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(I decided to post this because someone asked why we are afraid to die. I’m not. I’m not afraid of death, never have been actually, though at times the mode of dying made me a bit nervous. But as said in Conversations With God, I think it was, dying is the easiest thing you’ll ever do. I believe it. So here’s my experience to tell you why.)

Not this crude leather; luminous beings are we.
                                                                       Yoda

In the beginning, I died.

Day of the death skull Stock PhotosI didn’t realize for many years that I had died. Maybe that’s why it took so long for it to rise up into my conscious memory. Since the end of anything is always the beginning of something else, and because death in any form has a mythical or archetypal significance, it gets our attention. Death is a good place to start.

I was alone in the house so there’s no one to verify the event. There was no wailing siren on a speeding ambulance, no EMTs urgently pumping on my chest in an attempt to make my heart beat again or inflating my lungs in an effort to breathe for me. No one called a code blue and I didn’t find myself floating in a corner up by the ceiling watching people in an emergency room feverishly shocking my body to bring it back to life. I didn’t move through a tunnel toward the light and there was no meeting with a spiritual light/being of great power. In other words, there was none of the good stuff so thoroughly depicted in “standard” near-death experiences.

Skeptics say, “Then how do you know you died? If none of those things happened and you’re not dead now, how do you know? How can you say you died?” One person has called my experience “only” a spiritual awakening. Even if that were true, for me it would still be impressive enough. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Recovering Royalty Free Stock PhotoI was 50 when I died. Talk about an actual midlife crisis! I was sitting in my recliner in the living room because that’s about all I had the energy to do. Most of my muscles were board-hard and I ached deeply all over. Even just a light touch could cause excruciating pain. I felt so brittle that every movement seemed like it would crack or break me somewhere. It hurt to move but it hurt when I didn’t move, too. Pain was a constant; the only variable was how much of it.

Fibromyalgia. An innocuous word merely meaning painful muscles and connective tissue. Oh, but the reality is so much more. There’s often a host of various seemingly unconnected symptoms, all of which may come and go with no discernible cause or regularity. This inconsistent and perplexing picture has commonly led to a “diagnosis” of hypochondria and/or psychosomatic disorder with patients often feeling as if their very real distress is dismissed.

If there are no other “legitimate” diagnoses, treatment in such cases is generally ineffective and once again the patient is often made to feel as if she (it’s usually a woman) is somehow at fault or lying or at least exaggerating. The fundamental and invariable symptom, though, has always been unexplained and persistent pain. After about ten years of struggling with worsening symptoms, I had finally accepted early retirement on disability. This was not the Healthy happy runner city running at sunset Stock Photolife I’d expected. I’d done all the right things as far as diet and exercise. I ran, I lifted weights, I counted calories and fat grams.

I did all the things I needed to do to be “successful.” However, the stresses of “doing” so much built up more and more until finally all the stress lines converged, at which point I crashed and burned in a complete collapse. Coming from a long line of what I’d always described as “sturdy peasant stock,” I’d always thought I had more than enough physical strength and endurance to outlast anything. My sense of abandonment and betrayal was utter. Who to blame?

For a long time all I wanted to do was to “get better,” to go back to work when I got “well.” I didn’t want to change, I just wanted to go back to what I had been, to life as it had been, to make it all work out the way I’d planned. Instead, all I could see was that I’d failed. All of it, wasted. So when I died, I was deeply exhausted. This was a bone-deep weariness that I now recognize had the grayness of death around it but I certainly wasn’t thinking in those terms then. I was a morass of confused emotions, just totally bewildered and at a loss to explain what was happening to me. I should have been strong and healthy and vibrant. I did all the right stuff. Why did the stuff seem to work for others but not for me? What was going on?

I would drag myself from my bed in the morning after a painful night of nonrestorative fitful sleep that left me feeling more tired than when I’d gone to bed. I’d sit in my recliner exhausted and in a mental fog for most of the day until I dragged myself back to bed at night, still exhausted. Unable to move or think normally, desperate, I startled myself one day when I exclaimed aloud, “I can’t do this anymore!” I don’t even know what I meant by “this” but it didn’t matter because no one heard me and nothing happened. At least that’s what I thought.

Did you ever have a memory of something you know you never did, something you know you never dreamed? Well, some years after I said I couldn’t do it any more I had this memory pop into my head. I nearly overlooked it but it popped up again some time later and once more I quickly noticed it and ignored it. It was tenacious, though, and it kept irrupting more and more frequently until I finally paid attention and fully looked at it.

In this memory I’m rapidly approaching a group of several people in robes whoPunakha Dzong, Punakha, Bhutan Stock Image seem to be awaiting my arrival. I’m waving and eagerly calling out, “I’m home! I’m home!” I’m so overwhelmed with relief and love and so many other emotions that my chest feels full to bursting and I can hardly breathe or speak. One strange thing I noticed was the pervasive and overwhelming sense of love and welcome. I was surrounded by, I was infused by, Love. These people were glad to see me. I was loved extravagantly and I could feel it. That astonished me. I had nothing in my life to compare it to. I’d never experienced anything like it. Each time this memory replayed I felt the same awesome and vast feeling of being loved and wanted beyond comprehension.

What finally blew me away was when one day during yet another recurrence of the memory I suddenly realized that these “people” weren’t people in robes as my first impression had been. They were spheres of sparkling electric blue light trailing faint diaphanous white swirls like wispy clouds beneath them. What really shook me, though, was when it finally dawned on me that if they looked like that, then I must look like that, too!

Abstract underwater composition with jelly balls, bubbles and light Stock PhotographyI know this all sounds like a dream but it didn’t feel like a dream. This event had a feeling about it that was realer than real. When I “woke up” to it years later, it still had this feeling of being a real experience. If you want to think it was a dream, that’s OK. But I’ve been awake and I’ve been asleep and I’ve had dreams. It was not something I woke up from as from normal sleep.

I know this sounds terribly woo-woo and now you’re asking, “So what does this have to do with dying?” I started to try to figure out where this memory could possibly have come from and when it might have happened. If I had a memory then at some point I obviously must have had an experience to remember. I gradually came to accept that it, whatever it was, had actually happened but what was it? I think that I literally died when I declared I couldn’t do “it” anymore. Not only was I in pain and drained of energy, I felt that strange exhaustion, different from the fatigue that had become way too familiar over the previous years. I’d innocently said occasionally, before I realized what had happened, that I felt like I was “gonna die of tired.”

I decided that final exhaustion, though it had an actual physical component from many years of relentlessly driving myself, wasn’t just physical. I now believe that it was a result of spirit—or chi or life-force or prana or soul, call it what you will—leaving my body. I clearly remember inertly sitting there, sunk deeply into the recliner with my head leaning against the back and noticing that I was having to remind myself to breathe. I wasn’t struggling to breathe, I wasn’t making any undue effort, I just didn’t feel any desire or need to breathe. I’d breathe out and after a while, even though I didn’t feel any urgency to breathe in again, I’d do it because that’s what was supposed to happen next. After doing this a few times I remember one time I breathed out and I Beautifull woman taking a deep breath at the sunset Stock Imagedon’t remember breathing in. If you don’t think this is unusual, ask yourself how often you remember your breathing at all, much less 10 or more years later. Even if you’re doing a meditation where you deliberately pay attention to your breathing, do you actually find cause to remember each breath the next week? I remembered. Anyway, I breathed out and at some indeterminate point I recall lifting my head, and there I was, sitting in my recliner, in pain and back to life as usual.

I have no proof of what might have happened between breathing out and “waking up” from a “nap” but I believe that’s when I created this memory. I still haven’t called to mind any details beyond my recollection of being welcomed by the “ball-people” although that memory continues to blow me away even now. That, and the overwhelming Love. I believe these were souls welcoming me Home when I died. But there’s so much more other experiencers describe of which I have no recollection, like tunnels and powerful beings of light.

Perhaps I didn’t remember this event for such a long time because I had to learn more about what happens when we die so the memory would have some context for me when I did remember it. Or maybe I had to become strong enough so the memory of this homecoming to overwhelming love wouldn’t inexorably draw me back before I was “scheduled” to return. I remember only the souls that met me and, most especially, the Love that surrounded and penetrated me.

I’ve also hSpiritual light in cupped hands Stock Photoad lots of naps and dreams. I’ve recorded many of those dreams and studied quite a few of them in depth, but never again has anything like that happened, in a dream or otherwise. Most of my dreams are prosaic and contain standard physical world images, highly significant symbolically, maybe, but never bizarre in the way this memory is. Neither have I had any cause to take note of or to remember my breathing again. Whether this was “merely” a spiritual awakening or an actual NDE doesn’t really matter to me. I have no doubt that something momentous happened.

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I’ll start this with a dream I had about ten years ago, then tell about some of what I figured out about its symbolism.

I’m helping a friend clear out her father’s things after his death. We travel to where he lived, needing for some reason, to avoid someone he lived with. This is her second father; she has four. That means she’s already done this once and will have to do it two more times. I had only one father and have done this only once. It’s remarkable to me that she’s able to go through such a stressful and emotional exercise so many times without fracturing. I wonder what her secret is.

While we’re going through her father’s things, another man shows up to go through his father’s things. He’s highly distraught and seems incapable of deciding what to do with the items he has. He moves them from one pile to another and back again, then starts a new pile only to change his mind and aimlessly move things among his growing number of piles. It’s obvious he’s desperately attempting some sort of organization and is unable to arrive at something that makes sense to him. It’s his first.

As we all go through the left-behind stuff, carefully deciding or trying to decide, whether to dispose of it or whether to save it for some future purpose, I come to the realization that it’s all the same. At first this realization escapes me because the items are so diverse even while there’s this nagging sense that somehow they’re all the same thing.

One man leaves behind scholarly books, another only some men’s magazines. Some leave toothbrushes and electric razors, others leave denture cups and shaving mugs. Some leave behind mohair sweaters and crisp white shirts, others leave polyester leisure suits. Some leave polished shoes and well-used hiking boots, others leave wheelchairs and cheap metal canes. Some leave cars and boats and keys to comfortable houses, others leave shopping carts and plastic bags of aluminum cans.

Throughout all of this separating and organizing I keep struggling to determine what it is about these oh, so very different articles that ties them all together, what ties them all to us, what tied them all to the fathers who have gone off and left them.

Finally I think I’ve got it.  It’s permanence – or lack of it. Our things outlive us, yet their meaning is not in themselves but in who they belonged to, who gave them value, how they fit into the lives that have ended.

These leftovers tell us about the people they belonged to, what their values were, what was necessary to them to live their lives as best they could. They tell the stories of souls on a journey, of egos desperately trying to make sense of it all, of souls and egos doing a pas de deux while each hears a different music. Sometimes desperately, sometimes eagerly, each trying to make their unique dance a thing of beauty.

Sometimes for a brief moment they manage to be in time, in rhythm with each other, and the ecstasy of that time gives the encouragement to continue once they inevitably lose the rhythm and again dance in dissonance. They may forget the details of that lovely time when it all came together but they never forget that it did happen.

And so these things they leave behind, denture cup and yacht, canes and diamond rings, are all symbols of their search for the perfection they knew could be theirs if only they could once again find the rhythm, if only…

Thank You


The military has been a large part of my life for over 70 years. First, it kept my dad from me for the first three years of my life. WWII was difficult for the whole world and my world in particular. Thank you for your service, Dad. Then I THINK the military paid for my hip repair while Dad was out of the picture.

The military receded into the background for a couple of decades until Viet Nam. My husband-to-be got his draft notice lying in a hospital bed having narrowly escaped death from a ruptured appendix and peritonitis.

After our marriage, the first thirteen months of togetherness being spent apart while he was in Korea, we were almost "normal" for a few years until he eventually got sent to Viet Nam. He survived that but was killed in a plane crash on his way to testify about an arrest he’d made there.

In the meantime, I spent what was to become a quarter century working at a military hospital seeing too much of what Viet Nam had wrought.

Eventually I developed various relationships with other military men and one of them has lasted for nearly 40 years, now. In the interim I joined the navy reserves and in that ten years managed to get past the first Gulf war unscathed.

Now that long-term relationship finds my SO recuperating from bypass surgery. Today is Veterans Day and I want to thank that veteran and all those who have played such important parts in my life.

Thank you for your service.

Clutter


Boy, you’d think it would be easier to define clutter than it seems to be,Old fashioned wood sideboard Royalty Free Stock Images wouldn’t ya? At least I, for one, am having to ponder this a bit. F’rinstance, if nobody ever kept anything, we’d not have wonderful antiques to drool over. I think of the beautiful carved oak newel post that my parents just threw on the trash pile when they redid the stairway. And the dark, heavy Victorian buffet they replaced with some sort of cheesy glass-fronted display case-like thing. We had a lot of old Victorian things that I grew up with that just sort of got dumped when they "modernized."

All of this is by way of suggesting that, to paraphrase, one man’s clutter is another man’s treasure. It all comes down to value, doesn’t it? What do we value, and why?

I grew up in a family where the adults had weathered some difficult times, from around WWI through the Great Depression to WWII, and whether it was in their character or through their experiences, I don’t know, but I learned not to waste things. I’m not a very good member of the consumerist society, I’m afraid.

Something I seem to do is invest articles with consciousness of a sort. I was Angels Royalty Free Stock Photoreading a book about a woman who was cleaning out her mother’s house and just dumped several ceramic statuettes that were poorly made and valueless and I felt sorry for those items! I mean, they were in a book, not even real! And yet, I felt that as imperfect as they were, they were the best they could be within the limits of their abilities, whatever those might be, and they didn’t deserve to simply be discarded as if those efforts didn’t matter. Sheesh!

So, am I a clutterist? Or am I conservative? Do I appreciate workmanship, even when less than perfect, or do I just figure there will be more where that came from?

Obviously, I tend to save, to conserve. Still, there are some things that truly are meant to be discarded, like old utility records from the house in town that I sold 10 years ago and flyers that I get from certain companies (though I gotta admit that I use them for printing if they’re only printed on one side).

Use it up, make do, or do without. I learned that well, maybe too well.

One thing I did in order to not be wasteful was to donate my business suits and such to local churches so they could be used by homeless women who were jobUsed clothes on rack Royalty Free Stock Photo seeking and needed to look the part they were applying for. That uncluttered my closet but there’s not always an option like that. I still have an old handmade chenille bedspread that my first husband and I got in the Blue Ridge Mountains before we were married and even though he’s been out of my life for over 40 years, I still keep that thing. Why?

That’s what garage sales are for. And yet…

Whether something is a cherished item or something that once was but that has lost its purpose is a personal and individualized choice and not always an easy one to make, it seems, since so many of us tend to accumulate clutter.

Does our outer life clutter reflect our inner/spiritual life? Again, I s’pose that is Find inner peace Stock Photosan individualized thing. I know that over a decade ago all the information I’d amassed from voracious reading about spiritual growth and transformation was just a pile of information that left me confused. Once I took courses in transpersonal studies I became more able to organize it. Obviously, at least I am one person whose outer and inner life were/are in some respects congruent.

I don’t know how many of us can live the Zen(?) concept of less is more and have a nearly bare house, though I have to admit that I do feel free and expansive when I’m in a space that isn’t cluttered. Which is not my house, unfortunately.

Maybe it just comes down to noticing that we’re noticing clutter. When we notice it, it’s a sign it needs to be attended to. Could that be the secret? Just being aware and then doing something about it once we are?


"In many ways, we are taught from the time we are children to give away our power to others. When we were told to kiss and hug relatives or friends of the family when we didn’t want to, for example, we were learning to override our inner sense of knowing and our right to determine for ourselves what we want to do. This repression continued, most likely, in many experiences at school and in situations at work. At this point, we may not even know how to hold on to our power, because giving it away is so automatic and ingrained.
"To some degree, giving our energy to other people is simply part of the social contract, and we feel that we have to do it in order to survive. It is possible to exchange energy in a way that preserves our inner integrity and stability. This begins in a small way: by listening to the voice that continues to let us know what we want, no matter how many times we override its messages."

 

I came across this in my inbox today and suddenly I understood more clearly why not being listened to as kids, by being treated as if we’re joking when Superhero kid. Girl power concept Royalty Free Stock Photoswe’re not, why acting as if we can’t possibly know what we like and why, etc, is so infuriating. It’s obvious but I hadn’t been able to put it into words. When these things take place we get angry, not because we’re giving away our power, but because it’s being taken away from us. Maybe not deliberately, or maybe deliberately but unconsciously, but taken all the same. And it may take years to unlearn the repression we’ve learned and then we feel angry and guilty, maybe, and resent those who’ve caused us to feel this way.

I remember being away at college and finally having saved enough money to be Knowledge Is Power Royalty Free Stock Imageable to buy a skirt and sweater. Not easy to do when you only make $200 a month before taxes and tuition and room and board have to come out of that, too. But getting the money together was only the first step. I had to figure out what I liked – and I didn’t know! Literally. I had no idea what color, what style, anything, I like. I’d never been allowed to choose my own clothing, almost never got anything new anyway, but wore hand-me-downs from my cousin, who was built nothing like I was, so I didn’t even know how clothes should fit. It seemed they were OK as long as they covered your nakedness.

I also remembered the one time I did get something new. It was not wBeautiful business woman lovely smile wearing suit Stock Photographyhat I wanted and my power was usurped. My mother decided that for Easter I’d get a charcoal suit and wear a pink blouse with it. I didn’t like pink, especially pastel pink. Not too long ago I read that “there is no such thing as a pastel Scorpio,” and that quote fit me to perfection. Much better than a pastel pink blouse did. No matter how I protested that I didn’t like pink, that I didn’t want that blouse, my mother said, “But it looks so good on you!” and I got the damned pink blouse.

Somewhere I still have the picture of me in that suit and blouse. It’s in black Boy Coloring Stock Imageand white but my body language says, “I am not here.” The picture of powerlessness. And I not only still don’t like pastel pink, I now hate it, and the very mention of it even sixty years later can tighten my stomach and make me feel sick. And it’s not the fault of the color pink. It’s being ignored, being told, wordlessly, that what you want and like doesn’t count, that YOU don’t count.

My energy level isn’t high any more even though I can buy any clothing I want in any color I want. My body has rebelled at the insults my energy has absorbedSad, thinking teenager girl Stock Images over the years and it has left me unable to do many of the things I want and always thought I would be able to do when I became my own person. But, over the years, I did develop more personal energy for a time. I rode horses, ran marathons, repaired my car, baked bread every week, kept a neat, clean house. None of that, now, of course. Sooner or later the body reminds you of the abuse it took in your name.

Pure Energy and Electricity Symbolizing Power Stock PhotoI still have the desire so all I lack is the energy and the physical ability. No matter what the condition of my body, all is not lost. I just have to figure out how to retrieve the power I’ve let go. I’ll figure it out.

Losing Heart


"Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”Broken Heart Royalty Free Stock Photography

This is said to be a scriptural quote from a speech made by Hillary Clinton in the wake of the killings of two black men and the apparent backlash killing of police in Dallas. The quote turns out to speak to me more than I would expect. My own life is exhausting and wearing me out and the emotional fallout from events such as these seem to take more heart than I have to give.

And yet I remember telling my therapist a long time ago that I was persistent and determined, though not about these events, of course. I think I still am, in general, though it seems to take a lot more energy these days. So this quote propped me up, so to speak. Maybe someone here needed to hear/read it, too.


“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose." Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee." Written by Kris Kristoferson, et al

Fifty-one years ago this month, on a Saturday in Fort Gordon, outside Augusta, Georgia, I was in an inconceivable state of disarray.
I was getting married, or I was supposed to be, and I’d driven here from Ohio just for that purpose. No big wedding for us, but not quite an elopement, either.

And here I was, far out on Tobacco Road, looking for my matron of honor. She and her husband were emergency fill-ins for the original couple who were supposed to stand up for us. At almost exactly the last minute, a noncommissioned officer instructor in Bud’s unit had been called to duty, leaving us with nobody to witness our vows.

 
But we were lucky. One of the men in the Advanced Training Unit with Bud had brought his wife with him so they agreed to be our marriage witnesses.

It was the last day of his advanced training to be military policemen. Our wedding day. While the men were getting their certificates and awards, I was to drive out into the unfamiliar countryside to the house where Virgil and Marianne had rented a room, pick up Marianne, and bring us two women back to the army chapel where we’d meet the men when their ceremonies were completed.

Against all odds, I found the house, isolated and empty. It sat dark and brooding, oppressed under a veritable forest of live oaks heavily draped with Spanish moss. I knocked on every door I could find. No answer. I peeped in every window I could reach. Nobody.

The hot, humid Georgia day had come on strong and in earnest. No air moved under the oaks. I was still on mild Ohio summer time and I was wilting more with every minute. I could hardly breathe in the heavy humidity and heat. Not to mention I’d clip_image002skipped breakfast.

Finally I gave up and drove disconsolately back to town. I didn’t know what else to do. What was going to happen? Would we be able to get married? My two-piece popcorn-crochet dress felt more and more like it would simply melt and slide into the puddle of sweat I was becoming. My little car had no air conditioning because who needed that in Ohio?

I had no idea what to do next except return to the post. Which I did. Where I found Marianne and Virgil with Bud, ready to have a wedding – but there was no bride-to-be and nobody knew where I was or seemed to remember the plan. Apparently it had changed overnight but nobody told me. They wanted to know what took me so long. Fortunately, the chaplain was in a hurry so I didn’t have time to tell them. Or tell them anything else, either, plenty of which I was thinking.

Well, we got things underway and Chaplain Cajetan Troy was all set to begin the short ritual to pronounce us man and wife. Suddenly, in the middle of it, before the final blessing, the soldier who’d promised to take pictures up and left because he had to go get paid. He left the camera in the pew. With no pictures on the film.

So, I barely made it to my own wedding, I was thoroughly confused as to why Marianne was there and not at the house, and I was physically depleted. I was still hungry, too. Maybe I was lucky there were no pictures. Maybe I should have paid more attention to these apparent impediments. Or maybe the fact that they were overcome is just as important to my life story.
In any event, this is one summer memory that is both one of my fondest (Hey, if my wedding had been perfect I wouldn’t have a story to tell!) and one of my most painful.

Before we were married, the guesthouse assigned me to a room with a double bed. After our marriage we were assigned to a room with twin beds. Go figger. Less than a week after our wedding, my husband went off to Korea and the first thirteen months of our life together was spent apart. A not-so-good omen, I suppose.

Maybe all this disarray was a portent of the dissolution, a portent of the freedom of losing all that I held dear, a portent of the freedom of having nothing left to lose, that was to come at the statistically significant seven years. I suppose being together only three of those seven years had something to do with that. But how could I know how things would work out? How could I know?

But such freedom can be a wonderful thing once you get past the initial anguish. Without that forced freedom then, I wouldn’t be where I am now, with whom I am, and I’m glad I am. How could I know?

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