Thousand Petaled Lotus

May you have as many blessings as a thousand petaled lotus.

One of my dear hospice patients died a few days ago. She had a hard death. Watching her last days was tough. When she died, I felt relieved because she was no longer suffering. For the first time ever, I prayed that she would have as many blessings as a thousand petaled lotus.

My hospice patient whom I’ll call Sherri died from colon cancer. She was fifty years old with long, strawberry blonde hair. She was married and had three children in their teens and early twenties. She was a beautiful woman inside and out.

My last memory of Sherri is of her sitting in a kitchen chair supported by pillows. Her temples were sunken in, and her eyes were half open. As she breathed, her bony rib cage gently moved in and out. She looked like she was pregnant with a swollen belly. The tube that connected to her stomach helped reduce the fluid. Sherri sat in a chair because it was the only place that didn’t cause her pain. Later on, she died in her bed with her husband by her side.

I gave Sherri a gentle massage on her feet and legs. Her husband sat by her, holding her hand. As I massaged her feet and legs, Neil Diamond’s song, “Do I Wanna Be Yours” played in the background. Sherri’s husband began to sob during the song. I put my hands on his shoulders and told him that he’s doing an excellent job taking care of his wife.

Joan Halifax says, “Being with dying often means bearing witness to and accepting the unbearable and the unacceptable.” It was a hard death. And now when I think about her death, all I can feel is compassion. I’m glad it’s over.

Halifax continues to say in her book, Being with Dying, “We need to learn to stay with suffering without trying to change it or fix it. Only when we are able to be present for our own suffering are we able to be present for the suffering of others, and the difficulties they may encounter in dying. The practice of insight meditation, in which we watch the ebb and flow of mental activity, is a good way to cultivate this ability.” I know when my death comes, I will count on meditation to guide me.

Insight meditation or Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation that helps you concentrate and gain insight into reality. It is a state in which the mind is brought to rest, focused only on one item and not allowed to wander. During meditation, a deep calm pervades body and mind, a state of tranquility which must be experienced to be understood.

When I do insight meditation, I use a mantra (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration). Here are some mantras that I use (in-breath/out-breath with each sound): OM/SHANTI (universal sound and peace), SAT/NAM (truth and name), and LOVE/PEACE.

Steven Levine in his book “A Year to Live” says, “A death chant can act as a refuge from the storm, or an open window to the sun. Mantras or prayers cultivated in a sincere spiritual practice work very well for many.”

Someday, death will come knocking on my door. I want to be as prepared as I can be. Meditation is the key to help me create peace and acceptance as I step into the thousand petaled lotus.

Namaste, world.


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Almost Dying in India!

Foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh, India in 2015

There are two times in my life that I thought I was going to die. The first time was after the birth of my first daughter. I had a grand mal seizure right after giving birth, and I could have bled to death. The second time was in 2015 when I was in India riding a tour bus on the foothills of the Himalayas. I want to share my story about the bus ride.

I was riding a large tour bus with my classmates to Rishikesh, India (we were on a study abroad trip to learn yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda). There were 16 students, two professors, the driver, and the assistant driver. The roads in India are dusty and narrow. I remember I sat near the window of the bus heading toward Rishikesh during nightfall. I feared for my life and for the life of my fellow travelers because the driver admitted that he has never taken a bus on this dangerous road before – plus it was getting dark, so the visibility wasn’t good.

The tall, oversized tour bus ventured onto a small, gravel mountain road with sharp turns and large potholes. Several times the bus got stuck in the deep potholes. No one in their right mind would take a huge bus on a narrow, curvy, mountain road! As the bus took ever-so-slowly sharp turns over and over again, all I saw was a cliff heading straight down. I feared one wrong move, and that bus was rolling!

I struggled to find my seat belt. It was stuck between the cushions. I found the seat belt and put it on. Silence filled the bus as I prayed. I was panicking a little – I couldn’t look out the window anymore. I threw my jacket over my head and breathed.

Now that I look back, I see that I was only thinking of myself when I put my seat belt on (at the time I didn’t think of anyone else). I should have told everyone on the bus to fasten their seat belts. I thought about this, and I realized that’s not the kind of person that I want to be – just protecting myself. If that bus rolled down the mountain – many of my fellow student’s lives could have been saved by wearing a seat belt.

My lesson is to not just think about myself! I want to protect other people. I need to be brave enough to speak up!

Thankfully, because of our skilled bus driver, we made it safely to Rishikesh (after two hours of torture). However, we all agreed that we would NOT ride back that way! We loaded our suitcases on the bus, hiked for almost an hour to the other side of the Ganges river, and then took rickshaws to meet our bus.

Visiting India is a lot like riding on that oversized bus on a tiny, narrow mountain road. It’s crazy! You take one step 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.

Namaste, world.

(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky

London 2018

“When the early morning hours have come and gone. Through the misty morning showers. I greet the dawn. For when its light has hit the ground, there’s lots of treasures to be found underneath the London sky.

Though the lamps I’m turning down. Please don’t feel blue. For in this part of London town, the light shines through. Don’t believe the things you’ve read. You never know what’s up ahead – underneath the lovely London sky.

Have a pot of tea. Mend your broken cup. There’s a different point of view awaiting you. If you would just look up. I know.

Yesterday you had to borrow from your chums. Seems the promise of tomorrow never comes. But since you dream the night away, tomorrow’s here, it’s called today. So count your blessings. You’re a lucky guy. For you’re underneath the lovely London sky.

Listen. Soon the slump with disappear. It won’t be long. Sooner than you think you’ll hear some bright new song. So hold on tight to those you love. And maybe soon from up above, you’ll be blessed so keep looking high. While you’re underneath the lovely London sky. Lovely London sky.” – From the movie, Mary Poppins Returns.