Present Tense

Goodbye Ember

ember blogMy heart is in a million pieces …again.  Loss has attached itself to me like a tick that is hell-bent on teaching me some sort of lesson or sucking out my life’s blood by taking everything that is precious to me.

Yesterday, I lost my feisty, beautiful, bright light of a dog, Ember when she was hit by a delivery truck in our driveway on the farm.  She died immediately and with her, I could feel some of my soul empty out of me and into her, leaving another void that can never be filled. She would have been 3 years old in a few weeks.

The pain I’m feeling as I write this is acute and dizzying.  I feel foggy and dull, other than the stabbing throb in the pit of my stomach.

The Buddhists teach that in the end, we lose everything and everyone that we love.  That is just truth.  This is why they teach so much about loosening our grip; to be wary of becoming attached.  Attached to material goods, ideas, money, status and yes, those we love. And most of us love our pets as much as we love our humans; in my case, even more I think.

One minute, we were out picking asparagus and the next, she is dead.  Just like that.  We’ve all heard the saying that life changes in an instant, but until it’s laying in front of us in our driveway, we don’t always grasp it.

My dad died similarly two years ago.  He went in and had lunch with my mom, went out to do yard work and in an instant, he was dead in the back yard that he loved.  I guess there is some comfort in knowing that neither of them suffered and they were enjoying themselves right up to their final breath.  But I miss them both with an ache that is searing.

I miss my dad in that I can never call and seek his advice.  I am saddened that my mother continues her earthly journey without him by her side.  She misses him desperately.

Ember’s loss is still so new, such a raw, open wound.  I got up this morning to one very somber dog, who also misses his companion.  Making up one dish of food, seeing her empty crate, and her collar on the counter.  No barking and scrambling to be fed and get out the door.  Too calm; too somber.

Yesterday, we were all outside, my husband, two dogs and probably a couple of cats, when I heard the Fedex truck starting to come up the driveway, I knew the dogs would run that way.  I shouted “Fedex” and for some reason began running toward him as well.  I NEVER do that, but I KNEW what was happening. I could feel it before it happened.

We live on 10 acres and so it was some distance for me to cover and I can’t possibly keep up with terriers, but as I ran, I saw a flash of white on the driveway and I knew.  I knew she had been hit and then I knew EXACTLY where to look on the driveway as I approached and I saw her, motionless.

I KNEW she was gone.  As soon as I got to her.  There were no visible signs of trauma. The driver had no idea that he’d hit her.  He knew that we had two dogs, he’s at our house at least once a week.  He said that he saw our other dog, Junior.  Didn’t see Ember.

My husband sent him away angrily.  I feel compassion for him; I know that he suffered with this all day yesterday. Knowing that he killed my dog.  He didn’t mean to, but he was driving too fast and was distracted or something.

I’m doing my best to not second guess and flood my mind with ‘what ifs’ or ‘whys’.  Shit happens.  Good shit, bad shit, life shit.  We never know why. I believe that when my personal Fedex truck comes along and removes me from Earth, all of those questions will be answered.

For now, I grieve.  I know that Ember burned very brightly in her short time on Earth.  She was fiery as they come, and quick and loud and boisterous and demanding and loving and hysterically funny and I loved her with a fierceness that she returned to me.  She crammed a lot in during a short time.  She helped me through some other difficult losses and though I have no idea how we go on after losing her, I trust that we will.

Today, it’s one foot in front of the other.  Making sure our other dog, Junior is loved and cared for, as he is mourning the loss of his second lady friend.  We are resilient, yet so fragile.  That is life.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Hey, you! You’re a spirit

Om_symbol.svgI’m spiritual, but not religious.  For many of you that statement means that I’m not serious. That I can’t make a commitment.  The stereotype of that kind of thinking is an air-headed flake that can’t quite make up their mind.

For others, even uttering the word religion or for that matter, spirituality, will mean the conversation is over.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words “I’m not like that” or “I’m not interested in that”, when I want to talk about spirit or the metaphysical or even religion.  Complete tune-out happens.

And that’s too bad because as humans, we truly are spiritual beings in a human body (I didn’t invent that phrase, by the way).  Our soul and/or spirit needs to be fed and nurtured.  It’s probably more important to our health, than is the physical.  The two are tied so closely together that many can’t even feel or recognize their spiritual component.

When I say that I’m not religious, that doesn’t mean that I reject religion, but that I just don’t embrace it as my personal path.  In fact, I believe that we are entering a post-religious era on earth as we watch all of our sacred institutions crumble due to corruption and because they no longer serve the needs of the ‘flock’.  They serve themselves and wealthy benefactors.

Religion in it’s current form, feels to many of us as if there are too many rules.  It should make us feel loved and uplifted, not punished or judged or broken.  I believe that we are made in love and of love and for a religion to assume that we are all sinners isn’t healthy for the world.

Having said that, Jesus was such a great teacher and the Sermon On the Mount is something that I re-read fairly often.  To me, that’s the essence of Christianity in it’s simple message.  If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to.  It’s powerful and a beautiful example of how we should walk in the world and treat others.

But, that’s my opinion. We’ll see how we evolve.

What I want to express to those of you who reject organized religion and are also throwing out spiritual practice with that dirty water, is that you can make your own path and form your own belief system.  You don’t HAVE to label it.  You don’t HAVE to join a group or community (although sometimes, that feels pretty good).  You don’t have to go anywhere or label yourself.  You ARE spiritual because you are part of humanity and an inhabitant of Mother Earth.

My personal belief system is constantly widening and expanding and morphing and growing.  I’m like an octopus with eight arms, reaching out to wherever my intution leads me; many beliefs and practices speak to me and that’s okay.

I started with Christianity for obvious reasons and then studied Buddhism, began to meditate, was drawn to a more metaphysical approach. I am fed and inspired by nature, so I am drawn to some Native American/indigenous peoples practices.  I recently began reading about shamanism and have incorporated that into my meditation practice.  Delving into astrology in a deeper way has opened up my eyes to the ancient wisdom of man.

Every step that I take results in a richer spiritual understanding of not only myself, but everything else on earth and of the things that we can’t see, but that we can feel.  Death no longer scares me; in fact, I now believe that it will be another phase of my development and existence on another realm.

So, when I suggest to people who tell me that they’re struggling or angry all of the time or feeling lost or adrift, I tell them to begin a spiritual practice.  I usually suggest meditation and yet, so many reject it.  “I’m not religious.  Look at all of the wars and violence and killings that religion causes!”

Yeah, I get it.  I used to say that, too.  I used to say that I don’t believe in anything that I can’t see or prove.  “Religion is the opiate of the masses”, right?

So, don’t be ‘religious’.  You don’t HAVE to pick one.  And contrary to conventional wisdom here in the U.S., you don’t HAVE to be Christian.  You have a huge, rich, diverse body of spiritual thought, philosophy and literature to choose from.

Thousands and thousands of years of wisdom is available to pick from.  Be a rebel WITH a cause; your own spiritual growth.  The choice isn’t religion or atheist.  You are a spirit.  Your spirit aches for acknowledgement and growth.  Let it out to play.  Find what speaks to you and if it’s a tree, then study some earth based rituals.

The truth of the matter is that we are all made of earth, air, fire and water.  There’s a reason that we love walking the beach, a campfire, the smell of fresh cut grass ; we crave those parts of us and too often, we deny them.

If you’re struggling, know that we all are.  We all suffer as humans, we all are challenged, particularly by modern life, where we feel so powerless and untethered and unloved.  Your soul will tell you what you need, if you JUST LISTEN.  Stop rejecting spirit.  You don’t have to go to church or join a religion or follow rules.

Your path is yours.  Not your parent’s or your children’s or your government’s or your neighbor’s or your friend’s or your minister’s/priest’s.  Locate your spirit, talk to it, listen to where it guides you.  Be you.  Be brave.

May 1, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Don’t Know Mind

surrender2016 is the year of the purge; a time to cleanse. Every astrological, metaphysical and spiritual video/newsletter/blog that has shown up in my inbox over the past week has reiterated this same theme. It’s the year to leave some wounds behind and get your shit together. We can’t build anything new, until we expunge the old. Shred it, smash it, burn it. Just do it.

I’ve recently gone back to reading some things with the Buddhist tone or theme that awakened me 5 or 6 years ago, as I began to re-shape my life and my reactions to my life. The overriding theme of Buddhism, to me anyway, is that we cause ourselves and others so much pain by our lack of honesty and clarity. We cling to what “should be”, rather than what is. In Buddhist terms, that is called suffering.

We do it all day, every day. Because we are humans. Because we live in our minds and we make up stories about how other people should behave. We judge, we criticize, we rant, we argue. In some horrible instances, we shoot, we stab, we blow up, we murder or sanction murder via our leaders and governments. All in pursuit of our need to control what “should be”.

Painful, isn’t it? Yes. And it affects our personal health, both physical and emotional, our global health and obviously, our spiritual health, which some believe is actually beginning to come back from the dead, despite so much evidence to the contrary on the 24 hour news channels.

Accepting ‘what is’ and letting go of ‘what should be’ is one of the greatest paths to clarity. At least it has been for me. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t suffer and rage, just like you. I do, but I’m more and more able to arrest it more quickly, thanks to meditation and practice.

One of the most obvious ways that we suffer from ‘should be’ syndrome is with politics. We are all so invested in the outcome of elections that we fight and argue and call the other side awful names and in too many cases, expunge those who disagree with us from our lives or our Facebook friend list.

I’m not voting in the Presidential election this year. I’ve been lectured, I’ve been cajoled, I’ve been criticized and called selfish for this decision. I’ve been told, “well, then you can’t complain if you don’t vote”. Really? Watch me.

Here’s why I’ve made this choice: Every 4 years, we choose teams and then we fight and we name call and we invest a lot of time advocating, often with great hostility, for our team. It’s painful and frustrating and time consuming to go all in for one candidate or the other.

Then, we have an election. Half of the people celebrate. “We won!!”. The other half are bitterly disappointed. “Our lives will be horrible, now”. Neither is true. So, again, we are living with what “should be”, rather than “what is”.

The losing team, now spends the next 4 years berating, complaining and hoping for complete and utter failure of the winning team. There is no compromise, no tackling of problems or working toward solutions. New problems and crises arise and the losers complain bitterly that it’s all the winners’ fault.

The winners refuse to see that there might be some credence in the philosophy of the other side. That the losing team might have some good ideas. “Elections matter. We won. You lost. SHUT UP.”

Sound familiar. Sound painful and non-productive and silly?

We are all too invested in outcomes. We all just want to win and be right and then rub the losers’ noses in it. Nothing really changes. Nothing gets solved and it is a vicious, every-4-years cycle that I choose to remove myself from.

I honestly don’t care who wins. I have to live my life regardless of who is elected as the Leader of the Free World. So, why invest? I have to deal with ‘what is’ after an election. Period. This is referred to as “don’t know mind”. In other words none of us can ever predict an outcome with any accuracy at all, so why try? Any one of those running could be a great leader or a horrible one. We just don’t know, do we?

Think about some instances in your life that seemed tragic or painful or catastrophic, that actually resulted in a decent outcome or at the very least, some personal growth. I was fired from several jobs. In that moment, it was horrible, but I ended up in better situations.

I suffered some very painful losses of loved ones over the course of a short time and yes, it was extremely painful, but I’ve had a spiritual growth spurt thanks to that shock.

We honestly have no idea of the consequences of any action. Embrace that, open up to it and begin to let go of the ‘should be’ and live with ‘what is’.

So, what if we just remain open to whatever arises? What if after the election we accept the outcome and accept that we have no idea whether it will be good or bad? Because it will be; good and bad and calm and chaotic and scarce and abundant. That is life. Accept it for what it is. You will adapt, you will change, you will be forced to.

And that’s okay. Nobody is right or wrong.

Life has a way of making us face reality anyway. Might as well be two steps ahead, eh? Embrace the ‘know nothing’ mind. Be free. Surrender.

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Be Fearless…And Save The World

I actually wrote this a couple of years ago, but not much has changed, sadly.  So I thought I would dig it out and re-publish, since it’s what has been on my mind of late.  The media and government-fed fear of EVERYTHING is  making us aggressive and hostile and bigoted.  We need to stop.  We need to tap into the better angels of our nature: love, compassion and most importantly, empathy.  So what if people laugh at you for being ‘too nice’ or ‘soft’ or a ‘bleeding heart’.  Seems like that would be a badge of honor; be different. Be the real, loving you.   That’s what God/creator/cosmic energy intended.                                                                                                                                                     fear-198933_640

We live in a time of fear.  Fear brought on by global events, national events,economic catastrophes, other viewpoints, other religions, no religion, health care, no health care…you name it, we’re scared of it.

Life has been chugging along on our big blue marble for thousands  of years for us humans.  And before we-of-the-huge-brains came along, things chugged along without us.  Why are we suddenly so freaked out by everything?

I have a few theories.  One is that we’ve seen such huge technological advances over the past century, that we tend to believe that technology can fix all that ails us.  We are so smart that we should have solved all of the problems by now and when it occurs to us that we haven’t and won’t, it’s kinda scary.  And frustrating.  One solution begets another round of problems.  We don’t like that.  We humans don’t have the control over our world that we’d like.

Despite our best efforts to eradicate pain, suffering, war and disease, the universe remains infinitely powerful and troublesome and that makes us nervous.  I also think that it may be the catalyst for so much of the religious fervor that is bubbling here in the U.S. and around the world.  If we can’t solve all of the problems, maybe a deity can.  Science has let us down, so let’s turn it over to God and go whole hog into religious zealotry. Screw science and technology.  Let’s demonize our fellow sinners, as a sacrifice for the gods.

I’ve been re-reading my favorite book on Buddhist teachings by Steve Hagen, a zen priest.  It’s called “Buddhism Plain and Simple”.  It’s my favorite because I tend to think that spiritual beliefs should be plain and simple.  Fear and unease is referred to in Buddhist philosophy as duhkha;  the concept is that we often feel uneasy about the world around us, particularly because much of life is out of our control.  Buddhists don’t believe that the lack of control is good or bad, but just “is”.  To overcome this feeling of unease or suffering or anxiety or duhkha, you accept reality as it is.  Simple.  The tired phrase, “it is what it is” was probably uttered by Buddha thousands of years ago.  A  Zen parable called “Maybe” illustrates this simply and succinctly.

The older I get, the less fearful I am.  When I was young, I was incredibly selfish.  I did what I wanted to, without weighing how I affected other people.  I’m not proud of that, but there was a nugget of fearlessness in my behavior, mostly due to the fact that when you’re young, you really do think you’re invincible and immortal.  Even though I look back and cringe at some of the things that I did that adversely affected others, I am grateful for my bravado.  I never would have had my radio career without it.  I was willing to take risks to achieve success and was humble enough to learn from my (many) mistakes.  Plus, when you’re young and starting out, you have nothing to lose.  I often say on my radio show that your 20s are your ‘mulligan’ or your do-over decade.  If you’re gonna screw up, do it then so that you’ve got plenty of time to regain your balance and momentum.

Now, my fearlessness comes from knowing that my fears are rarely realized in the ways I’ve imagined.  Obstacles get tossed into your path and you go over or around them.  The next day dawns and you move forward. You learn with time and age, that you’re stronger than you think you are.  I have recognized and begun to accept the concept of duhkha.  There is a lot of stuff that just isn’t within my control and wishing and hoping and praying ain’t gonna make it so.  Accept what you SEE and KNOW to be true and the fear begins to dissipate.  We all end up in the same place in the end.

Accept the inevitability of  life/death/time/change.  It’s amazing how clearly you begin to see.

Morbid? No.  Freeing?  Yes.  “It is what it is”, friends.

 

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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