. She and her mom moved to be near her grandparents when she was about four years old. I was sad to lose them from my weekly life, but I am grateful that they made that move. She was blessed to have her grandparents in her daily life until they each departed the living realm within recent years. I can count the times I got to see her in person on my fingers, over those years… but there’s a certain kind of magick wrapped around this sacred Tribe of mine, and somehow it is woven around our ‘legacy’, as well. Our Tribe first met at the end of 1993, and we were committed to meeting weekly. Each week we were devoted to mutual spiritual growth and diving deep into the mysteries of womanhood and our own becoming. Pregnancy never really interested me, but I have to say that I learned quite a lot during the ‘baby years’ of our connectedness. Here’s my favorite and most quoted tip for nursing mothers: When you are painfully engorged with breast milk, you can place cabbage leaves in your bra, and find relief as the milk recedes. Is that not amazing?!
For each of these life altering events, we would celebrate with a rite of passage… a blessing before the birth to protect mother and child, to grant gentle passage from the womb and into the light, and a special blessing of each child as s/he reached a year of age. After a while, my beloved Tribe scattered to the winds, due to marriage or career opportunities. None have managed to find what we had before. But no matter how much time passes between meeting – together or one-on-one – that magick remains deeply intact. When we meet, it is as if no time has passed at all, even though many have been gone a decade or two. I sometimes wonder if our souls have continued to meet weekly in a sacred circle in another realm. That would certainly explain how time has managed to stand still. Of course, to see our babies today… well, you’d know that time hasn’t stood still at all. They are ALL so remarkable, amazing, talented, brilliant, compassionate, caring, and kind. I always knew they would be special, being born from my most sacred personal goddesses, but seriously… it can’t be that I am just biased… I know they are spectacular beings of light.
Last weekend, we explored a whole new rite of passage, as far as our ‘legacy’ is concerned… a handfasting (a traditional Celtic ceremony of union from which we gained the term, tying the knot). How is it possible that one of our babies is even old enough to be getting married? Sheesh! How time has flown. Our sweet girl met her beloved in high school. She was a senior when he was a junior. Since I am so far away, I have only met him once. It was at the memorial service for her grandmother a few years ago, that I first learned that she was smitten. I won’t lie. It totally tickled me that she introduced me to him as her faery goddess mother. Of all of the titles I have held in my lifetime, this is certainly one of my favorites. I have to admit that I am astonished that she could feel such a bond with me when I have been so far away for most of her life… even if I have loved her every single day of her existence. Technically, since I loved her Momma before she was conceived, I have loved her even longer than that. Even more amazing, and a great honor to me was that she wanted me to perform her handfasting and ring ceremony… this is actually a ritual that falls just short of a wedding, as when we gather, they will already have been wed.
You see, this young man who has stolen Starlet’s heart was raised Mormon. In order to move forward into a future with him, she has chosen to convert. On one hand, it feels impossible to relate to this decision, as I cannot fathom making the faith of another my own. On the other hand, I can recall that moment in 1992, when I experienced energy rising through the soles of my feet and into my heart, and was offered an introduction to how uplifting and soul-filling it can be to find a spiritual path that fits my own deep truth. What I know for sure is that my truth will not be the same as your truth… and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Starlet was raised to be a free-thinker, like her Unitarian Mom. When I asked her if the study involved to be adopted into this religion made her feel anything that might be considered a spiritual experience her reply was affirmative. Coupled with the fact that this young man seems worthy of her love and devotion, as they’ve had the two years of his distant mission trip to get to know each other through verbal and written communication alone, this goddess mother feels pretty good about her choice. In other words, due to a geographical divide, chemistry and hormones have not been able to get in the way of really getting to know one another. This feels like a lovely alternative to the instant gratification culture to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Since only Mormons can attend the actual wedding ceremony of this young couple, Starlet’s family and friends will be invited to attend the ring ceremony on the day that follows their union. I learned a great deal about this unfamiliar faith as we discussed creating an outline for this joyous event. Together, we created a general plan for the ceremony, and when her beloved is home from his mission, they will help me to fill in explanations of symbolism that might be different from our own customs.
I’ve begun building the words that will convey the deep meaning and purpose of our Solstice gathering. My ultimate hope is that my darling goddess daughter and her new husband will feel unconditionally loved and supported by their new families and the community that surrounds them. A difference of religion should not be a factor that divides a community. If love is at the core, it can only be made stronger by the rich diversity and mutual respect for the choices we have each made for ourselves.
If I can manage to do right by these two young darlings, I may just find further illumination on my own path forward. Perhaps I am not becoming an end of life doula, but a transition doula. If needed, I may accompany souls from one path to another… from single to married, from old life to new life, from endings to beginnings, from loathing to loving… from healing to thriving… the way is only limited by the boundaries of the mind. May we all be unlimited!
One thing that has been a delightful surprise and enormous blessing about this journey of discovery through end of life studies, is the willingness and courage displayed by others who have been moved to share their own stories of loss. Of course, the required reading provides stories from the perspective of hospice doctors, nurses, and palliative care providers… but the truth that is shared by a friend, of their own experience as a witness to a loved one’s departure is far more meaningful to me. These sacred moments of vulnerability and raw emotion are so deeply personal that I consider it a great honor and privilege to be given the opportunity to hold space and bear witness, not to the dying in these cases, but to those who remain. I feel as if I am being offered a gift from a friend who shares their experience, as I am offered a reflection of grace that might just be a guide for me when my darkness comes. At the end of our days upon the earth – the path onward splits, as the survivor has no choice but to step forward in a new direction, as they create their new normal. What a privilege to see how sorrow leads to strength and strength leads to becoming in the heart of a friend surviving the loss of a love. The one who has died has given up all of their earthly belongings, and those who love them have lost the physical presence of someone dear. These moments are woven into the tapestry of our individual mythology, and they are important tales of our own evolution. I am honored to hold these sacred moments in the light of truth and with the warmth of love.
I just finished reading the fourth and final book of required reading for this course, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. If you are interested in reading it and enjoy audiobooks, I found it on youtube. I find that spoken words will allow pieces that feel important to me to rise up, and then I can find them in the book and deepen my focus where I have been drawn. Within the six and a half hours of listening, I found my draw at the halfway point… just over three hours in. Interestingly, the first three hours were on the topic of living, while the last three hours were on dying, death and rebirth. These pages are filled with pathways to compassion. They offer instruction through meditation – which kind of speaks my language.
I remember the first time I tried to meditate. It was 1992, and I was taking a class on earth based spirituality. One of my teachers had a passion for meditation and offered a Saturday morning practice. I remember sitting on the floor of a darkened room, receiving soothing guidance with eyes closed. When we were instructed to open our eyes at the end, I was simply frustrated. We were going around the room, each person sharing what they had visualized on their journey within… and let me tell you these visions were magickal. As for myself, however, I felt that I had failed to go anywhere… and simply could not push the mundane out of my mind. My teacher asked me what I had seen, and the truth was that I was balancing my checkbook in my mind. Ugh… nothing spiritual about that. He then asked me to close my eyes now, and prompted me to say aloud what I could see. I can’t actually remember the results of that exercise, but I could see that there was potential if I could just get out of my own way. My teacher died in 1996, just ten days after his 32nd birthday. A couple of days before his passing I sat at his bedside, held his hand, and sang to him the healing chant that ultimately led me to his circle (I wrote about that in my blogpost: A Spiritual Path Less Taken.) His was the first memorial service that I planned and led, a gift to his grieving beloved. He was pagan and his surviving partner was Catholic, so it was a service that was beautiful, loving, and diverse. He loved to sing (though he was tone deaf), and had been a member of a pagan choir called Amulet, which had recorded an album of earth based / goddess centered chants (which you can find on cdbaby). This group was the healing salve between the words of sorrow and celebration throughout the service. He taught me early on that raising our voices in song is a powerful way to connect with the spirit of all that is. I never leave home without a song in my heart, thanks to him.
It was after he was gone that my Tribe dedicated a year to meditation. Each week we gathered and we rotated responsibility for sharing a meditation with the group. At this point in time, our lack of experience led us to share meditations written by others. It was a year well-spent, because at some point I did finally get out of my way and learned to travel. I offer gratitude for this accomplishment to my friend and teacher, who surely helped guide me there through his energetic form. In April of this year, my soul-daughter wanted to practice her mediumship skills and engaged my support. Before she arrived, I wrote down the names of those I have loved and lost, without attachment. It was this friend who came through. I knew it almost immediately. Her first words were that this guy isn’t shy, but this is the first time he has communicated with a medium. He said he was not related, but a friend. His energy was smooth and calming, she said. She compared it to being on a date with him… he said, “You know, I’ve never done anything like this before…” His energy was smooth and calming, welcoming and kind, charming, strong and firm. He described to her how he saw the world in a positive way – like everything was beautiful. I told her that he literally wore rose colored glasses. Ha! She uses metaphor when she reads, as her guides show her visuals that she can interpret. He showed her an obnoxious yellow VW bug to describe his personality… it would be quirky, bright, stand out and something you wouldn’t see every day. He showed her that his energy was quirky, gentle, delicate, calm, but with a big personality at the same time. He was not calm, but his energy was. He made a joke with her, by dusting off an old book and dusting off his shoulders, reflecting that it had been a long time since he and I had connected this way. She said that he used symbolism to communicate with her, with a lot of imagery, in a very poetic way. This is how meditation flows, so this makes perfect sense to me. I could go on and on about what I learned from my friend on the other side of the veil, but that would take more time than you have interest. She felt as if he was teaching her. He did so for exactly one hour and eleven minutes – 1:11. Perhaps I will transcribe his wit and wisdom to share one day. Until then, he informs me that we will continue to connect through nature… and meditation. As if affirming my acknowledgement, I just looked out the window to see a single feather floating downward from the oak that stands sentinel in my front yard.
The art of compassion and how to serve is the foundation of the Buddhist structure shared within the pages of this book… a temple of healing with the power of the mind. We are reminded to touch the suffering of another with love, rather than fear. Fear leads to pity, while love leads to compassion. In order to activate and mentally direct this compassion we may consider the following:
Close your eyes and take a deep cleansing breath. Visualize a green light coming through your breath and into your heart, where it brightens and expands with each rise and fall of your chest. As this light shines more brightly, it illuminates the wise ones who surround you. You may see them and name them as your own spiritual path allows… be they ascended masters, angels, guides, God, Universal Energy, Spirit, ancestors, etc. Ask for their guidance to allow your words, thoughts, and actions only to benefit and bring happiness to others… to support their transformation from suffering to peace. Direct the compassion you possess, by positive action and spiritual practice, to the dedication of the welfare and enlightenment of all beings. Know that your own attainment of these goals will be for the benefit of all. And with this breath of compassion and enlightenment – we breathe in the sorrow and suffering of others, and we breathe out kindness. We breathe in the panic and fear that surrounds us, and we breathe out happiness. The black smoke of suffering is replaced with the green light of the enlightened heart. The art of Tonglen is to transmute pain and suffering by giving and receiving. I receive your suffering, and give you my happiness. I receive your grief, and I give you my peace of mind. All of this occurs through the breath. This is a simplified explanation of the practice that is detailed in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I feel that a daily practice will be developed from these pages, and I hope that my heart light may be a comfort to you when you are in need.
Like my teacher before me, I have gone on too long. Know that you are loved, and that I am grateful to have you walking beside me.
In the spirit of connectedness, I am sharing below a few links: to my first professionally recorded meditation to release your inner warrior by letting go of the false burdens we carry; to the recordings made by the choir to which I refer above; and the contact page for my soul-daughter, should you be interested in experiencing her divine gift, first hand.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble remembering. Many of my friends will joke about how they can’t remember why they entered a room, or what they had for dinner yesterday as a commentary on aging. And though I am only five months from 50, I have to confess that this has been my truth for quite some time. One of my co-workers from my former life in the corporate world affectionately nicknamed me Dory, after the character in Finding Nemo, voiced by Ellen Degeneres. That came after only a few months of our partnership, since her desk was right next to the copy room, and I was frequently sighing as I exited to return to my desk – hoping for a clue why I had gone there.
I once may have believed that it was due to an easily distracted mind in the chaos of a corporation. Having been liberated from office life for nearly a year, I don’t see anyone often enough to live up to that nickname, but that doesn’t mean my memory has grown stronger. In fact, these days if I visit with a friend who inquires about how I am spending my time, I may have to refer to my calendar as a guide to share… ‘oh, yeah – my grandniece stayed with me for a week’, or ‘I went to the mountains with the boys in July’. Truly, the best way to share where I’ve been and what I’ve really been up to lately is to refer them to this blog. This is where I have been placing my thoughts, my discoveries, and well… my memories. Actually, looking at the beginning of this paragraph, I realize that if I were still in that world, if someone asked me what I’d been up to, the conversation would have led to how everyone around me was doing, having considered the responsibility and wellness of others to have been more important than my own. Having the heart of a caregiver in an executive office means that you are holding space for the enormous stress of others, where fluctuations in stock somehow reflects on your worthiness to lead. Have I mentioned how completely I do NOT miss that world? My stomach flips at the thought of such an atmosphere. Gratefully, those memories, too, are fleeting. They are at my reach, only when I need a reminder of where I have been and where I may choose to venture forward.
I’ve often wondered when and where this memory shortage began, and I have wondered if it was that moment when self-doubt set in at the age of 9. I wrote about that event in my post called ‘My Favorite Tomboy’, when my friend’s father accused me of lying to him. I was so dumbfounded by the accusation of a grown up, that I must have questioned if I had actually done so… even though it makes no sense at all. In recent years I have decided to let go of identifying a cause, and simply accept it. This is what I have chosen to believe: The Universe has gifted me with a deficient memory to enable me to live more fully in the NOW! Think about it. Eckhart Tolle urges us to discover The Power of NOW, suggesting that we “Realize deeply that the present moment is all [we] ever have.” When your memory is limited, there really isn’t much choice but to be present.
At times, this can feel like a curse – especially when you are in conversation and wish to add value to the discussion. But it can also feel like a blessing – as having a poor memory makes you a great secret keeper. I’m sure that would look amazing on my resume, right? I call it Swiss Cheese memory, because I may recall having a conversation with someone, but I may not remember the outcome… some of the details seem to have fallen through the holes. Another benefit to this condition is that it can make you extremely efficient. I was known to complete a task within minutes of assignment, because I feared that I might fail to do so if anything got in the way of that intention. It can be a tedious skill set should you work for someone who changes his mind with some frequency, though.
In my current world, where more time is spent with those I love and cherish, I am witness to memory loss suffered by my parents and other elders in our beloved community. I’m sure that this is not uncommon as we near or surpass our eighth decade upon the Earth. My parents seem to lose things easily and may not recall the specific instructions from a doctor visit, and if you have an hour with a friend of ours, you may hear the same story about her youth more than once. I always listen to each tale-retold, smile and nod, and say, “I know!” I have to admit that I have been caught telling a story of something I have recently experienced to a friend who was actually with me at the time. This probably happens more often than I realize – I just have really compassionate friends. Oy… this does not bode well for my future!
My favorite tomboy (my lifelong friend) has shared with me in recent years that one of the obstacles that has held her hostage from leaping toward the life she truly desires involves leaving the job she has been doing since she was 19. She doesn’t love her job, but she does it well and it has delivered comfort and prosperity for which she is grateful. Recognizing that her memory is not what it once was, she fears having to learn laws and regulations for states that would be new to her. She is convinced that she may not be able to learn new things… and so her dreams are left waiting to be realized. Truth be told, I had to leave my job at Dairy Queen when I was 16 because I couldn’t remember how to make each item on the menu. Each time was like the first time (this is true for movies and television I may have seen before, as well). So, I feel her pain and share her concern. I’m hoping that if I have to go back to work in a ‘traditional’ workplace someday, someone will want to hire me for my obvious positive energy and extraordinary inner light…. somehow valuing my ability to not dwell on the past. Ha!
In my last post, Transformation Dawning, I wrote about a trip to a local spring with my grandniece, and how I found myself wondering why I had allowed decades to pass since my last visit. Well, yesterday my friend and I made another trip. This time we were able to get into Kelly Park, which offers a lazy-river feel to the public swimming area. You may notice that I am writing this post on a Tuesday, which means that my friend and I escaped the routine of our individual daily lives on a Monday. A MONDAY! This is not something one does when trapped in the monotony of a corporate work week. On vacation, maybe… but never on a work day. My soul-daughter (a blossoming medium) tells me that I am learning to let go of the structure I once held as law… that I must have specific structure in my life to get things done. She says, intuitively, that my future prosperity will not fall into such an oppressive mold. I’d love to know what that future holds, how an income will be generated to support the lifestyle to which my cat has been accustomed. However, if I am to glory in the gift of my poor memory, unable to wallow in the regrets of the past, I should be reminded not to drown in the worries of the future.
For now, the only plans I make (unless a reservation is required) shall be somewhat spontaneous and with an aim for joy. I did not need the books and materials about becoming an end of life doula to inform me that there is no guarantee of future days over which to worry. Each day, in this new existence, is met with my commitment to hold space for myself. I am madly in love with this life, right now… not ‘someday, when’. My funny memory just brought to mind the turtle that we saw near the spring yesterday. I meant to look up the symbolism (and of course had forgotten until now), and this is what I’ve just learned: Turtle symbolizes our peaceful walk on the earth, representing the path we take on the journey through life. The way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation. So… that’s all I need to know about the future. I am firmly planting each footfall upon this sacred ground, allowing transformation to come when it comes. There is nothing more to do, than to simply be. That seems pretty easy to remember, don’t you think?