The Yoga of Experience – Beautiful Flowers

Coming up in a few days, it will be the sixth anniversary of the death of my mother. Without getting into it too much, I’ll just say that it was a tough, tough time, those thirteen months in 2010 – 2011.

Some days I find myself dwelling on it, those thirteen weeks between her diagnosis of metastasized stage 4 lung cancer (she never smoked) and her transition. But those days are much fewer, and much farther between. And when the memories do appear, it gets easier to gently give them a little hug and a pat on the head and send them on their way, down memory lane, where they belong.

Some days I find myself wondering though, if I did a good enough “job.” Did I make the right decisions regarding pain medications, did I cause her any unnecessary suffering? Everyone kept looking at me to make decisions that I could only use intuition to make. Was I right?

As I learn more about the teachings of Abraham Hicks, I understand more fully the meaning of the word “resistance.” And I think of my mother’s passing in terms of resistance. She was so resistant to making her transition. She held on, much longer than she should have. But I myself had a huge amount of resistance – resistance to her impending “death,” and resistance to having to make decisions that I didn’t feel qualified to make, and having to see things that I was definitely not courageous enough to witness without becoming unhinged on some level.

So did I add to her resistance, did I make her experience more difficult by being so resistant myself?

I may never know the answers to these questions.

Except that’s not true.

I know the answers to all these questions. It’s the same answer for every question I could think of asking about that experience. The answer is “it doesn’t matter now.”

I did the best I could, and so did she. And it’s all OK now.

I still miss my mom, in the way we typically think of when we say we miss someone. I miss hearing her voice on the phone, or meeting her for coffee. I miss her telling me what the weather forecast is. I miss looking at her beautiful hands, and I miss her girlish laugh. But I miss those things less and less, to be honest. Because she is with me more now than she ever was when she was alive. And she’s damn funnier now, too.

I notice her around me a lot – usually when I’m not looking for her. This morning, I was driving to the yoga studio and I was slowing down at a stop sign on the road outside our neighborhood. Each corner is an empty lot, filled with trees and tall grass. I noticed a small bunch of beautiful yellow daffodils growing under a big old tree. And immediately I knew, there she was. She was the flowers. She is all around me – in the leaves of the trees, on the breeze. She is the rabbit that basks in the sun in my back yard. She is the sunshine.

We are all connected; what happens to me, happens to you. Where I go, you go. Everything we do affects the whole, and becomes part of our collective consciousness. She is wherever I am.

It used to bother me to think that my mom was everywhere, because I didn’t want her in my business anymore, and I wanted the experience of being completely independent. I no longer wanted her judgement. But the more I become comfortable living my own life, the more I am able to let her come back around, and the more I enjoy her presence, and know that she is always loving me, never judging, never sad, never resisting.

Sometimes, when I’m least expecting it, I catch her looking back at me from the mirror. It makes me incredibly happy. I sometimes tear up a bit, but I always smile. Because I know she is OK. And so am I.

walden pond, where we scattered my mom’s ashes 3/13/12 (one year anniversary).
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The Yoga of Experience: Love Letter to The Resentments

I am a student of the Law of Attraction. I definitely don’t believe in coincidences anymore; everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) has a reason and a purpose, and is revealed to me (or not) because of my own doing (or not doing). And thanks to my studies this year, I’ve learned more about myself and the world I live in during the past 5 months than I had the last 5 years combined.

There are lots of paths that ultimately lead to the same place; it’s just a matter of finding one whose scenery you like, and whose winding, often less than straightforward course makes the most sense to you. For me, this path is via the Law of Attraction, and the teachings of Abraham Hicks.

On Saturday November 12, I was fortunate enough to attend an Abraham Hicks workshop in Dallas. It was… indescribable. I don’t quite have words for it yet – not sure I ever will. No, I haven’t manifested a million dollars in the last week, and no I’m not two inches taller or living in Hawaii (yet). More importantly though, I’m much, much happier. I’ve taken more responsibility for my own life, and I’ve begun to manifest small bits of awesomeness, and interesting synchronicities. Life is fun, full of magic, and oh so deliciously sweet.

So it was only fitting that after that workshop in Dallas, I went to Austin for a few days. I went so that I could have some down-time to assimilate the workshop, but I also went down to see some music. I was heading to Sunday Night Services at the Saxon Pub, to see The Resentments.

I’ve written about The Resentments before. Probably more than once (try here, here, and  here, for starters). Because they aren’t just my favorite band ever, they’re also one of the best experiences of my life.

I discovered them a little over 5 years ago and watched a whole lot of YouTube videos until I finally went down to see them in person. In fact, the very first time I went down was exactly 5 years ago this weekend – I drove down to Austin from Tulsa on the day after Thanksgiving.

Since then, I’ve managed to get down to the Saxon Pub a few times every now and again, to get my fix. It’s so worth the trip.

The Resentments are a group of singer-songwriters, who get together every Sunday night at the Saxon, to play some music and throw around some witty conversation. There are currently 5 core members – Jeff Plankenhorn, Miles Zuniga, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Bruce Hughes, and John Chipman. Not all of them are present at every show, but whoever is there, it’s always a great time. They are all incredibly talented musicians and some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They’re funny, intelligent, kind, and when they play together, the result is magical.

When I’m listening to The Resentments, either in my car or while I’m working – or whenever, really – the music fills me with a sense of peace, and happiness.

When I’m watching The Resentments, when I’m sitting at the Saxon and the vibration of the music and the love fills the air, it’s like… well, it feels like home. It fills me up, it feeds my heart and it lifts me up and makes me feel human… but also it makes me feel more than human.

I’ve had this feeling from two other experiences in my life. One was when I did yoga for the first time, the other was when I saw a video of Abraham Hicks for the first time. Each was accompanied by a feeling of simultaneously knowing I had discovered something BIG but also that I was home, I was back, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

The Law of Attraction teaches us to feel, then think, then manifest. It encourages us to reach for good feeling thoughts, and reminds us that we don’t have to wait for something good to happen before we can feel good about it (in fact, it’s quite the opposite). This approach made this last trip to Austin a little different for me, as I had thought it might.

This time, when I went to the Saxon, it still felt like home. It still felt so right and so good and deliciously sweet. I sat alone, at a table with a perfect view, but this time I could feel myself soaking up all the goodness, taking it in on a more complete level than I ever had before. I could fully feel and appreciate what was going on better than I ever had before. And for that reason, I knew that I would probably not be back for a long time.

I realized that at this point, I no longer need the experience of going to the Saxon Pub to truly feel the sweetness of the experience.

I’m sure I’ll be back – I can’t stay away. The music is too good, the feeling is too sweet to stay away for too long.  But it will be different. There’s a sense of closure that wasn’t there before. It seems like I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need to be there to truly enjoy the experience of it. I can carry it with me wherever I go. Like with yoga, or the teachings of Abraham Hicks… I will always have that love, peace, and pure joy with me.

And how cool is that.


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The Yoga of Experience: So Empty You Are Full

Flashback on a bridge

The other day I was driving across the bridge to Jenks, on my way to teach a yoga class, and one of my favorite songs came on the car stereo. It’s “Traveler/Make It Mine,” by Jason Mraz, from his live album released in 2009. Suddenly, I was transported back to the summer of 2011, driving around in the hot, humid weather with the windows down, screaming the lyrics to this song for everyone on Highway 169 to hear.
That was the summer right after my mom passed away from cancer. After she spent 13 short, yet seemingly endless, horribly difficult weeks declining to the point of ultimately turning into someone I didn’t recognize, she passed away in March 2011. In May I got divorced, then the weather turned warm and summer arrived, and I was alone. As a hardcore introvert, with no family in town, my time was completely my own. So what now…

But I’m not writing this to talk about the grief I felt, or the PTSD I ended up with. Hearing that Jason Mraz song last week reminded me of the happiness and the freedom I felt that first summer on my own.

Feeling the feels and being ok with that

I have tried several times to write this blog post and could never finish it. Each time I got stuck and frustrated, which is ironic considering the subject matter. When writing doesn’t come easily, I have to stop and ask myself why. What’s in the way? This time around I think it’s guilt.
I feel guilty for admitting that after my mom passed away, there were times that I felt more free, and happier than I had in a long time. You aren’t supposed to feel that way after someone dies.
Part of why I felt so happy and free is because my mom and I had a really complicated relationship, and I had let myself live under other people’s shadows all my life. Now, the biggest shadow was gone. Time to get some sun.
Another reason why I felt the way I did is because grief does weird things to you. I felt a little relieved those 13 weeks were over. I felt like I could now take control of my life again. I felt… lots of things.

summer 2011: down to 105 pounds and trying golf. who IS that person?!?
summer 2011: down to 105 pounds and trying golf. who IS that person?!?

There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Sometimes it makes you do things that you feel a little guilty about. I ended up not only having to make peace with someone’s departure, I also had to make peace with how I was reacting to it.  I’m not sure I can explain this part very well. But if you have lost someone yourself, you might know what I’m talking about.

These things account for some of the reasons I felt free and happy and open after just having gone through something that was, well, really bad. But here’s the biggest reason why.

I had witnessed some really difficult things that spring. I had made some even more difficult decisions. I watched the person who was supposed to be indestructible, crumple like a piece of aluminum foil. My heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces.

I am still not sure my heart will fully mend. But that’s actually OK. Because out of the broken pieces comes something beautiful. Because when you are so raw, so full of heartbreak, you increase your capacity to feel. And if you can feel a huge amount of pain, you can also feel an even greater amount of love.

Love is possibility, the ability to be open, to give of oneself, and to receive. Love is life force, love is, well… love is everything.

I want to forget, but I want to remember

As I drove over the bridge last week, listening to that song, I felt those feelings of openness and of love again, and it took me back to 2011. It truly was, in many ways, a magical summer. Even though it was also filled with some tears, a bit of loneliness, and very little sleep.
There is even a magical story that relates directly to that Jason Mraz record, or more specifically, to one of the musicians on the record – but that is a story that is for now best left in the past, and taken out only occasionally to marvel at. It acts as a reminder for me to never forget that magic can happen.

And as I drove over the bridge last week, listening to that song, I had to wonder, why did it take a traumatic experience for me to understand my true capacity for love? Why couldn’t I have learned this an easier way? How come I keep forgetting my true capacity for love? Why can’t we all feel this way every day? Just think, if everyone remembered how huge our hearts are. Think of what our world would be like.

Ultimately the answers to some of these questions aren’t important. The past just… is. The only way is forward.

For me, it took being completely empty before I understood what feeling full is like. I don’t know if there’s an easier way. I hope there is – I hope that maybe through meditation, or yoga, or prayer, or some other great thing that you can come up with – I hope that we can empty ourselves enough to fill up with love.

one of the last photos of me and my mom together, new year's eve 2010
one of the last photos of me and my mom together, new year’s eve 2010
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Visions.

I had a big ol’ blog post ready to put up, detailing the busy week I had last week. In fact, I actually put it up last night. But I took it down this afternoon. It read more like a grocery list, than anything that would actually convey to you what kind of week I had. So I’ll try again.
Last week was busy. It was my birthday. I did some yoga. I did some work. I drank a lot of coffee and I talked to lots of people. It was pretty great, really.
The thing that stands out most about last week was that I had three very distinct, intense visions. The first one was early on the day of my birthday last Tuesday, before I got up. The second came at the beginning of a yoga class on Friday, and the third was yesterday, during a yoga class. They say that stuff can come up, when you do yoga. Word.
On my birthday, I was lying in bed, it was dark and I was floating in and out of sleep. I suddenly identified a big knot in my stomach (if you know me at all, you know that PTSD has left my stomach functioning at a less than optimal level these last few years). In my vision, I untied the knot, and it came apart into lots of thin, colorful ribbons. The ribbons then floated and twisted around until they formed a thick, strong tree trunk. Instead of leaves, the tree was growing money. And pencils.
I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to finally untie this knot. That image will stay with me and I’ve already gone back to it so many times in the last week. Also money growing on my own strong tree is pretty damn cool too. And the pencils? Let’s face it. My “dream vocabulary” isn’t that complicated.
The second vision I had was of a warrior woman. Ach, I almost hesitate to explain it much, because it sounds so cliché. But to be honest, it was an important vision. I think most of my life I’ve been stuck in a sort of gender-neutral purgatory. When I was little, my mom would always lament the fact she couldn’t ever get me into a dress. But at the same time she sent the message that it wasn’t really ok to be a woman. To be a woman meant being helpless or overly vulnerable, which inevitably leads to being hurt. So cover that part up because it’s dangerous.
Well what if you could learn to access the best parts of your feminine and masculine traits? What if it’s really ok to be strong and powerful AND feminine? And what does it mean to be a warrior, anyway? The answers to these questions are different for me than they are for you. I’m still working on mine.
The third vision was during a Yin Yoga class and while I was holding a pose I suddenly had the clear image of fire. Flames everywhere, in my body. But they weren’t dangerous, they weren’t going to kill me. They were burning away everything that I no longer needed to carry around with me. It was a purification.
So – the knot has been untied, the tree is planted and is flowering, the Woman Warrior is in the house and the flames are burning away that which is no longer needed. Holy Smokes.

I get the distinct impression that now is not really a time for action. It is a time to listen, reflect, and take stock. It’s also time to be talking to a lot of people. I’m taking every opportunity I can to meet up with people and make connections. I’m meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends and getting to know people I’ve never known that well a little better. Talk to people. You never know what interesting things you might learn, or what cool stories you might hear – or where your next art project or job might come from.
I’ve also been thinking about this blog. So far it’s always been a place where I just toss up whatever I’ve been thinking about – including short (short) stories, haiku, record reviews, coffee adventures. I think I’ll still do those things, but I’ll also make more of an effort to document this latest chapter of my life in a little more detail.
I don’t think I could have done any of this – quit my job, live in uncertainty and like it, have the freedom to venture out – if my mom were still alive. I feel bad about that. But I also know that’s just me. I think she’s ok with it, wherever she is, and she’s telling me to get over it already. She’s saying, get over it and go have a good cup of coffee and DO things. Word indeed.

 

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another anniversary.

Today is the 4th anniversary of my mother’s death. On this day every year, I go to Wal-Mart and I buy snacks – crackers, cookies, applesauce, cereal – all packaged in individual servings. Maybe I buy some fresh cookies, or some chocolate. Then I take the bags of snacks, and I drive to Clarehouse, where I drop them off for the guests and their families to eat.

Clarehouse is the place where my mother passed away. It’s a non-profit “end of life” facility and they exist completely on donations. I like to bring them things they need. I wish I could do it more often, but at least I do it once a year. It’s the least I can do – I couldn’t have gotten through that time four years ago without their help.

Today when I went to Clarehouse, one of the caretakers still remembered me. I guess we made an impression on some of the people there…

Once I drop off the snacks, I walk to the back of the property, where there is a little screened-in, open-air chapel and a small water feature. I sit on a bench and listen to the birds and the water. Today I heard woodpeckers, cardinals, killdeer, sparrows and blue jays. I also heard nail guns and earth movers – someone has decided that the area needs more apartment buildings. The birds and I disagree.

As I sat and listened to the sounds, I thought about my mom. I still have flashbacks from time to time; even though I try to convince myself that I no longer have PTSD. Which I don’t. But I’m not sure my stomach has totally gotten the news yet, sadly. So I had some flashbacks to our last days at Clarehouse. I remember how hard it was and how I would much rather forget some of the things I saw and did but at the same time, I don’t want to forget because it’s made me who I am today.

I also had some different memories this time though. Finally this year I can remember more of the good things. I can remember my mom not as a stressed-out unhappy woman, or a deteriorating, dying woman. I can remember laughing with her while watching a sitcom. I can remember laughing with her while imitating characters we saw on Sesame Street.  I remember her every time I make a cheesecake; I can picture her showing me how to fold the egg whites into the cream cheese. I’m not a cook by any means, but it’s amazing how many handy little kitchen tips I have, and can attribute directly to my mom. Thanks mom!

I think I am over wondering about her death. I don’t dwell anymore on wondering how the universe could allow so much suffering. Because to me it looked like suffering… but I don’t know for sure exactly what it was for her. It’s not for me to know.

I don’t have to remember her through the flashbacks from Clarehouse, or from my house before we got her there. I can remember her through laughter, and as the person who shaped my sense of humor and play. And as the person who taught me how to cut an onion.

She is OK now, and I am getting there.

We are all perfect after all.

Now could someone please convince my stomach??

clarehouse

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