Death Comes

These days I am working as a spiritual companion to the residents of a nursing home in England. I accompany these elders in their day-to-day lives simply by being with them. Some of them are sick, many of them are dying. If they are able to speak we have a conversation. If they are not, we don’t. I hold their hands and feet. I read them books and newspapers. I tell stories and listen to theirs. I pray with them if they ask me or I pray in silence if there is nothing else to be done. It is an enormous privilege to share in and bear witness to a life in these quiet ways.

One of the residents died yesterday. I’ll call her Trinity. I had grown close to Trinity in the last three months since I began working in the home. She was an artist and we shared our love of visual art through conversations about painting and drawing. “My aim in life is to paint,” she told me when I asked her if she missed it. She was seriously ill and had lost the ability to use her hands in any real way and her mind was clouded by the drugs and by her poor condition.

Trinity told me that from her illness she had “learned about laughter, suffering and endurance.” I was speechless. It is not often that we hear people expressing this kind of unspoken gratitude for being sick and dying.

Yesterday, after one of the nurses told me Trinity had died, I went to her room to just sit for a while in the empty space and remember her and say good-bye. When I opened the door I saw that Trinity was still in the bed. I was shocked. I’d assumed the body had already been removed by the undertakers.

I have seen dead bodies before. It is the strangest sensation. The body is intact and yet the person is gone. At first Trinity seemed to be there still. It almost looked as though she was breathing. But then it was obvious: Trinity was no longer there. Where did she go? We do not know. The Great Mystery.

Now Trinity’s suffering has ended. And yet so has her life. A whole life that I know very little about. I only know that at the end of her life she had learned about laughter, suffering and endurance.

We did laugh together, Trinity and I. I did watch her suffer. And I did witness her enduring, day after day after day. There is meaning in this.

I am reminded of a piece of scripture that I have always liked. It helps me to remember that I am not the be-all and end-all of everything: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)

Make the most of it.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Am I aware of the sensation of being alive today? I will do my best to bring myself into full awareness of my Being.

 

 

Back in the Saddle

When I teach writing workshops and we engage in “automatic” exercises or free-flow writing I tell participants to write without thinking. Just put the pen on the paper and go. If nothing comes then write, “Nothing is coming.” And just keep going. Even if you end up writing, “I don’t like this it’s stupid I can’t write I can’t think of anything to write I don’t want to be here,” you will have written something.

The idea behind this exercise is that if you persevere then something deeper will eventually come. Your I-don’t-like-this writing will eventually produce decent fruit.

I am reminding myself of this now as I write this blog post, the first in a very long time. I have challenged myself to write something because I am a writer and I have essentially given up writing. I still keep a journal and that is something. I write the occasional poem and that, too, is something. I write emails to people and that is something else. But I am not writing plays, articles, blogs or chapters of the unfinished book.

This lack of writing has not really been an issue for me. I haven’t been beating myself up or wondering why I’m not doing it. I let the blog go, I retired from showbiz and the book simply has not been pulling me. My life has taken a different turn.

And yet the fact remains: I am writer who is not writing.

A friend recently wrote me an email saying, “I want to encourage you to continue writing. I love your writing, always have. You may not want to continue in the film biz and I completely respect any decision you make, but I really think you have a gift. I hope that you will let it take whatever form it may. Be that short stories, scripts or a novel! Let it out girl!”

Being able to write well is a gift. I didn’t give it to myself! And because this ability was given to me I wonder… is it wrong not to use such a gift?

Some might say so. When I think about what has really brought me pleasure in life “Writing” is near the top of the list. So am I not writing because I just don’t feel like it or am I squandering my talents?

I don’t know the answer. But here I am. Feeling rusty and wondering what to say. Writing until something comes.

Inspiring Message of the Day: What are my gifts? If I have been given a particular gift I will do my best to offer it to others however small the offering might be.

Keep on Truckin’

Inspiring Message of the Day: Life is like exercising. When in the middle of it, when we start to get tired we think, “I can’t go on.” This is a trick of the mind! Instead say, “I am willing to go on. I am willing to move forward!” Then let the Power of Forward Movement carry you ahead. It will!

Help

Inspiring Message of the Day: One of the most difficult things to do is to ask for help. Somewhere along the way we began to believe it was better to “go it alone”. But help is available, in more ways than one. Asking for help when we need it, whether from a Divine or Human Source, will swiftly bring it on!

The Five-Minute Rule

Inspiring Message of the Day: We think we don’t have time to do things. But we do have five minutes. Today I will do something for five minutes that I think I don’t have time to do.

Joy

Dearest Readers,

I often blog when I am struggling and need to reach out, to connect, to remind myself that I am not alone. I don’t often post when things are going swimmingly and I am living a life I love and cultivating joy.

Currently, I am in such a place. It is wonderful when the inner work pays off and we get to experience the absolute glory of being alive.

Thank you all for being a part of this journey. I send you love and encouragement to keep moving forward with Guidance.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I do the deep work of cultivating courage and when I put my healing first I will be rewarded with experiences of true Peace and Love.

Willing to Live

Dearest Readers,

This post is for you if you are feeling overwhelmed, run down by life, paralyzed by fear, stuck in a rut, cynical, helpless, hopeless. I would like you to know that you are not alone.

Before I go on, I would like to preface what I am about to say by telling you that I have a great life. I am young, healthy, talented, loved, and pretty cute. AND I struggle with anxiety and fear. So despite the fact that I have enormous amounts of abundance and opportunities for joy in my life I go to bed some nights and wake up some days in cold, naked, fear.

Last night was one of those nights and this morning was one of those mornings.

When I went to bed last night I told myself that when the cat pounced on me at 5:30 the next day I would not go back to bed after getting up to feed him. I would do the morning routine and embrace the day. I was determined because I knew that if I didn’t, if I let the fear plague me it would end up driving the bus of my day and I would sink deeper into the mire.

So this morning at 5:30 a.m., right on schedule, “Pounce!” The cat jumped on me and began his mournful sing-song to waken me. Guess what? I ignored him. I pulled the covers over my head and stuck a finger in my ear.

Fear: 1, Celia: 0

Now because I am aware of my shortcomings, because I am aware that I rebel against my Highest Good, because I well know that I get in my own way more often than I care to admit, I did not stop there. I did not let the fear win.

Despite myself, I began to ask for help. Buried under those covers with a finger in my ear listening to the cat cry for his breakfast I began to pray like a motherlover.

“I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to face the day. It’s too much. Please help me. Please forgive me. Please give me the strength and courage to pull my covers off and sit up and get up and feed the cat and start the morning routine and live the day. I don’t want to because I’m afraid but I’m willing. Give me the courage, please, I need strength, please help me.”

I kept on like that for some time. I just kept on. Then out came the finger. Off came the covers. I sat up. I got up. I fed the cat. I splashed water on my face and drank water. Life-giving water. I felt relief.

Celia:1, Fear: 0

I began the morning routine, entering into deeper prayer and meditation. I did a yoga practice. I WENT FOR A JOG. IN THE RAIN. When I got back I picked raspberries from the bush in our yard for breakfast.

Miracles all.

Somewhere around the five-minute mark into the jog (those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning will be most impressed for I began hauling myself up an outdoor staircase two years ago to build cardio activity into my life and nearly had a heart attack) I began to feel better. The fear began to lift and I could feel my energy changing. Hallelujah.

For a person who is gripped by fear or anxiety the most difficult thing in the world to do is to get up off the proverbial couch. And yet it is the absolute solution to the problem. We must get up off the couch and step into our lives for the fear to lift, for things to change, for the miracle of thankfulness to overtake the dread. And yet how? How do we do that when we are paralyzed?

Ask. Ask for the strength and courage. Beg for it if you have to. It will come. It. Will. Come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I am willing to live despite my fear. I am willing to move forward with love in my heart. I’m terrified of what lies ahead and life feels too big for me to handle. But I’m willing because I trust the shift will come and when it does I will be returned to thankfulness and inner peace, which is my true state of being.

Love the One You’re With

Dearest Readers,

How much time do you spend wishing someone you love would change? Just a little bit. Or a lot. If he/she would only do this differently or do things the way I do them. He/she would be so much better that way! Or so much better off. Wouldn’t they? According to me they would. Because I know best. I know what he/she needs to do.

For most of my life I’ve lived with this Voice of Judgment in my head. It’s been a long haul to rid myself of it and still it comes back, like an old friend (or a bad rash), trying to drive the bus of my life, trying to dictate my relationships with others.

What I know from past experience is that this particular part of me gets fired up not because I’m an unkind and judgmental person but because I am feeling unsafe or vulnerable in some way. This part of me has been my protector, my defense against intimacy, my excuse to remain an outsider, different and therefore superior.

So I usually need some self-care first. Send reassurance to this part of myself. Take gentle and kind actions. Self-love and self-forgiveness are in order. And then I need to remember that just as I am not perfect neither is anyone else. And as I walk this Healing Path and gain the kind of humility required to own and accept my humanity I start to become a part of my fellow humans rather than apart from.

A friend of mine is currently struggling with a situation and my temptation is to tell this person what to do. Because I know what’s best, see? I know the answer and this person should do what I think is right. Right? Wrong. So how do I deal with this? What do I do with the temptation to control, to judge, to dictate?

A quote by Thomas Merton, a great writer and a monk of the last century, has been my steadfast guide:

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.”

Isn’t that beautiful? And juste. I just love it. It’s been so helpful to me. Let someone be exactly who he is. Let her be herself. If I try to change him to fit me that means I’ll only love him when he becomes more like I am! Ridiculous. And so true.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t make helpful suggestions to her if she is struggling. I can offer him support and encouragement. I can provide her with experience, strength and hope. I can respond to him with compassion while pointing out alternative routes. But I cannot do any of this if my motivation is to “twist” or control or change. It’s not my job.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My job as a friend is to let my friends and loved ones be exactly who they are. I will trust that the path each person is on is exactly the right path and I will let Higher Guidance do the steering.

Shame Culture

Dearest Readers,

On the morning of Thursday, June 16th I arrived in Vancouver for meetings regarding the latest creative project I’m working on. It was a beautiful sunny day but a cloud was hanging over the city. The night before, riots had rocked the downtown core after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins.

Everywhere I went people were talking about what had happened. Most were disgusted, some were saddened, all seemed to be in shock. The city itself felt like it was steeped in shame.

When I walked by the storefronts that had been destroyed and looted by the ones who lost control I saw something I did not expect to see. People had gathered together to clean up. Scores of young and old were picking up garbage, sweeping up glass and scrubbing the black soot from the fires off the sides of buildings. Vancouverites were washing the dirt of anger clean away.

The boards that had been erected where window glass had been smashed were now covered in a new kind of graffiti. Words of love and encouragement, apologies and remorseful reflections, poems of positivity and sonnets of strength. “We love you Vancouver.” “The Canucks came in second. How awesome is that?” “We’re sorry.”

As I walked by the scene I was struck by a wonderful sense of hope. How powerful is the Human Spirit’s desire for good, for order, for right action and right thinking!

Yesterday, on my way back home after a weekend program at the Naramata Centre, I passed through Vancity again. This time the news headlines announced “One million photos turned in to the police.” People were continuing their efforts at trying to restore justice to the chaos of what had happened.

One young man had come forward, turned himself in, and issued a public apology. Instead of honouring him for doing that, he and his family were being threatened. They fled the city, fearing injury or death. The young man’s lawyer made a comment that the same mob mentality that created the riots was now unfolding in the realm of social media, where people were now vilifying this kid and his earlier actions. His shame was not enough. “Shame him further!”

Why? What gives us the right to shame another person? To decide how much shame a person has to feel before he is forgiven?

As a person who has spent years recovering from shame-based thinking I am more and more appalled by its negative repercussions on our culture. I would go so far as to say we are a shame-based culture. “Shame on you.” “You ought to be ashamed.” Our individual shame keeps us imprisoned in harsh self-judgment and judgment of others. Our collective shame keeps us isolated from our fellows, segregated from other cultures, prejudiced and fearful of the unknown.

How can we respond with compassion to those who have acted in harmful and destructive ways? How can we practice forgiveness when someone says they are sorry? How can we employ acceptance and tolerance when we encounter human behaviour that frightens us? How can we seek to understand rather than be understood?

When we point our finger at a fellow human being we must look down at our own hand and see that there are three fingers pointing back in our direction. We have all done things for which we are ashamed. This means we do not have the right to shame another.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My desire for a perfect world with perfect people is so big that it makes me see others as small. Help me to recognize that we are broken people and that we all need healing. Help me to respond with compassion.

Home Run

Dearest Readers,

A cousin of mine recently dug up some old home movies and sent a DVD copy my way. My immediate family didn’t have a video camera so I haven’t ever seen any live footage of myself from my childhood. Pictures, yes. Moving pictures, no.

So there I was, no longer a child but not yet a teenager, captured on video and suddenly brought to life on the computer screen. All I’ve ever had of those days are memories that play out in the recesses of my mind. Now they were before me, vivid and tangible. The year was 1983.

The clip I saw was a family baseball game at my grandparents farm.  After the novelty wore off (seeing the past come to life is pretty cool) I found the footage difficult to watch. There before me was the girl I used to be. And it wasn’t pretty.

I pushed my youngest sister aside when she tried to help me play catcher. I refused my other young sister’s pitches because they weren’t up to my standards. I yelled at the other players to run faster. I vied for attention when hit by a ball. All in all, it was rather excruciating.

My immediate response was to go into shame. What a bad kid I was. What a bully. What a bossy pants. What a self-absorbed sore-loser. Look how I ruined the game for everyone!

This has been a pattern in my life. Beating myself up. The sick pleasure it provides is quite baffling but it makes some sense. The inner perfectionist gets to say, “See? You are no good after all.” Painful but understandable. The wounded wound. The hurt hurt.

Being on the Healing Path means I must be willing to change that pattern of thinking. I don’t get to indulge in self-brutality. I need to flip it. I need to change the behaviour.

That night I wrote in my journal: “Could I have mercy on that little girl? Could I love her with all of my heart? She was doing her best. She didn’t have emotional tools. She didn’t have real living skills. She’d experienced sexual trauma only a few short years before. It was not her fault she behaved that way. Those were her survival mechanisms. She was who she was at that time. Love her. Forgive her. Accept her. Be gentle with her.”

And this is what I must do.

The most amazing part about the healing process is finding out that there is still more to heal. This amazes me! I’ve done so much work! How can I still be holding myself hostage for my past behaviour?

I believe it is because we, as humans, are the walking wounded. No matter what our individual wounding is we carry it with us all our lives. And we heal by degrees. We heal in layers. One comes off and another one lies beneath.

This can feel discouraging but, in fact, it is the opposite. It encourages me to remember I am not perfect and I’m not expected to do any of this perfectly. I simply have to do it degree by degree, layer by layer, one step at a time.

Now that’s worth watching.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I will continue to forgive myself. For who I am today, for who I was yesterday and for who I will become tomorrow. I will say it now, “I forgive you for being human.”