Jo’s SoapBox – Entry 1

I have been meeting allot of people…I mean ALLOT of people who say

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“I don’t talk politics” like its beneath them or

“I don’t watch that stuff it, just upsets me. ” Seriously? Are you more upset than the mother in the Sudan who just watched her baby die of hunger while you ate a bag of chips in front of the TV?

Another woman told me it makes her angry to talk about current events- and she doesn’t like to be angry.  Is that about what my mother said – that anger will give me wrinkles and make me ugly when I am older?

Wait a minute! Damned right you should be angry, Lady!

Every woman on the planet should be furious!

Pay attention to a few very good reason: (this is not fake news…):

There is a lunatic running the free world!

Men making choices for women’s bodies. Again.

Babies dying of preventable diseases and hunger.

Wars all over the place because of fanatical religions that suppress women.

And yet – we are hesitating to even begin the conversation about how to heal this because – we think it is all bigger than us – when in fact it CAME from us!

Nothing that exists in this world has happened outside of us.

But we don’t like to talk about it.

Why do you think this is?

Partly because we are angry and we don’t know what to do about it. It is anger born in impotence.

Notably, anger is  a weird thing for women in Western cultures.  There are allot of social conventions around our expression of it. It is probably where we most resemble our Muslim and other sisters who live in female suppressing cultures and I think this may be a big part of the problem. Ask yourself: Why Western women aren’t rising up like furious lions in the current climate of injustice and environmental aberrations taking place.

Is it not deeply in our nature to protect our children and the place they live?

Image result for dalai lama on angerThe Dalai Lama says that anger can be a good thing – if it is used consciously and purposefully.  Anger can be a sign that something needs to be changed or fixed within yourself or your environment. Anger can be a fuel – a kind of combustion towards positive action.

He also said it was Western Women who would rise up and protect the earth. Image result for dalai lama on western women

So, where are we?

As a person who is “spiritually focused” –  I tried for a long time to just let the issues of our world, wash off me – I thought THAT was the spiritual thing to do. Knowing what I had power over – which was not the governments of the world, or even the environment, outside of my own little house.  I thought knowing how small I was – was humble and in effect – Spiritual.

It took me a long time to come to the realization that without involvement in the larger construct of our lives, our cultures and society, we are not only not living anything close to a spiritual life.  Image result for spiritual living in society

Indeed, we are not living at all – but merely existing.

The purpose of your life is to know yourselves.

We know ourselves best by finding the “thing” we do, the passion we have for some form of creation or creativity.

Then we teach or we find a way to share that creativity with others and inspire them to do the same.

This is critically important on the search to self discovery.

A spiritual or any living construct is moot if there is no culture or society within which to practice it.

The point of living a life with larger focus, is not to gain security for yourself, but to assume and know that you are best serving your life if you are able to attain this understanding of yourself.

Right now.

Not next week or next month.

This has to happen right now.

Many of us are aware that there is a consciousness movement on the planet. And for those that have been connecting and practicing long enough to be self aware of their self awareness…then now is the time to pull out all the stops.

I do realize it is fine and well to give you the rallying cry and then, leave you hanging as to what exactly to do – I mean really TO DO.

The planets problems seems to all be tied into one central philosophical focus – our morality.  What we believe about life, what is owed to us, and what we need to survive. Our political, social and economic turmoil all reflect a lack of connection to our moral selves.

This is why a spiritual life not only fits in with the chaos of this period in history, but is the only “unified potential” for a solution.

Peace – the peaceful mindset – the idea that LOVE is an actual force that can make change and ensure the survival of our race, is the only solution to the binding crisis we find ourselves in.

Even that idea seems esoteric, so I will give you other more solid ideas, and potential courses of action to take to begin to manifest change in our world. Rea life changes.

The time for thinking, talking and self discovery is coming to an end and we are entering the time to put our practice to work, to walk our talk, and refuse to engage or participate in any form of violence or hatred whatsoever.  Not our actions nor our thoughts.

1- Stillness: Be quiet at least once a day. Meditate, sit, just be still in silence and away form technology. This is the time to refuel your inner manna, raise your vibration and in turn that of every living thing around you.  Image result for spiritual pictures

2- Have the conversation: Don’t back away from local conversations.  share opinions and ideas. Change the way you see the interchange of political ideas.  It was in the beginning that we gathered in discourse to create and build ideas that would result in the societies we inhabit today.  Don’t be afraid to continue and evolve this conversation into new ideas about how to establish deeper peace in our world.

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3- Expand your mind outwards – and include issues outside of your own self interest in your conversations and interchanges.

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4- Monitor your thinking: eliminate any and all negative or fearful thoughts from your mind. each time one is noticed, gently remind yourself to be more kind to your self. Even if the thoughts are not about you, they still have an impact on your perceptions.

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5-Don’t be afraid to speak your mind when you see injustice. don’t be afraid to walk the picket lines, to express outrage and to take peaceful action where it is needed.  Peaceful non-violence does NOT mean powerless and without passion!

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Have a day without violence at all – in your mind, actions thoughts words – only peace. and when you drift off course because of habit – just go back to the middle where peace waits for you. Image result for non violence

Bring that peace everywhere.  And when you see something or someone who needs it, share it, in whatever way you can.

 

 

 

 

This is my soap box.

😉 I hope you can find one of your own and begin to spread your good ideas.

Take action.

Now.

Peace

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.

 

 

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.

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“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…

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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The Secret You Already Knew

My phone was DINGING off the hook from Facebook messages of people asking me what my Secret was to quitting smoking. Quitting smoking for me is like the opposite of committing suicide…and that’s abit heavy to explain.

It began when I had put in a status update about how grateful I felt for the unbelievable positive changes in my life resulting from stopping smoking. I quit publically using Facebook and since so many people had been so encouraging to me I was brimming with gratitude and wanted to let them know I was still moving forward.

So now everyone wanted to know how I did it. How was I going to explain this?

They say cigarette smoke is a harder addiction to drop than heroine and just like everyone else I was incredibly addicted. I could smoke through anything and nothing was enough to get me to quit. I would “try”, but never for long and never totally honestly. I was with my mother while she suffered through treatments for lung cancer and I smoked.  I felt like a true asshole standing outside the hospital having a cigarette while she was inside hooked up to chemotherapy machines.

Sometime in mid winter I had developed a bronchial cough that was so chronic that I had begun spitting up blood.  But still I smoked.Finally I was absolutely forced to go to the doctor. My cough had gotten so bad that my lungs would seize up and seemingly just refuse to take in air which was pretty scary and secretly I was pretty sure I already had lung cancer.  I think this kind of thinking stops allot of people from quitting but no one wants to admit it.

On the way to the doctor I fished around for my cigarettes and realized I had forgotten them at home.  I noticed that strangely,  was a huge RELIEF. My reaction is what surprised me. Normally forgetting cigarettes would cause either anxiety if none were within a reasonable distance, or annoyance because I would have to detour and find a store. Relief.  I didn’t want to smoke.

I told the doctor honestly what I thought, and asked for patches.

Here’s what I did…got_choice

1- I think using every smoking cessation help tool available to you is AWESOME. Screw cold turkey if you can’t do that.  The hard part about quitting was changing my behaviours.  The physical part is not so bad – its ll the things I would associate with smoking. Like – finishing ANYTHING…requires a cigarette. Dinner, work, a set, a chapter, grocery shopping – you smoke after these things.  Being aware and “one step ahead ” of my cravings was important for me., BE a wimp – take the drugs. I have never heard of anyone say they just couldn’t get away from PATCHES…

2- Don’t let people tell you quitting smoking is HARD.  That’s bullshit. Dying of cancer is HARD.

3- Don’t ignore your cravings – they will really suck for three days – address them. tell them to fuck off. relly this worked for me…maybe a bit Unhippie and aggressive of me but…hey – DO WHAT WORKS!! Those stupid cravings had been bossing me around for over 30 years…and I was annoyed!

I am stronger then my body today…and this feels GREAT.  It is possible for everyone to develop a mentality that your body is allowed to have a craving – but you don’t need to listen to it.  Working with animals can help with the development of this mentality.

4- Be really healthy. It feels good to be nice to yourself for once.

5- Tell the entire planet. LOUDLY. Accept their help.

6- Pray and meditate. Pray for help. Meditate for answers. Seriously. Try it.

7- Be loud about your GRATITUDE  – tell everyone each new amazing things you discover about not smoking. Your lungs feel good, you have energy, body hurts less, clothes smell good, random hot guys are smelling you – wait..no that can’t apply to everyone. 🙂 But having fun with it is important!  THIS is the mental ticket to staying quit for me SO FAR.  When it gets hard, I use Facebook to SCREAM what I AM grateful for and I always get such encouraging words and thoughts – it sure doesn’t hurt and it encourages others to look at getting healthy too.

So when you ask me this “secret” and I think in whatever way you come to it, the “secret” to quitting smoking is wanting to be kinder to yourself. It sounds simple, but it’s not necessarily so for most people.  I can only tell you what worked for me, and this was simply that one day I began to see that what I did to myself flowed outwards and it was important to me to live more kindly towards myself. But no one can tell you what will work for you. No book, no guru, no laser hypno-drug therapy. You have to WANT TO LIVE – for you. For yourself – because you love he people in your life.

That’s it.stop-smoking-start-repairing

The Secret – you already knew.

Please share your stories with us if you’d care to.

 

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.

Goodbye 2013 HELLO Year of the Horse!

chinesisches_neujahrsfest_jahr_des_pferds_2014_karte-r0a61ff39ed074ffcb79fb51bba0a85a9_xvuak_8byvr_512“Happiness doesn’t mean that everything is perfect – it means we choose to see beyond the imperfections”.

After what has been a banner year for bad news and catastrophic events both personally and globally, I am feeling a sudden fresh breeze of potentiality rushing around the corner. Today is the day we say goodbye to 2013 and its time for another letting go – a change of tides.  New Years this year for me feels like a fresh start.

Different cultures celebrate the calendar at different times. The Chinese New Year only begins at the end of January, hailing in what will be the Year of the Green Wood Horse.  I am born a fire horse and they say you do best in the year that represents your own birth animal. Since wood helps fire to burn…I am going to ROCK 2014!  This is MY year!  And it’s about bloody time. But I am old enough to know that happiness is not a given – it takes work, commitment, dedication and a plan.  And this is the work I am very willing to do this year – My only resolution is to rediscover JOY. Big happy awesome bountiful JOY. For someone like me – this is can be a tall order full of the necessity of “unlearning” and de-objectifying.

Let’s look at where we live…

North America is the wealthiest continent, most developed, most industrialized modernized and socialized. It also has the highest rate of mental illness.  There is a direct correlation between the wealth of a nation and unhappy people. How is it that the more wealthy we are, the more unhappy we become and yet we still seem to prioritize chasing the almighty dollar in the hopes of finding the elusive happiness chip? We think the next pill, next drug next relationship, next job next paycheck will be our ticket. We medicate away our emotions and have no cultural system in place to teach each other how to deal with the regular changes, ups and downs and emotions of life. We certainly aren’t teaching these important skills to our kids as we seem to be still busy trying reinventing the ancient scholastic “industrial era” three R’s (reading, writing  and ‘rithmetic), we are developing a generation of detached soulless children with an unerring sense of entitlement – but to what?   We are rich materially beyond belief – and we are miserable.  And we are teaching our kids to be just like us while we medicate them as well.

A recent poll by CNN suggests that more than 1/10 people are taking antidepressants in the United States. This means that the rate of depression has increase by nearly 400% since the 1980’s.  And what are we doing about this? Not a thing. We are making money. The multibillion dollar a year pharmaceutical industry knows all about this. There is an unquestionable correlation between the focus we have on material acquisition, gaining security in an insecure ever-changing landscape and how mentally unhappy we are.

prayer11-300x252I was diagnosed with clinical depression many years ago suffering from “post partum” depression with my first child. A doctor began giving me these miraculous little pills that would “even me out” he said. Yup they even’d me out alright. I was SO even, that I didn’t play guitar, sing, paint draw or write for 13 years.  This is a soulful death sentence for someone like me. It is a wonder I never turned to alcohol or drugs addictively. Instead, I became addicted to emotions.  Using drugs or alcohol to manage emotions was actually beyond my reach when I would fall into depression, I could only stand still and be in pain. In time we become habituated to feeling miserable.  It seems like a normal state of being – but this isn’t true.     Over the years when another “symptom” of unhappiness would arise, my doctor would increase or change the medications. Eventually, nothing worked – in fact they began to create the symptoms they were trying to cure.  This went on for nearly 20 years until I was left with only the device of trying to find a way out myself. I am so very lucky to have a supportive and informed tribe and family around me who understands the difference between “a bad day” and depression.  Few people actually take the necessary steps to make changes to the way they make decisions and choices in their lives, so the continuing cycle of hopelessness continues – even on the meds.

One day I wondered if people in Africa got depression how did they handled it without access to these drugs.  A little research showed me that depression is linked directly to the satisfaction and involvement you have in your own life.  Apparently depression is not a concept much discussed in Africa.  A sense of community, family involvement, and an active healthy spiritual life seem to be the balancing factors.  Having lived in Africa when I was young, all I can recall are hardworking smiling people, who did everything with their families and villages.  They worked ate and slept together. Children were part of everything that went on never pushed aside or made to be “seen and not heard”.  Play in Africa is just as important as work, and generally, in all the parts fo the world I have travelled to, people don’t work to gain unnecessary material wealth for “security”. In most countries, people work for only enough to be able to come back to their families and communities and have a life together.  The focus is much different from we have here. We have too much time to thin about our sad sorry selves here, where ni other countries people are geared towards thinking about the welfare of each other first.

In Costa Rica, I was lucky enough to spend time with native Costa Ricans (affectionately called Tico’s) who invited us into their homes.  Aluminum shanty-shack like houses leaning all up against one another like a house of cards.  Inside, there were several mattresses on the floor, neatly organized and all the beds made.  The man of the house offered us a coke from a small fridge that ran off a generator by the side of the house. He explained that he lived there with his wife, children his mother and sisters ad his nephew. They were 11 in the one bedroom shack.

From my journal…

“Children are playing around an old rusty beached boat beside the house with a one of the local friendly street dogs and outside on the fish-cutters table, a woman is preparing a Grouper while expectant tourists wait for a sandwich fresh from the sea. The children play with a coconut, smiling and rolling it to one another laughing while the dog chases the “ball” and they evade him each time giggling and setting up the next move.

I see many things around me but I see no unhappiness here.  Maybe what I see is different from how we live in Canada, perhaps what we would call “poor” –  but these people seem so happy, even with all the uncertainty.

I am envious of the children’s freedom to laugh and play and run unfettered.  A small boy comes to me and reaches for my hand and asks for some change so he can go get a Popsicle from the man selling them on the beach. I watch as he tears off down the lane calling after his friends to join him.  He never considered keeping it all for himself. Amazing.  Apparently 5 dollars American will buy the whole place Popsicles – I so enjoy watching the kids smiling faces.  I feel very rich.”

I have travelled around the world and have seen poverty such as you could not imagine.  But in truth, no one is poorer than us. We are poor of spirit, poor in community, poor in morals, poor in our connection to each other and most importantly we are bereft of this childlike JOY which seems to exist everywhere where money isn’t.

I have learned allot from books, and people, and school – but none of those things have taught me happiness.

Happiness – Joy – is our natural state of being must occur under all circumstances.  The ONLY way to exist in joy is to be present in this moment and when all you can do is survive one day to the next – the present moment is much more alive.  North American focus on materialism means we live in a constant state of fear about the future.  This is not a life. We take ourselves waaaay too seriously.

2014 is the Year of the Horse – the year of Bountiful Joy!

I wish for each of you that one ay at a time, you find that place inside you where life feels magical and everything seems possible. PLAY MORE!! be silly and have fun – “we’re here for a good time…not a long time”!

I wish for you a year of unexpected treasures, hope, happiness and most of all – I wish for you that you experience all of the blessings your life already has for you in this moment.

~Namaste~

The Never-Ending Life of a Raindrop

Did you know that you came here first as a drop of rain? You should be told since you are bound in many ways on this unending journey of cycles and changes, only to become the rain again and again.

Once upon a time, you came tumbling from a big grey sky. Everyone thought it was an omen that they couldn’t deny. You tumbled from that big old sky, laden with billions and billions of possibilities all at once. This was exactly when time began.

You could let go then because you had nothing you wished to hang on to. In fact, you didn’t even wish.  Propelled downwards to the dark dry earth, you land with a soft acceptance, the land gratefully opening herself to receive your gift.  She simply knows that you are what is needed to bring forth the life within her.

Throwing yourself all about, within the dark soil you are carried and gently pried apart until there is nothing left to you but You.

You are taken in hungrily as are your brothers and sisters, by the start of new life.   Suddenly you are pushed upwards and onwards by circumstances beyond your control.  You burst forth into the stunning light of a day. You want to know this day so much that each day you implore yourself to stretch further and further, knowing in a place that supersedes thought and eradicates pure knowledge that this is the only way to know yourself.  Your upturned face proudly follows the trajectory of the sun. You keep pushing until you and thrown upwards and onwards into the flow of all things alive.  The sunlight hits you and once again you are nourished.  You see that the sun doesn’t need to be anything but itself to accomplish its task.

You turn your face ever so slowly ~ each day from sunrise to sunset beaming back stupendous yellow rayed petals resting on soft green leaves filled with a belly of seed.  You wait for the time to be right so that you will be able to feed the things that need feeding.

Soon the days shorten and the nights become heavy with the frozen dew. You feed yourself off the few rays that remain, but their strength has diminished – you feel yourself growing weak or “soft in the middle”, as they say.  Your head becomes heavy with all you have seen and you lean forward in the natural way of things that grow old and tired.  Here you have learned to stand still and watch the world go by.

Your seeds fall to the ground and soon you are carried piece by piece to beautiful exotic places that you could never have imagined simply as a rain drop or a flower.   In one moment you are running through open fields, inviting ecstatic expressions of unbounded freedom to show themselves.  Your body cannot help but dance with itself – leaping hedges and stopping to take long drinks in rivers running clear and magnificently.  Bird’s chirp in a way that lets you know all is well in the world, and no dangers abound.  But sometimes, even birds can be fooled. In the moment you hear the shot you see that the sky is bright with its own promise.

Now you swim up a river bed, soft mossy rocks flitting over your belly as your powerful tail pushes you against the current waiting to meet life and some liberty you will only know when you meet it head on. Scooped up into warmth and travelling now through vessels and arteries, you are spilled for into the belly of another, only to return as a symbol of love.

There is a hand on your head – warm and comforting.  Someone approaches and you feel your heart explode with a blissful rebound. You are loyal and loving dedicated and at ease at your master’s feet. Here you learn about service and unconditional love.

The day of your parting was the first such instance of heaviness and resistance to the next thing in your heart of hearts.  You did not understand it, so you could only react to it, and with a tear you are sent off to be burnt into the ashes of the next place.  This sadness and all the joys before are what sustain you from a place deep inside.

One part of you is dropped in a far away village, and in the summer of that year, the people find that accidentally nature has gifted them with the sweetest of all beauties. You are named after that which nourished you.   If only they knew you were just a rain drop come so far. They harvest your seed until the full moon sustains you through the seasons.

You feed and make beautiful until you are pulled apart and at the last moment – you find yourself in the heart of a child.

The days pass deliciously slowly, as you dance your mighty dances in oceanic puddles of rain drops and possibilities surrounding your feet and celebrating the gathering all around.

You swing from branches and tell yourself great tales.

You dance and play with others, laughter intertwining in the forest branches making them reach higher.

You live and learn and play and dance

And then you cry, you long and you moan – once you realize that you have forgotten where you came from.

And now that you have fully forgotten, you are compelled to remember yourself as a raindrop.

So surely I must tell you that this is best done while you dance across the shadows of the moon imagining the next grey cloud to pass.

Through My Mother’s Eyes…

When my mother was in the hospital, I had a chance to spend allot of time downtown which is something I really haven’t done very much of over the past 20 years.  I found myself invigorated by the energy of the city. I loved watching the beautiful people dressed in clean clothes, women walking stealthily on high heeled shoes, people distractedly crossing streets while multitasking on their cell phones.  The hospital was near many amazing attractions in Montreal, like the fine arts museum, china town and St Joseph’s Oratory, and after my visits I would go somewhere to fill my energy levels back up before going home to face my family and busy life.

One night, like he often did, my husband met me at the hospital after work to say hi to my mom for a while and take me somewhere nice for dinner to distract my mind from being sad.  “A dinner adventure”, we called it when we would allow our intuition to guide us to some cool new restaurant where the food was inevitably delicious.  Our gut never lead us wrong.  That night, we headed into China Town. I was having a particularly hard time with my sadness feeling as though the hospital environment and the disappointing narrow mindedness of the doctors were making my mother even more sick.  It was a hopeless feeling, and I left with a heavy heart, only to find myself following my husband in our dirty old dented Ram pickup truck, fresh off the farm with one tire half flat and going down. Traffic was horrendous. The road was a sea of cars and impossible construction hurdles.  People sat mostly patiently in their cars waiting for the next inch to open up ahead. Meanwhile,  I felt like a complete country bumpkin, in my cheerful little yellow beetle feeling like the weight of the world was crushing me. The radio not working and there was no escape from my thoughts or feelings. Compounded with sitting in the heat and the stench of a downtown traffic jam not exactly knowing where to put my car – I felt my mind edging on a good therapeutic primal scream. It seemed like no one was very aware of the space around themselves and I was at constant odds with one car or another vying for space. Soon I found myself tossed like a salad by aggressive drivers into some place on the right side of the road which I hadn’t realized was a bus lane.  After shifting to the left as much as I could, an angry frazzled completely freaked out bus driver pulled up beside me. The size of the double bus making my little bug look like a Tonka Toy.   She gestured for me to open my passenger side window, and yelled frustratedly  irate~

“Hey! Stay out of my lane. You’ve been blocking me the whole way”!

My mouth opened, my mind snapped, and I told her to go do something very unspiritual with herself.  She yelled something about a report and took off amazingly fast. I felt immediately remorseful for my actions.  I quickly realized that I certainly could not even come close to fathoming what it must be like to drive that bus up an down the insanity of that road every day, five or six days a week, through traffic.  I would be insane too.

Compassion came too late and karma bit me in the ass as I watched the bus plow into  into the passenger side mirror of my big dirty truck being driven by my husband.

When we arrived an hour later (usually a five minute drive) into the Asian part of town, he jumped out of his truck and said “Hey! Did you see that bus driver hit me!?”

How was I ever going to explain that this was entirely my fault? I had to laugh and must admit it took me a while to explain how it all happened between fits of laughter.

We had a nice dinner though I didn’t eat much.  I was busy looking around and kept seeing things I wanted to show my mother. I wanted to take a pictutre of the pretty food on my plate to show her my dinner and where e could go when she would be bnetter. I wanted to take a picture of the handsome Spanish guitar player doing flamenco on his guitar in the square and ask her if it reminded her of our trip to the Canary Islands? I knew deep niside me that her condition had worsened too much and she would likely never see these things, from her body anyways, again. But I still wanted to share all of the amazing things I was seeing.

When I would go and visit and talk to her, she was so tired and on so many medications, that she could not focus. I could see it made her feel bad. She didn’t want to waste any time with me with sleeping, but she just couldn’t stay awake. So I thought suddenly, that I should take pictures so she could see what I was talking about without it taking so much time and energy. Maybe it would make her feel still like part of life.

I began to take random pictures. Statues and Fountains in places I hadn’t ever noticed although according to the plaques they had been there since the mid 1800’s.  Stores with beautiful displays I would have liked to visit with her.  A Puppet store in the oldest part of town in an arboretum type place that reminded me of Italy and I knew how much she would love that little corne. We saw the Old Port. The Horse drawn carriages and the nice people we met. I even took pictures of them.

Each day we would visit and I would see and go to different places.  Someties with John, with kids, or alone.

The first time I found myself alone at St Joseph’s Oratory surprised me. I am not aligned to any religion – I feel no pull by them, but I have learned how to listen to the universe when ti wants my attention. Even when I think the request is strange, it usually makes sense later.

One day after leaving the hospital, I got lost, in my distress – completely turned around.  I had found myself baffled by the same horrific construction loop 3 times and each time I went around I found myself passing the immense  and mysterious St Joseph’s Oratory. A place reputed to have been built by a sainted priest who healed crippled people. His heart was inside in a jar. Cool.

My path was pretty clear. No matter which “short cut” I tried to take,  all other exits were blocked.   I had never been to the Oratory except once as a child when I was doing my first communion. It meant nothing to me back then. It was boring. A place that no one in Quebec can help but see, perched high atop Mount Royal, visible even to remote communities like where I live nearly like from Rigaud mountain, nearly an hour away. Local mythology says that Mount Royal is an inactive volcano.

I drove into the gates, finally surrendering to the loop of lostness I had found myself in.  I felt out of miserably place in my cheerful little yellow bug, peering sadly up at the man at the gate who asked for a 5, 00 parking donation to help support the church. I remembered then I was completely broke. I shuffled nervously through my change and found I only had about 3.50 and no other money.  I felt utterly dismayed.  I was pretty sure if I couldn’t find some peace my heart would break right then and there and if I couldn’t get into Gods own house, as they say,  because of a lousy $1.50, I decided I would break up with my faith. I would write it a Dear John letter to God and be done with it.

Which is of course when the man looked down into my dark eyes and smiled kindly –

“This is fine Madam, please enjoy your visit”, he said in a gentle French accent.

Relief. All of a sudden everything felt warm.  My hands which had been numb with cold despite the warm summer day \began to tingle coming back to life.  I smiled up pretty weakly, but he got the point.  I later came to see that this man’s kindness, from his heart, transferred to my heart and helped it to beat abit more normally.  I needed that connection and it shows me proof that there are no small acts.

I parked the bug on the side of the sloping lot where the stairs begin. You couldn’t miss it, big and round and yellow sticking out amongst the sea of greys and blacks and browns.  I got out beside the The stairs of Pilgrim’s where people come from all over the world the climb over 100 stairs on their knees, saying a prayer for each stair. The supplant themselves in the hopes that God will look upon them more favorably for ther obvious act of humility.

It struck me that in our culture, seeing people in open public prayer was a strange thing to see.  I  I felt like I was seeing something private that is between you and God.  I never knew I felt like that before and I’m not sure I still agree.  “Maybe sharing prayer like that will help everyone around them?” I wondered as I try not to stare at the reverent face of the Hispanic woman saying prayers to the Virgin Mary in Spanish. Her daughter only a few stairs behind bowed her head kneeling on the stair in quiet mumbled prayer.   The woman reaches the top stair and places her hands on the landing like she is making a statement, leaning forward, her face upturned and unabashedly says her payer to the door in front of her.  The door beside the next set of fifty stairs. Fifty more prayers before what? “Is God listening yet or is It too busy comforting her poor knees”, I can’t help but wonder.

There are hundreds of stairs to climb to get to the main entrance of the oratory. Once inside, a sweet faced girl greets me openly shoving a pamphlet into my hand and asking me if it was my first time. I told her that I was especially interested in the legends of Brother Andre; the sainted priest who was reputed to have healing powers and had cured many people of terrible illness.  I had heard about the crutches and canes lining the walls outside of his crypt.  Then of course there was his heart, which was apparently in a jar somewhere. I didn’t ask her about this. I’m so sensationalist – my mind smiles.  I would fnid it if I was meant to. But secretly  nd between you and I, I looked for it the whole time, and never found it.

I tell the greeting girl I’d like to see the place of the miracles.

Ah yes!”, she says as if everyone comes in looking for miracles.  She refers me to the map pointing to several places.  The place is an absolute labyrinth.

“You will find the best way is through here “, and she makes a zig zag squiggly line with her finger ending up pointing to a chapel with an exit on both sides. The place is an incredible maze, and I am pretty sure I’m going to get lost. I always get lost but I usually like it.  I think I do it on purpose secretly looking for the places no one else sees.  Or maybe being continually lost is a sign that I am incredibly distracted and really don’t care where I am. Either way, I am used to finding my way through places I am not familiar with, both figuratively and practically.

I go up a long escalator herded together with a bunch of other people.  I am suddenly a tourist in my own city and I like it.  I hear some American accents, maybe from New Jersey. The young boy is wearing a black torn wife beater covered ostensibly by a plaid shirt.  He has multiple facial piercings and a momentarily grim look.  I start to make some negative assumptions about him and catch myself when he looks up at me with eyes that smile – and all I see are his eyes.  They are young and fresh and he has gentleness inside of him that maybe his outer appearance doesn’t belay right away. It makes my heart feel good to and I smile back.

At the top of the escalator I enter a chapel and I go inside to the front row. I say a prayer.  I don’t actually believe God hears me better just because I am in a church, but I do believe that She pays attention to my heartfelt intention and my spontaneous expression willingness.   I think God really listens to willingness because that’s when we are able to hear.

I pass through into a another room, a crypt filled with lights from a sea of candles, a waterfall of each flowing down onto several prayer stations. It is breathtakingly beautiful and I find myself standing still while the world walks around and past me.  It is a magical place.   Behind me along the wall are the crutches and canes in the hundreds of the people that brother André healed.  They hang in rows and layers upon layers, all made of dark old wood. Some carved mostly plain canes and crutches each with its own history and story. I stood looking at them for a long time. I was amazed that you could touch them and they weren’t behind glass.  I put my hand on one and hoped for its magic to come inside of me.   I closed my eyes tight like a little kid throwing a nickel into the wishing well and I whispered silently to myself “Help. Thank you”.

A simple prayer. Surely one of my favorites.

A good prayer because it leaves the results and expectations up to something that knows more than I do.

I walk around slowly and notice that there are different stations of prayer.  St Joseph, I learn is the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. He is the patron saint of allot of things. Families, fathers, virgins and the dying amongst others.  The last two interested me. Who would be the patron saint of virgins?  A man who trusted his wife when she said she was impregnated by God, I suppose.

I realized then that if you believe in the miracle of the virgin birth, then the fact that he a) believed her and b) stuck with her, makes him a really exceptional man.  I don’t know if that’s the real reason as the church says, but it works for me.

Then I came to the final station – Prayer for the dying.

I hope God doesn’t mind, but I didn’t have the 5.00 for the cost of lighting the candle. I found whatever change I had and put it in the little coffer.

Then I lit a candle, for my mother. It was probably the first moment I realize that she was actually dying.  I knelt and prayed. Not because I thought God would like it better if I did it this way, but because I felt like a heavy weight was pressing me down to my knees and I had to rest and just be with this sadness. I found it interesting to be in a place where if you just knelt down in the middle of everyone an everything, no one looked at you funny. It wasn’t regarded as ‘religious fanaticism”. It was just You being with God.

After a long healing cry with a bent head, I got up and left the station slowly.  I feel like I left something behind there – something I had come in with and couldn’t carry anymore I suppose.

I walked to my left,  unsure of where I was and come upon a beautiful golden statue of St. Joseph with a pool of oil at his feet. The plaque said that this was the oil of St Joseph that it had been reputed to have healing properties and had been continued along generations and was used b Brother Andre.  now it maintained its holiness by being blessed by his priests. Interesting…and surprisingly Pagan too, I thought secretly to myself.

I have never been comfortable with the thought that a single person had special powers that could bless anything better than the good intentions of God through any kind of people. I remembered the holy water behind me and decided to take off my Tibetan oil necklace and fill it with the water of that place.  The room, it seemed to me, must hold a powerful energy because it was constantly filled with spiritual seekers – simply people who were looking for answers.  This in and of itself felt incredibly strong. So I filled my necklace so I could bring part of that experience to my mother as well.

I loved the oratory. I walked for a while longer, visited upstairs in a place like a wax museum, vividly real reenactions of Brother Andre’s life with displays of his miracles.  I was amazed at how small people were back then. He was a teeny tiny man, maybe 4’10”-  and he helped build this gigantic Cathedral. Amazing.

I took pictures of everything I could to show my mom the next day.  I found myself wanting to see things through her eyes – what was important and beautiful. It made me pay more attention to the details that made things alive and wondrous, hoping that I could bring her this living experience as vividly as possible.

This is the first holiday we have without her. It’s very strange surreal and painful all at once. It makes me remember what is important, and all the things I am grateful for are multiplied as I understand what she would have given to have lived just a few more weeks to experience this gathering of thanks that was her favourite holiday.

At Thanksgiving, she used to make us all say something we were grateful for at dinner. The challenge would be tossed out almost ceremoniously like a glove onto the dining room table and she would choose the first person to start – always followed by a grumble and silence.  The first answers are usually short. I am grateful for my food The end. I am grateful for family. I am grateful for my friends and my job, grateful for music, for art for love…and it would continue, the last idea always contributing to a new idea of what we could be grateful for and the bubble would get bigger and bigger.

I am grateful for my mother and for the ways she showed me how to express gratitude in my life. Today I will feed my family and friends and feel so blessed to have this love all around me, feeling her right there where she has always been.

Namaste