Clearing the Way

Snow covered pathway toward sunshine

“You spend the first half of your life acquiring

and the second half discarding.”


Red pick-up truck loaded with cabinets, chairs, washing machine

Loading the pick-up truck with things too good to discard, I recalled traveling this multifarious path before. Most of my life actually. From Mom setting up our apartment after my parents divorce, to my returning home from college…to storing relics in my barn while building a dream home…to housing family memorabilia upon my father’s death, then brother’s divorce – one and two, and mother’s passing. Soon my life became crammed with mementos of everyone’s past. Things too good to discard. Things once thought they couldn’t be lived without…have become things forgotten about.


Reuse and recycle is anything but new.


Materialistic I am not. Scottish resourcefulness and being raised by parents of the Great Depression indoctrinated me with environmental concepts early on. That includes donating gifts I’ll never use (but also means holding on to some “just-in-case” items that might not get used).


If something comes in, something must go.


While crazed Black Friday shoppers raced toward the acquisition gate, my wish list focused on meaningful experiences — engaging time with dear ones, sensational restaurants, bucket-list travel, living theater, musical concerts of varied genres — non-materialistic things that proffer a pleasing energy without depleting space. Kind of like “green giving.”


Face unused possessions with, “Do I really need this?”


Tidbits of loyalty complicate clearing away. How could I discard my mother’s high school class graduation photo? It feels disrespectful to give it to the Salvation Army (Would they want it anyway?) and Heaven forbid, I could not throw it in the trash. I just couldn’t. Yet, what am I going to do with it, except store it in the basement…like the dusty china and crystal rarely used…or my dad’s wartime souvenirs, drawings, and bosun’s whistle that I’m still secretly hoping some organization would want to display.


Stuff carries personal and planetary responsibilities.


When I pass, will my remaining belongings wait for a stranger to unload...along with numerous other keepsakes and prized possessions of each person in my life? Is that the usual way out…leave heaps of stuff for someone else who holds no attachment? It would be easier emotionally for them to clear out but an unfair and monumental task. Besides, what about the planet?

Like the environmentally-conscious youth culture who rejects using existing quality made, real wood furniture, opting instead for put-it-together junk composed of compressed wood chips and plastic veneers that won’t last — it doesn’t make sense to me (or for our rapidly filling planet).


How we deal with stuff can mirror how we deal with life.


Boxes of hats, shoes, purses, furs, evening wear to get rid of

After decades of carrying boxes from place to place, and shuffling moments from one building to another, I’ve realized I often compartmentalize emotions in challenging times, putting them in boxes until I can appropriately deal with them. Same holds true for family stuff. My mom became a hoarder who couldn’t let go. My brother tossed things from his immediate sight. I’m the organized one…with the boxes.


Saying, “It’s served its purpose,” makes it easier to let go.


When it gets too much, and the clutter of memories swallows up my space, I need to let go. Now, that I have so many of my brother’s belongings I’ve begun clearing more of my mother’s past. The evening gowns, furs, and hats that she could never vacate from her apartment are leaving my home.


Mother Nature naturally knows how to clear the way.


After delivering 17 jam-packed carloads of my mom’s stuff and 15 of my brother’s to charities, and a lot of my dad’s history to the auctioneer, I’ve sworn I would never do this to my benefactors. Making arrangements for one’s personal belongings — no matter how small, is a loving but often forgotten piece of estate planning. Even Mother Nature, when overloaded with piles of leaves or debris, sends in sheets of rain or a gust of wind to clear the wreckage of the past.

Colorful autumn leaves blowing in the forefront of an evergreen forest

Do you consider what comes into your space? Have you cleared out family possessions? Are you in an acquiring or discarding mode? 

Angels without Wings

Human girl standing in between a set of painted wings on a building.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life search for love and wisdom.

                                                                                                                                              —Rumi


Leaving the funeral director’s office, I silently expressed thanks to God and the Universe. I met a real angel. No coincidence our paths crossed.

Worthy guidance, a smile, understanding…from friends and those I do not know.

Shutting the door to my brother’s apartment one last time, I turned around to give thanks for the angels who swooped in to help me. And him. All seeming strangers. Like the folks I’ve connected with on WP but never actually met.

Out-of-the-blue kindnesses as powerful as an angel’s wings lifted my weary spirits so I could also pass the kindness along. I’m grateful, so grateful, this Thanks Giving for kindness.

A stone engraved with the words "Angels Gather Here" sits under a pot of vinca vines.
The long standing greeting at my entryway…

And you? Have you been graced in a time of need by unanticipated kindness? What’s on your list for this holiday week of giving thanks?

Opening the Door to Transformation

Photo of long hallway with door at the end

Synchronicity delivered timely and profound guidance to me before my mother’s passing. Surprisingly, it originated from a talented Spanish guitar musician (and yoga instructor) whose concert I attended just months earlier. Johannes Linstead’s message radically shifted my thoughts about death and erased any long-held fears. Since that time, it’s become my mainstay. I’ve included his epistle in sympathy cards and received numerous responses that his message also eased their grief and sorrow. In asking this guitar guru for permission to share his words of wisdom, he kindly replied:

Thank you for reaching out. I am so touched that my writings helped you through such a difficult time. To have experienced 15 deaths in such a short time is not easy, especially losing your brother. So sorry. I would be happy for you to share my writings as hopefully it can help others. By the way, my writings are being compiled into a book which I hope to release next year.

Thanks and blessings,

Johannes

Single chair in barren room with bright lights and windows above and bright and dark entrances and exits
Original photo by Alessandra Onisor on Unsplash

May this original message from Johannes help anyone else experiencing loss and processing grief:

“The End is Transformation”

All that is here and within you is sacred. All that is here and within you is divine. The earth, the animals, the waters, the trees, the rocks, and every human share the same sacredness and divinity. Even with this inherent sacredness and divinity each will come and go in accord to its own destiny and cycle. In life and in death, there is no difference and there is no separation, only transformation.

All in the phenomenal world is birthed into creation, has its lifespan, and its death. But this death is not a real death. The word “death” evokes a feeling within the mind that denotes finality and finality causes a fear. Many people are afraid of the cessation of life, whether it be their own or the life of a loved one and this fear subtly suppresses the ability to truly live. To truly live is to be fearless, to embrace each moment with a complete joy, and to rejoice with a sense of abandon. 

The fear of change and the fear of death are two things that if one can learn to accept will make life a benediction for they are the two things in life that cannot be changed. Resistance only causes anguish. To change your relationship to these two supposed enemies requires contemplation, and contemplation requires courage. The spiritual path is a path that requires great courage, which is why some people call it the Way of the Spiritual Warrior, for it is a fight, a daily battle to not get trapped into the trenches of the mundane but instead fight with every breath of your life to reclaim your true domain – the domain of the soul where love, light, truth, and kindness prevail.

If you can reach the breakthrough point of acceptance then your life will be forever changed, joy and peace will enter your heart and fill your being. Being filled with joy and peace no room will be left for delusion, anger, hatred, jealousy or greed. As you transform, the world around you will also transform. The only death you need concern yourself with is welcoming the death of the darkness within you. 

Sat Nam,

Johannes ~ Sevaji

As you can tell, Johannes Linstead is a deeply spiritual person. He is the founder of Divine Earth (divineearth.org), a humanitarian organization promoting meditation, yoga, holistic living, and the healing power of music. Johannes says, “I use music as a way to express what words cannot say. Every note contains a part of me and all the love, joy, hope and compassion in my heart. I believe that music has the power to uplift humanity — I see it all the time at every one of my concerts. To be able to bring happiness to so many people is a true blessing.” Here’s just one of his many expressive songs:

To learn more about Johannes Linstead ~ Guitar of Fire! please visit his websitewww.johanneslinstead.com

 

Open gate to illuminated pathway
Original photo by Pixaline from Pixabay

Messages from the Brightest Stars…

Golden beams of sunshine through an autumn forest

10-30-19 026cThe garden rests under November’s grey skies and already freezing temps while I practice morning Qigong inside. Looking up, I notice this solitary tree glowing amidst bare woods. It reminds me of my brother, Robert — my last living immediate family member and only sibling, who recently passed.

Years ago, when one of my dogs tragically passed, my brother consoled me by comparing that young dog to a bright star, explaining that the brightest stars have shorter lives. A contemporary Doctor Doolittle, Robert had an extraordinary talent for connecting with animals and particularly canines. He is the one who gave Bess to me.

Bess and Robert’s bookend deaths these last four months, along with too many other friends and co-workers, feels as insurmountable as piles of autumn leaves. So thick, I can barely see clearly on this course of 15 deaths that presumably is meant for deeper understanding. Striving to find meaning in all of this, I seek out any comfort I can find. Too late, I hear Do not let anger ruin a relationship. Time is shorter than we think…forgiveness is key. 
Broken branch
Original photo by Manfred Richter on Pixabay

 

As with the duality of the Tao, my brother and I had another side to our relationship. Several years ago we mutually agreed to sever contact out of opposing values and a need for self-care. After recent minimal communication we were to meet in person but he passed before it came to fruition. It’s come to me that “The soul knows when to go,” and “Everything happens exactly as it is meant to be.” I feel grateful my brother and I requited resolution and forgiveness in the month before he departed.

A caring guy with a zany sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Robert chose to pass three days before Halloween. But, finding Reese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
Reese's peanut butter cups

Seeing this orange/black package gave me an odd sort of comfort — my diabetic brother loved this candy…and he promised to give me a sign.  Later on Halloween night, I pulled in a radio station from afar. The guest spoke about Houdini’s wife, Bess, who made a pact with her husband to give a sign from the other side. These seemingly coincidental gifts gave my heart a lift.

Understanding it’s helpful for the deceased and those surviving to express gratitude for their presence in our lives, I offer some sentiments my brother once shared with me…too bad we forgot them in these last eight years:
  • The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
  • Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of  battle.
  • Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.If it changes your life, let it.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
  • A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
Golden red leaf with a heart in the middle
Photo by Rebekka D from Pixabay
  • Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not notice that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we forget what’s right and wrong. Sometimes we don’t realize what real friendship means until it is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so I’m gonna tie you to my heart so I never lose you.
  • The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
  • One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.
If this post touches your heart, my brother and I encourage you to make amends with the person who broke it.

Nature Teacher: Hanging On…and Letting Go

Two autumn leaves hanging on...one on the window glass; the other on the trim with a reflection of the blue sky and trees.

This little guy was hanging on to my window for the last month. He didn’t want to let go. But I knew he would when the time was right.

window leaf 001BC

I didn’t want to post this photo right away. It made me think about my brother who, only days before, told me his quadruple heart bypass failed. With 30% heart function, I didn’t know how long he could hang on. Strange, the things we think about or tell ourselves when dealing with death and stressful events. Perhaps that fantasy thinking is part of bargaining — if I do this, then that will occur…or we’re fearful to do certain things as if it’s a bad omen.

The little leaf has left my window. And this week my brother left his life here on earth.

Autumn trees reflected in a pond with a memorial to my big brother

 

 

 

 

Halloween’s Other Side of Life

Intricate spider web in black and orange Halloween colors

Looking out my window during morning Qigong practice, I glanced up to see this intricate spider web. Amazing to view its work up close…a meditation in itself.

Intricate gossamer spider web hanging between branches with insect bitten burgundy leaves of a Ornamental Plum tree
Seeing beyond the spider web…

With Halloween approaching, I dug deeper into the curiosities of this scary holiday. I never understood Halloween‘s color combination of orange and black but now it makes more sense. Orange represents autumn, and black signifies death (of summer). I realize, as in how I choose to view life’s transition to death, that this holiday does not have to evoke fear as popularly promulgated. 

And those spiders serving as long time mascots for Halloween? There’s a pleasant tale indicating they are the spirit of a loved one watching over you. How befitting in my summer of bereavement, and a more pleasant thought than frightful ghosts and goblins.

Who knew a simple spider web would give new meaning to Halloween for me? It’s become a holiday for recognizing life’s natural transition rather than scaring me to death.

 

 

 

 

3: Omne Trium Perfectum – Making Sense of it All

Lucky Three or Not
Things come in threes beleaguers my thoughts. A month ago, I received word that my beloved border collie, Bess, passed away while I traveled in Scotland. Last week I received word that my best male friend from college passed away. Memories flash of the three close friends I lost a few years ago — all within nine months (3 x 3) time. Murmurings below the surface question if a third heartbreak will follow.

Contrary aphorisms abound for this popular number. Three’s a charm predicts success after two failures. Or a third misfortune can follow two others. A third soldier lighting a cigarette from the same source was considered unlucky on the WWI battlefield since a sniper could see the first light, aim on the second, and fire on the third.

Similar “superstitions” like don’t walk under a ladder or don’t open an umbrella in the house, I consider more as practical warnings. After all, anything can be dropped from working high above, and an umbrella’s cuspate spokes can be dangerous and obstructive indoors. 

brooke-campbell-Rw2-Y0nSIKQ-unsplashThat Timeless Number Three
My search for a deeper understanding of the number three revealed its timeless phenomenon. Pythagoreans, for instance, believed the number three to be the first triangular number. Besides its strength in triangles, tripods, and pyramids, the notorious number three prevails throughout history and cultures worldwide:

The Trident
Photo by Hans Braxmeier on Pixabay

Ancient Symbolism:
– A trident appears beside Neptune, Shiva, and farmers.

– The Celtic triskele’s three spirals symbolize the Present World-where we live and exist, the Other World-home of our ancestors, spirit guides and deities, and the Celestial World.
– The three-petaled French fleur-de-lis originally represented the commoners, nobility, and clergy.  In other cultures it’s also symbolized life, perfection, and light. 

Mythology:
– Greek Cronus fathered three sons – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades; Norse Borr also fathered three sons –  Odin, Vili, and Vé.

– Mayans believed mankind was created in three attempts (flood destroyed the first man made of clay; a storm washed away the second man made of wood; but the third man made from maize was from whom all are descended).
– Celtic gods and goddesses often appear in groups of three.

camels-1150075_1280
Photo by Kevin Phillips on Pixabay

Religion:
Besides the Trinity, the number three winds throughout Christianity as when it was reported that three wise men presented three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh), and Jesus’ ministry lasted three years.

– Buddhism’s Three Jewels are The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha.
– The Torah uses the number three for Jews to mediate between two opposing or contradictory values.
– Universal chi, human plane chi, and earth chi compose Taoism’s Three Pure Ones.
– Zoroastrianism’s three virtues are Humata (good thoughts), Hukhta (good words) and Hvarshta (good deeds).
– Hindu’s Trimūrti triple deity is Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.

The_Hindu_Gods_Vishnu,_Shiva,_and_Brahma
10th century artwork of Hindu trinity

– Islam’s triple talaq is a Muslim divorce where a husband pronounces three times talaq (Arabic word for divorce).
– The Bahá’í faith’s three principles are the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity.
– Neopagan religions revere the Triple Goddess deity of maiden, mother and crone.

Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes:
Remember The Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, or Goldie Locks and the Three Bears?

The Count of Three:
– Arithmetic, reading, and writing are academic basics.

– “You’re out!” after three strikes in baseball, and three outs end an inning.
– Actions requiring synchrony often count to three like one-two-three “Say cheese!”

Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

Music:
– Music expresses feelings, ideas and moods.
– A chord consists of three notes.
– Music’s three main elements are melody, rhythm, and harmony.

Art:
Composition is based on the Rule of Thirds.

– Artists create with three primary colors of red, yellow and blue.
– Writers have a beginning, middle and end. 

Nature and the Environment:
– Physics, chemistry, and biology are the three types of natural laws.

– The physical environment consists of land, sea, and sky.
– Folklore and religions describe life in heaven, hell, and on earth.

Medicine and Science:
India’s Ayurvedic medicine revolves around three doshas — vata, pitta and kapha.
– Variation, heredity, and selection are the three principles of evolution.
– Personality theory is based on the id, the ego and the superego.

The Unity of Three
Three can be an expression of unity as in father, mother and child or how one can become three as in me, myself and I. Of course, we’ve been told three’s a crowd but three is also a tie-breaker. Perhaps one is too solitary, and two is too black and white final. It is three that offers possibility like a shade of grey as in this, that, other, or door 1-2-or 3.

The number three appears almost everywhere.  What do you think of the number three?  Has it played any significance in your life?

Three Deep
What is it that makes three so powerful and for years on end?  Yogis access intuition through their third eye. Some may deem consideration of three as linear thinking or apophenia — a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information. For me, observing patterns is a trait I developed in my youth to manage an unpredictable home life. Even if erroneous, considering the next possibility eliminated the shock when voices escalated and doors slammed. 

My Adult View of Three…
As a gardener, I understand plants need earth, water, and air. Three-leaf clovers make me smile, and I’m cautious near three-leaved poison ivy or oak. My red-white-and blue spirit cherishes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

I’ve learned that the number three can represent past, present and future, or body, soul and spirit. As the number of completion, I recognize that Bess and my college buddy have lived their cycles of birth, life and death — something that every living creature will experience.  It just is. The way of life.

 

 

The Ups and Downs of Life

raindrops on pink rose buds
Image by silviarita from Pixabay

 

Rain clouds

help flowers grow.

Why should life experiences be any different?

 

Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie.  Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…


“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”

— Alan Cohen

Bess gave me both.


I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.


In Loving Memory of Bess-1

Contemplating Compost

Death is not so permanent as one might think.  When contemplating compost, you more fully understand the cycle of life.  Fruits and vegetables provide nutrition to us.  Flowers offer beauty.  When their peelings, parings, stems and leaves are tossed into the bin to decompose, in time they become nutrition for the soil.   Black gold I like to call it.

compost in bin

This rich compost continues nurturing us by transforming the soil to produce nutritious fruits and vegetables, and flowers to soar the spirit.

And so the cycle of life continues.  Quite simple, really.  Nature shows us how.  So what is all the fear about?

compost dirt

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

artur-rutkowski-97622-unsplash
Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

The Beauty of Transformation

Dazzling green and metallic blue dragonflies transformed my summer to autumn.  Taking in the colorful, changing fall landscape yesterday amid September temps, I was mesmerized when a silvery gold dragonfly as sparkly as Christmas ribbons landed on my garden chair.  We both sat perfectly still for the next few minutes, its lipstick red mirrored dots on gossamer wings captivating me.

018 My dragonfly

Surely, clothing and fabric designers must get their ideas from nature I thought.  And then my view cast to the maple tree reflected in the pond, and the pathway illuminated from a myriad of golds, greens, browns, oranges and reds that painted the cherry, pear, oak, magnolia and unidentified trees.

cropped-100_1648-autumn-favorite-b1.jpg

 I felt awestruck that nature could be so endlessly beautiful, even while dying.

But, then I decided to look at it another way.  Just as the dragonfly transforms so does the tree.  It may shed leaves until it stands stark and bare but there is a regenerative undercurrent; it is not approaching death, it is transforming, preparing for another season, for another time, for the vitality of Spring.

My view of the seasons reflecting life — birth (spring), prime of life (summer), mid-life (autumn) and end of life (winter) — has also transformed.  No longer do I see only one life cycle.  Nature is teaching me more about life and what I use to call death.  More and more, I am convinced the end is not the end per se.  Life, for us, for trees, for seeds has many cycles.  I’d much prefer to think I’ll continue to grow and evolve than to die back and out.  The roses return.  Perennials too.  Trees grow new leaves and bloom in the spring.  Again and again and again.