Tag Archives: essence

Casting Off

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mother portrait

A new cycle was beginning.

Jean, our hospice nurse, spent time examining mother. She spoke with confidence and gentleness to my mother. Everything had changed. Since the episode a night earlier, Mother was now too weak to leave her bed. She was confined by her own weakness. Her world began to change. Only days earlier, she had sat in her wheel chair, eaten a normal meal and laughed with us in another room. That was to be her last foray outside of her bedroom and her last burst of energy. Everything was shrinking – her appetite, her mobility, and her own body. But her mind was still quite acute. There was no way I was giving up on her. I still thought she and I could get her through this, despite what the doctors and hospice said.

After Jean took time to get acquainted with Mother, she asked all of us to join her in another room. The mood was sombre as we listened intently. Now we were in the world of hospice, a very foreign country to all of us. Already installed in Mother’s room was the humming oxygen machine to assist her breathing when needed. We had refused bringing in a hospital bed, wanting mother to be in her own usual bed.

Jean explained what it meant to have palliative care. She showed us the powerful drugs, like morphine and lorazepam (for anxiety) that would be available for Mother to help ease her through the process. Luckily, Mom was not in pain, and we were grateful for this. Jean warned us that we should not count on our memory to remember when and how much medication Mother was given. We should have a journal. My brother, the ever organized and with a Navy pilot thoroughness, prepared the journal for us.

I made the decision immediately that I would be the only one to give Mother the heavy drugs. I was still her protector and wanted to prevent her from being drugged unnecessarily. Then we learned of the array of other hospice workers who would be available to help. Ever polite and grateful, we walked Jean to the door, thanking her along the way.

When the door closed, we stood stunned but coping. Bill and Judy would soon be returning back home, but they knew they would never again hear Mother’s cheery voice or see her smile. Each took private time with her, holding back tears as best they could until they left the room. They also knew that this would be difficult for Richard and for me and asked us to call whenever we needed help, no matter the time of day or night.

The four of us talked as Mother rested, still with her ever faithful Siamese cat by her side. We agreed on the plans for the funeral and who would be called in Ann Arbor. This would be the key part bill and Judy would play as we held vigil. As we talked, Judy continued knitting the pretty pink afghan she had been making for Mother as a Christmas gift. The afghan was only partially made.

On the morning that Bill and Judy departed, I stood in the kitchen alone with my brother. He said, “Judy cast off the afghan last night and is leaving it for mother just as it is.” She cast off, a knitting term that was a kind of closure on the item being made. Casting off is also letting the ship or boat be free to go out to sea. Mother was casting off her life as she knew it, and we were with her. The destination seemed certain, but the final journey was not yet charted. That was to be revealed to all of us, along with the ethereal lessons and miracles.

Judy left the afghan draped over Mother’s shoulders as she laid in bed. I tried to keep it there as much as I could, placing it to warm her neck. It was a parting gift made with love. At the time Mom took her last breath, that pink afghan was still warming her. But then, Mother had cast off permanently. She was sailing through clear and vibrant seas, and free at last. Soon she would bring us along.

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The 52: More on Lesson Nine — You Are As Happy As You Want To Be

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People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln

That Abraham Lincoln!  With everything else he did, I never knew he made comments on happiness — and profound ones indeed.  So you see, happiness doesn’t just happen.  It has something to do with how you think  and how your mind is responding to your life and world.  You can make up your mind to be happy.  How liberating is that?

One of the yoga classes I teach focuses on being light and happy.  At the beginning of class, everyone takes one of those sticky smiley faces. You know the ones that are usually yellow and they used to be plastered in all kinds of places.  “Have a nice day,”  might go along with them.  They were ubiquitous at one time. I stick my smiley face on the front of my shirt so everyone can see it.  I encourage students to stick them on their bathroom mirror, on the dashboard of their car, on their computer, wherever they will see it.  It’s a reminder to lighten up and be happy.  We need all the help we can get!

Sure, some may think that this idea of happy faces is a little trivial, silly, syrupy, and sentiments like that.  I don’t care because I would rather be reminded to be happy than be politically correct or cynical about it.  I tried that way (the cynical way) for a long time.  All I derived from that was pain and separation. It does not work, especially if you want any happiness in your life.

Many of us say to ourselves, “Well, I will be happy when I find a partner or make enough money or have a new car or buy that special pair of shoes or get my child into the best school.”  Think about it.  You will always have another “as soon as” and then happiness just passes you by.  Happiness is not something that comes from the outside.  It is an inside deal.  Remember Lincoln said, it is in your mind.

I like this quote from one of the great texts on yoga, the Yoga Vasistha:

One who is happy with whatever clothing he is given,

whatever food he is fed, and whatever resting place he is given,

shines like an emperor.

  • Think about times when you were especially grateful or happy.  What triggered that response? Maybe it was something simple like making it on time to your child’s school play or getting the last seat on an airplane or seeing a squirrel scamper across your yard.
  • Go way back in time, to your childhood.  Something very simple might have been the impetus.  I remember being in elementary school and, on the first really warm spring day, how much happiness I felt at going outside to swing on swings and run across the grass.
  • Look around you.  Really look.  I know you will find something around you that can elicit gratitude  and happiness.  Just sitting here in my office, I am happy that the sun is streaming through the window, that my computer is working, that I have my cup of green tea right next to me.  Remember, I said simple.

You can “make up your mind” to be happy, to find something that evokes happiness.  You are not tossed about by the circumstances of the world.  In fact, you are the world you construct.

With happiness, I wish you a wonderful day!

With love and namaste, Deanne

Check out www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Nine – Why Meditate: Some Thoughts

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The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest

you can give yourself in this life.

Sogyal Rinpoche

These are the words of a Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen Lama.  He describes meditation as going home and revealing our true heart.  His most prominent writing is a book I value greatly, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.  His words resonate with a Truth that transcends any particular path, which is one of the goals of my own work — to show the commonalities between the many spiritual paths.

One of the most renowned and respected Christian writers of this or any era is C. S. Lewis, a favorite of mine.  In England, he was an Oxford don who converted from doubt to devout Christianity.  He even engaged in fantasy works of fiction.  You may know him as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.  He said:

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence and private:

and therefore, starved for meditation and true friendship.

And this from The Holy Bible:

Sing unto him, sing psalms upon him,

meditate upon his wondrous works.

Psalms 105:2

Some may see the last quote more as a contemplation rather than meditation but the idea of meditation is frequently mentioned in Christian writings.

Yet meditation is more associated, to many of us, as an Eastern teaching.  It is true that many of Western faith are less familiar with the concept of meditation.  In most cases, meditation is a solitary practice.  Even while I meditated in the company of thousands of others, it was still my meditation.  Its great benefit is the promise of  an authentic experience of God consciousness. one to one, if you will.

So this is the purpose — Divine Consciousness,  Yes, as other benefits, we can experience less stress, being more centered, lower blood pressure and many other healthful results, which are not a small thing.  But meditation can bring about union with a higher power, with Divine Love, with God, with Eternal Life.  Now THAT is something really big!

As we conclude this week on meditation, though we will return to it again soon, do this:

  • Follow the earlier suggestions for meditation.  Now, as you prepare to meditate, ask for guidance and Truth.  Ask for Grace.  ASK!  Let your meditation be encircled with love and kindness.  Then just meditate.  Stop thinking.  See how this feels.
  • Come to a place of acceptance.  Let the meditation just be what it is.  If your mind went off on a grocery list or a bill to be paid or the next action of the day, be accepting.  Okay, that is how it was today.
  • Don’t give yourself a grade. “Well that was a lousy meditation, I might as well give up.”  In truth, just about everyone thinks that at some point.  Let it go.  Just keep meditating in whatever way you can.
  • If you just can’t meditate, for whatever reason, be okay with that too.  Even long time meditators may hit a patch where they have trouble.  Be kind to yourself.  Everything will unfold just right.

Keep me posted!  Everything about these lessons is about reaching out with love.  If this has helped even one person, my heart will sing with joy.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Nine — Did You Meditate Today?

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Meditation is not a means to an end

It is both the means and the end.

                              Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti was an Indian-born scholar and philosopher, a writer whose work embraced no particular religion, but one who had profound wisdom in the spiritual realm. He stressed that world change could not occur through some exterior entity — be it religious, social, or political.  Change had to emerge from within.  While he never allowed himself to be described as a guru, a spiritual teacher who engages with a following, he was nonetheless, the voice of Truth to many.

Meditation, then, is both a practice, as something we do, to reach an end, (some would say spiritual enlightenment and waking up), and yet meditation is the end itself. Not to get too complicated — we just do it.

In the lexicon of spiritual activities, meditation ranks at the top.  In classic yoga, meditation (dhyana, in Sanskrit), is the seventh of the eight limbs.  If we thought of them as rungs, only samadhi, the superconscious state, would rank above it.  As I tell my students, I can help to teach the other limbs of yoga, like breathing and posture, but this state, described in many ways as realization or oneness with the Supreme,  is not teachable, it comes to us by Grace. So you might as well just relax and meditate and see what happens.

Here’s an idea:

  • After you meditate, try writing down your experience.  How did it feel?  How did you feel before and after?  Was the mind especially active?  Are you more calm?  More anything?
  • Over time, you will see patterns forming. These will help you.  For example, you might find morning meditation more pleasant and useful than evening.  You might adjust you time to sit in meditation.  It’s your own personal preference.
  • Not meditating at all?  Maybe you will write a few words or think of why you have made this choice.  Remember, no one is judging!  No one!  Not ever! (Wasn’t that the point of the last lesson?)

Let’s stay in touch on the subject of meditation.  If you already meditate, I will be interested in what you think of these posts.  We can all learn together.

Just be lighter and happier whatever you are doing and wherever you are right now.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Seven — You See and Create the World Around You

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Seven billion pairs of eyes look out on their world and believe they are seeing what is there.  No two of them will see the same thing.  Oh, sure, there may be agreement on the name of an object but what is attributed to that object will not be the same.  This is because we are the ones giving meaning to all that surrounds us.

Pratyahara (the control or withdrawal of the senses) is one of the eight “limbs” of classic yoga as described in the authoritative work that describes yoga, The Yoga Sutras.  This important book, written by Pantajali, holds in its pages much of the essence of yoga.   It outlines the true path, far beyond the way most Westerners understand yoga, as mostly yoga poses and the breath. In the course of our studies, we will give focus to these lesser known aspects of yoga, most particularly dhyana, meditation.  But now for a glimpse of pratyahara:

If you meditate, you may have familiarity with the sophistication of withdrawing the senses.  For those new to this idea, I like to first bring attention to the senses, so that we can begin to recognize their influence, use them for our benefit, and then proceed, if we wish, to withdraw from them completely.

The Truths that emanate from so many spiritual disciplines, like yoga, lead to experiencing the world in ways not generally recognized outside of the spiritual realm.  For most of us, it takes some time to realize that the world is not what it seems to be.  Our rational, left brain thinking is not attuned to “seeing” in these new ways.  Let’s try this:

  • Look around you.  “See” all that is present.  Leave nothing out. Think of the names of all that you see.  You had to learn these, you know, as you grew up.  They were taught to you in your own language.
  • As you see them, ponder any emotional reaction you have to what is around you.  This too you had to learn, through experience and teaching.
  • Now notice that everything you see is defined completely by you – in its name as you learned it and in your emotional reaction to it.  In this sense, you created it as it is.
  • Now see if you can imagine that all that you are seeing is “neutral,” without a reaction.  Let everything be neutral for a while.  Does this seem odd?
  • Relax your eyes.  Let them close.  Is everything still “out there” even if you aren’t seeing with your physical eyes?

That’s all you have to do for now.  Whatever you experience, just ponder it.  All of this that you see seems to be outside of you.  Or where is it?  We are just playing with concepts.  Stretching ourselves a bit.  Testing reality. In time, we will consider “seeing” again.

I hope you are “seeing” these lessons as interesting, entertaining, and maybe even curious.  All of that is good.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Four –Blah! Blah! Blah! Turn Off the Chatter

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Never miss a good chance to shut up!

 That’s what Will Rogers had to say.  He was a humorist, actor and cowboy, popular in the 1920s and 30s.  Maybe before “your time.”  I like this quote so much, I used it in one of my earlier blog posts.  Now some of those quotes seem to fit right into these weekly lessons.

Think about this: If we are not actually talking or listening to some form of chatter, our minds are all too happy to fill in the space.  Tearing from subject to subject. Interjecting thoughts, judgments, and instant analysis of any old thing.  Playing the same tired tapes over and over.  Don’t we grow weary with all the activity? What a relief to “shut up” and take a break.

How are you doing with giving some time to silence?  Does it seem strange to you?  Does your mind object? Who is the one doing all that thinking, after all?  Who is there in the stillness?  Could there be someone who witnesses all the falderal?  Is it possible that you’ve been so busy with noise that you haven’t noticed that some one else is there?  Could it be YOU?  Maybe it is time to get acquainted with YOU, the silent one who is in every moment of your life – waking, sleeping, thinking, dreaming.

I am curious. Let me know if you are meeting another part of yourself as you dip into silence.  Or, if you have been meditating for a long time, maybe you can venture back into the time when you first noticed that someone – YOU – was watching.  I relish hearing these stories.

And now, for something completely different, let’s all be SILENT.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts and information:  www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Four — Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh! We are Silent Now

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Now we are being quiet!  Now we are learning to be with ourselves, bathed in peace and love.  Now we are remembering who we really are, before we took on all those definitions from being in the world.  This is the practice of the heart.  This is where we find quiet, serenity, and peace.

On the tree of silence grows the fruit of peace.

Written by the Indian poet, Kabir, in the 1400s, the simplicity of the statement resonates today.

See what happens when you set aside some time for silence.  See who you become over time.  You might come to see that those quiet moments of your day are the ones you value the most.  You might see into the magnificense that dwells within you.  With in YOU, right now.  Perhaps lying dormant because you have never been quiet enough to know it.  Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Listen to the silence!

A few more ideas:

  • Just before going to bed or falling asleep, take some time to rest your mind. Let go of the replay of the day or dwelling on a problem to be solved.  Put it all to “bed.”  Let your mind flow to something small you enjoyed during your day then rest in that moment of happiness.
  • Just before rising, take a moment to open with gratitude and kindness into the new day.  Think of something that will bring pleasure as the day begins, even if it is simply a cup of tea or coffee, the face of someone you love, the warmth of a shower.  Then rest in the stillness of that momentary thought.
  • Before going into the stillness, remind yourself — I love myself completely NOW.  You cannot say it often enough.

Snippets of silence help us to be calm in a different way than long periods of, say, meditation.  Both have great benefit.  See how it feels to you.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more words, go to www.deannemincer.com