Monday, November 30, 2009

Living the Pissed Off Moment

I try to live in the moment. I really do. It has taken me a long time to get to this point where I live in the now, but of, course there are just as many times when I am caught in my dramas and in my thoughts. However, I feel that I am approaching a tipping point of sorts, I’m balanced on the head of a needle and I can go either way… living in the now, or wrapped up in the turmoil of my thoughts.

Today is a turmoil of my thoughts day.

My father’s vacation is driving me nuts. I’m not sure how he believes that he will be able to do this. He wants to meet his German girlfriend in the Dominican Republic for a romp in the sun and in the sack. It is all he thinks about, talks about and is concerned about. He cannot remember to take his pills, eat, or to pay his bills, but he doesn’t let this go. Yet, he isn’t capable enough to arrange it all. Not only do we have to make his arrangements for him, but we have to coordinate it with his girlfriends arrangements. And I’m no travel agent.

I need a vacation from his vacation. Personally, I will be glad when he goes; then perhaps we will have six weeks of relative calm. Perhaps…. Last year I had to fly to Oaxaca to rescue them both and I am assuming that this year will be no different.

In hospice there is a thing called a “Respite.” Respites are short periods, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, where hospice provides care for a normally home-bound patient in a facility to give the family a break from the day to day (and sometimes minute to minute) care that patients require. The families receive a “Respite.”

I need a respite.

My father drives me crazy. His dementia takes the form of “A Dog With A Bone.” Once he has an idea or thought in his head, he is incapable of doing or thinking about anything else until he either completes it, or he forgets about it. Usually he doesn’t forget these things, he tussles with them (and me) until it is resolved. Of course, we have to get involved because he really can’t do it for himself. Now, I’m sure that somewhere he knows that he can’t do it, but he tries anyway. And I’m also sure that it must be frustrating to feel so totally helpless, especially since he was so capable. I see it. I understand it. And I empathize with it. But, it still makes me bongers!

When I am embroiled in his dramas, I lose the moment. I find myself caught up in all manner of psychological junk and issues. I still am not sure why I am his caregiver when I can’t think of a single incident in my life when he was my caregiver. I don’t have too many fond memories of my childhood and he was a prominent figure in my life. So, when he asks me to do these things for him, I get pissed off.

And being pissed off is the antithesis of living in the moment.

Then I walk away, I go back to my room or I get in the car. Eventually, I come out of my pissed off stupor and remember to breathe…. Aaaaahhhh. Inhale – exhale. Inhale – exhale. The breath of life – the breath of God moving through me. Brining me back to the moment. I am able to reconnect to Divine universal light and energy and deep dark mother earth energy. It is all there for me. With every breath I am held, supported, nurtured, and love. All day every day and it is just a breath away.

If I can just remember to surrender to the emptiness that is God at the very center of my being. Breathe….

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Belief vs Faith

The question today are what my “sacred cows?” My sacred cows? Do I have any really sacred cows? I don’t think so. So that probably means that I do, right?

Okay, Consideration for others – that could be one. I feel that it is important to consider people’s feelings when you interact.

Another would definitely be – Do no harm. I feel that all beings have the right to live in peace and to live their lives as they were meant to live them. So, chickens in tiny little boxes churning out egg after egg is not in keeping with that belief. Cows that have their young taken away immediately after birth would be in that category, too. I still drink milk, so I’m a hypocrite too.

I have a problem with industrial farming of all sorts. I know that in this country it is almost impossible not to eat food from these farms. I know I can’t afford to buy only local produce or even all organic food, but I do try. Plants need to be plants also, and not some genetically engineered imitation. My Native American teacher said that to eat food that cannot reproduce itself is eating death, or at best, something that is not fully alive.

So, I would say that those are two sacred cows.

Sacred cows are beliefs that we hold especially dear. Belief and faith is not the same thing. Belief is an opinion… “I believe this to be true.” Faith is a deep understanding that all is as it should be.

I feel (believe) that I have moved away from beliefs over the years. I’m sure I have lingering beliefs… it’s kind of hard to go through life and not have beliefs encrusted on you like barnacles. However, I feel that I have worked on loosening some of my beliefs and I am open to other possibilities.

There is a phrase that I attempt to employ and that is: “I wonder.” I wonder if there could be another way. When I am confronted with an annoying person or situation, I ask myself if there is something more that I am not seeing and generally, when I ask that question of myself, I see that perhaps there is another way of looking at this situation, or that there might be a different way of doing it. That opens all sorts of room for possibilities to come to me. It was just a small shift, but it opened enormous potential for growth and a more peaceful way of living.

The funny thing is that when I actually was able to make this shift, I felt my beliefs soften and my faith to grow.

I have faith that spirit is with me, that we are working this gig together. I know that I am not really in control. That God moves through me; for what purpose I have no idea. But, I have faith that I can rest fully in God.

When I act from a place of ego, there is hardness to the action. If I come from spirit, there is softness, an ease, to my actions. As I have begun to notice the difference, my faith seemed to grow on its own.

Most people would say that faith and belief are synonyms. I think that they are antonyms. Faith and trust are synonyms, as is belief and opinion. So, when we say that we believe in Catholicism or Hinduism, for instance, we are offering our opinion rather than our faith.

So, I don’t believe that I have sacred cows. But, I do have faith that there is so much that I don’t know and I am open to wondering what will open to me next. I abide in You… at least I try.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I had a strange and a wonderful experience this weekend on my way to New York. I was in the car with Jon on our way to Trenton to catch my train. It was early morning; the sun was just coming up, glowing red and orange with some pink and purple tints. There was some ground mist, but it had already lifted some and was about mid way up the trees. The trees now bare, display their intricately laced branches and twigs which silhouetted against the rising sun.

It took my breath away with the beauty and peacefulness of it all. I didn’t want to continue on to the train, I wanted to stop the car and go and stand among the trees until the fog lifted completely and the sun lost its color and was midway through its climb.

However, on we continued. I made it to the train with plenty of time to buy my ticket, watch it rumble on into the station- whooshing air, lifting hair and skirts as it pasted. Why do I walk along side the train as it slows to a stop? I walk beside the train trying to line up with a door, why not just wait until it stops and then go to the nearest door, I ask myself. Some how I feel I must help it park just so.

I settle into my seat, retrieve my ticket from my handbag, plug my earphones into my ears, turn on my iPod, pull out my Kindle, and wait for 7:34. I’m ready and so is the train, together we head to New York. With all my appliances up an running, protecting me from screaming children and gossiping young women, we move on down the tracks.

After we pass Newark International Airport, I put my Kindle down. I look out the window and see an industrial wasteland – factories opened and some abandoned. There is all the equipment lining the tracks that keep the train running and there is trash, junk, gravel and detritus, all in shades of grey. The only color comes from the splashes of graffiti lining the walls of factories and pillars of bridges.

But, every so often, there is a stand of trees or a tiny island of swampland with water along the tracks. I am amazed to see that where there is a tiny patch of water, there are also birds. The beauty of the wasteland is unmistakable and the tiny patch of swamp a gift. I am undecided if I find more beauty in the wasteland or in the swamp teeming with life. I still cannot choose between the two. But, I am awed that Mother Nature can always reclaim what is hers, even here in North Jersey.

Then we, me and the train, pass a large swamp with rice like plants that grow and cover a large expanse, just the kind of place Dick Chaney might like to hide and wait for caged birds to be released to shoot them out of the sky. It too was so brimming with beauty that I wanted to pull the handle to stop the train so that I could spend more time in the swamp looking for birds, not to shoot, but just to watch with an envious eye as they fly to the sky.

We enter the tunnel with one last look at New Jersey and it’s all black, I can see my reflection in the window and I notice that my hair is a mess. I don’t touch it however, I just turn my attention to putting away all of my electronic armor that keeps the world at bay and wait for the train to land. We stop on track eleven; I have this misbegotten belief that the track that we arrive on will be the track on which we will depart. I have been proved wrong, time and time again, but it doesn’t stop me from hoping that this time I will be right. So, I strained to look.

Leaving the station, I breathe in the chilly New York air. I love New York. I love emerging from the station on to the street and taking that first breath. Some how, as I breathe in New York air, I become one with the city, I feel good. The crowds are bustling, the cops hang on the corner near their mobile command post, cabbies flying past, people waiting for the light to change, but making a run for if there is a break in the cars going by, even though the cop blows his whistle at them, they run anyway. I love New York.

I stop at the pharmacy across from Penn Station to buy some aspirin because my back doesn’t feel so good. I love the train, but the seat and I are never one. They always activate my sciatica and today it was bad.

Even though it was difficult to walk and each step a reminder of my seat on the train, I feel the same connection that I felt that morning with the rising sun among the lacy branches and with the industrial wasteland, I feel awe. As the people hurried, or trotted, or ambled, or limped past me on their way to who knows where, I felt the beauty and the connectedness that I felt with all the other vistas that I connected with that morning. I felt our oneness, I felt perfection and I for just a bit, I felt God.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old Stuff Revisited... And Some New Stuff

My spiritual counseling class is bringing up so much stuff for me. This past weekend, I was ready to quit. We did an exercise of the "inner critic” that all of us carry with us. We wrote out the tape recording that plays over and over in our heads-“I’m worthless,” “I don’t deserve good things,” “I’m fat… stupid… ugly… no good.” All those horrible things that we heard as children and then kept repeating to ourselves over and over through out our lives… my life.

After we wrote out about five of these pithy little ditties, our partner selected one of the sentences and said it to us; the object being to see where in our bodies that we felt the hurt. It was hard! I felt some of the sentences in my gut, others in my heart. It was not an easy exercise.

The entire weekend brought up all sorts of negativity. Not because it was a bad weekend, that I felt insecure, or anything like that, it was more that some of the issues that I worked so hard to dislodge from my head are also stored in my body. The power of those pithy little sentences is lodged, and I assume working in my body still.

I think that is the over-riding thing that I took away with me this weekend. I need to work on the stuff that I carry within my body or in my energy field. I need to get out of my head and into my body and into my spirit to break loose all those remaining little crusty bits left over from growing up to completely integrate.

Does even that make sense?

I’m not sure. However, that is what I felt. I still carry the scars within my body. If I didn’t, then those wonderful little sentences would not have the power to punch me in my gut the way they did, right? Right. What doesn’t mean anything to us, doesn’t affect us.

Every time I feel that I have taken two steps forward, I am pulled back a step. Spiritual growth is such fun….

Changing subjects….

Yesterday, I made a difference. I counseled two spouses of two patients with Alzheimer’s. I gave them a chance to speak and speak they did, they were able to voice their feelings to me. I feel very humbled that my presence made a difference. And I am grateful. I feel very blessed to have found my way into this job.

Friday, November 13, 2009


The other night I was invited to attend a gathering of women for the auspicious date of 11/11… my birthday, which was just a coincidence. It was held at one of the women’s homes. Now the puja was lovely. We did a silent mediation and offered some prayers; it was simple, but quite moving and lovely.

My problem was not with the intention of the ceremony, nor the people involved, but with the place itself. It was perfect. The space from its inception was planned to be perfect. I am sure that I am being judgmental and perhaps there is a touch of sour grapes in there, but I truly feel that I am being as close to objective as I can be.

It was just too much.

The house is one of those bloated McMansions, built on a golf course. The woman has lived there with her husband for thirteen years and recently remodeled the entire house from top to bottom. She envisioned the living and dining room as a sanctuary and pursued her dreams. I have no problem with any of that, I would love to have a sanctuary too. But, this was just too perfect, filled with objects from all over the world; even the paint was specially created and filled with blessings… I didn’t know that Benjamin Moore specializes in blessed paint.

On the floor that we were on, the main living area of the house, there were four living rooms including the sanctuary space. The kitchen was flawless and the granite counter tops looked like the bed of a flowing stream, just lovely. It was perfect and in there lies the problem… for me.

I don’t understand the necessity of it. Wouldn’t the puja have been as lovely and meaningful in a lesser space? The woman gave us a long description of what she went through to create this space. She was obviously proud of her efforts. It seemed to be a complete exercise in ego, which negated the meaning behind the puja for me.

I am sure that there must be a note of jealousy within me… there must be. However, I honestly don’t feel it and I have searched my soul for it. I wouldn’t want a house like that, for sure. Her things were beautiful and yet, there was nothing there that I coveted. But, I feel that I am being critical because somewhere I would like to have the means to do something like. Right? I must be jealous, because why would it have affected me like this. Or is it that I just see ego?

God wants only to be included in our lives. He doesn’t care that we have five crystal singing bowls or an “Om” singing bowl or a water feature in our living room or a three hundred pound amethyst cut in half that doubles as a candle holder or a Quan Yin with a gold leaf backing hanging on the wall. God just wants to rest in our hearts; wherever they are.

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name….

Was it a beautiful space? You betcha. It was perfect.

The only trouble is that God loves our imperfections. God wants us to have our breath taken away by the grandeur of his creation.

Today the wind is blowing all the remaining leaves from the trees, it is wet and a definite chill in the air. Winter is coming there is no doubt. As I sit here looking out my window at the blowing trees, and feeling the cold in my bones, I know that God is here too. A flock of birds flew by not too long ago. I couldn’t see them from my vantage point, but there must have been ten thousand of them judging by the noise they made. And I knew that God was there too.

I didn’t feel God there the other night; I felt ego and for me, it made the puja pointless

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vargo Dragway

Yesterday was one of those days that become burned in my memory and years from now, I’ll still remember the sights, sounds and smell of it. It was a perfect fall day. There was a chill in the air and there was enough wind to make the air decidedly brisk. However, the sun was warm and the sky was completely clear.

Jon really wanted to go to the fortieth anniversary of the closing of Vargo Drag Strip car show near Allentown, PA. The strip closed while Jon was barely in his twenties, but he had many fond memories of the place. Every year since its closing, the powers that be put on a car show of all the old cars and hotrods from days gone by.

Since the strip closed in 1969, it has become a farm, but the owner left the old drag strip in place; it was probably too costly to get rid of it, so he just farms around it. All the cars in the show lined up along the side of the strip and people walked it to reminisce and dream about days gone by. We were no exception.

Before we left home, I had the idea to pack a picnic lunch and since we had to run to the store to pick up a few things for my father, I bought a loaf of bread, some cranberry stilton, triple crème brie, organic black grapes and some sparkling apple cider. We put it all together in our picnic basket and popped it into the trunk.

We arrived at Vargo, and there was no place to park The guy at the gate turned us away. We asked if we could park and walk in, he didn’t want to say yes, but he indicated that it would be okay. We found a place to park about a half a mile away on someone’s farm. We had plenty of company parked along with us and we assumed the farmer was tolerant.

It was a lovely walk in the fall air surrounded by beautiful pristine farmland in the chilly air. It smelled so clean, the grass that we walked through was verdant, the trees still had color, and the sky was a perfect blue. When we made it to the drag strip we had walked through some of the most scenic and inspiring views. Pumpkins were still in the fields and there were geese in the pond. I couldn’t get enough if it.

We walked the strip and the cars were pretty cool. I must say that I really enjoyed it. Jon was looking for inspiration for his car project. I think he may have found it. He is being a little circumspect today, but I think he has figured out his direction. Every car that we saw was better than the one before. Honestly, today, they have all blended together and I can’t remember the details of any of them, just that they had a lot of work and effort put into each one.

Then someone started one of the cars, and the rhythm of the engine vibrated in my heart. It was an interesting experience. I felt the energy of the car moving through me and it seemed to connect me directly to God. God was moving through all of us along with the vibration of the engine. It was a deeply moving experience. I’m not sure Jon would put it in those terms exactly, but he was moved as well.

After we walked the entire show, taking our time and taking it all in, we walked the half mile back to our car, just before we arrived at the car, we ducked into a cornfield and we both peed amongst the corn stalks. There was something so sensual and joyful about peeing in the cornfield together. I’ve peed in the woods and on the side of a road hoping no one would see, but peeing in a cornfield was a first for both of us. We made our way back out of the cornfield and we spread out our blanket, right there on the side of the road at this person’s farm and ate our fabulous lunch in the grass by the side of the road. It was the best food I have ever eaten, sharing it with my best guy and soaking up the sun along with the chill in the air. It was a delightful mixture of tastes, sensations, and smells.

We lingered over our lunch for sometime, enjoying the entire experience. Afterwards, we packed everything up and drove through more inspiring countryside.

On our way home we stopped to see Isabella, Adrienne and Zach for a short visit. And later still, we stopped and got Indian food for dinner and we watched Miss Congeniality for the sixtieth time slurping down curry and partha.

I’m not sure that I could have imagined a better day than that!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I woke up this morning at about five, now I don’t know what I was dreaming about, but I awoke with a question on my mind. My question is the same as always, finding God. I read in my psychology book for class that creation happens in the spaces in between. The example in the book is musical notes. Each note represents a tone or sound, however, it is the space in between the notes that creates the music. If it were not for these spaces all we would hear is noise.

I struggled with that concept. I understood the words, but the concept escaped me- until now. In meditation, it is said that meditation happens between the thoughts. It’s the same with music, art, anything. I get it, the creative part are the spaces in between. How much time elapses from one note to the next is what gives the music its rhythm, its texture, and its uniqueness. If not for the spaces then the notes really are just a series of boring tones. The spaces give them life.

On Thursday, I was sitting in the parking lot at work. I was about to drive away when I noticed a squirrel sitting in a small tree in front of me. He was just considering me and I began to consider him. We just watched each other for a time until he got bored and went on his way. I remained looking at the tree. It was a small but bushy tree, all of its leaves were gone, and I was taken with the “bones” of the tree. It had many intricate small branches that gracefully intersected each other and formed a lovely lacework. As I looked at this tree I noticed the interspaces between the branches. It struck me that it was the spaces that made the grace.

In those spaces is our connection to God.

We all form rigid personalities that clothe us in protective armor. The denser our armor the less spaces we have to allow the flow of God into our being. We are continually filling the chinks in our armor to keep us safe- safe from the judgment of others, and our own judgment about ourselves. But, all this armor does is keep us from realizing the God force that surrounds and flows through our Interspaces.

This is not a new concept, all the books I have read talk about the same thing, let go and let God. I think I fully understand it now. God is in the tiny moments of quiet in our minds. Our goal, my goal, is to quiet my mind more so to allow more space in between.

I have experienced those tiny moments of complete stillness many times. They come and go so quickly that it I forget they were there. Nevertheless, it is in those tiny moments that I have had the most profound impact on my life. These moments of complete awareness always seem to shimmer with a divine glow. In the Gospels when Peter and a few of the other Apostles are with Jesus on the mountain at night. Peter “wakes up” and sees Jesus with Moses and Elijah and he describes Jesus’ clothes as a brilliant white, and everything seemed to be lit from within and all just shimmered. That is how it is in those moments of total clarity… of being completely awake and aware- it shimmers and seems lit from within. We all have those moments, but we can’t stay awake, and they pass quickly. Sometimes, we don’t even remember them because we sink back into our armor and discount the moment that just past as a fluke.

I don’t discount those moments, I treasure them. I await them as a woman awaits the birth of her baby. They are as precious as a newborn to me because in them, I am in the Interspaces and I know God.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Egg-Shaped Lives

As I go from house to house, visiting one dying person after another, I am struck by what a complete package any life is. Their birth is followed by the entirety of their lives. I come in at the very end and yet, their lives are all there, full and complete, even if it is almost over. Even though they are near death, they are still very much alive and vibrant.

One man that I visited yesterday is from St. Thomas. He has been in the country for many years. He was a minister and has a deep faith in God and he knows that God is with him. He has end-stage Parkinson’s disease. He is bed bound, very weak and he is difficult to understand when he speaks, but he is perfectly lucid. He is a lovely lonely man.

His wife, who is somewhat younger than he, feels trapped in this small apartment with her husband, so three days a week she goes out to a senior center and leaves her husband home alone. When we arrived he was very thirsty, we gave him some Ensure to drink. His foot was bothering him and Maggie was able to adjust the pillow to give him some relief.

Then we started to talk. We talked about God, I read some from the Bible to him, and he started to cry. He cried because his wife leaves him alone so much and even when she is home, she doesn’t stay in the bedroom with him, she sits in the living room. She is probably afraid and can’t face her fears. I’m sure it is difficult for her. It is hard to see your husband fade away and that is what he is doing… he is fading away bit by bit.

I felt so honored to be there. I wanted to stay with him. We stayed about an hour and then had to leave. Fortunately, Warren stayed with him until either his wife returned home or his nursing aid arrived. This was one day he didn’t have to be alone.

Then we went to see a widow. She is the widow of a doctor, obviously very wealthy, quite beautiful and very intelligent and learned. However, she always lived in the shadow of her husband. They had been married for over sixty years. She is trying to make her way in the world without him. Now, she is fortunate, she lives in a wonderful independent-living community with all the amenities, and the possibilities of companionship with the other residents. She has her dog with her and she is able to walk the dog and care for her. On the surface she has it all. But, she is terribly lonely and very lost without her husband. Her struggle is palpable and her pain is very real.

We had a lovely visit with her and she was so grateful for the help that we offered her. We were just a sympathetic ear and a bit of a diversion from her pain for an hour or so.

Then we went to visit a woman with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease. She is only in her early seventies and has been struggling with this for fifteen years. Her husband is the most loving and caring person I think I ever met. He sees no difference in the woman he loves; to him she is who she always was. They were both educators who never had children of their own. He has help caring for her, but primarily, he takes care of her. It is impossible to communicate with the woman, she recognizes no one, not even her husband. She has no concept of anything that is going on around her, or if she does understand anything, she is unable to acknowledge it in any way.

In each home that I went into, there are pictures of their lives. As I looked at the photographs, I was struck but the totality of their lives. I saw a small egg-shaped entity that contained it all. All the years held within this egg. Each egg-shaped life nestled with the other lives that touched them. Together, these eggs are nestled in a nest that form a family, and then the nests come together to form a community. It grows and grows until it encompasses all of life on this planet… and I’m sure it doesn’t stop there. However, this one life, this egg-shaped entirety of life, while small against the backdrop of the whole is insignificant, but when that life is gone, there is a hole that is impossible to replace.

We may never know the man from St Thomas, or the rich widow, or the educator that has lost all ability to think, we may never know them personally, but their loss will leave an empty space in the fabric of our lives.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finding Meaning

I have spent most of my life trying to find the meaning behind all the things in my life. When something dreadful would happen, or something joyous, I would pause and wonder what it all meant. It has been a puzzlement, a little nagging question in the back of my mind… What does it all mean?

Now, I don’t know and I’m not sure we are meant to know, but what I do know is that these happenings, whether they are tragic or blessed, form a tapestry that creates a life… my life, our lives.

One thing happens and then another, we move from one to the next in a seamless flow of time. If we could possibly allow ourselves to let go as we continually drift from one event to the next, perhaps life you would be less painful and suffering kept to a minimum. Perhaps the experience is the important element and not just the result of any event.

When something wonderful has happened to me – it could be a life-affirming event, such as getting the job at hospice, or something as simple as being with my granddaughter for a dinner together– whatever the event, I try to let it go as it is coming to its natural conclusion. I don’t cling and I let go.

There was a time when I would cling. I remember one time, and think it was when I first noticed my tendency to cling to enjoyable times, my husband gave me the gift of a massage and facial at a spa, I was so excited, and I looked forward to it for weeks. The day finally arrived and I went to the spa. They gave me a luxurious robe to wear and soft slippers to cushion me feet and led me into the massage room. The dimly lit room smelled of herbal oils, it was truly delicious. As I lay on the table and began to soak in the ambiance and the feel of warm hands on my body, the thought began to form - this is going to end. I remember I kept thinking, “Oh, I wish this could go on forever.” Which, of course, it cannot; all things must end. Time passed and I began looking for the end. There was a bit of desperation in my thought, it’s going to end, it’s going to end.

It wasn’t until later that evening that I realized I missed most of the massage because I was anticipating the end; so much so, that the actual experience of the massage slipped by unnoticed. It was then that I realized that all things end; slowly, I made peace with it and made a concerted effort to fully experience anything that was occurring that moment. And it has made all the difference!

No longer do I worry about the end, I dwell in the midst. It has taken some time to reach this point, but it has been a blessing. Even in the midst of difficult events, I dwell in the midst, knowing that there is an end, but experiencing all that comes. Somehow, it has freed me in ways that I do not fully understand. It is in this place of not knowing that I find the meaning to it all.