St. Valentine’s Day

TreeWith Flowers Page 12Today is a day where we wish everyone love, with love usually being of the romantic kind. When I see this picture, it represents love to me. The tree that supports all kinds of love and life: family, friends, earth, the animals, birds and insects on the planet, and the planet herself. To have a day that represents love in all its guises is to ask us to remember what that feels like.

Love is not many things, such as judgment, criticism, separation and superiority. Love is an open heart. A great exercise for this day is to think of someone or something that is not lovable, to your mind, and just open your heart to their heart. Lay judgment aside, and simply send love, wishing for that person or place to feel your love. Breathe into it. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to get a response, but you will feel loving and that adds to the positive energy going out to the planet. Practice this every day and you will find that your reactions to the negative things happening around you will get smaller and smaller. And by the way, I am sending you love!

Making Friends with Death

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In September, I was asked to be a guest on a radio show hosted by the amazing Janet Conner. Both of us are great lovers of the work of John O’Donohue. She had decided that in the month of Samhain and Halloween (October) she would have a weekly guest who would talk about “Making Friends With Death.” I was to be the guest on the third week.

At that time, I was in a joyful place anticipating the marriage of my son Christopher and his beloved Annie. Though I teach and coach people through grief, this was a step deeper then I had ever gone. Make FRIENDS with death? Really? And then I re-read John O’Donohue’s beautiful book “Anam Cara”, which translates as friend of the soul, where he proposes that death is born with us–though ignored in the celebratory surroundings of birth–and walks with us through our life.

I began to pay attention to my life in a way that allowed for all the “little deaths” that had come and gone with small griefs, and the larger deaths that had imprinted me forever. As I did, I noticed that aging in small increments held my attention as I had entered my 70th decade, and that the Fall of my life was impinging on relationships, choices and emotions. So I began to walk with death and discuss with death what comes next.

I noticed a comfort level, almost a support and encouragement, in my soul. Colors were more vibrant, the joy surrounding the wedding was palpable, and I was in gratitude to a larger degree then usual. As I talked with a beloved friend undergoing cancer treatment, we were speaking at the level of soul, not fear. I realized that though I had made friends with grief on many levels, I had run from death–especially the bony scythe-wielding caricature of Halloween as we practice it in this country.

Janet’s challenge to me changed my life in ways that are just beginning to show themselves. I encourage everyone to imagine what it would be like to removed the fear–especially that we see on television 24/7 not only through the news but commercials. Obviously, when I watch the nightly news, the medication commercials are aimed at an older audience who fears the effects of aging. When we see through death’s eyes, we are not afraid–we are empowered to see those things for what they are and we can laugh. We are triumphant when we have no fear.

I welcome your contact in the way of your going. Peace and love surround you and your loved ones and your quiet companion.

Thoughts on Loving Ourselves

pe0070978.jpg  Today has been a strange synchronicity of blogs and notes and meditations that all turn to the same subject: loving ones self. In the first example, the writer agonized over the “evil little voice” that spoke to her of her imperfections and whether or not–not–anyone could possibly love her if they knew who she truly was. I am currently participating in a 21 day meditation with Deepak Chopra, and the subject was loving our self. Recently I wrote about the silencing, at least temporarily of our ego voice, and these three things came together in a great Aha! moment for me. I put this orchid photograph here because the orchid is not trying to be beautiful or desirable or right in its place because it just is. The difference? The orchid doesn’t have that ego voice in the head that tells it that it is not beautiful; not desirable; not right in its place. I often recommend a little visual trick that I received as an image one day when fighting the loud voice in my head. I saw it as a large, loud, barking dog who just wanted attention. The barking was drowning out anything else that was trying to come through. In contrast, the observant soul has a very quiet voice, and was running underneath the sound of the ego. I learned to visualize myself sending the dog to the corner of the room for a nap, telling it I would listen later if it still wanted my attention. Then, I breathed deeply into my heart and asked the voice of my soul to come in. Aaah. That voice, whatever you call it, is the one who says you are beautiful inside and out, a creation of love and purpose. While the ego is busy trying to tear you down so you won’t take chances and get hurt, or whatever, the soul is steadily watching to see if you are loving your life and giving your best self. That’s totally all that matters in this world.  The takeaway is that the voice of the ego is not you. The ego is fearful and desires that you stay in your small place. Recognize it because it is the loud voice that overwhelms your better self. When you hear that loud negative sound, just send it to the corner. It is not you. Blessings!

Small Griefs Add Up

Today I am having to deal with the grief that comes with a health challenge facing a loved one.  In loving this person, I go to the compassionate place in my heart. But as  Miller Williams talks about in his poem “Compassion”–we cannot know what goes on down where the blood meets the bone. This is a place we cannot go, no matter how we empathize with someone. We can’t be “in” the person, experiencing their focus, their reservoir of fear or sadness. We see the friend or loved one from our own perspective–not theirs. In this place, we can’t possibly know what choices they “should” make in their medical care, their communications with family, or any of a dozen other decisions they are making. And yet in this world of  brain dominance, we are encouraged to prioritize, put things in perspective, stick with the left brain and don’t let the emotions rule.

From my perspective, this is turned on its head. If the doctor says I must (fill in the blank) immediately and my body, especially the gut and heart-brain, clutches–I must question that decision. If the doctor says we’ll “wait a few days and check this out more carefully” and my gut and heart feel great relief, there is a message there. If, in the analysis, I’m only relieved to put something off because of fear, I can meditate on the fear and ask again. Our great gathering of life’s grief informs all of our feelings. Suddenly we are questioning how we lived, noting that “I did everything right and still this thing got in.” That starts the self-blame or anger at God that what we thought was our reward system has turned out to be a false idea. Having someone in our life struggle with financial issues, health issues, faith issues or any other major life events turns us inward towards our beliefs and, frequently, we are faced with questions we can’t answer immediately. That’s fine, because the questions will remain with us until we address them to our satisfaction. Our old griefs have gathered this one in like filing to a magnet, and they will wait for our resolution.

Meanwhile, our friend only needs to know we love him, and that is enough. The growth in us triggered by his issue and our grief is for another time. Our attention must be focused with our friend.

Global Grief in America


“Wild Sage” by Catherine Tappouni Burkee

Every single day we are inundated with the tragedies and sorrows of people around the world. Recently, several tragedies have come to us in our home, the United States. Boston has been added to the burden of grief we carry after Newtown and Hurricane Sandy and Colorado. It is impossible to watch and listen to what is happening around us without taking the emotions of grief, sadness and loss into our bodies.

Our cells store these emotions, often with our personal emotions of grief learned throughout a life of losses. We feel what the survivors are feeling, and we grieve with them. This connection with others is part of our human-ness, but it’s important that we recognize when we are accepting more than our body can handle. We Signs that this is true can be as simple as finding ourselves sighing deeply throughout the day to great fatigue, to avoiding going out or even taking to our beds with acute depression or unexplained illness.  Being aware is absolutely essential. Once you are aware, then you can begin to address your heart-broken state.We don’t want to disconnect with others, because this connection is the Truth of our human nature, but we need to heal our own wounds.

In “The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss” I start with a meditation on the heart. I ask you to “see” your heart with its woundings apparent on the surface. Breathe deeply into your heart’s space for a minute or two. Then thank your heart for being sensitive to the grief of others and imagine the breath of gratitude for what your heart does to wash over your heart like warm green water. Imagine your heart healing on its surface, and then deeper, as you take slow deep breaths. Sit quietly for a few minutes, and return to your day. Come back and do this very short but very powerful visualization throughout your day. It’s heart and life saving. Until next time, blessings and peace to all who mourn.