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 Little Blue Fish Called Joy

The idea of animals and energy is fascinating.  Once you spend enough time with animals in any capacity, you will find that you can easily feel and transmit subtle reciprocal energetic exchanges.  Animals react to our emotions and energy in a substantial way.

 

Years ago, one of my dear friends and fellow horse farmer was having a celebration for her fiftieth birthday. She had invited a few friends over to celebrate and we were going to have a bonfire, tell some stories, sing some songs – a good summer night.

 

That same afternoon, her horse of many years began to die.  She was very old and had faced a plethora of health problems over the years. The vet was called and by the time I arrived it was already dark and people were sitting around the fire.  They had set up a sort of drive-through IV on a tree limb so the horse could get intermittent hydration treatments while we tried to keep her from going down through an endless walk many horse owners regrettably face at some point.

 

We all took turns helping  keep the mare moving but finally she lay down and there was nothing we could do to get her up. In our resignation we gathered around the fire and decided to send her off with good energy by playing guitar and singing. While her breath slowed, our songs became incThis went on and soon there was a feeling of celebration and coming together – the heaviness had vanished and had been replaced with music, love and community. Suddenly without a warning, the sweet old mare stood up, shook herself off and proceeded to continue to live in that body for three more years.  There is no doubt in any of our minds what had changed the events of that night – it was all about energy.

Recently, I began working at a little store that is filled with beautiful things from Nepal, India and other fairly sourced places. It is in fact the only shop I have gone out of my way to visit for many years. Romi and Aman, the owners,  are generous and warm people. They have beautiful carefully chosen items for sale in the store – each one somehow meant to have a good result for the person. A gift of energy and healing in a stone, or a spring jacket with vibrant colours  of Nepalese clothing. Although the store appreciates the business clients give as they are hard working people with small children and the winter season leaves them with absolutely no income in the seasonally abandoned tourist town. But just as I much I think they love when you ask questions and take time look at all the beautiful things.

 

My life was at a massive cross roads and I was feeling pretty spun-around when Aman called me and asked to meet them at the store. When they offered me a part time job – I took it on the spot knowing there was no better place for me in the world.  As we chatted excitedly about plans and training, I saw a stunning molded glass bowl with a sad looking little Beta fish in it, huddled at the bottom.

“Your fish is sad.  Cold I think…”

“Yes, yes” Romi replied. “She keeps dying and coming back to life. She has not been well in a long time.” And with great concern for a beloved pet, Romi and Aman talked about the little blue fish, now dull and old sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

My first day of work was two days later and  I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Imagine going into your favourite place and your boss’s first directive is “Make everything beautiful! –  the way you want”.

Seriously. Yay.

The first thing we did was deal with the beautiful fish bowls. Perched on dried roots they were an amazing thing to behold. A woman came in to look at them and within minutes the little blue fish found herself homeless and in transition.

Aman and I took incredible care working together to move her – gently cooing in the bathroom, snuggling her from one bowl to the next as if she were a kitten or something.

Aman  set up little stones, amethysts especially to bring a renewed energy to the water.  Then we brought her into the sun and watched the magic happen through the day as the sweet little fish began to dance around her bowl unlike anything she had ever done before. Aman returned to her bowl about 35 times to joyfully exclaim.”Look! Look how happy she is!” We received so much of our own joy from her joy!

12962420_204123929978748_1966899064_o_picmonkeyed
“Joy” Photograph Sarah Vinnah Davis

One person after another streamed into the store that day.  The happy feeling of connection was palpable and filled with “Joy”full loving energy that abounded from our small victory bringing the little fish back to health.

Romi and Aman’s care of Joy was truly an awesome thing to behold and incredibly contrasting in a world where the news can be so bad watching two people show authentic concern for a little blue fish made me smile from the inside out.

Here’s to good vibes …

Peace

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perth and Peace Here we Come!

**this was more like a journal entry so I never put it out but as I reread a couple of things (something I nearly never do) I saw this, the fresh reaction to see the Dalai Lama and just felt like tonight the message I and 20000 other people received might be useful. I left his talk with a full and hopeful heart…i hope you feel it yourself. Namaste

******************************************************

July 2015

Perth here we come! Farthest place from Montreal possible and its just AMAZING TO ME…that i will get to sit in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other peacekeeping folks from all over the world. WOW!

My mom would have LOVED this…in fact, I’m pretty sure she is orchestrating the whole thing from on high…

She would have loved it all…even the hard stuff.

Even the places where we are challenged to stay centered and peaceful, but strong in desire to unite with non-violence, compassion and love.

yes – peace doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen

Peace doesn’t mean there is nothing to fight for

stand up for

be for

be against…

Peace means that we know we stand even in the middle of the storm and we will not break with the wind.

Wind is good.

It is alive and always changing. Just like the planet…and us. Same thing.

And here it is the weekend of wonders…

May all sentient beings know themselves as each other…Just for a day 😉

peace and joy to everyone on this celebratory weekend!

F.L.Y. Away Home

Arguably, the worst scenario for a parent is having a child who does not love themselves.  As a way to help me find some form of self-love and belay the devastating effects of depression in my early life, my mother would urge me as a self-love exercise to stand in front of a mirror and declare out loud to my own self “I love you” ten times every day, but I was never able to do it. It felt like just a lie – too much bullshit that was for me incredibly uncomfortable.  As a seriously rebellious teenager, everything about me felt wrong – I definitely wasn’t fitting into the `recommended mold`of thinking and behaving that my family and culture were teaching me.  At that time,  I could barely make eye contact with myself in the mirror without feeling completely ridiculous. I told her she was way over the top when she suggested I do this exercise naked – holy hell! I couldn’t even wear a parka and feel insulated enough from the accusing gaze of my own eyes.  The eyes that said – if she really knew me inside she wouldn’t love me so much. The eyes that said – you really are just a selfish bitch – useless, ugly, incapable, looser.
Now, let’s face it. If someone would have come up to me and actually said those things, it would have gone very badly for them. In general we would never allow someone to speak as badly to us as we do to ourselves. For many people often these thoughts run as a pervasive dialogue back and forth through the mind without even conscious recognition. Like a fire burning you from the inside out. Eventually, if you don’t get a handle on whats happening in the mind, it will leave you in cinders.

You’ll be making dinner or doing something equally mundane and there is a white noise of dialogue happening just a breath out of reach of your aware mind – so you feel terrible without knowing why.

This familiar “background noise” is a pandemic in Western women’s culture.
Vapid feelings of not-enough-itis. A belief that even if you are doing everything you can be, it is not ever going to be enough.

Like so many others, I suffered from depression and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and self reproach in such a way that actually became life threatening. But like my mother, I also have children who mean everything to me and seeing them have strong sense of self worth is the most important thing to me.  But you can`t teach what you don`t know and I certainly knew I couldn’t teach what I didn’t have inside me in the first place. Learning to love myself was initiated by my deep love for my children. Ironically, this lesson meant that I needed to become very “centered in self” by putting my needs first, dropping relationships and activities that were causing me to feel unhappy and were energy depleting, unbalanced or interfering with what I consider to be most important – my personal sense of serenity. Energy zapping relationships began to fall away once my focus shifted. This is necessary since our relationships reflect our intended focus of our lives, and so when focus changes, so does your circle.

When my children arrived at young adulthood, I was somehow set free of my daily responsibilities for a period of time – the universe shifted and supported my need to be able to stand in front of that mirror and say I LOVE YOU – to my own face. But 30 years later – I still couldn’t do it. I thought maybe moving to the other side of the planet would help…but there could be no distance between me and what I perceived as my “problems” – since my problems seemed to follow me everywhere. Wherever I went…there I was!

Geographical distance aside, I discovered that everything I thought was wrong with me at home – still existed in some form on the other side of the world. How could this be? I didn’t have the door knocking, phone ringing, email buzzing chaos of my home life – and yet I still felt the same background droning stream of unhappiness. I quickly saw that it wasn’t “life” that caused me problems, but the way my mind worked with my life. The “problem” was my mind.

The mind is a funny thing. Essentially, there are two ways to look at your mind. First, it can become “who you are” – so, whatever you think you will believe. The mind is the mouth piece for the ego. It tells you all sorts of things, based on unconscious assumptions and over layered old beliefs that you have not yet taken out for inspection to reassess their current validity.
The mind is a history book – it has never existed in the present, and only can access the past as reference for a current situation.
The mind is exhausting – it doesn’t need sleep and if you participate in any way with its games, it will keep you up all night too.
The mind is the center of fear. It is the place that speaks in hushed tones in the quiet recesses of your receptive places to tell you how things wont work out, how you cant do it, how small you are – incapable inadequate.
The mind exists on the left hemisphere of the brain. It doesn’t like to play with the right hemisphere – the land of creativity and love.
The mind tells you pursuing your hearts desire – your true creative calling whispering seductively in the right side of your brain – is not enough. That you can’t “survive” and should be “more realistic”. Maybe the mind is your parents talking? Maybe it is a teacher in school who had nothing better to do than to tell you that you weren’t smart enough? Maybe its the voice of an abusive relationship long since put aside but still following you to bed at night.
Whatever the mind is doing, the mind is not WHO YOU ARE. In other words – what you think is not who you are! But, it will govern every part of you, define you to yourself which effectively governs the choices you will make, in accordance with what you believe about yourself.

Now that you know about this “secret mind” – sit with it for a second and really listen. Shhhh….do this often every day. Taking moment to just stand still and listen. Don`t judge…just listen.

You will hear your thoughts, don’t be afraid of them They cant do anything to you unless you take them seriously. Maybe you are thinking about mundane things like dinner, groceries, watch a show, go on face book, practice music, draw a picture, get a job pay your taxes. Maybe it is reflecting on how your day went – You didn’t do enough, you did that wrong, you are too ugly for him! You are too stupid for that class. Don’t write a book – you are worthless and have nothing to say…
Any of this sound familiar?
That’s because the bullshit spewed by the mind is universal and make no mistake – its only mission is to stop you in your tracks!  It always tries to play on inhibiting you from finding your greatest creative potential in this life. Ironic since that is your only purpose by being here in this life – to find out what turns your inner light on.
The mind is a dark shield over the great light of your amazing beautiful heart.
The mind is also your dear friend. Your very best FRENEMY! You know that we couldn’t even understand what day time was without having the comparative experience of night time. So, the mind is your `night time`and your heart and intuition is your day time.

The truth is though, to love yourself there are very important basics:


1- LOVE EVERY PART OF YOURSELF –

Make LOVING YOURSELF the prime directive of each new day! Including your mind. You have to love every part of yourself; the good, the bad and the ugly. So, the mind is also a friend – because emotions translate to us what our needs are and the mind is what initiates the action of fulfilling the need. It can be a great ally and can help you navigate the waters of this human existence quite effectively, as long as you don’t let it run as background noise, and only allowing it to come forward and be a part of choice making when you have scanned it with your powerful intuition. Only then can it be part of your decision making process and choices.
2- APPRECIATE OPPOSITES The mind shows you what you don’t want – you DO want. No one wants self hatred, feeling depressed and self recriminating, guilt, sadness, powerlessness, self reproach, unforgivable. No one wants to feel like this. These negative emotions only come when we are a- not mindful or present and b- have unresolved and unaccepted issues. So, the mind is beneficial because sometimes we learn best by opposites. If I say “I want to be happy and not feel depressed when I wake in the morning”, it is obvious that the first issue that must be addressed is the mind. I can take the thoughts that Mind produces and use them as pointers or prompts to show me what my unconscious mind is prattling on about. Then I can make choices based on the present and not on past resentments, sadness, unresolved sadness, grief or whatever other illusion helps me to make more self-loving choices.

3- LOOSE CONDEMNING JUDGMENT of EVERYTHING.  stop telling yourself negative things. In fact stop telling anyone negative things.  Drop complaining, criticizing from your daily experience.  try it! For one day, don`t criticize ANYTHING. Not in your head and not out loud. I’m not saying loose your `discernment` – for example we all need to `discern`who is good for us to be around and who is not. Deciding someone or something is not for you is not a negative judgement on a person, or situation – it is you using your god given ability to figure out what gives you energy – and what takes it away.  The going rule is if it makes you feel good and harms no one – then go for it!  If it makes you feel crappy and causes you harm – RUN DON’T WALK. And don’t think because someone is related to you by blood they are exempt from this personal discernment.  Very often it is those blood relationships that have been intimately connected to your misguided programming.  No one is more important than your own peace of mind.
4- DO IT ANYWAYS; How many times I have spoken with a woman on this topic, of self care, of putting herself before her kids and husband and friends, of filling her own cup – only to be faced with the same objection each time. Somehow women have gotten it into their minds that if they put themselves in a martyring self sacrificing position by being mindful of everyone else’s needs and slowly but sure disconnecting from their own – that this is effective parenting and marital life. Somehow this martyr attitude is to be congratulated in our culture, producing more depressed women and men than at any other time in history. Self sacrificing yourself is the most ineffective way of manifesting happiness either for you or for your family. The only way for balance and happiness is to put yourself first. Imagine being able to teach this to your kids through example so that when they grow into they will be able to find happiness inside themselves by your good example and wont feel the need to look outside, in relationships, jobs, drugs and alcohol to fill their lonely spaces. They wont have any. People who love themselves are never lonely – they always have great company! I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to enjoy their own company.

Martyrs are professional victims. Quit this job – it does no one any good.

So many women are superb at running around doing things for everyone else, they like to direct the show, giving advice out like lollipops. They are “on” when there is a disaster. However, left to time on their own, in their own mind, or given an opportunity to fulfill their own happiness they will stand mutely and confounded. Their purpose has become defined by the role they play for everyone else.

YOUR OPINION ABOUT YOURSELF IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYONE ELSE’S
First, if you are one of these martyrdom superheroes who sacrifice all for family, husband, wife children job – let me tell you what a terrible burden you place on everyone you claim to love. Since you have conceived that your happiness is so intertwined with their happiness – have you considered that you are only teaching them an unreasonable and unrealistic responsibility?
In fact the truth is, self sacrificing by putting your needs and personal balance aside for others is a very effective and manipulative way of staying in a victim mentality. And I have never met a happy or successful victim.

“I do it all for you!” screams the angry husband after he had not seen his family for six weeks.
“I live for my family”, says the exhausted wife.
“I study for my parents” says the approval seeking teenager
“I hate my job – but I have a family to support”,
No one ever got anywhere like this.
“I live for my children” –
really? One day they will not be living for you – what will you do then?

Fill yourself – only THEN do you have anything REAL to offer.

YOU CAN BE SO WEALTHY! While in Africa I noticed that children were never burdens, but an integral part of the daily joy and work of each village. Small children would gather firewood with their mothers, while fathers stayed around the village doing other work. Afternoons are spent all together, doing the things that need to be done for the good of the community.
Do you think women in an African village part of such a community have self esteem issues?
No they don’t because people who live near nature and on the land of the world know how divinely miraculous their existence is. There is no false humility or martyrdom – there is balance and communal joy.
I would like to see this effect wash over north America. We are very very poor compared to many of these nations.

In North America we have learned from television, radio and other forms of popular culture what is to be important to us as members of our own communiti4es. \the problems is – none of it is effective in promoting greater personal happiness. We very often hold the opinions of our community, friends or family as MUCH more important than our own.
This must stop.
It is critical for you to become aware of how much importance you have placed on what others think of you and your choices.
No one is more important that YOU.
And frankly, not even your closest partner, sister friend, husband, parent – not ONE OF THEM can understand why you do what you do and what is best for you.
You have full responsibility – and full FREEDOM.

Your happiness is none of anyone’s business.
So, if you\re waiting for the perfect man, woman, job, education, geographical cure, substance anything outside of yourself to bring you that contended feeling – you’re going to wait forever because it doesn’t exist.
You think if you could fall in love it would all be OK?
If you made more money and didn’t have to worry about paying your bills it would all be ok?
Maybe if you didn’t have a terrible illness it would all be ok?
But it wouldn’t.
The only way anything is ever OK is in the way you think about it – and how your mind processes it.

BUT YOU’RE NOT LISTENING ARE YOU?

The thing is, everyone can give you advice – but in your mind you think what you have gone through is unique, what you are doing is “different” – that maybe what I am saying here is applicable to everyone else – but not you! You have suffered more, you have more problems, you have secrets or some magical need that no other human on the planet can relate to.

That was what my mind said when my mom asked me to stand in front of that mirror…
Yeah – you wouldn’t love me so much if you knew what a mess I was.

Make no mistakes – your mind is a liar.
Do you like Liars? Are you usually close intimate friends with liars? Do you take their advice? Hang out with them?
Or do you prefer to be around others who are positive, and honest and who have an open heart?

It’s important if you are reading this that it be useful – not just esoteric blah blah. There are good writers in the world, and nothing I can say here is really unique – but I do want it to be useable.

Suggestions for self love:
– Say it in your head, first thing every morning, repeat and repeat
” I love myself, I am wonderful, I am fantastic, I am beautiful I am perfect and I am divine” – just do it. You don’t have to believe it – do it anyways.
– Remember to put yourself and your amazing talents and availability when reviewing your gratitude of the day! “I am so grateful I can play guitar and have so much fun with people!”
– Keep in mind that the “mind talk” is your ego – the ego seeks to separate you from everything that is alive – this is ALSO necessary since you wouldn’t fully understand how we are all the same living thing – if you did not at once feel separate. Its part of how we humans learn.
– Develop a practice of gratitude. For example, write ten things you are grateful for each day in your journal, or upon awakening just list 5 or ten things you are grateful for before getting out of bed. This can help start your day off on a more vibrant note.
– NEVER EVER speak ill of yourself out loud. If you do, tell yourself you are very sorry. Go buy yourself an ice cream.
– Don’t try to be perfect – you already are.
– Hang around self loving people


Just like the other 7 billion of us on this planet, we are all on the path towards self love. I doubt any of us can ever perfect it. Change comes slowly, but if you stick to it, it will come. You’ll see it in small moments
It is clear that the more I have learned to love who I am, despite anyone’s opinion thoughts or bad teaching – the more I am able to feel great love in my heart for other people, other places, situations, the world, the planet.
This “self focus” isn’t just a nice idea to make you happy – it is a CRITICAL idea necessary for the healing of the entire planet. It makes sense – the more one person is able to connect with themselves them more they will connect with the earth around them. Love of self necessarily flows into everything around – the people, animals, plants. People who love themselves don’t become terrorists, don’t have jobs creating bombs, don’t become alcoholics and addicts, don’ spend all their waking hours judging themselves and others. People who love themselves are warriors brave in their journey, courageous to change the mindset of how they have been taught to perceive the world through the filter of their frenemy – the mind.

Become friends with yourself – I’d love to meet YOU!

Namaste

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!

 

Most Redundant Blog Ever Written…just my opinion.

It’s redundant for me to have an opinion on opinionated people, don’t you think? But I really do and it’s making me a little crazy.

For the last few years I have been struck by how counterproductive strong personal opinions are for me.    Negative or positive – it’s all the same thing as far as I am concerned.  It’s a right and wrong, black and white up and down that really only exists in our faerie tale minds.download (1)

Last night I met a woman I had never met before who had been making quite merry all night. At one point she grabbed at my husband’s cigarettes (he has been struggling to quit for a while now) and starting sneering at him

“what are you gonna do?” she jeered

 

“You gonna be an idiot and smoke this?” She waved the pack at him sitting back arrogantly with her glass of whatever in her other hand.

 

“Um…” I could see he was visibly shaken,  not knowing how to handle this strange aggressive approach.

 

9896d25c60bca36da9eba9145c33233aShe wanted to humiliate him in some way, and frankly I felt bad for him.  Addicted is addicted and for sure I m not going to be the one to throw stones from my glass house.  In all my attempt to be “compassionate” towards all people, I found it a little tough with this one. Soon, I found words spilling out of my unhindered unfiltered mouth. Generally this is not a good thing.

 

“So, does your shoulder hurt?” I asked her pointedly

 

“Hunh?” she looked at me quizzically

 

“Does your SHOULDER hurt?” I said pointing to the portion of my body above my arm below my neck, in case you need instructions like she did

 

“Well, it is a little stiff..”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you walk around in your life carrying a heavy gavel and judging people. Why don’t you just lay it down.” I stared at her predatorially watching her eyes drop conflicted to her feet.

download

“Well mine’s just fine then…” She murmured staring at her feet.

 

“Give it time”…I said smiling sardonically.

 

Oh great. Good old “zen-me” had just reacting to someone being humiliated by humiliating the,  So much for non-violence…

 

Sigh…

images

She wanted to go at him about cancer being caused by cigarettes.  Meanwhile my brain wanted to tell her all sorts of things, about being overweight, having a lousy attitude, her bleached blond hair, carcinogenic make up tested on poor little bunnies, her diamonds mined in South Africa, her need to control other people…omg.  My brain wouldn’t shut up – thankfully I had found my filter, and we packed up not wanting to ruin what had been a lovely evening.

 

I remember when I was young I had an opinion about everything. In my family it was a way to be valued. The more opinions you had = the smarter you were.  Generally I wasn’t much into telling others how to run their lives.  But on world issues and grander things, you couldn’t have shut me up.

c1ede396a4c4bdd5c112dd66cb75a512

But here’s what I know now: if someone does something that annoys me (like to the pint this woman’s attitude annoyed me..) then it is ONLY because that same aspect exists inside of me.  The bright light of imperfection shone directly on my face like a crazy celestial spotlight.  It was me..not her.  I cant change a person or how they behave. I can only choose to accept exactly as they are,  them or not.    I knew this was true because I came away from the judging woman with a sense of annoyance, which I think is a good thing. That feeling is an indication I have to look at something within myself.   Seeing it like that makes the altercation not useless – but useful for my own personal understanding and growth.   Having a perception of conflicting relationships like this can really change the way you feel about interacting with the world.

What it came down to was I think we all have that “inner critic”. And, there is a distinct difference between a critic and being discerning.  We were all given the power to discern what works for us and what doesn’t. I can observe a person’s behaviour or choices, and in view of how I am moving forward in my life, I can discern whether or not it is a good relationship for me or a counter-productive one, for now.

 

So, I realize how redundant it is for me to blog about my opinion about people’s opinions, but I am seeing a trend which is kind of black and white, and probably attributable to social networking.  Daily posts from people that are like personal opinion vomit – all day long. They just go on and on and how one person is bad, or a country is bad, or an institution is bad…oy.  This isn’t productive and it gets tedious reading and seeing such of negative comments.

 

I say – shut up and go DO something a bout it. If you complain about a problem more than once without taking action – you are officially whining.

 

 

I’m grateful for my annoyance as it has made me aware enough to back off of my own strong opinions – but it doesn’t mean I will lose my sense of discernment.  If I am stuck to what I think about a person place or situation, then I am not accepting that person place and situation and I guarantee you that the only one who will be miserable from that kind of unconscious bull-in-a-china-shop thinking – is ME.

 

So, in my efforts to be more gentle and compassionate with my own self (yes…a huge challenge), I am going to take a dose of my own medicine and remind myself that even the judging woman needs to be accepted. We are ALL perfectly imperfect, as my mom used to like to remind me when I would beat myself up.

 

Accepting people and not always having a false belief that I can change the unchangeable is a very powerful tool in keeping emotional balance and avoiding depression.  It’s all just one more thing to add to your toolbox, if that works for you.

Have a great weekend.

Peace.

Jo

 

 

 

World Peace Through Inner Peace

1480631_10154570029310230_2357686507537653468_nI arrive at the festival about 6 hours early. We have a sound check, sound check is cancelled. The band is in fine form – everyone happy in the park. I feel so lucky because my family is with me. My cousin and nephew. How unbelievably amazing that I am so lucky to have a family that likes each other so much that we want to hang out voluntarily outside of Christmas dinner and funerals.

We notice that the place is filled with extraordinary musicians from all over. No one knows us – we are the new kids on the block. I have a chance to talk to many people as the day unravels and one sound check is put off after another until we realize that there will be no sound check and we are just meant to enjoy the day.

As it went on, I had a chance to meet two people who gave me a great lesson I’d like to share.  The first was a man who, right away upon meeting me candidly admitted:

“I have been trying to be an artist my whole life and I don’t know what I am good at. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, I can’t write…I am lost”.

 

I don’t know – maybe its my hippie look but people like to get down to brass tacks right away with me and I really like that. They can tell I’m not much of a “talk-about-the-weather” kinda of gal.

So, I said to the man’

“Cool!  You’re a seeker”, I said smiling. He looked in my eyes and I could see he saw familiar recognition of someone else who had been in enough pain to do the hard work.   He told me more of his story – falling in love with a women, moving to Egypt, caught in the political uprising, converts to Islam, freaks out, comes back home.  Now shaken and still trying to find his answers in another person.

It’s all part of the trip we’ve all done it.  But at some point you realize that what you are seeking can’t be found outside yourself.

The man’s eyes fly open…”Yes!” he says. “Of course you understand – you’re an artist”.

Yes I am, and so are you.

Everyone is an artist and is seeking.  In fact it is our most important job in life to help others get their feet under them and do what it is they are meant to do. The best way to do that is to walk your talk and follow your heart.

Because the issue of depression has been top headlines lately, we have been talking allot about how to be responsible for our emotional state, which has led me to really see that people who “follow their hearts” may have troubles, may have “hard times”, may have challenges abounding – but they are happy. You have to wring every last drop of life out of this life – and we who are relegated to the classifications of “crazy artist, depressive, bi-polar” whatever – are the souls brave enough to step outside of the box and choose the unworn path.

I marvel when I meet someone who says to me that they are “not creative”.

What does this mean?  Did you stop breathing?

Everyone creates…all day all the time. When you got up this morning you made a choice…you got out of bed. This is where your “creativity” began. Every thought and choice you make after – is a separate creation. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.

We can create art, music, writing, food, wood working, architecture – those are obvious acts of creation.

We can create relationships, environments, situations, and futures. Having depression means being responsible for the emotions we bring into our lives. I don’t mean controlling the uncontrollable, but being aware when life is pulling your attention here and there is the key to a serene and amazing existence. In order be really responsible for our selves and our emotional health – it is important to know that every thought we have creates SOMETHING.

The ying and yang of it…

… resentment will CREATE heartache

…anger will CREATE turmoil

…violence will CREATE retribution

…Obsession with material gain will CREATE anxiety

…self absorption will CREATE loneliness

 

Everything you do say think and believe is an act of creation.

 

An act of Compassion will CREATE peace

…of Love will CREATE fellowship

…of faith will CREATE miracles

…of generosity will CREATE abundance

…selflessness will CREATE personal fulfillment

 

After I met the man who told me he could not find his “inner artist” I met a young boy only nine years old who had been blind since birth and was discovered by his camp councillors playing guitar on his lap. They videotaped him and put his song on Youtube and within a few days the video had gotten over 50,000 hits. So they invited him to play at the end of the set of the big headline act of the day.

Ego is all that holds back creativity.  The bad ego – the one that tells you everything is about YOU you you you you.

Imagine meeting an egoless being?  It is very rare.

But that’s what the little boy was in essence.  He child was the opposite of the creatively constipated man I had met earlier. He existed simply as unhinged creativity – music on legs…

No ego. No self – only music.

The magic began when he first arrived and he emerged from his limo that the festival had gotten for him to ride in, all beautiful and smiling. And immediately looking for something to play, body swaying rhythmically. I noticed he was holding a machine to his ear – music emerge from it as he rocked happily back and forth. He approached the table in front of the artists entrance, just a regular white plastic patio table. He couldn’t see the emerging crowd of curious spectators and artists were watching, now quiet, no one quite sure what to say or do. All these “big blues stars” – rendered momentarily mute and caught in rapt attention. The boy begins to bang on a plastic table finding a rhythm – rap tap tap bang rap tap tap bang …. The surrounding musicians couldn’t hold themselves back and soon one guy is singing beside him, another (my own drummer) is tapping out a complimenting double beat smiling widely beside the boy – looking like he might have at the same age. My owns hands found a big blue recycling bin and soon the best show was taking place outside the tent where the big bands were playing. Rollin and Tumblin, garbage cans, tapping feet, singing voices – and a boy smiling as wide as a crescent moon. He found his happy place – and brought us all along with him! This was transferred enlightened music – a real miracle.

 

I dubbed him little Blues Buddha.

 

I also realize that the man who had not yet found his creation – was also Buddha – a teacher. We need to be in both places to find where we want to stand.

 

I feel so lucky to have a chance in this life to completely be myself in all my creative weirdness. People think I am a great singer when they see us perform, but really what it is is I have been blessed with being surrounded by people who let me know clearly that I can do absolutely ANYTHING, and they will support me.   I think saying Im grateful is abit of an understatement.

 

Instead I will use gratitude as a verb and keep trying and doing and creating and moving forward. And if I am lucky, I will always keep in my mind the face of the Little Buddha who was all soul – as I trudge my own creative path.

dbcea99eae3584ea293eafc50ef28dfe

 

When we all find our creative space like this boy did – when people individually find peace inside themselves and a place to express through some form of creation (“making something new that has not been made before”) only THEN will the world experience global peace. One person and one life at a time – this is our responsibility and joyful obligation towards ourselves first – and each other.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? H.A.L.T.!

301549_10150375411088656_541083655_8281137_1256522812_nFor those of us who live with depression, whether we can are on meds, off meds – the bottom line is that living with (sometimes unpredictable) emotional fluctuations can make it really hard to plan the  future..or sometime just an hour from now even.   Something that helps allot of people keep focus on balance in the day is also one of my family’s favourite – H.A.L.T. I’d like to share it in case its new to you and can help for next time the blues comes knockin’…

What it means seems obvious – when your mind starts twisting out and you feel your mood plummet…just STOP.

Stop everything if you can and check your basics. Are you hungry, angry lonely or tired?  This focus can help you to regain balance and avert deep depression when you begin to feel out of whack.  It’s also part of being emotionally responsible for yourself.  Over time it becomes easier to remember.

H.A.L.T:

Hungry ;

can mean you need food. Let’s stick to basics. Admit it, when we are emotionally overwrought we re not often inclined to be putting our physical well-being at the top of the to do list. We are more likely thinking …and drowning in thinking. All of ours, and the world’s problems at once.   Our thoughts have run away with a “mind of their own” (did I really just say that?) and we quickly lose body needs awareness. We forget to eat, or we eat crap. Carb;s usually – just for a moment of a little dopamine.

Seriously – Not having the proper minerals and vitamins when you are a clinically depressed person, can be life threatening.   The food we intake directly affects the way in which our brain produces dopamine and serotonin. I don’t know how you can do that in your diet.  I’m sure there are a million line resources. I believe that  many doctors obviously need to be more multidimensional in their approach to patient knowledge.  They need to be more like health partners and less like people that think they know more about your insides than you do. They have to really be thinking about the whole person and the situation.

So, that’s where you come in,  Someone with depression has to be very responsible for this most basic requirement.  When you feel that you are quickly spinning into the abyss, take a second, ok well maybe take 30 and check out what your body needs.

1- Drink water – in fact start your day with it. You wake dehydrated.  I don’t know much about the brain but I can imagine that`s not a great start for it.

2- Lay off caffeine – stop wrecking the start of your day by giving yourself a hyper dose of anxiety. Drink tea – you`ll live

3- Refined sugar is bad. Period.  It sparks mood swings, physical energy crashes etc… We are trying to avoid ANY crashes here.

4- Meat takes alot of energy for the body to consume. Plus it`s gross. I don’t eat it.

5- Eat whenever I`m hungry.  Small amounts.

6- Indulge your food fantasies sometimes. What the hell. One life.  But don`t do it when you`re sad.  Again, sugar never helps depression.

ANGRY:

Self explanatory. If you`re angry, stop, don`t RE-act (Def: Acting outwardly the angry you are feeling – creating a negative action twice).

Especially if you are in position to react to what someone else is saying to you it is always best to find some space and come back to it if you need to once you have checked your other indicators.

One of my grandmother`s favourite sayings was

“Don’t ever say something to someone you’ll have to apologize for. Especially if you don`t like them.”

LONELY: One of the hardest things to do in depression is reaching out to express yourself, but it is vitally important and healing.

There is an ocean’s difference between peaceful solitude and abject loneliness.  In mid-depression (if there is such a place) often people feel and see only themselves, and not in the best light either. Surrounding yourself with friends who understand you and are empathetic to your experience is really important.  It’s also part of what can be in your control.   Making relationship choices is empowering.

TIRED:

Most basic for all of us  but especially people with depression: you must sleep regularly and well.   One of the symptoms of a prolonged depression is insomnia. At this point a person is really so disconnected form the body that they have messed up their circadian rhythms and can’t return to a normal routine of sleep.  Thoughts race and we all know you cant run from yourself.

There is a reason why sleep deprivation has been used as a  favoured technique for torture throughout our war torn histories.  People make bad decisions when they are exhausted. For people with depression, exhaustion can lead to suicidal ideation difficult emotions like hopelessness and despair.  No one wants to live like that on purpose.

Fake it till you make it doesn’t mean you’re lying or being fake…not really.  But it helps to act as if you already feel good…to feel good this doesn’t mean lying but more like acting out positivity.  When someone asks you how you are, don’t go into a forty minute diabtribe about your woes, try staring by saying something positive, or grateful.  This can have a huge effect on the whole energy of the interaction.

 

You know how sometimes it feels as though just in a MOMENT you can fall into a depression,

Keep in mind that the same thing applies to the opposite …in a MOMENT you can fall out and back into contentedness.   Say yes to things that feel good for example.  Taking care of basics puts everyone in a better position to make the best daily choices on their own behalf and help create this outcome.

Peace~