on fearing death

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I’m afraid of dying.

There. I’ve said it.

I have these recurring times of fearful freezing up where I am convinced that death is coming for me. It doesn’t have to make sense, but there are reasons I can check off during these anxious times. Crohn’s disease that is resistant to treatment. Check. Arthritis that is worsening at such a fast pace that the six weeks I’ve been waiting for a doctor’s appointment at the clinic has seen me progress from being concerned about pain and stiffness to becoming a hobbling hag who can barely do yoga anymore. COPD, which frightens me because I don’t seem to be able to quit smoking. Blood pressure that refuses to get under control and sometimes spikes into stroke-worthy territory. Periodic pounding of my heart and chest pain that scare the shit out of me.

All of these things together conspire to frighten and sadden me. I spend most of my days at home, rarely venturing out. I try to stay faithful to meditate and do the little bit of yoga I can. But the stress of living on the edge of homelessness, of abject poverty with no end in sight…it wears on me.

I worry about leaving Matt too soon. He needs me! I worry about leaving Rae and the kids too soon. They need me! I worry about leaving this earth with too little to show for having been here. What have I done with this one precious life? The walls close in. It becomes hard to breathe.

It all boils down to fear. I fear death. I fear dying. I fear lingering without full mental capacity. I fear letting down those who love me. How did I get this old and this sick so soon? Will I ever recover any semblance of health and vitality? Will I continue to be an ever-increasing burden on Matt and Rae?

I don’t fear what comes after death. I am curious, that is all. But I fear coming to the end of this life. I fear the event of death itself. I don’t want to be there for it.

There now. I’ve spewed all of my fear out. Now I am waiting to feel better.

Still waiting.
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living instructions

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Jotted down on the inside cover of my journal — 6 thoughts to help me stay the course. Any one of them can change my day, together they can change my life.

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1. Life isn’t perfect, but it IS amazing. Don’t strive for a “perfect” life…it doesn’t exist. Instead, look around you, see and remember that life is an extraordinary gift. Live in radical amazement.

2. It’s okay to have down days. Expecting life to be wonderful all the time isn’t reasonable. Instead, strive to let go and be at peace with the reality of life’s ups and downs.

3. Every experience holds an important lesson. Don’t push disappointment, tragedies, and mistakes aside. They are stepping stones.

4. Change happens.It can be terrifying, but all growth and healing require change. Learn to trust the journey, even when you don’t understand it.

5. My happiness today is simply a matter of perspective. Regardless of the situation, you have a choice in perspective, and consequently, attitude.

6. The work is worth it. Lose the expectation that things in life should be easy. Enjoy the challenge. Celebrate your achievements.

broken open

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Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Kahil Gibran
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Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.
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dive deep

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You have to keep asking yourself this, over and over again,
“What is reality?
What is consciousness?
What am I doing here?”
Find out.
Spend periods in the silence,
where you observe your breath,
where you watch your thoughts,
do this as often as you can.
Never react to the world no matter what it shows you.
Dive deep within the Self.

Robert Adams

butterfly reminder

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I sit in my chair, gazing through the window at the treetops. A large golden butterfly skitters by, kissing the glass lightly several times. It comes to me: I’m keeping myself from seeing the blessings, from experiencing the miracles in the moment. I forgot to notice. Where is that easy, peaceful feeling that accompanies full engagement with what is? I realize that I forgot to be present. Swept under a wave, I resisted, was pulled farther down. Overwhelmed, I felt I would surely drown, my mind muddy with sorrow and fear.

But the butterfly.

The intake of breath at the remembering it brought. The long exhale of relief. Its a different world in just one breath. In this world, I am fat with gratitude. I’ve come back. I relax and the water now carries me. I ride it. This is no more complicated than learning to surf. It’s a skill, that’s all, and it takes practice to master.

I want to live skillfully. I allow the joy inherent in being alive to reduce my suffering down to size. It wasn’t so big after all. It just grew with all the attention my brain was giving it.

I wonder how long I will remember this time. I shake my head affectionately at my faltering progress. I breathe a soft thank you to the butterfly and to the Animator of the butterfly for the reminder. I breath in, I breath out, and I trust the process.

Photo: I sit in my chair, gazing through the window at the treetops. A large golden butterfly skitters by, kissing the glass lightly several times. It comes to me:  I'm keeping myself from seeing the blessings, from experiencing the miracles in the moment. I forgot to notice. Where is that easy, peaceful feeling that accompanies full engagement with what is?  I realize that I forgot to be present.  Swept under a wave, I resisted, was pulled farther down. Overwhelmed, I felt I would surely drown, my mind muddy with sorrow and fear. </p>
<p>But the butterfly.</p>
<p>The intake of breath at the remembering it brought. The long exhale of relief. Its a different world in just one breath. In this world, I am fat with gratitude.  I’ve come back. I relax and the water now carries me. I ride it. This is no more complicated than learning to surf. It’s a skill, that’s all, and it takes practice to master. </p>
<p>  I want to live skillfully. I allow the joy inherent in being alive to reduce my suffering down to size. It wasn’t so big after all. It just grew with all the attention my brain was giving it. </p>
<p>I wonder how long I will remember this time. I shake my head affectionately at my faltering progress. I breathe a soft thank you to the butterfly and to the Animator of the butterfly for the reminder. I breath in, I breath out, and I trust the process.” width=”325″ height=”504″ /></p></div>
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give your heart back to itself

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For so many I speak with, there is an undercurrent of aggression, self-hatred, unexamined shame, lack of acceptance, longed-for forgiveness, and absence of self-kindness toward their experience. Let us all take a pause, and from a place of love visualize a holding environment for ourselves, where we grant ourselves permission to make intimate and direct contact with our vulnerabilities, with our unguarded and unprotected hearts, with our unprocessed challenges from the past, and with our less-than-awakened thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We can take just one moment and appreciate the complexity and counter-instinctual nature of awakening and healing and allow a deeply profound love and kindness to fill us, cell by cell.

Let us be willing to no longer abandon ourselves, exiting into our stories and unkind judgments, and inquire with love into the habitual belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. Then, in an instant, we behold the flow of grace which pours through the eyes of everyone we meet, including that unknown precious one that we see when we look in the mirror. And then all that could possibly remain is an unshakeable faith in love’s perfection.

Matt Licata

 

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~   Derek Walcott

mara friedman - mirror of my future/reflection of my past

mara friedman – mirror of my future/reflection of my past

 

on bedraggled life…and hope

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Rime Forest

That beauty near-death voyagers describe,
returned to their bodies with heart thumps,
or try to describe before they realize words
are to the eternal as the dark is to a lamp,

might be close to this, as if we’ve entered
a mile long hologram of spiral nebulae
or the neuro-networks of a frozen brain,
everything glazed and glistening, clarified

in a silence of hanging windchimes, even the smallest
twig an icy capillary, every millet blade
diamond-spined. Walk for a moment
over the snow crust and the sound is stiff brocade,

the feeling slight gliding. Every reflection
seems a further facet of a farther star,
and at the nexus of white galaxies,
synaptic leapings in the sycamore,

ski trails down a broken milkweed pod,
a crystal river through the interstice
of two larch boughs. Every branch and needle
backlit by each other, Victorian lace,

chandelier pinecones, the last jet vapor trails
criss-crossed in a fallen maple leaf.
Breathe slowly, look long,  In only hours
bedraggled life will reassert itself

and shaking melted colors from the sun,
tend onwards as dawn. In a day or less,
mud and rocks and damaged undergrowth,
the basal rosettes of the winter cress.

~Dick Allen

This poem describes a scene of transcendent beauty that the poet strolled through on a moonlit, ice-covered woods.  While reading it, it struck me like a barreling train.  I was caught up in the imagery, thinking that it so perfectly describes the “mountain-top experience”, that place where the Universe is singing to me, where spiritual insights surprise and engulf me.  The place where hope resides.  When I got to the last few stanzas, I felt strongly reminded that after the mountain-top, the desert.  After the times of insight, the fall into the everydayness of life’s challenges, perhaps even into a dark place.  I was reminded that the loosening of the knots requires both the transcendent beauty and the return to the mud and rocks and damaged undergrowth.  I felt a sense of rest replace my anxiety and self-recrimination.  I felt the gentle brush of hope’s wings against my cheek and was filled with gratitude.

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