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Death

I Think I Might Know What It Is Like to Die


Oh boy. I realize it is saying a lot to title a post "I think I might know what it is like to die."

But for those of you who have been following along here for awhile, you likely understand how important it is for me to share this!

After all, I have a (ahem) mortal fear of death!

The other night I was watching this Netflix special called American Meme featuring a rather eclectic assortment of personalities - everyone from Paris Hilton to an intriguing individual named Josh Ostrovosky who apparently prefers to be called The Fat Jewish.

To say these folks have some, well, unusual ways of spending a day would be an understatement. It was really a fascinating documentary!

But no moment was less expected than when Paris Hilton opened up for just a micro-moment to share her thoughts about death and dying. What I learned from this is we both have the same biggest fear (yep, dying).

But what we fear about death and dying is slightly different. Paris is afraid death is going to be boring. My fear is similar, I guess - I am afraid I won't like it and it will go on forever. I am also afraid that, just like in life, I won't fit in. I won't be able to find my people - my tribe - my flock.

Speaking of flock, I am also afraid my animals and I won't be able to be together. If that is the case, I'd prefer not to go to the "people place" when I die. I want to go where they go. 


Emotions

Finding The Heart of Forgiveness


Forgiveness is one of those life skills I tend to think I know a lot about.

As in, I think I know how to forgive. I know why it is important and how it can help. I even think I know what it feels like when I have forgiven someone else...or myself.

Except that I don't. I know this on account of how people I've already forgiven keep coming back up in my emotions or thoughts or dreams, and it is quite clear I need to forgiven them again.....or perhaps I never really did forgive them the first (or 40th) time I tried.

This is particularly true when the person was really really really important to me. It is also particularly true when the person I need to forgive is myself. It is harder to forgive people who hurt me or let me down multiple times. And it is even harder to forgive myself for letting them.

Often I try to do this work first thing in the morning during my meditation time. This is a good time because my mind is still relatively clear (or at least still otherwise occupied by the content from the previous night's dreams and is thus safely distracted). Also, I have more energy in the morning than I do at night, and it can take a lot of energy to forgive.

A few mornings ago an individual popped up - this person had actually made a surprisingly compelling cameo in my dreams the night prior, which was how I knew they needed to be forgiven again.

So I set to work. 


Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

Building Up Your Tolerance for Self-Care


If you are like me, you probably read the title to this post and thought:

"Huh? What do you mean, tolerance for self-care? Shouldn't it be easy, enjoyable, fun even?"

Absolutely.

It sure should be easy, enjoyable, embraceable, fun. Yet, for so many (or at least for me) it isn't. Or it hasn't been. Until now.

This month, it is a little over a year since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (translation: thyroid decides to go on indefinite vacation, tells no one before it leaves.)

When I first was diagnosed, I was at a total loss. I mean, I knew something in me was broken. I felt it in my body, my mind, my emotions, my spirit. When my doctor told me at that first appointment not to worry, he could fix it, no matter what "it" was, I felt relieved. That was just what I wanted and needed to hear at the time.

But the thyroid pills only got me so far. And there were side effects. I knew more would be needed than just the medicine if I was to truly heal, but I didn't know how much more. And I didn't know what.

Today, I do. Today, I catch myself saying to myself, "I just need a 'me' day, a 'spa' day, a 'self-care' day," so much more often and usually without more than a twinge of guilt. Sometimes I even say it out loud to myself, to Pearl, to Malti, to Bruce, to the air around me that seems empty but isn't.

It is full of my energy, my effort, my emerging intuition that all goodness, all kindness, all compassion, all empathy, all joy, all love, all fun, all connection, all that is really alive begins within.

Today I am not as productive in the ways I used to define productivity. I have creative projects that are - dare I say it - languishing - so I can take yet another hour to give myself a pedicure or a clay masque or a yoga session.

They might never get done, to be honest. 


Grief

The Seeming Senselessness of Grief


To say I'm not in love with grief is putting it mildly.

I've been cycling through the (alleged) five stages of grief for, well, three solid months now since my longtime love and I parted ways.

Three months - it doesn't seem like a very long time. But it feels like a very long time.

It also feels - frankly - somewhat senseless.

(And I don't say that as a general blanket statement to mean that if you are grieving or know someone who is, that it should apply to your grief or your loved one's grief. I mean it in terms of my own grief, right here, right now.)

Allow me to explain. The parting was a long time coming. It was a decision I made for reasons that still feel very loving, very respectful, not to mention surprisingly mature. We had reached an impasse where we were both entrenched and it had become literally impossible to move in any direction....except apart.

Being apart, we can both be who we are without feeling any internal or external pressure to change. It is better.

Except there is this grief.

Some mornings I wake up and feel so much better.  


Yoga Mentoring

Learning to Move Like You Love Yourself


"Move like you love yourself."

My YouTube yoga teacher, Adriene, has been saying this for the last year, which is the exact amount of time I've been taking her online yoga courses.

But it really just registered with me today.

All of a sudden, as I attempted to un-pretzel myself from the stiff, chilly, cross-legged posture I had adopted out on my porch, these words popped into my mind.

"Move like you love yourself."

My first thought in response was, "huh?"

My mind - very understandably, I think - wanted to know what this would look like. How would it know I was moving like I loved myself and not in some other way. I didn't know what to tell it. Because truthfully, I don't really know. 


Yoga Mentoring

What It Means (To Me) To Marry Movement With Breath

I have known for decades that the word "yoga," loosely translated, means "union."
But I have to say it didn't really sunk in until just recently.
Perhaps this is because I was winning spelling bees when I was in elementary school. In my world, learning new words and memorizing their definitions is just what I do.
But taking that newly-learned word and its definition one essential step further into personal meaning and application - well, either I slept through that lesson in school or the topic never came up.
Either way, it has been somewhat of a revelation of late to realize I haven't really grasped that something is getting unified when I practice yoga, let alone what that something might be or why it matters so much.
Luckily, I have found the best yoga mentor, teacher, guide, inspiration, on the planet to help me sort all this out - my YouTube teacher Adriene Mischler. She has truly revolutionized not just how I understand the purpose and benefit of yoga practice - as in the poses she performs with such effortless fluidity each morning while I take tumble after tumble down onto my (now sensibly double-padded) yoga mat.

What I find so interesting is that Adriene doesn't even really focus on the poses, actually. This in spite of the fact that her instructions on how to do them and her suggestions for small adjustments to improve are so intuitive I think she may be secretly staring at me through my little laptop webcam.

But otherwise, she mostly focuses on the breath. She constantly reminds us to marry the movement with the breath, to inhale and exhale in specific ways at precise moments to support ourselves through each posture.

I will be honest. With some (all) of the postures, I need all the support I can get.

And yet even though taking regular deep, focused, precise breaths in and out offers me extra support both on and off my yoga mat, instead I often discover I am holding my breath!

For example, I hold my breath when a pose gets difficult. I hold my breath when life gets difficult. I hold my breath when my mind gets distracted and wanders off to think by itself while my poor beleaguered body is trying yet again to master a yoga pose or clean the bath tub or tie my shoelaces.

In other words, I am definitely not unified.

I try to muscle my way through pain, grief, challenge, even opportunity. I look back over my life and my work to date and see so much muscling. I see myself doing things the hard way again and again, which I suppose is better than not doing them at all, but certainly still leaves much to be desired.

So these days, and especially in the aftermath of being diagnosed with thyroid disease a year ago last November, every morning like clockwork I make it a point to open up YouTube and find Adriene and do another yoga session so I can remember to breathe, to marry my movement with my breath, to try again to unify me with me.

I recently completed Adriene's new series "Dedicate," a 30-day journey which includes a daily email. One day, the email included this gem of a poem, which I find myself returning to again and again to ponder its instructions.


Grief

How I Discovered Little Griefs


Grief arrives with us into this world, or at least that is my working theory.

After all, anyone older than nine months has already experienced grief at least once, with that first big wrenching transition from inside-Mom to outside-Mom.

Maybe we liked it better inside and maybe we like it better outside, but either way, we didn't expect it. We weren't ready. We didn't have any say in the matter.  Ouch.

Fast forward 48 more years, and grief is a rather regular visitor in my life, but not always in ways I instantly recognize or respect.

Sure, there is what I've come to call "big grief."

I had that kind last November when my longtime love and I separated. I still have it, just to clarify. That kind of grief is big and bold. It likes to make an entrance.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 Stages of Grief model sums up the high points: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance.

Personally, when in the throws of big grief, I tend to flop around a bit between the stages, waking up in denial one day, feeling angry the next, crying my eyes out a few days later after another round of bargaining with my ex, then finally finding the softness of acceptance for a moment or two....before it starts all over again,for more information.

But recently I discovered that big grief isn't the only kind of grief. There is also a type I've come to call "little griefs." 


Relationships

A New Definition of Intimacy


I like to make up my own definitions to words.

Sometimes I do this because the definitions in the dictionary don't seem to fit. Sometimes I do this because I don't understand what the dictionary is talking about.

Sometimes I do this because when I read the definition, I feel it is giving me the end result - what the word's outcome will be, but there is no detail about the steps to get there.

And sometimes I do this because definitions in general often seem very theoretical, and I typically do a lot better with practical application.

So not, "how can I use this word in a sentence?," but rather, "How can I use this word in my daily life?"

The word "intimacy" is a great example in all these areas.

According to a vast variety of dictionary definitions for this word, intimacy means each of the following.

Closeness. Clearly a result of intimacy - what intimacy can provide. But how can I get there?
An intimate act. Really? Okay, I know what they're talking about. But don't use the actual word I'm trying to understand in the definition for that word....grrr.
Knowledge of a subject. See #1 here.
An intimate remark. See #2 here.

The one and only definition I found online that I feel any resonance comes from a fellow Psych Central blogger, who writes "intimacy means deeply knowing another person and being deeply known."

But still, there are steps missing - for me at least. And here, you have to understand that while I always got all As in observation, I routinely get all Fs in application, at least when it comes to intimate relationships.

As proof, I present this fact: 


Relationships

Who Are You? Why Are You Here? What Gives Your Life Meaning?


According to one of my all-time favorite mentors, Don Miguel Ruiz, there are three simple questions that can start a revolution inside of us.

While "revolution" might not sound like a particularly good or safe thing - and probably not a convenient one either - Ruiz says that revolution is how we decide what kind of leader we will be to ourselves.

Ruiz's three questions sound just a bit different than mine, but I suspect the underlying spirit is the same. He asks, "Who are you? What is real? What is love?"

For so many years in my meditation tradition, I have been taught to ask myself, "Who am I? Why am I here? What gives my life meaning?"

So - not so very different, I think.

Recently a sweet heart-friend sent me a fabulous article about


Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

What Do You Really Want?


For many years - decades, really - I have been striving towards a state I call not-wanting.

As many of you know, my initial aspirations were wildly misguided as I focused on not wanting food, calories, weight...the exact sort of not-wanting that can transform a reasonably healthy tween into a totally unhealthy anorexic teen.

Later, as I got better at this sort of not-wanting and my efforts made a sharp turn away from unhealthy and towards deadly, I decided to focus more specifically on not-wanting to die. Happily, this eventually resulted in recovery and a much healthier and more functional me.

Along the way, I discovered meditation. This led me once again to not-wanting, this time as a lifestyle choice in preparation for what many yogis and meditation masters call a "good death." After all, I reasoned, if I am going to die anyway and only get one shot at it, I want to make sure it's a good one.

Why am I telling you all this? Basically, it is because I only just now realized that all the well-intentioned not-wanting in the world will never block out the pure and potent wanting that stretches down into the deepest fibers of my being.

I have also learned that this perpetual state of wanting is programmed right into our most fundamental hardwiring. For example, we all want food, water, shelter, to not get eaten. We all want connection. We all want to find our place in this world, whether it is our place in the pack or around the conference table. And we all want to fully be who we are - to fulfill our potential.

But only homo sapiens (us) have that large and pesky pre-frontal cortex to interfere with our deep knowledge and acceptance of what we want. Here, I mean what we REALLY want, not what our mind says we "should" want or what is reasonable to want or what we believe we are allowed to want or can want and actually get.

By the way, the difference between us and all other species in this area is HUGE.