Aging & Death

The rains finally came today.  A solid 20 minutes of genuine downpour…a “get naked and dance in the rain” downpour.

I am so grateful to the Elementals.  They settled their differences today and found balance.  And so, too, may I find balance.

I’m 68.  I have been moving consciously through layers of armor and patterns of conditioned-response to stress for decades.  But at this moment, what seems significant, is the last decade.

I reverse my timeline and look backwards from July 12, 2018.  

I officially opened the Mountain Valley Retreat in 2014.

Sidebar:  “This is 2018, my fifth year in my new business.  I’m sorting out the bugs and it’s working.  My working edge is clarity about what I want.  I am a Renaissance Woman.  Staying focused on one project at a time isn’t as fun  (read challenging) as juggling several projects at once  Some interests are more lefty, artsy-fartsy and some more righty, rational-mathematical.  I seem to go for the balance.”

  In 2010 my marriage of thirty-seven years ended in divorce.

 

Sidebar:  “We hooked up for the first time in 1968.  I was an 18-year-old freshman at DU and Jim was a 20-year-old junior on a 4-year NCAA basketball scholarship majoring in Economics.  When Jim graduated he moved to Chicago to play at being a banker in the big leagues… riding on the lapping tongues of the jock-sniffing Execs at the First National Bank of Chicago in the loop.  His entry-level position was as a Jr. Trust Officer.  Jim did the leg-work for his boss, Manny, from Kenilworth, Sr. Trust Officer. I transferred to NIU and majored in Education and Psychology.  We got married in 1973.”

In 2007 I left Jim and the farm we had lived on since 1975, 32 years.  I maintained my business, Be Well Now, in Godfrey/Alton.  I moved into a tiny log cabin 10 miles from my farm isolated in an oak forest on a little lake owned by a young couple going through a divorce.  My landlady, Kristy, was getting the house with 100 acres and rented the cabin to me and my cat, Lemur,  for two years.

The story of the preceding fifty-seven years is a blog (read book) for another day.

So, this somehow brings me to my topic, Death & Aging…or Aging & Death.

What, you are asking, is the connection between Aging & Death and the past decade of my life?  I’m aging and so is everyone around me and we all die.  The longer I live, the more Aging and Death become a “thing” for me.  As friends and family die, I’m left wondering the great unanswerable question, “What’s it all about?”

Within my ‘wonderings’ I came upon a thought.  As I age, time appears to be collapsing in on itself.  The clock may say it is six hours later than what feels like a moment ago.  It appears that my mind is staying more and more present.  Without thoughts about the past or the future time is losing its relativity.  Without anything to relate to,  there are no relatives for time?   Without relativity, there is no time!  Only now.

What does this have to do with Aging and Death?  Everything!

Aging depends upon the passage of time.  No time…no aging.

Death is the absence of time…it is timeless.  Therefore, if I am in a timeless space, I am already dead, by definition.  If I am dead, what separates me from life? Just the appearance of this body.

Savasana,  The little death, the chance to die before you die.  This is what my yoga is all for.  For 50 years I’ve known of yoga, practiced yoga, studied yoga, taught yoga…and now?  Perhaps, I am yoga.

Aging and Death?  Nothing but concepts of the mind.  Paper Tigers.  Bring it on!

Agelessness and Life Eternal.  Word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Way of Life

Fran, Gary and Laura have left…bittersweet ending to a wonderful visit. Stubby is going to stay with us while they are off on the adventures of their individual and connected lives. Finding their own way into the unknown future.
It is the exciting and courageous path of the uncertain future that lies ahead for all of us. I believe in the sacred path and I notice that the Way changes. I am now mostly in the slow rooted, Earth Way and but I have had times when my path was in the mysterious flight and deep connection of the Air Way, other times in the sometimes flowing, sometimes crashing and sometimes stillness of the Water Way and yet other times when I was in the fast ignition path of the Fire Way.
No matter the Way. It is all the Tao. To remain centered in the Way is to be in harmony with life. Then the world becomes a paradise. I feel at peace. I then realize that my name and form is provisional. I know that when the institutions lose their function it is time for them to end. I know when to go and when to stop and thereby I avoid danger.
All things end in the Way as all rivers flow to the sea.
Knowing others is knowledge. Knowing myself is wisdom.
Mastering others is strength. Mastering myself is true power.
Because I realize I have enough, I am truly rich.
As I stay in my center, embracing all that is with my whole heart, I will endure forever.
Lessons from the Tao Te Ching by Chery Owens

Air Way Earth Way Fire Way Water Way

Soul Speaks

I am in Sedona assisting Suzanne Scurlock-Durana with Healing From the Core: Release and Renewal for my eighth year in succession.  I return because I am fed by the energy of the Red Rocks of Sedona and it’s spectacular vistas. The brilliant sunshine and sparkling air and water enter my body at a cellular level.  Here I easily connect with the power of the elements of nature and I am nurtured and nourished deep09-IMG_5477ly.  The circle of people who gather for this retreat have a commonality of purpose and understanding that allows for deep connection and bonding quickly.  In this sacred space created by nature and manifested by a network of souls, I step into a field of safety and support. Here I am able to drop into the deepest layers of myself and communicate with my Soul Self.

Yesterday I made that deep connection and allowed Soul to speak to me.  This is what she said.

Soul Speaks:

Release your fear of lack for there is abundance all around you.  Open your eyes wide, be in love with your life and all that you have.  Expect nothing and discover that you have everything.  Begin where you are now.  It is enough.  You are enough.  The time is ripe for openings, new beginnings and growth of all kinds. 

Use what you have on hand.  Look around.  Finish the unfinished without need for anything more to be added.  Allies abound.  You are supported at every turn.  The Universe is conspiring for your success.  Your success, your growth and expansion into the experience of absolute abundance requires the successful growth and expansion of others.  As they succeed, you succeed.  Give of yourself and share all that you have with wild abandon asking for nothing in return.  Withhold nothing in your giving.

Your life of absolute fearlessness, of absolute compassion and giving will create a reality of absolute joy.  Laughter, song and dance will fill each moment of your life and you will dwell in the experience of love eternally.Cathedral Rock

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

The Fountain (Edited)

I am participating in a writing class called Writing Your Practice. One of the prompts is to write from the perspective of an inanimate object, giving it a voice. I read The Fountain and did some edits and ended the piece by giving the Fountain a voice.IMG_4250[1]

I am sitting at my desk, cup of tea steaming, ready for my morning writing session. Looking out the window, the sky is pale blue with the early morning light. I can see the oaks and pine trees. Large rocks grace the hillside surrounded by sage where the property climbs the hill to the fence. In the lower right corner of my view is the patio. In its center sits a fountain. I feel pleasure and gratitude every time I look at it.
I moved from rural St Louis to a small holding 15 miles south-east of Warner Springs, California in April of 2009. In 2010 I took a position as a massage therapist at The Spa at Warner Springs Ranch. The Spa was a horseshoe-shaped design of low adobe buildings around a central stone courtyard. A prominent water fountain, the focal point of the courtyard, drew me in. As I walked with clients through the courtyard from the lobby to and from the treatment rooms, the sound of the falling water was like soothing music to my ears. Two years later, the owners sold the ranch and closed it for renovations.
Out of work and with an hour commute to the closest city, I rested as I considered my options. The vision of a residential retreat center came to my mind. As I explored the vision I “saw” a patio with a beautiful fountain that would attract birds and bring balance to our high desert climate with the addition of a water element. I remembered the fountain from the Spa!
I called my friend Sharon, the owner of the Spa at Warner Ranch. She told me she was selling all of the furnishings from the Spa, including the fountain, and she would love me to have it.
Today, I look out at the fountain with the hummingbirds and finches, stellar jays and acorn woodpeckers bathing and drinking from its endlessly moving water and my heart expands.
The history of this fountain is unknown to me although I know that the ranch opened in 1849 and the Spa was a popular destination to Hollywood stars in the 1920’s.
For me, this fountain holds the energy of the Spa at the Ranch which was my oasis at a time when I needed connection and roots. It represents a place of restoration and a loving group of compassionate women.
Its previous owner, Sharon, is a sister of my heart. The fountain brings her powerful healing spirit and profoundly beautiful presence to Mountain Valley Retreat. As I gaze at the fountain, I am grateful. My heart sings with joy.
The fountain is a metaphor for chi, the life-force energy that animates all living things. Flowing up its central channel from the base, energy bursts forth from the crown. Waves of sparkling air-and-light-filled-water fill the air descending in rivulets, cascading over the sides of the upper bowl falling like rain into the waiting vessel at its base to be drawn into the central channel. The cycle repeats again and again, mimicking the human energy field.
What might the fountain say if it could speak? “I am of the earth, made of stone. I am the mover of air, water and fire. Like a jewel, my oxygen-rich water refracts sunlight sending elemental energy out into the field. I feed life. Grounded through my stone pedestal deeply into the earth, I sit in the center of this red clay patio. I offer life-giving energy to the plants, the birds, the animals and the people who enter my field. I inspire humans to appreciate the beauty of nature. I am observed with gratitude and therefore, I am.”

The Fountain

IMG_4250[1]I am sitting at my desk, cup of tea steaming, ready for my morning writing session. Looking out the window, the sky is pale blue with the early morning light. I see the oaks and pines and large rocks that grace the hillside surrounded by sage where the property climbs to the fence. In the lower right corner of my view is the patio. In its center sits the fountain. An emotional response of pleasure and gratitude occurs every time I look at it.
I moved from rural St Louis to a small holding 15 miles south-east of Warner Springs, California in April of 2008. In 2009 I took a position as a massage therapist at The Spa at Warner Springs Ranch. The design of the spa was a horseshoe shape of low adobe buildings around a center courtyard. The fountain, the focal point of the courtyard, drew me in. As I walked with clients through the courtyard from the lobby to and from the treatment rooms, the sound of the falling water was like soothing music to my ears.
The ranch was sold and closed for renovations two years later. Out of work and with an hour commute to the closest city, I rested and considered my options. The vision of a residential retreat center came to my mind. As I explored the vision I “saw” a patio with a beautiful fountain that would attract birds and bring balance to our high desert retreat with the addition of a water element…the fountain from the Spa! I talked to my friend Sharon, the owner of the Spa at Warner Ranch. She told me she was selling all of the furnishings from the Spa, including the fountain, and she would love me to have it.
Today, as I look out at the fountain with the hummingbirds and finches, stellar jays and acorn woodpeckers, bathing and drinking from its endlessly moving water, my heart expands. The history of this fountain is unknown to me although I know that the ranch opened in 1849 and the Spa was a popular destination to Hollywood stars in the 1920’s.
For me, it holds the energy of the Spa at the Ranch, which was my oasis at a time when I needed connection and roots. It represents a place and people of restoration and compassion.
Its last owner, Sharon, is a sister of my heart. The fountain brings her powerful healing spirit and profoundly beautiful presence to Mountain Valley Retreat.  I gaze at the fountain and my heart sings with joy.Sharon

Panther

black panther at sunsetThe backcountry of San Diego County is a fascinating place to live. Although the Los Angeles metropolis is only a two-hour drive and we reach the outskirts of San Diego in an hour, the backcountry is surprisingly wild with over 600,000 acres of National Park lands.
The climate in North County, classified as Mediterranean, has thousands of acres of wine grapes lining the domesticated hillsides. One of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, the area has palms in the desert and redwoods on the mountain tops. The shores of the Pacific Ocean as well as many rivers, lakes and streams satisfy the need for water and healing hot springs bubble up from the fault lines that trace their way along the coast.
I live in a live-oak valley with granite boulders, chaparral and sage covering the foothills between two mountains that are home to huge oaks, pines and redwoods.
The wildness of our land came to my attention yesterday morning. In the early morning hours, my neighbor heard her dog barking and went outside to investigate. She rounded the corner of her house to see a black mountain lion standing beside her barn. It saw her and ran with her eight-pound terrier, Shadow, in ridiculous pursuit. She described the mountain lion as ‘long, lean and sleek black with a very long tail.” It bounded away, easily outdistanced her pup within seconds…a “black panther…wow!
I googled information about the big cats in southern California. Throughout it’s history the mountain lion has been known by many names: cougar, puma, panther and catamount. Indeed prolific, their color ranges from light tan to black, although black mountain lions are extremely rare. Considered ambush predators, they hunt live game, pouncing on their prey in ambush style and killing with a bite to the neck. In Shamanic tradition, wisdom is taken from signs of nature.  Mountain Lion represents power, leadership, strength, courage, foresight and decisiveness.
My builders are locals who have lived here all their lives and when they arrived this morning I told them Kay’s story. Randy told me he has had three mountain lion sightings in his life and one was black. He saw the cougar crossing the road about five miles east of my house three years ago as he was driving up the grade through Anza Borrego State Park from Borrego Springs.
Was the black panther that Kay saw the same animal? Considering their rarity, it is very likely. They range 50 to 100 square miles and life expectancy is typically 8-13 years. It is more than possible that Randy and Kay saw the same black mountain lion.
About two months ago, a feral cat showed up in our yard and we started feeding it. It is a large male cat, perhaps weighing fifteen to twenty pounds. It is sleek and all black with piercing yellow eyes. It comes to our deck twice a day to eat and although learning to trust, still does not allow us too close.
The first day I saw it slinking through the trees at the border of our property I was struck by its appearance and named it “Panther.”
If we lived in the Twilight Zone, I would know that the cat Kay and Randy saw is “Panther”, in his shape-shifted body he takes on to prowl the woods at night…