Movement and Stillness

Diary 1/10/19

My creative muse has quieted down from the upwelling riotous mode I arrived with at Kendal. I am less urgent about the need to express myself in any medium. Today, I managed to pen a celebratory drinking song (wine, beer, or water?) as a birthday salute to the talented singer that hosts the activity we call Song Swap, every other Wednesday evening. She knows by heart, hundreds of songs from many genres, though is an expert on Civil War era songs. Performing all over the world, she and her husband have based themselves here for several years now. We are so lucky to have them. He is our main AV man and recently rewired and digitized the entire auditorium’s sound and lighting system for any sort of presentation.

Other than drinking songs, I am rather quiet, matching the long awaited descent of snow and cold temperatures by hibernating. The too early spring-like weather we have had for so long, summoned sprouting plants that must now retreat back underground to reawaken in a few more months. The current overnight freezing temperatures will keep the recent snowfalls covering our world. I do not feel frozen, but rather, suspended. A Pathwork lecture* (number 224) that I remember from years past, was titled Creative Emptiness. For me, that is a description of the taste of Awareness in silence. I experience deep draughts from a plenum of emptiness that brims with unlimited potential. I am simmering things for the future but even a personal daily diary has been a stretch lately and my blog an inviting blank page.

I am still here, though. In lieu of anything more thoughtful, I will share that my move to a larger room is at long last actually in progress. Yesterday, the noise of ripping up old carpeting in there brought knowing glances from everybody I saw. Workmen installed the underlayment for the incoming laminated wood flooring I purchased, and they say, it will be done by Friday. The head of facilities for the Care Center and I both thought we should count on that as meaning that by Monday or Tuesday, I could be moving in. The empty boxes cluttering up my small room for the last month will now be filled. I get to change my mailing address from 514 to 602 Kendal Drive. Even though it is just a move down the hall twenty five feet or so, that means contacting the P.O., Social Security, the bank, my insurance, my tax man, my lawyer, etc.

I am not looking forward to the temporary chaos that will ensue over the next couple of weeks. But it is my final move and I am very much looking forward to being settled in my new space. It is a great location in terms of accessing the places at the Care Center I most utilize now, and it has the advantage of no longer being as close to the nurse’s station. That can be rather noisy with activity, both during the day, but also at night as the staff keep themselves entertained during the long quiet hours when most of us are sleeping. Besides having more needed space, the loveliest advantage is that I have a kitchenette, ensuring that I can fix healthy supplemental meal additions for myself. Then, right outside my door, is the Country Kitchen, the make-to-order breakfast spot for the Care Center. It was originally designed solely for families to make their own food or to share take-out meals with loved ones who were ensconced here in recovery, or in their final days.

That kitchen has a communal stove, (I am only allowed a microwave) double sinks, dinnerware, pots and pans, etc. as well as a large fridge with a freezer drawer. My personal tiny fridge freezer can harbor flat ice packs,, but not much else. I am the queen of ice packs around here, using them on my back all day long. If I like, I can sweep out of my room wearing my bathrobe directly across the hall to break my fast with friends. The space is active from about 7:00 to 10:00 in the mornings (closed on Sundays) and sporadically with occasional families and other small gatherings. I am awake early anyway, so the pleasant chattering and delicious morning food smells will not bother me. They arise from friends and immediate neighbors and the small kitchen staff are the best friendly waitress/cooks imaginable. They know each of our ‘usuals’, and the right coffee or tea or particular juice and muffin appears at your place the minute you show up.

My new room is painted “Veranda Sunshine” yellow and I am happy to know it awaits me, glowing cheerfully, even on a dark January day like today. And it will be complete with new “Butterscotch oak” flooring. Moving into my last home while informed by stillness, is my little heart’s desire.

* The Pathwork is a psycho/spiritual practice my husband and I studied for many years. https://pathwork.org/the-lectures/

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Happy New Year

Diary 1/2/19

2019 is here. Whether you celebrated that fact or not, the new calendar year has begun. We have officially agreed that our planet is starting a new cycle of 365 days. Our birthdays are a more personal 365 day kickoff with best wishes and many happy returns of the day (with hope it was not an unhappy day). Time is invisible and yet it rules our daily lives.

As I have written before, the Greeks named the God of Time, Kronos, which we spell Chronos; from which we derive the words, chronology, chronicle, chronic, synchronous, etc. This god was a not exactly a nice entity in that he consumed his children, but he did have a grandson named Kairos. Kairos represents an entirely different sense of time, or actually, ‘no time.’ Kairos represents NOW, in which our sense of past and future is subsumed. He appears not as a moment in linear time, he just is; timeless.

Jesus used the word kairos as meaning “in God’s appointed time,” which is unbounded and unlimited by human thought. Hippocrates used kairos to mean “the right use of treatment at the right time by which healing occurs”, using intuition, not just the application of the science of his time. As a culture defined by space and time, we agree that time marches on in a linear fashion from the past, through the now point, and beyond into the infinite future. It is difficult to contemplate any other way of existence.

For me, as I delve into Silence, I experience the foundation of being in Kairos. There is no split between Kronos and Kairos; they more and more appear to me as one and the same. That is, my world- bound sense of time is created out of ‘no time’. In that way, they are not separate at all. This amazing universe baffles scientists as they have not yet pinpointed the reality of matter. The more quantum physicists name smaller and smaller molecules that comprise an atom, the more it appears they don’t actually exist as ‘things’, only as energy. We have known for a while that the observer affects whether we see a molecule as a particle or a wave. Niels Bohr, a Nobel prize winner in physics, said, “If quantum mechanics hasn’t primarily shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made up of things that cannot be regarded as real.”

R.C. Henry, a professor of physics and anatomy at Johns Hopkins University said, “ The Universe begins to look more like a great thought rather than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial- mental and spiritual.”

My own explorations in questing deeper are heartened by knowing that centuries of mystics are affirmed by modern scientists. By consenting beliefs, humans have largely ignored the ‘inarguable conclusion’ and insist that time and space are the inalterable foundations of our lives. Many believe in a singular god that a created it just that way. Scientists ignore what does not fit into their predetermined assumptions. The inexplicable mysteries and gaps are plugged in with the idea we just have to keep investigating everything from dark matter to the placebo effect until we find proof of what we have decided, must be so. This flies in the face of most scientific inquiry. Asking deeper questions threatens too much of life as we know it, rendering ‘getting over it’ very uncomfortable. That singular entity of God is also assigned responsibility for mysteries because His ways are unknowable. For me, an unknowable, limitless god is a religious name for awareness or consciousness.

It seems that time is, and is not. As I join my elders here at Kendal we all find that time seems more and more illusory. And we still pay our taxes ‘on time’. Aging naturally affords a slowing down of activity and invites more being. My meditation classes here are slowly expanding with people who find support for the benign process of the dissolution of who they were, for how their identities of ‘doing’ keep downshifting. They are atheists, Christians, Jews, Quakers, and a few Buddhists. We sit together, invoking stillness. We are finding, each in our own way, the taste of inherent love, peace, creativity, and quiet joy in plumbing Silence, a path to the effervescent foundation of being. Kairotic awareness does not shift and change. It is for me a refuge; an endless plenum of still spaciousness in the chaotic splendor of daily life.

Dancing Again? Me?

Dairy 12/14/18 Dancing Again? Me?

My dance ‘debut’ at Oberlin last night was wonderful. My part of actually moving was maybe 3 minutes long but it was with a senior student who is finishing her second to last semester as a dance major. She and a class partner came to our Care Center to do Authentic Movement classes with compromised (or not) seniors. I was immediately certain I should go see what they were up to and was able to attend their first and last classes. In and of itself, the class was revelatory to see people who don’t talk much, or at all, responding to movement prompts the tag team offered. I loved seeing how using music and movements bypass the verbal confusion of those with dementia.

I connected with Martha, one of the teachers, after the first class and we spoke about how much I enjoyed their offerings, about dance, and my experiences over the years. She ended up asking if I would participate in a movement project with her. Because it was short, with me sitting on a chair in a movement improv style conversation with one another, I agreed. She made a recording of sounds walking around Kendal and she filmed our first ‘conversation’ in the room where she had taught, which is also the room where I lead my meditation classes. Last night with the audience of others in her class and lots of friends, she played the soundscape along with the first video of us moving together, as we did it live once more. She sent me a video that a friend took and it was fascinating to see how we moved in the moment against moving in the same time frame as in the simultaneously running film. She was pleased and grateful for my participation and I am so grateful to her.

For many years, losing my body feedback was a very gradual decline. Just choreographng my daily life of self care to house care with MS, was all I could manage. It seemed that orchestrating the nuances of physical demands of functional living took up all my creative energies. I exercised every day for years, no matter how limited I was, and worked with a PT every week. But the joy of self initiated movement for my own self reflection was too hard to summon. Now that Kendal takes care of so many of my daily needs, I have been a little creative fountain spewing out songs, poems, essays and now- some subtle inner dancing arises once more.

The byproduct of this inner listening and spontaneously breathing, sounding and moving is very healing. Now it is time to embrace my body as I am recommitting to living as fully as I can. The pleasure I am rediscovering is quiet, more evocative of allowing, and much less of any doing. It mirrors what my friend, Maiya, calls Body Wisdom. Deeply entering through the body leads to Silence with no body. This kind of self introspection has always been a doorway for me. Martha has agreed to learn some Contiuum tools from me; Continuum being the name of my last set of teachings in this arena of bio-spiritual work. I believe my current physical needs/limitations/knowings will open new doorways for discovery and I am so grateful to Martha for coming into my life at this juncture. A mutual delight.

Besides sharing our piece last night, I got to watch three others before it was our turn. One was created with a program of an articulated stick figure on the computer screen that mimicked the performer’s every move. Every time she took action, it also triggered elctronic sounds that she had preprogrammed. The potential for such a piece was staggering (and jumping, waving, stepping, and crouching) and riveting to watch. The audience itself was wonderful. These young people are full of the self authority of taking on the world, on the cutting edges, and because it is Oberlin, a hugely diverse group. The excitement of finals week buzzed and hummed and I am ready to pass on the baton to them. Please.

Part of Kendal’s gift is to have this exchange of elders and youngers. I have seen many other concerts here, but on this Sunday, an annual marimba concert from the Oberlin Conservatory comes to us and that is our buzz of our anticipation. It is the musical highlight of the year according to some. Can’t wait.

Acceptance

Diary 12/5/18

The following is used as part of the 12-Step program of recovery in Al-Anon that my friend printed out for me. “Acceptance…I must always remember: Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% how I choose to react to life….How can I treat others with acceptance, tolerance, and love? Am I accepting myself and others as we are? How?”

Acceptance is right up there with forgiveness as a most basic, difficult practice of the human condition.

You can’t have one without the other. It is also foundational to growth. Unless I know the chemical nature of my soil (highly acidic in the Catskills where I did many years of gardening) I shouldn’t be surprised when plants requiring a more alkaline environment wither and die on me. If I insist they should and do not accept the reality, I will experience a distressing loss every time. Accepting what I deem unacceptable requires a lot of introspection. Once the ranting, blaming, self -pitying, temper tantrum subsides, I am left with what is, and how to accept it. It may be that much harder if I experience painful unjust results caused by someone other than myself. I have often told the following story to past clients.

Good friends once invited Richard and me over for a late afternoon of extended appetizer nibbles. Their son, who used to be in the nursery school I ran, came home from public school, sobbing. He rushed through the door and flung himself into his father’s lap. I knew him as a very bright, sensitive, and charismatic child. He also insisted on finding the one disruptive thing he could do in my classroom almost every day and because he was a natural leader, he could throw our small community into an uproar in minutes. He had a cherubic innocent face with twinkling blue eyes and by the time he went on to kindergarten, we had learned to resolve these incidents with greater finesse on both sides.

When he had calmed down enough to speak, his father asked him what had happened. “ The teacher said,” he gulped out, “that if one more person spoke out of turn there would be no outdoor recess today. And somebody did, and it wasn’t me!” His father held him some more and then said softly, “ Yes, well, sometimes life isn’t fair.” His son pulled back with eyes wide open in astonishment. “ If life isn’t fair, then I don’t want to be here!” he wailed.

I have never forgotten that moment. He was me, and is all of us, recognizing for the first time, that life is not run on our personal rules of fairness. I have experienced this truth countless times and it always requires serious introspection. “Am I accepting myself and others as we are? How?” Those are the questions that lead to resolution. That is the way to acceptance and the peace that arises when we see our way clear past the immediate distress. It is easy to write these words, even to know for sure it is the only choice, yet for me, I still require rehashing a well worn cycle before I find rest in this new circumstance and do the inner work.

The first question goes further, “How can I treat others with acceptance, tolerance, and love?”

Starting with acceptance, that next step is how can I also tolerate the ongoing problem? How might I need to shift my own participation in this interaction? Do I need to find new healthy boundaries? Do I need to speak out in a way to promote better understanding with positive criticism? Do I see how this may be a familiar pattern from my past? Can I lower my demanding expectations of how it should be? Can I allow others their differences in good grace? Can I see the human beings beneath the drama?

Finally, can I treat others with love? Ultimately, following this inquiry to its inevitable conclusion leads to love. Loving ourselves for being in this unacceptable predicament, no matter how we ended up there, is paramount. Once we find we are always lovable, love naturally flows out again towards others.

It is fierce work but Love is always the unending recovered treasure that awaits us.

December 1, 2018

The last month of the year of 2018 has begun. It is strangely difficult to imagine letting it go, because Richard was still alive in this year. He was in the process of dying, but in December of 2017 he read “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” to me and Len and Marion after Christmas dinner. He insisted he wanted to even though he was nearly blind. He did OK speaking the lush language. With forty years of repetition he could step into the well worn footprints of the Welsh snow. Those he could summon in his clouded brain. Marion and I glanced at one another when he missed key sentences but we listened intently as well. It was clear to us this would be his last reading. I briefly thought of recording him, wishing we had thought to record him when he was fully present. I dismissed the idea knowing that preserving this phase of his decline was not something we wanted to keep for the future.

By January 2018 he was in the hospital more than he was home. We were hoping that by allowing the doctors to administer full brain radiation this would slow down the cancer cells flowing freely in his cerebral spinal fluid. The lymphoma was busy finding more homes within the nooks and crannies of his brain. The oncologist thought mostly it would offer relief from spinal pain (it did) and that it would help to sustain more mental clarity (it didn’t). As I have written before, that man, Richard, that I loved so well, was no longer here, even though his fading body and mind still occupied the hospital bed of our rental house living room. Relating to his body, altered as it was, kept him anchored in our world with us for twelve more precious days once he was released from the hospital.

Through a psychic friend after his death, it was comforting to hear him ‘say’ to me, that “the bull needed to move aside so that my  lamb could step in.” We all have different aspects of our personality. Richard was so deeply loving and kind but he was also stubborn and willful. Naming the bull was very specific and it is true, that he was also an utterly sweet, endearing lamb the more the brain tumors eradicated his executive function. I watched him become wide open and without boundaries as the end drew near. His body would jerk if someone opened the door to the kitchen at the far end of the house. I could barely hear them entering but his sense of the change in atmosphere was instantaneous. That is why we were so blessed by his bevy of caretakers. If we had someone with an abrasive personality it would have troubled him greatly. Instead we got angels.

Music particularly ran through his body like wine. You could see his nervous system responding to the words or rhythm whenever someone sang to him, which we all did in our own way. We could feel the mutuality of exchange whether his body or voice was visibly or audibly participating or not. The psychic also reported he said the he had been hyper aware, with the left side of the brain diminishing as the right side opened up to where he was going. Whether that is truth that was channeled or not does not trouble me. I have no need to confirm the unknowable in rational terms. Articulating the omnipresent infinite cannot be accomplished, certainly not by me.

Again and again, I can say from my experience, I saw that Richard was Love itself and that I now know that we all are. It has nothing to do with our belief systems. I cannot ever un-know this perception of our human selves. It was a great gift that Richard bestowed on me. The loss of the bull is something we will all experience in unique ways. The presence of the lamb will step forward when we, too, move aside into Love. I know he is Love in 2019 and forever. The 2018 calendar is in *Kronos time. Kairos time offers me an additional perspective.

*Kronos: the Greek god of linear time

*Kairos: Kronos’ grandson of the eternal now

Seven Billion Hearts

11/29/18

Yesterday was another ‘first’ of tough days because it was Emilia’s birthday. We both missed Richard fiercely; me, the co-parent of this first-born daughter; her, the father of her life. Emilia looked up his birthday email to her from last year, when he was already very compromised in comprehension and focus. He was in denial about the reality of his losses and wasn’t able to process in rational ways. He didn’t know that he was three months away from death. But his email was crystal clear about how much he loved her on so many levels. It made us both weepy to reread his sweet words of love.

I slept better last night after a day that became too busy for me to handle gracefully. I got 6 hours in a row! which was a minor miracle after a week of choppy dozing that passed for a night’s sleep. Pushing myself onto a hamster wheel of unending practical accomplishments, I felt pressed for time yesterday, determining that I had to race endlessly on. Which of course, I cannot do well. I summoned old habits that have apparently not died off from lack of use, as my body/energy continues to fail. I easily summoned that anxious, pushy Judi who I have not revisited for some time. I claim her as my little sister, giving her loving boundaries. She was dragging me along behind her on a long rope of fear, afraid to stop and feel sorrow. Finally, her exhausted little fists unclenched, letting the burden go.

I am learning to tolerate my breaking heart though I still construct sturdy dams against the pain. The pressure builds, my defenses collapse, and finally I overflow with tears. Great emotion pours out. I find myself open to more love both entering in and shining out. I am awash in love. This is a gift of grief. Death and loss break our hearts open over and over again until we accept that this is essential to living the fullness of human experience. No wonder we fear death. Each piece of defense crumbles away until our very identity is subsumed, while our hearts remain wide open. Recognizing this cycle, and allowing it to run its course, is something I am gaining some conscious control over; death defies any control.

If I insist that there must be a way to cut off this painful half of being human, I create more suffering. I suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as a woman who is cleaved from her real being. This role eventually becomes too heavy to hold; the burden unbearable. I crave the refuge and relief that comes from being whole again. I see more clearly that this is a drama co-authored by me.

There are more and more times when I know I am the author, the actor, and the unchanging stage upon which the play is enacted. There is a new self-abiding that I repeatedly lose, but find, and am found by, in intimate moments of awareness. It arises not because I am trying to escape the pain, but because I am learning to unlock the door and put out a welcome mat for it instead.

Many upcoming rituals and holidays will celebrate the return of light to our corner of the darkening earth. The vast cosmic dance toward and away from the sun echoes the drama of humanity. We swing towards and away from the light we crave and the black empty space we so fear. Seven billion of us co-create and co-author this miracle of the world we inhabit. Seven billion of us long for “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”* May we find the wholeness that we already are, in seven billion moments of the infinite now.

*Philippians 4:7

Stuff

Thanksgiving is early this year. Which means that commercial Christmas is, too. Besieged earlier by endless election ads, we apparently now require ads to boost our need to buy and give more stuff.

Richard’s folks lived in Florida and when they both passed, family members requested various favorite pieces of artwork and furniture which were sent all over the country. The larger items Richard and I chose arrived via a moving company owned by Russians. When they trundled up our steep driveway, I gladly received them, relieved they found their way up our winding mountain road in New York state. The team of efficient young men spoke no English but the boss/driver did, a little. I directed them up and down the stairs by vigorously pointing, “Here! Careful with that! No, outside on the deck!” and other helpful gestured advice. When it was all done, the driver came up to me with the receipt. I wrote him a check and he said very seriously with a heavy accent, “ Enchoy your stooff.”

It was delivered in such a sober tone that afterwards it struck me hard. I didn’t ever consider us as ‘wealthy’ but compared to many we were. He didn’t actually say,” Oh you rich Americans with all your crap, you hardly have room for what you already own.” Maybe it wasn’t even implied. He might have simply used that simple English phrase with all of his clients. The truth is that there were many things we inherited that we didn’t need, but rather accumulated out of nostalgia. Some of those things I still have, some of those things my daughters have, and most has been auctioned off for an unknown somebody else to ‘enchoy’.

‘Downsizing’ is a familiar phrase at Kendal. Everybody here left behind their former lives, professions, and many possessions. We brought only what could fit into a cottage, or an apartment, or in my case, a single room. It is a familiar phrase to all of my aging friends as they are contemplating the approach of the inevitable move from their current homes. We all have more than enough stuff to see us through our elder years. Sometimes I still think, “Whatever happened to the St. Francis tile Richard bought in Italy? I thought I kept that.” Perhaps it is still in an unopened box in Emilia and Zoran’s attic. Or perhaps, in the chaos of leaving my life in Bearsville behind, it is on someone else’s shelf.

If it doesn’t appear, I will say goodbye to it again in my mind. I still have my grandmother’s small wooden statue of him here on my windowsill. I love to watch the birds on the bush outside my window over his shoulder with the little birds carved there. I know this was bought by my grandmother in Assisi. It is enough of a reminder for me to love who this saint is storied to have been. I don’t actually need the tile. Richard’s life with me is everywhere in tangible form; from the leather chairs he had in his Manhattan office, to the small earring tree he and Emilia at age four built for my birthday. And in a moment of grief inspired clutching, I kept the last pair of pajamas that he bought before his final trip to the hospital. He wore them maybe once. They are a masculine gray, have a button fly, and are a little too large. At the time it was clear I needed them as the packing ensued. And I do wear them. (You don’t have to picture that.)

More importantly, he is a presence whispering in my deep inner ears. I don’t worry any more if it is “him”, that human Richard I loved so well. I just let the whispers touch me, help me, love me whenever his voice appears. This is from an open letter to a fan that Nick Cave wrote about the death of his son. He speaks to this listening so beautifully.

I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.”*

*I thank my cousin, Bob Barnett, for sending me this letter. He is another reconnected cousin from my father’s side of the family who sends me inspirational writings just when I need them.