Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Solstice Syliloquie

Yesterday, I re-read a blogpost I had written two years ago regarding the 12-21-2012 scenario of the end of the world. So tonight here we are on the cusp of that very day.

The pop culture is all abuzz regarding this 2012 Solstice.  The story is, that according to the Mayans:  On this date, our earth comes into alignment with the Sun and the center of our Galaxy.

It is said that the void, the dark center of our galaxy reflects a heat through the sun, on to the earth and her inhabitants.  Those who are evolved enough, mind, body and spirit, are absorbed into it, and those who are not are burned.

If you really get to know some of these ancient archetypal stories, you will find them everywhere; so this story may sound like the one we hear in many religious traditions, about the events leading up to judgement day.

As I understand it, and have taught as a transformational facilitator, the “heat” described in the bible or mayan calendar, or anywhere else for that matter, is a Spiritual heat.  

I’m often puzzled at people who hear that and say “oh good, yeah, that makes it better, somehow” Spirituality is less real for them, than physicality.

In my work as a yogi, there are many in my circle that are ascribing to all sorts of amplified ideas and emotions, at the once in a lifetime experience this will be. In truth, for me, every day is “once in a lifetime”.  Each moment is precious. 

This past week, my sister Jeanie reminded me that this planetary alignment is a very real event, which actually happens every year on the December 21st Solstice, as our solar system rides the cosmic elliptical.

Yet, in our conversation the other day, something in my understanding spontaneously opened.  I gained a new insight that of course it happens every year, pouring a heat on to earth that is every bit as physical as it is spiritual.  

Around the solstice of every December, a physical burning in the hearts of humankind occurs.  A physical sensation of renewed spiritual warmth for our fellow men, and a steady flow of countless expressions of good-will pour through us for one another.

As I check out in the grocery store, I am given the option of purchasing a bag of food for a needy family.  There have also been years, in which, I was a member in a needy family, and found money and gifts and notes of care left at my own door.  Both experiences burned an equal and deep resonance of love and humility, that felt overpowering to my soul.  In these holiday experiences, both the giver and the receiver are quite often altered to the point of tears.

Yes it is the 2012 shift.  We are on the cusp of a new way of being.  Tonight I would ask: Is it so far fetched to anticipate that we may be transformed into feeling this holy-day spirit for one another all year long, and every year from now on?  

Think of what would have to evaporate in our culture for this to occur...We may need years of world wide recession in order to let go of all that we keep trying to “claim” as ours.
We may need to be at the brink of what we can bear, before we are willing to surrender those aspects of our heart that keep us from “melting into that fierce heat of living”, in the poet David Whyte’s words.

Is it really so new-age to speak of this heat creating such suffering in our hearts as our ego evaporates?  I'm sure we have all felt our ego fighting to the death; particularly when life gets so intense, that we feel a deep burning desire to shift out of the place we have come to.

Does not our collective compassion and grieving for others in the midst of unspeakable tragedy feel like an experience that is too unbearable for us to witness, without lifting a steady stream of prayer on their behalf?

Yes, it is an intense personal revelation when we realize that the habits that keep us from true and lasting happiness, will have to be burned away.  Only through this kind of a refiners fire that can blaze so hot, that we glimpse a true reflection of God’s face in our countenance.  How intense is it to truly feel God working through you?  How well can you bear that kind of intense intimacy? It can be near unbearable in its ecstasy, when we feel firsthand the milk of human kindness simmering bright and hot.

And here we are on the cusp of what has the potential to be that very day.  It seems to come down to each of us individually, where we will stand amidst this fiery time.

Will we be the ones that keep fanning the flames of our egoic self, until there’s nothing left but the stubble of a soul; or will we integrate the shadow aspects of ourself, as the greatest teacher we will know?

Our shadow encompasses all those things we avoid reflecting upon on an average day; all the opportunities to make a difference for someone else; all the kindness and compliments and generosity withheld, and our inability to acknowledge and evolve our shortcomings.  Our shadow self dissipates to the extent we are able to become one with the light, through any practice that awakens our consciousness; any experience where are able to recognize our own shortfalls  in our potential and choose better behavior.  In aligning ourselves with our potential Self, we begin to become one with the light and there is no shadow to cast, in the first place.

So as we cross the cusp, brushing the dark rift of our center, it’s up to each of us individually to decide what our collective will look and feel like from here.

My moto for this renewed year, when it comes to fanning the flames of ignorance, self-justification, anger, hurt and unkindness:  “Only I can prevent the forest fires that will stunt true growth.”...Each day I choose to rededicate myself, within life’s intensity, I shift the center of humanity.

It is my holiday wish, on the archetypal final 3-days in the womb, that mirror Christ's final three days in the tomb, that kindness, insight and redemption become our collective way of being.

Only in my own doing of what I suggest, may I be able to honestly wish each of YOU...

...a “Happy holy-day”, everyday from here on.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Firsthand Paths That Lead Where I Can't Go

When Tom was little, sitting on my lap in the rocker that Jim Johnson gave us, I would hold his hand and tell him how, for just a small part of his life, his hand would fit inside mine.  

Sitting together, sunk deep into the dark blue leather rocking chair, I could hear his mind mulling over this unfathomable idea, as I explained that he would one day be so big that my hand would eventually fit in his own.  More often than not at this point we would lace fingers and continue reading his bedtime story or watch another episode of "Little Bear".

As the days of elementary school passed, every so often Tom would lift his palm to place his hand against mine in an effort to put my words to the test.  I would remind him again how one day my hand would fit inside his.  In these moments, I could see in his face the look of an explorer who was anticipating with great delight the potential of his journey, freshly embarked upon.

I can remember clearly the day when his and my hand were finally the same size.   I could see the excitement in his eyes as we lined up our palms, and I exclaimed "wait a minute, this can't be right!"  

For the next little bit, each time we would try it, I would try to crawl the top of my fingers over his, in an attempt to win some sort of five fingered thumb war.  The point at which I could no longer fake it, was sooner than I had anticipated.  As a mom, I couldn’t help reflecting back on his small hand, with fingers that had to stretch so far apart to lace through mine.

For me, the intimacy of raising a son is so multilayered.  Had I a daughter, there would be some conversations that would thread slightly more intertwined throughout life; even the mitochondria in the cells is passed from mother to daughter.  So my many nieces will carry on my sister’s cellular finger-print down through their own daughters; but as for me and my cellular pathways, with Tom as my biology's final gift, I am the last of my kind.    

It has been such a pleasure to have Tom in toe for so many years; yet in raising him I have often reflected on the unique flavor of bittersweet that a mother feels as her son begins growing away from her.

With Tom and I, it’s a theme that has been at play since day one.  Laying on a c-section table, I had been aware for several months, that my body would not let this guy into the world willingly.  Since I was a young girl, my mantra had been:  “I’m not having kids here on this planet.  I want to have my babies during the 1000 years of peace", that I had been taught in church would follow "the morning of the first resurrection.”  

I’m not sure if this was my strategic mind at play, or a deeply honest maternal instinct that felt this world to be wholly inadequate for me to hazard my child through.  So as I lay on the table in the hospital with a screen between me and my first glimpse of my son, the first I knew of new born Tom was his boisterous cry. 

At my request, his dad went over and took him from the doctor, with his strong cry continuing as he laid Tom’s head next to my face so I could see him.  I took one look, and as my arms were strapped down to the delivery table, my first motherly instinct was to rub my cheek right up against his soft, fresh face.  As soon as our faces touched, with a stroke of my face up and down his cheek, his crying immediately stopped.  I would have to say that this will continue to be the most favorite moment of my life.

An hour or so later, the first time I held him in my arms, I was shocked at how much I could feel his “boy-ness”.  Several days later I realized that the booties I had brought to the hospital to take him home in were easily only half the size of his foot.  My sister and I had a good chuckle about how big his body and aware his spirit was.  Tom was one big, happy babe who never wore newborn clothing or tiny diapers; though his big size made sleeping easily through the night natural.  So I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when at 14 years old he was 6’1”, with broad shoulders, a big barrel chest and size 13 shoe.  

This past week as I picked up a car-full of football players from practice, Tom informed me that at 15 years, having just finished his freshman high school year, his coaches had bumped him up to the JV/Varsity team.  

As his mother watching him come into this world already evolved in so many ways, I’ve learned to exhale a lot.  I use it to “self-sooth” as my son is making his way into his life at an accelerated tempo.

So today as I was organizing some closet space and re-boxing some of his childhood art projects and photos, I found myself exhaling again as I ran across a plaster of his hand from our old times in the big blue rocker.  We took a picture of me holding it side by side with his 15 year old hand of today.  I felt such a playfully sacred appreciation for all that he is in every moment we have ever, and will ever have together.  Being the mom who sponsors this strong young man on the planet is, for me, a privilege beyond compare; not because he’s perfect, but mostly because I get to be here “firsthand” to see him grow up and away from me.  It is all really, too tender for words.

My moment with Tom today reminded me of a few lines in one of my favorite poems that speaks to a father looking at the tiny lines in his baby girl's hand.  He wrote them in contemplation of the lines in the old tradition of a palm reader, discerning the journey of a life-time held across the tiny lines in his daughter's palm, and the inner sense that she would eventually grow her own way into the world, the poem line reads:  
“ a tiny 
each line 
a path that leads 
where I can’t go...”

I feel such an appreciation to be granted more time in these few years remaining as Tom prepares, in ways so specific for him,  to embark on a life of his own.  

My hope for him tonight is as it always has been...That he will continue to be, as he has always been, a generous soul.  A good man.  

I've said to him, almost daily since he was “little”, that I love who he is right now; along with a deep knowing that Tom will continue to make his way in the world, growing up and away from those evenings sitting together in dear Jim’s rocker, simply holding hands, too tired to go to bed. 

Poem lines from "My Daughter Asleep" by David Whyte, River Flow New & Selected Poems 1984-2007
Copyright © 1990 by David Whyte. All Rights Reserved
Many Rivers Press (

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Longer Than...

Over the past year I have heard, and said the words:  “I love you” more times than the days of my entire life combined.  I have heard it from old friends from childhood, kindred yogis met on my spiritual pilgrimages, from people in my church family and dear brothers and sisters who have been there from “day one”.

In my “About Me” bio on this blog, the first line reads: “I was born under an angry sky”, and so I was.  

The home I was born into was full of turmoil, and by the time I came along, my mother was only a shell of her true self.  In many ways, I never had the privilege of really knowing her.
My parents had just reunited from their first real attempt to split in 1966.  In the separation of my mom and dad, it had looked to my brothers and sisters like they would finally be freed from the mayhem.  Yet, a short time after these two incompatibles sublimated back together, I was conceived; and this was the energy I came into this world on. 

At the news of my mother’s pregnancy, there was no escape for my siblings, or my mother; that door was now permanently closed...No community to support her in reclaiming the moxie from her youth.  

She had been in former days, a good mix between tomboy and beauty queen; but by the time I came along she resembled neither. The only thing left in her, was the tenacity to stay in a bad situation, which didn’t really serve her at all. I can estimate with a fair amount of accuracy, that she used each moment as an opportunity to escape from herself, and do what she could to make things look normal from the outside.  It gave her the vapor of satisfaction in her struggles.

So on the day I came into this world I was keenly aware of the mixed feelings at my arrival.  It would take many years for me to clear this "angry sky" identity. 

To hear the words: “I love you” in my family felt a little bit pretend.  My father only used the words sarcastically, and my mother said it so often, without physical touching, and a with a painful ring of desperation in her voice, it was a little like white noise.  
She desperately needed to hear it for herself, from her “Self” (with a capital S), most of all; but ultimately, she had to protect and maintain.  There was not a cultural container for her to heal herself, protect her children, and scale the mountainous journey that would bring her to the place where she could authentically be able to know or give that kind of love.  So instead she did the best she could muster.
I my own life, there have been a spectrum of resources available for healing and awakening.  A spectrum of support and modalities that surpass anything that former generations of women could ever hope for.  I’ve taken advantage of most of them, and felt I had come to a really good place.  
Particularly through Bodhi Yoga,  I have been fortunate enough to build my life around “the business” of learning to love--to feel it for ourselves, to give and receive it for others, and to learn to love our physical lives, as a huge opportunity to evolve our soul.  
After so much awakening, it had not occurred to me that I still had a void that needed to be healed, in the way I was born into this world.

Though I intellectually knew I loved and felt love from my siblings, I never actually felt a deep kind of familial love, until the birth of my beloved son Tom.  It blew my heart open and empowered me to heal so many of the distortions of my own young life.  
Tom’s birth put me on the path where I met my beloved friend and work partner Rex.  From our first meeting, he knew me inside and out; it would take me several years of skepticism, before I would own that I felt the same for him.  Of all the people I will ever know on this planet, Rex knew me best, and still truly loved me.  To his credit there are many that can say the same thing.

One of the great tragedies of love, is that we try to classify it, to say what it means and where it should or shouldn’t be.  Rex taught me that giving and receiving real love is not classifiable, it is eternal; a Godly quality, that we humans are doing our best to put to use, under a very unusual circumstance called mortality. 

In talking to a friend recently about him, she stopped me and said:  “You are describing Agape, the highest order of non-possessive, unconditional love.”  This was right on.  Rex had tried to explain it to me before himself, so many times, and I now got it.  When we run across souls we have known for eternities, Agape is the ancient love we have always felt for each other.  It is the love we can glimpse between ourselves and God, if we are lucky.

So nearly a year ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I yet again faced another very angry sky.  In so many ways it was similar to the time I was born.  My older sister Jeanie was again there caudaling me, and over the 9 months of treatments, I was bathed in love and care from so many of you.  

The experience of being so vulnerable that all you can do is receive a tidal wave of love (while incubated in intensity), has given me a felt sense; and I can honestly say that I know now, what it is like for a baby to come in through so much love, just because she breathes.  

Particularly, from my two  older brothers and three older sisters, and younger sister Twila, who I have felt supporting me on a moment to moment basis, from far away and close by.   

I know better now on such a deep and enduring layer, how much they love me, and are truly happy I am here; a depth of healing in those words that have freed all seven of us from tough days, now long gone.

In such a unique way, one of the things I have learned (through what most people think of as the worst possible scenario of cancer), is that the love that carried me through it, simultaneously healed something greater in me.  It gave me the birth story I never had before, and what a multidimensional gift it has been, as I scale the arduous journey of recovering from the nine months of treatment. 
A month or so ago I was driving away from Rex’s grave, where I had left flowers, and the song by Dan Fogelberg called: “Longer” came on.  The lyrics of this song talk about Agape, the ancient love.  

As I listened to the words, I was surprised that the lyrics didn’t necessarily remind me of Rex, and how he loved to play and sing Fogelberg’s songs on his guitar; or even our enigmatic Agape
The lyrics felt more like a ballad from my Heavenly Father; a relationship I have had to climb up to; weathering many an angry sky, in order to feel for myself.  Listening to the song, I heard the words in a new way and felt them as God’s words to me:

“Longer than there’ve been stars up in the Heavens, I’ve been in love with you”...

Those words touched my heart in a whole knew way, as I thought to myself, (for the first time in my life, at 44 years old), with fuzzy new baby hair sprouting in on my head:
When it comes to Agape, and the only true father I’ve known, 

my Godly Father, 

the Father of my soul, 

I can gratefully say today, 

that I am, at long last,  a daddy’s girl.

Thanks to each of you for the kind gestures that have reminded me of His awareness of me, as an individual, as his daughter.  It is my prayer on this Father's Day, that those who haven't known Agape yet will glimpse it for themselves through these words.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Radical Vulnerability and Love...

Today I finished cancer treatments that began on July 1st 2011. I had already been through a lion’s share of intense experience in my 43 years on the planet; and I couldn’t help but ask myself why I needed cancer on top of the other challenges.
In asking “why”, I chose to enter a conscious, personal conversation. 

My question was indeed: “why”, not, “why me”. It had more to do with alignment, than being martyred in any way by the “ailment” our culture calls cancer.
In July of 2010, I was aware of an energetic shift in the tissues on the left of my sternum. I knew the moment it happened on a microscopic level.  One night, just as I was about asleep, I felt a twinge in my cells. I thought to myself, as I rubbed the left side of my sternum into my left breast: 

“I want to check out what that point is on an acupuncture chart, there is something going on there.”
In five months time, it grew to the point I could feel something the size of a dried up pea. My two sisters that are home health nurses, referred to their training and asked me: “Is it tender?” and informed me that cancer isn’t tender to the touch. 

To my relief at the time, this little bump was tender; and I had no family history of breast cancer to think of, I ate fairly healthy (occasional dalliances with pastries notwithstanding), no smoking or drinking, wasn’t overweight and didn’t seem to fit the profile.
As I sat in meditation at Bodhi Yoga, playing the deep tones of my crystal bowl, the tiny, tender bump in my left breast over my heart would almost dissipate completely and be gone for a day or two.
A few more months went by, and I continued my yoga lifestyle, eating well, mothering Tom, teaching certifications, and working through the grieving process of Rex’s passing, on June 27th, 2010.
March rolled around, and the tiny bump was hurting when I laid in a twist over the flat bolster in Yin Yoga, so I soon met with a doctor who preformed an ultrasound and told me: “It’s just a fluid filled cyst...I could drain it, but it’ll just come back...I’d just let it be.” At the time, my body knew this was bad advice, but I let it be.
By June it was bigger and uncomfortable. I could also feel a change in my armpit, which I knew full well to be a danger sign.
Between March and May, I had been distracted with someone who was invasively profiting from my ideas and image. I tried (without real success) to call them to some sense of accountability, and was saddened by the outcome.
I had repeatedly tried to forgive, but realized that my role in the relationship was wasted, without helping this person I care about come to awareness of how they were enriching them-self off of my energy, as well as the integrity of my emotional and intellectual capital.
My hope and intention was that conversation between us would offer them the chance to clear the energy of infringement. The potential for resolution was there, but not fully realized through the outcome; yet I knew I had accomplished my role in our time together and I felt sad that It was at an end.

The end of June 2011, marked a year since Rex’s sudden illness. In the days, weeks and months since his passing, I blogged about him as a way of processing my grief, and to let his many friends at Bodhi Yoga and his clients, know that he, (as well as the love he shared), was still very close. My blogging entries were intended to share my deep belief that what our society calls death, is such a scam; and that those we truly know deep love through, never really leave us.

On my bike rides up the canyon along the Provo River during Spring and early Summer, I was trying to map out a future that would be drastically different from what I had assumed. I peddled my bike in meditative prayer, asking God to give me a mantra that would open me to a new life and bring my grieving full circle.
I could feel both Rex and God's awareness of me, close on those rides, and in a short time, the mantra came into my mind crystal clear:
“I surrender my life to thy love in store for me”

On the day this mantra came fully into my heart, I got on my bike to head home down the canyon, along the river. I noticed, in the sky above me, a rainless rainbow had appeared; a beautiful sign to me that God was listening.

I had been contemplating, how when we loose someone close, that we love (by death or the end of a dysfunctional relationship) we sometimes, for a while, can loose our faith in life. I was aware of this, and wanted to use my grief on growth, rather than giving up or getting stuck.

I wanted the one year date of Rex’s passing to be a private time I spent just with myself. Like so many others, I was processing the loss of a huge presence in my life. I didn’t want to blog about it; yet that evening his presence was nudging me to again write down my experience with him and in the end I did. (click her to read)

The following week, I could tell that the tenderness I had felt in my chest, was the pressure of this bump pushing into my muscle. The bump itself was big enough now I could tell that it did feel “numb” to my touch, and I knew it was time to act.
I went into see Dr. James Woodmanse, who owns CottonTree Family medical (the office where Rex and I worked). When he looked at it, palpating carefully, he asked:  

“Remind me about the history of this?”

I replied: “Well, I’d have to call it a little piece of granite headstone” (meaning Rex’s) and we both chuckled. It was July 1st, one year to the day of his funeral.
On the surface of my skin, it showed none of the normal signs of cancer. When James tried to drain it and nothing came out, I saw the concern on his face. He scheduled the ultrasound revealing a tear-shaped, invasive (fast-spreading) tumor, and there I was, in the odyssey of the past nine months.

As I have reflected back on THE MOST, of my collection of intense life experiences, I marvel at my own radical vulnerability, and the immense outpouring of love and kindness coming to me from all directions.

I have reflected often on last summer’s new life mantra:

“I surrender my life to thy love in store for me.”

I have come to know more about true love and true friendship than I ever thought I had the capacity to experience. I have joked often, that I believe I am being prepared to win the lottery because:

The depth of love, and felt prayers, and faith, and foot-rubs, and baths drawn, and homemade Jam, and veggies from the garden, and banana muffins, and bread, and t-shirts, and soft-warm-hats, and dancing monkey dolls, and funny DVDs, and books, and dinners, and head scratchers, and cookies, and love notes, and bags with money and heartfelt gifts left on christmas eve with an anonymous knock on my doorstep, has been monumental.

A dear neighbor who is in her 90s has showed up to keep me with fresh roses on my counter weekly as I went through chemo.

Yogis Karen and Sally and my dear, dear Melanye have cleaned my house, made me herbal tea, and done Thai Yoga on my sore and grieving body.

Lovely Yogi Kim, bringing jars of freshly juiced veggies every few days.

80 year old yogi, Lynn, reading up on and keeping me abreast of natural remedies and safeguards for treatment.

Frank working his magic behind the scenes.

Jamie taking my Thai Partner Yoga clients and shipping online orders out to so many of you.

Michael, Andrea, Frances, Elizabeth, Karen and Christi taking care of the center's yoga classes and assisting me in leading certifications, and all the kindness and prayers from students there.

Energy healing and cranial sessions, and Yogis across the globe sending me distance healing help and love, and Kathy’s once a day (EVERY DAY) email photo of some beautiful landscape to freshen my heart.

Students in Bodhi Yoga classes on Friday mornings, chanting “The Long Time Sun” mantra for me and dedicating their practices to my healing on the days the IV Chemo infusion dripped into my veins.

My sisters: Jeanie, Twila, Von and Melody, and brothers: Whitney and Lance, and Tom’s dad all watching over me, flying in and out of town, supporting and loving and cheering me on, from close and long distance.

Dear sistahhhh Kathleen Jensen driving Tom to school in the morning, making sure we’re okay at night and so much more, in an endless stream of friendship and sisterhood I never knew I would have in my life.

My church family fasting, praying and loving me, like a low drum-beat in the back of my heart; and the young-men-Priests bringing me the Sacrament, so I could partake of the sacred bread and water in my home each week, one of whom lost his own mother to breast cancer not long ago.

Three doctors and surgeon and nurses, including my former yoga students, nurse-yogi-Stephanie, who was there prior to surgery (both times), and nurse-yogi-Shawna who I found holding my hand as I came out of the anesthesia.

Doctor Woodmanse holding my Thai Partner Yoga office for me, waiting for my return, when I hope soon to take some of the pressure off of him:) and everyone at CottonTree pulling for me.

So many of your listening ears, facebook and blog comments of support and encouragement, and love expressed on a endless spectrum.

So much so, that there have been countless times when my cup has runneth over, as it is right now in recollection.

I stand amazed and deeply touched amidst your help and support.  You each in your own way, made it impossible for me to die of a broken heart, and instead have broke my heart open further than I could have ever done on my own, dear sisters and brothers.

During these treatments, people have said over and over that cancer is a lonely condition.  And I say, with tears in my eyes that I have no idea what they are talking about. I have felt deeply HELD in your love every step of the way.

From here I meet with Doctors once a quarter, and in two years, with no recurrence, I am considered in full remission.

I know without doubt that if it does reoccur, that I have done everything I can, and so have YOU; and that this initial experience has served a worthy purpose of putting things in context.  On my end, I have become acquainted with radical vulnerability and love in it’s truest and purest from.

Above all else I am thankful to my Tom. 

As his mom, I am fully aware that this is an intimate part of his own life-experience, that will in many ways, be a significant marker on the map of the rest of his life too.

He has played it all very close to the vest; and I honor his deep wisdom, quiet resolve, and good, kind, dear heart. I know how much he loves me.
So today I looked up what the acupuncture point is that I first felt, as it turns out, it is a point ruling the “sealing of the spirit in the body”, also ruling the health of the milk ducts...and my original medical diagnosis came in as “invasive ductal carcinoma.” ;)
Several acquaintances I shared this experience with are no longer here in body with the rest of us, and to them with whom I shared a chemo room, and witnessed on their worst days, I offer the most sincere thank you I can muster. Your passings from this life, so close in my view, taught me gratitude and perspective, and the value of living life from as honest a place as I can muster, even when it has entailed some of my own toughest moments.
So tonight again in gratitude, and on behalf of Tom as well, I thank each of you. We are looking forward to this journey of rebuilding my mind-body strength and stamina; a soulful path, that is after all, my specialty.
Sending you Peace and Blessings and a steady stream of gratitude always.
With love,

Syl & Tom

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Life May Be Short...But It's WIDE

During 2011 I found myself facing a prejudice. I remember the first time I saw that word in print. I was pre-teen and living in Virginia, just outside Washington D.C. My English teacher was Mrs. French, interestingly enough.

Mrs. French was a very intelligent, proper, black woman with a thin frame and well pressed clothes to match her meticulous attention to language and literature.

I arrived to class early and sat in my desk looking at this word (Prejudice) she had written on the chalk board. I tried to sound it out: PREE-Ju-DICE? It didn’t sound right. For whatever reason my brain couldn’t get what this word was. I was looking at it, but it wasn’t registering to my mind.

I called her over and asked my black English teacher, Mrs. French, what that word was on the board? I felt the warmth of her kind hand on my shoulder and her whisper in my ear: “Prejudice”. As soon as she said it, I felt flushed with embarrassment. I knew one of the most poignant moments of my life had just come and gone. There was no doubt that she knew the meaning of this word first-hand. No doubt.

We looked at each other for a moment, and I apologized to her; explaining that I don’t think I had ever seen it in print before. She gave me a soft smile and forgiving gaze and said: “That’s okay dear.”

On occasion I have reflected back on that moment, more so of late. During the past year, I have come face to face with my own prejudice as I have experienced breast cancer. I don’t like esteeming anyone or anything my enemy, not even cancer; yet as I entered a barrage of traditional medical treatment I was having to look my own personal prejudice strait in the eyes.

Of the kinds of cancer, I was diagnosed with the fastest spreading grade. It was also spreading in ways that were not medically usual (toward my heart, in addition to my lymph nodes). The limited time and concern of my family and friends (especially Tom), left me centered on traditional medical treatment...Thus my prejudice.

Before I knew it, I was in a giant medical labyrinth. Hoping for “healers”, I found mostly medical “technicians”. The Doctors seemed to be more trained in administering drugs, related to statistics; but here I was a living, breathing SOUL, sitting in front of them. I longed for an approach that honored my body, equal to the energy of the condition we call cancer.

The docs were attacking the cancer, but there was not really acknowledgment that they were going through ME to get to it? They were all good men and women, doing the best they could, but my treatment was stirring up a lot. I initially just griped and moaned about how I want to just get out of this “medical wheel” I had stumbled into. I wanted to speak to the cancer in my breast, and make peace with all the deep feelings and energies that had called me into this it would be over.

After one particularly tough round of chemo, where my dear friend Kathy had checked in everyday and listened to my wallowing, she and I made an agreement. Next round she should still check in on how I was doing, I needed that for sure. But when I responded with my lamentations as to all the challenging side effects and what was happening to my body in the process, she would reply, at my request, with two words: “For now”.

The For Now response would help me remember that all this resistance, this prejudice to my own experience, was only for a moment in the broader scheme of things.

Shortly after we started using the “for now” mantra, I printed out an image of a labyrinth. It had come up for me several times, in dreams, when I was teaching yoga class, and in moments of prayer, retrospection and meditation.

The Labyrinth is a symbol for THE PATH. Walking the Labyrinth is a meditative, spiritual tool for awakening. It is a symbol that is found in many cultures over thousands of years--a universal symbol for the path into truth and self-knowledge that dissolves the ego’s resistance of not knowing the end result from the beginning.

When I would feel my own prejudice to my situation, and think about the prejudice of others and what people may say about a yogi getting cancer, or facing medical treatments, or the thought of passing from my physical opportunity of raising my son, I would print out a copy and draw my way to it’s center and back out again.

In walking (or drawing in this case) the labyrinth, we will find our perspective is constantly changing. Our mind’s tendency to fall into old patterns is interrupted, as we are repeatedly lead into, and away from, the direction we "think" we are supposed to be heading.

In a labyrinth, our vision and body are never facing the same direction for long--a technique to coax the inner-knowing outward, and we begin to let go of our ego's need to anticipate, and start to trust that the path will eventually lead us into our center and back out.

During the journey we will repeatedly head in the four directions of east, west, north, south--a message that the support we need to take us through our journey can come from any direction, person or place.

Once in the labyrinth, we find no dead-ends to block us, nor strategic choices, it is not a maze, but a path to lead us into more of who WE REALLY ARE. It's no mistake that this ancient symbol resembles a cross-section of the human brain.

In a labyrinth, we find that we cannot go in the wrong direction, unless we give up entirely. For me in my journey with cancer, after spending quite some time in the “center”, and now beginning the journey outward into balance, I have felt my prejudices transformed into gratitude. I have a glimpse of what it feels like to relax along the meandering, smooth lines, drawing me back and forth, inward and outward. In this labyrinth of my life I am feeling gently nudged further and further along.

Every time I trace my labyrinth journey, it helps me feel a sense that I will be brought "full-circle", with new insights into who I really am, and the unexpected ways my path can lead me into a more exemplary, honest, and "well-lived" life.

I have a sense now, that what I will most remember about this experience will be your love, prayers, kindness (especially the wonderful yogi teachers that have kept things centered at Bodhi Yoga, Kathy, Frank, Jeanie, Twila and all my siblings that have taken turns keeping watch over me from near and far).

My prejudices are even softening into gratitude, for what we have medically available so far (for now), that give me the chance to continue a while more in this mortal life experience.

I would wish that everyone could experience the massive amounts of kindness, outpouring support and goodness that we all really feel for one another, when faced with the chance that we may not be here all that long. Thank you for having faith and a prayer in your heart that has supported me at a time when I didn’t have the strength to myself...What a powerful lesson I am learning from all this love.

Peace & Blessings


P.S. Feel free to use the labyrinth tracing to help you learn to relax and enjoy life a little more. In the words of one of my gurus: “Life may be short, but it is WIDE”. 

We may as well: Enjoy the “Wide”