Much of unconditioning the heart is unconditioning, or reconditioning the mind. While in many ways the heart is a far more intelligent organ, the mind gets to reside over most of the dominion of life. There are many reasons for … Continue reading
I once read that the greatest teachers are not those who give the most profound answers, but rather those who ask the most compelling questions. Over the years, since reading this I have found in my own experience the statement … Continue reading
Over the years many friends and loved ones of my heart have left this world. With each passing I am reminded sometimes like a gentle embrace and other times like a rising and gushing spring river of the fleeting minutes … Continue reading
Late last month another friend left this Earth. He was a man of many talents, much wisdom, and deep generosity. More than anything he was a man who truly lived his life fully, present in every moment.
Ed Morgan was husband to my dear friend Virginia Morgan, who I spend a great deal of time with at Shree Yoga Taos. Virginia and I began our yoga journey right around the same time nearly a decade ago with our dear teacher Suki. Over these past many years much in all of our lives has changed and we have, through our shared love of the practice, had a shared space of understanding through which we together have journeyed through these many changes in each of our lives. Suki and I joke that Virginia spends more time at Shree than either she or I, and in fact this may be true, as Virginia takes multiple classes a day, multiple days a week. Her devotion to her practice is inspiring in it’s depth and the reflection of its power in her life off the mat as well. Virginia is the spryest and youngest woman over 70 you may ever meet! She and Ed had been married for the last 30 plus years and their love was the kind of love that feels contagious. Being that Virginia loves yoga, over the past many years she has introduced most of her family to it, bringing sisters, children, and grand children to class with her. The one person who never came along to class was Ed. In all reality and truth, I cannot say I know Ed well because I didn’t, I know Virginia. However, I always felt I knew Ed through knowing my husband.
Oswald is also a man of many talents, much wisdom, deep generosity, and fully truly living his own beautiful life. He and I have such a wonderful time together, and though it may not always be easy between us, there is always love. Like Virginia and Ed, Oswald and I do not have the same interests or the same life pursuits. What we really share is our love for each other. Oswald is an outdoorsman, I like to go outside but for rest I prefer to be in a hot bath, or a cozy bed watching TV. Oswald loves to enjoy beer and his idea of a great breakfast is chicken fried steak, I prefer water these days and my ideal breakfast is a smoothie, or salad with an egg on top. Oswald likes to sleep till noon and I like to get up with, or before the sun. I not only like to do yoga, I have made it my lifestyle, and Oswald like Ed, prefers to stay home. Every once in a while though, Oswald does come to class, maybe it’s to humor me. After his last class, he told me he spent three quarters of it trying not to hate me. I shared with him that in my opinion that effort was good yoga, and I didn’t take it to heart. Oswald could care less about my spiritual practices and what makes good yoga on or off the mat. It’s not a conversation we have regularly, and we don’t have to because I know that just because Oswald doesn’t do spiritual like I do, does not mean that he does not do spiritual. I always imagined Ed and Virginia’s relationship to be similar. I imagined Ed saying, “Sure honey you go to yoga, Hell No I don’t want to go, I’m happy here making my art.”
Virginia asked me to share some words at the celebration of her husband Ed’s life over the weekend and being that I did not know him that well I was very honored by this request. Ed was, as I said a man of many talents, and in his last many decades he was an artist who used a dying medium. He engraved his pieces in metal plates and ran those plates through a gigantic press, pressing the art into a three dimensional image onto paper, he then embossed that art with silks and paint. His work was intricate, beautiful, detailed, and inspiring. Over the last couple years Ed became very sick, multiple forms of cancer moved into the domain of his body and eventually took from him the strength to engrave, slowing his art production to a very bear minimum. The last piece he was able to make was a hummingbird. He made many of these hummingbirds, and in his generous spirit gave these pieces to those who were a part of this hard chapter in his life.
Many moons ago, way back at the beginning of my relationship with Virginia, Suki, and Yoga, a book was put into my hands titled, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” by Henry Miller. It is a book of essays, which with similarity to yoga, my relationship with Oswald, Suki, Virginia and Ed, the World Cup Cafe, being ejected through a windshield at 15, and more, has made a marked impact on my life. It seemed to me the most valuable words I could share for Ed were from the final essay of the same title, Copyright 1962. I share Henry Millers paraphrased words with you here.
“It was on the jet from New York to San Francisco, at an altitude of thirty to forty thousand feet and never so much as a tremor, that all unwittingly I moved a few centimeters into the future. It was the comfort, the motionless motion, the unaccustomed perspective which doubtless threw me. We [man] were of the airs now, and they were filled with secret vibrations, with rays invisible and of power unimaginable. Yes, though only a few inched from the ground, so to speak, we were already verging on the carrefours of uncharted lanes of force, mysterious, magical force destined to alter not only our concepts of life but our very being. Out of our limitless universe and into the blue–the blue of the poet and dreamer, the blue of the mystics. Perhaps into the “upper partials” of some divine musical space.
We speak so glibly of the speed of light. What reality has if for us, this speed of light? Man’s struggle, ever since he ceased to grovel like the worm, has been to equate imagination with deed.
The universe has no armature, no weight, no substance. No purpose even. Neither is it dream and illusion. It is. The highest thought can neither add to it nor subtract from it. It grows, changes, responds to every need, every demand. It can exist with God or without. It is like a Mind which asks and answers its own questions.
Our needs…What is it that we need”? Certainly the more liberated one feels the less one needs. The sage demonstrates it daily, and the idiot too. Just to breathe, to know that you are alive, isn’t it marvelous?
[Man] has come to perceive that life is everywhere, in all things, at the edges of the universe as well as the center, and that nowhere is it absent, even in death. Why cling to it then with such stubbornness? What can be gained that is not already lost? Surrender! whispers the still small voice. Overboard with the baggage!
Grappling with the problem of speed–or is it the riddle of light?–it becomes more and more evident that there is no such thing as motion, or gravity, or heat, or light. Any more than there are atoms, molecules, protons, electrons. Only gods and devils, birth and death, ignorance and bliss. Nothing out there can possible be more mysterious, more enigmatic, than here within our own breasts. The corporeal is the phantasmal, the shadow realm. Mind is all, and its realm is reality. What is, defies knowing. With regard to the tiniest, the most insignificant morsel of this unsubstantial universe, thought wears itself out.
We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of death. Yet death promises nothing, solves nothing. Life does not begin in some remote, ideal world, some paradisiacal hereafter; it begins and ends here, wherever we are, in whatever circumstances. That is the meaning of life, that is it infinitely variable, inexhaustible, inextinguishable.
There is one comforting truth which is inescapable. Each time we run away from ourselves we are driven home again with greater force. Every effort to break out only pushes us further back into ourselves. It may be possible for man to reach the outer edges of the universe, but the importance of it will lie not in the getting there but in knowing more about ourselves. If we could pick up a stone in the field and truly grasp its nature, its essence, its being, so to speak, we would understand and know and appreciate the whole outer universe. We would not need to fling our bodies around like comets gone wild. Being fully here and of the moment, we would also be there, anywhere, and of all moments.
Thus I mused as we lumbered along at five hundred miles an hour. Tomorrow, a thousand an hour; the day after, five thousand. Multiply it by a zillion…what difference? Are we getting somewhere? Where? Is the body and mind of twentieth-century man geared to cope with all this abstract jazz? Ought we not first learn to fly backward too, or stand still in the air like a hummingbird?
Buddha gave us the eight-fold path. Jesus showed us the perfect life. Lao-Tzu rode off on a water buffalo, having condensed his vast and joyous wisdom into a few imperishable words. What they tried to convey to us, these luminaries, was that there is no need for all these laws of ours, these codes and conventions, these books of learning, these armies and navies, these rockets and spaceships, these thousand and one impedimenta which weigh us down, keep us apart, and bring us sickness and death. We need only to behave as brothers and sisters, follow our heart not our minds, play not work, create and not add invention upon invention.
I could not help thinking what this continent of ours was like before the white man took it over. It seemed to me that silence was a great factor in the world of the Indian, that he made no unnecessary stir, that he took the long way about rather than the short cut. Perhaps his mind was at rest. Certainly he had no need of stock exchanges, iron foundries, sheet and roller mills, Krupp works, laboratories, newspapers, mints, ammunition dumps. He had need of nothing it would seem, which to us is so indispensable. Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth, great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.
From the clouds all that appeared to be left of this ancient world was the great barren stretch which begins with the Far West. The most beautiful, the most exciting part of the five-hour spectacle. Deserted though it was, an air of peace pervaded it.
For a brief moment I had the impression that I was riding our of it, leaving it all behind, permanently.”
Ed Morgan was a brave man who lived the last year of his life in the honesty of the reality of death. He did not need to practice yoga, or claim a dharma to live a spiritual life. Looking at his art, his home, his family, his circle of friends, anyone can see the attentiveness and mindful awareness he gave to detail. I feel that the passage of Miller’s “Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.” Paraphrases Ed’s life so very sweetly. His life was a spiritual life, and the presence of that knowing is apparent in the feeling of the vibration he left behind. It was an honor to know, even if very little, such a beautiful human being.
I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose my beloved, my best friend, as Virginia has. Yet, daily I witness her in this great transition and I am humbled by the power of surrender in her practice. I am inspired as I admire the courage she faces each day with. I continue to learn from her as I appreciate the example of deep spiritual practice she displays for me and all else in our community, on and off the yoga mat.
In witnessing Virginia through this journey of Ed’s I am reminded, to truly love someone for a lifetime is to prepare for the greatest surrender and heartbreak of all, as all we love will change, and each of these mortal bodies will meet their demise.
In this knowing I offer that while we are living, we live true to ourselves no matter the rules and regulations, codes and conventions. We love one another like brother and sister, sharing in generosity and appreciating the gifts of others, as we are each a unique piece the divine’s creation. May we live mindful lives, aware of the details of all we create, thoughts, relationships, and deeds.
May the vibration of an unconditioned heart be each of our spiritual legacy.
With deep admiration of a life well lived,
When I was twenty I got my first dog, a beautiful blue-eyed Huskie mix. As a naïve twenty year old I presumed it would be easy to “own” a dog and that I would have excellent dog “ownership” skills. Reflecting back on my perspective at that time in my life and my perception of “ownership” says much to me about the resulting relationship I had with Otis. It was a young and naïve relationship that lacked the integrity of steadiness, regular quality time spent together, the presence of patience, and most of all trust. The relationship of “ownership” ended in abandonment when a few short months into our journey together I decided to leave the country for half a year. Lucky for him and despite my poor parenting skills Otis was harbored for a few years in the loving home of my father, from where he went to live with and is deeply loved by my brother Josh. From time to time I have the pleasure of hanging out with him and going for walks. I am honored in his company by his forgiveness, which he offers with no restraint and his unconditional love, which is clearly present despite my truest betrayal and trespass against him. From Otis I have learned a form of forgiveness and freedom that is spacious and bright like the blue of his soulful eyes.
In my mid twenties I thought perhaps I was ready to try again. My husband and I discussed getting a dog, we agreed that I was not a fit dog owner based on my passed experience however, he had had many growing up and was willing to be a teacher to me on the journey. The conversation was just that, a conversation, which never went past willingness to actually bringing a dog home. That was until a hot July afternoon when I received a phone call from my mother who had heard us discussing getting a dog, telling me her friend had found a puppy and I should come and check it out.
The puppy had been found in Ranchos very dehydrated, emaciated, and nearly dead. I took her out of her box and put her in my lap and I couldn’t understand how this sweet little puppy, that couldn’t walk, with a big injury on its head, could have ever wound up in her position. I looked into her big black eyes and I fell deeply in love.
“I’ll take her.” I told my mom’s friend. However, she wasn’t ready to go anywhere other than to the vet, where she went for the next three days.
That night when my husband got home, I told him about our new puppy that my mom’s friend found, that was nearly dead and was at the vet and would soon be coming home to us. Despite our previous conversations, my husband was not eager about adding this particular dog, whom he feared may have brain damage to our family. I remember being very upset with him for not having compassion at that moment, yet as I look back on his position I understand his perspective. A brain damaged dog is a hard companion to live with.
“And are we paying for the vet too?” He asked me, disappointed and dismayed.
“Yes.” I said. “And we are going to take her in and bring her back to life, if she will make it.”
“Well,” he told me “if she turns out to be brain damaged I reserve the right to take her to the pound.”
Reluctantly, I acquiesced to his ultimatum.
Not only did we manage to bring that sick and dying puppy back to life, we found a way to include her in our lives with steadiness, quality time, and patience. It took me years to learn to communicate well with her, and to be able to understand when she was letting me know what she needed and wanted. It took even more time for me to learn to trust her and allow her to be the dog that she is rather than the dog I think she should be. Now, six years later the three of us are still in relationship, daily continuing to learn, grow, and mostly trust.
These days I call her His dog, as they just love each other so much and have so much fun. Every day when he leaves the house and can’t take her with him, she whines pathetically at the door. I on the other hand never get that kind of attention from her when I leave the house as she happily continues to lay in our bed not blinking an eye at the thought of me leaving, which I think means I’m just not as much fun. However, it is me she gravitates toward to have her most important needs met, like food, and care when she does not feel well. I like to think that’s because she remembers that day when she was nearly dead like I do, and how deeply I wanted to see her survive. As for me, I continue to delight in the newness of our relationship every day. Daily she invites me to play more, take more time to just enjoy the delight of the moment, relish the sweetness of love first thing and not forget to relish it again at the end of the day. Most importantly she continues to teach me to trust without hesitation. Experiencing witnessing her ability to ask for what she needs and wants, and trust that she will receive what she needs and wants, has taught me how to trust in spirit with more willingness and conviction in all that I need and desire. The way I understand the lesson is that you or I, like my dear sweet Onyx, only have to ask, and then allow ourselves to know and trust that spirit will provide.
Like the wonderful song in Pinocchio, “Anything your heart desires, will come to you.”
Yesterday was the first full moon after the Summer Solstice and marked the celebration of Guru Purnima, a Hindu festival honoring ones greatest, most noble and valued teachers. The word Guru is a derivative of two words, Gu and Ru and has similar etymological roots to the Latin word Gravitas. Gu denotes darkness or ignorance while Ru signifies the bringing of the light, the remover of the darkness, the moving of ignorance into knowing. The Guru therefore, is that which brings us from the weight or the gravity of our ignorance into the lightness of our being and the expansiveness of our knowing, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually as well. A Guru can be a person who’s company we enjoy with ease and whose teachings we willingly sit with to learn, as well as a person whom it is not easy to be with and through the friction or the gravitas of our relationship we come to know our own spaciousness more deeply. Gurus are not only people as nature too can be a teacher, as can art and music, as can our dreams or our pets.
Contemplating, honoring, and celebrating the many Gurus of my life yesterday filled my heart. As my husband and I returned home from dinner under the bright shining light of the full super moon I offered extra thanks for a most unlikely Guru in my life, the little black one who ran to the door with eyes full of deep and spacious love, so happy we had come home again to her. I now know I don’t “own” her at all.
With humble gratitude to all of my teachers, the furry four legged kind, the ones I choose, and the ones who propelled me through the cheese grater of life into the wide open planes of unconditional love, I bow and I welcome the next.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,
Every day brings with it a bounty of wonder, experience, and flavor. Though some days may feel and appear like others that have come before, no day is ever the same. I am confident in my simple knowing that we all wish to enjoy our days here on Earth while we live them. This afternoon as the sun shines outside and the birds chirp I find it easy to enjoy my experience without too much effort. Yet some days, though sunny and bright, can bring with them flavors that are bitter and hard to swallow. It is on the hard to swallow days that a bit more attention is required to enjoy ones embodiment and the experiences that make up the memories of the short minutes one truly has on this beautiful planet.
No matter what the literal and figurative weather may bring, we can brighten each and every day with gratitude. Rather than perceiving what we don’t have, or wish we had, or appear to have lost, we can simply offer gratitude for what is. Gratitude for life, gratitude for breath, gratitude for the opportunity to have the experience whatever the flavor may be. Offering gratitude when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed in the evening will color any and all of your days with a hue of brightness that will resonate throughout your heart, in a vibrant, though maybe sometimes subtle, sound of joy.
A practice of gratitude is some of the best yoga any of us can do, and the best medicine we can offer our ailing heart, body, or mind.
With gratitude and love in the joy of sharing this wondrous life,
It’s fathers day. I have to admit I am not one for the rituals of these sorts of holidays yet this morning I did find myself pondering what it means to me to have a dad and what it is that I find value in celebrating with relationship to what I have learned from him. To truly share the whole story would fill a book as the story of my life is not only intrinsically connected to the story of my father but to his father and his fathers father and so forth until the beginning of time. When I think of my father I cannot help but to think of his father whom I was very close to, and all day my thoughts have been with both of these men who added great value to my life.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the cool and dark walls of the Metta Theatre where I have been taking a once monthly acting workshop with some lovely and talented actors as well as a fantastic teacher who is doing as all good teachers do, and is asking great questions that push me beyond my comfort zone and into an opportunity to find more skillfulness in my actions as well as know my weaknesses and strengths as an actor acting for film. Acting, like yoga, is a spiritual practice, a request to be in the flow with present moment awareness and what is happening in the now. Like yoga, there are places that are comfortable and easy, and places where all the voices of my inner world scream stop, leave, run while you can. Over the course of my life I have done a reasonable amount of acting and mostly I have felt good about it. I have for much of my life held onto the dream of one day doing it for a living. The thing about that dream is that it’s a scary one, one that holds a lot of contention in my mind as being unsafe and unstable, as well as bringing up much fear around am I good enough?
Am I good enough has been a question I have asked myself too many times in my life. I like to think I am not alone in the experience of self-doubt and that the feeling of insecurity is something that I share with all other beautiful seeking people of this world. Thinking of the experience as a shared one brings me comfort and helps me to walk through this life with less feelings of shame.
Within the framework of my self-doubt rather than continue to treat myself like a failure as I have for the last ten years and never try, I have felt the room in my courageous heart and have made a choice of confident curious willingness in my mind to jump the hurdle of fear and go to this class. In class I have been working on a role that is not within my comfort zones as an actor and I am being invited to do more than what comes easy to me. There is a funny catch 22 to what I am learning about film acting. The work is in not working. The gem, the gold, is in the expression of the real experience, not a state of just acting it out. My efforts yesterday were good, however, afterward I felt like a failure and in the wake of feeling like a failure I felt devastated. The devastation I felt I had not experienced in many years.
Again the question of the dream and the value of the dream and the quality of my ability to successfully accomplish the dream came to the forefront of my awareness, and not only left me wondering, but left me flattened in a state of self-pity and self-doubt. Despite my desires to see the experience objectively I could not help but spend a period of time in tears. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful marriage to a wonderful man, Mr. Oswald, who is rational and steady and he provided a listening ear for me to tell my tails of woe to. As I talked it out, which is great medicine for feeling bad about yourself because you hear how silly and mean you may sound, what I found to be more upsetting that the self-doubt, was the challenge I was having with the stage most people call learning. In the wake of my silly childlike self-pity was a realization that I had just fallen down and I had an opportunity to pick myself up, dust myself off, and tell myself to get back on the bike.
When I was five my dad got me my first bicycle. At the time we were living with my grandparents in Minnesota and I clearly remember the day that he and G-pa assembled its pieces. It wasn’t long before my sister and I insisted the training wheels come off. Within minutes of my training wheels coming off I was out of control headed down hill and lacking the required knowledge of the use of the skills to stop. I hit a curb, went over the handlebars and tore up my face. I left the bike at the end of the cul-de-sac and ran home crying and crying in terrible shock and pain. Dad cleaned up my face, and hugged and loved me up. I said I would never ride my bike again. Dad insisted I would before putting the training wheels back onto the bike. It was over a year before I was ready to take them off again. I remember the spring day in Taos when they did, finally, at long last, come off for good. The lilacs were blooming and dad, Angelica, and I went and got donuts at Micheal’s Kitchen, it was a good ride. That was my first lesson in perseverance.
Then when I was fourteen, I decided that playing on the first ever Taos High School Girls Soccer Team was the best idea ever. About three weeks into practice I was having a miserable time, though in theory the idea was good, in reality I didn’t have the necessary skills to play like the bad ass I thought I was. Not only did I not have the skills, I perceived the coach as not very nice to me, and I was having a hard time learning the dexterity it took to play the sport well. One night I came home from practice and cried and cried to my dad, “I want to quit!” I remember telling him within a cloud of self-pity. He calmly responded “Don’t quit, you won’t get anything out of it if you quit. Besides it will feel really good to get really good and then if you still don’t like your coach, and you don’t want to play, quit.” That night we started an evening ritual of passing the ball in the street. By the end of my second season on the team, I had actually become a descent player. The team went to state that year and I scored the only two goals of that adventure, one of which was a header, that one I am still really proud of. Within months I was thrown through the windshield of a truck at sixty miles per hour and the first thing I asked when I came to on the side of the road in excruciating pain because of my severely broken back was “Will I ever play soccer again?” No one answered.
Perseverance is continuing no matter what adversity you face, and as I layed in that hospital bed with the wordless prognosis I refused to believe I would not walk again. Ten days later I was released from the hospital and demanded they let me out of my wheelchair so I could walk out the front door. I did walk through that door with my dad supporting me, and I walked all the way to the car about forty paces away with perseverance, willfulness, and pride. That first season of soccer after the accident was a definite no as it took three months for dad and I to walk the few short blocks up to the plaza. Dad walked with me every day, and by the next season I was much better. The doctors told me I could play that season though they did not recommend such an activity as there was a potential to re-injure or injure above my spinal fusion. Being the willful and persistent girl I am, no wasn’t an answer I was excited to hear, so I went to practice one beautiful fall afternoon. I kicked the ball farther that afternoon than I ever had kicked it before, I’ll never forget it. I kicked the ball so far the coach was nicer than he had ever been. As I walked away from practice that night in the sunset in discomfort and pain from the running as well as the knowing my soccer career was over, I also knew my dad was right when he said it would feel better to quit when I had gotten something out of it for myself than it would have way back before, when I was just in a state of self-pity.
This morning, after what I like to call “having a big girl talk with myself” last night, I felt over my self-doubt and self-pity, and was back in alignment with my attitude of a willingness to persevere no matter the outcome, I thought of my dad and the valuable things I have learned from him that I wanted to celebrate today. Weather its getting back on the bike, sticking with the soccer team, getting up and walking again, or perusing life-long scary dreams, perseverance is getting up, dusting yourself off, and taking another crack at it, especially when all odds are against you. Because that’s when you gain, that’s when you get to know what you are made of, and as far as I have experienced in this life, that’s where the satisfaction in the feeling of success and accomplishment resides.
Thanks dad, dad’s dad, dad’s dad’s dad, Mr. Oswald, Mr. Oswald’s dad, and all the men who persevered so I could “stand up on my own two feet” as dad likes to say, with “my shoulders back” as G-pa used to say, proud of who I am, persevering with my courageous heart, willing mind, tenacious spirit, and capable body, free to be me.
Happy Sunday, Happy Fathers Day, May you always persevere in the face of adversity and continue to follow you hearts desire.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving,
More often than not when seeing ourselves in the world and forming our individual identities we overlook that which connects us and see only that which separates us. Perceiving our lives apart from the world in which we live, rather than as a-part of the whole connected to the people, animals, and other living things that share this world with us is perhaps rooted in our intrinsic desire to be unique, or to represent the personal and authentic expression of the divine which we are in a world where so much is similar. When looking at our lives and the world from this perspective, that which separates us, it becomes clear that there are many aspects to living that are authentic to each and every person. We each have our own unique stories of life, the ways we experience love and the stamps of trauma that have imprinted in our memories specific warnings of safety and danger. Along side the stories of our personal emotional experiences are the triumphs of success and the pitfalls of failures we perceive as part of our self concept, our personal skills and talents, or lack there of. No matter these stories, the truth with which they stand, and the way they have shaped the ever unfolding days of our lives, unique and personal as they are, there is an underlying reality of inalienable truths we all share, without which none of us would be here at all to have any experience of living whatsoever.
Without water and oxygen there would be no life on this planet. All living things on planet earth play a role in the continued cycle of the use and replenishment of both of these life giving resources. Without the sun and it’s ever-giving generosity to which our planets gravitational pull clings, and under which life on this Earth thrives, we would never know the concept of self. Without the incredible power of the creative energetic force that enables plants to grow in the earth, and babies to grow in the bellies of their mammalian mothers, or the eggs of their reptilian progenitors, there would be no experience of what we call separate. Without the nutrients that are given to the earth in the death and decay of plant life, or the digestion in our human bodies of the nutrients we take in as a source of energy, be it from plant or animal based food, there would be no transference that inevitably becomes the creative force of innovation, cooperation, and exploration. Without each other there would be no reflection of what hurts and what feels good, what words mean, where to cultivate our energy to fill a needed gap, where to hold boundaries when energy is excessive and overflowing flooding out the cultivation of new life. Together we make up the world we live in, the reality that holds the space for us to experience the perception of our authentic and unique I as well as what delineates us from other humans who truly are more like us than different. Without this planet, this solar system, this galaxy, this universe, our mothers and fathers, their mothers and fathers, our obnoxious or loved neighbors, our hated or respected foes, there would be no you or me or we at all.
No matter your personal story, it is and will always be true that you, me, and all of life are eternally bound. As you continue to write your story, as I continue to write mine, we write a bigger story together. Every detail, every breath, every drink of water connects us to one another. If and when you feel alone or separate from this world in which you live and the other living beings sharing it with you, take a moment to remember that if nothing else you share water and you share breath with all life, past, present, and future.
With love, all ways, for giving, in joy,
This week a friend very close to my heart passed, a person without whom I would not be who I am today. It’s not the first time I have been in the well of loss and grief, as a matter of fact I feel I am becoming quite good at it. Seven years ago in the middle of March a dear friend who I loved very much and his girlfriend were run over by a truck here in Taos, and killed. Loosing Stephan was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, I was new to loss then, new to the waves and phases of grief, and I lacked the tools to respond to my loss in a healthy way. Though I moved through my grief by drowning my sorrow in drugs and alcohol, one thing I did not experience when Stephan passed was regret. I loved Stephan and he knew that because I had told him.
Over the past seven years I have lost six childhood friends, parents of close friends who I considered parents, elders whom I considered grandparents, acquaintances who I considered fundamental parts of my community and the web I called life. To think of it now, I cannot even begin to add the numbers up because so many beloveds of my heart who are now gone flood into my mind. Every seven years all of the cells of ones body change, and over the last seven years I have not only cried many tears in the well of the grief of each of these losses, I have learned how to grieve without numbing myself with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
The loss of this week has been the closest to my heart I have yet experienced. Uncle Fred was not my blood relative however, he was my family. He was a life long face of comfort and understanding as well as a true visceral expression of unconditional love in the shape of warm hugs and the sounds of our laughter. Uncle Fred was always a teacher of spirit in my life and in his death he has given me the most amazing opportunity to continue to grow while I sit with my pain in sobriety, this is a first. At the beginning of 2014 I was experiencing an aspect of my own death, the death of my old self, and I choose to walk through my transformation sober so that I could be present with all of the feelings of the many losses of my past that had yet to be integrated into a healthy present relationship between my physical, mental, and emotional body. As the days pass, the loss becomes more real, the shock begins to ware off and the reality of never seeing Fred again begins to set in, and in my sober state I cannot avoid the truth of it. I have been dreaming of Fred nightly and we are having the most wonderful adventures, he continues to teach me in my dreams, “Never be afraid, it is a waste of your time” he told me the other night. This truth was so straight forward it surprised me, as in body he spoke in riddles which was one of my favorite parts of our time spent together.
Over the past seven years I have also been cultivating the most valuable relationship of my life besides the one with myself, my relationship to my now husband Nathan Oswald, who has been with me through this journey of loss, loss, and again loss. Through tears, tears, and again tears. Through the stories of memories of people he knew and people he did not know. He is an incredible man whose character and integrity continue to daily remind me why I love him and have committed to being the best person I can in relationship with him for the rest of my life.
I am an emotional person, perhaps more emotional than most, I cry at commercials. I am deeply connected to feeling my heart and allowing those feelings to have shape and form in my physical experience. Oswald has been a rock for me through the emotional undulations of this past seven years and has always supported me and held me through my grief, I am ever grateful. This morning, as I was deep in sorrow and in his loving arms, one of the biggest feelings of joy I have ever experienced flowed through my body. I became aware of just how fortunate I am. I have a relationship with spirit and my spiritual self, I love myself deeply and accept who I am, I have a relationship with a man whom I love and respect and do my best to treat as well as I know how and get better at it every day and he love’s me back. I have a family who have knowingly or unknowingly taught me to be more courageous with my love, taught me to believe in myself, taught me to stand on my own two feet and not expect others to make me happy. I have this breath, this body, this life, this animate playground of a world to dance in, feel in, create in and continue to explore, unearth, learn and grow in.
Years ago when one of my dear childhood friends Sal died, I was deep in the well of the grief when I realized it did not matter that I was sad, for I was just lucky to have the experience.
Now, as I sit with these memories and this joy in the midst of the grief, I again return to this truth. The pain we feel when someone who we love has died, is a direct reflection of how much we love. Every person we love will die, it may even be yourself before them, so every moment matters. It does not matter how much money you make, how much work you get done, what your status in society is, if you can touch the floor in a forward bend, or even if you can walk for that matter. What is most important is how you spend the moments with the ones you love, how you choose to express your love, how willing you are to surrender you hurts and angers to have relationships that embody love, and if you can do it right now.
One thing we can absolutely count on in this life is that it will end. What you do between your birth and your death is filling time, and is up to you. You can choose at any moment to be more expanded in your mind and let the already unconditional love of your heart flow through you in any moment of this fleeting experience should you choose to. What’s most important is up to you.
The Buddhist Heart Sutra states it simply,
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhisvaha!
Gone, Gone, gone over, gone fully over.
Awakened! So be it!
Love always, in all ways, for giving,
There is a beautiful paradox in the art of “Being Here NOW”. Each present moment of life is a moment filled with the potential to drive forward the desires of ones future, as it is also inextricably linked with the moments of ones past, which inevitably effect the choices of the now and the reality of that which will come.
“Being here NOW” is a key factor to living life in a state of unconditional love. Being creatures of story and detail, it is not uncommon to get caught up in the story of the lives we have lived. It is part of our nature to pull from those stories as we make choices for our future. The stories arise from a simple truth, we have hearts that desire to feel delight and joy, and we are also fragile and easily scarred. The ability to be in the present moment allows for the feeling and awareness of the present moment. Being in the present moment also allows for newness when necessary, for it is in the present moment that we have the point of power for the future. The past only has as much control over ones current choices as one chooses to give it. To better enable for oneself a joyful, comfortable, harmonious, and peaceful life it serves to have a mindfulness practice which one can utilize to stay in each moment. Comfort arises with the practical application of mindfulness and spiritual tools that enable the increase of happiness and ease no matter the outward circumstances.
Though I think it is simple in theory “being here NOW” is the most challenging of my personal practices. As I seek my own steady state of comfort, peace, harmony and joy, the biggest challenge I find for myself is to not be so focused on the big picture of my life that I neglect to enjoy the nectar of each day, i.e. “being here NOW.” However, as I continue my diligent journey, I do continue to find it is easier and simpler to live each day enjoying it as it arises, than to try to work out my whole life in one day.
Unconditioning the heart is unconditioning the mind. It is delighting in the dance of the beautiful paradox, the wildness in the chaos, the curiosity in the not knowing, all while enjoying the feeling of the spaciousness of your heart as your feet float away from the floor,right NOW.