Monday, October 26, 2015

Avoid the Trap

I am often surprised by the number of people I know who, at the mere mention of the name "Steve Jobs," immediately have a negative comment to make. Whew! How much energy it must take to hold on to the psychic energetic of judgement.

What I find is that the man, the human we all knew and loved or hated as the case may be, was brilliant.

This quote struck me full in the face following on the heels of last weekend's Death:OK event. Like monkey-bread, it fell into three distinct yet related pieces. Unlike monkey-bread, it was by no means sugar-coated.

The first piece was the very start, "Remembering that you are going to die...." Who wants to remember that? Our culture is so intensely death-averse that the mention of remembering and my own personal death in the same phrasing shocks my system. Yet I certainly have more years behind me than before me. Friends and loved ones have died, some at ages younger than mine currently.

The final piece that struck me was "You are already naked." Huh? I'm sitting in a public coffee shop, drinking a cuppa ~~ so I know he's not talking about my physical being. Yet coupled with the first piece of remembering my own mortality, I must admit that I am already undone, exposed, uncomfortably visible. Like everyone around me, I am going to die one day. Is my pretense of physical immortality fooling anyone? I seriously doubt it.

It's the middle part, "avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose" that hit like a sucker punch to the solar plexus and left me breathless. Here's one of the most creative minds of our time, who'd already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and survived it once, giving a commencement speech at Stanford University and talking about death.

"Avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose." I consider the number of times I stopped myself from doing something, going somewhere, facing a challenge, because I thought I might lose something ~ prestige or power or appearing knowledgeable or a person's caring. In the end, at some point, all those things washed out to sea anyway and returned different on the next tide.

I'm grateful for my life, my health, my family and friends as well as an entire host of other things. Right now, I'm grateful for the words of a creative genius who died too young yet left an incredible legacy to the world.

What strikes you most strongly in the quote? Why? Do you resist remembering that you are going to die? Why or why not? How does talking about death and mortality affect you? What might you consider doing if you avoided the trap and threw caution to the wind?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Talking about Death

We live in a culture where the mere mention of death is taboo. Unless it's in a movie. Or The Walking Dead. Or the Grateful Dead.

Full-blown discussions are totally out of the question. Spending my entire day yesterday with 500 other people immersed in activities, discussions and presentations focused on every aspect of death was awesome.

It began with two keynote speakers. The first was Barbara Roberts, the former Governor of Oregon and advocate of Death with Dignity. She spoke briefly and passionately about her experiences as her husband Frank was dying of lung cancer. Her book Death without Denial, Grief without Apology: a Guide for Facing Death and Loss chronicles her experiences of grieving.

The second keynote was longer, given by Stephen Jenkinson, founder of the Orphan Wisdom School, a teaching and learning house in eastern Canada. As a storyteller, he related stories from his two decades of work with people dying and grieving that were chronicled in his recently published book, Die Wise: a Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. His presentation overflowed with his compassion, dedication, humor and hard truth. He expressed his views and experiences reverently and irreverently and all who listened, all 500 of us, hung on his every word.

I attended sessions for three of the four breakout times:

  • the shamanic practice of meeting the soul friend who will accompany me through my death passage; 
  • writing my own obituary;
  • practicing mindful photography for intimate care-providers as a loved one is dying.

Friends who were there attended other breakout sessions. I didn't see any of them in mine. We met up at lunch and shared our feelings and our session titles. Everything else was too new or too tender or too long a tale.

What I recognize within my own heart and soul is that I struggle with reclaiming the D words: Death, Dying, Dead. I've spent years giving them up for the more politically correct passed over, departed this reality, is no longer with us. All of these terms prevent me from facing that the person who has died will not be returning. I will no longer see her face, hear his voice, feel her hand in mine. If I continue to think in terms that are less than final, do I allow myself to fully grieve? to embrace the memories? What also came to me through every session and encounter during the day was the tip of another iceberg: If I deny the word and the depth of its meaning, will I miss the fullness of life? Will I put off embraces, passions, experiences thinking that not only they but also those who might share them with me will always be around? How do I balance the sense of finality with the expression of joy? So much to ponder!

How do you talk about death? What's been your most recent experience? Is it different now than when you were younger? How do you feel when you hear the D words? Why? How do you respond?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October New Moon in Libra

Wow! It's been a long time since I've written in this blog. September was a wild ride month. Anyone else experience that? Lots of energy buzzing and zapping around with the eclipses, the equinox and Mercury retrograde. It's good to be on the other side of that.

Now there's a New Moon in Libra ~ which is all about relationships ~ and that will be greatly assisted by being past the wild and wacky energy of the past month!

Now is the time for balance. Settling in just enough to make me recognize my own need for self-care in all areas: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It's also the time to honor communications as the leading edge for growth. Listen with an open mind. Speak from the heart's truth. Remember to express gratitude.

Continuing on the path of change, making big plans and keeping track of the details finds support at this time too. It's about Choice: tension or release? movement or stagnation? healing or rage? being awake or staying asleep? owning what needs to be healed or projecting it on others?

Personally, I'm being challenged to be more centered and reflect what is being mirrored to me by the world. I continue to learn to use ~ as well as to rest ~ my voice, speaking clearly from my own truth and expressing my feelings. If I believe in my purpose and myself, I can stand in relationship with those around me without causing harm to either myself or the other. I am also working through and with balancing the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. For me, this balance has been going on for years. It's a dance I enjoy having.

I recall something one of my former teachers said: "Each time you let go, each time you learn a lesson, it will come back to you in the old way again. Only the next time, you will go deeper to release it. And so it will go until you are done." Learning the lessons, evolving to the next level, continues in a spiral, looping back over and over again so the mastery can get deeper and deeper.

What lesson are you learning? What is the truth that is seeking you? What change is poking itself into your life? How do your relationships support you? How do you balance it all?