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Live Here. Now

This past spring in a span of 6 weeks, my poppa and my dog,Bella, died.  Bella is the dog you see pictured on my website.  Both were great teachers, but in very different ways. This blog is a tribute in deep appreciation of them both.

The lessons I learned from my poppa:

  1. Problem solve…every mechanical problem to my dad had a solution, and sometimes it was to scrap it, but only after looking at it from many angles and asking Jesus for help.
  2. ..don’t try to convenience any one of any thing; rather, share a story from your perspective…a favorite technique of Jesus’ too!
  3. Love animals…he did and as such he always had animals in the house. The animals and our time together are some of my most cherished memories as a child.
  4. How to play pinochle. Great game, especially a great teacher…what it taught me is that how I play cards is how I live…that has changed immensely over the years!
  5. Work hard (directly), but not to the exclusion of wholesome relationship (indirectly).
  6. Provide for those you love and that may take a multitude of forms.
  7. The three primary lessons learned as child of an alcoholic are don’t trust, don’t speak and don’t feel. My poppa battled with the bottle from a teenager until about his 60’s.  As a result, as an adult I get to learn to trust, to speak my heart honorably, and to feel all of my feelings.  Thank you poppa!

The lessons I learned from Bella:

  1. My action is not personal, I am just taking care of myself. I trust what I need and ask you to trust it too!
  2. Live here now.
  3. Do what you love and do it until you stop dead in your tracks. Bella loved to swim. About six hours before she died, she stumbled into pond to feel the water on her body one last time.
  4. ..in her last days, although not interested in walks or food, she still wanted to play ball.
  5. Greet each moment…every smell, every being…this is the first and last time you will experience them like this.
  6. Experience everything at least once and repeat when you love something.
  7. Accept and surrender to what is…a few years ago, Bella stopped jumping in the car on her own. Instead, one day she knew that was no longer an option for her and she simply waited for me to lift her in.  Her (final) death was just like that too.
  8. Let people know what you want and concurrently go with the flow.
  9. Don’t hold grudges.
  10. When you have had your fill, remove yourself from the situation. So when my nieces would love on Bella and to the point she had enough, she would simply get up and leave.  She would retire in her kennel or my bedroom, which were her safety zones.
  11. No need to growl, except when it is really needed, then use it and be done with it! Thank you Bella!

Who are or have been your teachers?  What do you appreciate about them?  What lessons have you learned?  How have they influenced who you are today?  This moment will NEVER be again, let’s honor it fully!

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Category: Relationships
In order to die well, we must have lived well

The three main issues that I observed the last weeks of my father’s life that caused him great suffering were:

  1. His monkey mind – wild with thoughts.
  2. Inability to produce or to be productive, which for him was tied directly to his self-esteem.
  3. In ability to accept what life was offering.

Perhaps I am mistaken, yet these are my observations.

 

We all have busy minds.  In Eastern traditions, the busy mind is referred to as the monkey mind.  Never still.  Always moving.  Swinging from one thought to the next.  Many of us never notice how busy our minds are, or what we are really feeling, until we can’t distract ourselves.  The typical way we distract ourselves is by keeping ourselves physically busy. We hear this all the time, especially from those in acute grief – “I’m ok, as long as I keep busy.”  Other ways are through the many types of addictions from shopping to eating to illicit substances.

Many of us have some degree of our self-worth and self-esteem tied to our jobs, our ability to produce, or our ability to accomplish.  When such ability is lost somehow, and we have never had any realization that we are not our jobs or job titles, our ability to produce, or our ability to accomplish, we suffer.

The ability to accept what is happening now is often a point of suffering for all of us all the time, but especially during dying.  Accepting does not require us to like what is happening, but it does require faith, trust and surrender as demonstrated by Jesus’ willingness to die on the cross.

It is only through the experiences of life that may the soul be honored.

As best as I can surmise at this time, meditation, heartfelt prayer, and contemplation are remedies to suffering not only at the end of life, but now.  As I sat with my father in his last morning, I realized what a great blessing I have had in realizing at least little that my mind races and can bamboozle me; that I am so much more than any one or combination of roles I play; and that I can trust life’s offering to me without knowing why.

These insights only came through long hours of meditation, contemplation and heartfelt prayer.

It is said in the Celtic tradition that in order to die well, we must have lived well.  The phrase often spoken is “Bas sona,” which literally translates into “Have a happy death.”  Living well involves nourishing our spirits daily with heartfelt prayer, meditation and contemplation.  Wishing you Bas sona!

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Category: Relationships
Death Can Be A Unifying Experience

This spring my father died.  It is said the strangest thing about human existence is that although death is occurring all around us, we don’t believe it will happen to us.  (This is from the Mahabharata, an ancient text.) I would say the same about my poppa passing.   I did not fully believe death would happen to my father.  Perhaps my mother’s passing will be less of a jolt to my system, assuming of course she passes before me.

 

It was surreal to say the least to pick out his casket with my mother and brother.   Then there was the family only visitation and seeing him in the casket.  Although, I was present at his death, this took reality up a few more degrees instantaneously.   Of course, on the day of his funeral, our car was parked immediately behind the hearse, and we were in the first car in the procession behind the hearse to the grave. 

 

While I had been to other funerals, wakes and visitation, even those of close relatives, this was vastly different.  Although, I am only at best familiar with the Native American phrase “rite of passage,” I imagine that my experience is akin to such. 

 

Despite the fact that we did not have much time from his diagnosis to his death, we were blessed to have some.   We were clear on dad’s wishes about his dying and death as a family unit, so there was only understanding and support of him and each other.  We each had time alone with dad over his last two weeks to clear the air, resolve hurts, and express love and wishes for one another.   Although, the process from the ego’s point of view could be described as unpleasant, it was beautiful. 

 

If you have not had these conversations about dying, death, unresolved issues, or forgiveness, please consider doing so now.  Consider completing a living will for your self and encouraging your parents and partners to do so now also.  Consider reading Dr. Ira Byock’s book, “The Four Things That Matter Most.”   Death is inevitable and can be a unifying experience, or not.  Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away and addressing it now much peace may be found.  Much love and peace to you and yours!

 

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Category: Relationships
Health Care Delivery

This past spring my father underwent a lot of diagnostic testing over several weeks.  First, as a man who never interfaced with the health care delivery system, the interaction for him personally was challenging.  It was also challenging for my mom and I.  To see my dad, who has always been strong, healthy go into the hospital was nothing less than shocking, while concurrently interfacing between how the system operates and the emotions and expectations of my parents was difficult.

Both my parents have expressed multiple complaints about the health care delivery system. I, having played the roles of both provider and patient in my life, see both sides.  I believe we are not alone in our observations.

  • First the lack of (perceived) caring as demonstrated by the delay (perceived) in return of phone calls, return of results and appointment scheduling.  Although daily medical care in an office setting may be perceived differently than an emergency room setting, there is none-the-less a hierarchal list of issues depending on medical urgency that are being addressed at every moment.  For example, a person with a heart monitoring exam (EKG) result showing a likely infarct takes precedence over someone who has a mild abnormal finding on a CT scan and the three patients who are in exam rooms.  You may understand this now, but if you are the one with the mild abnormal finding on CT scan and your result is available to you on your electronic health record, you may be wondering why the hell your doctor has not already called you about the result.

 

  • Second, there is a deficit in immediacy, coordination and execution in the medical delivery system.  It is like getting a brontosaur to move at light speed…it just doesn’t happen.  Although, I have been told Mayo Clinic at Rochester has really great service and coordination.  The systems I have worked for and interacted in are not operating at such a level.  Yes, things get done, but if you are not the trauma victim or your life is not imminently danger, you may find yourself subject to long waits.   This is true for seeing your provider to getting your meal in the hospital.

 

  • Third, it seems as if your provider is more interested in the computer than in you.  Well, there is a lot to be said about this.   Most providers would love to never look at a computer again…while the electronic medical record has its benefits, providers really went into health care to interact with people.  However, here we are.  So in order to make sure your visit is documented appropriately, and the provider can recall enough info about your visit so next time you are seen progress can be made, it is necessary to tend the electronic medical record (EMR).  The other necessity involving the EMR is to order labs before you leaving the exam room..  This is what happens if you leave the exam room without labs being ordered…the moment a provider leaves the exam room, there is anywhere from 1 to 6 people that are waiting to ask him/her questions about other patients, specifics about a diagnostic test, etc, then your labs do not get ordered.  Behold you arrive at lab without orders and you are frustrated and lab personal are frustrated, etc.

Please know your provider does care.  Please know he/she is doing the best he/she can.  Please know if he/she is not freaked out, you can relax some, while also knowing the verbalization of your concerns is welcomed.  Please know your provider is human, and if he/she doesn’t call you immediately with a result, sometimes it is so he/she can be in a more compassionate state when he/she does call you.  Please know your provider is mandated to work with the constraints of the system, and concurrently wants the best for you delivered in an honorable way with efficiency.

Blessings!

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Category: Mindfullness
We cannot be healed against our will.

Although I certainly could write something in regards to this without preparing, I chose to research it. While I was reviewing what has already been written about this topic, I came across a sermon by Reverend J.M. Brewer:

It begins from Luke 17…
“And it happened, as he was on his way to Jerusalem, that he was going between Samaria and Galilee. And on entering one of the villages, he met ten men with leprosy, who stood at a distance; and they raised their voices and said: ‘Jesus, master, have mercy on us!’ And seeing them, he said: ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And it happened that as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, seeing that he was healed, turned back and praised God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at his feet, thanking him for what he had done; and he was a Samaritan.
In answer, Jesus said: ‘Were there not ten who were cleansed? Then where are the nine? Was no one to be found to turn back and praise God’s revelation except for this stranger?’ And he said to him: ‘Arise and go your way; your faith has become a healing force in you.’”

There is a fundamental difference between the concept of curing and that of healing. Today, if one pays attention to such things, it is clear that our society tends to blur the distinction, and then concentrate primarily on curing, or more particularly, on finding cures. There is a great realm of research. There is probably a charitable foundation named for every significant disease in the world. And the doctor’s last triumphant word to the patient is often: “You are cured.”

Indeed, people can be cured, but that always means cured of a particular disease. The cure is for the disease, not for the person. And that is the difference between a cure and a healing.

One never speaks of healing a disease, only of healing a person. A cure is an end; so is a healing, but in a very different way. Healing is rather a transition, a threshold between one stage of one’s existence and the next. Thus, it is often a beginning for an element of a life story that was not there before.

A cure is outwardly applied; where does healing come from? Partly it comes from the one who heals, but something must also arise from the one who is being healed.

We cannot be healed against our will.

So healing comes about through the meeting of two people. It is a kind of conversation between the two, and they have to believe in each other. The one who is sick must believe in the healer, but the healer must also believe in the one he or she is caring for. And thus it is ultimately our faith that makes us whole.

To add a little to Rev. Brewer’s sermon, my experience of curing is a restoration of physical health, an absence of symptoms, or a remedy of disease or condition. Healing is a return, remembrance, or resurrection of wholeness. While healing may inevitably result in a cure, it itself is not the removal or cessation of symptoms, but rather an integrative process that includes mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. It is possible to heal without being cured.

Our current and prevalent Western medical model stops at curing when healing is necessary to address many, if not all, of our ailments. Negative thought patterns, toxic relationships, unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles, and poor stress management each are beans that fill our bag/body becoming dis-ease that ravages our life.

Healing can happen now; curing may or may not come. We are always being invited to make peace with what is. We are not responsible for our dis-ease, but we do have a responsibility to our dis-ease. Remember one meaning of responsibility is the ability to respond. How you towards one part of yourself is how you are to your whole self. Are you at war with what is in your body or are you accepting and befriending? Cutting one part of you out or off, does not solve the issue. When we embracing healing, mystery is allowed. What is your choice? Happy healing!

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Category: Preventative Health

For a Leader

Build and Refine the Ways of Your Mind

For a Leader by John O’Donohue

May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the center of things.
May you not act from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself,
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May those who work for you know
You see and respect them.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or disappoints you,

May the graciousness with which you engage
Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.

May you treasure the gifts of the mind
Through reading and creative thinking
So that you continue as a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old,
And you never become a functionary.

May you know the wisdom of deep listening,
The healing of wholesome words,
The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,
The decorum of held dignity,
The springtime edge of the bleak question.

May you have a mind that loves frontiers
So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.

May you have good friends
To mirror your blind spots.

May leadership be for you
A true adventure of growth.

 

 

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Category: Mindfullness
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