One Day in Varanasi

My morning started at 5. I awoke early to partake in a tourist ritual of a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges. As I lay in my bed, part of me wondered why I had wanted so badly to come to Varanasi. It had been a long travel adventure to reach here – with some of the worst driving and shady driver experiences I had ever had in India. Part of me wanted to catch a plane back to a safe and familiar place. The other part of me knew that this is India. She tips me over and uproots me from all that is known. I always feel like I am in outer space and my loved ones are so very very far away. I have learned to ‘notice’ the feelings and stay with them. I remember a friend gently and wisely telling me “You don’t have to always like India.” And so I rose, got dressed and went into the smokey dark to meet our friend and guide and get on the boat.

The “sunrise” never really happened because there was a bank of clouds, but the view from the water of the ghats (stairs) and the city and the people and dogs, cows etc all sharing space on the river was fascinating. Men and women bathing (separately), laundry drying, dogs fighting, bodies burning, Muslim temple bells ringing, sadhus posing for a professional photo shoot with magnifying screens (for real) – it was all surreal.

As our boat approached the main burning ghat, I could see the billows of white smoke rising up. It’s forbidden (rude) to take photos so I was fully present and taking it all in. It’s hard to describe the mountains of wood – this is a 24 hour burning ghat so bodies are burning day and night. There are swarms of men scurrying about bringing more wood, dumping ash into heaps, putting more kindling under the bodies. The buildings closest to the fire are black with centuries of smoke – making the place look like a scene from the darkest movie. Dogs are curled up in the piles of ash to keep warm.

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Our boat was front and center, very close and I watched a body, wound in white ceremonial cloth, as it started to burn. I saw the cloth burn away and I could see the man’s feet turn dark and blister in the heat. As close as I get to death in my hospice work, this was a new level of intimacy I have never experienced.

I feel that it will take me days to process this experience, perhaps longer. This city holds an intensity that is hard to describe, as feels right and natural given that death is front and center amidst a city so alive and busy. The contrast is at once dumbfounding and inspiring.

I went back to my hotel to rest and warm up and prepare for the evening’s full moon ceremony Melanie and I had planned. I was feeling drained and tender.

When I first asked friends and family to send me their prayer requests so that I could release them on the Ganges, I never imagined the depth of sweetness I would experience reading people’s heart felt prayers. I was and still am so touched by the honesty and rawness of some of them as well as the good kind hearted earnestness of them as well. What beautiful friends I know who are wanting to make the world and themselves better.

Melanie and I sat in prayer and meditation. Later we bathed and dressed in ritual white. We met Somit, our friend and organizer of the ceremony and he led us to our boat. The boat man and priests and a curious traveler from the UK were already in it. We rowed across the river to the sandbar in the middle. There we got out and waded (yes I put my bare feet in the river in Varanasi) to the sand.

In the twilight we entered into ceremony, making offerings of rice, sandal wood, flowers and coins to Hindu deities and the 9 planets. Prayers for our ancestors, our beloveds, the group of women who will be joining us in a few short days – all were offered to the fire.

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As the huge orange full moon rise in the purple sky (India has a way of blowing you away with her beauty) and the sky darkened, dogs crept closer to us, smelling the offerings of food we had. As the priests chanted the centuries old Sanskrit mantras, I closed my eyes and thought to myself “This is why I am in Varanasi. For this moment in time.”

Our boat rowed back across the river as the full moon cast her light across the river and our ritual fire burned on the shore as the dogs gently picked up the small burning dishes and overturned them in the sand to eat the ghee inside.

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Love’s in Need of Love Today

And I say to myself, what a Wonderful World
And I say to myself, what a Wonderful World

Years ago, I read a story about Thich Nhat Hanh riding in a small boat. He was a passenger along with a man who had raped a young girl.  Thay was on this boat with the rapist and, by some cruel twist of fate, the young girl as well.  He shared that he was actively practicing compassion for everyone in the boat.  He couldn’t feel love for only the girl – one is not more deserving of love than another.  In the story, he wrote, that he could see himself in the rapist.  That he was both the rapist and the girl.   At the time, it was a struggle for me to understand what he was saying.  How could Thay identify with the rapist?  What did that mean exactly?  I was confused, but the story has stayed with me all these years.

If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”  -Yogi Bhajan

I have been at a complete loss for words after hearing about a black man (any man, any human) getting choked to death by a white police officer.  I can’t watch the video.  It makes me sick.  I want to distance myself from the man who killed Eric Garner.  My heart breaks that I live in a world where humans kill each other.  There is a part of me that is ready to leave this planet.  Beam me up.  My bags are packed.  What the hell are we doing?  I want to point the finger.  Blame others.  I feel powerless and angry.  I am tired.  I don’t want to offer a hand, or a compassionate heart.

I want to open my throat and, with a lioness roar, make a sound so loud that all guns shatter into a million pieces.  I want my tears to replenish the oceans and rivers so there is no more drought.  I want to wrap my arms around the earth in a healing embrace. I want to personally apologize to each animal and plant that we are driving to extinction.  I want to lay my head down and go to sleep so I don’t have to hear about fracking and GMOs and human violence.

But instead, I look within and I know something about myself.  I am the police officer, so angry, in need of control, that I kill.  I am the human enjoying my white privilege in the United States.  I am the wounded soul that hurts others out of fear.  I need to recognize that in myself, so that I can heal it and seek to empathize with others, and be a better ally.  My silence comes from shame or confusion or sorrow, or all three.  Our silence doesn’t help the situation, it enables it to perpetuate.

I don’t know what (if anything) is going to turn us around as a human race.  But my heart tells me this:  Love is the answer.  At Stevie Wonder’s concert last week he asked all of us to keep trying to love one another.  A black man who is blind, Stevie keeps spreading his message of love and unity.  He says this of love:  “If it’s magic, why can’t we make it everlasting? There’s enough for everyone.”

When one suffers we all suffer.  We are ALL connected.  We can only evolve as much as the very last person in the evolutionary line.

This world was made for all men. All people, all babies, all children, all colors, all races, this world, my world, your world, our world, this world was made for all men”  -Stevie Wonder

Thank You

thanks

It never fails to amaze me – the redemptive quality of families – of forgiveness, love, laughter – the messiness and imperfection, the prayers for patience and tolerance, the unexpected kindnesses, the tears as we go around the table saying what we’re thankful for.  I started the day out with a “raisin” heart – all small and shriveled, feeling protective and prickly and ended the day with a large, spongy heart = like those little pills you drop into water and they expand 10 xs their size into a giant snowman or pine tree.  That’s me.

Things that touched me yesterday: my mom home with the flu, alone.  Making the best of her day, knowing someone would deliver some delicious food to her later in the evening.  FaceTiming with my daughter and son and their father and laughing over the airwaves with them.  Spending the day at the beach with my husband, playing volleyball in the sunshine.  Sitting with my step-daughter at the dinner table and feeling how thankful I am for her in my life.  Ruby, my heart companion of a dog, almost drifting off to sea, as a wave came in – she doesn’t float!  Grateful that the wave subsided and she ran to shore (I would have saved her.)

Dear family & friends texting, messaging me, facebooking me, from all over the world = global village.  People posting on Facebook and inviting others to their table, recognizing that people can feel alone and sad on holidays.  Another friend, alone on Thanksgiving and feeling the freedom of that!  Skating at Rockefeller center, watching the parade and enjoying New York’s first snow fall of the season.  Light and dark.  Vulnerable and tenacious.  Hearts beating.  Breath catching.  Eyes watering.  Lips curling.  I felt it all yesterday.  It was beautiful.  Thank you.

If you only say one prayer in a day, make it “Thank You.”  -Rumi

 

 

Lonely Hearts Club Band

candles

Last year I wrote a post about how I always go within at this time of year – actually I wrote that 2 weeks ago too – hah.  Well, I guess it’s a theme for me.  But something is starting to shift and lest you think that I only write about tough things, I wanted to share a bright, beautiful light that is shining on me right now.  It’s called Embracing Loneliness.

Eleven years ago, I admitted to myself that I might be sensitive.  Don’t laugh!  Sensitive people had always made me feel uncomfortable and I had spent a lot of energy distancing myself from people that seemed “overly” sensitive.  It’s been a process of accepting that indeed, I am a very sensitive person, and finding the gifts in that – it’s my creative spark, my drive to connect from the heart with others, what makes me approachable to people.  I have a gentle nature and I try to honor that and try not to get too stressed out, because under stress, my fierce protector comes in and mows everybody down.  Balance is a good thing.  Praying for that.  And working on it.  Always.

Well, now I’m on to a new one – uncomfortable emotion, that is.  Being in a long distance marriage, having one kid live in another state, and traveling a lot myself, I have a lot of time by myself.  All my life I’ve felt lonely and it’s never been comfortable for me.  Never!  I’ve done so much on my own.  I’m an only child, had a lot of freedom as a kid, saw my dad once or twice a year, moved a lot, felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I was ‘different’ (probably being overly sensitive – hah), I’m fiercely independent, a little bit of a loner – ok, a lot of a loner, march to my own drummer, not a joiner, etc.  You can probably get the picture.  All this time, I’ve thought there was something wrong with me for feeling lonely.  I gave ‘loneliness’ a value judegment of wrong…or worse, unevolved – not spiritual enough.  If I was truly connected to God, I would “never be alone” right?  We’re all connected.  So anytime I felt lonely, I felt bad about myself and tried very hard to NOT feel lonely!  Push it down.  Call a friend.  Judge myself.  Blame somebody else (ok, Andy) for making me feel lonely!

And then…something happened…something so small and every day, but for some reason, it got in and I had an “Aha!” moment.  I was having a therapy session with someone that I respect.  He leads workshops all over the world and lives with his wife and son and they all seem to have a very loving, connected relationship with each other.  He was talking about how loneliness can overcome him during his morning meditation time and he will weep with it – even when his beloved family is in the very next room!  He shared that loneliness is universal and just a feeling – a feeling to be felt and expressed and allowed to pass through.  I really did feel like a bull, drunkenly tilting my head to one side and thinking “huh….?  Wha??”  He also went on to say, that loneliness, when felt, can be an indicator of deep love and yearning – something that I can convey and share with others and further my connectedness.

I thought about how so many people in the hospice groups for the newly bereaved are overcome with grief and afraid of how overwhelming it can feel.  What we teach is that the only way ‘out’ is really ‘through’ – feeling the grief is the only thing that lessens the grief.  I am comfortable with grief, I feel it every day.  I allow it in and really ‘go there’, knowing it will pass and my tears will dry in minutes.  What if I applied this to loneliness?

The past several days, I’ve had a lot of time alone in the house, the weather has been bitterly cold, all the animals are using me as a heating pad.

coldRuby

I’ve felt alone and have been missing my family, and have even felt some melancholy and existential angst about the passage of time as well as knowing that I am preparing to be away in India for several weeks – which always makes me feel as if I’m in outer space – as far away from familiar as I can get.

tipi

But what’s different these last few days is that I’m sitting in stillness (usually with at least one animal on top of me) and lighting candles, painting, creating beauty and warmth, and saying out loud “I’m lonely” and really feeling it.  Letting myself go there.  I’m sharing it with others without (and this is big, and new) hoping somebody (ok, Andy) will make it better.  And guess what?  Big surprise.  It’s passing!  Not only is it passing, it’s kind of welcome.  In a  poignant way.  Like shedding a tear for a beloved grandparent – so sweet to remember their face, and sad to miss their embrace, but heart-opening to connect to that loving memory.  This moment of loneliness connects me to my heart.  I long for my husband and connect to the love I have for him.  I notice the beauty of the falling snow.  I’m present and aware that this moment is fleeting.  I am grateful to be in my own good company.  I heat soup.  I feed the cats.  I walk the dog.  I feel content.  So simple.  So big.

Early Morning Sunrise
Early Morning Sunrise

There is a loneliness more precious than life. There is a freedom more precious than the world. Infinitely more precious than life and the world is that moment when one is alone with God.  – Rumi

Chakra Series – 5th Chakra

Throat Chakra - taken by my son
Throat Chakra – taken by my son

Vishuddha – Throat Chakra – Sound, Creative identity, (self-expression)

This is the chakra located at the throat and is related to communication and creativity.  When open, you are free to speak your mind, express yourself fluently, and feel as if you have a right to your voice.  I’ve been hesitant to write about the 5th chakra because I’ve been in a funky place of self-doubt, insecurity, and writer’s block.  The antithesis of a flowing 5th chakra.  But then I realized, I was waiting until I had something “good” to write, instead of just sharing what is living in my heart and speaking my mind.  That I can do.

This is the time of year I always, always begin my descent down into the underworld, to shed my layers and hang on Inanna’s meat hook.  I feel like my insides are exposed and I get protective, isolated.  Something about the holidays and my birthday approaching.  And an internal wisdom to hibernate and go within that bumps up against our society’s demand that we Celebrate!  with a capital ‘C’.

Yesterday was the Day of the Dead.  The veils are thin at this time of year.  I feel it.  The clocks have turned back this morning, and while I write this, the sky is putting on a show for me;  rose pink, lavender gray and pale orange behind inky trees.

November Sky
November Sky

Where does the time go?  I spent Halloween night quietly, not a lot of trick-or-treaters on our street.  I spoke to Andy, alone on Halloween just like me, in another state.  We texted each other using emoji’s = Modern Love.  We were walking down memory lane about past Halloweens with our kids.  I was looking at old pictures of parties we used to have.  I was feeling melancholy looking at the small fresh faces in all the photographs, dressed in their costumes.  Pirate cheerleader, angel, ghost.  “I know, those days are gone forever” texts my husband.  “Thanks for cheering me up!” I text and include a gun emoji pointed at my head.  (my sense of humor)

I had one tiny little girl who stared at me with wide eyes and, when prompted by her parents, whispered a hushed “twick or tweat”.  My heart ached with the purity of that age – her family’s future spreading out before them in an amalgam of hopes and dreams.  I’ve aged.  I’ve become cynical.  My heart is broken.  This is the first Halloween ever that I haven’t spoken to my daughter.  I can’t.  She’s not here.  She’s in a therapeutic boarding school.  This is our life right now.

Gazing upon my trick-or-treater’s face, I felt like Scrooge looking down on Tiny Tim and felt my heart crack with her innocence.  I ran upstairs and got my daughter’s fancy tea set all packed away in a wicker basket (I remember when I bought it at a fancy toy store in town that has since closed) and handed it to the girl’s mom.  “Enjoy it, use it” I said.  One more childhood token removed from the house.

It feels cliche for me to write about the “cycle of life” but it always comes up for me at this time of year:  birth, death, dreams, heart-ache, babies, teenagers, the truly egregious wounds that family can and does inflict, Spring, Fall, candycorn, rotting pumpkins, plump cheek, wrinkles, baby, crone, dropouts, honor roll, fresh air, meds, the redemptive power of LOVE in family = it all swirls inside my brain and my heart and collects in an aching lump, in my throat.  Glad I got it down in words today.

Chakra Series – 4th Chakra

4th Chakra activated
4th Chakra activated

Anahata (Sanskrit: अनाहत, Anāhata) the heart center – this chakra allows us to love deeply, feel compassion, and access a sense of peace and connectedness.

There is much yearning for me to live in the heart center.  If you notice, it’s right in the center of the 7 chakras.  I draw upon the energy from the lower chakras and pull down the energy from the upper chakras and they all meet in the 4th to generate a warm loving pulse, a strong drum beat that I walk to.  Not all the time, but as much as I can manage.  It is my life practice to keep the heart chakra open.

“Love is what we are; we don’t get it from somebody, we can’t give it to anybody, we can’t fall in it or fall out of it. Love is our true Being.”  Krishna Das

This post has taken me longer to write than the others in the series because I want to do it justice.  Like describing a lover’s face to somebody else, I don’t want to leave anything out, get it just right.  And in the realization of that, I can let go and do my best, it’s just ego setting out its trip wire.

Once, when I was a pre-school teacher, one of my favorite 4 year old girls threw her arms around me and said “I love you so much, I wish I could kiss you on the lips!” and I received the pure uncensored abandon of her love.  What my 4 year old girl wants to say about the 4th chakra is: “I am in love with this chakra, with this life, with YOU, with ME and I wish I could write a thousand love poems for the heart!”  I wish I could throw my arms around the world and dissolve into one million points of light and ecstatically merge with All.  (Maybe that’s what death is like…I hope so.)

This full moon time, I’ve been praying to take the “next step” in my work life, the next step on the path of meaning and service.  I pray to be of service in the world, in the areas of death & dying, grief healing, suicide loss, threshold passages, sacred sexuality, body awareness/appreciation – you know, just the usual stuff.  And ALL of it under the umbrella of sharing from the heart, with each and every encounter, seeing others through eyes of love.

“Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.”  -Rumi.

So how to do that?  Stay in love with the world on a daily basis…not always easy.  Especially driving around Boulder at 5pm.  My god I am challenged!  I am humbled by how quickly I can get knocked off center.  My blueprint for living these days is my beloved book:  The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer.  In it, he speaks about how the heart center is an energy center and this energy (Chi, Shakti, Spirit) is unlimited and it’s our birthright.  It’s our birthright!  We store pain in the heart center and in order to be truly FREE, we need to commit to a practice of feeling our pain and releasing it, witnessing it as energy, nothing more/less, and allowing it to pass.  This enables us to stay in our heart and not close it off anytime we think we might feel something painful.  Living in fear of feeling something  that hasn’t happened yet isn’t freedom.  Singer says:  “The only thing you have to know is that opening (the heart) allows energy in, and closing blocks it out.”  The good news is that I am presented with mulitiple opportunties a day to stop, breathe and relax my heart and open it again.  Which is why it is my most active, ongoing practice and it has immediate, amazing results.  My life is changing before my eyes.

 

Lotus Mudra (for an open heart)
Lotus Mudra (for an open heart)

“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.

There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.

You feel it, don’t you?”

― Rumi

Chakra Series – 3rd Chakra

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Warrior One – Kirsten Boyer Photography

 

There is a force within that gives you life – Seek that.

In your body there lies a priceless jewel – Seek that.

Oh, Wandering Sufi, if you are in search of the greatest treasure, don’t look outside, Look within, and seek That.    -Rumi

There is a warrior quality to the third chakra.   In this yoga posture – Warrior One – I am  Grounded, rooted (first chakra),  my second chakra supplies chi to my third.  Straight back, open heart, arms stretching in each direction, fingers pointing the way, eyes looking right over the hands, merging Will with Vision = I See.  Throat open, Third Eye looking in the same direction as the right hand,  head erect, connected to source.  POWER!

This chakra is known as the power chakra, and is located in the solar plexus.  It rules our personal power, will and autonomy, as well as our metabolism.  When open, this chakra brings us energy, effectiveness, spontaneity, and non-dominating power.  A healthy sense of self-esteem and identity are associated with a freely flowing solar plexus chakra.

I have a strong life-force; I think it and then I do it.  In the past, I haven’t always been so graceful.  My will.  My way.  The third chakra is governed by fire.  I have a lot of fire in my chart and I have burned people in the past with my words and my actions.  A truth seeker by nature, I took pride in my “swords of truth” not really noticing the bleeding bodies left in my wake.

Over the past several years, I have softened and matured.  Life has tempered me – sometimes mercilessly.  Nothing like going from the white hot flames to the ice cold bucket of water repeatedly.  I surrender!  I’ve become much gentler in my delivery.  I’ve learned the value (the life path really) of vulnerability and connecting my heart to my actions.  And like the sword, I’ve sharpened to a beautiful blade – I’ve learned when to apply force with a gentle pressure, and I also know when to cut through the bullshit.   I embody warrior strength with intention and temper it with a gentle heart.  I strive to marry my will with Divine will, so that I may be of service in all ways.

I honor myself.  I offer my light and service to the world.  I give light to all chakra centers above and below.  I am the bright Sun.  I am the light force made manifest.  -Isha Lerner from the Triple Goddess Tarot

Chakra Series – 2nd Chakra

Beach BlissAnd forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  – Kahlil Gibran

The second chakra is about pleasure, sensuality, touch, sexuality, creativity, fire, passion, life.   Its essence is water.  When open, there is an openeess to intimacy, an ability to express oneself freely, and a level of comfort with one’s sexuality.

When I was 25, living in the Midwest, I knew I was ready for a change.  I wanted to move west and applied to several colleges in WA, OR and CA.  I flew out to Eugene for a school visit and then drove down the coast of Oregon with a friend and landed in the Bay Area.  We stayed with some friends of hers in Berkeley in a communal household that seemed like the “overground” railroad stop for dead-heads and free spirits.  Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore.  The beauty of the Berkeley hills, the smell of jasmine in the air, the bountiful potlucks and the constant stream of colorful people coming in and out of the house awakened my yearning for life, like a hibernating bear smelling the winds of Spring.

One day we drove to “Red Rocks”, a nude beach just south of Stinson.  It was my first nude beach. We parked on a cliff and hiked our way down.  Far below, I could make out tiny brown people playing Ultimate frisbee (naked!) in the sparkling surf.  A few hours later, I was splashing in the waves, feeling the water on my bare skin and throwing a disc, leaping and jumping with abandon.  I felt like I was “home” and free in a way I had never experienced before.  I was sold.  I flew back to Illinois, packed up my car, grabbed my cat and drove back to Berkeley to the purple house on Oregon Street to begin my new life in CA.

That was 24 years ago.

Along the way, there has been plenty of “life” to fill in those 24 years.  College, Grad School, work, lovers, marriage, children, divorce, re-marriage,  friendships, yoga teacher trainings, ceremonial arts training, Reiki training, hospice training, work, travel.  Somewhere in all of that living, I think I lost sight of that free-spirit that is my nature.  One day, sitting in a women’s circle, the facilitator asked “If you were to die today, would you feel like you had reached your fullest sexual potential?”  I was shocked at how fast my mind screamed “NO!”

It’s virtually impossible to be a woman in this society and not have experienced unwanted sexual energy/attention at best, and sexual abuse at worst.  At 13, I was my full height (5’9″) and looked much older than I was. I attracted male attention and had no idea what to do with it,  I became overwhelmed and shut down.  I also had an aura of shame about this attention, as if somehow I had done something to make these men think they could speak to me inappropirately or touch me intimately.  I was confused and scared.  A part of me – my second chakra – closed down.    “The second chakra is water ruled.  Water holds emotional memories of past hurts and sexual abuse.  Deep healing is possible through this sacred vortex.  With great love and care it is possible to reclaim one’s eternal innocence and purity.”  (from the Triple Goddess Tarot)

This year, 2014, has been the year of consciously reclaiming my “eternal innocence.”   I am rediscovering my true nature; which is a sensual, creative, free-spirited being. As I near 50, I  ask myself, “If not now, when?”  This is my one good life in this body and I want to make it memorable and potent!   On the winter solstice last year, I set an intention to do the Level 1 training at the Human Awareness Institute.  The Level 1 workshop is titled “Love is a Miracle” and focuses on opening the heart, accepting and loving your body, and experienicng love and trust with others, among other things.  When I looked at their website, all I saw was “Love, Intimacy and Sexuality Workshops” and it was an edgy step for me to sign up to do this weekend – solo!  I can’t speak highly enough of the caliber of facilitation, the sweetness of the participants and the potency of the exercises I was lead through over the course of the weekend.  The other men and women who were in the training were sweet, courageous, gorgeous souls that I connected with deeply.  It was life changing for me.  Deep bow to my husband for letting this butterfly fly free and be there to greet me upon my return.  I know he is feeling the benefits of my deeper love and kinder heart.  I’m in love with the world right now, and it feels amazing!

Yesterday, in Santa Cruz, I went to the nude beach and met up with some friends.  We played frisbee in the sparkling surf and I felt alive and embodied – sprinting across the sand, leaping in the air to catch the disc, diving in the waves.  There were moments of pure joy of movement where the appreciation for my body bubbled up within and I laughed outloud.  I felt ageless, beautiful and sexy.  I thought to myself…”If I die tomorrow, I hope my friends remember me just like this.”  This is my essence, my second chakra spinning freely, an orange disc.  Afire with Shakti, sensual goddess, my passion for life dripping off of each strand of hair, empowered with Light and Creativity.

May all things move and be moved in me and know and be known in me.  May all creation dance for joy within me.  -Chinook Psalter

 

Chakra Series – 1st Chakra

This is my first post since May – I don’t even know how that could have happened, but in part, it’s due to writer’s block, which happened the day I signed up for a writer’s workshop in Esalen next July.  Another reason I haven’t written is that I have been on a summer vacation at the beach.  This summer I needed to relax and restore myself.  I wrote myself a perscription, this is what it said:  Have Fun.  And that’s what I did.  I went to yoga, rode my bike, ate good food, swam, paddled, played, parented, visited with friends and family, made new friends.  I went for a lot of walks with Andy and Ruby (my dog) and slowly, slowly, my nerves thickened, and my muscles toned and my heart started to reconnect itself.

My daughter hasn’t lived at home since April 23 (who’s counting?) I miss her terribly.  Even to write this I can feel the sting of tears behind my eye lids.  She’s away, receiving support, getting better.  We are here, receiving help, getting better.  I guess I haven’t felt much like writing since she’s been gone.  Grief is a parasitic creature, living off of my creative resources.  I’ve been in an intimate relationship with Grief this year, and I’ve danced all the steps – from disbelief, anger, resentment, refusal to despair, collapse, surrender.  Grief brought her gifts ridiculously early, on the very first day of Lili leaving, I was able to see them.  I continue to be touched by the kindness of others, the compassion of mothers, the love of my children.  But it still hurts – in an open-mouthed “O” of shock at times.  Some days I can’t even handle the grocery store because it’s too painful to see somebody who doesn’t know about my life, or does know and asks me about it.

For me, the first chakra, the root, is about being grounded.  It’s my sense of place in the world and what makes me feel the safest and most secure.  It’s my energetic “home base” and my connection to the earth.  When my first chakra is open I feel a sense of well-being and peace.  It reminds me of a song my Grandmother used to sing to me:

The year’s at the Spring, the day’s at the morn, morning’s at 7, the hillside’s dew pearled.  The lark on the wing, the snail on the thorn, God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

This is a photo from 2 summers ago, we were all together in Santa Cruz.  This is my first chakra picture.  In the picture, I’m happy being a mama, I’m smiling at my husband, the kids are clamoring around me, and my world is complete.

These days, I feel like an amputee – learning to live without a limb, something’s missing, someone’s missing.  And I trust the universe.  I trust my girl’s path.  I trust mine.  (most of the time)  I’m standing on this earth, feet planted, my lioness heart pounding in my chest.

 

 

 

Kindness Matters

compassion

On Sunday, as I was going through security at DIA,  I saw a TSA agent help an elderly man who was struggling with his backpack.  It was a busy morning and people were rushing to empty their bins and put their shoes back on, and the man was trying to quickly exit the security area but his backpack strap was tangled and he couldn’t get his arm through.  The TSA agent reached over and lifted up the pack so that there was more room to maneuver and the man  was able to put his pack on.  Tears stung my eyes at this simple act of kindness between strangers.

Last week I sat vigil with a man who was dying.  I do this as often as I can, but what was different about this time was that he was conscious.  Not just awake but aware.  This was a first for me. It’s one thing to walk in as a complete stranger and sit with a person who is dying when they’re unconscious, but to walk in to somebody’s room when they’re alive and present seems presumptious at best and intrusive at worst.  In that moment I had to push ego aside (“Will I be good enough?”, “What do I have to offer?”, “Who am I to be here?”) and say a prayer to be of service.  To say he was gracious would be an understatment.  Welcoming me into his journey, his transition, with a smile and a whispered “hello”, it was his kindness that allowed me to access my highest self and connect on a soul level for a brief period.  We prayed together, I stroked his magnificent head and laid my hand on his heart.  To love freely, without any thought of past or future, is to truly be present and timeless.  The gift was all mine.

I looked up the definition of compassion and learned that it translates as “suffering together.”  And it’s not just about suffering – when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.  Compassion generates more compassion.  Beautiful.

Yesterday I shared a burden with a friend and she cried for me as I could not.   I was numb and all cried out.  Even though my heart was heavy, seeing the kindness, the compassion, in her eyes, gave me a sense of peace and I felt lighter, less alone.

“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion. ”  

-Dalai Lama