Journey I

mermaid

How can a modern person be spiritual? There are many obligations to modern life. There are bills, children to raise, aging parents to help, chores to do, etc. How can one retreat to daydream and ponder life?

Right now, in my life, I need to retreat and go inward. I wish I was in ancient times where I could spend time in a forest or climb to the top of a hill or mountain to reflect. My wise ancestors spent time in the forest and in caves to meditate. Sometimes I wish I was in simpler times.

My Buddhist teacher said that it doesn’t matter what time you live in. Every time period has its struggles and challenges. He said it’s essential to train your mind – this is urgent. He told a story about his neighbor. His neighbor was busy and she said she didn’t have time to meditate. She wanted to meditate but she filled her day with other things. Then she found out she had cancer. All the other “things” didn’t matter anymore. Things are like large balloons. They are big and appear to be special but filled with nothing. It is important to set our priorities. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. What is important to you?

I decided to find answers to my questions by doing a shamanic journey with a recording of drumming on my iPod. According to Wikipedia, “Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.” Shamans are in every culture around the world.

I have done many shamanic journeys before. I use it as a tool to dig deeper into my subconscious mind. Sometimes I get answers and sometimes I do not. The journey taps into my imagination.

I did a 15 minute shamanic journey. My journey started out on a wooden dock that extended out into Lake Waconia – where I live. I have used this entry point many times. I ran on the dock toward the water and jumped into the lake. I allowed myself to sink to the bottom of the murky lake. One harmless shark swam by me. I found the latched door at the bottom of the lake. It was square-shaped and made of rusty metal. I opened the door and found myself in another body of water. This water was deeper and clearer. The water was blue with small fish swimming around. As I sank a little deeper I noticed that I was a mermaid with long blonde hair and a blue tail. It felt natural for me to be a mermaid. Then all of a sudden I was trapped in a large glass box. I could see all around me but I was stuck in a square box. I put my hands on the glass. I needed to find a way out. I found another square latched door at the bottom of the glass box. I opened it and I entered space. I was floating in space and I was formless. I could see the stars in the distance and the milky way. I was suspended in space. I was stuck, again. I felt calm but I also felt an urgency to keep moving.

I stayed in space thinking my journey was over. I accepted the fact that maybe this was all that I was to see and experience. Then I saw a portal…a tunnel. I floated towards to the portal and I was pushed down into the spinning tunnel. Then I was dropped into a new world. This world looked a lot like earth. The only difference was the buildings were oblong and metal.

oblong

One grey alien greeted me. He wanted me to come into one of their oblong buildings. I followed him into the building and he had me sit in a chair that was a simulator. There were other aliens standing around me. They were about to hook me up to the simulator but I became fearful and I jumped up and ran out of the building. Through mental telepathy I told them wasn’t ready to continue. They let me go.

I ran up the hill to a hobbit-like home. It was a simple house with earth all around it. I have been to this house many times in shamanic journeys. This was where my spiritual guide lives (one of them). I opened the door and sat at usual kitchen table. The home was comfortable with simple wooden furnishings, candles, and a wood stove. My guide sat across me. She is an older woman; a reflection of myself in old age.

She held both of my hands in her hands. She had kind eyes. She asked me, “What do you want?” I told her that I am struggling to find time to be spiritual in my present life. She told me that time is an illusion. I have plenty of time. She also told me there is nothing to possess…only being. She told me to keep going. I was on the right track.

I could sense that my time was up. I was waiting for the call back in the drumming. My guide asked me if I wanted to dance to the drumming. So while holding hands I danced with my guide until it was time for me to go. Once the drum beat changed I headed back up; the same way I came down. I left the hobbit house, passed the oblong buildings, went up the tunnel, and went into space. Then I opened the latched door to the first body of water, then opened the second latched door to Lake Waconia. I emerged from the water and found myself back on the wooden dock. My journey was complete.

My guide said time is an illusion and I have plenty of time. So back to my questions: How can a modern person be spiritual? How can one retreat to daydream and ponder life? Each person has a unique life and unique circumstances. In my own life, I need to set priorities. My priorities include mediating every day. According to my Buddhist teacher, when we die we lose everything…except our mind. Therefore, we need to exercise our mind.

There is a lot of symbolism in shamanic journeys and dreams. My mentor who is a Franciscan Sister said that it’s important to have someone help interpret the meaning of the dreams. It’s good to get an outside perspective. We may have clouded judgment or we may not “see” what another person sees.

I still have a need to retreat to meditate, daydream, and ponder. I decided to go on a solo hermitage retreat. I will stay in a small one room cabin for the weekend. I will have no technology with me. I will eat simple foods and journal with a notebook and a pen. I will have no contact with the outside world. I will recharge and reconnect with nature.

Namaste, world.

journey

“The new psychologies of hypnotic suggestion and ‘creative visualization’ are increasingly aware that we are capable of infinity more than the assumed constraints of ‘physical laws’ on our bodies and minds would have us believe.”  – Lawrence Blair

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Death with Dignity Act: Right or Wrong

compassion 

Wikipedia explains the Death with Dignity Act: The “Death with Dignity Act” is a controversial bill that allows for legal self-euthanasia. It is aimed towards terminally ill patients, who otherwise do not have a chance to recover from untreatable diseases. The majority of the opposition is religious based, they are against assisted suicide. Some doctors are also against the bill for moral reasons, they are ending the patients’ lives or helping them end their own.

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My hospice patient died last week. Three weeks ago she was in severe pain and her medications weren’t strong enough. She moved to a hospice home for pain management. Unfortunately, pain medications, like morphine, cannot stop all forms of pain. What if someone is suffering? How can we help them? What if they want to end their life?

My Buddhist teacher, who is from Sri Lanka, said we must not interfere with the divine nature of human beings. We are given life and we must live our lives out to the end. Death is a personal experience and people from the outside must not interfere. Also, my teacher said that pain is an individual experience. We cannot judge someone’s pain. If you are in pain, then you must know it will not last. Just remember the saying, “This too shall pass.” I know for someone who is suffering, it’s hard to remember the impermanence of suffering.

I struggle a little with this. My seventeen-year-old cat, Rajah, was suffering from stomach and intestinal pain. He threw up daily and he went from 16 pounds to 7 pounds. He was sick and suffering so I took him to the veterinary clinic and they euthanized him. My Buddhist teacher told me that it was wrong of me to end my cat’s life. It was not my decision. My cat had his own life to LIVE.  All beings must live their lives in a natural way and die in a natural way.

Rajah3

I have a lot of compassion and I thought it was compassionate to put my cat “to sleep.” I thought I was doing the right thing. Now I understand that I could have been there for my cat until the end. Yes, it was more convenient to end his life instead of cleaning up vomit and feces everyday. That seems like a harsh statement but it’s true. Now I am sorry. I hope my cat can forgive me.

Each person must seek wisdom in every situation. If you are unsure about what to do then ask an elder, wise woman or man, or a religious teacher about what action to take. We have help on this earth. We are not alone. Furthermore, we need to be careful about what the media is saying about these serious issues of life and death. To live an authentic life, we must see the divine in all living beings.

I could have taken time for my cat. I could have sat with him during the last hours of his life. This action would have honored his divinity. Doing the right thing has long-lasting positive consequences. We must be mindful to take the right action.

I have a lot of compassion for all living beings and my hospice patients. According to Wikipedia, “Compassion is a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.” Hospice and palliative care helps to ease pain and suffering of patients. There are many ways we can help patients live out their lives to the end with honor and dignity.

Namaste, world.

einstein

 

Eagle’s Perpective

golden eagle

I had a fantastic dream last night. I dreamt of a giant eagle. This eagle was not a bald eagle. His feathers were dark brown with specks of white and the feathers around his neck were golden brown. He was a giant golden eagle with a wingspan of about 60 feet.

The giant eagle was searching for something. He was unhappy living in a small, dull village nestled by valleys and hills. He said the people there had no imagination. He, himself, only flew low to the ground. As he spread his eagle wings he would crumble the sides of the buildings as he approached the village. He lived on the ground and he had his own giant house with a curved driveway in the front. He would sit on his driveway and think.

One day he realized something: He was the one who lacked imagination. He was afraid to go to high ground and see a different perspective. He was capable to fly high – but he never did. God gave him all the tools to fly; large wings and excellent eyesight. But his fears held him back.

Finally, one evening he decided to be brave and fly high. He spread his large wings and flapped and flapped until he was high into the sky. Soon he was flying high and fast. He never experienced such exhilaration! He looked ahead in the distance and he could see a sparkling city. It twinkled like the stars at night. It was a giant city with tall buildings and buzzing energy. He didn’t know a place like that existed. He was never brave enough, until now, to fly high enough to see something new.

The giant eagle decided to leave the small, dull village and venture to the new magical city. He restored his hope and he reached his full eagle potential.

Then I woke up. I said to myself, “That was an awesome dream!” I thought about my own life and how I need to reach higher ground to get an eagle’s perspective. My life may seem daunting at times. But if I can see the larger picture…an eagle’s perspective, there may be things that I didn’t know about that may help me.

Here are some questions to ask yourself: Are you flying too low? What fears are holding you back? What is keeping you from exploring your imagination? Are you reaching your fullest potential? How would your life change if you changed your perspective?

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According to Wikipedia, ” The golden eagle is regarded with great mystic reverence in some ancient, tribal cultures.” Wikipedia continues to explain that the Aetos Dios was the “Eagle of Zeus” in Greek legend. Aetos Dios was a giant, golden eagle. He served as Zeus’ personal messenger and animal companion. According to some, the eagle was once a mortal king named Periphas. His virtuous rule was so celebrated that he was like a god.

eagle

In native cultures around the world, eagles are considered medicine birds with impressive magical powers, and play a major role in the religious ceremonies of many tribes. To learn more see the link: http://www.native-languages.org/legends-eagle.htm

Namaste, world.

native american

Spirituality & Caring for the Dying

lotus

“Death is not the opposite of life. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is the continuum of birth and death.” — Deepak Chopra

Many people have done little work to prepare for death on a psychological, spiritual, and social level. Why do we fear death so much? How can spiritual practices prepare us and aid us in the dying process? These are profound questions that are important for us to consider for ourselves and our loved ones.

According to Murray, Kendall, Boyd, Worth, and Benton (2004), “Spiritual needs are the needs and expectations which humans have to find meaning, purpose and value in their life. Such needs can be specifically religious, but even people who have no religious faith or are not members of organized religion have belief systems that give their lives meaning and purpose” (p. 40). Defining spirituality and spiritual needs can be difficult because each human being has their definition. Edwards, Pang, Shiu, and Chan (2010) add, “A crucial question is whether or not patients themselves recognize the concept of spirituality as defined by healthcare professionals. Patients may not understand the term ‘spirituality.’ What professionals assume to be spiritual care might not correspond with patients’ understandings and needs” (p. 24). There are several barriers to spiritual care such as personal, cultural, institutional, and educational needs of professionals.

What are some of the spiritual needs of patients? The main spiritual needs are 1. The need for closure (finish business and reconciliation). 2. The need for involvement and control over daily activities. 3. To remain involved with family and in decisions about their lives. And 4. Need to for a positive outlook (happy thoughts, to see the smiles of others, humor, and laughter).

My grandmother died this past July. She was 94 years old. I knew that she was dying, but I did not go to her bedside to say, “Good-bye.” Now I regret not going to see her. I was not there but I know my grandma loves me, and I love her – this is all that matters.

grm theresa Grandma Theresa

I grew up in Catholic religion, but now I am a Buddhist. I consider myself a Catholic Buddhist – if there is such a thing! In the Buddhist tradition, according to Hawter (1995), “It is emphasized strongly that the time to prepare for death is now, because if we develop and gain control over our mind now and create many positive causes we will have a calm and controlled mind at the time of death and be free of fear” (p. 3). The way to a calm and controlled mind is through meditation. Meditation trains the mind like running trains the body. Also, in the Buddhist tradition, it is important to die with a calm and peaceful mind.

How can spiritual practices aid the patient in the dying process according to the Buddhist tradition? If the patient is conscious, then he or she can do the practices with his or her family, minister, or spiritual counselor. If the patient is unconscious, then the family/minister/spiritual counselor will recite prayers or mantras into his or her ear. Hearing is the last sense to be lost. It is important to do whatever reminds the patient of his or her spiritual practice. It is beneficial to have spiritual objects around the dying patient (for example an altar, a rosary, photos of the spiritual teacher). Playing spiritual music, burning incense, and singing songs can also help calm the patient.

For patients that are in advanced illness but are still conscious benefit from simple meditation techniques and visualizations. Also, a gentle massage, Reiki, aromatherapy, or reflexology can be soothing and stress-relieving. Again, it’s important to help the patient have a peaceful mind as they approach death.

We do not need to fear death. Actually, according to Reagan (2013), “We are discovering that simply contemplating death can make us happier, healthier, and better citizens…as we confront our mortality, we are midwifing the difficult birth of a multidimensional transformation – physical, spiritual, psychological, social, and ecological” (p. 38).

Namaste, world.

healer

References

Edwards, A., Pang, N., Shiu, V., & Chan, C. (2010, winter). The understanding of spirituality and the potential role of spiritual care in end-of-life palliative care: a meta-study of qualitative research. Palliative Medicine, 24(8), 753-770

Hawter, P. (1995, August). The spiritual needs of the dying: a buddhist perspective. Retrieved from: http://www.buddhanet.net/spirit_d.htm

Murray, S., Kendall, M., Boyd, K., Worth, A., & Benton, T. (2004, January). Exploring the spiritual needs of people dying of lung cancer or heart failure: a prospective qualitative interview study of patients and their careers. Palliative Medicine, 18(1), 39-44

Reagan, L. (2013, winter). Death makes life possible: bridging consciousness, science, and spirit. LILIPOH, 18(70), 36-40

India Reflections

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A lot of people ask me, “What was India like?” To experience India, one must travel there. Most people will never step foot on its land. I have an inside look at this fascinating country and I would like to share a few of my own spiritual reflections.

India is a vast land with crazy, populated cities and third world villages. There is no place on earth like India. It is a mix of garbage, hospitality, dirt, tradition, poverty, and beauty. India mirrors all the good and the bad in life.

I have several reflections that I brought back from my experience in India. Each one created something new in my consciousness. Several of these experiences was at Parmarth Niketan Ashram – a place I’d like to return to. Parmarth Niketan is five hundred miles north of Delhi; about an eight-hour bus ride. It is at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and the Ganges River flows through the town.

The spiritual teacher of the ashram is Pujya Swamiji. The ashram is famous and well-known around the world. The Dalai Lama, actress Uma Thurman, and singer Sting have all visited the ashram recently. Even Prince Charles and Camilla visited in November 2013. Parmarth Niketon is active in community service and has projects for orphans. The ashram currently houses 200 orphan boys and it has plans to open an orphanage for girls. The ashram is working on women and girl empowerment projects, rural development programs, and environmental programs. Parmarth Niketan is an amazing and magical place to stay.

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One reflection brings me back to my first morning at the ashram. I attended the Vedic chanting group that gathered at five in the morning. It was still dark and foggy outside as traveled from one building to another. During the chanting session I was absorbed by the singing and chanting. My body swayed to the music as I connected with the people around me. The orphan boys played instruments and lead the chanting. The monks in orange robes sat on the stage.

I was in pure bliss and happiness to be at the ashram. During the quiet, meditative time I had a vision or realization. I understood my connection to all things and I understood the power of touch. As I touched the floor of the temple, I connected with all the people who attended there in the past and with all those who will attend in the future. I was the link; living in the present. Like quantum physics, I could tap into the energy field. After this realization, I was aware of my hands and I took off my rings so that I would not restrict the flow of energy. I knew I could connect with all that is…all that was…and all that will be.

According to John Hagelin, an American particle physicist and the director of the Transcendental Meditation movement, “In our quantum view of the universe, consciousness is ubiquitous. Intelligence is everywhere. And the deeper you go beneath the surface, the more intelligence, the more dynamism, the more awareness, until at the foundation of the universe there is a field of pure, abstract universal existence – universal Consciousness…the unified field.”

After the chanting ceremony, I walked with my fellow travelers to the beautiful Ganges River. It was still dark outside with emerging light beams from the rising sun. The moon was in its full splendor and the air was crisp and cool. I could hear the river flowing and feel the mystical ambiance of people wandering about.

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I felt a magnetic pull toward the Ganges River. I sat next to the flowing river as the current was alive and wanting. It was dangerous to sit at the edge of the bank because of the fast current. I could see the dark ripples in the water and the reflection of the rising sun.

In that moment my heart was full of gratitude. I was in India! Tears started to warm my cheeks as I sat alone with my scarf around my head. They were not tears of sadness. They were tears of appreciation and understanding.

I put my hand into the water to feel the power of the river. The Ganges River is holy because the people of India say it is so. Where people put their energy…their worship…their love – this makes something holy. All through India, everywhere I went, I touched my hand to the sacred buildings, the temples, the land and the people.

Another reflection…the group and I hiked through Rishikesh to visit a Catholic nun named Ma Tureeya. Ma Tureeya stressed the importance of service. She said, “See suffering and reach out.” India has a lot of people living in poverty. In my mind, I have a new definition of poverty. These people were dirt poor! Many were living in shacks or on the streets with make-shift tents. It is shocking to see hundreds of poor people. Riding in a luxury tour bus looking out at starving, poor people did not seem right. I remember seeing a raggedy six-year-old boy walking alone and barefoot, in the cold, from car to car during heavy traffic begging for money. This image continues to stay with me.

Ma Tureeya understood the “other dimension” and said something profound: Make space for the divine to enter. She said it’s important to sit in silence and go inside. To go inside “to see.” She said, “God does the work, not the ego. Do not seek the fruits. See what God wants of you – this is important. Put your total trust in God.” She also stressed the importance of less possessions and more giving. Since I’ve been back from India, I feel like I have less attachment to my life and the things in it.

The people of India have transformed my consciousness in many ways. I admire how they are so dedicated to their Gods. In India, worship is part of everyday life. Temples and shrines dot the land. I remember seeing a middle-aged Indian man in his cream-colored underwear dipping his whole body in the freezing Ganges River. He used the water for spiritual purification. I, too, felt the mystical power of the Ganges River. According to author Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa), “These places are where the material and spiritual energies overlap. Although the spiritual energy may pervade the universe, at such holy places or tirthas the experiences of higher dimensions are easier to attain. This is what gives these places special meaning amongst those who can perceive or know this multidimensional aspect.”

Visiting India is like stepping into the unknown and you have no choice but to trust. India runs on crazy. Nothing seems to make sense but it all works out in the end. Just like the caterpillar that thought its life was over…then it turned into a beautiful butterfly.

Namaste, world.

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The Living Club

enjoy life

I saw my new hospice patient today. This is the second time that I have visited with her. Susan is a beautiful woman who is in her early sixties. She is dying from lung cancer. Last night she was moved from her home to a hospice house.

When I visited with her today, she was awake but not consciously awake. It was like she was in a daze. As she laid curled up in a fetal position, she spontaneously said, “I want to go.” Her daughter told me that she’s been saying that a lot lately. Sometimes when people are dying they use symbolic language. When she says, “I want to go,” she may be saying that she is ready to die. A wonderful book about communication of the dying is called, “Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying.” It is written by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley.

I sat and gently rubbed Susan’s forehead. She was resting with her eyes closed. My thoughts turned to life. Being present with those who are dying puts a lot perspective on living. We are two women; one who is in the living club and one who is in the dying club. Many people die each day. According to Wikipedia, roughly 150,000 people die each day across the globe. That’s a lot of people!

I am part of the living club. I feel so blessed to still be here on this earth! I just want to jump and shout, “I am living!” I have so much that  I want to do and experience. I have a lot of gratitude in my heart.

Living in the present moment helps me realize: I am here now. What a gift!

Namaste, world.

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Creating Space

buddhist_sand_art_13   Buddhist Monk Sand Art

I have a great need for creating inner and outer space in my life. To start creating this space, I need to clean out my past. I had written forty journals that were stacked neatly in two large boxes. I began writing in journals when I was twelve years old.

I recently decided to recycle all of my journals. I was going to burn them, but I had way too much paper. It would take me forever!

I destroyed all forty journals. They are gone. After the recycling truck had come, I asked myself, “What have I done?” A record of my life is gone forever.

I compare letting go of my journals to the creation and destruction of the Buddhist monk sand art. The Buddhist monks work diligently and carefully creating a beautiful mandala. Then once it is complete, it is ceremoniously destroyed.

sand

The destruction of the sand art symbolizes the impermanence of life. Now that my journals are gone, I have created space to create something new…like this blog. I can be in the present moment and not tied down by my past.

My journals told a story, and the preservation of them would have created a legacy. However, I wrote with emotion, and my journals helped me let go of my feelings. I am spiritually lighter now that they are gone.

It is time for me to create a new story.

Namaste, world.

“The world is a passing phenomenon. We all belong to the world of time. Every written word, every carved stone, every painted picture, the structure of civilization, every generation of man, vanishes away like the leaves and flowers of forgotten summers. What exists is changeable and what is not changeable does not exist.” –Samyutta Nikaya Sutra

We Are Moving: Part II

Cosmic-Heart2“Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world…Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Love is all that matters. I know that I can even love a stranger. When I met my first hospice patient, I loved her right away. Barbara was in her mid-seventies, dying from breast cancer. She talked with a high, squeaky voice and she was always kind. She had the innocence of a child.

From the very first moment of our meeting, we had a heart exchange and a creative union. She was truly herself; she presented her essence to me and all the people around her. She brought out the best in me because she was communicating at a higher consciousness.

By the time I met Barbara, she had accepted her fate…she was dying. Her daily consciousness was shifting inward as she prepared to die. My last moment with her is one that I will never forget. I was alone with Barbara while she was sleeping. She had just moved from her home to a nursing home. As Barbara slept, I gently placed my hands on her Chakras, and I held her feet. I could sense movement in the room – and it wasn’t Barbara or me. Spiritual energy was witnessing our love and friendship. I greeted this spiritual energy as if I intuitively knew what it was.

Barbara died while I was on a weekend trip. I had a feeling that she die by the time I returned home. Barbara’s spirit is still alive; she moved into the intergalactic space where she will transform once again.

Namaste, world.

 intergalactic space