With the New Year beginning, I’m adding a new page called “Fertilizers for the mind & spirit.” Based on the miraculous results compost produces in the garden, I believe the same holds true for enriching our minds. Please feel free to add some of your own tidbits to that page for all of us to turnover, stir and nourish our perspectives…
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,
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.
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:
This summer of exhaustive change whirled like a tornado snatching dear ones from my path. In three months I’ve experienced rapid and complete loss from news of 14 deaths — nine of them close to me. Barely catching my breath, we’ve also just lost the healing space where we’ve hand drummed for over 15 years.
I admit, change often feels like a blustery, cold wind in my life rather than a soothing, summer breeze. Raised in a dysfunctional home, I became an ACOA and HSP — frazzled by chaos and discord, and craving stability and harmony.
If I continually resist change, though, the Universe sweeps in, eliminating any more chances or choices to get on board. Suddenly, (at least it feels that way, even if I’ve dilly-dallied for ages) I’m hurled with hurricane force into new situations — whether desired or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I feel courageous or not. So, instead of latching on tightly and refusing to let go, I’m more inclined now to accept and release. Note: it’s not always immediate and it doesn’t mean I always like it.
Change is welcomed when we are the ones initiating it.
But, when it’s thrown upon us, our response is often quite different.
The calendar indicates when I can reasonably expect to see leaves falling, snow flying, buds blooming. Even if it isn’t exactly on schedule, I feel comfortable knowing that the next season is around the corner, hence, what to expect next. It’s the unanticipated adversity — like tornadoes, Nor’easters (and precipitous deaths) that jolt me.
Still, I’m learning like everyone else on this journey called life. My headstrong adolescence pressed through storms, and my unguided young adulthood blindly maneuvered rocky, melodramatic situations. In mid-adulthood, the fog began lifting, offering clearer, smoother sailing — but only through a widened perspective and attitude of enhanced acceptance.
My Five Stages of Acceptance
By that I mean growing out of questioning, “Why me, or us or this?” to lamenting disappointment, to bemoaning perplexity, to the sighing resignation of “It is what it is,” to realizing the changing nature of the seasons is the flow of life. Change is the perfectly natural progression. For it to be anything otherwise equals stagnation and death.
As my perspective changes, so does my life.
So now, when immense change occurs, I endeavor to exchange fear or disappointment with faith and acceptance that everything is working out exactly as it’s meant to be. While intellectually understanding death as transformation eases the loss, it doesn’t completely erase my feelings. For other changes, I remind myself that space is being created for something better…and that the gift may not always appear how I envision it — another reason for due diligence in living consciously and welcoming doors of opportunity.
Each of us processes life and change differently, and at different times in our life.
While still feeling an emptiness from losing Bess and other friends this summer, my heart slowly mends by shifting focus from loss to fulfillment. Having more leeway to be away from home now I’ve planned two bucket list journeys for 2020 — Turks & CaicosandCotswolds, England.
A close friend processed her loss quite differently when her dog suddenly died this summer. (He was panting at 7PM and dead by 10PM.) Feeling so distraught, she brought home brother and sister puppies a week later. While they are adorable, she forgot how much work they are and is now so tied to home, she cannot leave even for day trips. Change comes in all sizes, just like pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters…
How do you process change? Has it been the same throughout your life, or evolved one way or the other? Do you welcome change or close your eyes and shut the door on it, only to have it forced open later?
Wandering through Christianity, Buddhism, and Unity to my current interest of studying the Tao, I long ago exchanged organized religion for a more profoundspirituality. Structured religion gave me a moral and ethical compass for living life. Eastern philosophies expanded my understanding. But, my spirituality deepened after a life altering illness, decades of consciously working in the garden, and a burgeoning sense of gratitude.
“Religion…shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude…in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”
“…In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.” — William James
Discovering this naturally created pulpit and pews on my visit to Scotland this summer was a curious surprise.
Scotland Outdoor Pulpit and Pews
View from an outdoor church in Scotland with natural made pulpit and pews
View of sky, mountains and water from natural outdoor church in Scotland grass in Scotland
I imagined listening to a sermon among these bluest of skies, lush green mountains and clear waters. The pastor wouldn’t have to speak a word.
Blessed with three good weather seasons, I’m most often in the garden — seeding, nurturing, harvesting — plants, but also my thoughts and spirit.
For me, attending church is gliding over morning dew glistened grass to the vegetable patch or flower garden…feeling the warming sun on my skin and a serene sky’s embrace. Hearing “the quiet.” At first. And then the hum of bees, chirping birds, and steady rhythm of high-pitched crickets uniting in choir. Sweet nature gloriously sings a sermon to my soul.
Gardening teaches me so much about living life. Besides providing quiet time to regenerate, and avoid constant interruptions of marketing ploys or messages that can wait, gardening offers opportunities to look more deeply into life.
Stepping into the tomato patch today, I notice some are ripened red, some still green, some are somewhere along the way. Brighter, faster, bigger, smaller, slower — each is on its own natural path. Some are still hanging on, some have fallen, others have reached their potential, or are late bloomers. Each embodies the same components — vine, skin, flesh, seeds, juice — but they are not exactly the same. I do not understand why current culture insists humans must have the same thoughts, feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, that to be one we cannot be unalike.
We are a universe of red, white, brown, tan, black, tall, short, thin, plump beings, with indigenous dialects and languages, who think diverse thoughts, eat different foods, live in disparate climates, etc., etc., etc. Yet the Thought Police want to neutralize our inherent differences, insisting we cannot think independently, that our beliefs, words and opinions must all conform. Consider this:
An unripened tomato is not the same as a ripened one, not in color, size, taste or maturity. Similarly, a beefsteak tomato is not a cocktail tomato or a plum tomato or cherry tomato or tomato of any other name. I cannot force it to be what it is not. Some are blemished, some appear perfect on the surface, some may be rotten inside but I accept and work with each as is.
Instead of denigrating others for being who they are, or demanding an unrealistic homegeneity, a more equitable approach is through mutual respect — something greatly overshadowed anymore by stratospheric sensitivities. Now I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but I honor individuality. Can culture shift its caliginous restraints on our genuine differences?
Over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes exist throughout our world in every shade of red, burgundy, pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, almost black, even streaked and striped. Numerous flavors range from tasty sweet to tart or well-balanced. I think it’s safe to say some prefer one type over another. There is nothing wrong with that. Each has its own comfort zone for thriving, and some are more versatile than others. Distinct qualities are refreshing. As with the human race. I don’t want to have just cherry tomatoes. Do you?
Raised in an anxiety-ridden home, it was stressful to live in the “now.” Far better to prepare for “what’s next,” I thought, even with its own undercurrent of anxiety.
A friend recently invited me to a year-long meditation but the voluminous information and instant marketing hype quickly drove me away. Unsettling. Like when I attempted meditation years ago in the standard seated position. Arduous. As soaking in a tub. Has this happened to you? Meditation offers many benefits but feeling stressed is not the goal.
Far more agreeable to me, are movement meditations such as hand drumming, walking, or being in the moment with Mother Nature. Fixed on berry picking, the smell of sun-ripening tomatoes and basil brushing my arm, or the infinite colors and textures of nature are far more relaxing and in-the-moment experiences for me.
One size doesn’t fit all. In many things, but meditation too. Giving myself permission to discover what works for me is key. Don’t know where to begin? Try leaving the cell phone behind and taking a walk outside. You may be pleasantly surprised by the calm in connecting with Mother Nature.
I communicate in many languages. But my lexicon doesn’t contain words per se. No, I’m not talking about texting but of a communication so beautiful no words are necessary.
In seasonal poetry gatherings each of us brings a random poem to read aloud. The words we share are not our own but the understanding we glean from the words of others. While some may be serious, others witty, or thought provoking — and on any topic of choosing, a common thread soon appears. Ah, no doubt the Universe is at play here we chuckle each time we recognize the unintentional theme that connects us together.
The languages I convey do not use technology, social media, or heaven forbid a cell phone. A verbal silence in hand drumming makes room for magic. When words do not appear, the voice of the drums speaks profoundly through our creative energy. Rhythms intertwine, calling, responding, supporting, expressing, wandering, somewhere…but together.
Standing in my kitchen, I cook. My focus is lovingly preparing a tasty meal, and setting a table that honors the food and the ones it nourishes. Sitting together then and savoring this offering of utilitarian sensory art reveals the unseen ingredient.
Sharing the bounty of my garden, holding the door open for someone, offering a smile, anyone can understand. I do not need to say one word to communicate with anyoneanywhere. All of us can speak the same language when we do not use words.
The color red symbolizes steadfast faith. Some Christians believe it represents Christ’s blood. But the cardinal inspiration I’m talking about isn’t from the Catholic church — it’s from those eye-catching red birds that perk up winter’s indeterminate grey, like a spark of hope in darkness.
When faced with challenges like enduring the winter cold, the cardinal bird chooses to sing a lovely song. It stays strong and positive, exhibiting persistence and grace.
I am increasingly convinced that Mother Nature guides us by offering her own Divine space to us as a spiritual well. We simply need to open our eyes to see, accept, and contemplate her generosity.
Such is the case with the red cardinal.
Some believe the cardinal encourages us to “find our life song,” to create new ways to love our life and show our gratitude for it.”
Others say the cardinal warns us to be mindful of our thoughts and what we are creating. Are we continually replaying past hurts, thereby deepening the groove of misery (and setting the stage for more to come), or are we choosing to be at peace in the present moment? It may be helpful to visualize that red stop sign when these negative thoughts occur.
Many cultures believe cardinals are messengers from someone who has passed.
Five years ago on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my dear friend Mary died from breast cancer. A lover of nature and all animals, Mary encircled her home in the woods with numerous bird feeders. On the day of her memorial a red cardinal held vigil at the window to the room where Mary passed in her home. We believed it was telling us that Mary’s spirit lives on.
Others have had similar experiences. How ’bout you? Do you have your own story of a symbolic message a cardinal carried into your life?