A Woodland Wedding

Early Friday morning, I headed to the airport with a few of my favorite people.  It was still dark when we arrived, but the sun was dawning on this new day as our flight departed the 90 degree south and set forth to the 60 degree north.  We were invited to stand witness and help celebrate the marriage and handfasting of two people we adore.

These two beloveds are among the couples I know that make me envy their togetherness.  You can see each light up at the sight of the other.  Their love is effervescent and warm… almost innocent with the obvious open-heartedness they hold for one another… as if neither has ever been hurt by another.  What a beautiful mystery… fearless love at 40.

Lovers of all things created by Mother Nature, the venue was a campground in Bar Harbor, Maine… recently closed for the season.  Not a camper, I found a beautiful spot across the street – a seaside cottage with two bathrooms and a fireplace.  This provided the best of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned.  One of the brides is the co-founder of our monthly Supper Club.  Five members were able to attend, and in this cottage we stayed… along with my life-long friend, who is my favorite adventure buddy – and my +1.  Together, we were one tenth of those gathered to hold space and reflect the light of love back at these two beings who capture the hearts of all they meet.

Our favorite Unitarian Minister presided over the sacred ceremony, though she would argue she won’t be ordained until January – she has always held this sort of role… a spiritual guide… for many of us.  The brides chose to be handfasted, which is a Celtic wedding tradition from which we get the term ‘tie the knot’.  I was asked to seek the blessing of their guests before the ceremony began, and carried the cloth that would bind their hands and their love to each guest and informed them that we are infusing this cloth with our blessings and good wishes for the marriage of our brides, so that their lives together would be eternally woven with the beauty and wonder that we each would bestow upon them.  Each loved one placed their hands upon the cloth, closed their eyes, and said a silent prayer.  When our Minister took her place between two trees, beneath a magickal chandelier, the Celtic cloth that contained our love was upon the marriage altar.

The first bride entered the clearing through a wooded path, revealing herself to be like the faery queen emerging from her hidden realm.  She was stunning in white chiffon and lace… and with the sight of her we had no choice but to fall into this dream.  The second bride entered the circle from the opposite side of the clearing, donning a navy blue suit and bare feet – an homage to her betrothed, whose feet are rarely oppressed by the burden of shoes.  She was lit by the internal flame of joy that is ever present when these two make eye contact.  The entire circle was aglow!

Each bride honored their families, those they came with and those with whom they were becoming one, and returned to the altar of their new beginning.  Their hands and hearts were bound by the minister, vows of wisdom and wit were shared with the glide of rings onto fingers, and tear-filled eyes met their tearful, grinning congregation.  A cacophony of joyful noise escorted the happy couple as they exited the circle, once alone and now together, back into the faery realm from which they came.  But the dream didn’t end there… it continued nearby with a whimsical reception beneath a canopy of white.  Tables were set with mismatched china collected and shipped by the brides, all to be donated to charity upon departure.  Table assignments were identified with names on postcards from the region in which we gathered, dating back to the 30’s.  The tables were marked with the names of pets rescued and cared for by our faery queen bride.  Imagine my dismay when I learned the ‘Oprah’ table at which we were seated was dedicated to the memory of her dearly departed tarantula!  The error was quickly remedied with a switch of spider name to doggy name… she loves me that much.  Ha!

With practically zero light pollution in the area in which we had gathered, more stars than I have seen in one place in my lifetime filled the sky as nightfall joined the party.  The Milky Way didn’t want to miss the celebration.  A large carpet placed upon the grass became a dance floor and the trees that hugged this clearing danced with sparkling lights projected to bring the starlight a bit closer to our reach.  My life-long friend and I used to go dancing as teenagers in the late 80’s, and feeling the youthful vibration of love and red wine, we made our way to nature’s dance floor to dance among the stars.  This is where we spent most of the evening… with old friends and new… like whirling dervishes in ecstatic devotion to the mystery and majesty of love openly expressed and shared.  These moments of celebration are when the divine is truly made manifest in our lives.

On this weekend made possible by the love of two nurtured by many, we were delighted to make new friends and grow our intentional community.  I love the way that joyfully authentic people attract more of the same, and how the blessing of being invited into a circle of such kinship envelops all who take the hands of those gathered.  Regardless of geography from which each traveled, whether the years upon the earth are many or few, if we’ve known each other for 40 years or 4 days… we have become ONE.  And we are grateful!

So, here’s to our beloved brides!  Here’s to bountiful blessings of love, light, laughter, joy, happiness, peace, prosperity, good health, longevity, moonlight and magick upon their marriage.  May we all be blessed to know such love within this lifetime, and gather in a circle of belonging to bear witness to the beauty of Mother Nature who holds us lovingly in her embrace.  We are so blessed!

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Love Unlimited

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!

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Your Light ~ Required

On a normal day devoted to writing, I typically sit down at the keyboard, empty my mind and ask for inspiration to come.  Words flow from my fingertips without a conscious direction… my writing is a mystery that is revealed to me as it comes.  It reminds me of the metaphor my soul-daughter has used for my current path:  She says that I am on a long, dark highway and I can only see what is illuminated by my headlights.  The road is safe, and my GPS is leading me to where I need to be, and my car is safe with a full tank of gas.  All that is required is to keep driving forward, pay attention to what is being revealed as I go, and know that I will be informed when it is time to stop driving.

On these days that I am focused on writing, I am often reaching into my past for a story to tell, through which some level of insight or self-healing may be revealed.  Today is different.  Today, I am writing about something from my future, and I’d like to engage your support.  I promise that it will not cost you more than a moment of thought, and what I know for sure is that the light produced by your mindful awareness will add to the light of mine, and together… we may just permeate the darkness descending upon a sacred soul.  Now, the soul of whom I write is specific, but together – our reach may be more broad.  Each of us may be just a drop of quenching rain, but together we can be a monsoon of healing light, a tsunami of love.  The holy one of whom I write is the beloved sister of a dear friend.  In this year of transformation, she has selflessly offered her gifts to me, as she does to anyone in need, asking for nothing more than the pleasure of my company in return.  She, herself, is a warrior of overcoming – and she has reached to me with a request to grab my bow, and lead this Tribe of loved ones through a circle of healing.  The invading predator is fierce – ALS invades the body and robs it of its strength to move, and eventually… to breathe.  You see… this is why I need you today, and your stunning, radiant inner light.  My love is great and enveloping, but OUR love?  It is all consuming… a cloak of comfort on a cold dark night.  Please take my hand and share your light… I can see it growing brighter as you approach, and it is sweetness to behold – love made manifest.  Further, I hope you would not consider it greedy to ask that you share this post with others.  Imagine the power of our light when it is passed from one sacred soul to another!  We are each torchbearers… passing our light from one to another, until the whole world is aglow with a radiance more powerful than the sun.

For the purposes of our focused connection, I am going to refer to our sacred vessel as Juno.  For clarity, if you are reading this after the date of this gathering to which you are contributing… know that time is not linear, and your light will still make a difference.  Also understand that if you are in need of healing light, you may pull it from this cosmic gathering, and when you offer your own healing energy, you are never depleted, for this is a divine force that moves through you… you cannot help but receive through the giving.

Great Spirit, Mother / Father God, Universal Force of Creation, Powers that Be, Elements that surround us and flow through us, All That Is:  Allow this sacred circle of beautiful beings to become a combined vessel of your love, filling up and spilling forth with an abundance of healing light energy.  Allow the light of love to flow freely, without obstacle, and let it drip down the healers’ hands, washing away our sorrows, our fears, our hunger and thirst, our aches and pains, self-doubt and false limitations.  As we are made of celestial matter, we contain the healing power of a thousand suns, and the distant light of a billion stars is ever present in the combustive force that warms us from within.  Let this divine energy rise up through Earth’s core and crust, through saline ocean, and forest floor, through the soles of our feet, rising up through the roots that are our legs, lighting up our energetic being as it is filled – (red) root, (orange) sacral, (yellow) solar, and into our (green) hearts contained by strong and resilient trunks, and let this molten, healing light flow through arms to hands that are our branches, through (blue) throat, (purple) mind’s eye that sees what is not visible, and (white) crown through which we connect easily with all that is… rising up and out to deliver exactly what is required, be it for the good of all.  Amen, So Be It, Blessed Be.

If it is difficult to connect with the soul of someone you do not yet know, think of someone you do know who has made you feel completely loved.  Hold that beloved being in your heart and radiate and reflect that love back to her or him.  As you feel that radiance shared between the two of you, allow that light to expand to encapsulate others in your circle – family and friends for whom you feel a sense of affection.  Now, expand that light even further, beyond those you know well and out to acquaintances, and then to people you don’t know in your community, in your city, in your state.  Let your light of loving compassion grow and spread beyond the boundaries of country, continent, planet.  Let your love reach and grow into the darkness of space, surrounding the galaxy, and then every galaxy – known and unknown.  Know that your light is expansive and boundless. You are one with the universe and all that is.

Now, bring your focus back into your center.  Visualize this place that is in a realm that is not limited by what we know in this world.  In this place, there is plenty of room for all of us to gather.  We are each standing in our own strength, prepared to share it freely with one another.  If you once felt alone in this space, feel the arrival of other light beings, as the palms of your hands are filled with the palms of two others.  As each of us arrive in this sacred circle, a pale blue light radiates from each being, and as hands are linked, the light begins to pulsate and grow stronger as it flows gently in a clockwise motion, from heart to heart and hand to hand.  As the circle is made complete, you look before you and see Juno seated at the center, enveloped in the pale blue light of your loving presence.  Let Juno be represented by that being who has made you feel most loved and cherished, and let that love be reflected back to her.  She is surrounded by Universal light delivered through sacred souls from all over the planet.  You may be holding hands with someone from America, from Canada or Ireland, from India or from Africa… your light is mingling with the light of people from countries whose names have never crossed your lips.  We are all one, and there are no barriers here.  We are all here for one purpose… to bring divine healing light to the soul of another, in whatever form is needed.  When we offer our healing energy, Reiki, Theta, our thoughts and prayers, it must be unattached to outcome, for we cannot know the destined journey of one’s soul.  We can only trust that exactly what is needed to bring healing to that sacred soul, in any form, will be delivered by our care.

As the light surrounding Juno grows and pulsates, it is like a magnet that is pulling from her body any residue of past harm, be it betrayal, fear-based thought, denial of success or personal worthiness, food-born or environmental distress or illness.  As all remnants of negativity and dis-ease (mentioned and unnamed) are removed from her body, her energetic being, her DNA, and her beautiful soul, all areas of exit are filled and sealed with golden light.  The pale blue light, which has grown in strength as each new soul enters the circle, becomes a beautiful emerald green.  As Juno has been emptied of what no longer serves her, she has become an open vessel to receive the light that we offer, as well as the sparkly white light of creation that flows from above.  We are grateful witness to the arrival of this light, and are awed by the beauty that illuminates Juno’s own beauty as she is filled with this light that is like the golden light from a holiday sparkler, or a downpour of luminous glitter.  This light fills every cell of her body with divine healing energy, as it delivers strength and fortitude for the road ahead.  Juno is receiving through her open heart, the wisdom of the universe, the strength of earthly ancient mountains, the air to fill her lungs and speak her truth, the fire to move her muscles and accomplish every task she seeks to fulfill, the water to wash her spirit clean of fear, anger, bitterness, and regret.  Juno is filled with divine light and soothed by the love that surrounds her.  Whatever is required for her peace, comfort, and transformation in the form that her soul has chosen will be provided with grace and ease.  She is one with all of us and we are all one with the Universe.  Together we transcend the limitations beholden to the confines of the human body, through the power of the mind, which is greater than our understanding.  Once again, we place our trust within this truth… that assistance is given to those who reach.  Together we reach beyond what we can see, feel, understand, and know that this mystery is received and freely given through the love that resides within each of us.

Finally, in this sacred place where we have gathered, we raise our hands toward Juno, and send golden light energy from heart to palm and into her being, so that she may carry the love of this circle within her through all of her days upon the earth and into the mystery of what comes next.  And when you feel that you have given what she needs, place your hands upon your own heart, and receive that same energy that flows through you and each sacred being within this circle.  Allow your own body and energetic being to be filled with this Universal Light Energy.  Feel the light and love of this vast community surround you and enter your heart.  Know that you carry this love within you, and that it seeps through every pore with a radiant light that brings healing to old wounds, and attracts an abundance of goodness to your life.

When you are ready to return to the place where you are sitting, reading these words that have somehow come through my fingertips and onto this page, I hope that you hold onto my gratitude and my love for the light that you have offered, and for the healing it has provided.  You are loved and valued beyond your previous imagining.  Hold onto that and let it grow in your awareness.  Your light will illuminate your path, and beauty surrounds you, every step of the way.

Thank you!  I love you!  It is done!

PS:  If you can please like and share this post, it will multiply the intensity of our combined healing light.  As I was lying in bed this morning, thinking about ‘Juno’, I could feel a heaviness and shortness of breath that was overwhelming.  I could feel the fear of those who suffer, and the sorrow of those who would give anything to be able to help.  I was strengthened by the thought of touching your heart, that you might touch the heart of another, and so on.  You can help.  We can help.  Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall rise…  warriors – all!

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The Enlightened Heart

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.

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/melissabaker1

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/amuletpaganchoir

https://www.facebook.com/Jillianthemedium

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A Blessing or a Curse…

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?

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Transformation Dawning

My grandniece stayed with me last week, and though we ultimately had a ‘staycation’ (for me, anyway), I still consider it to have been a glorious escape.  My brother and his family live a few hours away, so we shared the burden of driving and met half way.  I fetched her on a Saturday and gave her back on the following Saturday.  This was the longest period of time we have had alone since she was 18 months old.

13.5 years ago circumstances were such that I felt compelled to offer my support and provide her with a safe place to grow between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while her grandparents met work obligations out of state and dealt with some obstacles at home.  I will never forget the sound of relief in the voice of my sister-in-law, when I somewhat jokingly commented on how cute she was and that she should just leave her with me… “Oh, Melissa… I would be so relieved.”  With wide eyes I looked at my parents who said they would help, and I cried all the way to the airport in the rain to fetch my Tribe brother.  I cried as I told him what I was considering, both of us single and childless at the time, he understood the importance of the task and the sense of overwhelm, too.  Neither of us would have imagined then that he would be married with three children of his own now.  That night I sent an email to friends about the crazy commitment I was considering, and by morning I had been offered all of the support required to make it possible.

That month was probably the most traumatic for all of us, as some navigated separation anxiety and heartbreak, while I spent each day in fear of getting something wrong.  Above all other worries, I feared for her the abandonment issues she would surely have to face in therapy (waves flag of abandonment issues – yo!).  I took my responsibility to her so seriously that I was determined to do anything I could to ensure she would not feel abandoned by me.  I remember one weekend that my Mom came over to offer me a break and an escape, but even when I left the room she would begin to cry, and I simply could not bear to leave.  I remember friends and co-workers saying to me… “Oh, Melissa… this is going to change your mind about having children.”  Well, it didn’t.  Not because she wasn’t precious, because she was.  And not because the work of caring for a child is thankless, because I know without a doubt that that month of my life was quite possibly one of my most important and greatest accomplishments of this lifetime… after all, I managed to keep her alive for an entire month!  She had never been around other children, so of course she immediately caught a cold from daycare, and she also cut a couple of molars during the time that I had her.  Every day I would drop her off and she would cry, and every day I would cry all the way to the office.  Did I mention that empathy is my number one strength?  I would tuck her into bed each night, and collapse in a heap in the silence of the living room, hoping to have a moment to myself, but feeling too exhausted to do anything else, and not wanting to make any noise that might disturb my sleeping angel.  I remember waking each morning and hoping that I could run to the bathroom before she woke up, so that I could tinkle without having to have her on my lap while doing so (because if she was awake, and I left the room… she would cry – and I could not allow her to feel abandoned by me).  Good golly, people!  How on earth can you possibly choose to be responsible for the entire life and well-being of another human?  What a horribly overwhelming task.  I remember how I would hear her cry and it would feel like my heart was beating on the outside of my chest.  I recall the  mornings when I would hear her stir in the makeshift crib that was next to my bed, and I would look over and smile to see her standing up and holding onto the edge, with her beautiful tuft of light brown curls, greeting me with a smile – that and when she tossed her head back to take the medicine for a cold or teething always reminded me of a baby bird.  I would have done anything to keep her safe, healthy, and happy.  Her happiness was my joy!  One night, I pushed past fatigue and put up the Solstice Tree, and delighted in the look on her sweet face the next morning as I carried her into the darkened living room lit by those magickal lights.

I have to admit, having a 15 year old in my guest room was much easier than having an 18 month old beside my bed.  I just caught myself wondering why we had never done this before… and remembered that this, too, is a gift of the year of time and reflection I’ve given myself.  Not beholden to anyone to grant me time off, I had the freedom to ask… and to receive.  It was pretty awesome.  She cooked for her great grandparents and me, and we shopped for school clothes.  She attended an event I co-hosted… a sort of female empowerment and expressive arts evening with friends.  She WOWed me with her openness and authenticity.  She spoke her truth and shared her vulnerability, knowing that she was in a safe place.  Her courage to share encouraged the same in others.  I introduced her to the art of acrylic pour, and she suggested that we do a project together, each creating a piece that would be symbolic of how we felt about each other or what we meant to one another.  Into the colors I chose – each as vibrant and rich as her stunning brilliance and personality – I stirred my hopes and dreams for her… to see her own true value, to seek her own truth and follow her own north star, to be filled with utter joy, and fulfilled by purpose and passion.  When it was dry, I wrote on the back of her canvas:  “Beloved – This painting contains my love for you, and symbolizes the beauty that you are and that which is on the horizon for you.  Love, M”  In turn, what she created for me contained many shades of green, with an additional image that she brilliantly added into negative space, which started as a Stag (sacred to Artemis, you know) and became a tree.  She told me that in meditation the forest is her safe place, and that I, too, am her safe place.  On the back of my canvas she wrote:  “To a GORGEOUS Goddess – You deserve the care you provide for everyone else.  You will get all that you need and want because you’re a beautiful soul.”   (I hope you’re listening, Universe!)

So, all of this was pure delight, and I loved every moment with my girly, but one of my favorite parts was meeting her request to enjoy a bit of nature together.  A friend of mine had suggested taking her to one of our local springs, and that is what we did.  We grabbed another friend of mine, and headed off for adventure.  We packed some snacks, put on bathing suits, and traveled just 30 minutes from home to reach a piece of paradise, Wekiwa Springs.  Knowing that the water would be shocking to our delicate systems (we Florida girls aren’t used to diving into 70 degree water), we chose to take a hike, so that the (literally) breathtaking plunge might feel even more welcome.  We traveled along the path and boardwalks, and delighted in the flora and fauna, as well as several winged creatures that were surely faery folk in the guise of dragonflies.  We saw them in many different colors, including green, silver and blue.  The presence of dragonfly informs us that transformation is dawning on the horizon – and I do believe all three of us can feel it coming.  As we completed the trail and began to hear the sound of others splashing in nearby water, we determined we were definitely ready for a swim.  This was the first time my grandniece had ever been to a spring, but this adventure brought back memories for my friend and for me.  My friend recalled many wonderful visits shared with her beloved, whom we lost to leukemia last fall… and having been away from this glory far too long, my own memories were of trips to the springs with my parents and brother when he and I were young, when we could dive for fossilized sharks teeth and swim until our lips turned blue.  I even remember a time when I was maybe 4 or 5 and my parents swam next to me – atop a raft, and there were people up on a bank who were tossing marshmallows into the water to feed an alligator.  I may have to check this memory with my folks to determine if that particular recall is based in fact or childhood fantasy.  Anyway, we swam for a while, and I began to worry that my toe rings would fall off, because the usual swelling of heat and gravity was totally lacking in this element… and they started to feel rather loose.  So, we each made our way up the hill to the shaded spot with our blanket and snacks.  We reflected on the connectedness we experienced with nature (and with the boy my grandniece met at the edge of the spring – oh, to be fifteen again), and after a while, we determined our needs had been filled.  We finished off the afternoon at my friend’s house with a few rounds of cards.  It was a perfect day!  Ever since, I’ve been asking myself why I had taken these gifts of nature for granted… feeling like I had to drive ten hours to find a piece of heaven, when it was right here… just a short drive from my front door.  I feel as if I will need to make up for lost time, and spend the next several weeks escaping to a local spring to dance with the dragonflies and swim until my lips turn blue.

As I summarized this delightful week to my soul-daughter, sharing how I felt badly for having shirked my responsibility to the end of life doula study… she once again reminded me, with that wisdom-beyond-years way that she does, that though I may have spent fewer hours at the computer or reading a book on death or palliative care, I had most certainly been ‘doing the work’.  You know what?  She’s right!  I am less sure today that my path is to become a doula, but more certain that there is purpose and meaning in doing this work.  Every single day of this sabbatical has been filled with a certain kind of mindfulness and gratitude that comes with the absolute knowledge that our time here is limited.  If the beauty of a natural spring doesn’t bring a sense of homecoming to your soul, you are denying the importance of the element of water in your very existence.  I mean…  you are made of mostly water!  The Earth is bubbling with this cooling, soothing salve for your tired and aching spirit, and She invites you to enter her healing embrace.  The cicadas are singing for the resonant pleasure of your eternal spirit – reminding you of the freedom of summertime on a hot afternoon, how could you fail to recognize their tune?  And everywhere you turn, the dragonflies are bobbing and dancing, then gently perching upon branch and limb, hoping to get a closer look at your vibrant being, knowing that the symbolism of the human body is to be reminded that you are looking upon the Universe itself – in which all of the elements, air, fire, water, earth and spirit, are contained.  The dragonflies know this about every human they pass, why must so many of us fail to recognize this truth, whether passing another on a trail, or seeing our own reflection in the living waters?  There is so much tragedy in what we fail to see.

I am growing more certain with each passing day that this sacred journey upon which I embarked last fall is really about learning to truly see.  I am learning to see what has always surrounded me… that beauty is before me, behind me, above me, below me, and within me.  I am learning to sense what I cannot see with my eyes, allowing energy to be felt with my heart and words that are not heard through my ears to flow with grace and ease through my fingertips and onto this page.  Through the study of death and dying, I am learning how to truly live.  Every time I wish I could see the future and how my financial security will evolve from something I no longer care to do into something I was born to do, I am reminded that I don’t need to see it to know it is on the way.  I don’t need to define it to be able to manifest it.  I am already in the spring and it is carrying me forward, and I have no choice but to stay open to receive and appreciate all of the rich beauty that awaits, as I mindfully and joyfully go with the flow.

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Harvesting Gratitude

It’s hard to believe that we are already facing the harvest season.  Each year does seem to go by faster and faster, doesn’t it?  On the Celtic calendar, August 1 marks Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas or the First Harvest.  This ancient holy day and cross-quarter holiday (that which falls between a solstice and an equinox) has a mythology that goes along with the purpose and legend, but I prefer to leave those stories and explanations to the scholars.  For me, the Celtic calendar provides a personal guide for mapping my own personal progress through the year.  If we still lived in farming communities, this might be the time of year that we would begin harvesting our grains, which we planted with intention at Imbolc in February, back when the land was beginning to thaw after the long winter.

This time of year is when I like to make a review of those mindful intentions to consider how my hopes and dreams may be coming to fruition.  Do they need more of my attention?  Do they need to be watered?  Do they need more light?  Do they need to be freed from obstacles?  Are they fully grown and ready to be uprooted and celebrated?

For me, investment and savings provided the gift of a year of reflection, deep diving into spirit and soul to determine a path forward after finding myself at the crossroads last fall.  I have no regret for the choice that I made to end a search for more of the same to embark on a journey toward something extraordinary.  I wish that everyone could have this opportunity.  Imagine getting to spend an entire year with the most important person in your life… YOU.  Consider removing any obstacles that stand in the way of deeply connecting with the divine spirit that entered this earthly plane with you, and will remain with you for all of your days… and beyond.  What if you could take some time to brush away the expectations of others and determine the truth of your own desires… exploring possibilities beyond what you’ve previously imagined possible for yourself?  You could ask yourself:  What is it that really makes your soul sing?  If you had no need for an income, what would you be doing with your time?  Does your passion lie in something solitary or something that connects you with others?  Do you have a story to share that might initiate healing and inspire others toward a similar outcome?  Can the healing you’ve encountered be a beacon of light for those behind you on the path?  Do you have a skill that you’ve taken for granted that deserves to be brought into view?  Does your happiness really lie within the size of your paycheck or square footage of your home?  Or do you find greater beauty in a more simple existence, filled with more nature and less stress?

I wonder what it is that you might find on your list of reflection.  What do you consider to be your personal harvest, so far this year?  Were you finally able to let go of some of the people or things that were no longer serving your best interest?  Did you create and nurture a new habit of eating differently, or moving more?  Did you have the chance to step outside of your box and meet new people, face new adventure, go somewhere you’d never been before?  A personal harvest doesn’t have to be filled with really big things… for some of us, greeting August with a smile is worth a bushel of gold.  The important part of celebrating Lughnasadh is to find gratitude in every little thing… large or small.  Take some time to dance a little jig with joy in your heart for all of the love and beauty that surrounds you.  In the northern hemisphere, we are still in the light part of the year and when the Equinox comes around, we will begin our descent into darkness.  Is there anything else you’d like to accomplish, gather for your coffer as the year comes into balance and moves… beyond?

To be honest, I feel as if I still have a long, long way to go before I can rest, but I am definitely grateful for my bountiful harvest, thus far.  I am enormously blessed to enjoy more time with my parents, and to have this entire week with my grandniece, coming home from the mountains with the sweetest memories of time spent with dearest friends, and overwhelming grace and beauty that Mother Nature nurtures and shares.  I am grateful for a loving and supportive community that cares about me, about the wellness of my family, and for one another.  I am grateful that sad news in my community, like the loss of a loved one or a beloved pet, or serious illness was also met with wonderful news of outstanding support and loving kindness.  I am glad that I have allowed myself the time to find my words and speak my truth, finding healing for self, and for possibly inspiring others to do the same.  Our voices are so important – every. single. one!

I would consider it a great honor to hear about your sacred harvest.  Shall we dance?

My Post (5)

Light Up and Be Happy!

I’m in Tennessee for a couple of weeks visiting friends who have a summer home here.  Tonight, after we took the dogs for their evening stroll, as we returned to the house a firefly landed on my hand.  My friend took the dogs inside so that I could ‘have a moment’ without disturbing my new friend at rest.  It wasn’t even close to twilight, so he wasn’t ready to light up, so as he rested on the back of my hand, I sang to him a little song about the evening to which we both looked forward.  You know… that old favorite from Styx…  “Light up everybody!  Join us in this celebration.  Light up and be happy!  Sweet, sweet sound will fill the air.”  I bet you didn’t know that was a song about fireflies on a summer night, did you?  Ha!

I just love these moments, getting to connect with nature.  It’s not something I often do back home.  From where I sit now, I can hear traffic and neighbors coming and going, but there is also the sound of wind in the trees, crickets chirping, birds singing, and cicadas humming.  I find myself, at times, resenting the obnoxious sound of vehicles passing on the highway nearby, as it feels like such an insult to the orchestra that is playing a temporary tune.  Did I mention that we are also near an airport?  Sigh…  but eventually I am able to refocus on the sounds of nature, and the volume of wind chimes and insect instrumentals rises to the forefront.  Encore!, I say.

As I glance into the yard, I can see the fireflies finally at play.  They lift from grass and tree branch with a spark of light that reminds me of the sparks that pop forth from a blazing fire… rising upward and fading away.  It makes me wonder if they are playing a game of ‘ghost in the graveyard’ together.  “Over here!”  “No, over here!”, they say as their light teases one to follow.  But then they are gone, and another flash of light appears in the periphery, and you turn your head… but…  gone again.  It looks like enormous fun, and yet we are both excluded from the game, and delighted to bear witness.

I alternately enjoy these moments of solitude and wish to be sharing them with others.  So, here I am… inviting you into my solitary moment, so grateful you could join me.  I imagine that car in the distance is yours, winding up the hill and onto our street.  That you walk through the grass and open the gate, then pull out a chair and join me for this exclusive performance of the most beautiful concerto to be heard by human ears.  We reach across the table and hold hands for a moment, breathing deeply of the gratitude for this sacred moment upon the earth… together.  From this view, we can see that everything really will be okay.  I promise.

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Mountain Music

I am sitting on the porch of my friends’ Tennessee home, and the breeze offers a slight chill as it plays with my hair while the lowering sun caresses my skin with warmth.  A variety of birds are singing their evening songs which speak of a beautiful day blessed by sunshine and the smell of sweet grass.  Several are dancing around the nearby feeder, reminding me that the term ‘eats like a bird’ doesn’t mean what most people assume.    My friend lost his sweet mother last year, and this space that we are blessed to enjoy was lovingly referred to by that kind and generous woman as Mockingbird Cottage.  Her gentle spirit still surrounds us in this heavenly place. and I can sense that she is near… laughing at the hungry birds at play, and recalling the way the wind once felt against her skin on a cool summer evening.  She and I close our eyes and breathe deeply of this moment of shared peace and solitude.  We anticipate the arrival of fireflies within the next hour.

I drove up on Friday, and the journey was pleasant as the companion I chose read to me his words of experience and wisdom with the voice of a philosopher.  I downloaded required reading for my end of life doula coursework through Audibles, and Stephen Jenkinson’s voice fed my mind throughout my ten hour journey with his thoughts on palliative care from his book called DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.   Eight hours of reading remains, and he has already given me so much to think about… mostly about the way that death, though it is the one guarantee that comes with birth, is something that most people fear and run from.  Many of his patients who chose palliative care when a diagnosis became a prognosis would later come to curse the effectiveness of their treatment, as it was keeping them alive long past their wish to continue.  In other words, it may have given them more time, but it did not necessarily give them more ‘life’… just more suffering.  That kind of took my breath away.  It made me think more clearly about the wording I would use in my advance directive, the official forms which will state my wishes for end of life care.

It also made me think about the act of dying, and the choices one makes for how to spend their final days once a deadline has been given.  And if one would choose to do things any differently, at that point, (assuming the body was able) why we would wait until we’ve been given a deadline to start living in a way that would finally feed our soul.  Should we not be spending all of our days that way?  I mean, the day we are born the one thing that is certain is that we will also die.  It seems to me that there is always a deadline, its just that the expiration date is hidden beneath the fold of awareness.

I wonder what that might look like for me… a well-fed soul, and I believe that it looks something like sitting outside on a summer evening to hear the cacophony of birds chirping, cicadas humming, and distant dogs barking.  It also looks like valuable time spent connecting with dear friends, and making new ones at a mountain art festival.  It looks like smiling at the tiny green bug that just landed on the keyboard, and resting until it is ready to take flight.  It looks like taking the time to dive into a topic that once felt overwhelming and frightening, so that I may one day be of service in a way that transcends and ascends my former level and ability of caring.  It looks like choosing to fill the rest of my days, be they long or few, with greater purpose and meaning.

Sitting here, in this sacred space outdoors, with the spirit of this sweet lady that I was blessed to know and shall always adore, I can list the messages that nature has delivered for my inability to hear her voice.  The symbolism of the mockingbird is overcoming fear.  The symbolism of the hummingbird, whose presence inspired the urge to write, is lightness of being and enjoyment of life, as well as the reminder to be more present.  The symbolism of the fireflies for whom we wait, is self-illumination, guidance and freedom.  As I glance over my shoulder to see if they have yet arrived, I see a cardinal at the feeder and smile to myself to realize that the symbolism of this particular bird is a reminder to realize the importance of your purpose in life… while for some, it informs them of the presence of a loved one lost.  She knows I’m thinking of her and that I know she is here… affirmed by a glance before me to see that cardinal making his way across the darkening yard, stopping to look back at me from a moment’s perch atop the umbrella in the yard.

I am grateful for this time that I have given myself… to explore the depths of my soul before stepping blindly into a new chapter that might be less than fulfilling, to breathe deeply with gratitude for the beauty of nature and for that which we cannot see or hear without the courage to open our hearts.  After all, love is not something visible to the eye… it can only be felt with the heart.  So, I dare you, dear ones to close your eyes and open your hearts.  There are messages flashing before you, like the fireflies who have just arrived.  I’d love for you to join me in this reverie of light and flight!  Tell me…  what do you see?

fireflies

Death and Rebirth

The act of becoming involves a sort of death.  When we realize that we can no longer return to a former life once responsible for our prosperity, identity, and validity, there is a process of grieving and release that must take place.  Reaching the one year anniversary of my departure from that former life surprised me.  As I looked back at that former life, I could find no regret for its loss.  It was interesting that the lunch date I had with my former work partner was postponed by two weeks, and on that rescheduled morning a facebook memory revealed the 2017 announcement of my departure.  It was poetic to be sharing that anniversary afternoon with the last meaningful work relationship I had in that past life.  Together, we share a sense of warmth and love that transcends traditional roles in the corporate world.  After lunch she texted a photo to the man who hired us both, and bragged that we were together.  Minutes later, her phone rang, and the three of us were instantly connected, as if no time had passed, and yet all of our lives are vastly different from when we last walked those halls at the same time.  It had been nine years since his retirement, which informed me that his second grandbaby, who arrived on the day he announced his pending retirement, was indeed the young girl in a photo he sent, playing golf with her brother.  We talked about that day, and he said that it was at the birth of her big brother that he decided he would retire.  As an executive, he was expected to make a presentation at a board meeting which was being held out of state on the same day his eldest daughter was giving birth to her first child.  His grandson, who was given his name, was born an hour before he hopped on the corporate jet.  The role he committed to in corporate America meant missing much of the growth of his own daughters, and he realized that being a grandfather was a sacred opportunity he was not willing to miss. I remember him saying to me on the day I helped load his car as he left the office for the last time, “Melissa – I feel like I’m getting a second chance!”  His sacrifice afforded his family great comfort, but I’m not sure if he would have chosen a different path if he’d known what he was to miss… so many hours of work and three college degrees, his wife feeling like a single mother of three, much of the time.  I think he was a little nervous about his decision to retire, at first.  What I know for sure, is that once he was on the outside looking in… he never looked back with regret for leaving.  He now has five grandchildren, and keeps very busy with travel to three different states to spend time with them.

As for my most recent partner, she too had given up her personal life for the commitment she had made to the corporation. I can recall a certain corporate crisis that had her calling in from her 30th anniversary cruise with her husband.  In the last couple of years of our partnership, she was experiencing almost daily migraines.  When we were finished with the lunch she had prepared for me, including fresh baked bread, she brought out a huge stack of professionally printed photo books, which documented at least a dozen trips she has taken with her husband and her adult children in the last four years.  She hasn’t had a migraine since she retired.  She acknowledged that her daughter, a doctor, has chosen not to pursue her own practice, which would require a greater commitment of time.  She has chosen to live her life for herself, rather than living for running a business.  She didn’t struggle with that choice her child had made, she honored it.  Like her predecessor, she recognized her personal sacrifice, and though she loved those years in a meaningful career, she is happy to be living such a full and active life with her family now.  She and her husband will continue to travel for as long as they are physically able… or until grandbabies come along to join the granddoggies.

So, at my one year anniversary of what I’ve dubbed ‘retirement rehearsal’… with one partner nine years retired and the other three years retired, I worried a little about what each might think of my choice not to return to the corporate world in a role that I have held for the last 25 years.  After all, it doesn’t seem like a rational choice.  And yet, I was met not with reproach, but with complete understanding and support.  It was even suggested (among other ideas) that I consider renting out a room in my house, and simply working part time, so that I can have the freedom to do what really makes me happy.  Of course… they get it!  They get me.

These two people were pivotal in my personal growth and development of an identity that helped me to feel valued, appreciated, and worthy when I could not find that for myself.  Having witnessed the extraordinary burden they carried at the end of their careers makes getting to see the beauty of their full and joyful lives in retirement that much sweeter.  I’m so grateful for those years and for these relationships.  I have no doubt that we will continue to celebrate all that flourishes in the lives of one another for many years to come.

Of course, I’m nowhere near actual retirement, but I am happy to follow their lead.  I don’t have children or grandchildren to follow, but I do have a plethora of passions.  My intention is to create a future from which I will never wish to retire.  In the tarot, there are two cards that would symbolize the last year of my life.  The first would be The Tower, when lightning struck and my whole world changed in an instant with the end of a sixteen year career from which I had once imagined retiring.  The next would be The Death Card, which is where I am today.  Before I understood that I would not be continuing on the path I had traveled for the last 25 years, I sat down to connect with my creativity guide, and drew a random card from the deck.  It was Death.  And this is what I wrote:

Transformation

In the tarot, the Death card symbolizes change or transformation. It reminds us that everything changes… one season passes into another, the mother becomes the crone… without the dying leaves, we would fail to witness the rich beauty of autumn, which briefly awes our senses with a multitude of colors and textures before each leaf falls to the ground, transforming into rich fertile ground that will feed the roots of the tree from which they’ve fallen.

Throughout our lives, we come to our own autumn season – when it is time to reflect on the beauty and the darkness of what has gone before… to honor those moments and lessons, to give thanks – even for the darkness (for it has shown us the light), to let them gently fall away, and to prepare for what is yet to come. Remember that once the leaves fall from the tree of life, there is a period of rest, followed by the surprising POP of new growth, so vibrant and stunning, stark contrast from the nakedness of dormancy, that we cannot help but celebrate the utter joy of new life being presented.

So here’s to the coming of autumn… to the beauty, to the sorrow, to the gratitude, to the slumber, to the waking, and to the rebirth. Gather it into a great big cushy pile and fall back into it. Bury yourself in the memories… and finally… emerge with a smile, brush yourself off, and move forward… into the light.

All three of us have experienced a form of death, if you think about it.  The souls that once existed in the corporate world have all been reborn into something different… Formerly serving the expectations of shareholders, and now serving the hearts of our beloved families and spiritual communities. There is not regret for what we may have missed, only gratitude for all that we gathered…  And great anticipation for all that is yet to come.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

(The Death Card from Colette Baron-Reid’s The GOOD Tarot)

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Thanks Universe!

There is this really cool thing that seems to happen with some level of consistency.  The Universe delivers exactly what I need or who I need at just the right moment, to ensure that I do not have to suffer a crisis of faith.  Doesn’t this happen to you?  Don’t you love it when it does?

For many years, for more than a couple of decades in fact, I was in a position of clarity.  I knew with a sense of certainty that I was in the right place doing the right thing.  I loved my work and I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved at work.  It sounds strange, I know, but if you believe that what goes around comes around, well… that was my truth.  I loved what I did for a living and I adored and respected the people with whom I served.  Over time, things changed and the joy and the love were not as clear… and the Universe delivered a message which I could no longer ignore.  It said to me, “Melissa, now that you’ve got this whole self-love thing in the bag… you don’t need to keep a job that no longer serves your spirit for the purpose of validating your self-worth.  It is time to seek and fulfill your life’s purpose.”  And then the Universe, which can sometimes be an asshole, left me hanging with no immediate clue as to what the purpose might be.  But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about being patient, paying attention, and that purpose was slowly revealed to me… one miraculous clue at a time.

What I can tell you about this discovery is that even when it seems obvious that the correct path has been revealed, one can still have moments when clarity is lost and the struggle of insecurity and self-doubt creeps back in.  Self-doubt is an old nemesis from my days of self-loathing, and though it has been cast out it continues to lurk on the outskirts of my existence, threatening to return with all of its darkness to try once again to snuff out my light.  But alas, the Universe, not always an asshole, tends to step in just in the nick of time to deliver a booster shot of confidence to bolster the new paradigm that supersedes that former false belief of limited potential.

Today I received a text message from a dear friend I’ve not seen in several months.  “Hello.  You up for a couple visitors tonight?”  And so it was that our months of unintentional separation were ended, and the three of us were reunited with a warm embrace.  I hadn’t realized how much of my personal evolution was missing from my friends’ awareness.  I’m pretty much an open book in the world of facebook, so even my mother’s friends know what I’ve been up to, but I guess I can’t expect everyone to be checking in on my shared revelations through the world of social media.  Reflecting on more than 20 years of friendship, with most of that time seeing me in the same job with not much to report, I have probably been more of an inquirer and a listener for most of our acquaintance.  I love to know how friends have been faring and receive updates on the growth and progress of their children, and if they still love or hate their jobs, or how they are overcoming obstacles.  If I ever perceived myself having obstacles, it wasn’t very likely that I would want to ‘burden’ others with the details, and more than likely, I was in denial about having any obstacles in the first place.  Our friendship dove to new depths several years ago when he went through divorce.  Oddly, we both experienced a sense of betrayal and our friendship grew stronger through sharing the darkness through which we each struggled, and celebrating our individual journeys back into the light.  This experience, I believe, created a sense of kinship which invites deep connection, even when our time together is sparse.

When he and his girlfriend arrived, I was delighted to see them both, and we began discussing a topic about which I had inquired through text message about a week ago.  He is a branding genius, and I have found myself in the uncomfortable position of self promotion.  If you were to scroll down to my very first blog post, you would understand that I wrote a book earlier this year, and that a publisher had replied with intrigue, but required that I create a following and inquire again.  I’ve only been doing this writing thing since November, so the fact that I sat down and wrote a book from start to finish, with a complete table of contents that wrote itself and then allowed the systematic completion of each chapter within two months was pretty astonishing on its own… but now you want me to write a blog… and create a following?  Craziness!   And now, I’ve become a recording artist, having professionally produced my first guided meditation and published it through cdbaby, which released last week… and now that needs to be advertised through social media, too?  Until a few weeks ago, I had nothing more than a single page on facebook.  Now I have a whole host of sites that require titles, user ids and passwords… but now what do I do with them?!  Sigh…

So, that was how our conversation began.  What I found as I was explaining my needs and concerns was that somewhere in the fray of daily overwhelm, which comes with scrapping your entire former identity and seeking, developing, and solidifying a new one, I felt kind of unsure of where I was going.  The gift from the Universe arrived as our conversation continued.  He wanted to know what else I had been doing, you know… besides the blog… and I told him about the book I wrote about my journey from self-loathing to self-loving, and I told him about the meditation released last week, and how I had designed a series of meditations to correspond with the chakras, and oh, yeah… I’ve started writing another book based on my studies to become an end of life doula, and how it is a sister to the previous book.  Now, the recordings interested him, because he is also a musician – a collaboration, perhaps, and because he has ‘maximizer’ in his top five strengths, he was able to rattle off a list of ideas, each met with my already written plans for such endeavors.  Each time another piece of my story was ready to unfold, I would pull out something I had written which could explain where I’ve been and how I’ve gotten this far with great detail and eloquence.

All of these pieces coming together were affirming.  Perhaps I haven’t been wasting my time, after all.  Maybe I am on a path toward future success and happiness.  But it was in the conversation about end of life studies that we deeply connected, tonight.  His thoughts mirrored my own, about the way that the end of life is a natural part of living, and it seems a shame that it is feared rather than revered.  It was funny how he would make a statement about his wishes, and how mine were similar and already written down within the early pages of this new book.  All three of us want to be cremated rather than buried, and no open caskets.  He and I both, if we are given a deadline, wish to have a living wake before we go… because neither of us would want to miss a great party.  I talked about what I had learned from my studies about finding peace before departure.  The five things required for relationship completion, as listed in the book Dying Well by Ira Byock, M.D. are this:  I forgive you.  Forgive me.  Thank you.  I love you.  Good bye.

For my departure, if there is time to plan, I would want a gathering place with comfy seating and dim lighting, with the magick jukebox set for random play, to ensure a lovely mix of Fleetwood Mac, Loreena McKennitt, and KIVA (just to name a few of my favorites).  He and I would both want to have enough time to connect with each person in our lives… and I affirmed his request with a plan for each discussion.  Aside from the ‘five things’, we would each tell each other what we recall about our first meeting and about a moment in our shared history when we made a difference in each others’ lives.  It was not difficult for me to pull up these moments, and since we never really know how many days we have remaining, I leaned over and took his hand and told him, “When I first met you, your hair was down to your shoulders, and I thought you were absolutely amazing.”  And, “One of the times you made a real difference in my life was on that one terrible, horrible no good day, when the rug was yanked from beneath me, and I felt as if my world was tumbling down.”  As I cried on the phone to my Mom, her response was to have me hang up so she could call my Tribe.  The call she made was to his wife (at the time), and though she was tied up with a work commitment, she reported that HE was on his way, and would be there soon.  And he was… he arrived within the hour bearing cone cake from the local Chinese bakery.  I can’t recall exactly what he said to me, as we consumed our sponge cake made with rice flour, but whatever it was… it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Of everyone who had offered support that day, it was his presence and his words that brought me peace.  I could name a hundred other moments when his friendship and devotion really wowed me, but I think I’ll save that for couch time when one of us is preparing for departure, forty years from now.

I shared with my friends the alternative plan for my departure, which will be executed should I not have time to plan, and read to them the words that I plan to record to be played at my parting ritual.  And as they prepared to head home, we hugged a little bit tighter, a little bit longer, and once more for good measure.  And as I’m sitting here, committing this memory to the ether, I am taken aback by the realization that should I die tomorrow, I will have made manifest one of my dying wishes… to be able to share with someone who made a difference in my life the glorious reflection of his divine being.  If he didn’t recall that awful day on which he brought me such comfort, I hope that he will remember THIS day, and what a blessing we are to each other.  His enthusiasm for my writing and my work elevated my confidence level, and enabled me to sit down and share words that may inspire, or at least help someone fall asleep.

I’d love to hear about your end of life wishes, if you’d like to share.  And in case you’d like to travel with me through meditation, you can acquire a copy of “Release the Warrior Within” at cdbaby or iTunes (see links below).  I’ll figure out this self-promotion thing, eventually.  Love, love, love…

https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/MelissaBaker1
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/1399828129

(a manifestation candle made with my friends’ wishes for my 49th year)

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