So that the woman
that I birth
Tomorrow may thrive.
So that the woman
that I birth
Tomorrow may thrive.
Today they lay his body
to its final rest.
The second father,
Of the man to which I was
Connected for half my life.
To have known such a man for so many years,
To never to have seen so much as a tear.
My heart goes out to his, his family
His mother, too.
From a group so once connected.
To miss such a transition.
There is love
My heart today.
Missing the funeral
Acting as if it were
Just another day,
So far away.
I’m so sorry
for your loss.
Lost and scared.
No extra pennies to spare.
Clutching the pain
from the past.
Preferring pain that is familiar
in the face of the unknown.
Light cuts through darkness.
Here we can choose:
Continue status quo
or begin anew.
is an opportunity for
The seedling sprouts forth.
The bud unfolds; blossoming.
The butterfly dries its wings
and takes flight.
The soul emerges
free of self-imposed
The real journey
What looks and feels like death is often the opportunity to herald in the new. Faith in the unseen and unknown can be a challenge. Yet there are many examples of the process of metamorphosis in nature that can be of support during the times when everything seems to be coming apart at the seams.
The seed dies before the mighty Oak can sprout and take root. If the seed remains inside of the protective acorn shell, it cannot become the that which it is meant to be. The acorn just is, without questioning its purpose it breaks up, unfolds, roots and begins to reach for the sky. Without breaking open, the Oak would be nothing but potential.
The caterpillar disintegrates, deconstructing completely in its chrysalis before reconfiguring and emerging as a beautiful butterfly. Their lives are then spent flitting from flower to flower with grace and immense power, despite their delicateness.
Just as the building must be gutted before it can be renovated , we each have things we must release, let go of and “crack open” before we can restructure.
By deconstructing that which no longer serves us, we are able to choose differently. Sometimes this may involve moving through some emotional pain. This is just a release of energy as we shift into something greater and better.
Our past wounds are often a good starting point to delve into where we need to release ourselves from suffering. After all, why would we care to change if everything were just fine?
“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” – Rumi
The places where we were hurt beckon and call us to the feelings and thoughts causing our suffering. It is here in the darkness that we can choose differently, to be free of or to maintain that which reinforces our suffering.
What does someone who loves oneself do?
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It is my personal belief that we are here to experience ourselves authentically in all of our conventional and unconventional ways. For me, I find it a challenge to want to stand out (too far). I can stick my neck out some. Yet at some point, it becomes uncomfortable for me to go against the grain of society and to follow my “own drum” 100% of the time.
When I imagine myself being 100% authentic in all aspects of my life, I immediately begin to feel fear. After a few minutes of sitting in the muck, I can sort through it and begin to feel different elements within the blob. Among them are the all too familiar feelings of: Abandonment; Rejection; Isolation; Death; Being labeled a weirdo (well, I already have that, so what does a little bit more matter in the whole scheme of things, really?). In being familiar with Marianne Williamson, I know some of this fear is of my own brilliance.
These fears, I know, are holding me back. They make up the obstacles of my journey. It is here that I sit in meditation to uncover the truth behind the blockages.
Be still and know that I Am. Psalm 46:10
In being still, sitting in the silence of this cold darkness with all of these fears, I begin to see the pieces coming together. They all are related and lead to the same fear-destination: death. First within the cell of abandonment, I see how being from a tribal society and being ostracized could mean imminent death.
Digging deeper I find the icy tendrils of rejection that say, “If I am truly myself, would others really like me?” This path circles back to abandonment, being ostracized, potentially ending in death. Isolation seems another reiteration of rejection and abandonment, again, the fear is of death. Being labeled a weirdo, in this atlas of fear, again leads to isolation, rejection, abandonment, being ostracized and, you guessed it, death.
The fear of death keeps us from living, not from dying…
– Paul C. Roud
So it seems that I fear being myself because I fear death. Well, my next question is how is not being myself 100% truly living? How is my living in a way that makes others feel comfortable really living?
It is here that I can begin to place my fear of death into perspective. At a young age, I learned to be a “people pleaser.” By keeping the adults happy, I felt in my child-mind I would be happier and they would not isolate me. So this fear of being abandoned, rejected, isolated and being labeled a weirdo sprouted at a young age where I developed my external self around the belief that being my true self meant I would not survive.
Next, there is the fear of being brilliant, which bounces off my inner child and the ping back reverberates, “that just sounds too conceited.” To my observer, this just sounds like another fear of rejection…
Here is one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson,
May we all be free of the fears that block us from shining authentically.
A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the way of death.
The gentle and yielding is the way of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
-Tao Te Ching Verse 76
We seem to have this false belief that once we obtain some spiritual goal that we can sit back and coast. Being stagnant, not growing, not moving, not exchanging and not changing are all signs of death. To live is to experience life anew, to change, to clean, to release that which no longer serves us.
As living beings, we eat, we heal, we grow and, well, we also exhale carbon dioxide and we produce excrement, too. Afterall, everybody poops, right?! In living, there is always going to be a process of cleaning and releasing involved. In “being eternally positive,” we often want to focus on the input and not the output. In so doing, we short-change ourselves.
By only seeing the positive, we block the path to a higher self-realization. The parts of us that we see as being negative show us where we most need to travel. These shadows are where we have chosen to block our own light, where we have turned away from loving ourselves. We chose to focus on that which is “good and clean,” and we ignore that which needs love the most: the “bad, hurt and unclean.” What if we only cleaned the tiles in our shower that were clean, would not the dirty tiles only become more dirty?
“You only need to floss the teeth that you want to keep.” My Dentist
As such, a spiritual teacher who acts as if they were perfect, without flaws, and with the ability to coast without the need for continued self-awareness, is one who is dangerous. That person is a guide to your own demise. This person is either lying to you as well as to the world and him/herself or is dead inside – maybe even both.
To live is to expand, grow, change. To die is to stop moving, stop being and to stagnate.
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It was a year ago on my son’s third birthday that I saw her last. She sat in a booth at one of my favorite local eateries talking happily to her friends. Tired myself after a long day of celebration and not wanting to interrupt, I smiled to myself and kept walking by. That was the last time I saw her alive. If only I had known then what I know now… Hindsight is 20/20, right?
That day faded into my memories, lost in the mix of daily life and needs. Until one day, I just happened to read the newspaper when an article’s title caught my eye. It said something to the effect of what some mothers did that most don’t do.
The article talked about how two local mothers had apparently killed their children and then themselves. I read my friend’s name in that article. I sat stunned. In disbelief, I checked my phone to be sure I had her married name right. Yes, it was her.
She was my college roommate the first half of my freshman year. We hadn’t seen each other for 15 years following graduation, when we bumped into each other in the produce aisle 2 years before her death. At the grocery store, we exchanged phone numbers. Her daughter was my daughter’s age. Later, we set a play date and our daughters played together at a local children’s museum while she and I reconnected.
After reading about her violent death, I was very unsettled. It took me several days to process her apparent crime and the violence. The house she rented and died in was within 2 miles of my home. I wondered if I heard the sirens the day they were found. I wondered if I had sent up a prayer, like I often do when I hear the sirens traveling down the main artery by my house.
You see, my imagination went wild after I read more about her death. In my mind’s eye, emotions and in my body, I experienced the events from my friend’s perspective. I can only guess that she felt she was protecting her daughter and in her mind, her daughter was better off dead.
She shot her daughter at close range twice before she put the gun to herself. I can only imagine what she felt and experienced that day.
That day that I saw her at the restaurant was a mere 2 weeks before her death. Maybe I could have known. Maybe I could have intervened or been there to support her.
I didn’t find out until about her death until well after the fact. However, this was important timing for me. As a few weeks later I asked my husband for a divorce.
Knowing how terrible things must have been between my friend and her estranged husband taught me to do my best to keep my heart open as much as possible. There were times that I was angry and expressed myself angrily, but I did not let it continue to become a pattern. Instead, I chose to look at my shadow; the reflection in my of her suffering. It breaks my heart to think how much anger and fear she must have felt to cause her to take her daughter’s life and her own life. May she find peace in death that she could not find here, in her life.
I choose to live.
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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I shall fear no evil.
– Psalm 23
In Buddhism, Shiva, the creator and the destroyer, represents the process of breaking down that needs to occur prior to being able to build back up. Nature is filled with examples of this idea of death and rebirth. A wave breaks on the shore before being pulled back out into the ocean, only to form again. The tree dies, decomposes and becomes the nutrients for the seedlings. This is a natural cycle, yet for some reason in our Western culture we shirk away from the idea of death.
The idea of death can become pervasive for me when moving through the painful aspects of the emotions of change. It is then that I often experience pain in a way that leads me to want to die. (Hang up the phone, there’s no need to call for help.) This is a passive wish for which I do not take harmful actions. Over the years and with learning compassion for myself, I have learned that this “death wish” is only temporary. This is the part of me that no longer works for me; the part of me that needs to be released or transformed. It is the part of me that needs love the most at that moment and it is that part of me that is dying to be loved. Literally.
By being compassionate with myself, by performing my self-care rituals such as meditating, going within, chanting mantras or just being still and honoring the part of myself that is “dying” to be reborn, I find that I can move more quickly through this cycle of death. For this is not a true death; instead it is the shadow, or the threat, of death. It is my belief that this is what is meant in Psalm 23. Death is but a shadow that lurks around us. It is our fear of the shadow that gives it the power to control us. By having faith, we are able to move through the valley (“I shall fear no evil, for thine rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23).
The challenge comes in releasing attachment to the part of me that is dying. The attachment to “who I thought I was” is where the suffering begins, and if I chose to allow it, to also end. Loving myself into my strength looks like, and sometimes feels like, death.
By honoring the natural cycle of death and rebirth, I can keep moving through the process. By honoring myself, through compassion, I am able to be reborn. I am able to leave behind that which no longer serves me.
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