Morning download, 3.13.2019

It’s a coolish, rainy morning here in the outskirts of ATX. Haven’t heard the mockingbird yet, but a cardinal made itself heard just outside my trailer. The rain now hitting the metal roof is drowning out all birdsong. It can get quite loud during a heavy downpour!

A friend texted me yesterday that her mother, in Missouri, is passing. She got to talk to her on the phone, texting me later, “Lots of Love exchanges. She said goodbye and to take care of myself.” The mother was conscious, in no pain, but very weak.

That’s a good way to die. I’d like to be conscious, unmedicated, and not in pain when death comes for me. It’s got to be quite the experience!

I wish I could tell you afterwards what it was like, but that seems to be against the rules. “Just one more blog post, please? This is too amazing not to share!” But I don’t think you can bargain with death. It might play with you, but it always wins, in the end.

Today: loving my matcha/sitting/breathing/downloading early in this day, then hairdresser, then biodynamic session for my friend who’s losing her mother, and then a visit with a shaman to work on some emotional/empath issues that i haven’t been able to resolve on my own.

Some friends have been studying with this shaman, and I look forward to meeting her and experiencing how she works. I received a yummy practice session from one of those friends, now studying energy medicine, who told me about a class for empaths, but the class had filled, so I’m doing 1:1 with the shaman.

I’m seeking something of a superpower for me: the ability to not feel others’ deep suffering. I can suffer well enough from my own losses and traumas and don’t need to experience the broken hearts and minds of others in order to be compassionate and supportive and resourceful. I can be more useful with a healthier boundary.

This image cracks me up. It came up when I googled “image empath”. It is a beautiful image but I don’t see myself like this at all. I do have green eyes, though. The rest of it is someone’s fantasy! Except that ajna chakra, third eye, is real. https://articles.spiritsciencecentral.com/empathy-101/.

It’s the biggest downside of being an empath that I can think of. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you will know that calling myself an empath is new, something I’m starting to dance with. Once it occurred to me, a lot of mysteries about me and how I’ve chosen to live began to fall into place.

What is being an empath good for? You tell me. It served extremely well once, may have saved my baby daughter’s life, but there’s a lot of weirdness, and some fun, that comes with it, so far. Premonitions, insights, auras, dreams, beginner’s mind, flow states, obviously empathy. I have marks in my hand indicating clairvoyance, but I don’t practice it.

There are some superpowers that with the right teachers, I could probably develop. Not sure I need or want to, though. For now, becoming a healthy empath is my intent.

I’ve begun paying more attention to the people and environments that are nurturing and those that are not. I had to go to the mall a couple of weeks ago. The commercialism — the bigness of the “buy this — enter this store — take this free gift bag” messaging — was overwhelming. Giant words are scary! Pushy people are scary! It was not a friendly place, and I felt like an alien — I wish I could say that was unusual, but it’s not.

I felt my resistance and stayed focused on my errand. Found a chair and closed my eyes and just breathed while waiting for a genius to replace my phone battery. Once outside under the big sky, trees in view across the vast parking lot, so much better.

I notice I have better rapport with intuitive feelers who may also be empaths. I’m so lucky to know and love a few!

If you are an empath and are reading this, what has helped you? Books, people, classes, practices, learnings. I want to hear it, please.

The rain has paused and the mockingbird is singing its heart out. Enjoy this promising day.

I dreamed I was dying, and no one knew. When I woke, I learned David Bowie had died.

I did a biodynamic craniosacral session yesterday with someone I cherish. In years past, I’ve participated in several of her workshops exploring life and death. As in my life, unexpected violent death visited her life early on and made a lasting impression, so we both have a long acquaintance with death and mortality.

This was our first session doing biodynamic work.

(And by the way, biodynamic work may have been first written about by cranial osteopaths who spent decades working with people, mostly in silence, listening intently and deeply, who finally had the courage to say, “There’s something else going on here.” However, in my opinion, this work is timeless, and another label for it, that goes back to ancient times, is hands-on healing.)

I dreamt in the middle of the night that I was dying. I had been told that I had a terminal condition and that nothing could be done to restore my health. I was on my way out of this life. Continue reading

The last hour of life

The book group that I’ve attended weekly for the past several years had a writing assignment for this week, to write about our last hour of life. We’ll gather tomorrow and share. Here’s mine:

I don’t really know when this is going to happen. I’d like to believe that it will happen in the distant future, at least 20 years in the future, maybe 30 or even more, but I don’t know. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen tonight! Continue reading

What is it going to take?

I wish everyone would really take this in: Yet again, there has been a mass shooting in the United States of America, and this time it was at a grade school, and children and teachers were shot and killed, and apparently a family member of the extremely disturbed young shooter.

I haven’t been able to read, hear, or look at the news since seeing a few posts about it on Facebook yesterday and hearing a little more on the radio as I drove to work. The big picture is enough.

It is tragic when children die. It is gut-twisting horrifying when children die violently.

The children who survived have lost their carefree innocence forever. I pray they can rediscover joy within themselves when it’s time.

I wish everyone would really absorb this and think of what we as a nation need to do to ensure this does not happen again.

That no mass shooting ever takes place again.

That people who are seriously disturbed get referred to the most excellent help possible.

That we become a peaceful nation without the need for so many guns.

That the politicians just shut up and do the right thing because people’s lives real trump your theoretical principles.

I wish that every single politician and lobbyist who wants to jabber on about “protecting our right to bear arms” had to spend 15 minutes alone in a room with the parents of one of those children who died.

Amen.

In remembrance of Gabrielle Roth: freedom is our holy work

One of the significant teachers in my life died yesterday, and I’ve struggled with writing about it. I find myself getting too heady, and yet this loss is actually so profound that when I took a nap yesterday, I dreamed I was balancing upside down on my head on a dance floor, surrounded by lively, active children.

When I woke, I could feel the pressure on the crown of my head.

Headstand is definitely about changing perspective.

I stumbled into ecstatic dance 18 years ago, first encountering the 5 rhythms of Gabrielle Roth and Sweat Your Prayers after I left church as something I could no longer take part in with integrity.

I found a tribe, a practice, and a way of experiencing myself and the world as energy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that the latter is the change in perspective that I’m integrating with this shock of loss and review of Gabrielle’s influence on my life, that it’s all just energy all the time, and it’s always changing, always dancing. The best I can ever do is to be centered, grounded, embodied, and ready to meet it. What’s solid is awareness.

I’ve had issues and struggles at times with that tribe, practice, and worldview, and they have deeply shaped me. I keep coming back.

Here’s what ecstatic dance is to me: being free, feeling joy, being embodied, clearing, cleansing, breathing, sweating, extending myself, being aware, taking care of my body, pushing to my edge and beyond, being in the moment, sharing, delighting, inquiring, discovering, connecting, having compassion, being inspired, seeing, allowing, playing, surrendering, breaking myself open, feeling what comes up, being danced, letting go, grieving, dancing with other versions of me, dancing with the entire room including the space, letting life and everything flow through me, being totally and completely alive, being fully present, blowing all the blocks out of my energy channels.

I feel so grateful to have found this and that I am able to do this.

Thank you, Gabrielle Roth, for your life’s work. Thank you, dancing tribe.

Here’s Gabrielle in her own words.

I became a mapmaker for others to follow, but not in my footsteps, in their own. Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.

The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?

Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth — not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth. We dance to reclaim our brilliant ability to disappear in something bigger, something safe, a space without a critic or a judge or an analyst.

“It’s the sitting, stupid.”

Stand Up for Fitness – NYTimes.com.

Exercise only slightly lessened the health risks of sitting. People in the study who exercised for seven hours or more a week but spent at least seven hours a day in front of the television were more likely to die prematurely than the small group who worked out seven hours a week and watched less than an hour of TV a day.

So to paraphrase Bill Clinton on the economy, “It’s the sitting, stupid.” Make that uninterrupted sitting:

In an inspiring study being published next month in Diabetes Care, scientists at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, had 19 adults sit completely still for seven hours or, on a separate day, rise every 20 minutes and walk leisurely on a treadmill (handily situated next to their chairs) for two minutes. On another day, they had the volunteers jog gently during their two-minute breaks.

When the volunteers remained stationary for the full seven hours, their blood sugar spiked and insulin levels were out of whack. But when they broke up the hours with movement, even that short two-minute stroll, their blood sugar levels remained stable. Interestingly, the jogging didn’t improve blood sugar regulation any more than standing and walking did. What was important, the scientists concluded, was simply breaking up the long, interminable hours of sitting.

Find a way to break up sitting into chunks punctuated by standing and walking. Keep exercising too. You’ll feel better and live longer.

Also, when you do sit, make some of it sitting. That is, seated meditation. Just sit and be.

Moving through a loss

This is just a short post to say that a dear teacher whose trainings and workshops I have been attending and assisting at for the past five years left this earthly life behind on Tuesday. I had just spent Saturday with him, and he was in the finest form I’ve ever seen him.

His name was Tom Best. He taught Neuro-Linguistic Programming officially, but really, he taught love, congruence, presence, playfulness, communication both verbal and nonverbal, life skills, trance, healing, and shamanic practices. He did it clearly and cleanly, with a lot of elegance and very little ego.

He lived his life fully and deeply and from what I can tell, left nothing undone. And so it’s not as sad as some deaths.

I will post more about Tom later after this process of integrating the loss and the gifts has cooked some more.

Love to you all.

Top five regrets of the dying

Yoga teacher Ellen Smith posted this on Facebook, and its wisdom is well worth sharing with you. It was written by a woman named Bronnie Ware who also wrote a book called The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

She worked with the dying for the last 3-12 weeks of their lives and asked them about their regrets and wrote about their responses. She writes:

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

Here’s a process that can make a huge difference:

Imagine your future when you have only weeks left. Imagine you are aware, lucid, have all your wits.

What would this elder you tell the present you?

What are the changes you can make now so that the elder you can die with no regrets?

Absorbing a loss

Last Monday I went into work, and my boss came around, closed the door, and told me she had some sad news: my colleague Val had passed away on Sunday.

Val dead? I could not imagine those two words used in the same sentence. It was truly a shock.

This past week has been a tough week, absorbing the loss of someone I saw often over the past 6 years, someone I liked and admired. During this week, I witnessed my denial and acceptance dancing together, sometimes one leading, sometimes the other.

Val was one of my favorite people in the office where I work. All we had been told was that Val was out on “temporary but indefinite” leave. Somehow I had the impression that he was taking care of a seriously ill loved one.

I couldn’t imagine Val sick. When I was walking on the Town Lake trail regularly on weekends, I’d nearly always see Val running. He and his girlfriend took wonderful vacations — hiking on the Olympia peninsula, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, a camel ride to the Great Pyramids.

My boss told me Val learned he had lung cancer in May and took leave, that he’d been on chemo, that he’d come through the first round with encouraging signs of improvement, that he’d been in a lot of pain on Friday, had a good day on Saturday, and died Sunday due to a problem with his stent (where they put the chemo drugs in). He was 50.

I found some old emails from Val with links to his vacation photos. I found one of him in Olympic National Park, wearing a floppy hat, smiling hugely. I printed that photo and taped it to the now-closed door of his office. It  just felt right. I wanted to remember him happy.

A director later sent an email about Val’s passing and used the phrase “absorbing this loss.” I like that. Absorbing a loss is a gradual process, like a sponge soaking up water.

We bring our losses into our memories, and they become part of who we are.

I went to bed that night vividly remembering Val — the way he teased me after seeing me out on a date — how I was so wrapped up in the conversation, I didn’t notice him (Val) trying to get my attention. Seeing him running on the trail on Saturday mornings. How he laughed when I demonstrated lion pose in yoga class last spring. That was the last time I remember seeing him laugh.

I remembered many smaller moments, of passing him in the hallway, a conversation in the kitchen or across his desk, being in a meeting with him. These memories were more about remembering his physical presence.

Tuesday morning when I arrived at work, I immediately noticed a new sound, a cricket. It was in the kitchen, not visible but very audible.

For a split second, I felt annoyed, and then that feeling dropped completely, replaced by happiness that this cricket had decided to visit and hang out in our kitchen and serenade us.

On Wednesday, someone told me that more photos had been added to Val’s door. By Thursday there were maybe a dozen photos of Val. His door had become a shrine.

On Friday my acupuncturist noticed my grief. It manifests on the lung meridian. She helped me with talk and bodywork, but some part just did not want to give it up yet. It was about more than just Val’s death. It was about change: accepting change and making changes.

I took a solitary walk Friday night, reconciling, integrating, absorbing. I needed that.

I remembered seeing Val before he went on leave and noticing that he seemed stressed, tense. I thought it was about a project he was working on.

With hindsight, I know that he was feeling physical discomfort. Pain from lung cancer.

Friday night I had a dream in which a helicopter crashed in front of me. Usually that means dropping denial.

Val must have gotten so fragile in those 10 weeks of battling cancer.

Saturday I attended a celebration of Val’s life at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. His large family and many people from work came.

Words were said, smiles and hugs shared, tears shed, photos and mementoes displayed, poems read, songs sung, and hands held, under the trees and the big Texas sky.

I am grateful for having lived through this difficult, emotional, contractive and expansive week. I am grateful to Val for sharing my path a little way.

It seems that with every death, we process every previous death and every future death, including our inevitable own. We are more fragile than we like to believe, held together by an arrangement of chemicals and electrical currents, and when our life force moves outside that narrow range, we dissolve and disperse.

I’m so sorry about you losing your health, Val. You are free of pain and suffering now, and for that I am happy for you. I am grateful that you lived a good life, of work and love and adventure, and that I knew you. Thank you for sharing your many gifts.

I am getting out on the river today, doing some paddle-boarding, and doing it for me, doing it because of the model Val provided.

You never know what the future holds.