Death In The West

I was thinking about death. I do that allot lately.  So many people I know in my family and circle of friends have been afflicted by cancer or in other cases by simple misery – causing them to commit suicide. My husband suggested that it was because we were getting older – so of course more people were going to be dying.  But i know in my case that’s not really true. I have known allot more death than others, and with the recent loss of my brother and my friend it got me to thinking about how we see and handle death in our culture and what a mess we are.

Here in the west, we don’t spend allot of time with the idea of death. We ignore it, we institutionalize it, we avoid it and we misrepresent it in a million zillion ways.

Let’s talk a little logical Buddhism now.

Living is all about impermanence.  There is absolutely nothing, not one thing, on this earth that is going to remain for all time. I’m sorry if that is a shock to your system, or perhaps your mind is trying to figure out why I am wrong, but it is true. You’re going to die. Your dog is going to die. Your friends will die. Your parents will die. Your children will die one day too, everyone in their own time.

Impermanence is the first law of the universe. Everything must continue to change, pass through, and evolve. nothing is static. Everything is always evolving.

Sound logical?

Of course. Except that your mind and every cell of your body has been trained to believe otherwise.

Our culture is hyper-geared towards denying the continuity of change and the sureness of death.  We spend our entire lives waking up to fulfill desires that we believe that help us feel better so we can continue to deny the fact that we are going to die.

The average Western life is a travesty of delusion:

 First of all we invest our time on earth in jobs to buy things we can’t afford, like houses with mortgages that we spend our lives repaying. We spend our days buying things to impress our neighbours. We put countless hours and thought and energy into taking care of those things – manicuring the lawns, painting the walls and filling houses with useless things that require dusting.  Finally, if we are “lucky”, we get old and sit amongst the dust and memories of our “things” pining over the past which was fleeting and temporary – never guaranteed of permanence.

Not exactly a live-in-the-moment culture. Meanwhile our media pushes the importance of eternal youth as the solution to lasting happiness, and we imbue ourselves with technology, so we don’t have to have real relationships.

For God’s sake.

You can’t seriously wonder why the Donald trumps of the world are so popular. He epitomizes all I have just said.

Of course, Eastern philosophy is very different than here in the west namely through a significantly lower focus on material, and higher on spiritual goals in daily life; death is not a frightening mystery to most easterners.

I was watching a television show about Varanasi India,  a 3000 year old city in India and a place where many people go to die or be buried. It is believed that if you are cremated in a certain place in Varanasi, you can avoid certain aspects of reincarnation and become an enlightened being more easily.

I watched body after body, draped in colourful cloth and dotted with flowers and other symbolic items be carted to fires to be cremated.

What caught my attention were the children, trailing behind the procession of bodies, laughing and skipping merrily behind. They were not dressed in black made to weep with bowed heads.

“And they’re not traumatized”, i thought to myself. they look happy, and light and unconcerned with the whole thing.

We don’t show children in our culture death in this way, do we?  We don’t represent death as the normal transition – the beautiful life lived – the awesome way nature recreates itself through us, by letting us live the cycle of life.

Instead what do we show them about death?

Video games and movies.

Don’t let this be the first understanding of “death” that your child has!

We show them death in horrible horrendous ways that have nothing to do with reality.

We bring them to Ultimate Fighting Competitions where we let them watch humans beat each other like starving animals.

We hide the dying away in palliative care centers.

My children were surprised at the peacefulness of the experience of my mother dying. Although it is always painful to watch the end of a loved one’s life – it is in no way the dramatic and terrifying experience often portrayed in the media.

But we are so programmed. My mother asked me to die at the farm where I live – I am sorry today that i did not allow this to happen. The idea of it was so foreign and frightening to me at the time, that I simply could not entertain it. The irony is in how much I have learned from her death.

Dying is not a shameful act that needs to be institutionalized.  We are a culture terrified of the inevitable. We create religions that support our fears and cause us to do all manner of harm to one another in this life, for fear of what we don’t know about the next life. And we educate our children about everything under the sun – except who they are, as a creation, being and their own consciousness.

I remember most vividly H.H.the Dalai Lama in Perth saying that if we did nothing else differently after his talk, to go home and meditate or “contemplate” our own death, for ten minutes, every day.

At the time I thought it was the most bizarre suggestion i had ever heard, especially in my state of grief over the death of my mother. But I did it, because he seemed to be the most genuinely happy man I had ever seen, despite some very difficult circumstances, so i figured it was worth a shot.

I pictured myself on my death bed – at the point where the voices of the people I loved were fading around me, and I wondered what i would be thinking of right before “lights out”. I wondered what i would see, if I would see my loved ones, if my kids would be OK…I wondered…

The questions that came up on my “before lights out” tour of imagination, would translate into a focus for the day.  These contemplations had the effect of making me appreciate the moments of my life more. They were not morbid at all and over time this “meditation” has become a habit which has brought me comfort during times of grief.

When I consider every single thing that ails our culture and communities, I am able to bring it back to a fear and denial of our inevitable death.  I believe the Dalai Lama was right when he said that the solution for our planet lies in the individual efforts of everyone to focus on finding out who and what you are.

Something which you already know – but have covered up with what you have been taught.

It’s hard to find out what we have been taught about the world and what is important and not important is completely wrong. Of course we want to deny that and keep going the way we are, because that is easier. And we like easy.

We are all about easy, because we have desires and wants and we get up every morning and do everything we can to fulfill those desires and wants. That’s it.

The irony of our desires and wants is that mostly we don’t know where they come from or what need they are really fulfilling.  We are unconscious of them.

But the world in general is becoming more conscious.

There is no coincidence that there is a surge of interest in meditation and discussion around different forms of Buddhism emerging in western culture. All happening alongside a new interest in Hinduism, and “the Nouveau hippy” culture – (I think they call themselves “hipsters” – a materialistic form of non-materilaist (to be covered another time…it’s too good to pass up 😉) – but whatever form it takes, it is clear that the west is waking up (finally) and expressing a desire to know itself in a fundamentally new way.

 

 

The Magic Necklace

Many years ago I discovered the small shop in the water side tourist town of Ste Anne De Bellevue.  Unassumingly off to the side along the edge of the rolling st Laurence river neighboured by eclectic little restaurants and shops that offered a sea side multi-cultural experience to tourists and students alike.

I had spent a great deal of time in this place for many years off and on for different reasons; as a substitute teacher at the local high school, visiting friends or buying honey and cheese at the local farmer’s market on weekends.

When I discovered Shiva, the small Hindu store in Ste Anne’s my life was a maelstrom of conflicting emotions and I was clearly in the tumult of change. On that particular day, I was driving blindly to the Montreal General Hospital to see my mother, who had been suffering from cancer for about two years.  All of the relentless treatments they had given her had led to a depressed immune system, and a reinvigorated cancer that had found its refuge in other places when shunned by the treatments. I was to attend a meeting with her doctors about her end of life care.

Even though she had had “cancer” – an idea I had almost come to be accustomed to – the possibility of her death was a shock to me and it suddenly struck me, as I was driving, how final this was all going to be. I found myself crying nearly unable to move my car forward, so I took a quick turn off for the Ste Anne’s exit for a breath before facing this particular music.

I had never really noticed the small store with the colourful Hindu items in the window before. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a shopper but I felt myself being drawn inside. I wiped my tears and went in to be greeted by the bright wide smile and shining eyes of Romi, the owner of the shop.  I tried to put on my best face but it instantly dissolved as I saw all the smiling Buddhas around me;

“Hello. My mother is dying”, I proclaimed to him flatly “And I need some help.” I stopped, unsure of what I was saying or doing.  I had meant to say I need to buy something to bring her.

I noticed Romi’s face had not changed. He was not shocked, or put off by my rush of emotion. He remained  undaunted, still leaning on the counter looking at me more serious now, but his eyes still smiled.  After a moment of stillness that allowed the gravity of my emotions to settle like dust in the sunny windows, he stood up straighter and smiled even more brightly;

“I have something for you,” he said, an Indian lilt in his words.

He disappeared behind a colourful mandala curtain, returning a few minutes later. I noticed he was limping – quite badly, like a handicap he had all of his life. I later learned he had polio as a child and somehow this made him even more authentic and brave to me.

He put a necklace on the glass counter for me to see. It was magnificent- a Tibetan necklace with a small oil vial, containing a beautiful bone etched ying and yang in the center. I understood immediately that this was for me and not for my mother, because the best gift I could give her was to focus on staying balanced within myself so I could offer her the best of what I had for all she may need me for.

I’m pretty sure I hugged him then. I felt incredibly relieved,  like the whole universe would always somehow catch me when things became too heavy to bear.

I went to the hospital that day with a renewed vigour, an open heart and an optimistic view of life, death and the absolute love I could have for my mother without being afraid of her leaving.  I was present and fully accepting of everything.  I walked through the hospital on a wave of happy and people all around me smiled. The world looked somehow brighter.

10169198_10152078709586476_5811091101471076124_n.jpgDo you think there was magic in that little vial?

I guess in a way there was. The kind of magic that happens every time two people come to help each other in that random anonymous way that keeps us believing that everything is possible.

 

 

 

 

Home – a poem

Meditation walk in the morning sun

letting my mind wander until there are no more thoughts.

geese call wild in the key of D

trying to tell me that it is

ON SURRENDERall about being free.

since not a soul is stirring I sit with the river

at the base of the mountain

and wait for the rocks to tumble all over me.

But nothing moves,

only the steady whir and burr

Of old worn thoughts that I release.

Stretching legs and arms I flow

feeling the ground steady and sure now

beneath the feet thatnot-so-long-ago

could not fly.

The river says

there is no one waiting to tell me

what they think

Or what I think

no one to correct me

Direct me

Protect me.

Cause that gets really old.

“this is all in my imagination”

the river whispers loud enough

So that I can hear.

And frankly speaking I have to believe the river

because he is so old

and has been recycling himself

over and in and through all time

returning always to this place

just waiting for me to come and

Ask the right questions.

The mountain stands behind the river

arms folded across her breast

Appearing calm and pensive as she considers river’s advice

(about the truth of course)

She sends the geese popping out over the ring of trees

that is her crown.

Geese emissaries acting as her voice

which would otherwise be silent

(except for when she really has something to say:

please see: Avalanche)

and frankly speaking

I have to believe the mountain

for she has been waiting for me

through all time

to return to this place

where the geese sing

to remind me that we have always been here

 

And by the river I awaken and see that

I have never left home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All You Need Is Love – really.

I was adopted, like allot of people, but my story isn’t like anyone’s.  I was an inter-family adoption taken home at 4 days old to be raised as the youngest of 7 children. My parents were kind and older, and I loved them both.  When I was 13 I was told that one of my sister’s was my birth mother. Luckily, I really adored her in the first place, and the transition to this idea was difficult but not impossible. My adopted mother/grandmother died when I was 15. My bio mom had serious issues with alcohol and prescription drugs, which she successfully battled and our relationship truly began to blossom when I was 25 having my first baby and she was to become Grandma – or Nana as the kids called her.

581933_10151470627203633_1947530459_nShe was my dear friend and soulmate. There aren’t enough words to tell you how grateful I am for her.  She was a great spiritual teacher always assuring me that “this too shall pass”, and hold on “one more day”…when things got rough, she was my 2 o’clock in the morning person. The only person alive that would truly relish my rebellious nature, love when I stepped outside of the box, and cheer when I forged new paths.  She loved my weirdness and all my edges.  She loved everything about me and her love taught me how to love myself. I felt most at ease with her than any other person in my life.  Loosing her physical presence has been very difficult.

I remember the day she called to tell me she had lung cancer,  I ran to her apartment and fell into her hug and only then, only then, realizing that we fit perfectly together . Why had I not noticed this before?  I remember the smell of her, and the warm safe feeling when she was anywhere near. If anyone crossed us or said anything that would cause either of us pain – she tore into them like a pit bull. She was a woman to be reckoned with.  Until she died I didn’t realize how much she had protected me.

Here we are two years later, and the grief still tears at me  – it doesn’t go away – it just changes shape. Each day remembering her and thinking about all the things I should have done or said or been or whatever – all useless thoughts or regret that have no purpose except to torture me.  I hear her words reverberating through my head each day – the ones she said to me through sad chemo sick eyes –981297_499916463412877_1698475491_o

“No guilt OK?”.

OK Mama no guilt.

But I didn’t call her “Mom” – there’s my first issue.  I couldn’t. It just seemed too bizarre – she had been her name to me all my life – and so if I called her mom this would mean I had no brothers or sisters, or that my parents were my grandparents – just unreal.  When I lived in Africa with her and would want her to say yes to one of my unreasonable teenage requests – I would call her “Mom” – “Please mom…” I could feel the word dripping off my tongue like something that didn’t belong there.

images0G56APY3I never thought about my biological father very much – he was like a super hero in my mind. Bad-ass bike riding tough guy from the rough side of town was the story i heard.  He was handsome and leather clad in my minds eye, sitting on his bike waiting to whisk my mother away from our overly conservative family. I was indeed a love-child. And his genetic presence in my body made me understand that although I was a rich kid from boarding sch0ols when I was younger, I was in my heart a bike riding, freedom loving rock and roll rebel chick. The small amount of history I had on him showed me that my proclivities didn’t come from no where – although I couldn’t really see how having a penchant for bikers and bad boys was genetic – all indications seemed to point to the fact that it was.

After my mother died two years ago, I began to become curious – maybe hopeful – that i still had a parent out there.  My adopted family had stopped “pretending” I was really one of them, and I was left pretty much empty of family, except for one sister who helped to raise me and could see me as none other than her sister – “give me back my sweater – hey did you borrow my make-up??!”…is just not something you yell at your niece.  I think they were all just tired of pretending.

The issue of adoption and being adopted came up during the course of my grieving, and it became suddenly important for me to find out if I had genetic links to anyone else out there. So I registered on a few free web sites what small information I had on my father, never expecting to get a response – especially not the response I got.

I was contacted by a lady named Annie who is a search angel. I don’t know her story, but I assume that many of these ‘search angels’ are people who have been searching for their own parents or children and have become pretty good at spotting links between people and volunteer their time.

Her email to me began tentatively, because she was concerned with her accuracy and didn’t want to cause me undue pain. She says “I’m sorry the news isn’t better. if this is indeed your father, he died when he was 23”.

Stop world. You’re spinning.

below her note a series of lists, with my grandfathers names and notably my grandmother Fanny. No obituary for my dad, only my grandfathers.

I felt it first in my gut – like a punch from deep inside.

The second thing I thought was – oh my god – he was so young…

I thought about my own son, now nearing 23, beautiful handsome and sweet and full of life, joy and potential. My heart ached for the young man who made me in a flurry of passion only to leave me as his only legacy. I am the most enduring thing he did in this life.

Holy shit.

As the news sinks in all I can think of is…

“I’d better not waste a flipping minute! ”

I don’t know about you, but as I get older, now almost 50, I see that there is a plan in the works, and although i am not privy or capable of understanding its intricacies, i am definitely part of the story.

In my research for this book, on adopted people, I have discovered that we all (adopted and non-adopted!) have amazing stories, like great adventures, each life is like a fascinating book. I can see my life and yours like that – and I believe its the only way we can really learn to increase our capacities and purpose here in this life – find out, dig deep and don’t stop asking questions. Be brave.

I have just returned from Australia where I spent some time in the desert with first peoples learning about the long long history of the worlds oldest genetic lineage.  I learned about the connection between living people and their ancestors and how important it was for them to honour the lives of their ancestors. Al of this is driving home to me the need to honour my own in the same way. I wish we had the stories like they do – so I could know them better, and in turn know myself better.  I think the purpose of life is to know yourself as well as possible so you can use everything you have to be of service.

It is a courageous journey to take into the center of yourself, to ask the real questions that are begging for answers…

I will continue work on the book – in the hopes that other people can find their purpose, their center or their story and not feel so unrelatable or different or alone.  We are all connected in some freaky quantum way, and I feel him now, beside me smiling. he is happy with me, and maybe even lives abit of my life with me, connected and guiding me from he inside, through my thoughts and dreams. Parents don’t stop being parents when they die – but its up to us to stay tuned in and be brave enough to hear their messages.

 

As I write this – the only song I hear in my head is

“All you need is love…”

Thanks Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Depression on the Road

Taking depression on the road…

Travelling all over the world is beautiful, adventurous, romantic and fantastic. I feel like a “citizen of the world…and I love the whole thing – the good, the awesome and the ugly.

But let’s face it – it’s not all roses and can be equally difficult and dangerous for those of us who travel with medical issues like depression or other mental health issues which make us look healthy on the outside, while our mind is melting into something untouchable. Indeed the challenge is mighty to maintain the balance we all require for wellness – but a person with depression must be diligent.  It can be a massive challenge at times to just feel like a normal person in your skin, alone in crowds of familiar-like faces but apart from the motion of another world.   It’s a very strange feeling.  And I really did my best – but there is no way to replicate the kind of gentle balance you can create for yourself in your home environment, when you know the food, the roads, the people – it’s just different.

I must admit I was entirely dismayed when about 9 days after arriving in Australia I dropped into a deep dangerously dark place after trying hard to keep my feet on the ground and carefully walking the edge of a very precarious mind. I hadn’t felt like that in years! Traveler’s exhaustion coupled with the fast pace of each day “trying not to waste a second” of where you are at, knowing it could be the only time you see it, rich food, booze, sugar – my body probably went into some form of shock.   When travelling it just goes with the territory that your physical balance is completely shot with constant restaurant meals, wired eating hours, too much food, wine and not enough weed – harder to find anywhere when you are new. Imaginably for anyone, there are variety of reasons why when travelling you basically relinquish control of your body to the elements of the land you find yourself on.

It is my hope to use my own story with purpose to help break the stigma of depression. It is so important that we are speaking openly about our struggles when it falls on us like a lead weight.

If you’ve never had it – you won’t understand this.

But if you have it – I hope this will make you feel less alone.

Just in case you are not familiar with depression, I’d like to emphasize three things –

1- Depression is not “a bad attitude”, lack of knowledge or some weakness that those without depression don’t.

2- You cannot overcome depression through “sucking it up”. I saw a tee-shirt in Sydney that said…

“Depressed? Have a cup of cement and toughen the fuck up”.

Really…c’mon people.

3- Depression does not go on vacation just because you do. And maintaining the necessary disciplines you need when you are totally outside of your comfort zone – presents some unique challenges.

Medicine…

As a person who uses “natural and usually illegal” means of managing depression, the challenge is greater, because no matter what country you travel to, obtaining such “medicine” requires that you get to know folks a little less than casually or they think you are undercover something or other.

So, four days into Sydney, in the largest city I have ever been in, I found myself quite literally on my knees.  It was wicked. I sat in the bath crying, praying – and feeling like a burden to the entire planet – depression closes the world in around me and makes me the only thing I think about – not good for anyone.  For whatever reason (every good depression has its own “theme”) this was all about the past –  I began reviewing all the regrets of my past – which are very few actually except for the absolute bleak loss I feel when I think about the people and animals I love who have died in the past few years.  Depression brings back the ghost of deep grief for me.

Over the years I have come to understand that even the darkest times will reveal eventually to me a reason –  that it is inevitably something I need to see inside myself, and that those are the times when self-care is absolutely mandatory. The idea that “happiness is created from the inside” is poignant and sharp like a good Pinot Noir.  But you can’t think your way out of depression. The only action to move towards healing is non-avoidance – not try and rid yourself of it, but to recognize, reflect and adapt.  It is imperative you remind yourself that everything is changing – all the time – the happy things the sad things – are all changing.  So – as my mom loved to tell me…

“This too shall pass…”

Even if you don’t believe it.

I know how lucky I am – even when I am in the darkest of them all. . Unlike the people I see living on the streets who suffer from mental health issues, I have a fantastic partner, who is always standing at the ready to help bail me out of this place.  But this one was different – even he was afraid he wouldn’t find me in there.

Here’s how I handle depression…I get into a bath and I cry, and I pray and then I cry and pray more.

My first “bath tub” prayers were to my mother. I miss her in such a tangible way, especially as I travel.  She was my entire inspiration for loving the world and travelling through it like I do.  When I first found out she was my mother, my family sent me to Africa to live with her.   This was my first experience far from home, but unlike the experience I have had in any place since, Africa was home to me.  My feet touched the red soils of Guinea and I was simply – home.  I was happy there with her, basking in the hot African sun, reveling in the multicultural celebrations of living in an expatriate environment. My friends were from all over the world, from all imaginable places. Emmanuel from Ethiopia, my best friend from the US and my first boyfriend from Belgium. I heard the drums, I danced in the rains, and said forever more that we shared a common disorder – la malady d’afrique – my heart was left in Africa.images (1)

In the bathtub that night I prayed…oh did I pray. For a miracle. I needed a good one because nothing looked like it would ever feel good again. I fight with my husband, angry that he is talking to work while I fear I may be dying – not even imagined, it was really how it felt. I think about my mother – my mother – my mother – how she could always talk me down from the ledge, I didn’t even to tell her, she just knew me like two cells from the same being know each other.  I miss my friend.

12191947_10156223241230230_5654482010872487659_nI find it cold here in the deep city – I mean “people cold”. Everyone rushing to work running never saying good morning or making eye contact. A person could really get lost in such a place. But I break free from john and I go and sit on stairs, away from the maddening crowds, where evening commuters are passing by.

I think about the David white video on vulnerability and I think:2014BrochureTours

12239727_10156238747300230_7625399099372976869_n

“Fuck it. I’m going to sit here and just be.”

I think about what a long way I am from who i used to be – from shopping in New York for dresses as a young woman, only caring about my hair and shoes – to sitting here in my Nepalese poncho and ripped jeans, messy hair – I have never looked (or felt) more homeless in my life. It also felt more free than my “former designer self” had ever felt.

People are rushing by me in the evening commute.  I count – one, two three – But no one looks at me, or acknowledges me. I feel like a ghost – invisible. I imagine this is what homeless people must feel like. The loneliness of being invisible and sad was almost indescribable.

I keep my eyes down mostly, sitting on the cement stairs, away from the world walking above me. Occasional post work commuters pass by me, I see shoes – jogging shoes, pretty pumps, sensible men’s shoes.

27 people go by before a man stops in mid step and asks

“Excuse me miss are you OK?”

All I can say as I look up at him is

“You’re number 27….”

He looks confused and a little embarrassed – apologizes to me and moves on. Clearly concerned but not wanting to invest any time.

images (2)

I continue to count pairs of shoes, my mind still begging for a miracle in this cement world I had crouched in.  I see more people, more shoes.  More time passes.  I think about the 15 times a day I stop in the city to make human contact with a homeless person – and I am awash in the wonder of how amazing that must feel to someone that may have this kind of loneliness  every day. I feel sorry for myself – why isn’t anyone doing for me what I freely do all the time?

“Am I the only one who cares left on this planet??”

Hopelessness.

Just in time – a nice pair of casual sneakers stops and I look up to a bright green shirted man; he is number 72 but I don’t say it wanting to be alone as much as I wanted him to not leave.

He looks at me authentically concerned;

“You ok mate?”

I decided to be honest,

“Not really. I have had way better days, but this will pass. Thanks for asking.”

I try a smile but it probably comes out looking like post stroke victim smile all crooked swollen eyes sadness leaking from my face.

He lingers and looks at me then. It was clear he was no stranger to deep sadness.  He had been there, done that and had gotten the tee shirt.  I was grateful for the understanding and connection.

“Good on ya!” Giving me a “that’s the spirit” kind of look.

“You take good care of yourself”, he added sincerely and went on.

That was just enough real human contact for me to be able to get up to my feet and walk back to our hotel to greet my worried husband, wondering at my gratitude for having had the opportunity to feel like a homeless person for a while.   It made me want to tell you how important it is to someone feeling bad, homeless or not, to feel humanity from you, even if you don’t have money to give a person – that exchange can make all the difference.

But then…

The next morning when I didn’t wake feeling any better, I dragged my sorry self-downstairs to smoke a cigarette (I know I know – I’m trying to quit I swear). I was working on a hopeful song, inspired by talking to a young musician excited about her first composition – I felt a focus that was not ME. Very important!

It allowed just enough to open a crack of light…possibility.

The smoking area is a big common square with comfortable benches where people commune to smoke and generally look at their cell phones. I went to be with my poetry. I sat on a bench, concentrating on my own composition when suddenly the blackest man I have ever seen in Australia, I mean BLACK like Africa beautiful black, comes to me and interrupts saying with an angry voice almost, no eye contact,

“May I sit here?”

I look around – most of the benches are empty – why would he want to sit with me?

“Sure”, I say lamely.

I see he is obviously homeless, dirty pants and shirt, and probably suffers from something like paranoid schizophrenia or something along those un-socially acceptable mental health illnesses that cause so many to be homeless. His eyes have no “connection” with me.

“Of course”, I smile at him, wiping the rain off the bench so he can sit in a dry place, pretty sure no one had done something nice for this guy in decades.

Just that first action of doing a kindness for someone else – thinking about someone other than my self – was a great start back to me.

He looks at me long and hard, watching my hand move back and forth across the wood of the bench, a distress, beginning a hushed conversation with only himself.  I lean into him, trying to understand.

“Are you African?” I ask bluntly.

“Yes of course, where the hell do you think I come from” he says in a thick beautiful delicious accent – a

Balm to my ears.

I have to turn my head so he doesn’t see my tears – now from gratitude.  I know it’s my mother sending me what I need…no one else would know this.

“Where do you come from?” I ask trying to get him to focus his talking on one thought.

“Africa…Africa. I left Africa when I was just a child. I am from nowhere now. Everyone my family is all dead form there – there is no more Africa.” He says almost angrily.

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I think about the beautiful smiling children I loved so much in Africa…the real people who danced and played and understood the way of nature.  The fresh smart beautiful people of Africa, no pretention and such honesty we have never known in the west.  I wonder sadly if this man was one of those proud children learning the drum from his father in a circle of proud family and tribe members.

He starts talking nonsense – about his wife and loss and sadness…

“You are the nicest person I have met here”, I interrupt him unable to hide the grateful tears in my eyes.

He is quiet.

I think he hasn’t smiled in so long his face seems stuck in this frown.

“I’m a musician”, I tell him. “Music makes me feel better”.

I sing him a song – he closes his eyes.

We agree together that the world is fucked up because not enough people sing a dance.

I tell him it would be grand fun to bring a drum into this common place and make the serious people dance so they speak again to the wind – like we did in Africa.

Now he is laughing – and we are both laughing.  I put my arm him and I hug him.

“You are very wonderful”, I say to him.

“Your energy is why I am here – you speak to me”. He says quietly – suddenly completely “there” with me. I feel the power of this.

We sit again quiet comfortable like old friends.  I put my hand on his arm and we are happy…connected and not lonely. Not depressed – now we feel good together in our aloneness.

Soon, his busy speaking mind takes over and he is forced to move on by its vapid imperative to him.

The most unlikely, my husband and his coworker and I go to the Manly Island ferry – world famous for its view of Sydney.  I can tell you right now that touring was NOT in my plan – I could barely have wrapped my mind around being near people, never mind travelling by subway and ferry with crowds of fellow travelers.

But hey – if I have learned nothing else my plans are always not as good as god’s plans…and I only wanted to feel less sadness. I was – as they say – as willing as the dying can be.

We take the subway, my eyes are swollen. I see myself in the window – I look old and tired.  My eyes avoid further self-scrutiny.

Arriving at the quay for the ferry my husband says…

“Jo – do you hear it?”

I am breathing in the fresher air of the harbor incredibly grateful for not being in the city, feeling my feet reconnected…a peace coming over me.

“No”, I say to him distractedly.

Then I hear the sound…the Australian didgeridoo. It has been my only desire to connect with and learn from the Australian aboriginal people, who are incredibly difficult to find in the cities.

Suddenly my feet are running…I am, literally tearing through the crowds, pushing the too slow aside. Maybe I am running for my life? It feels like I am running to someone or something familiar.  I couldn’t have stopped myself if I would have tried.

12191908_10156242879525230_5081364547507608394_n
The Shaman who shakes the Joy from the places it hides.

And then I am DANCING…the dig playing under me lifting me up, and old man and me – he is shaman, dancing beside me. I have rain sticks and I am leaping all over I feel the power of it all and I am ELEVATED by it.

The old shaman invites me beside him – a dew dance. I am FILLED with it all – like a magic that is so hard to describe to you, UT I really want to try.  I want everyone to know this so possible.

He looked at me, and the man on the ground playing the dig and suddenly we are the only ones there.

I feel it shift in me – my joy. He has shaken my joy free – is all I can think.

We leave them eventually to take our ferry ride – but what happened next was all miracle.

My energy so high, everywhere we went people were smiling and talking to us and everyone interchanging.  The ferry people around us soon became like friends, interchanging our experiencing around the world. Talking about how amazing it was to all be together tree.

I can ASSURE YOU that had I gone on that trip with the original energy I came with – one of that would happen.

So here’s my point –

Travelling with depression can be hard – a dive it happens to you, well then you have some work to do.

  • Take exceptionally good care of yourself
  • Create write draw express.
  • Stop caring about what people think.
  • And most important…WAIT FOR THE MIRACLE.!! don’t be so impatient 😉
  • The lower down you go – the greater the beauty that is available.
  • Be a badass…and love it all!

And so, now we are on a different route, back on home territory for us in Australia continuing on with the old shaman’s lovely energy forever inside my heart.

FILLED WITH GRATITUDE and determination to keep myself as well as possible for the people I love and this world I am dedicated to.

Peace!

Time-Line Your Life for An Amazing Perspective Check

Have you ever time lined your life? Wow – what an experience.

Try it.

Start from the last big event…be objective and don’t put little things like ‘Fight with Joe” or details that are not “life upending”. The purpose is for you to see that things come…and go…and come…and go. and you can make it through it all!

I started mine from when we had left the city and moved to our first farm.

2007 July –  moved to farm. Two days later – began started taking in refuge animals.

November 10 – got married after 8 years raising seven kids together – bout time 😉

March 2008 – farm arena falls under snow – devastation. Business is destroyed.

2009 – move to temp house – and finally permanent farm three months later.

3 years of renovations ensue – frenetic trip to Costa Rica alone.

2011 – find out mom has lung cancer – let the devastation begin

2 years of hell…with medical/worries/anger/fear/dealing with terrified angry family who can barely stand being in same room with me.

So ok…Work like hell on music – creation of album, focus focus focus,  gigs, work, gigs, work, write, gigs, work…

2013 – July – Lucy my friend and teacher dies of ALS. She gave me my garden. I am so grateful.

September 6 – my (best) mom dies. I know – most people don’t get a “best” mom – but this one was kinda special.   I was adopted by my grandmother who died when I was 15. – #NotSoSpecial.

2014 – RIP Otis –  my beautiful best-friend horse/ranger and daily companion.

RIP –  Ranger my cat of 20 years ( a twin)

RIP –  Buzz Lightyear the super-goat(another twin)

RIP – Mike’s suicide (didn’t see it coming…)

RIP – Anne suicide (really really didn’t see it coming…) – ouch.

November: KABOOM. Richard my dear friend and producer of my album dies suddenly.
Do you hear the toilet flushing?  Those are my hopes and dreams…

2015 –

RIP Casper – Buzz’s twin – only relief felt at this. He was lonely for his brother and really old.

RIP – Randy – another suicide…why is this happening??

SEGUE…

Feb 2015 – surprise ten-day trip to Australia with John – woohoo. Loved it.

May 2015 – Move to Australia – seems like a good idea.

Really?? This all seems so random to me.

Its like living two or three lives in one…Insane.  I was supposed to be  a lawyer or politician or businessy person or something along those lines. My entire childhood groomed me for this.  But the soul is MUCH louder – really you can’t shut it up and there was a musician inside that just wouldn’t let me stop making music. Thank God.

The musician won.

The lawyer in me left town.

The politician committed suicide.

This time line lets me see a few things:

1- Life has WAVES of stuff…there were years without any death or chaos,…then there were years where it was all condensed. This line reminds me that when the “waves” happen – they will pass and turn into something else.

2- You cannot predict a bloody thing.

I have been a daughter/wife/student/mother/teacher/writer/business person/politician/activist/poet/musician/composer/artist/trainer now…

what?

I guess I want to share this in case someone else needs to relate to the “i don’t know where I’m going but I’m pretty sure I am supposed to be going this way” feeling of life…

There was a song I wrote a while back called “Traveling Man” – must be about 16 years now.  I have never played it – but the lyrics seem to be randomly popping into my head as i think of all the people who are so important to me and me to them – my tribe of and loved ones –

TRAVELING MAN

Wish I was a traveling man looking to find my way

I would tell you all my dreams

in love we’d live each day

But I don’t’ know where I’m going,

please help me get there soon,

Lord I don’t know where I’m going!

But you’ll find me waiting by the moon…

Maybe it will be time to launch that one at our final gigs this weekend.

🙂

Peace

THOSE DARNED SHENPAS…

SHENPA is the Tibetan word for things that cling to you – things you are hooked to. We all have them: addictions, behavioural patterns, thought patterns, emotions – things that take you away from presence with yourself entirely. Your distractions. Meditation helps get you back there and see what’s holding you back or down, but pain get you to the place where you know you need to understand more.  I am lately seeing so many many SHENPAS in my life. SO many, that I feel like I am drowning. I think if I can identify some of them, awareness will shine on them like shining a light on a cockroach. These SHENPAS make the behaviours I learned to protect myself from the adult world as a child come back in full force when I have worked so hard to let them go. Sigh..one step forward…sixteen back. This does reinforce my understanding that it has nothing at all to do with the destination…it’s all in the journey. Peace!

 

YOU ARE LOVE

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Go gently into this day

take each moment with careful step

eyes open in your nature

For somewhere inside of you

is Truth its very self.

You are loved –

and you are love.

Some grand and awesome future awaits you,

Take a first step,

Look around again.

After the first  one

the only step

that we know how to take,

be amazed.

The second has not yet been invented.

And it is never guaranteed.

Honour the heart that beats in your chest

Amazingly without need of your assistance,

or thought,

or any big plans your complicated mind can conjure.

Imagine having to think…

“I will live for one more beat!”

If you don’t believe in miracles,

You’re not looking in the right place.

Cherish the random acts of love that will cross your path today.

Step through time,

into the next minute.

Breathe into the next space,

Where you stand – or sit

alone – or accompanied.

You are still your own beautiful self

in all these precarious contexts.

Walk with the higher things

that beckon you to remember

that your nature is not fear

or sadness

or even aloneness.

You always have God

Or the beautiful dead that protect you

shielding you from

The dark and scary things.

Your true self lies

in the next discovery

the next choice.

What does your heart say?

It seems that the heart always says…

Carry on.

You are loved

and you are love.

Saving the World – birthday indulgences

Someone said to me recently in my writer’s group that the more opinionated our writing, the LESS universal it becomes. It alienates people.

So, I have been quiet lately.  Trying not to say too much, or not have too many opinions.  It’s hard with the world in such a frazzle.  But I try not to talk about myself or write about myself too much. I think north Americans have become narcissistic and self indulgent to such an extent that we are sharing some sort of mass hallucinations about who we are. Those hallucinations are governed by the state. I know this may sound crazy paranoid to you now but this is how government gets their message across,  through popular films and the media.  Its how they decide what is real for you. Censor boards etc,..
But the thing they have pushed for so long – Nationalistic pride – is finished. Done with. It no longer serves a purpose, that why it has fallen away for so many of you.  You used to feel a great desire to associate with being one or another nationality, but now this is no longer purposeful because our minds are awakening to who we really are – which is not our name, or our country – or even our bodies. We have much more in common than those menial aspects of self. In today’s vibrant changing climate it makes more sense to find the commonalities between us rather than to find the superiority amongst us.

My living hypothesis is that every human being is doing the very best with what they can given the resources of their particular lives.

I even believe this to be true of men like Hitler and Napoleon.  I believe it to be true of the men who whipped the black slaves in the cotton fields of early southern America. I also believe it to be true of the slave working in the field.

Dr. Maya Angelou said “If you would have known better – you would have done better”. True enough.

 

If we go on this precept, then we have to say that the world is in great need of something huge – something that will shake us to our roots. We are conducting “normal life” around a big illusion that is about to crumble.  Something that is not real – meaning it will not last. Our current economics crises, coupled with the ecological catastrophes we are facing are just small potatoes compared to the extreme state of spiritual disconnectedness that we are currency living our lives with.  Science and industrialization have disconnected us from the essential source that is our center. Religions have messed up our interpretation of that Source and we have lost the very basic ability to harness the energy and capacity of our essential beingness.

Our solutions lies in a return to basics – to nature. But we wouldn’t know what to do with “nature’ if it smacked us in the head. We need to be taught how to be ourselves – natural and connected to seasons and environment.  Respectful and balanced in our living.  However, the greatest irony of it all is that the cultures we have relegated and abused the “indigenous”, primal and pagan, are the ones that have the answers we need in order to survive the adjustments the planet is making. We are no longer taught by the old and wise.

In our pursuit for comfort, we chose to disconnect from one thing and connect to another. Free will being what is it, we are being directed towards a place of having to return to the original source that nourished us. Because of the manner of psychology evolved in man, we are only wiling to make drastic changes to our perceptions of what is necessary to live a fulfilled and happy life when something dramatic and terrible happens.

So the earth, as always, is accommodating what we require for our highest growth.  We asked for it – in some way – and so we got it.

 

The shifts in politics are not haphazard, they are happening just as they were supposed to – the chaos will cause people to unite. The minority oppressors (crazy Muslim extremists lets say…) will eventually be eliminated by a lack of interest. The reality of how little power they hold will become obvious to everyone through the dissemination of true information.  Information passed directly from person to person – like when Socrates went to the Hill and the whole town was involved in how a thing was decided. But now we call the hill the internet – and no one’s voice need be left unheard.

The internet is allowing us this primal capacity to return to each other.  It is magnificent. But of course, like all the Excalibur’s of our history, it can be misused.  It can be wielded to gain other things – the worst of these is that we spend time paying attention to things that distract us from our centers – from our essential beingness. Because we all know that the most important thing we can do is to really know ourselves.

 

So I guess that’s why I haven’t been writing. What I have to say is quite a mouthful and I think people are tired of hearing the darker side.  Being like this however disconnects me from my creative center – which for me feels like being constipated in my soul. I have begun to take steps to feel connected to a creative feeling again – but it eludes me. Day after day.  I become tired of searching for this dispassionate lover.

 

 

QUIET MEDITATION…

I have begun standing still –  learning to really meditate.  Every day. For an hour. No exceptions. This feels good. It will be my practice for life. Because there is something deeply wrong with the balance of my life if I cannot meditate for an hour every day.

serenity

But I won’t be hard on myself either. I know that I cant optimally stay still without pain for more than 45 minutes in a sitting position cross legged. I don’t think the point of meditation is to cause yourself pain – but I do think everyone on the planet should be doing it.

It’s not such a big adjustment in your life, but imagine the capacity when  we harness ALL of our collective energy together at once?  I believe something GRAND is possible if we can just – for one whole minute – let go of what we think is right and wrong.  Just for one whole minute – have no opinion on anything.

 

I believe this would change the world.

When you feel the freedom of a time with no judgement – you will always want to return there. It is SO much nicer to allow people to just be themselves.  You can make choices for yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat.  It just means you have to spend some time knowing yourself and, not just that but HONOURING the information you receive from your inquiries.  You know, a good relationship isn’t two broken people leaning on each other – it’s two whole people dancing together.  Much nicer.  Unless you look at yourself, you will NOT find that perfect “partner’, that so many people seek – because you don’t even know what it is you have to offer.  The same goes for your relationship with yourself.  You have MANY parts. Stop trying to be so NICE – and PERFECT and honour everything about you!  You can’t give to the world what you can’t give to yourself. That’s just reality.

 

Lose Judgement: 

 

“EVERYONE thinks they are doing the right thing. EVERYONE thinks they are doing their best.

 

The world and all its problems are very overwhelming.  I wonder often what it is you have to do to live peacefully and happily in this chaotic mess. I recently received the answer from a 92 year old man – a soul mate?  I would never have imagined such a kindred feeling with someone like this – but there it was.

 

His name is Gabe and he is my guitar player’s father in law.  Shawn and his wife had just suffered through a scary bout with breast cancer and Gabe, Anne’s adopted father came for a visit from the Maritimes to see how Anne was doing.

 

He was introduced to me as “This is Gabe my adopted father. He’s 92”, said Anne smiling

And smartly all I could say was,

 

“Holy crap, how’d you get to be 92?!”

No word of a lie, Gabe looked 65 years old. He had a hefty diamond stud earring in his left ear, a full head of shocking white hair and blue twinkly eyes. With a beard he might have looked a little like Santa.

I was grateful Gabe laughed then at my seemingly impolite outburst.  Once again my lack of filter was in full force. But I also learned allot about Gabe from that laugh.  He liked the unrehearsed parts of life best, I could see. He was spontaneous and smiled allot.

I set up my equipment and came back to his table eagerly wanting to talk to him.

“Gabe, tell me how it is you lived so long?”  I asked him quite seriously. The question of longevity having been on my mind since my own mother died less than a year earlier at only 65.

“I just didn’t die yet!”, he said laughing his big belly laugh.

“Seriously Gabe, I said looking him square in the eye,  “What is it? I asked.

He leaned towards me conspiratorially as if he was going to tell me a big secret and said smiling

” Love everything as much as you can”, he said smiling.  “You’re already doing that. I can see it”.  He smiled warmly. So much familiar love and joy in his eyes.  It was so familiar and amazing.

I got up and hugged him. The band was calling me to the stage for the first set or I would have stayed and talked to Gabe all night.

In between sets I found him outside as he was leaving to get some rest – which he said was important to longevity too – I smiled.

I hugged him and said frankly,

“I feel like I’ve known you a long time Gabe,”  I was sad he was leaving.

“But we have darlin’ “, he said smiling. “We’ll do it again soon”.

I thought then about how amazing it must be to wake up in the morning – when you are 92. Each day borrowed time.

I’d like to say I have the same kind of reverence for life as Gabe does, but I know I still take waking up each day for granted.

I was talking with a friend the other day about all the world situations how hundreds of thousands of people each day have to figure out how to pack up the basics of their lives, walk many miles in treacherous hot desert sand only to find themselves at a new country’s border – mostly unwelcome.  The world’s resources are running out, including livable space.

 

We were making a sandwich in the kitchen and starting saying all of the things we have that other people don’t have.  Like the seemingly simple ability to make lunch itself! Or go to bed without bombs going off outside our house. Or just having a house – or taking a shower with hot water, being able to call my kids who are safe, going to school or work. The ability to go to a store and buy food. To say whatever I want. To be able to show my face in public.

I wish it wasn’t the hardship of others that had the ability to bring me great gratitude for the most simple of things in my life, but that is the way it is.

That’s the end of my indulgent birthday rant. Wishing you a peaceful day!