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!










Today is Today…

My friend and mentor Fritz Smith taught me to wake up and say, “Today is today and I’m glad its today.” It has been a challenge lately to feel upbeat about my day. I believe I have once again reached overwhelm and I’m not sure how to fix it…
Actually, I do know, and I am finding it difficult to let go of the list of things to do in my outer life and turn towards my inner life, where a sense of peace and joy lie waiting.
This feeling of urgency is familiar. It has taken me by the throat before and squeezed the juicy joy out of my days. So today I am taking the time to write, one of the things that brings me down and in. I am taking the time to read the inspiring words of Brene’ Brown. I share them with you here…
“I will carry courage, compassion and connection in my heart while on this journey. Even when the road is bumpy. Even when I’m so busy that I feel behind. Even though there is really no ‘getting behind.” And, especially when I start to compare and judge myself. Courage, compassion and connection will be my constant companions.” Brene’ Brown

I believe that vulnerability is a key to whole-hearted living. I must become more comfortable with who I am. I have set the intention to be transparent, wild, undomesticated and authentically me. And yet, as I peel away the layers of conditioned beliefs, as I reveal myself, I find I am meeting myself with judgment, criticism and feelings of unworthiness.

So I review these words from Brene’ about intention:
“For me, setting intentions is a power move. It is how I bring clarity, meaning and purpose to my day. Setting intentions helps you get clear on why you are doing something (clarity), why it is important to you (meaning) and how it moves you closer to your values (purpose.) “ Brene’ Brown

As I listen to myself read her words aloud, I reassess my purpose, my “north star,” and my values. I find my purpose in connection. I seek to experience the energy that exists when being seen, heard and valued is shared between people. I seek to live in a world without judgment, giving and receiving support and sustenance in my relationships.

So today I set my intention, seeking clarity of purpose and what is important to me. It is my intention to live wholeheartedly, cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up each morning and say, “Today is today and I’m glad its today. No matter what gets done or is left undone, I am enough!”

When my head rests on the pillow at night, I  say, “With all my fears, imperfections and vulnerabilities, I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.




I had an email this morning from a dear friend. He said I seemed like a joyful person and asked me how I felt about that.

Joy, the name of the hummingbird that is the official bird of Mountain Vally Retreat. I am not always joyful. I am often consumed by the thoughts in my mind which are busy at best and stressed at worst. My joy usually comes out when I am with other people, animals, or walking or sitting outside without an agenda.

If I am alone in the house, I can become depressed feeling. It is an unregulated feeling that rises out of nowhere and creates a lethargy in my body…a feeling of laziness, lack of ambition, and lack of desire…sometimes even worry!

My joy feeling may return if I play the piano, listen to music, dance, go to the mat and stretch or meditate, read, paint, draw…anything creative or self-restorative.

I have come to believe that my joy never leaves me. It is always running as a background undercurrent which gets over-laid by stress, worry, anxiety thoughts and feelings. As soon as I clear my field of negative thought forms, ah, there it is, rising to the surface again. The trick is to clear my field of negative thought-forms and I feel as though I am getting better and better at that.

The surest way to bring myself to a feeling of joy is to practice gratitude.  When I start thinking about all of the positive experiences and people in my life I cannot help but smile and feel fortunate which leads me straight into joy.

I am alive.  I am healthy.  I want for nothing.  I am loved.  Remembering these important facts leave me helplessly in joy.

Free Writing with Bill

Big Sur and fog on a typical day in June. Phot...

It is Thursday afternoon at Esalen. Bill Herr has a free-writing circle he has been facilitating since the early 1990’s. I have been coming to sit on his circle for several years whenever I have the opportunity. Those who show up, usually five to ten of us, sit in a circle on the floor with our pillows and back-jacks and taking a prompt from Bill (or not), write for a designated time, maybe 5-15 minutes and then share what we have written, if we choose.
Today there are six of us, Bill, Peter, Teri, Edward, Emily and me. Our first write is ten minutes and the prompt offered is “no prompt.”
I am free writing for ten minutes. The sound of my fingers tapping the keys is a sound I love. It means that I am not stuck…something is coming forth…and in my world of writing it doesn’t matter what it is…only that I write…stream of consciousness flowing.
I had a great massage this morning and it has left me feeling extra soft and open. I can feel my breath full and deep, all the way down into my belly. I am relaxed and happy to be here, not only at Esalen but sitting on this red pillow in Watts with Bill and Peter, Teri, Edward and Emily.
A writing circle feels like a way to connect. I feel connected to the pillow, the space around me, the bigger space of Esalen, and these other souls that chose to come into this room to sit and write with others…others they may or may not know in any other context. There is a willingness to connect in this action.
Bill handed me the Erotic Tarot deck and asked me to choose a prompt for our next write. I randomly chose the card marked Four of Pyramids. A lovely young woman is in a swing. Upon closer examination I realize the swing is actually film, the kind we put in our movie cameras before digital. She is naked (is this what makes the deck “erotic?”) except for a pair of boots…serious boots, not the sexy-long-black-high-heeled ones, more like hiking boots or the kind engineers wear, and the laces are open. She is holding an umbrella in one hand, maybe more of a parasol. It doesn’t appear to be raining. The background color is a sunny yellow with stars in the sky which makes me think of dusk.
If I were this woman, I would be feeling quite safe and free, swinging in my nakedness, and prepared should the need arise that I come down from my swing and take off on foot through rough terrain…in the rain…although without clothes, getting wet doesn’t feel like an issue…I will leave the parasol behind.
Freedom and safety…the naked swinger is a metaphor for freedom and the boots symbolize safety. Safety and freedom…these two go hand in hand.

Bill pulls out the Buddha deck and Edward draws the card “Skeptical Doubts” from the suit of Hindrances
Skeptical doubt is a double negative…does that make is a positive? If my doubt is skeptical, I have uncertainty about my doubt. I am hesitating in my distrust. I do not really doubt, and that leaves room for trust.
Thank Buddha for that! Trust feels so much better than skepticism. Skepticism creates a tension in my body, is feels a lot like fear. Trust, on the other hand, feels good. When I choose trust, my body relaxes. I feel supported and expansive. I believe that I am in a field of possibility and anything I put my attention towards will easily manifest. Trust is the choice of magicians and skydivers.
When I was young, trust was my Tao. I trusted without realizing it was a choice. In the natural world, the world of me and the plants and animals, I felt safe enough to follow my urges without question of safety. It was the humans that took away my trust and replaced it with doubt.
Last prompt of the day…Gain.
What is gained by holding on to my fear? What is lost by honoring my Self? What if I choose to trust that I am enough without putting on the garb of society? What if I shed my cloak of domestication and let out my wild? What is gained? Would anything be lost?
Domestication is the word I use to describe the taming of natural impulses so that they fit into the culture’s box of “normal behavior.” It seems that religion is responsible for many of the beliefs that create the box of “normal.” Much of what is “normal” in American society (I can’t speak for other cultures) has a sexually repressive slant to it and is misogynistic. Patriarchy has called the shots on “normal” for as long as history reads. There appears to be a huge imbalance that is being passed off as “normal” and I don’t care to participate any longer. I am on a mission to get out of the box of normal and step into the wild.

The sharing from the group was great…wish I could share all that I heard…come to Esalen, Watts Room from 2-4 on Thursday afternoons…Bill will be here.

No Waiting for Inspiration

Waiting for inspiration, I may never write again
I must write for the discipline of writing
Challenged to find words that excite and inspire
If I stop it won’t be the lack of words that defeats me

So I am here
Wrestling with each line
Embarrassed by my ineptitude
Words on the page preserving my commitment

I know why it is so importanthands on keyboard
Discipline a metaphor for strength
Practice creates mastery
I demonstrate obedience to the Muse

The effort is not satisfying
I am not smiling
I see no humor in this
I persist because defeat pains me more

I have been skipping days
Today would be two in a row
The downhill slide from there could be the end
Her silence as persistent as my effort

Matters Not?

I reread the words on page one of this narrative to remind myself that the words matter not. It’s the writing that counts. That seems strange to me when I read it. If the words don’t matter what is the point of writing them? Perhaps within the discipline lies a key to writing words that DO matter.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to attempt this often daunting task of putting something on the page.
There is a bunny hopping across my yard. His movement caught my eye. I’m rooting for him over the red-shouldered hawk in the oak across the way. I hope the hawk will go for those pesky ground squirrels and leave the bunny alone this morning. No judgment there…bunny on grass red shoulder hawk
Dozer and Dancer, our kittens, are nine weeks today. Dozer just climbed into the office chair beside me to check out what I’m doing…I told him, “not much.” Watching them grow and develop their feline skills is great entertainment. The daily changes are noticeable, not unlike a human baby in it’s first months of life. We still change every day…just not as dramatically. I suppose we get used to our own evolution and take it for granted.
Evolution. If the Universe is evolving, why do some things seem to be in regression? Evolution means progress, growth, development, advancement. As I watch the national news “evolve” it seems that mankind is regressing. Perhaps it is all in the lens. The wider the lens, the more I can perceive evolution? I suppose it is also the direction I point my viewfinder. What group of mankind am I choosing to look at, the suppressive regimes of the patriarchy or the courageous women of “Pussy Riot?”

pussy riot
“Pussy Riot.” These women demonstrate the evolution of women’s rights and even more, the evolution of social media. Without social media, I believe they would disappear. The world is watching, and in that fact lies some protection from the patriarchy and its fear of individual expression. Pussy Riot also brings to the surface for all of us in the west a reminder of the extreme suppression that is prevalent in our world. What we do with that reminder is an individual choice. At least we have a choice…
I am feeling a point of tension under my right shoulder blade. I feel like I am being poked with an electric prod…
I took a moment to go to Amazon and order an “S” hook massage tool…been wanting one for a while and was reminded when I saw one at a friend’s house the other day. This morning my back is reminding me again so I took action!
Which brings me back to Pussy Riot…I am so inspired by these young women who are risking everything, their freedom from imprisonment, their lives, to make a statement about the suppressive patriarchy they live under. As Nadia said, they are free in the way no one can touch, and that brilliant understanding inspires me.
This page is an example of free writing…the places my mind can take me…whew!

pussy riot shakles

Now and Then

Big Sur and fog on a typical day in June. Phot...

Big Sur

I am here this morning. I had another skip day yesterday…let me see…what was my excuse? Oh, yes, yoga class at 8:00. My determination to get up at 6:00 so I can write before the day takes on a life of its own has slid down the slippery slope of resistance. I awoke this morning and put my feet on the floor before 6:30. I am here dressed and on tack by seven. Wahoo. Perhaps the true resistance is a feeling that my words have run out. The meter says 70,492 at the bottom of this blog page. If I was an auto, wouldn’t I be due for some sort of revival tune up?

What sort of revival would put inspiration into my heart so I could put words on the page that feel significant to me? Oh, yes. They need not have any significance. I can write anything. It does not matter who reads it or what they think. The practice is simply to write EVERY DAY no matter what! The practice is to allow words to go freely from my fingers to the page without an agenda, editing, judgment or expectation.  The practice is “transparency.”

Expectation snuck in the door and is looking over my shoulder. She expects me to write something meaningful. She wants to be inspired…entertained. She really wants me to be funny! She is tired of the same old depressed, spiritually oriented bullshit. With the book of Judgment under her arm, she is ready to denounce every sentence.

Note to self: This writing business worked better when you woke up at 6 and sat up and meditated for at least 30 minutes and then sat to write…duly noted.

Without the early rising and the mind in that altered state of meditation, Business Mind walks right in and starts making the “to-do” lists for the day. If you think this writing is pathetic, you should see the “to-do” lists! There used to be one list…of late there are FIVE! In addition there are four clipboards, a vertical file, the in and out box on my desk and two drawers of current hanging folders. Am I bragging or complaining? I do not know…I am trying to keep a handle on the hive of activity I created as the retreat construction kicks into high gear for the next six weeks.

In six weeks, my life will take a dramatic change. I will leave my retreat construction project and go up the coast of California to Big Sur. For five weeks, I will be living and working at Esalen Institute, a most amazing retreat center, with my friends and colleagues. My days will be filled with people and I will be involved in the business of teaching and treating the souls who come to Esalen. Like me, they are searching for some hidden part of themselves. What is the Force that sends us to a place like Esalen? The same Force puts me at this screen to write.

Jennifer Welwood speaks of this Force in Transformative Fire. I cannot say it better…

There is a great fire that longs to burn you—
Don’t let fear imagine a separation.
It is only yourself, burning for the truth,
The truth burning for itself.
Knowing this, give yourself, without reservation:
In ecstasy the fire burns.

She continues:
“Having deeply opened to the annihilating aspect of the path, and having allowed it to act on us, we may find that now and then it acts through us, cutting through ignorance and sentimentality with a voice of ruthless clarity…”