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.

 

 

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.

GREAT VICTORIOUS SPEAR OF MOTHERHOOD!

images0G56APY3  This thanksgiving was something of a victory for me both as a mother and as a daughter.

As I arrived from work finding my kids having made dinner for us, the house was FULL to overflowing with people – dear friends, seven kids, three grandchildren, cars, basketballs, food, good smells and happy people – coming home felt wonderful.

We sat around the table, and each spoke our traditional words of gratitude – my m,other’s tradition that we love and adhere to.

“I am grateful that my family is always there for me”,

“I’m grateful for this food…can I eat now?”

I am grateful for my hot boyfriend…”

I am grateful for my job and food and you guys – this is the best family eh?”

And finally my youngest daughter at the very end with tears running down her cheeks

“I am so grateful we could find a way to be happy again after nanny…”

After Nanny passing away.

After nanny not here at the table to lead prayers and talk about corn fritters

After Nanny…

there is NO after nanny!

She helped us build this solid tribe – this certain community – this massive group of love.

There is a continuation of Nanny –

in my children’s words, in our food, our traditions and in our deep love for each other.

I am blessed beyond description.

and overflowing with gratitude.

I walked into the kitchen just so I could listen to them laugh – their beautiful voices.  Oh so happy.

I felt loved and surrounded by a solid tribe – my own tribe.

images6TQOHGBJFor 25 years I have been parenting these humans.  I want to make good people. I don’t care what they do for a living. I don’t care if they are “successful” (whatever that means) I don’t care if they are renown and I don’t care if they are respected in their field.

I care that they know how to love themselves, each other and the world around them. Period.

My only hope in all of that effort (and yes HUGE effort) was that at the end of the day three things would happen:

1- my kids would all like each other enough to hold each other up through this life

2- we would enjoy each other as a family because we really like each other – not just because we have to

3- that they can tell my husband and I anything and not be afraid of rejection or pain

OK…we did it.

I feel like Mother Zeus standing victoriously on a gigantic mountain brandishing the great flaming spear of motherhood and I am declaring -YES! IT CAN BE DONE! Behold – the awesome children!! They are AMAZING !

ANd my voice would echo throughout the lands so moms everywhere would know – there is alight at the end of the tunnel and that light is BEAUTIFUL.

imagesTA3DYQAZ

Why Robin Williams’s Death Can Be A Good Thing…

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My first reaction to Robin William’s suicide death announcement on facebook was astonished  anger.  I felt like he had somehow  copped out, jumped ship.  I was starkly reminded of my dear friend Anne who also committed suicide a month and a half ago…it has been a tough summer.  Lots of people are giving up.

Then sadness took me, in a big way. Maybe it because I am grieving so many significant personal losses and for some very real reasons Robin’s death felt very personal to me. Not only as a fellow sufferer of depression, but because I grew up with him.  All my favourite movies and some of my best moments with my kids include him. He could make me laugh and smile and feel like anything was possible when no one else could. He felt like a friend.

My family has some epic stories, but one of my favourites was when my sister, now an artist but then a high ranking administrative person for Bell Canada was travelling through Los Angele’s and she had the opportunity to meet and speak with him. The one thing that always reminded in the traditional retelling of the story was the effect that his eye had – gentle and full of love she would say. Smiling eyes. robin

And now he was gone.

Depression. Suicide.  My life has been plagued with these two words.  So understandably my next reaction was fear.  If depression could take Robin, then it could take ANYONE…even me.

My story..

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old, in university. I was young and far from home and would experience great jags of unhappiness.  A University hospital doctor told me I had depression – a clinical explanation for a chemical imbalance in my brain.  In those days my depressions were only days long – usually right before my period and would disappear in a flash as soon as I would begin.  I never mentioned it, although it felt so terrible because people made so many jokes about PMS – but for someone like me, on occasion, PMS were the two r tree days when I couldn’t make a decision, I couldn’t read two pages in row cause I had no concentration, and I hated myself.

After graduating with my first degree at 18, I came home, worked in a bar (yes it was the Pioneer in case you were wondering) because who in their right mind would hire a kid with a degree in political philosophy.  I had my first child at 25 and within weeks of having her, the depression came back. This time they called it “post partum disorder” –  again my sadness had nothing to do with me – it was BIOCHEMICAL. They gave me magical pills.  SSRI’s had hit the market but barely.  I am not sure which kind it was this time – probably Prozac was about all they really were using in those days.  Thus began my 17 year journey on pharmaceuticals and a coming to terms with depression.

Lots of people have tried to explain to me what depression is.  My easiest depressions only last a day, and the worst one lasted 7 weeks, I was in bed and I came about as close to dying as any living person wants to get.

silhouette-woman-grievingHere’s how it felt to me…

Depression…

    1. Hurts my body. Aches and pains like I am an old lady.
    2. Depression destroys my concentration. I cant read or even watch an entire tv show
    3. I don’t sleep – forget that.
    4. Make me feel like I am no good for anything or anyone.
    5. Makes me believe the world would be better without me
    6. Makes me feel hopeless – no matter what I do nothing will ever feel good again
    7. Causes me to make bad decisions
    8. I suffer from “not-enough-it is” in a deep depression. Nothing I am or I do is ENOUGH.  It;s exhausting.
    9. Depression causes me to harm myself and make bad choices on my own behalf
    10. Makes my family feel hopeless and out of control
    11. Makes my family and friends feel as though they have done something wrong
    12. Causes me to isolate
    13. Makes me feel as though I cant rely on my emotions so I cant make plans = I never know what I will be like in a day or two or three…
    14. Makes it so I am not able to get a full time normal world day job – again the unreliability factor.
    15. Makes me feel ugly, stupid and unlovable unworthy
    16. Sometimes – depression makes me want to stop living (I will differentiate however between “not wanting to live” and “suicidal” -= there is a big difference)

and so on…

Over the years they tried to give my personality lots of names… bi-polar, severe hyper manic rapid cycling depression (this means I m like Eeyore all the time…), border line personality etc.

I was just sad. That’s all. It was a terrible way to live. I would wake crying, sleep crying, no joy, faking everything in my life.  Trying to be the best mom possible, but incapable of really engaging with anyone – because I was incapable of engaging with myself at the time.

So a (male) doctor says he has a pill I can take that will fix the “broken chemistry” in my brain and I will then be NORMAL. I emphasize male because I don’t think any woman who had had a child would have diagnosed me the same way.

But I was so attracted to the possibility of the all encompassing NORMAL. My doctor wanted me to understand…

He drew me a diagram and explained it to me like I was an idiot…

“See these two lines here Josee…” he asked indicating a drawing of two parallel lines about 3 inches apart on a piece of paper. “most people have emotions within those lines” he says drawing an up and down squiggle.   “Your emotions are like this” he said letting his pen go wildly outside of the lines…

Wow. I am nuts.

Then he says something like,  “The medication will bring you inside the lines.  You can have “normal emotions like everyone else”.

Oh lord…I was so happy. They had invented A NORMAL PILL!

Finally someone explained why I wasn’t “NORMAL” (this word was later explained to  me by my Alanon sponsor as which only existed as a setting on a washing machine :)) why I didn’t feel like other people, and why I was SO much more emotional than I “should be”.

It started with anti -depressants, and by the end I had been prescribed every conceivable antidepressant and then some…seroquil, desyryl, welbutrin, celexa, paxil, elavil name it – I took it.

The results?

I didn’t play guitar or sing for 13 years.

I didn’t write

I didn’t draw

I didn’t paint

I forgot what made me joyful

Nothing in life was ever exciting.

Sex was meh…

Was this “normal”?

Not creating for someone like me is like being the walking dead and I became so empty it was ridiculous.

Depression is genetic in my family . I was raised by my maternal grandparents.  My mother told me the story of her first suicide attempt at only 9 years old. Poor thing – luckily the bottle of pills she took were laxatives, which we can almost giggle at, except to consider what kind of despair a child of nine must feel to down a whole bottle of anything, causes the laughter to turn into a choke in my throat.

My grandmother who raised me was a chronic suicide attempter.  In fact, by the time I was 10 I had saved the life of or witnessed the attempt to die of most of the women in my family.   The men (my “brothers” and maternal grandfather” called them weak and “crazy”.  I have one that still does to this day sadly. )  But their uneducated redneck discompassionate attitudes regarding mental health and emotional wellbeing is very representative of a big chunk of western culture. It is these attitude that prohibit a frank open honest discussion.

I would like that to end today.

*suck it up…” they would say.

That’s not helpful.

**I want to say right away that medications are important, and if you are prescribed and antidepressant to get your chemicals back on track and this is comfortable for you, take them, and get your balance back.

But medication is not where it ends,

it can be however where healing begins.

what is healing?

It is ACCEPTANCE OF YOURSELF.

ALL YOUR 2000 PARTS, PERSONALITIES AND EMOTIONS.

Unfortunately psychologist want to focus on your past and tyour problems and psychiatry is looking at “the problem”  only the medicinal aspects to cover symptoms.

It is not enough.

You have to go after THE ABSOLUTE UNADULTERATED  AWESOME BEAUTIFUL TRUTH ABOUT YOURSELF.

ROBIN WILLIAMS’S death can help us remove the stigma overshadowing a potentially open and healing dialogue on this silent deadly killer…robin love eys

No one is going to say he was

    1. Weak
    2. Should have had a better sense of humour
    3. Unintelligent
    4. Had a sad life anyone would want to escape

etc.

We all know,,,Robin Williams was an AWESOME human being – I am so grateful that he was here.

But another part of me understands and can sometimes relate to his hopelessness.

The Buddhist in me finds that his death will cathartically open this dialogue.

Robin Williams is such a key example of someone whose depression led to addiction (avoidance is pretty normal when you feel like crap all the time).

12 step programs are amazing…except for one teenier thing debilitating thing aspect of the 12 step culture…self righteous sobriety. The I’m better than you attitude is not helpful to someone who struggles and although it is are and you will find that 99% of the people you will meet will be supremely authentic and supportive, there are assholes everywhere in life. Right> Like they say in the program – learning to ACCEPT  (even the assholes) is the key.

Good luck though…If you are a person with long term sobriety and you slip – sometimes program people in these programs can be painfully judging and unforgiving – fearing for their own sobriety I suppose.

 

It must have been very hard for him to go back into the program in 2006 after 20 years of sobriety.

The thing is lots of people said they were “so surprised” when he started drinking again.

I always will remember what my mother, 27 years sober when she died said to me

“Never be surprised when an alcoholic drinks. Be surprised if he stays sober”

 

The world requires a dialogue – depression is epidemic and we need to openly share our stories, remove the stigma and walk TOGETHER.

Opening this dialogue and being very honest with myself has been a cathartic experience.

 

I’d like to begin this dialogue.  The only way to heal and see the amazing BENEFITS of having depression are to share our stories, openly.

 

Let it begin right here.

 

This is what i do for my depression today…

 

    1. REMEMBER YOU CANT FIGHT THE OCEAN WITH A TEASPOON…
    2. I try and let myself feel whatever I am feeling.  Trying to NOT be sad, not be depressed NOT BE…anything…is what got you into this mind mess in the first place.  So if you feel like crap…LET YOURSELF FEEL LIKE CRAP.
    3. Identify where the feeligns exist in your physical body – where are your emotions when you feel sad? I find my solar plexus hold this energy.
    4. Don’t use weed for depression. Weed is great – but not when your depressive. It doesn’t work It will make you feel way worse.
    5. Find five things to be grateful for every day – write them down. Or even better share them on social network and help others relate to gratitude.
    6. Eat healthy – treat yourself like your best friend.
    7. Do something nice for yourself; take yourself on a date to a movie, do your hair, a bath? something.
    8. DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. In massive depression – get up, brush your teeth, make your bed. Do the basics.
    9. Keep a journal. Write every morning,. Don’t edit. Everyone needs a place to spill their guts.
    10. Dont focus on the word “depression”.  YOU are NOT your illness. You are WAY MORE AWESOME than you can tell at this moment.
    11. Find the cool parts – I don’t know ONE fellow musician, artist or writer that doesn’t have some sort of what they would call “mental illness”…although now I am remiss to call it an illness given all the talented beautiful people I have come to know.
    12. Meditate. trust me there is nothing better to remind you that YOU are not YOUR THOUGHTS.

IF YOU SUFFER FROM DEPRESISON PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY…

** Depression comes from unexpressed emotions.  *not because you have cured depression but because you have found the awesomeness in it.

You know – what we are looking for in life is NOT happiness…It is the ability to handle all circumstances with a peace inside that cannot be shaken.

Everyone can do this.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Depression is a gift that makes you do the work. People without depression do not need to go  as deep into their self understanding as you can. And the purpose of life IS to understand ourselves better.  Depression is a gift of understanding.

I am suggesting a global open the door on depression initiative.

We need to talk. Openly and unabashedly.

Let us begin this dialogue today.

Tell us about your depression, your story, where has it taken you. What has it taught you?  Where does it come from? Can you identify some needs after talking about it?

Share together. Don’t be afraid.  We will catch you. I promise.  Its a process…and it has to begin somewhere.

I send you real love – although we may never have met I really do understand we are all connected  – we are each other. The more we heal each other, the more the whole world will benefit from your awesomeness.

COME OUT AND SHINE TOGETHER.

In love and service,

Peace

 

 

 

 

The Math Of Music and Happiness

I think there is math in everything and so for fun, I am working on an easy to remember mathematical formula to understand why LIFE’S ups and DOWNS are completely necessary to your survival if you are a musician.

I CALL IT THE MUSIC-HAPPINESS FACTOR:

First please understand these meanings:

E(emotion)

L(life)

(G)M = great music

(B)M= bad music or bowel movement

Dr= depression

Cr= craziness

T = Truth therefore -T = dishonesty

Remember your high school algebra? Refresher rules…

  1. A number in FRONT of a letter makes the letter that much BIGGER!  for example 20B= 20 x B
  2. We always assume there is a 1 in front of the letter…it is invisible…but it is there…shhh…:) don’t argue.
  3. Is this getting weird? Is your brain bleeding? Did you know you use less than like 4% of it…hmmm

GM is made from an adequate amount of L which CAUSES  E which of course inspires the musician to create M. If the musician has (-)E then her ability to create M is actually increased and made positive since a negative carries though the function and resultingly, positive music is created…

for example, the universal formual for the Blues:

where…L+E=M

L+(-E) = -M

L-E=-M

WHERE -M = BLUES.

Which is actually the same as saying –E=M/-L

But we all know that music which is divided by LIFE becomes very hard to play.

If a musician does not have adequate +L and +E so L+E then she will become Cr because of Dr.

so

(-(L+E)=(Dr/Cr))= GM

This awesome breakthrough means that if the afflicted musicians can become aware of their Dr and Cr then they can switch it to the other side so the whole thing can result in GM.

this means that although Dr and CR can contribute to the creation of M they cant just stay where they are and expect a different result.

Awareness and shifting emotions – being accountable for how we feel – is how we are able to move –E TO –L AND CREATE A POSITIVE OUTCOME.

-E(-L) = M

In order to calculate what kind of music will result from having difficult life experiences which result in negative emotions, we must move LIFE over to EMOTIONS and let them be together so MUSIC can be positive.

By shifting and being aware of rebalancing difficult life experiences by moving them from one side of the equation or the other, for example, (-L) negative life experiences to the resulting (-E) challenging emotions (eg: anger, resentment, fear, etc) you cause a natural POSITIVE connection (good music)  between L+E since the double negatives render each other positive. Right?

I repeat – good music HAS NEVER come from sane people.

So we know that life can cause E which can make us all Cr and cause Dr but if you add M it will naturally  subtract Dr then you get G-D = Happiness.

My left brain is now bleeding.

Peace!

 

 

 

On Death and Loving…

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Morning time at WillowCreek

This morning I fed the horses – its a beautiful day. In Canada we get maybe 25 days like this – clear sunny cool. Birds are singing in this constant perfect cadence – it plays like a mediation song as I go about doing my work. I fill buckets and say good morning to each of my herd. They all have very different personalities and different ways of greeting me.

Did you know horses liked music? I didn’t either, until UI had my own farm. When a horse is sick you will try anything in your power to make them feel better, and so over time I discovered that each of my horses has a certain song or types of sounds they like. Some like silenbce. They don’t want us chattering in their faces all the time. Others, especially younger ones like summer, like singing – in her case I always sang her “Summer Lovin” from the grease album – so now when she hears this song she comes running from anywhere to find me.  I love that.

In the past three years my most special time I have to admit has been with Otis my overly tall gangly love machine of a quarter horse,.

otis10Otis came to me through a friend who had kindly adopted him from Texas even after the vets there declared that he had navicular disorder. She has a huge heart and he was truly a “big gentle giant” as his sale advertising said.  What the seller didn’t tell anyone was that Otis had been so gentle and SO perfect, they had overused him and probably destroyed his feet in the meantime.

In Otis’s case, he is the victim of what humans like to see as esthetically pleasing in a horse.  Over time, we have bred quarter horses to have small tiny delicate looking feet- not big and clunky like they should be. Otis is huge 16″3′ meaning he needs MORE of a base to stand on. But he doesn’t have that – so the bones inside his front hooves are twisted and breaking causing him daily and now in th4e past two days ridiculous amounts of pain.

I have made the decision to have him put down tomorrow at 4:00 and today feel like hell.

otis fall 2012 wearing a scarf
OTIS sporting his handsome scarf

Let me tell you about Otis…

Otis is my friend.

I am a rare a very fortunate soul to have had him in my life.  Most people I imagine never have that kind of intimacy and absolute trust and love with another living being never mind something as awesome and created with “ALL SOUL” as a horse.

 

jo and otisOtis is not just any horse you know…He is my soul-mate horse. Better r than any “man relationship” honestly…

The horse of my life..the one you dream of when you’re a little girl.

I never dreamed of a “specific” horse physically.. like big and black or white and shiny…I loved them, all and didn’t care what they looked like really.  I dreamed of the ULTIMATE relationship I would have with my horse – he would follow me and want to be with me all the time.  I didn’t dream of riding and ribbons like the other girls and boys in my riding classes.  I dreamed of a horse that would BE with me – and magical fairy tale like relationship a soulful understanding and connection.  Like Bucephalus and Alexander something extraordinary.

I am so lucky.  Otis was even better than all that.

paulette and otis

He was with me through my mothers illness, problems in my marriage, being alone – Otis was there. He single handedly got me through this winter and the incredible depression –  – I had Otis. His condition is what made me go outside every day, work with him, keep him moving for nearly four years now. Otherwise I may still be languishing in bed.

He loves and adores all humans but especially my mom. He would walk with us when she was in a wheelchair. He was the most gentle safe loving perfect listener. He never interrupted or told me what he thought he knew I just had to talk things out. And when I cried just TOO much – he would rap himself around me like a perfect blanket of love. God Ill miss him and our many hours spent in his stall, brushing him and just humming happily…

He is a grand champion line bred, in Texas he is Pine Zippo Bar something or other…blah blah blah – they tell me. Both grandfathers were most winning quarter horses in the history of quarter horses in USA. Why does this matter ? well because – humans bred him for humans – they were not thinking about the horse. .

otis faceI have tried meds, no meds, shoes, no shoes…walking, stall rest…all of it. I have gone as far as praying over his foot. I have held his leg on my lap and begged the sky. I must have looked like a lunatic in my field on my knees begging.

But my friend Otis is in terrible pain and so it is in my power to relieve him of it.

RANGER
Ranger was 32 when he died

I wonder that we can’t do this for humans…

I saw my vet today and cried all over him. Poor guy. He has had to put up with me for so many years. But again – he is the most HUMAN of all the vets I know. He comes to my fundraisers, quietly always supporting those who would work hard for their horses.  He doesn’t like killing them  I saw today the years had not in fact hardened him – this made me feel good. I need only LOVE to be present when we do this to my horse,

I have not put many horses down in my life. My first horse to die was Ranger – Masters old parted. I was inconsolable for at least 6months.

BY time has passed and I am a real farmer now – not just a suburban throwback hoping to have a pony and a larger garden.

I am a real farmer now.

My hands are hard like leather. I like them like that. It hurts less when I cut them on baling twine.

My back is sore – because I did a good days work.

My feet are permanenelty black with dirt – cause that’s the way we roll in my garden.

I’d rather smell like midnight in the pastures than midnight in paris…:)

I am a real farmer now.

But my heart doesn’t seem very “tough” or farmerish today – I wish it would take a lesson from my hands…

 

When you work on a farm, you are CONSTANTLY in the middle of life and death.

If you watch a death you will see it is just a birth – backwards…cropped-374558_10200344549270175_1888065410_n.jpg

Death and birth are the same.   I feel sorry for people who are not aware of this. Death is not so scary. But living disconnected from nature and the reality of the earth like most people do – is very scary to me.

Death is an opening – a space for something living to come in.

I am not afraid that Otis is going to DISAPPEAR. Nothing disappears.  If you work in nature – you know that very well. IO don’t know allot of farmers who fear death – their own or others.

We leave that to the city people who believe we are all separate living things.

But death is hardest on the living.  I will be lieft5 here…while Otis traipses off to go see my mom and everyone else I love who is on the other side.

I KNOW he will be there for me when its my time to “ride off”…

jo n otis
I love you My Buddy.

But holy shit this is hard.

Thanks for reading.  Please hug your animals and all the living creations you love tonight.

Namaste.

 

I love you buddy…

Online Living: Are We More Concerned With Selfies or Self?

mona-lisa-selfie-2

Do you blog?

For some people blogging is a central theme to their day. Blogging as a sub-culture has emerged from the depths of online living.  I read a few blogs here and there but not many. In fact,  I wouldn’t actually consider myself a “blogger” like some I have seen; you know the ones who take selfies with their French toast actually have the ability to write 750 words on why it relates the second coming of the messiah or something deeply philosophical. That’s a talent I just don’t have.  Not that I couldn’t see myself becoming an obsessive overly-committed blogger if I don’t stay conscious; I have my addictive tendencies just like everyone else.

OK…I will admit to you that when something fun happens I no longer just think simply to myself;

“Oh…that was fun”.

No no… now fun involves a follow-up –

Take a picture…write a blog – a poem, a song…?? hunh?

“Oh..I have to post this!” God. I wonder what my grandmother would have thought about all this?

Sometimes we get so busy writing about our lives that we arent actually living them.  When I grew up, life was lived in real-time.  Oh brother…now I sound like my parents.

Back in my day….imagesCAMLIZPK

…when you had “issues”, big or small, they stayed at home! You didn’t post them or share them or even discusss them with someone who lived two blocks away, never mind the djembe player you met online three months ago who lives in Mali.   Back in “the day” neighbours on either side of you were only privy to what they could hear from the yelling through slightly cracked open windows. But now, with the online culture we exist in, people clear across three continents know when you had a fight with your husband even before it has ended! Not so long ago, there was a sense of “minding our own business” and there were rules!  The rules were expressly told to us and if we folowed them – everythign would be ok. I suppose this kind of living was comforting in one way but more likely it was incredibly isolating, lonely and inherently dishonest.

Online living is causing us to get all mixed up like a gigantic cultural soup.  We are living and learning and exchanging some pretty intimate details about our lives and how we deal events of living like death, divorce, children, parents ,relationships, emotions, understanding. These issues cross al cultural boundaries and even history and bind us all together in commonality.

 

But are we so focused on giving the world that perfect image of us – that idyllic selfie – that we forget to tell the truth about who we are or how we are feeling?

funny-selfie-dogs-smilingAnyways…who tells the truth anymore? Are we busy trying to give the world our best face? And why should we even bother to blog? Isn’t constantly writing about yourself some weird form of narcissistic self-obsession?

Sherwin Nuland would disagree. He was a brilliant professor from Harvard that said “The more personally you write, the more universal your writing becomes”. That coupled with what I read by the Dalai lama yesterday that said something like there should be no difference between your personal life and your private life. That would be dishonest. Not that I believe that we should all be sharing our deepest inner craziness all day – but there is something very helpful in the honest relating of how we deal with life.  Sometimes its just nice to hear that you’re not the only one going through the crazy shit we all go through.

Personally, I find it exceptionally difficult to come to the page when I am in the deepest depths of human misery.   I have been pretty silent since my mother died especially once I realized that the people reading my blog weren’t just anonymous readers from lands far away, but  more likely to be my family and friends. Grief is just not pretty. And all of that is so much easier to see in hindsight.

 

two-faced

My conclusion – its better to keep talking out loud and sharing our stories- even if its only to yourself…a one woman blog? Whatever – share what you are experiencing.  Life is hard enough – making what is hard useful which  kind of takes the edge off it all.

Namaste

 

SPRING SHOWER

There is nothing more magical b46b5b382ed0fc2b0999b04319a1e8a6

than being in the barn

right before a torrential spring rain.

Horses munching on green hay,

The sweet smell of grass starting to rise up ,

Birds in a frenzy announcing the impending shower.

It feels like healing.

The announcement of new life

all over and everywhere around

It releases all of the sludge

from the season of icy indifference.

Welcome spring!

Maybe my heart is waking up?

Let’s dance!

horses_in_the_rain_12_by_cotten_candy101-d36lstw

 

 

 

Butterflies For Ranger

ImageI could see my husband cringe when I dashed out of the barn with my old cat drooping in my arms.

“We’re going to the vet”, I breathed without missing a stride heading to the house.

His light little body hung limply in my arms, his nose covered in blood.

He smells like death. I thought to myself.  I know the smell of death and I am not so happy to be reacquainted with it so soon after my mother’s death.  She was a twin, he is a twin – this is too much.

I walk to the back window in the kitchen and stand in a ray of strong sunlight letting it warm us both. It’s quiet now…the panic of my mind slowed to a dull hum of just watching. I look down at him and hear his purr begin – his strong reliable purr. I could feel his breath and slowing and his heart tentative, but the purr was reliable as ever.

A rushing of keys boots, stomping, jackets rustle. The truck with half missing tail pipe begins and my husband shows up behind me;

“Ok let’s go”, He says.

I don’t want to.

I think somewhere my mind is still working it out.

He was fine yesterday. Should I be seeking treatment?

I lift the towel I have him wrapped in and look at the motionless old body. Apparently at nearly 20 Ranger has outlived us at with over 95 people years under his belt.

I climb into the truck and focus on his purr – the same one I have been listening to since I was in my 20’s. I see a flash memory of my son, small and chubby legged. He learned how to walk very young – maybe at 9 months old. It was Ranger the cat that kept him busy and chasing. As he grew, Ranger was his cat, claimed by him, loved and cherished.

He came with us when I divorced my first husband. He was there when I bought my first house, met my second husband, raised my seven kids and then finally, he was my most reliable barn cat – ensuring that no mouse ever got a taste of grain.

We are rushing to the vet, but I tell him to slow down.  I hold the cat and feel his life leaving.

“He’s going to die before we even get there”, I said softly.

Slow down.

John looks at me quizzically. Maybe I see death differently, but gauging by my experience with my mother, which has still not allowed me a full night’s reprieve from nightmares and sadness, this somehow feels gentle and calm and good.

We arrive; he goes in to check with the desk, yes there is room.

We come in and begin doing the registration process. I am ushered into an examination room. The Vet tech with the sunny smile and the bright hopeful eyes indicates to me to put him on the scale.

No”, I say simply and shortly. “He is 20. There will be no poking prodding weighing opening of the mouth or stretching of his limbs.  His body is finished.”  I smile at her hoping she doesn’t think I am cruel.

“Let’s go into another room then”, she says with an understanding smile.

We go down a white hallway to the last door to the left to the room meant for euthanasia.

“It’s just like the palliative care place for people”, I gasp as we walk in.  I wasn’t ready for that. Luckily I don’t think she understands that I am nearly angry about how adorably furnished this “euthanasia room” is.   I feel my heart tighten. I have been here or at least in a place like this much too recently to be in a place like this again this soon. It is small and cozy with two beautiful chairs, a couple of nice credenza’s and a sweet looking little table on which to do the job that room is meant for.  Why do all rooms for comforting people who are about to experience death look like this? Why the nice chairs? I almost feel a sense of anger at the chairs…stupid chairs.

She leaves me alone to consider whether or not I want a vet to poke at him or not. I hold him in my arms, he feels like one of my children when they were just newborn.  I begin to panic – second thoughts. What am I doing?  Shouldn’t we try and hydrate him, put him on special food. Maybe we can save him.

The tech returns covering the table in a comfy green cloth.

He lays in my arms, purring, not moving. Not arguing, not meowing- just happy. My questions melt away and I am filled with sureness about what the most loving action is.

I tell them to get the vet and go ahead.  Some more time passes to just be with him.  I think about all the things I didn’t do, all the time I should have spent with him. All the normal pre-death regrets I am becoming too familiar with.  I feel the shade of calm numb fall over me and we rise to complete the task that lay before us.

We are doing “the next right thing”.

She fails to find a vein in his back leg. He makes a small protesting noise, but not much. He is happy, purring drooling like old cats do.

She finds the vein and says something about going to a place with butterflies.  I could tell she used this line often and with good intention to console the humans letting their animals friends go.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he would be enjoying any poor butterflies that entered his purview as this was his favourite snack food.

There is a stillness that is distinctly a feeling of death. It is like a leaving of life energy. You don’t have to be psychic or believe in anything to feel the difference of when something is alive and when its aliveness has left the body. As his body became still I took a moment to feel the difference between the aliveness and the emptiness that accompanies death and then I took a breath.

A deep alive breath filled with gratitude and deep sadness.  I missed all of my dead loved ones at once. My dogs, cats, horses, parents, grandparents. Mostly I missed my mother because she would be on the receiving end to help him, but selfishly I could have really used her here with me today, and yesterday…and the day before.

I say a prayer in the hopes that everyone I love is somehow together somewhere just waiting for me laughing and happy around a giant picnic table a red and white checkered print table cloth and delicious food in a field with apple trees and delicious green grass.  All our animals since forever in the field grazing, running,  playing –  happy and free…with one funny little grey cat busy eating up all of heaven’s butterflies.

The Quit Journey

got_choiceI have quit smoking again. This is day 2 1/2…I quit at 11:00 Monday morning – February 17.  I’d like to remember that day as the day I finally quit once and for all, so I am making sure to take note of it.

Two and a half (now two and three quarters, but who’s counting?) may not be a big deal to you but lately, I havent been able to go two bours without a cigarette. It’s basically all I think about for the past three years – since my mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer.  Terror is immobilizing.

In my dreams last night, I found myself with cigarettes in my hands all the time.  I kept walking entering each new situation and inadvertently finding myself smoking when I didn’t want to be.  It was incredibly frustrating and I kept throwing them out, only to find a new one growing back between my reluctant fingers.  When I would tell others in my dream

“But I’m trying to quit!”

They would just shrug and say,

“Yeah right…”-  an obvious reflection of the doubt I have in myself.

So – fake it till ya make it…

I for one am not very good self focused care – but recent events are teaching me that I can’t give away what I don’t have and so, I am on a mission to fill my own cup…a strange newish behaviour that has serious benefits.  Mostly,   it just feels good to do something healthy for myself and it is having an immediate positive effect on the world around me. I wasn’t ready to admit how much influence I have on the people I love most in the world.   The house is basically smoke free right now. Although I didn’t ask anyone not to smoke because I knew if I waited for all of the conditions of th world and the people around me to meet my fickle requirements for quitting, I would smoke the rest of my incredibly shortened life. I had to just go ahead and do it.  And here we are…unbelievable.

I guess if you’re lucky like me you hit a bottom before something tragic happens. For me it was the day I was going to the doctor for a check up for yet another winter lung infection, and I forgot my cigarettes at home  which actually caused me to feel relieved.  I decided that moment seemed like a good enough time then to stop and I would talk to the doctor.   I had been considering setting a quit date now for three years…but kept putting the actual “event” of quitting off for very possible reason under the stars.  The irony is that my greatest “stress” which was causing me to smoke, was my mother dying of lung cancer in front of my eyes.  Yet, even until I came to a point of wanting to truly be more kind and loving towards myself, even the worst of all scenarios would not move me away from this stark addiction.

I’d like to tell you it feels “hard” or “easy” – but it’s neither of these on this my third day. It just feels like a process…up and down…intense and reflective even. Once and a while I have a horrendous craving that makes me want to smoke gross dead looking things out our of ashtrays (which I have emptied because I dont trust myself).

I became tired of something other than me (a tiny chemical filled highly toxic stick on fire…really?) governing my body and telling my mind what I wanted.  I have spent my whole life trying to be independent of the direction and opinion of others, and yet here I was allowing a substancenot even a human ! – to direct my choices.  And the choice wasn’t even a choice at the end anymore – it was more like a zombie-like mindless self-imploding action.

1- Extend arm

2- Retrieve cigarette

3- Apply fire

3- Ingest poison…

4- Inhale deeply

Hunh?

I was singing at a bar a couple of weeks ago, and someone that I don’t know very well but who knew my variety of activities made some annoying passing remark as I was going out for a cigarette in -40 degree weather with death defying winds in a cold deserted parking lot.

He said

“Well that doesn’t seem like it suits you very well. It’s bad for your voice and not very zen eh?” He smirked like he knew something I didn’t.

My first thought was

“Who the hell does he think he is?” the voice of my habitual hippie that rejects authority in a regularly knee jerk fashion.

A minute later I was standing outside in the “smoker’s area”  feeling an ice cream headache explode over my entire face. As the wind came barelling at me at 90km an hour, I felt pain tear into my uncovered ears and in an final indignity, my nostrils stuck together in a  very unsexy way when I was throw into a spasm of coughing from lungs shocked and turgid with inhumane cold.  At that very moment, I peered into the big windows of the bar, my sad little orphan nostril stuck face peeting sadly into the warm bar where that same nosey man was sitting quite happily, warm, contented and snug as a bug in a rug as he listened to music and drank his beer. I thought to myself;

“I am an idiot”.

O.K. –  Maybe this is not the most gentle or spiritual thought to begin a journey with, trying to be on a more loving and compassionate journey with myself, but it is what it is. It was a real moment of clarity for me…

In retrospect I think maybe my bad habit have been destroyed by becoming more involved with meditation and yoga I my life.  Over the past few months and since my mother’s death I have become especially interested in Tibettan Buddhism.  Such a gentle culture, entirely focused on increasing the level of compassion on the planet. After reading the Dalai Lama’s Book “My Spiritual Journey”, I became convinced that the only way to being happy as an individual in this life was the adopt some form of practice which required self-discipline – but smoking was an obvious sign that I was lacking both mindfulness and self discipline. And this is where I got stuck – utterly convinced that I would never be able to really meditate or really focus on these principles because they all focus on BREATH…and I smoked.  I also felt like there could never be a day when I wouldn’t smoke – even subconsciously, I couldn’t envision a “me” not smoking.  I admitted defeat. I believe they call this a moment of surrender, but I only can see this clearly in retrospect.

Over time, this defeat didn’t sit well with me.  I began loosing my voice when I sang.  A combination of smoking, and heating in a very cold winter with electric and fire, as well as alot of indoor time because of the incredibly cold weather, my voice was shot and I had very little chance of being able to sing powerfully two nights in a row.  This felt like death approaching for me.

Not to mention that I saw my mother die of cancer in a really terrible and painful way quite recently.  This was a terrifying episode fraught with grief and loss which each cigarette only made worse, chiselling away at my guilt. Although intellectually I KNEW that cancer in her lungs was the ultimate cause of her death (second only to the chemotherapy that was the actual cause), and I also knew that this same cancer had caused me to have this exact experience with my biological grandmother when she died when I was 15 – and yet I was smoking. Each cigarette gave me a vivid flashback to times best forgotten – it was like torture.

I think it’s important for me to write my story – it makes me more solid in my determination. I think if I was still smoking, I would not read an article like this one though- it would make me feel too guilty and really highlight my feelings of powerlessness.  I hope if you smoke you got this far.  It’s worth it just to fill your mind with all the possibilities…and then one day you’ll be ready.

Here’s what I have realized…

    1. Today is “one day”      – You’re ready.
    2. Don’t wait for the      circumstances in your life to change like other smokers to quit or even      life in general to get easier.       That’s just not reasonable and it’s not going to happen. If you      wait for this you will smoke you’re entire life…which will be shorter      because you are smoking.
    3. Focus on loving      yourself.  People who smoke have an      obvious absence of love for themselves. You may want to argue with this,      but you really can’t do that AND be honest at the same time.  Maybe it works backwards.  I began by trying to eat better, and      this seemed to snowball into doing many things more gently and healthfully      for myself.  I don’t know how it      will work for you – only you know that.
    4. Quitting smoking is not hard.      Everyone tells us it’s hard – the media, the tobacco companies (yeah no      kidding), psychologists, teachers, friends, family – Jeez!  If you say something is DIFFICULT enough      well then yes,..it will be DIFFICULT. This is what we call self-fulfilling      prophecy. Quitting smoking has moments of discomfort – of needing to be      present and aware.  Quitting smoking      requires being really gentle with yourself       taking everything literally one breath at a time.  Hard is dying of lung cancer.  That’s hard.
    5. When you have a craving –    tell it to fuck off. I know…not very zen of me again, but it seems to be      working.  I know that discipline is      very important now – maybe that took all of my 47 years, but the kind of      discipline I am talking about is not what they taught in school which      should actually have been called “conformity” more      appropriately.  Discipline is a      practice that brings about self love.       Quitting smoking is a great act of self love.  |sometimes the ACTION has to come      before the change of opinion, but who cares?  As long as the result is more happiness      and peacefulness in life,. Keep your eyes on the prize, and remind      yourself WHO is in charge?  Is your      body in charge of your mind?  Do you      enjoy being told what to do?  Do you      like taking direction – especially when it involves you inhaling 200      deadly chemicals 30 times a day? Hell no.       Who does?   Yes you’re      addicted – but that’s not the end of the world – and IT’S NOT BIGGER THAN      YOU.

Who’s in charge here – me or my body?

    1. Pray. I’m not concerned with      the religious aspects of the way you pray, but be grateful.  Prayer is a conscious moment of the      expression of gratitude.  Let’s face      it,  quitting an addiction like      cigarettes will have many effects on your life.  Staying willing to not smoke is the      challenge.  I get cocky – way too      fast. It’s how I have failed in the past.       I start feeling better and decide to have “just one”,      maybe a puff or sneak a whole cigarette. There is a kind of victorious      feeling in this because for the first little while I feel like I am      smoking without addiction – like I have somehow regained control of this      derailed train. I can “just choose” to have one, or not – like      three times.  Quickly this unravels      and I soon find that I am smoking more than before I quit.  Then I feel terrible about myself, and I      resign myself to a lifetime of smoking and eventual gasping horrific death      by lung cancer.  No wonder I woke up      every day in a bad mood. This is a terrible attitude! 🙂 and snapping me      out of it I believe happened only by an act of grace – in other words,      something bigger than me thinks that me staying alive longer is a good      idea, and the minute I became willing enough to work with this      “something bigger”, things became clearer.   The ticket is in keeping up this      willingness.

7- DO NOT QUIT SMOKING!!

I don’t think quitting ANYTHING works because the minute you quit – you are focusing on the negative aspect. So, instead just have an positive intention to treat yourself with more love and compassion – loving-kindness.  Smoking falls away naturally this way.  You don’t need to fight anything or really put much effort into it.  You only need to have a willingness to have an intention for self-care and love.  Let go of what happens once you make that choice, making each choice in your best interest with your knowledge of self in mind.  Be ready to do some work – letting go doesn’t nmean effortless, it means diligence.

8- TELL YOUR STORY

tell others  and keep the people in your world up to date on your progress.  people want to help and function as a community. I’d say that helping someone to live longer is a great community building incentive.  Keep your “tribe” up to date! Telling your story also reinforces to you what you re doing, the direction you are heading in and can make certain instances that have helped shape your direction more clear and useful.  Moreover, you can end up helping someone else in the process. Telling your story is way more effective than becoming a nagging and annoying “reformed smoker”. You can’t change anyone – but you can certainly inspire them.

My day three diatribe from my wobbly soapbox…let’s see how this goes…:)

Peace