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…

All About Our BIG BIG Mac…

10400774_10154231481905230_3168287367305301677_n10371922_10154156160555230_526702342723462853_nThis is a story about our horse Big Mac.

The first you need to know if you haven’t met him is that Mac is HUGE.

The second thing is that the reason is that he was made so big is because no other body would have been big enough for his heart – he is comprised entirely of love.

He is nearly as big as the biggest horses in the world who I think beats him by a little under 7 inches.

He is a Belgian Draft horse brought to us to foster and remained here as a permanent adoption as of four years ago.  When he got here he had been left in a field abandoned suffering from malnutrition.  That’s why we didn’t really understand the infections in his eyes when they began. Cancer is very often activated by a compromised immune system which is a natural result of malnutrition.  and the fact that Mac was a pure Belgian didn’t help with their fair skin and proclivity to ocular melanomas.

 

Mac’s first eye surgery for cancer happened back in 2011 in his right eye.  A tumour that looked like a cyst had grown on the bottom eye lid of his eye.  We had a small fundraiser but the costs were enormous and the first surgery nearly cost us a years worth of hay for our entire herd.  10380886_10154232134705230_8153907542623386918_n

Two and a half years later the cancer returned to Mac’s left eye this time with an ugly aggressivity that made it obvious that it was causing Mac a serious amount of distress especially after the warmer weather began to arrive and his tissues became swollen.  AT first I thought it was just an eye infection but nothing I did seemed to make any positive difference. His eye was bleeding and he couldn’t stay outside in warm weather.  Something had to be urgently done and we were in no financial position to do any of it.  Many sleepless nights ensued.

A friend suggested that our band had done so many successful fundraisers for other beneficial organizations, that maybe we could put some of that music behind our very own Big Mac. That’s when the miracles began. 10300516_10154154843540230_1917414507954571037_n

In only four short days a fundraiser was organized to raise money to send mac off to the hospital for his surgery.  Our band played one evening and a local restaurant donated their time and staff to help us out.  Friends came and helped us have an open house at our farm WillowCreek Stables where everyone could come and meet mac themselves. The community and our friends really stepped forward and helped us the create something amazing for Mac.  Soon we had enough to send him in and just four days later I was making arrangements to have the surgery done. I love that horses seem to have that effect on bringing together communities and folks that work together to make it all a little better.  Mac became everyone’s horse that weekend.

And to tell you the truth, without all of generosity and all of the amazing synchronicity that the universe offered us Mac’s ultimate outcome would have to have been euthanasia because the amount of pain he was enduring would have been catastrophic.  We are so eternally grateful.

 

10322760_10154154844940230_1654912656934628871_nMAC THE PIRATE…

The procedure that Mac had is called ENUCLEATION – it involves full removal of the eye.

Just so you know, we didn’t take that decision lightly at all…I had trouble with the idea of this so an equine ophthalmologist specialist was called in to consult.  Dr. Ollivier was very gentle in handling me (and Mac) especially as the first thing I suggested to him is that he not tell me he is going to take out my horse’s eye based on a photograph(good thing I’m studying Non-Violent Communication?) 980673_10152865275580313_1084612641_o

“You know Doc…This isn’t just ANY refuge horse”, I glowered at him, still holding his hand from our initial handshake.”This is MY refuge horse”, saying it with some contrived authority.  Like who I was should somehow mattered to him.

He was smart. He knew how to defuse me immediately…

“I only put the horse first. I don’t even care what it is YOU want”, smiling sardonically. Ballsy and brave. OK. Good. I could see this man would champion the highest and best choice for my horse and my death grip relaxed.

10408109_10154231785725230_2591927709080191288_nWe began an exam with a whole gang of doctors and students. Smart questions, suggestions and treatment options were flying around the room.  They students and doctors  were all so kind and careful to cover any  questions I had.  No quesuiotn was left unexamined and definitely there were no such thing as stupid questions. I felt so comfortable asking as did John.

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My husband and I stayed with Mac for his surgery.  We felt it important that we have our energy there with him to support him – and it felt like one of my kids was on that table.

The surgeon doing the procedure was amazing. Smiling great energy with a room full of curious students.  It was much less difficult to see the procedure when you are watching a bunch of fresh faced curious kids.

The eye removal wasn’t as horrible as I thought. I was actually surprised at how much effort it seemed to take the small female surgeon, her arms wiry and strong looking, to really complete that part of the procedure. I always had the impression an eye would come out easily. It doesn.t We can leave it at that.

Then they cut the skin and tumour off from around his eye.  It was WAY more enormous than I knew.  When I saw the sheer daunting size of the tumour, there was absolutely no question in my mind we were doing the right thing. Then a cryogenics treatment was performed within the eye so that the cancer cells would either die or be unable to grow.

 

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The Observation Room for Mac’s surgery
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The surgery room at ST Hyacinth VeterinaryTeaching hospital

 

Mac will come home tomorrow now THE GREAT PIRATE MAC – ARGH MATEY!!

He will:

* Have no pain whatsoever . I know this is amazing – but removal of the eye for horses causes them to have a great relief.

* He will live much longer and totally pain-free from cancer.

* He will gain weight (he has lost about 300 pounds again and trust me …not for lack of food ugh…:(

* We will be able to ride and play with him again

 

Very exciting!

 

We are very grateful for our Mac and for all the love that ahs been demonstrated here.

Horses are truly awesome creatures…bringing out the best in us all!

mac art
WE LOVE OUR MAC !!

 

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.

 

THIS OLD TREE

TREEThere is a dead tree outside my window where I write. I watch it each day. For something that has probably been dead longer than it was alive, it’s a very busy place.

I have watched this tree now for more than half a decade and it only amazes me more each season. Happily I have now placed my writing desk at the window and face it each day. It gives me continuous inspiration or just an interesting place to look. This tree, which seems to be standing against all odds is a focal point for new life around here.  Each year quite reliably, different creatures take their places in the tree and begin a new season of aliveness. Although the center is now blackened with rot, it teems with insects that feed on its fermenting flesh and grow healthy. This in turn feeds the three kinds of woodpeckers I have seen. They only come out of hiding when the sun stays in the sky longer, so seeing them is a really good sign after a long hard winter.

There is a nearly indescribable feeling of aliveness to the spring in Canada. The kind if freshness that doesn’t exist in tropical climates where plant life and greenery get a “used up” look from constant exposure to the blazing hot sun. Here, everything gets  a period of rest – quiet; a natural downtime. The, when the sun finds its equinox and starts to extend the days you can feel everything around yawning and stretching after the most amazing rejuvenating nap. I love spring. Hope is fresh in the air, like a wonderful perfume you want to just pour all over yourself.  Something longed for is being shaken loose and it is a great relief to know it will come finally.

In my world it is that dead tree that I wait for every year.  The one that my husband has threatened to cut down now for three years but knows that I would have to chain myself to if he does. I have watched how the dead bark and concave rotted trunk, knotted and blackened with age, changes shapes creating a new story to add-on to every year. In march it begins quickly and continues to erupt all summer in a splendid display of life. It is better than T.V. when you’re sitting on my front porch and it is as reliable as anything can possibly be every year no matter how hard the winter is.

Squirrels live in the hole on the right; the deep one where they can nest their babies safely not needing to risk them falling from a tree in the vapid spring winds.  They seem to usually have 2-3 babies. Chipmunks use it as a launching pad to get to the oak tree whose branches are too high for their little legs to reach. Plus with all of our talented mousing cats, no chipmunk wants to find himself on the ground as a moving buffet.

A couple of years ago I noticed that amazingly a brand new tree has somehow managed to grow and entwine itself within the center of the old dead tree, completed embedded, like an arboreal soul-mate I suppose. It seems to be giving it new life, new purpose and a reason to stay standing. A good reminder of the continuity of life for me in any season.

The tree has only three large main branches reaching. One standing straight up from the middle like the upturned face of a norse god. Then two branches that look like arms extending outwards like a scarecrow reaching right and left with fingers outstretched.  Chipped white at the edges from the constant chiseling of the woodpeckers that delight in the millions of bugs that have taken refuge in the soft white wood. We think it may have been a maple at one time.   On close inspection of the white wood, you can see the artistic impacts that the woodpeckers beaks have made, in shapes of beautiful intricate random mazes and lines all interlaced with the markings of the red ants that like to nest in an orderly and fastidious fashion. It is natural art.

The Blue Jays also come in the early spring eager to take the highest branch position.  Perched high atop the rest of the inhabitants of the tree, they are naturally “top-dog” (please excuse the inappropriate metaphor – dogs would fall out of the tree.) In this way, the evil little birds are able to see, pick and choose, plan and connive whatever they would like on their menus for the day. Small birds, sweet little field mice or baby moles are all fodder for their cannibalistic menu. They remind me of  our politicians.    They are voracious predators and are my least favourite visitors. I call them  terrorists of the bird world.

When I was about twelve years old Blue jays gave me my first experience of death. As I rode in a riding lesson in a cold damp arena one spring, two screeching Blue Jays swooped in the big open back door of the arena, causing our horses to stop suddenly and pay attention. I watched helplessly as they flew to a small sparrows nest and landed pecking at the new babies within. I watched the frantic sparrow mother diving in again and again to try to save her babies but was forcefully rebuked by the large beaked bright blue birds. The nest fell to the ground from the roof of the arena and the babies were launched to the soft sandy ground almost featherless and so still. I dismounted and held my breath. I kept expecting them to move. My coach told me that it was better that they were dead – they would not have survived without their mother and she would abandon the nest now that it had been invaded. I never thought about death until this first experience and I don’t think I have really stopped since.

I have a project idea for my dead tree. I always imagined a faerie door in the big rotted knot at the bottom of the stumpy old tree. It is shaped perfectly and would be like a small Hobbit door, with a rounded top and a small window so the light can come in.  Faeries don’t like living in the dark all the time, you know.  I would paint it green and blue with gold glitter just in case they like that sort of thing.  I think making your house hospitable for Faeries to come and protect your children, animals and garden is a very wise idea, don’t you?  It wasn’t my idea of course – I am only following the lead of thousands of cultures and centuries of stories and myths that came before even this old tree.

Anyways, what can it hurt?

After all this introspection I notice something amazing and new!  Somehow over the winter the bottom of the tree has eroded away into the shape of an angel; her sideways view, looking down almost reverently at the ground, as though blessing it in some way – or maybe pondering it?tree angel

If we give something our full attention isn’t that the same thing as blessing it – in a way?

I notice her sweet little wing is perched atop her shoulders like a leaf, and her hands are at her sides, resting peacefully.

I imagine that she is waiting for the time when the squirrels will come to have their babies and the Blue Jays will take their place in the beautiful mess of it all.

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

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~

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE?

I’m learning about Love right now.  All sorts of love, and the ways I experience it, where and how it motivates me and exists within me.   Consciousness urges me to understand a love that is without attachment, requirement or desire; a love that contains only Truth, like pure sweet clean water.  Is it possible that we all already have this kind of love within us and the purpose of this life is simply to uncover it?

 

In a recent conversation with a good friend, he brought up the idea of “unconditional love” recalling a previous conversation a few weeks before where I had declared to him regretfully and honestly that I didn’t think I was capable of such a thing.  Outside of my own children for whom I felt a deeper bond that what can even be described in words, I didn’t think I could love someone completely – I would always judge something about them, this was the human condition I concluded.

My friend said that he had considered my statement over the past few weeks and had concluded that I was mistaken because I was misinterpreting what “unconditional” meant.  I asked him what he meant.

“Can you love me even when I’m being a jerk?” he asked.

History had proven this to be true. We had been friends a long time.

My mind argued that this wasn’t unconditional because it was only one person in seven billion and unconditional meant I could love without condition of who you are, what you do, where you live, what you look like – separate from any judgment my mind may have of you.

So then I tried to imagine other people in my life, and found that in fact, I did love them even when they were acting in a way or saying things that I judged negatively – or even that caused me direct harm, or pain. Yes, I could still Love them, even though I didn’t like what they did all the time.

So then my question had to extend to people I had not yet met, strangers, and people in other lands – could I love those people, even though I don’t know them?

I look on the internet and see faces of people I don’t know and I look deep in their eyes. There is…something there that I recognize.  Something is there that is known to me, even though we have not met. Yes, I can love them too.

We have many incorrect notions of what love is: Love doesn’t mean I want to move in with you, sleep with you, cook your meals, solve your problems or become your therapist. Love means I realize I know nothing actually, and I am open to learning with you and through you.

I realized after my conversation with my friend that unconditional love exists as our birth-right – it is the center of free will.  Judgment is a natural human activity, designed to help us discern what may or may not be the best option for us at the time. It is freedom in action.  We are free to express love or to withhold its expression. And without sounding too much like a hippie we must conclude that if each person held love as the conscious motivation behind each choice they made, things would be very different.  We can love someone but not necessarily “judge” that it is the healthiest option for our choices to have them in our intimate life.  Since everything changes and passes, what is for today is not necessarily what is for tomorrow, But, we can always recognize that the part inside of us which express love is the same part of another that is receiving the love.

Maybe the greatest challenge we all face is to come to a place where we understand that we have to love our own selves unconditionally before we can transfer that love to someone else.  Running workshops on my farm I have had the chance to speak to many people about this idea of being “centered in self”. Although it seems logical to conclude that we can’t give away to someone what we don’t have for our own selves, our culture has communicated a very different type of conditioning to us.  We have told women that they need to put their children and families first and have created a martyr like attitude3.  This has only resulted in a multitude of generations being raised by secretly resentful women.

Men have the pressure of continued roles as “caretakers”, emotionally detached breadwinners and hunter-gatherers,  their success being measured by material acquisition and property value.  This is such medieval thinking in the modern age! The challenge for men is daunting, requiring that they take the very long journey to understanding their own hearts and emotions and putting aside the requirements of society to ignore the basic inner natures.

Unconditional love exists in all of us I see now.  The challenge is in excavating and finding out the truth about how it lives in you. When I look out of my window and see that I am life living in life, I feel a kind of love which expresses itself as joy in my heart.  This love doesn’t require anything of me, it just is.  Gratitude is the natural result of this focus.

Namaste

Equine Nature Retreat ~ Second Chakra ~ A Focus on Self

The biggest problem that faces the planet right now and has since the beginning of time is that we don’t know who we are.  By taking the time to get to understand our most essential natures we are doing ourselves and everyone a great service.  A focus on studying chakras can help bring us closer to this understanding.

There are things we can solve with our minds, but the most important understanding must come from the heart. Whether you have a religious or spiritual belief system or not, it is important to recognize that you are a being made  energy, connected to everything that is alive.  The great mystery exists not only in the understanding of our “small self” – the human self that goes through the practical matters of daily living, but also our LARGER self – the energetic and eternal aspect of ourselves that are fully interconnected with one another.  It is possible that all of the problems that this disconnection over time have caused in history are a result of this “small self” thinking, and have now caused us to need to shift to an understanding of our “eternal” self. The part of us which is energy, flows through time because for it no time exists, has always been here – and will always be here.  Some belief systems call this consciousness. Some call it soul. I call it Self.serenity

Here at the WillowCreek Retreat we use the energy of horses and nature to help people become aware of their SELF through a focus on centers of energies which exist as a part of us, as use that knowledge to find a place in themselves which surpasses even thoughtful knowledge and can be found in the heart only. The Hindu culture calls these centers “Chakras”, which means “spinning wheel” in Sanskrit.

This article will focus on our upcoming retreat on the second-sacral chakra. It is intended for the participants of the retreat, but I want to make following the process available to anyone who is interested.

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bc4a8-chakra

The second chakra, also known by the Sanskrit name, Svhadisthana, relates to those aspects of our energy that have to do with creation, fertility, sexuality and the joy of living.  The physical location is about two inches below your navel.  The colour relating to this center is orange and the element is water.

When this energetic area of your body is blocked, it can result in physical ailments such as bladder problems, circulatory issues, lower back pain, menstrual issues, kidney & reproductive problems.  Life issues can include difficulty working with others in a creative fashion, addiction, sexual dysfunction (hyper or hypo sexuality) in relationships, difficulty setting healthy boundaries, and a lack of flow of abundance (like money and other resources) into your life. Psychologically, a imbalanced second chakra can produce low sexual desire (frigidity), frustration, anger, fear, hypersensitivity, unreasonable feelings of guilt, and being unreasonably hard on yourself.  In your life you may find yourself surrounded by abusive or energetically imbalanced relationships, difficulty in attracting resources, feelings of unhappiness regularly upon awakening. Healthy second chakra energies bring about healthy relationships, well established boundaries and flow of money and resources into your life.  It is easy to see why a concentration on coming to terms with and healing second chakra  energy would be beneficial.

In the west we have an extreme disconnect from our energetic centers.  Eastern cultures socialize their children in  a way that emphasizes awareness and connection to each center of the body.  Through food, prayer, song and other cultural norms, those in the East have a focus on the essential nature of the physical and spiritual connection we have to each other and the world of nature.  Here in the West we are just beginning to see the very real and practical importance of this knowledge.

984297067Horses are an excellent partner to help quiet the mind and open the awareness we have in ourselves of how our body is feeling at any particular moment. Because a horse’s energy calibrates at a higher rate than humans, just being in physical proximity to them can help quiet the mind. This is primarily because they don’t have the thoughts of past and future that keep our energies tied up in illusion and non-reality. Horses can help put our feet back on and into the ground.

A practice of intimacy with any living creature, two or four footed, can quiet your mind and center you in presence.  This is the most important first step for any act of self-inquiry. Without presence, you cannot establish intimacy with yourself or anyone else, for this requires that you be centered in where you are, not in the past or future. Intimacy with another requires intimacy with your SELF first.

484718_10152675059555230_434117789_nHorses can help us to discover our “SELF”.

Intimacy has been expressed as “into me I see”.  Intimacy with another person requires that we first be intimate with ourselves.  This means taking the time to see deeply into our true nature, true mnotivations true thoughts and beliefs about things.  Charka studies are like treasure hunting for truth about yourself. Sometimes the journey is treacherous and can feel a little dangerous, but these are the risks you must take to find the greatest treasures.

The goal is to become unashamedly and blissfully aware of who you REALLY are.

This means learning to be naked with yourself.

An act of emotional vulnerability is sometimes easier with an animal.  We feel that animals don’t judge us, they  won’t take advantage of our feelings of weakness. We feel we can “be ourselves” with animals.

We fear emotional vulnerability with humans because we are accessing negative past experiences and transposing them into the now of life.  Eventually, you will come to  a place where you understand that the judgements of others, neither positive or negative, should be taken personally. That each person’s “judgment” comes from a place of self-judging.  But, when the second chakra is blocked and not yet brought to your consciousness, you can only see what you can see.

Second chakra issues revolve around TRUST and TRUTH.

Who do you trust? Do you have a best friend? When you were young, did you have a best friend?  Have you known someone to whom you could tell all your secrets to and you  knew they were on your side and you would never fear they would break your confidence or hurt your feelings? Do you have someone in your life like that now?

Many people suffer from the loneliness they impose upon themselves from their own self-judgements.

To relieve yourself of guilt – try to remind yourself of this wise thought by author and poet Maya Angelou

“if you would have known better, you would have done better”.

Angelou goes through life with this core belief about people and about herself.  It is a very freeing thought because it acknowledges the FACT that everyone does what they believe is their best at the time they are doing it.  In hindsight, everything has a different hue.

Forgiveness is an important focus for this and every chakra.  Forgiveness is NOT an act of placing an approval stamp on the past. Forgiveness is a recognition that the past cannot be changed. Forgiveness holds within it, if it is the truth, a desire to discover what every experience has brought to you, not what it has taken from you.  Then, focus on the need you were trying to fulfill when you did whatever it is that causes you guilt.  Discover truthfully, fearlessly – the belief behind the need you were trying to fulfill. Then understand fully (prayer helps with this) that your needs are important.  That you can find healthy ways to fulfill these needs without causing yourself harm.  That you can remain from this time forward, aware of your needs, so you make choices and decisions for yourself in an aware an dhealthy way.  This is possible for everyone.

BE LIKE WATER…water_horse_by_grau23-d54263o

But the first steps begin a process of a new kind of thinking. They will produce changes in your life, and the people around you will react.  Be aware of this as you continue.  Allow the changes to unfold, and as the elemtn in the second chakra urges us as does the Tao te Ching – follow the lesson that water teaches us.  It flows with all the circumstances it comes across. It recognizxes that it is ever changing and ever moving, but like water, we never fully disappear.  If we remain like stone, and we are not in the flow of our live, using our minds and thoughts to resist what is, then we will find ourselves being eroded and chipped away, until we are finlly pulled free into the river of what life is doing around us.

TAO TE CHING – VERSE 8

The Supreme Good is like water,

Which nourishes all things without trying to.

It flows to low places, loathed by all men

Therefore it is like the Tao.

Live in accordance with the nature of things,

In dwelling, be close to the land.

In meditation, go deep in the heart.

In dealing with others be gentle and kind.

In speech be true.

In ruling be just.

In action, watch the timing.

No fight: No blame

One who lives in accordance with nature,

Does not go against the way of things.

They move in harmony with the present moment,

Always knowing the truth of just what to do.

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching

RETREAT EXCERCISE – SECOND CHAKRAlily and jo in arena

The excercise we will do in this retreat is to request our participants to take a horse aside, privately and have a “conversation”.  You will tell the horse your most deep dark secrets. The one you wouldn’t even tell your best friend. The one your surely wouldn’t tell your priest.  The one you secretly believe God will judge you for.

Then take time to look deeply into the horse’s eyes.  See what they see.  Listen to your self, and acknowledge the feelings you have in this interaction.

Ask yourself some questions and stay in meditation with the  horse – quiet in your present space:

Do you believe the horse can see inside of you?

Can you see yourself as clearly as the horse sees you?

Ask to be shown how to forgive.

Stay quiet.

Observe your horse’s eyes.

Heartfelt_-low-res-file-698x1024What do you feel?