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

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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