The List of Things We’ve Done

I went to a memorial yesterday. When you step into a church that was built in the 1960’s, the first thing that hits you is the smell. A dusty paper smell that invades your nostrils and manifests silence as you make your way into a solitary pew in the third row. People are crying, sharing stories and then there is the list. 

Mrs. Jane So and So was born on So and So a date and went to Junior United School. She enjoyed horseback riding, and driving her car way too fast down the road. She had a puppy named mittens and every summer would go fishing at Wintercrest Lake. She worked at such and such a place so she could provide for her two lovely children. 

It’s a list of the things we’ve done. We all will have them at the end of this ride. And that scares me. The places I’ve worked are many. The people I’ve known are many. But what I have to give and what I have to share? How often does that list feel like I’ve come up short? 

Everything that I have done is nothing compared to how I want to help, and there I feel that I’m short on what really matters. Every creative thought of a project I have started or not finished, every community opportunity I haven’t taken, every dinner I haven’t shared with someone I love.

They then opened up the conversation to the crowd. Anyone welcome to share a memory, a story, a happy thought. This is where things grew more dimensions. There was talk of a whole person with dimensions – someone who was always there for her neighbors, someone who loved her family very much, and someone who gave all she was to make sure that the kids in her neighborhood had fun and felt safe. 

People forget the list of things you’ve done. They never forget the way you made them feel. All the days of my life I hope to make everyone around me feel loved, respected and cherished. I hope to skip the list and go straight to the generosities, the details, the times when it came down to how unity mattered over difference of opinion. I hope that we have the chance to make the things we’ve done matter less than the people we’ve healed. I hope that everyone has the chance to let go of what they were expected to do before life got in the way, and reconnect with those who matter most and those who need most urgently. 

Sat Nam

Conscious Communication : The Importance of the Kind Vibe

How many of us wish we could edit parts of our lives, publish the good and get support for the bad? There’s Facebook, which can always make you seem like you are having more fun than you actually are and engaging with more people than you could ever authentically do in one lifetime. I watched this video last week, and after deliberation on this form of media? What we are really craving is conscious communication with the self and the soul of others. What we are getting is the bare bones minimum of that experience, and for that we feel alone.

Yogi Bhajan talks about conscious communication in many of his lectures on purpose and projection. What truly is striking is the fact that communication starts with the soul and projection of a person, something that Facebook will never be able to communicate. I liken this feeling to when the Dalai Lama or Beyonce enter a room. The entire room goes silent or rapt with applause. They are communicating their true presence and for that, they command your attention. We may be able to fake a good time had by all last Friday night on social media, but we can’t fake our authentic self.

There have been a lot of posts related to grief lately. They make me want to reach out and hug the person inside who is either going through cancer, dying or seeing a loved one do the same. I recognize that sending out the information is important, and calling to the attention of one’s community via social media would bring a comfort in this time.

But what are the options? Someone posts “My mother is dying of cancer” and you just press…Like?

I wish there was a button for kind vibes. When you focus your attention on the person who is suffering and send out good loving thoughts their way. When you and your spiritual community gather and in their own way create a healing vibration. When the atheists don’t pray or gather but call a person who is suffering because it is the kind thing to do. When no matter what your background or faith you can send good vibes to someone, and it is important. Because instead of disconnecting with technology, you are connecting your authentic self to another person who needs direct attention of love.

My brother Michael has been a stunning example of how to display direct attention on someone who needs it. In a crazy few months where death has been near him and his loved ones, the trend has struck again. His girlfriend lost her mother to an aggressive form of cancer that took over 2/3 of a lung. Both he and Becky have been together for 6 years and I believe this is the toughest thing they have ever had to face. But they face it present with each other and with direct attention that makes me proud to have them as family.

So what does this mean for presence? Is it hard to sit with someone when they are going through rough times? Yes. But essence over vanity is always a good way to choose. Give people your conscious communication, your direct attention, and kind vibes. You never know when you are going to need those yourself.

May your week be filled with ways to heal consciously. May you follow your pain with direct attention. May you help someone who is in need of kind vibes, and give compassion to those in grief. May you live as though everyone you meet is deserving of your direct attention. May you fill your heart with grace and compassion.

Sat Nam

 

Carl

I made someone cry today. In the middle of Starbucks. Personally, I hate crying in public and the fact that I put someone through that seems a little heavy. It started because I needed to plug in next to him, and we ended up sharing a table. He told me he liked my nose, but it was probably just because it was a nose that looked like his. 

I know what you are thinking – He’s hitting on her. He’s a psychopath. She’s naive. She doesn’t understand dynamics of men and women. She thinks this is neutral. She’s too trusting. He’s too open. Well let me address this before I continue – to a certain degree yes to all of these. But there is a grey area in between where, if no one is doing harm to the other, real conversation can happen between strangers. 

If for whatever reason, you feel safe opening up to someone and know in your heart they won’t take advantage? Do it. Practice vulnerability and magical things will happen. 

I mean, come on people, you fell for that black and white video of strangers making out, but someone chokes up in a Starbucks in front of a stranger for a real reason, and you are skeptics? Read on. 

Today is the anniversary of Carl’s father’s death. Carl’s father was the pastor, he his son. Carl’s father was hard on him, in his own way, he tried to show love. Carl would disobey, try to change his father’s mind and his dad wouldn’t change. My nose was his father’s nose – the Norwegian (yes, I am half Norwegian) nose that he recognized but couldn’t talk to…it was something he wasn’t expecting.

Nor was I. 

I never know what to say in these situations. I’m not a therapist, guru or advice columnist. Earlier today, a religious group knocked on my door and asked me to consider if money was the root of all evil, and if I would be willing to look at pamphlets. The unemployed sass monster in me wanted to tell them that if they had any evil lying around, I would put it to good use. But I don’t want to hate on people who feel so much joy in something they feel bound to share, so I politely told them I wasn’t willing to listen today. 

I NEVER want to be one of those people who forces their lifestyle or beliefs on others. I don’t want to pretend like I know the answer to everything, because like our conversation life seems to exist in a grey area of right, wrong, intimacy and truth. I don’t want to pretend like my answer to how I deal with problems is the universal answer, the universal healer. Because I don’t think what works for me works for everyone else. 

So I told him what I was feeling. Lucky, because I have two parents who are still alive and healthy. Blessed, because I know people who, right now who are setting an example of how to be a solid partner when someone goes through times of grief.  And I told him he should go home, tell his wife a sincere and truthful compliment because of all the sincere truths that his father gave him. In honor of the relationships lost, he should value the relationships present and blossoming. 

Carl didn’t seem too convinced. I texted a therapist friend of mine and asked how much I should charge him. She told me to bill him $100.00 an hour or repo his car. As an unlicensed solicitor of free advice, that just doesn’t feel right. But still, we live in a grey area.

May your day be filled with random connections that open your eyes. May you open up to someone and say what you need to say. May what you do to feel good be shared in a way that doesn’t limit, but open everyone’s pathways to kindness. May what you do to feel grounded and safe allow you to make positive changes in yourself and the lives of others. May you find ways to connect to people that you never thought possible. May you live through change. May you be at peace.

Sat Nam 

Samsara and the After Dark Toasters

This week, I worked at the Computer History Museum in Los Altos, CA. It dawns on me that every piece in here was once a modern masterpiece. It had its premiere, use and time and then it was deemed obsolete. The military supercomputers gave way to 8 bit technology gave way to the IThing, then the IThing5, and so on and so forth. It dawned on me as a beautiful reminder.

Everything has its cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

In Hindu and Buddhist terms, this is called Samsara. It means continuous flow. The life cycle of everything under the cosmos, including the cosmos itself. To everything, turn turn turn, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. What we are aware of as time is a constantly changing cycle in which we are constantly a part of as living moving beings.

Take for example, the flying toaster. It’s the first exhibit that you see when you enter the museum, in reference to a screen saver called After Dark. These screensavers were popular when Apple Computer systems first came out. They exhibited an animation for your sleeping computer while you were away from the screen – flying toasters would pop toast out of their winged backs like majestic Valkyries.

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But what I learned today, was these flying toasters were inspired from an album cover. Jefferson Airplane, who has winged coasters on the cover of their album. The toasters on the cover, unlike the ones on the screen saver, have a clock face on them. Almost as if they knew their time was not quite up, that they were not quite ready to disappear into obscurity.

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So what is present in this history lesson? Passage of time on the wheel can be illusory. I’m sure those toasters on their original album cover had no idea the immortality they would achieve. The influence of their flight was not seen by anyone, least of all Jefferson Airplane, who I’m pretty sure sued the software company at one point.

What we don’t know about our passage on this wheel of time could fill volumes – we are constantly moving entities of magic and the more we grow aware of our smallness the bigger we become.

What I imagined my life would be at this point is a far million miles from the life I am living at present. I read a bio of a friend of mine, who three years ago was hoping to do something creative with her life. She is still trying that. I hear her voice, and I echo it as my own. Sometimes I feel like my creative energy is lost in translation – from what I hear we both are trying to make a living and a life.

May the wheel of Samsara prove all of the talents you thought fruitless are glorious reflections of the soul. May your cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth have echoes of your true self in all of it. May you trust the wheel knows where it is going. May you bow to the universal divine consciousness inside you and follow that no matter what the cost. May you be whole in your knowledge that you are working with time and it will never crush you. May your Samsara carry you to beautiful places you never thought possible. May you be.

Sat Nam

When We Mourn Celebrity

My RSS feed fills with the very sad news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. The tragedy of addiction, the anger at being robbed of his performances for the next however long, and the amazing talent that left us too soon. Now, I believe that all of this is true. But none of it has anything to do with Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

See, mourning is a process that we have been doing together for centuries as human beings. The viking funeral, the open casket, the spreading of the ashes in some sacred place. We come together as a community to support those closest to the death, in hopes that someone might do the same for us. Same as with weddings, only difference is no one wants to admit they hope people come to their funeral. That would be too vulnerable, too openly admitting that dying is close to all of us whether we know it or not.

Which leads me to Mr. Hoffman. When an actor dies, especially a talented and beloved one, everyone sounds off on social media. Shared articles, youtube clips of favorite scenes he did, interviews where he revealed a bit more about the actor’s craft and art. But here’s the secret: an celebrity is never mourned for what they truly are, but what we secretly hope we could be.

We get off on the idea that being mourned by millions could happen to us. We join in the noise on the internet, but that’s the closest we get to contributing to the memory.

Do any of us really know Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a person? Have we had coffee with him? Did we send him a handwritten note wishing him well and Merry Christmas? Did we attend his wedding? The majority of us did not, and yet we feel gut punched by his demise. Millions of people all feeling the sting of his loss, because the story we felt was not quite over. We felt we deserved more of him and yet we didn’t know him at all. I am not marginalizing the tragedy by any means, but how close do we claim his tragedy as our own because of his celebrity?

When I was younger, I attended the funeral of someone from my high school. A person I had never even spoken to in class, nor interacted with on any level. And yet, being there with his family in the front row, the entire football team laying their jerseys on the casket and people vomiting out of grief? I cried and mourned for someone who didn’t even know my name. Who was I to cry for someone I barely knew, out of empathy or not wanting to seem like I didn’t belong to this community? The humanist inside me will say the former reason, but the truth is probably the latter.

I will say that there is something about actors that changes the dialogue. An actor’s job is to transcend, to go beyond his form as himself and become something grander than anyone could imagine possible. To expose themselves in front of us, naked and honest. When a beloved actor dies, we almost think he’s playing a trick on us. That this “death” is just a job that he’s doing and eventually someone will spot him at a Starbucks somewhere in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Yeah, tell that to his actual family and friends that “dying was the greatest role he ever played on any of us…so exposed..so REAL”. That’s messed up, and anyone with half a brain would tell you to stop speaking like you knew him.

We feel like we own these celebrities, their bad outfits, their meltdowns, so why are we only present with them as human beings when they die? Why does Phillip Seymour Hoffman with a needle in his arm make him suddenly our best friend, when we ignore the homeless man on the street who dies right in front of us, every day. I’m not saying one death is more tragic than the other, but when dealing with addiction and dying it seems like we are willing to take up the cause of someone we’ve seen in pictures rather than help the person next to us.

Which leads me to my point – when we mourn celebrity, we are really mourning for the part of ourselves that we believe could be larger than life. The exact same way Mr. Hoffman was, and the exact way he dove into every amazing part he played. So when addressing anyone’s death on social media, speak about the parts you admired and knew but don’t pretend like he was your favorite teacher in school. Recognize the artist for who he is…the one who inspired you to do great things. And then DO them, because what better way to remember someone’s inspiring life then by having one yourself? Why not become someone ten times greater than Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but in a way that only you can do?

I do hope that those who knew Mr. Hoffman intimately find peace in the passing times. But as for me, someone who admired his work but did not know him? I hope that if my destiny is to be mourned by millions when I leave this planet, that I will handle that destiny with grace. If I am to be mourned by one, may that person be TRULY changed by my being in their life. May we all follow our path in this life with strength, caring and compassion for those around us. May we experience loss in our way but recognize when we are lost in the noise of what loss really is. May we recognize the truth in our own lives and stop borrowing the sad ones from others. May we live happy, healthy and holy.

Sat Nam.

Philip-Seymour-Hoffman_l

 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

 

Ra Ma Da Sa – Heal Thyself, Heal the World

Last week, I had a panic attack. The first one I have had in years. Hands shaking, my mother tranquilized me with her calming hands as I cried so hard my entire body felt an exorcism of grief. This is a feeling I have been storing in my body for several weeks. Loss of a relationship one year in the making, loss of a job that made me feel alive, the loss of my grandmother and her release from pain. Everything hit me all at once as I began to break down. One piece at a time.

We have so many ways in the current culture to destroy ourselves. Let me list some that I have engaged in.

  1. The Boring Drugs – Bad Television, Food, Booze… all things seemingly normal and undetected in all social circles.
  2. Sex – Ok, this list is starting to sound like a purity test. I’m not on this earth to make anyone, least of all, myself look like a soapbox diva. But what better way to forget than to lose yourself in another person? When did we decide as a culture that medicating using another’s genitals was a good idea?
  3. Self-Importance – We are taught, in America that the bigger we are the more powerful we become. Bigger homes, more followers, more social networking and more social anxiety. I am the most socially adjusted person until I engage in online comparison and then fear sets in. Where were we before we coveted our neighbor’s online post? How did we even survive?
  4. Martyrdom in the name of Service – When you are inspired to give, you want to give more and more. But if you never give to yourself you run on fumes and become either a financial, emotional or physical martyr. The cause of your life is to live it happy. When you martyr yourself in the name of others, you never get that solid foot on the ground and lose your liberation.
  5. Fear – I’ve let fear destroy many wonderful experiences that could have been completely pleasant. Shows I have been in, projects I have started, friendships? Relationships that never started because I couldn’t tell someone “I think you are amazing. You make me smile, and you add color to my view of the planet”. Chances, adventures, life. All curtailed out of a non-credible emotion.

So how do you heal from all these subconscious traumas? How do you resonate healing and love when you are falling apart? Where are the healing hands of your earthly and heavenly mother when your entire body resonates with these self-destructive tendencies?

There is a beautiful meditation in Kundalini Yoga. Tonight I felt the waves of peace roll over me as a voice whispered in my ear: “I think you are amazing, you make me smile, and you add color to my view of the planet”. It’s the inner voice I have been afraid to tell other people, because I need to tell myself first.

Healing cannot happen unless it starts at our original home, the heart.

Sitting on the ground with your legs crossed, close your eyes and focus at your third eye. Hold your hands palms flat at the level of your shoulders. Elbows are bent and resting next to the shoulders. Back straight. Breathe. Chant along with these beautiful elements, bringing in the navel point as you chant the syllables Sa and Hung, illuminating them both –

Ra – Sun

Ma- Moon

Da – Earth

Sa – Infinity

Sa- I call on Infinity

Say – I personally embody that Infinity

So – I merge with that Infinity

Hung – That esscence, I am thou.

To finish, hold your breath and visualize that green, healing energy of love. Send it to yourself, to the planet. To the world. Inhale and focus on that person or place you need to heal. Exhale and Inhale one last time, send it out further than you ever imagined. Exhale and heal the world.

Start with 11 minutes. Start with the love that you owe yourself as a divine being having an earthly experience.

May your week be healed by everything that makes you fall apart. May you peel back the layers of fear in your life to reveal the healing vibration of self love. May you care for yourself so much that all others are healed by being around you. May you inspire others to be healing waves of love. May that wave submit itself into an ocean of compassion. May that ocean be our planet. Sat  Nam.

Try this musical version with Snatam Kaur! Rights belonging to the artist-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9OCEfi4Lv0

Akal – Deathless

Today my Grandmother died.

The dying process that is quick for some became long for her. A year of being on more morphine, pills and insulin than most hospitals would administer. All pieces of this puzzle were made known to my mother, who took the role of caretaker and support for over ten years. The karma of care is something passed on so strongly from mother to daughter. Felt from infancy, giving back that unconditional support we recieved as an infant? It’s no match for what we want to do when we are adults and feel like we can do so much. But in the end, what little we can do hits us all at once and we’re lost.

I held my mother in my arms this morning and said “I am so proud of you”. Because no one could have done what she did, maintained consistency as my grandmother deteriorated, hallucinated and grew weak. No one could have been her at that moment and not broken down.

My grandmother raised two girls as a single parent. In a conservative town where divorce was considered loosely hanging skin on society, she took on the responsibility as she could. Worked at the same bank for 30 years, trained male employees to become her superiors. She was the valedictorian of a high school class of one in Oregon, a farm town where there were more sheep than people.  Getting lost on our way to the movies, reading, riding bikes down her street, and Jello with fruit. All memories I take with me.

When my mom became aware of grandma’s situation, I asked her how she could keep watch over a woman who was falling apart. Her answer was simple:

When someone refuses to give up on you, you don’t give up on them.

My mother explained that when her Dad left, Grandma didn’t stop being a Mother. She didn’t shirk responsibility when she had no support. She didn’t give up. She may have stumbled on that path, but she didn’t forget who her girls were. This past week, my mother held my grandma’s hand as she chose to stop eating, stop taking medications, and release herself from pain. To release from this earthly shell we all have to leave eventually. To become the matter of the next life, whatever that may be. It was a holding cell of the next world and we all could recieve her wishes as she passed. Painful, powerful, complete.

There is a chant that the Kundalini Yoga community recites when someone leaves this planet : Akal. It means undying, deathless. The death place where, when you are asked to go there, you can go with grace and dignity. For the past week, when my Grandmother decided that death was her choice, that it was her time to go, she left on her own terms. It’s the place where change feels like burning and everything crumbles around you but you stay still. You stay deathless, for death is your peace.

Death isn’t about giving up, it’s about letting go. It’s about being there for someone in their last hour and allowing them to let go. It’s not giving up as the letting go is painful. I will take the lessons of my mother and grandmother of that deathless place. May that deathless place give you strength when all karma is burning into dharma. May you remember those who held your hand into the deathless place. May you become deathless as death surrounds you. May you all be light when your time comes to illuminate the deathless path. Sat Nam.

Grandma

Eileen Arabella McKay. Akal.