Monday, September 20, 2010

Transparent vulnerability

When a blissful life is met with shocking hardship, there is a ripple effect out from the heart of that life. We are not islands with seas between us. We are all connected by love, and by pain.
I have heard that compassion is at the heart of Buddhism. When we feel another's pain, as our own we wish them freedom from "our" pain. It is no longer a singular pain. It reaches out into the lives of others. I watched this amplified within the tragic death of my Sister. As the hub of the wheel, all links to and from Kathie's life came through me.
I found myself trying to be strong for those around me. I suppose in some way this was controlling. I wanted to control the pain, control the loss, control others perceptions, control... control... control!!!!!!
The shear nature of suicide is in fact control. The victim is controlling the ending of their life. "Not another day God! The bus stops here." It is a blaring metaphor for the illusion, our minds would have us believe that the way to change, is through force. I know this is not only ineffective but diminishing to the opportunities life presents us.

Immediately following finding Kathie's body there was a slough of doings... closing accounts, contacting friends, designing the Memorial Service. For one month I was busy... busy controlling details. My heart was left in the thick fog of the aftermath of deep sadness. Literally left there to wait. Wait on the doings. Finally a month after I heard of my Sisters death I allowed my sorrow to come forth. I knew I had abandoned myself, and frankly even those around me. By hiding behind the control of my emotions I was not allowing the natural beauty which comes with observing the pain, and with being transparent for others to observe.

Transparent vulnerability was in deed a new concept for me. One day while standing in the kitchen with a dear friend, I lost all control. No more waiting for the right time. There it was spilling all over the kitchen counter like a flood of emotion. I laid my whole chest down on the counter and sobbed. It felt  as if at that point I didn't have the strength to stand up and cry. My beloved friend had seen me cry maybe three times and never quite like this. The wonderful beauty in it was when I was finished, I felt closer to her than ever. I felt I allowed her to see right into the deepest corners of my heart. I had hidden there, alone, for so long.
I know through my Spiritual work, and practice you can not be controlling and accepting in the same moment. I also believe, practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. With this I realized I was practicing isolation my whole life. Controlling , not allowing my loved ones to know me. Most of all not loving myself enough or trusting in my own natural beauty to live a transparent life.
This is a lesson I shall never forget. I now bring it into my work, my practice and my daily living.
There are times I am strong and there are times I am weary and being Human, Is a beautiful, fulfilling dance when we let go and move with the wind of changes in our life. Never has this been more apparent than now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mercy... mercy... me....

In the weeks and months to follow What felt to be, the collapse of my internal and external worlds simultaneously, I reached a stage of mercy. Still uncomfortable with such self love I walk through the hours of each day with conflicting thoughts on accepting what is.  In fact making peace with it.

While in the midst of mourning, I am also watching my goat mourn, the loss of her lifetime partner.  She has no ambition to leave her little goat house, or forage for food or even be with the other animals. She just sleeps. I watch as day after day rolls by and her lackluster existence deteriorates to physical atrophy. There is an empathy I feel because I know the will to breathe is even diminished in the wake of such loss.
Finally concerned for her well being (and mine) I decided to tame her a bit. She was always Willy's goat, not mine. I never asked her to accept me or any of my ways. Now it seems I may be the only game in town. I slipped a collar on her and began giving leading lessons to a ten year old goat!
Soon I saw she would venture out in the pasture with the horses after our sessions. I felt that somehow it sparked a broader outlook. Perhaps there is life after death? She would return just a few minutes later, lay down and sleep again. But... this was progress.
Then a day came when I found myself with no job that day. Also, with it came the first heavy rain of the season. All I wanted to do was sleep. I began berating myself for "laziness!" "You must get something done, make use of this down time." Then I realized my goat was kinder to herself than I was to myself. She had a mercy to her mourning which I was lacking. It took some deep self talk but I finally yielded the day to rest. What a concept....? mercy in the face of mourning. Could this be one of the blessings left in the wake of tragedy?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fear rising

I am grateful for the the process in which I can gain a deep awareness for life, through pain and suffering.

They said "Buddhism is about making peace with what is." This is a concise, beautiful reminder for me.

I began having what some would call panic attacks. I call it unidentified fear. When the chest gets so tight it feels like it will burst and your breathing all but stops. In this shallow state, a whole series of mindless wanderings and thoughts of escapism take over.

I pride myself in having the tools to deal with stress. This past month challenged my abilities. The day after my family came together in a Memorial Ceremony for my Sister, I was asked by a friend and client of 25 years to end our relationship. The next day my goat  Willy, (my beloved friend of 14 years whom I bottle fed from 2 days old), fractured a leg and had to be laid to rest. All these events triggered every other hidden fear I had stored. I began to wonder if it would ever end! All of this added up to one huge unbearable fear rising in my chest.

I realized through my pain and suffering, that the fear I was feeling wasn't really about losing my Sister, or my beloved goat, or my old friend,  it was about my perception of those events. This really made sense!  I know life and everything in it is impermanent. At least at the intellectual level, I know this. The real cause of my anxiety is the repeating thought or non truth that life is suppose to be different than it is.

I remember having this Epiphany just before my Sister died. I was struggling with the fact that she would not return my calls. She would sit in her house and let me leave message after message. I told her "I did not want to constantly keep worrying" about her. I finally decided to stop calling. This went on for 2 months. Then, one day I was  reading a book on Buddhism. It said "The cause of human suffering is holding on to, in fact clinging to  non truth".

I realized I was wanting my Sister to be other than she was. "Oh my God" I exclaimed! I picked up the phone, right then and told her I loved her. From then on, I adjusted my expectations, and felt much less frustration. I am eternally grateful I made that understanding before she took her life. Eternally grateful!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Crime Scene

As I approached, what will forever be etched in my mind as the Crime Scene, I saw my Brother standing alone outside the yellow Police tape, placed around the perimeter. I hadn't seen my Brother in two years. We live 30 minutes apart.
Still in a state of shock, when we saw each other. I felt an island form beneath us. There is something about kin, that feels familiar. Whether or not time or troubles come between us. Somehow family, that blood relation is an everlasting bond. This combined with the shared tragedy brought us both home again.
The moments, one after another were surreal. It felt as if I was in a terrible nightmare.  One minute I am at home in a blissful state of mind, The next thrown into the most unbelievable event of my life. I was sure I would wake and find my peaceful reality once more.
 The innocence I had experienced in my constant state of bliss had ended. A truth and faith larger than anything I had known was in its infancy.
This is where I began to see the characters playing out their roles. The Medical Examiner hurrying by, looking a bit weary after examining a 5 week old corpse with a knife in her chest.  As he passed I locked my eyes to his. He held the answers to a death I could not conceive of. The Chaplin for the fire station, standing with us, said "Give him time, he will come to you when he is done."
The hours of waiting were like days. I used the time to call family members and deliver the tragic news. One by one the shock and disbelief filled the air. "No" was the consistent answer. Just simply.... NO! this can not be.
Finely they all came out, the detectives, uniformed police and yes... this over worked Saint of a Man, the Medical Examiner. Somehow he was filled with light, compassion and beauty. I felt it instantly. He looked me square in the eye, with a loving kindness I will never forget and said "I have determined it to be self inflicted."  He then said, "How can I help? What questions can I answer for you?" I was surprised at how the intellect took over. The only question I had was "How? How can someone possibly do this to themselves?" He very simply said, "There is only one spot, and she was perfectly accurate." The next words I am eternally grateful for. He said "She stopped the heart and died instantly. There were no signs of trauma or struggle in any way." This was a contrasting concept? I just filed the thought and thanked him.
This began my journey into Kathie's life before this tragic ending. What were her last thoughts, actions, and wishes? I became an investigator into my Sisters hidden past.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The awakening of sorrow, The first step.

The shock of such a horrific loss, catapulted me into the hidden catacombs of my heart. The endless darkness left unexplored for the fear of pain and suffering.

My life has been a tapestry of hardship and renewal. Facing loss and pain with a bulldog mentality. It was effective for the most part, until the implosion of my reality. This single experience connected me with every other minimized and disregarded loss in my life. It was time for a light to shine throughout the dark corners and caverns of my heart.

There was a valuable center piece missing in my tapestry of healing. I had consistently overlooked the insight of mercy.  In the words of Stephen Levine, "Healing then, becomes not the absence of pain but the increased ability to meet it with mercy instead of loathing."

The days to follow this symbolic act of ending the heartfelt sorrows of life, which my beloved Sister so graphically called for, are the most enlightening, courageous moments I have known.
As it is written in A Course in Miracles, "Kneel not before the altars to sacrifice and seek not what you will surely lose. Content yourself with what you will surely keep."

With this knowledge of dreaming our realities I find peace in  ACIM's words, "No perception however Holy, will last forever." I have recently attained a scholarship to this lesson.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Death of a dream, An Awakening.....

Within this human existence, is a percieved reality which is created through experience. My life experience is combined with my perception of other people's experiences. Seeing life through an emotional filter created from our entire past, creates illusions. Much like dreaming does when we sleep.
 As I  realize I am dreaming my world each day. I begin to observe the characters in it. I see reactions to situations as choices. And most of all, I am aware that all life and everything in it is tangible. With this in mind I know my role can be entirely creative.

Life moves like the changing scene of an ever flowing river. My vantage point, the shore. Then from another shoreline, other people dreaming their realities and interpreting their truth to be as real as mine.
 The same river rushes past them, in ways unseen by me, though I too am a tangible character in their dream. Where then? lies the reality of truth? perhaps in the death of the dream itself. The awakening. Non perception, non judgement. To acknowledge emotions as doorways rather than boxes. Signposts on pathways pointing to perhaps...? The only end is perceptual.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, late in July. I had been trying to reach my Sister Kathie by phone. Her Birthday was the next day and I had hoped to take her to dinner. Kathie had been battling for many years, alcoholism and life in general. It was a common experience for me that she would not answer my calls. This was just one of the many catalyst for me to learn about perceptual reality.
Watching  my loved one personally destroy her health and any hope of happiness with alcohol has to be one of the greatest lessons in acceptance I have ever known.

I phoned my Brother who lived just a mile from Kathie, and asked if he would go and check on her? After weeks of calling her the answering machine was full, and would not accept any more messages. He said he would. I had no idea what I was asking of him in this moment. We both believed he would find her hold up in her home.

Within an hour I received a call that would shatter all concepts I may have had of what truth was for me, and for Kathie. I believed I knew her. I felt she spoke to me of her pain. On this fateful day  I came to find out I knew nothing.

My Brother called and said, "Mary you must come here now. She is dead, she put a knife in her heart "  I can never express in words the experience I felt witnessing the complete implosion of my truth.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Time to grieve, a time to heal, let it be.

I am beginning a journey of deep and painful release. As with so many  journeys of the soul the road is a bit uncharted and unfamiliar. I have never blogged, read a blog, considered blogging, nor do I know anything about it. Though I do know one thing. I am in a time of transformation. And my current process is calling me to reach out and in at the same time. As I was studying this morning, of mourning, I saw a spiral. One that was moving two directions, out and in. I wondered what it would look like to travel a path in this way. Next thing ya know I am blogging. So this is my first of many posts. I call, like yelling in an empty canyon, full of hidden life. "Hello"..... "is there anyone here?" This morning of mourning the answer is yes I Am.