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.

bb-download-2

Mother

mother pin

I hesitate to write about this subject that is the first thought on my mind at 6:00 this morning. It is a subject written about, discussed and psychoanalyed perhaps more than any other. What about this primary relationship we each have with the woman from whose body we entered this life? Some never know their birth mothers while others have life-long intimate relationships. Some of us have the insight that giving birth to a child has brought to the subject. Others are left to wonder what that event brings with it to the human experience.
My mother is 89. I just returned from a visit to celebrate her recent birthday. She lives with my father in South Dakota, the state she was born in. She has lived there all her life. I have moved about, leaving South Dakota and my mother when I was 18, returning a couple of times a year for visits.
When I was a young mother she came to stay with me to help with my babies. We took a few vacations together when my children were young. Mostly our relationship was a distant one. The truth of our realities was kept from one another. I felt as if my mother didn’t want to hear any of the challenges and difficulties I came up against…that she didn’t want to know when I was sad or angry about something. The few times I attempted to engage her in conversation about something that had happened to her when I thought she might need support, I was told, “I don’t want to talk about that!” So I stopped asking.
Now she is in the final chapter of her life. She could live several more years or die tomorrow. I know that is true for me as well, but for her, the odds are she will not live more than a few years. Her memory is failing and she is getting frail. Some days she tells me that she is very tired and “doesn’t want to do this anymore.” There are also times when she engages in a way that makes me think she is enjoying herself. Mostly she is “flat”, going through the motions of her limited life without emotion. I wonder what degree of that “flatness” is the result of the medications her doctors give her.
When she is gone, in truth, not a lot will change in the appearance of my life. The deep connection that exists between my mother and me is in the invisible realms. That is the place where the truths that have never been spoken between us live as well. I’m not sure what to do with this. I feel a regret here but I cannot name it. There are no words.baby stroller

Fountain On, Gate Closed

IMG_3950When we put up the fence last year the atmosphere changed. No longer exposed to anyone driving or walking past, it was nice to be outside and feel protected from view. I am trying to explain the feeling I have around that experience and freedom is the best word I have. It was like being inside but I was outside.
For over nine months, we have enjoyed the fence and the many projects we started inside it. The buildings, transformed to meet the needs of their new functions, as well as new structures, have grown up within the cedar walls that protect and surround us.
Two significant events came together yesterday. A beautiful fountain that once graced the courtyard of the Spa at Warner Springs Ranch found its way to the center of my patio. We turned it on and within thirty-minutes, six hummingbirds were having a party. They hovered and dove, perched on the edge and drank, bathed and fluttered about, delighting us with their miniature grace and beauty. In native tradition hummingbirds represent joy and love for life. The hummingbird’s initiation of the retreat’s fountain feels auspicious. I am looking out my window and a hummingbird is drinking from the fountain as I write!
The second event was the installation of the gate. The fence has had a wide opening at the driveway for vehicle traffic to enter and leave the retreat. Yesterday the gate construction was completed. After the workers left, G and I closed the gate and then walked back and sat on patio near the fountain. As we sat, enjoying the sound of the falling water and the gentle breeze coming down through the valley, we remarked about the difference we were feeling with the gate closed.
It felt like the feeling the fence gave me multiplied many times over. G agreed that he felt very relaxed and cozy…like the feeling he has when he is inside the house. I added, “It feels like our house just expanded into the whole property.”
I stood up, pulled my dress off over my head, and spent the rest of the afternoon working outside on various projects without any clothes on…why not? No one can see me. The fountain is on and the gate is closed. I am as happy as the hummingbirds.IMG_4250[1]

Shifting Mail

friends-fingers

I communicated with three friends this morning. Our emails were about relationships, friendship and connection. As I hit send on the last one, I thought about the similarities in our lives although the differences are striking. We are geographically scattered from coast to coast, our ages differ by over twenty years and we represent different nationalities, sexes and sexual orientations.

Excerpts from three emails:

RE: Relationships
“I remember when I moved, first out of the house with Jim and two years later, here. Even though they were my choices and I wanted them deeply, there was a lag for my body/mind to accept what I was doing. Leaving behind the life I had known was a death of sorts and I mourned it alongside my elation at the new life I was creating. Nothing is ever one-sided. The life I left was not all bad and the life I have created is not all great. I am here, not even sure how I got here, and each day is an opportunity to discover myself anew in this life I have been given. As I age, the details of my life matter less and my ability to meet myself in each moment with integrity and compassion matters more.
Choosing connection and love over the simplicity of a life lived alone is my choice. Relationships are complicated but without them life is dry and boring.”

RE: Friendship
“I am sorry that Martha did not turn out to be the friend you thought she was. I have had that happen many times in my life. It caught me off guard and made me feel stupid for not seeing the truth sooner. Sometimes I pursued the friend in disbelief that I could have been so wrong about them…in the end, I came to see that they were not ready, willing or able to have the depth of commitment that I was in the friendship.
Your story brings up thoughts about friendship…
To me a good friend is someone who tells me his or her truth and listens to mine when I need to speak it.
A good friend is someone I trust to be there for me when I need them.
A good friend strives to understand and hears me without judging what I say.
A good friend tells me their truth, even when the truth hurts.
A good friend appreciates me for who I am and never expects me to be what I am not.
A good friend honors the ways we differ and respects my perspective when we disagree.
A good friend shares my sense of humor, my core beliefs and my dreams and visions for humanity.
A good friend loves me, no matter what.”

RE: Weather Report
“Calm seas, sun peeking out through the clouds…always a chance of thunderstorms. Resting back into my hammock of support, feet deeply rooted in the earth, grateful for this life I have been given.”

Who Is Driving My Bus?

Just breathe

Who is driving my bus?

She feels slightly angry and has a hard edge
She is not smiling
Her breath is shallow
Her brow is furrowed

Close my eyes
Breathe deep
Feel my feet
Feel my heartbeat

Who is driving my bus?

She feels softer, yet in a resigned way
Her lips have turned up a bit
Her spine is resting back in the chair
Her eyes have softened

Breathe again, with full awareness
Feel my chest rise and fall
Feel my belly swell and flatten
Breathe all the way down to my pelvic floor.

Who is driving my bus?

Emotion rises
Tears well in her eyes
Her sinuses burn
Her throat slightly closes

Allowing myself to feel
I notice heaviness in my chest
I hold it gently
I open my heart-space to myself

Who is driving my bus?

She is smiling as tears of joy well in her eyes
Her body feels soft and warm
Her feet have melted into the floor
She knows she is not alone

I breathe and feel grateful
I have the key to transformation
Such a simple and profound practice
Now… Spirit is driving my bus.

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…”