Hope and Denial – Two edges of the Same Sword

No matter which of these two tools you choose the results are the same, we get to avoid the discomfort of what we are really facing. In many circles we are not willing to take away from folks these two ineffective tools because we seem them as softening the blow, taking the edge off.

When it comes to dying and death we tend to lean heavily on the hope side and accept the denial piece primarily because we as caregivers, hospice folks, medical staff, and doctors are not willing to face the fullness of the discomfort we would all need to face if we approached dying and death with a good dose of compassionate reality mixed with the power of intention.

I am in the midst of having a new tattoo done. It arose about 4 years ago after a trip south to Peru. I was blessed to spend time with some great shaman while I was there and I was taught the powerful trinity of the Condor, the Snake and the Puma.

The Condor represents objective clear vision from a distance – unaffected by subjectivity.

The Snake represent sensual connection with what is real – a fully subjective experience.

The Puma represent what is called right action – the result of combining both clear objectivity and subjective reality.

In our North American culture we often hold these two opposite apart how could you be both objective and subjective at the same time? Well the fact is you can be and finding the balance between these two is absolutely possible. The medical system could give us the straight goods as they know them – objectivity. We the patient could provide our personal experience as we really feel it – subjectivity.

Combining the two as players in the same game where both types of information are taken as equals our chances of making a better decision or a ‘right’ decision are far greater. What this means to me is me the patient remains em-power-ed (in power).

Things are not done to me without my informed consent either directly or through my appointed representative and the medical system is my condor to advise and guide me in the realm they have wisdom and experience in. I, the snake, have wisdom and experience living in my body and in my life – it too is invaluable.

Working as a team in balance ‘right’ action, the puma, will likely be taken and all the unnecessary costly efforts caused by hope and denial will fall away leaving space for quality of life, great good-byes, and graceful endings.  By costly I include spiritual, physical, mental, emotional and finical costs.

Perhaps the trinity of the Condor, Snake, and Puma could be adopted as a different approach to end of life. C. J. Prosise Authentic Jersey

Letting Go of My Stuff

I have spent a lot of time around North American elders, seniors and baby boomers and have come to the conclusion that we are each quite magnificent and somewhat crazy.

We seem to spend a lifetime acquiring ‘stuff’ surround ourselves with items that mean something to us – that in a way identify us and set us apart from others who have different stuff. It seems like some kind of unique suit that says I am me.

As we age this ‘stuff’ becomes even more important to us as our mobility diminishes and our outside world begins to shrink. Our ‘stuff’ reminds us that we lived a life, that we left a mark, that we amounted to something. The closer to the end of our lives we get the more the possessions mean to us.

As we downsize and prepare for our ultimate death we often times agonize over what to do with our ‘stuff’ – especially the important ‘stuff’. We write it into our wills, we hand it off to our loved ones when they are willing to take it. Sometimes our ‘stuff’ isn’t ‘stuff’ our loved ones want, it identifies us not them. Then we must painfully give it away or even worse throw it away.

Sometimes our ‘stuff’ land, building and cash ARE really coveted by our loved ones and they want our ‘stuff’ so much they behave badly to get it – especially when we are ageing poorly.

It all gets so serious and important.

Seems like a real life game of monopoly – I get it and it seems kinda’ silly at the same time. Thank goodness I have years to live, I have a lot of Christmas and birthday presents to give away yet.  It would be a great idea to create a let go of my ‘stuff’ plan.

Silly us.

Warmly
Stephen Joe Montana Jersey

Spiritual Bypassing – 2 Teachers do it Too.

I have spent a fair bit of time over the past 25 years in the new age spiritual movement.  All those years I spent as a student seeker and a decade of that as a facilitator and workshop leader.  My friend and colleague Robert Masters work a great book entitled Spiritual Bypassing that was brought to my mind recently.  I know the thesis well and am guilty as charged.

I used spiritual growth to avoid the mundane shit of my life as evidenced by taking a spiritual name – get me out of Stephen’s life and into Parabhakti’s life NOW.  About 6 years ago I spotted this bypassing tendency in myself and turned my spiritual name back to Stephen and began the work on the reality of my life as it was – work still very much in progress.  I am grateful indeed for the reality check as it is helping me grow as a human being and as a spiritual being too.  Notice the order.

As I have been taking stock of my own human life and how I avoided dealing with my own dark side and closeted ‘stuff’ as a student and seeker I also started to notice that many self-proclaimed teachers were doing the very same thing!  I noticed the abuse sex, power, money, and drugs – all huge distractions from life and in life – were being bent into spiritual teachings enabling the so called teachers to validate or make right their own behavior avoiding totally the accountability and responsibility required for deeper spiritual growth and more importantly deeper compassion and humanness in their own lives.

I was shocked at how common this twist of the student’s reaction to a teacher’s behavior was most often and so cleverly turned into a spiritual lesson for the student to bear!  Not that there wasn’t a lesson there, more that the lesson cut both ways.

Robert wrote this piece in the front of his book;

For all those whose longing to be truly free is becoming stronger than their desire to distract themselves from suffering.

What a gem of a phrase.

I give thanks daily for having the good fortune to have been pushed off a spiritual train that I had used to avoid the beautiful reality of my own mundane, yet deeply sacred life.

 

Much Love

Stephen Dontae Johnson Womens Jersey

Which Steps in a Marathon is Most Important?

What is the most important step in a marathon?  All of them!  So too is the case in life, each event is important.

Sometimes there are things that have happened in our lives that we are not all that proud of, and we try to side step them, hide them, or pretend they did not happen.  Well they did occur, and for a very good reason.  The practice is to track down the why that lies underneath the ‘step’.

I know that I would not be who I am without ALL THE STEPS I have taken in my life; those I consider good, those I see as bad, along with those ugly ones.  Each ‘step’ provided me with knowledge and understanding and enables me to have compassion for others.

Appreciate each step along your walk of life, it makes death much easier to live with.

 

Much love

Stephen Riley Dixon Jersey

The Language of Choice

The Language of Choice – How to determine where you are speaking from.

The Power of Choice Wheel can help you recognize what quadrant you are speaking from by simply listening to the language you are using.  I have broken down some of the key points for the two most common quadrants – Reactive and Fear-based, and Creative and Free.

 

Reactive and Fear-based

Past or future tense

Scarcity and lack

Judgmental

Critical

Blaming

You will notice almost immediately which approach you are taking by noticing what tense your verbs are – past tense looking back at history and future tense looking forward to the yet to be created is the simple way.  You can also listen to hear if you are blaming others – their actions have power over you or whether you are judging or criticizing others.

All these communication habits will let you know if you are in your own personal power or if you are giving your power away to others.  In other words powerful or powerless.

Creative and Free

Present tense – the now moment

Abundance

Acceptance

Self-responsible

Acknowledging

When you are in your personal power – powerful – you will automatically be speaking in the now moment, the present.  You will approach issues as opportunities not problems.  You will be accepting of what is really going on looking for ways you can take action to bring solutions forward.  You will accept responsibility for your actions.  You will also be coming from an attitude of abundance and gratitude.  There is no finger pointing when you are in your personal power.

Others respond differently, they do not get defensive as they do in an environment that is fear-based and reactive.  They tend to join in and raise their level of communication to match yours.  Even if they do not the typical make wrong fighting doesn’t go on because you are not doing it! Daniel Alfredsson Authentic Jersey

The Trouble with Bubbles

It seems we have a conundrum on our hands – true self and life appear to be on separate side of the universe.  We each seem to be operating in our own unique and separate universe – a universe of one. We have our individual history, beliefs, attitudes and lenses through which we experience our life.  Thought it appears that we are all in it together we really aren’t.  It is as if we are each a bubble in the soda of life.

Let me explain as best as I can.

Tell me who you are (the age-old mantra).

Who I am is the individual me… I am.  What I am, is a unique me with the potential or power of choice.  I am resting potential a kind of tap-able energy.  In itself this is not an issue I am simply resting potential energy.

Tell me what life is.

Life is the totality of possible opposites; an abundance of decisions; a multitude of options, an array of selections.  The universe never chooses for me.  It simply offers a never-ending series of binary choices for me to make.

Tell me what another is.

Simple, an individual like me in his or her own bubble of resting potential energy.

Here is the catch.

The moment I make a choice(s) I launch myself out of my resting potential –me the One, into life or not me – the Many.  I pop up out of the One into a universe of many as if I were a bubble in a glass of ginger ale. In the bubble of my choice(s) I look out and see other bubbles in their choice(s).

The game of life is on.  Like the board game SORRY, we try desperately to find our way home in the midst of all these glorious distractions.  My only way home though is to fall back into my resting potential, to surrender life, to die into the One.

The conundrum, the ultimate yoga – how do I live and die in the same moment?

Much Love

Stephen Garrett Justin Bethel Authentic Jersey

Death, An Inside View From the Perspective of a Cremationist

Back in 2011 I made a personal commitment to get fully involved in the business of death and dying it was a calling of sorts.  I  volunteer as a hospice visitor and in early January 2012 I took on a part time job as a cremationist.  I have been fortunate to have  lots of opportunities to learn much about the goings on in a funeral home.

I have had the honor to work with families as they prepare to say their final good-byes to their deceased loved ones – the cremation is a fundamental part of that.  I have been involved in hundreds of cremations and worked with many families over the past months.  I have learned tremendous life lessons by dealing with death first-hand, gained insights I would not have otherwise seen, and been humbled by the reality of death.

I had several personal experiences with death over the years and have a good understanding of dying, death, grief and loss, and bereavement.  I took hospice training in the mid 1990’s and done some hospice work back then too.  Working with death as intimately as I do has deepened my personal relationship with death in meaningful ways so much so that I have taken death on as my life coach!

Death is teaching me daily; Each time I sit with a person dying, meet with family and friends as they work through pre-grief and grief when the loss comes; Each time I cremate a person and return the cremate remains to the family.  I learn something more about life each time I encounter death.

Death is very real.  It is physical.  No one is getting out alive.  I am certain about that, mentally emotionally, spiritually and physically.  I know one day I will absolutely be dead.  This may sound depressing, yet to me it is totally inspiring – I am alive today!  Today I am breathing and able to experience all that is in front of me – fully!  What a gift!

Being right is a waste of time.  One of the pastimes many of us enjoy is the pursuit of self-rightness (Self Righteousness).  I have seen it in my life over and over again. Though common I find it a waste of time and combative.  Rather be curious and wrong and learn something about life than be stuck in the land of rightness.

Follow your heart.  I spend time with people who are in the final days of their life and I often hear regrets like ‘I wish I would have done all those things I wanted to.’  Sometimes it is spoken like ‘I wish I had lived my own life, not the one others wanted me to live.’  Regrets like these are life lessons turn inside out.  For those of us living, hear these lessons and adjust your life so it won’t be you talking like that on your deathbed.

Love the one you are with.  I was with a family awhile back, the sadness was overwhelming.  ‘We all love each other.  Sad thing is we forget to remind ourselves by saying it out loud each day.  It is too late to remind Dad.’  Feel this one, really feel it and if you want to avoid this kind of grief, be more demonstrative with your love today and each day you are alive.

Money isn’t everything.  I have had the honor to cremate many people over the past while – some very wealthy, others very poor.  Multi-millionaires to homeless folks, people driving BMWs and individuals pushing shopping carts. When I am done my duty as a cremationist, at the end of the process I can’t tell the difference – ashes to ashes, dust to dust – there is no obvious difference in the cremated remains.  We all look the same in the end, and there is no evidence of money, stature or possessions.

Nothing wrong with abundance, nothing right with it either, it just is.  When it is life consuming as in the North American Dream perhaps it is time to put our attention on what is important – each other.

Death can be very informative when you look at it through new lenses!

 

Much Love

Stephen Garrett Bill Bates Jersey

The Ultimate Doorway Life versus Death

In North America we have a strong aversion to and in many case denial of death.  Human death happens 57 millions times a year on the planet – in Canada we experience 251,000 deaths yearly.  It is a very common, natural experience that many of us wish we didn’t have to deal with.  Death is a topic that most of us don’t even want to talk about.

When you look around at the world and really notice some of our behaviors it becomes obviously clear that we are totally afraid of death.  We seem to be holding on for dear life.  Death and ageing are made wrong.  Botox, facelifts, butt tucks, excessive medical interventions, crazy diets and all manner of efforts to demonstrate our belief we have some form of mastery over death.  In fact all our strategies speak of our abject fear of ageing and dying.

Whether we speak it out loud or not most of us are in the fear of death boat on one level or another.  It shows up as being risk adverse, supressed and somewhat pulled back from the edge of life – from life as it really is – from the magic of plain and simple everyday living.

Well, I have tossed myself into the world of death and dying.  I am working as a cremationist 5 days a week and I am volunteering my time as a hospice visitor so I am in it fully.  I have taken death as my teacher and here is what I have discovered

Life and death are sides of the same coin.

We don’t trust death.

Our elders have immense life wisdom.

I will explain.

In the world of opposites that we all live in, we tend to prefer one opposite more than the other.  In some pairs of opposites it is less obvious than with these two – life and death.  Of course most of us prefer life and would rather death get lost so we don’t have to deal with it.

Here is the catch I have discovered.  To the degree we deny death or are frightened of it we are equally in denial of life or are afraid of it.

Put another way if I embrace my death fully and take it as an ally or inspiration I similarly take on my life!  I can’t deny death and expect to have a passionate life.  By embracing my death I bring an end to the deadly habit of waiting for the right time, the right job or the right ——.

Procrastination goes out the window and living life is ushered in.

Secondly, we do not trust death.  When death comes knocking the fight is on and most of us do all kinds of thing to avoid the inevitable.  Using the law of opposites if we do not trust death we will not trust life.  When life doesn’t go the way we want it we fight it – we don’t trust it.  We make it wrong and rail against it.  What would happen if we trusted life and made it right?  Wow would we ever learn and grow.

Sitting with our elders by their death beds as I do often I have really learned to listen.  The gems of wisdom that roll off their tongues are truly life informing.  If we were all to spend 2 hours a week sitting with our elders, (not olders), we would all learn things about life that would greatly enhance our own living.

Death and impending death inform life if we would only learn to listen.  Since jumping fully into to world of death I have made some significant changes in my own living.  Here are a mere few;

I call my boys daily and don’t miss a day.

I call my mom 3 times a week, and my brother too.

I don’t put off until tomorrow what I can do today.

I am not so interested in being right.

My life is way more exciting, raw, alive and full of magic than I recall it ever being.  Perhaps this is simply because I am now more in it than ever before.  I know on a mind body spirit level I am dead at some point, it is not a thought to me it is a deep acceptance and knowing.  This visceral experience has opened me to the absolute joy of living my life just as it is.  Doing what I can to live in alignment with my heart’s wisdom.

Suggestions – Acceptance and Straight Talk

What would happen in your life if you really did accept the fact that one-day you will die – and you don’t know when that day will be.

Feel your own death, get it as a thought, get it in your body, feel it with your soul.

Do the same with your loved ones – get they are going to die too and you don’t know when.

This is real my friends, do this exercise with depth and reality and it will absolutely inform and change the way you live your life.

Spend some time with an elder and listen to their stories.  If you are an elder tell yours!

Open to the reality of death, doing so makes the current moment of life richer.

The moment is all we really have.

Much Love

Stephen Garrett

  Kyle Lauletta Jersey

Taking Care of Yourself – It is Not Selfish!

I was a passenger on an airplane the other week and for the first time in a while paid attention to the pre-flight safety demonstration.  I noticed the part when the oxygen masks dropped down and the instruction was to put your own mask on first, then the mask for your children.  What a great life lesson!

It highlighted for me the need to take good care of yourself especially in times of emotional, physical, and spiritual stress.  Times like the loss of a loved one.  So I created this section to remind you of some of the self-care things you can do for you.  By taking great care of you, you will be much more able to take care of those you love!

Physical Care

Make sure you get some exercise, some out door time, some physical movement.  There is a lot going on around you, many details to handle, lots of people to be with and many emotional conversations to have.  It can be draining physically.  Be sure to drink plenty of water, get rest and take catnaps when you can.  Get plenty of sleep and eat well even if your appetite is low.  Remember to honor your own physical limitations when you can carry on and need a rest say so.

Emotional Care

Find some support for yourself, a friend or family member who can be there for you.  Local hospice societies provide volunteers who are well trained in grief and loss so take advantage of that service if it is available.  Remember you too have the right to your own unique expression of grief and the fullness of your own emotions.

Mental Care

There will be lots of thoughts going through the minds of family and friends some understandable and some confusing and unclear.  Their thoughts may trigger your own thoughts.  It is fine to have thoughts as you do your best to make sense of the death, to understand it all and to put it into to paradigm that makes sense to you.  Using a journal could help you organize and collect your thoughts.  Remember it is ok to have your own personal thoughts about the loss.

Spiritual Care

Death often brings up the issue of spirituality.  Who am I?  Who was my loved one?  What is life?  What is the point of it all?  These questions are deeply spiritual and well worth asking.  It is perfectly fine if you are inspired to use ceremony and ritual to help you through your own grief journey.  These rituals help and also bring other people close to you for added support.  Remember ritual and ceremony is a personal choice which you have the right to make.

Much Love

Stephen Garrett Willie McCovey Authentic Jersey

Practice Dying? – Lots of Different Deaths to Explore

We need to re-train ourselves to live with death and the process of death in deeper and healthier ways that include all the hidden opportunities death affords. This is hard to practice when dying only comes around occasionally in our families. However, there are other times that occur regularly in life that we can use to practice dealing with the inevitable loss of a loved one and for that matter our own future death.

Here are some other types of ‘death’ that we can practice with in order to learn some closure skills that will stand us in good stead.

Fired from a job                                    End of a relationship

Completion of a project                        End of a day

Depletion of your bank account            Sale of a car

Death of a dream                                    Death of an age or era

Loss of mobility                                    Loss of a faculty (sight, hearing etc)

When thinking of death we tend to focus on a person’s death or loss of the body.  Agreed, this is the big one, and yet we can prepare for this by understanding that these other ‘deaths’ are similar experiences.  Something existed and now it no longer does.  Lets take a look at some of the other ‘deaths’ listed above and see how we can use them to practice acceptance, closure, and letting go.

Death or the ending of a relationship is a great comparison as many if not all of us have ended a loving relationship at one time or another.  If you were the one who was left it can feel devastating for quite a time after.  The roller coaster ride of emotions can be very similar to the emotional ride death of a loved one brings.  This is particularly true of relationships that have been long standing.

You will notice immediately after the breakup, that your emotions can get easily triggered when you see your ex-partner, or when you visit the home of a friend that was once a friend of the couple.  You may notice the loss when you walk by a favorite restaurant or a special occasion comes and goes.  You may notice also the bargain basement feelings of trying to get him or her back, perhaps even denial – “Oh they’ll come to their senses and we’ll get back together.”  This mini-death mimics quite closely those emotion we feel around a loved one dying.

We can use the ending of an important relationship to practice the skills of acknowledging the loss, accepting the benefits, saying good-bye well, and being real with our deepest feelings.  We can also practice the use of ceremony or ritual to mark in a healthy way the end of this important piece of our lives.  Notice how you reacted when ending a relationship.  What did you do well?  What could you improve upon?  What skills, tools and techniques did you learn that you could use when facing the death of a loved one or other life endings?  When you practice this process you will build yourself a death toolbox that you can draw on when needed.

Death, or the ending of a job can be equally tough on people especially when the job loss was unexpected or sudden.  Many of the same emotions as crop up when ending a relationship will come up as you move through the process of job loss or job change.  You will feel denial, bargaining, and anger, sadness, and often confusion occurring regularly and sometimes forcefully as you move from employed to unemployed.  Even if the job change was planned as in the case of retirement, there will still be a journey through grief as you adjust to the changes, the different environment, the loss of personal worth, and your business relationships.

You may notice that even when you find another job you are still carrying mental and emotional baggage from the exit of your previous job.  You may find yourself wishing you were back in your old position and remembering enviously times of ‘better’ days.  On the other side of the coin you may carry the emotional and mental baggage with relief, “whew glad that’s over” yet you are still lugging it along as you compare one job to the other.

At some point it’s done and you are in your new position with no hangover from the previous one.  So again notice how you approach this death.  What did you do well that supported that change? What did you do that didn’t really work that well?  What pitfalls did you fall into and get stuck in for a while?  Add the tools that worked for you to your Death Toolbox and do some research on where you may have gotten stuck or lost.

Here is a really simple one!

Each day is born as we awaken to the new morning.  Each day dies into the darkness of night as we fall asleep.  Death and rebirth each and every day!  A time to say good-bye to what is no longer and a time to greet that, which is new.  What a wonderful practice!  Do you have a way to begin each day aside from simply getting out of bed?  Do you have a way to close each day so it doesn’t unwillingly force itself into tomorrow?  Do you have tools to notice what you did well that day and celebrate those wins?  Do you have ways to let go of what you didn’t do so well and forgive yourself?

Add these simple easy-to-practice skills and tools to your Death Toolbox and help yourself prepare for the unavoidable deaths that will come your way in life.

Look at all the different types of death that remain on the list and discover how you can ‘practice’ with these deaths all of the skills that you can then transfer and use when the death of a loved one comes knocking on your door.

Hey, even in sex there is birth and death! Birth of sexual play begins with the urge, the horny feeling.  It comes alive and blossoms into lovemaking and at the end of the sexual encounter there is a “petit mort” (little death) in the form of an orgasm.  The sexual play has died.

So, notice in your life these opportunities to let go appreciatively of things that have ended and embrace those which are new.

Much Love

Stephen Garrett Vincent Trocheck Womens Jersey