Danger! Deep water—rip tides—dangerous surf

 

  Humpback Whales

What is it in your life that you keep pushing back under every time it surfaces?

The greatest accomplishments, the sweetest victories and even the pinnacles of success cannot be reached, thoroughly experienced and enjoyed without “Knowing Thyself.”

What good is it to be wealthy if you are alone and unloved? Where is the fulfillment of your gifts to the world if you are struggling everyday when you know you have so much to give?

We all have submerged wishes, desire, fears and faults.

If we are brave enough to take the journey into the deep

If we are brave enough to swim with them and give them a voice

If we are brave enough to face our deepest-selves, our own brokenness, and mortality

Then fear dissolves. Then real growth, movement, and fulfillment are possible.

You cannot say yes to the adventure and no to the dragons, they are the same thing.

 

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Grieving is a beautiful and complicated thing.

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Late in the evening on August 18th, I lost a dear friend. She had suffered a difficult previous six months with hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation. And, as I had found out the night before she passed, a very difficult life. Her children, a few good friends and I talked that night before… we shared a meal and memories of her through the years. I found out so many things I had not known about her. She spent her childhood with an abusive, “crazy” mother, living in the deep South; a difficult place for a free-spirited young girl to grow up. She suffered an abusive marriage from which she kidnaped her own children to escape. There’s more, including rape, the death of a child, escape into alcohol and drugs, a second divorce and still more. The terrible laundry list goes on, but that is not the point.

The soul has an inner capacity to rise from the ashes, that is as life-affirming as the smell of rain after a long drought. The woman I knew was my mentor and spiritual teacher, a woman of love and values, who never once complained to me about her life, what had happened to her and her family, or what had been inflicted upon her. Amazing in retrospect. She was a strong woman, with a strong personality. The woman I knew and studied with for fifteen years had a meaningful life and she was loved.

Though I had known her for about thirty years, we did not spend as much time together in the last ten. She had moved in with her son and his big family and I was busy raising my own. She was moving from 65 through to 75 and I was moving from 47 through to 57. She began to suffer from dementia in the last five years of her life. Her son would follow her in his car when she was driving, as her memory seem to be failing, to be sure she could find her way home. She was unable to remember who had called and who she needed to call, so she would write it down. Then she would lose the paper.

This was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around. Her mind was so strong. I knew her in her prime. She had a fantastic mind. For her to lose that intellectual edge must have been horror filled. To look up, out the windshield and not know where you are, to be truly lost; Terrifying.

The sadness I feel at her loss, is not about her dying. Well, part of it is, but I believe that consciousness lives after death. I don’t know what form it’s in, or how, but I know in deep places that it does. Love is the only thing that is eternal. In the end, she was suffering, her body was done; it was time for her to go.

My sadness is for how difficult her life was, for how much she had suffered and how she had weathered so much abuse and betrayal, in her personal life, her family life, and her spiritual life. My sadness is in recalling what she had been in my life, and what life itself, through aging had taken from her. What life, if we are privileged enough to live to a ripe old age, will do to all of us.

My sadness is for all the words of love and forgiveness left unsaid. For the “thank you for all that you have taught me, showed me, given me-s”, left unsaid. For her grandchildren who won’t have their grandmother at any graduation. For her un-celebrated 76th birthday. For relationships that now can never be healed, unless by grace and forgiveness from within the wounded, who remain.

My sadness is for how we rush through life and the everyday banal moments, that we will treasure so deeply one day, pass unnoticed. Moments, that even for those without dementia or Alzheimer’s, most of us will struggle valiantly to recall. The sweet memories of my adult children as babies, the memories of my parents, now gone, and my childhood all swirl together in my soul, spiraling out behind me, like a trail of star dust, as I move forward into the unknown future.

I am of an age, where my sadness at the brevity of life, what I miss and missed are all only half an inkling away from conscious thought. Each rose smells sweeter, each jasmine tea more fragrant, each hug is more meaningful, each argument and sharp word more dangerous, as we each approach our own death, that will spiral us out into pure consciousness.

I still have so many goals and dreams for my life. I just finished a Master’s Degree and am going on for my Ph.D. I want to use what I have learned to help others live mindful, bountiful, love-filled lives. I also don’t want to be distracted from the life that is right in front of me, teeming within me and chaotically unfolding in the world. I find I am a vessel with plenty of room left for filling. The more love you pour out the more you can receive, the bounty is endless. Try to love everyone, say everything, forgive it all, every day. I’m working on it.

My sadness is the eternal fruit of wisdom growing, as my spiral widens.

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“It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor. Thinking in mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

If you haven’t read any Joseph Campbell, check out The Power of Myth, it’s a wonderful easy read, very inspiring! Take a look here!     The Power of Myth

Childhood Magic, what was it? Can we have it again? I believe we can.

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There was a post yesterday (10/31/14) on the Facebook Page “Humans of New York” where a gentleman was describing the loss of childhood wonder he said, “My happiest moments were way back in childhood. Everything was magical back then. All children are in a constant state of awe and everything is fantastic to them, but then the magical feeling dissipates and reality creeps in.”  the interviewer asked “When was the last time you felt that magical feeling?”
“Ha! Not since I’ve been an adult, that’s for sure.”

What happens to all that wonder and to the thrill of discovery?

First, I would like to mention that not everyone had a happy, wonder-filled childhood. Those of us who were fortunate enough to experience it, have wonderful memories of those times.

Whether or not you had a happy childhood the everyday stresses of living, paying the bills, going to work, and having little time for oneself can all add up to exhaustion and disillusionment. I think there are three prime drivers of misery in our culture— competition, acquisition and consumption.

As a society we are told that we need more, better, faster, shinier, newer, and better everything. What we have–should never, ever—be enough. We have to buy the newest model and if we don’t have the cash we should buy it on credit. Now.

We want everything immediately, and if we have to wait for it, or put some effort into getting it, it’s not worth it. We spend much of our time on devices, plugged in to the internet, computer, phone, I pad, gaming systems, televisions, entertainment on demand, Net Flicks, and on and on. Even blogging…..like now.

Don’t get me wrong, I use technology every day and I am grateful for the opportunities it provides me to learn, grow and connect with the world. However, like too much of any good thing, it can sap the life out of you. For those of us 50 or over, we did not grow up with the internet, cell phones, cable TV, gaming systems or personal computers.

What was it about childhood that was so wondrous? It was EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS.

I would like to offer three concepts for reactivation of experiences of joy and wonder for your consideration.

Imagination, Communication and the Natural World. Have you seen the FB/ You Tube video of the little girl running in her first rain? If you haven’t take a look   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxmmvHsDeuI

This is the wonder of childhood. Maybe we think we are too old for nature firsts, but give it a try. You’ve already seen rain, but when was the last time you purposefully took a walk in the rain, with out an umbrella…..? Go to a park and lie under a tree and took at the canopy and the sky, listen to your favorite music-or just listen to the wind and the sounds around you. Breathe in the scents of fresh cut grass, or central park after a rain, or piney woods, the beach, or a rose. Leave your phone at home, or turn it off if you must bring it!

Go for a hike, sit on the top of a hill and just be there. We have to stop rushing around and take time to look at the sunset, the stars. Make a plan, go somewhere you can be away from city lights and spend a night star gazing. There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on planet Earth!!!! Look up from your daily grind and contemplate that one for a while! How it all came to be and the enormity of the expanse of the universe should give you at least a twinkle of the wonder of the unknown and the unanswerable questions about life and our place in it. It is an adult equivalent to ” Daddy where is up? Why is the sky blue? Where do we go when we die?”

You see, a sense of wonder is, I think, one of scale and experience. When you were a child, everything was new. But each day as you grew, each experience you had the day before was no longer new, but known. The opportunity to have new experiences did not go away…. we just got distracted by daily life. School and formal learning became the path to new discoveries, while most often, imagination was relegated to a lesser function. Re-activate your imagination. Do it by yourself, with your kids, with your grandkids. Do something creative. It doesn’t matter what. The arts, music, writing, pretend, dress-up, and so on….choose one.

There are new experiences of the psyche, the soul, the cosmos, that we have no definitive answers for. Pondering the meaning of the entire world in a flower, as the Buddah did, or all life in a mustard seed as Jesus did…will stretch your wonder capacity.

We are enslaved to the maintenance of the physical body, our homes, our bills, or food, our transportation, health care and on and on. Even Plato long ago said,

“Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth, and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in it’s service.”

Whether you agree with Plato or not, if we didn’t feel the need to compete with our neighbors and co workers, for a better house or car, or salary…if we didn’t need to always acquire the newest gadget, if we didn’t participate in a overly consumptive, disposable society, maybe we would have a little more time to cultivate our unexplored human potential. If we can say what we have materially, is enough…maybe we would have more time and mental energy to contemplate the beauty of natural world and life itself. A marine biologist in Maui, Hawaii told me, that humpback whales from around the globe begin the year with different song, and by the end of the migration, all the whales sing the same song, even if the pods have never met. That sparks wonder in me.

If it was our parents and families that gave us the safe loving environment to have the wonder filled experiences of our childhoods, who will do that for us now? We must hold that space for each other, person to person. Connect with people, face to face, get off your devices and truly communicate. Spend time together, conversations will take you places you never expected. You will help yourself and others along the way. Listen. Be present.

Here’s to you finding Wonder and Joyful moments in your adult lives!

xxoo Andrea

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Photos

http://gallsource.com/nature-wallpaper/night-sky-tree-universe-hd-pictures.html

http://sites.psu.edu/bucketlist/2013/10/24/see-the-northern-lights/

http://whaleopedia.org/animalfund/baleen-whales/balaenopteridae-introduction/humpback-whale/humpback-whale-photo/

You don’t know ’till you try…

Peace at the Beach

Feast or famine seems to be the mantra for many of us over the past five years. Who knew that surviving the recession, family in tact, a bit battle worn no doubt- but still standing, would be sure to become a life achievement? It wasn’t one that I would have consciously chosen, that’s for sure!

“Oh please, may we have the Pu Pu Platter for five, complete with sweet and sour layoffs, one order of  spicy curry mortgage- dipped in and out of default, and stacks and stacks of those crispy-fried unpaid bills.  Oh, and hold the health insurance. One more thing, does that come with rice?”

My husband and I knew when he was laid of by Citibank, two weeks before Christmas, that no one was going to save us. No one but the ultra rich (neither of our families) was going to survive this unscathed. We had to figure something out, and quickly. Unemployment wouldn’t even cover our utilities and groceries.

One idea led to another and we started a cookie company, yes from our home kitchen, yes with a secret family recipe. Everyone helped that year, (if they wanted anything under the tree.) It was an eye opener for our suburban California kids and an exercise in not-so-controlled panic for the grown-ups. We worked together as a family, not perfectly, not quietly, not smoothly, and often not happily, but we did it. We made it though.  Over 5 years we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, and this past Christmas we shipped our last order.

We decided it was time to stop working two jobs each and enjoy a little more of Life. I want to relish what is left of the time our kids will be living under our roof. It was a great decision. Over the past five years we had no idea from day to day, making cookies, jams, and more, if we would make it to the next mortgage payment, but we did.  We are grateful. We didn’t know if we could do it, but we had to try. There was nothing else.

I now know that the last five years of struggle, will be one of the many momentous life experiences  that transforms into a great story at the dinner table 10 years later. Everyone will have their own version and it will be very funny, despite the tough lessons learned. We still love to laugh together.

I am happy to say that once again we are all trying new things. College, Law School prep, first love, independence, grad school, new careers and more. You never know till you try.