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.
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.
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?
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:
The 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.
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, findingReese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
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.
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.
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.
That 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:
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.
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 Trimūrtitriple deity is Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
– 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!”
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.
Photos of Scotland appear like subdued, opalescent paintings to me. Yet, when viewing these strikingly beautiful landscapes in person, they are just as dream-like.
Visiting Scotland a few weeks ago felt just as surreal in that I was finally fulfilling a lifelong dream…but learned early on that my beloved Ceilidh’s Bess passed. As I explored the western coast to the Isle of Skye then through the northwest Geopark, Scotland’s sweeping misty lens rendered surprising transparency into my own life.
Pay attention to how you feel in any given place. The words came back to me. Is the energy uplifting or downcast? Spirit-filled or draining? Am I feeling joy? Fear?
Wrapped among impassioned layers of enchanted forests and glens, glacier sculpted landscapes, pristine waters, and steep majestic mountains that hold thousands of years of stories untold, my spirit felt at home in the Highlands. Similarly, but on a wee scale, my northeastern American residence is sheltered in a mountainside of woodland lushness and sparking streams. I know now that north is true for me.
Learning about the Scottish Clearances and feeling the feelings of my long ago homeland illuminated my ken. I knew truth stood before me.
In the Clearances, inhabitants were ordered off their land then watched as their houses were burned.
Fighting the natural gas pipeline is my personal, modern day experience of the Clearances. I understand powerlessness when forced against one’s will. I know the heartbreak of loss.
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.
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.
Every now and then my passion for gardening and appreciating nature is punctuated by technology’s increasing thirst to control our lives. To me, these cold and calculating ways are the antithesis to nature’s infinite beauty and serenity. That is why this topic pops up on my blog now and then (no pun intended).
I bumped into an old friend recently who said her eldest child is retired (at age 35). After making and investing his millions as a technological entrepreneur, he and his wife now live in an Airstream, traveling cross-country to hike and explore nature’s magnificence. “He meditates quite a bit,” she added.
This gave me hope that those so addicted to devices will realize the hours they’ve wasted not living real life, or freedoms they’ve willingly discarded by allowing technology to think for them.
My concerns about the ethical crises in technology were confirmed by best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris who explained how people, corporations and governments are using technology to hack human beings. (Harris previously studied the ethics of human persuasion at Google.)
In their When Tech Knows You Better than You Know Yourself interview, these philosophers raised the question: “Whose best interests should technology be serving — individuals or corporations? Should apps be as successful (and profitable) as possible which equates to addiction, loneliness, alienation, social comparison…”
“There’s a reason why solitary confinement is the worst punishment we give human beings. And we have technology that’s basically maximizing isolation because it needs to maximize the time we stay on the screen,”Harris said.
Think about that. Really let it sink in. So many have imprisoned themselves with technology. Remember, a prior post on my friend whose brother is addicted to gaming and barely leaves his room anymore?
Instead, I discuss the Tao and hand drum with friends, attend Tai Chi classes, concerts, live theatre and art exhibits. At home I’m nurturing flower and veggie gardens while playing with my beloved border collie or practicing Qigong. Experimenting in the kitchen and reading a great library book enhance my time. Yes, I love those page turners (literally and otherwise)!
I was thrilled to find Blogtasticfood.com where Nick’s mission is to “post super awesome recipes and get peoples butts in the kitchen.” I love it. Real cooking feels (and tastes) wholesome and nourishing to me. I’d much prefer devoting my time to creating a delicious meal than being consumed by social media, texting or the internet (while eating packaged preservative-laden processed foods). Tactile, personal connections mean more to me than an addictive device.
Frankly, I don’t want Amazon to know right before my light bulbs burn out (so they can sell me more). And I don’t want them to deliver groceries to my door so that I can isolate, and not get any fresh air, exercise, or interaction with my external environment. “Don’t use it, you lose it,” still rings true.
However, as much as it sounds like I detest technology, I don’t. It’s the addictive aspects and loss of privacy and relationships that concern me. I agree with Harari that, “The system in itself can do amazing things for us. We just need to turn it around, that it serves our interests, whatever that is and not the interests of the corporation or the government.” In that regard I can understand Amazon delivering food to an immobile person who lives alone.
To reduce the risks of your personality being hacked, Harari suggests first getting to know yourself better and exploring your choices more deeply. Of course, someone who meditates two hours a day and doesn’t use a smartphone is less likely to be hacked than someone addicted to their device he says. Then join an organization of activists for a more powerful voice in making society more resilient and less able to be hacked.
Harari and Harris emphasize, “They’re (corporation or government) about to get to you—This is the critical moment…So run away, run a little faster.And there are many ways you can run faster, meaning getting to know yourself a bit better. Meditation is one way. And there are hundreds of techniques of meditation, different ways work with different people.
Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Scargill on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Scargill on Unsplash
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash
“You can go to therapy, you can use art, you can use sports, whatever. Whatever works for you. But it’s now becoming much more important than ever before. Protect yourself by getting to know your self.” This sounds perfectly natural to me.
Summer 2018 Rainy. Grey. Humid. Rainy. Grey. Humid. Flooding. Scorching heat. Rainy. Grey. Humid. Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire. Make me run inside for shelter. AC. A spurt of sun appears. Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year. The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.
What to make of this autistic summer? Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:
Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics – social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.
Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two. Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene. Weeds are poised to take over. They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck. Arms. Legs. Scratching for relief. Scratching. Scratching. Where is the relief? Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner. Does she feel cornered?
Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social communication. Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.
I hear the thunderous banging and wailing. Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation. I see her utter frustration.