Me and My Brother

An open letter to my friends:

I just spent a week with my brother.  Gregg is 70 and has lived with a PKD (Parkinson’s Disease) diagnosis since he was 45.  He has been on PKD meds for 25 years, had a “brain stimulator” procedure which failed to produce the desired relief of his symptoms… and YET, he still golfs, lawn bowls, paints, boxes, does yoga, sings in a choir, weight lifts and does a PKD stretch class.  He jogs, dances, does tai chi, writes music, sings karaoke (we sing duets), plays the guitar, plays cards & games, rides a bike, cooks, drives a golf cart and knows the value of a massage.  He can make a great smoothie and makes me laugh a lot.
He manages his finances, fixes things that break, and offers help wherever he sees a need, including organizing support groups for people with PKD.
My sister-in-law, Jo, has been in my family since I was 20.  I love and respect her for being Gregg’s constant companion and support for so many years.
I am 66.  Gregg was 3 when I was born  and has been my steady, solid friend all of my life.
I have rarely heard Gregg speak in the negative about anything.
Depression is a part of his disease for over 60% of those diagnosed.
He told me, that when he learned his brain stimulator was a failure, he got depressed.
He says, “I let myself have a pity-party for a couple of hours, and then I said, OK, enough of that.  Let’s get moving.”
If ever I start to feel down about my life, all I have to do is spend time with Gregg and everything gains perspective.  He inspires me with his willingness to be vulnerable… all the time.  With him I realize that life is what I make of it.
What do I perceive? How many layers can I peel off to experience the essence of life?
Everything is moving energy.  Can I relax my gaze, relax my body, relax my mind?
Can I  rest back…behind the parade of thoughts that is passing through the field of my mind?
In this relaxed state of perception, I see life with no clothes on.
“Naked Life”, is the experience of my primordial state, pre-domestication.
“You wild-animal, you!”
In this state-of-mind dwells my “true nature,” and it will always choose the efficient “path of least resistance.”  Gregg has shown me that this choice is not related to the conditions or external circumstances of my life.  It has everything to do with how well I am able to choose my thoughts (or even better!  Simply watch the parade go by…) rather than be a slave to my “thought-processor.”
My brain, the “think-tank” of my mental body, is programmed to run on auto-pilot.  The program produces rationalizing thoughts to neutralize the “events” of my present experience that are  creating a “disruption” in my nervous system/state of equilibrium.  This “disruption” can be good or bad.  The mind doesn’t judge it, it just wants to bring things back to balance.  Too high, bring it down.  Too low, bring it up.   Using data gleaned from my life-history recording, it’s purpose is to try and make me think I am balanced, equalized… okay…It wants to hear me say, I’m in a homeostatic state.  The truth is, I already am okay.  I was okay and I’ll always be okay, with or without the mind’s constant balancing act.
My body works very much the same way on it’s physical level.   My body’s immune system continuously meets whatever is coming into my field to neutralize it and try and keep my body in homeostasis.   My body uses it’s immune system cells while my mind uses thoughts.  The body uses the physical system’s cells of  the immune system, and the mind uses the mental/emotional system’s thoughts. 
What I am practicing, and I invite each of you to try it if you haven’t already, is to rest back behind my constant thread of thoughts.  As I rest back and observe my thoughts like a parade going down the street (it used to be a ticker-tape, then a computer screen,  but I needed to slow it down, so I made it a parade, you know, like the speed of walking horses and kids.) I relax and watch the parade of thoughts go by and when one catches my eye and tries to lure me in, I notice it and I say,“Thank-you, but, no thank-you.  I’m just great and I don’t need your help.”
With the mind ignored, the body does what it’s programmed to do… innately.  You don’t have to think to breathe, pee, eat, have sex and sleep…sounds like retirement to me!!
The thing I love best about myself is the way I joke with my own process.  I truly do not believe my own bullshit!  Eliciting a laugh is the best possible use of a thought!  Right?
So I say, “Right on, my Fellow “Feel So Much It Makes Me Crazy but THERE IS NO BETTER WAY TO LIVE!”
You are my peeps!
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Lessons From a Leaf

falling leaf

I am getting ready to launch the website for Mountain Valley Retreat. Building the retreat has been a significant endeavor for the past year and for the last few weeks I have been creating the website with the help of my friend, Brad Lucas. Every day this week I have lost myself in writing the text and finding the pictures to try to convey the heart and soul of the retreat we are building.  I sit at my laptop when the sun comes up and close the lid after dark.

Today, I received an email from my dear friend Pat Tuholske. I read her beautiful words that speak so poignantly of trust and change and tears well in my eyes.                                    “If you were a leaf on a tree, would you be the first to cast off in the late summer breezes or the last one to cling on stubbornly until bitter winter winds force you to let go?”                                          I feel myself longing for something unnamed.

Lessons From a Leaf
Watching fluttering leaves fall fills me with a contradiction of feelings. I get the slight sadness that summer is over yet the thrill of witnessing the wonder of the alchemy occurring within the leaf. Observing the transmuting cycle of spring’s leaf buds bursting with new life, summer’s fullness converting sun into food, autumn’s grace of falling colors, winter’s patience trusting the cycle.

Have you ever seen a single leaf twirling from the tip of a limb when no other leaves are moving and there is barely a breeze? When I see that leaf I feel the tree speaking to me in a language long forgotten by humans. This tree language shouts in falling curtains of color: let go, trust, fall, don’t fear, change.

Connected to the tree for the entire growing season, the leaf possesses the wisdom of release. Falling to earth, caressed by the wind, it is able to express its own inner timing. Performing its final dance with the air, the leaf gives itself to the soil.

If you were a leaf on a tree, would you be the first to cast off in the late summer breezes or the last one to cling on stubbornly until bitter winter winds force you to let go?

When I feel stuck on something, I follow the teachings of the falling leaf. If I feel an issue tugging at me, I go watch the falling leaves. It helps me to let go of the struggle and understand falling is not a failure but a surrender to the cycle of change.
Pat Tuholske
This entry was posted in Ozark Flora and Fauna, The Human-Nature Journey on October 14, 2013.
http://pattuholske.com/uncategorized/lessons-from-a-leaf/

Over the Threshold

Tipis outside the Buffalo Bill Historical Cent...

Tipis outside the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming

As I sit at my workstation poised for my morning writing session, I review my notes on Ganesha from the first session of Writing Your Practice. I am searching for an inspiration. I read what Susanna spoke about the Ganesh concepts: “You have everything you need, create from your own resources. Move through the thresholds that present themselves. Embrace Change.”
I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Tipis are a part of my heritage. Indian blood flows through the veins of my personal lineage, if not my mothers or fathers of this lifetime. The evidence of this has surfaced repeatedly throughout my life and I embrace this part of who I am.
When I considered how to house the seminarians who would be coming to Mountain Valley Retreat, tipis seemed like the perfect solution. I purchased three 20’ canvas tipis. As the retreat took form, I “saw” where the tipis would sit and I realized that in the east we would erect the “men’s lodge.” In the west would be the “women’s lodge” and in the center of the property, the “children’s lodge.” These directional placements align with the corresponding positions on the Native American medicine wheel.
The artwork of tipis has always fascinated me. Native people used the tipi hide to tell their personal stories. The designs of the tipis were the province of the women in the tribe. Dreams often inspired the paintings as well as personal power animals and significant exploits and experiences. Medicine shields and elemental allies would also find their way to the canvas of the tipi.
As I dreamed about the tipis I was putting on our sacred ground, I felt a responsibility to respect the lineage of this ancient art form. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the canvas I had before me, let alone the task of designing and painting the murals. I decided to begin with the women’s lodge…I had to start somewhere.
I made calls to try and locate a “real” artist to commission or at least assist me as I felt unequal to the task at hand.  I also noticed there was a resistance to bringing in outside help.  I kept moving forward, doing what I could to prepare. I read books and looked at tipi art. I watched for tipis when I traveled. I looked through paint color pallets and chose colors I was drawn to. I thought about what I wanted to represent on the women’s lodge. I asked for dreams of inspiration and they came.
I got my boyfriend to help me carry one of the tipis into our newly constructed yurt, a 30’ diameter, 706 square foot round structure that is our large meeting space. Laid out on the floor, the tipi has to be folded in HALF to fit inside the yurt. Holy shit! This really IS a huge canvas! For two weeks it lay there as I looked at it and wondered what to do next. I called my friend Star and she came and looked at it with me. I told her what I dreamed it would look like and we spent a day searching the internet for images and making sketches. She made some full scale sketches and I planned to have her help me with some of the actual painting.
As I stood looking at the canvas one evening I thought to myself, “I have ten people coming for Thanksgiving. I need places for them to sleep. I can’t keep looking at this blank canvas…it is time.” I went out early the next morning with tools in hand and penciled in the phases of the moon around the top. With a brilliant blue I filled in the back ground sky. It went much quicker and easier than I had feared.  It was beautiful!  The ice was broken.
I knew I wanted to represent our land around the base with earth colors and rather than a brush I used a sponge to get a three-dimensional effect of the mountains. It worked and the sponge method was much faster than the one-inch brush I had used on the moons.
I was undecided as to whether to fill in the night sky above the moons but the sponge worked so well I decided to put a North Star above the full moon and  fill the rest with a field of stars on blue.  I ran out of blue paint just as I finished. I love validation!
The “easy” part done, what remained were the drawings of two red-tailed hawks, a medicine woman, a wolf, a raven and some large pine trees.  No more sponge painting…
Last night I sat on the canvas with several drawings around me and began sketching a hawk. When I finished, I realized that I am the artist I was seeking. I can do this. I am doing this. I have walked up to a threshold, met my fears and stepped through to the other side. Today I will paint the red-tailed hawk, messenger from the gods.tipi moons and north star

Paralyzed

Have you ever awakened and felt paralyzed? If you have, you will understand what happened to me this morning. I awoke at six and felt I could not move…I went back to sleep and awoke again about fifteen minutes later. Awake, but with a body that felt like lead, the effort it would take to move myself was more than I could muster, so I dozed off again for a few minutes. The third time I gained consciousness, I looked to the clock beside the bed…it was now almost seven…still heaviness in my body and enough awareness to lie there and ponder the situation. Was I really paralyzed? Could I not move regardless of my effort? I felt no pain, only a dull heaviness in my limbs that called to me to return to sleep. I thought about my night. I had fallen asleep at a moderate hour, around eleven, and slept through the night without awakening. I had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner… unusual but not something that has ever affected me this way. My head felt clear, only my body had a feeling of dullness. Could this be a reluctance to meet my day?

I have a yoga student on Sunday mornings whom I adore. She appreciates what she is learning and relishes the opportunity to begin her week with a journey into her peaceful inner space and treat her body to the luxurious stretches of yin yoga and blood moving sun salutations. I look forward to our class every week.

I have a conference call later with my Kindred Spirits, my inner circle of friends who live far and wide but gather for a group phone call once a month and have a reunion once a year. Our calls are always a delight to my day.

This afternoon I am going to visit a dear, young friend. She is facing the challenge of her life. She has been diagnosed with stage-four cancer and the medical community has issued her a death sentence. With the same style, grace and compassion she has lived her life, she continues to meet each day. She is my greatest teacher and I am humbled in her presence. My desire to help her in some way moves me to tears for my feelings of helplessness. Perhaps it is my feelings of helplessness that paralyzed me this morning. What can I do to ease her pain? Who am I in the face of these tumors that grow in her body, robbing her of an active life, stealing their mother from her children, threatening to leave her friends and family feeling lost without her sweet, patient presence?

For twenty years I have been listening to bodies. As a CranioSacral Therapist that is what I do. I listen to the tissue and respond to what I hear. Today I will place my hands on my friend’s body and listen. I have fear around what I will hear. I believe it is this fear that triggered the feeling of paralysis this morning even though I had no conscious thoughts of her in those first moments of awakening. As I have sat with this, pausing during my writing to spend an hour in meditation, this is the conclusion I have come to.

So now I will meet my fear and go to her with all that I have and all that I am. I will let go of my expectations, my judgments and my agendas and simply meet her where she is. I will listen with an open heart and respond with kindness. I will be with her as fully present and compassionate as she. I will love her, as best I can. That is all there is to do. She is in God’s hands and I must trust in the wisdom of her soul.

If I Were Brave…

sun and treeIf I were brave like you, my friend,
What would I do this day?
With your courage and conviction,
From my path, I would not stray.

If I were brave I wouldn’t listen
To the ones who say “You’ll fail!”
I would sail my ship across the sea.
I would walk the longest trail.

If I were brave my heart would rule
With guidance from my mind.
I would not hear the voice of fear
That keeps my hopes confined.

I would climb the rocks that block my path
I would ford the raging stream
No hindrance would dissuade me
From fulfilling my great dream.

Courage is the choice I’d make
To keep me strong and straight.
If I were brave, I‘d make my move.
I would not hesitate.

If I were brave I could not fail
The challenges I’d face.
No matter the endeavor
I’d always win the race.moon on water

You show me what real courage is.
To ride the lifelong wave.
From you I learn that love is bold
For you I may be brave.