Category Archives: Miracles of Life & Death

5. Rebirth: The Wolf In Me Rises

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend about my identification with the Wolf,  as in Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Phd – My sense of adventure, my wild spirit and maternal protection of those I love… but the wolf  is also about life and death (being misunderstood), transcendence, and rebirth: the ability to “see again”.  In the natural world, life and death is the natural rhythm of “life” – one in the same in a cycle that never ends, even when it seems to. There is prey and predator, competition and loyalty to the pack; alliances between animal kingdoms, gifts and betrayals. Some sense of justice ensues.  Even the giving of a life, willingly, like a bird falling from the sky before its prey, or the raven signalling a wolf of its next game; these too can signal an underlying sense of cooperation, balance and renewal.

In “Mutant Message from Down Under”, author Marl Morgan journeys unwittingly with the aborigines to her own wild nature, her birthright as human. Though wild, though mixed with death and mutilation (her skin burned by the sun in many layers, the soles of her feet replaced with new skin like a snake), she sees the light in her quest, the smiles of her silent gatekeepers to the “underlife” (my word), the underbelly of the world. They teach her that things are not what they seem. Even what appears to die or be sacrificed, is just a part of the cycles we keep.

Where is our wild nature to go in a world ordered by what we perceive as warring nations, battles between life and death, good and evil?  Where do we fit in when we feel at the mercy of a world that seems at odds with its inhabitants?

We can learn a lot from nature. I know I could. I spend a lot of time in my backyard, on walks, on mini-adventures; and when I am out in the desert, or by the coast, I breathe in all that is different and mine.  My wild nature calls me to the road, to the dirt, to the sand. The heat grounds me, makes me sane, the wind blows me awake. My animal nature rises. Like the wolf, it can be suppressed, misunderstood, abandoned. But it will return.

In Del Mar, Carlos & Claudia taught me a lot about their people and rhythms. Claudia beat a drum and sang the tribal rhythms of the sea; a rich heritage from the deepest places. I felt lucky listening to her under a near full moon.

Tonight the moon is full again. And the Wolf in me howls with great clarity, great insight, great beaming pride. It is not a dangerous place to be. As with life and death, there is more than one way to see.

Tonight I howl at the moon and pray. I call my brothers to me. I laugh, frolic and play. I write. I pass the “peace pipe” (or a bottle of wine).  I stand on the grass, wet with dew and wave my hands over the pool. The night shimmers clear, the rhythm bright. There is nothing to do. The song is sung, the band has played. We huddle into the castle we made. Tomorrow there is much to do.

In this in between state, as we balance between the world we see, and the world we feel underneath our feet or through the stars, we clasp our brilliant nature, our wisest selves, our wild callings, our connectedness. The Wolf is only a symbol of this, though real; a totem to another life, an adventure, a way of calling the world into being. Not to be clichéd as an image of danger, but to be embraced as possible and purposeful, righteous behavior, balanced with attentiveness; the discipline we need to know ourselves, to give ourselves completely. To shine a light.

There is hope. There is clarity. And countless howls of possibility. And there is the den to return to when we need a rest until we are called again to rise to the great frontier of our better spirits.

P.S. I have discovered that my old way of seeing myself artistically as a “lone wolf” has changed: I am definitely a pack animal!

I'm the one smiling 🙂

P.P.S. My daughter just passed me a bag wrapped up that her father told her to give to me.  I unwrapped the bag. There were two bottles of wine, one white, one red. The white, which I rarely drink, is from South Australia. The name? WOLF BLASS!!

Happy Full Moon!  AAAAAROOOOOOOOOWH!

4. Resting in the Universe

 

Yesterday, as I lay on my chaise lounge outside under the grand maple tree, the only word that came to me was

“Mmmmm….”

I did not feel it through my body, as a yogi does, but I felt it through my mind, through my pores, through the trees. I felt nothing but the breeze, and my own breath on my hand.

There  is a silence so deep, that even while the torrent speaks, the breath is silently gumming the words peace. There is no word there. There is just the delicious smell of existence. Of water. Of poetry. Of united. Basking in the glow. There is no tomorrow. Nothing to shed. Nowhere to go.

Sheltered in the trees, in the breeze, I wondered if my life were too easy. Why am I not in a war-torn country? Why am I not speaking to millions on TV? Why am I just laying here soaking up the rays and quietly counting the days, the words I sing to you…

Because I have to. Nothing else matters right  now. Nothing else sings to me but my own song of patience and self-sacrifice. When I say sacrifice I mean it in the most spiritual sense. Nothing real is forsaken. Nothing is lost. Only the ego, which I cling to still, for solidarity, speaks to me and asks to “check-in.”

There is a softness now that never was before.  The sharp edges of existence, the need to have, to want, to make happen, have disappeared. When they revisit me, they are on a mission –  not from my ego – but from God.  Never have I felt so naked as now, bearing my soul to you. Telling the truth, even as I know it, discover it, express it, find it. It is You. I am bonded to the word: I Am.  Someone said that to me today, M-, and I laughed. I discovered her smile and her laugh, her faith in me. I understood. There is imminent silence in our shaking of hands, in the colours and light, the attitude.  A softness, a gathering, a united feeling. A warming of hands, a sparkling of eyes.

It is as if the softness and colours of the trees visit me, even as I sit in another place, on a porch swing, in a sanctuary space, in a crowd of onlookers, or when I am asked to speak. A Presence follows me, a calm and natural feeling. I am safe. There is no hesitance in my speech. I am safe. There is no precedent for it. Nothing to profit by. I am just being myself.

Mmmmm……

That is all I feel now.  A soft inner understanding, a great patience and rest. The rest is safe. It can wait. For me, for Him, for whatever moves through me. It will come. “I” no longer matter. My ego pretends it matters a great deal. But I know differently. No clocks tick my impatience awake. Even as I sit tonight, late, I am soft, I am loose, my belly curved. My eyes soft on the “page”. It is night. It is day. Whatever time it is, I am safe. I am at play.

I hardly know what to dedicate this to anymore. There is a harmony, a blending; I am surrounded by people, new voices, questions, supplications, invitations. I hardly know what to say. Except –

Mmmmmmm…… and just breathe it all in.

Yes, it is good. I may protest a bit, but not enough to stop this wind from blowing and dashing my protest to bits, leaving me dangling by the leaf on my  hand.

It’s enough.

It is night. And the soft stars are staring their surprise back at me. The force of all is knowing, spinning, vertical. Lifting us up beyond the trees. The knowing stars are shining, and You, You are too. However you wait, however long. Whatever you do. You are knowing too.

Amen.

3. The Death of the Ego

Inner Light

When we talk about death we often talk about the physical body. But that has been the least of my experience. Yes, I have been through death: death of a mother/father figure, death of an aunt, death of nearly all my grandparents, two dogs and a cat, not to mention the young ones on the periphery, those who I didn’t know well, but touched me still. And those in war-torn countries whom I’ve never met. I feel them all.  But death is not just that.

Death is of the ego*

In my understanding, the ego identifies with the body to separate itself and create a separate identity. It can be special, definitive and alone.  The ego is that part of ourselves that is not aligned with life. With communion. It is the part that sides only with death.

But what if death was something simpler? What if death could be embraced, not as the death of the physical body, but as the ending of a cycle? Or the end of suffering?

Like I discussed on the radio show with Cezarina Trone, death is a daily thing; a constant dance of change.

What if death could be a temporary passage to the beginning of a Life magical?

In my recent talks with women, I have learned the common story of how death wraps itself around us when change is on the horizon. We hide into our selves and think something is wrong with us, that we cannot survive, or that we are alone…

   …but death is nothing, if not a harbinger of change.

The larger part of us, that knows life, that embraces change, whether you call it God, Your Higher Self, or the Miracle, is what pulls us through to that other side of Life. Not just the “light at the end of the tunnel”, the consolatory image so often attributed to the “after-life”, but to the light of Life that exists always within us, right here and now.

Change is difficult, and surrender of the ego is harder. The ego wants us to cling to our old ways, to other people’s visions of us, to the bonds that tie us tightly to one another, to our old identities, and to conflicts  between disparate personalities/groups/countries.

But I have seen another light within me, within all of us, that holds us in balance at the worst possible pronouncement of death calling for us to crumble. No! we say from somewhere inside. NO! I will not pass away, not unto death, but to Life! To Freedom! To the Strength I didn’t know I had.

This death is harder – more contemporary. It is the death of what you once were, your illusions about your self. About what life is for.  And when you let go of that, you do not have death, you have something unchanging and new. A vision that swells and drips with purpose, that comforts you. It grows even as you rest. Even as the rain drips down from the balcony and the heavy curtains seem to close…

I champion those who are willing to go through this curtain;  who have the courage to cling, not to the ego’s grip, but to a new hand, a new day;  who have the courage to peek through the curtain to see the light shining back at them, the happy faces in the front row waiting for them, for You, to Rise.

This is your day. Become the ultimate Scene-Stealer. Bow only to Life.

*based on a study of A Course in Miracles.

Miracles of Life & Death 2: Waiting

Nobody can control life or death. But we can try. We can will certain things into being, just as we can will certain things out. But we can’t control everything. Like timing.

I remember planning for my daughter’s birth. I had planned and envisioned many things, wrote them down. I had dreamed of a new way of giving birth:  I wanted to give birth at home, with midwives, and I even thought I may want a water birth (though I wasn’t sure).  My son was born in a hospital the usual way. I was young and inexperienced, and it was the right way for me at the time. He was healthy and strong, and all was well. This time, I wanted the freedom of roaming my own gardens, relaxing by the big maple tree outside, being with the dogs and family, and just being at peace with everything.

I got exactly what I wanted. Except the time. As most pregnant women who are in a hurry to get to the finish line, I waited and waited. I wrote down braxton hicks contractions. I formulated charts to predict when this baby was coming. I imagined the date it would happen and wrote it in my calendar.  I had it all figured out. Except this baby was not coming!

The midwives arrived one night when I was sure “this was it”. We gathered in my room and began the procedures. I walked the floor and talked. I soaked. I lounged. I did everything I was supposed to do. Nothing happened. Everybody went home.

The next day I slept in. I lounged by the tree, just as I had imagined. The irises were in full bloom and the dog was sleeping at my knee. I was in full bloom too!  The day went on and the contractions increased. Everybody came back. Everybody waited outside on the deck. My son, who was now 5 was still in school. By 5 o’clock, the grandparents went for a walk to go get him and take him to the park. In that span of 15 minutes, Heather was born. When they returned, they had a granddaughter and sister they had never seen before.

Ironically, she was born June 11, 9 months after 9/11.

The same holds true for death. (I have many stories to tell about this, and I will get to it.) But for now, my grandmother waits in the hospital, counting her days. She is holding out for her own “birthday” so to speak.  She has her ideas, hopes and fears like everyone else.  Others wait by her side counting as well. Hoping she will pull through, or hoping she will go in peace. Whatever she wants, she will get it. Just differently.

I only hope that in the waiting, the miracle of living comes first. And in that  is all time.

Miracles of Life & Death 1: Preparation

Today I am writing because I want to prepare. I want to prepare for my grandmother, who has just announced that she is ready to go and will no longer take her meds. (She is prepared.) And I want to prepare for the radio show which I will be on in about an hour and a half. Copious notes and preparation are my steadfast friends. And then I let go…

Much with life and death, preparation is the key to everything. How do we prepare? As I learned with Actors Exercises for Everybody, you learn to be with yourself first.

You learn to accept your own feelings, dread, fear, mistakes. You learn to sink deeper than you ever have before. You shed a tear. Or two. Or more. You let go. Of the confines of space, of time, of expectation, of wandering. You let go of other people’s opinions, fears, expectations and bothering.  You let go of the voice which tells you that you have to.  You let go of convention – shoulda, woulda and coulda, too.

You learn to be here.

It’s ironic that we have to learn to “be here” while others are choosing to depart. But it’s true. We have a mission to detect. We can’t afford to miss a day on the job. And by that I don’t mean the 9 to 5. I’m taking about the reason we are here. Each person’s reason is different, unique. And each person’s time will be different too.  We have to respect when it’s someone’s time to go.

Part of my learning and preparation has been to enjoy the good stuff while it’s happening. Our last visit to my grandmother was a joy. I brought the kids. We did not dwell on “why” we were there – that she was sick, or weak. Instead, we focused on her joy in seeing my son and daughter; in giving her the opportunity to hear him play his guitar right there in her hospital room; and in allowing the kids some fun at the relative’s playing pool and swimming in the lake (chasing off garter snakes!). A time they will never forget. Along with her.

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How do I learn to “be here”, to prepare?  I take a walk. I take a break. I breathe a little deeper than I’m willing to. I go somewhere. Like California. I come back and re-group. I connect. I ask myself questions and go a little deeper than before. I delight in what I know so far, and I enjoy the journey. I don’t live in the future anymore, or the past.

What I love about death is that it brings everything into focus. What is not important fades, and what is still vital remains. That is all we need to remember, and all we need to go on.

I love my grandmother. I will always cherish her and keep her safe. She has given me so much – stories to tell, mysteries to solve and puzzle over, people to build a bridge with. I will miss her voice. I will miss asking her questions. I will write everything. Nothing will be lost. Not while I live. And, even after that.

P.S. I think I am ready now. There is nothing more to do but wait. And live. And talk. And write. Everything I prepared is there. And then, I let go. To the moment, to whatever lives, whatever asks to be said. Whatever asks to be born.

“Miracles of Life & Death” New Series

I’ll admit: “life sucks.” Sometimes. We can pretend that it doesn’t bother us, work around certain bothersome situations. But there are moments, times, days, even years for some, where it doesn’t seem to get better. That is not how I feel right now. But I’ve been there. I have faced down death in its myriad forms and come back to Life.

This theme was suggested to me after a visit to my grandmother in the hospital last weekend. Some of you know I have been visiting and writing about her a lot lately (see Let Sleeping Lions Lie & Keeper of the Flame).  She is 93. That is no big feat, she’ll tell you  – I’ve had great grandmothers and grandfathers who have lived two or three months shy of 99.  My grandmother believes there is a time appointed for our birth and a time appointed for our death*, and no one can escape this.

*“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  Ecc. 3:1-4

She would also grin and nod to Bettie Davis:

“Getting old ain’t for sissies.”  

Why am I writing about life and death? Because I want to see what I think. That’s write. I learn by hand. For me, writing is an education. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops. I am here to right the truth, not make everybody comfortable.

I also believe this subject touches us all. It’s what lies at the heart of all our thoughts and actions.  We may not know it, but the fear of death drives our behavior and deepest desires.

Learning how to handle it, see it differently, is the true liberator.

I put “Life” before death in the title of this new series because that is the purpose of my blog. Mentioning death does not make me an advocate. Fearing it is what brought me to this new understanding.  Overcoming it is what compelled me to share my story.

Miracles deny death. They evolve us and grow us beyond “the counting game.”

Miracles are the ultimate turn-around.

P.S. I realized later that I reversed the words “right” and “write” twice in the above post. I decided to leave it. Maybe it has some meaning that will come. In the meantime, “Life is Good”. 😉