Human Tragedy Story Often Obscures Soul Journey Perspective

For a long time, I have believed we are soul journeyers having a human experience. The beauty and challenge of life is that our assumptions and beliefs get tested along the way.  In 2012, for me, one way has been through my mother’s journey.

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Painting by Adimir Kush

When the symptoms of my mother’s dementia were becoming more obvious in the years before she went into long term care, I knew it as a soul journey and experienced it as a human tragedy story.  This became more pronounced when she went into long term care.  Instead of being the only person in a household living out a bizarre new set of behaviours,  losing her capacity to communicate and do simple things like change the channel on the TV, she became one of many old and dying people no longer able to care for themselves, most living in their own little diminishing physical worlds.

The human tragedy story is amplified in these circumstances and places.  It is hard to see past the story of tragedy when it stares you in the face as you walk down hallways that evoke very visceral reactions in what you see, smell, hear or otherwise encounter – even in a place as loving and caring as the place my mother experienced as home in the last four years of her life.

CorridorHow many people came up to me, my brother or my father after mom’s funeral to share amazing stories about her that captured the essence of who she was and then proceeded to talk about how they just couldn’t visit her at Harbourview Haven.  How hard it was if she didn’t seem to recognize them.  How hard it is to be in that building when, as a culture, we have become disconnected from the death chapter of the life cycle.  We no longer experience it as part of the natural flow of life but as something to be feared.  Walking in a place where death is imminent generates fear and discomfort for many of us.  It did for me when I first began visiting my mother but, through my mother, the shape of my experience shifted.

For the few who were able to manage a visit or two, they expressed how amazing it was when there was a flicker of recognition in something she said.  I learned how many people besides me she called “little one” (really mom?!) and that was a point of reference for them.

There are others who saw enough through the human tragedy story to visit often.  My mother had a few of those regular visitors although we often didn’t even know it since she couldn’t remember who visited or when they did.  Deeply grateful for those dear friends.

The length of mom’s journey with dementia and her stay in long term care, invited me more deeply into this paradox of understanding  the human tragedy dressing of soul journey.   The phrase “oh, that poor soul” makes me chuckle now.  We use that phrase to describe the human tragedy perspective.  It is the physical experience that appears poor, not the soul journey perspective if you believe, like I do, that we make some choices before we manifest into physical form about what it is we want to experience for our soul journey this time around.

As my mother become more disembodied, I embodied the soul journey perspective from a deeper, more encompassing place of understanding.  Towards the end, her human tragedy story didn’t register for me anymore, only the soul journey perspective.  This gave me a high degree of peace during her long transition process, allowing me to live my life fully even while being present to my mother’s journey and our family care around it.

For the gifted people who work at Harbour View Haven, it seems to me they also see past the human tragedy perspective, treating each individual with full dignity and respect.  Treating them as if they are, what we consider, fully functioning, fully present human beings.  It was a gift to observe this most keenly in my mother’s final hours. It made me wonder what would happen if  we all treated others all the time with this kind of dignity and respect – whether we thought they deserved it, whether we thought they were fully human or not.

Living simultaneously with my mother’s journey, my journey and the rest of life, I’ve been thinking about how to express this all so it does not fuel the human tragedy story. I now speak about “the many streams of life”.  We are all in many streams of life all at the same time. Stuff happens.  Stuff comes up.  There is a life giving invitation to be well in all of it, although a more typical response is to be stressed by all the things that come our way that we have to take care.

I’m leaning into this invitation to flow with the many streams of life as though that is what they are, rather than challenges.  Greater spaciousness beautifully shows up.

And then there are the lessons of embodiment that have been present for me in a big way already in and since 2012.  As I embody my experiences and my learning I understand more deeply my life’s events, my relationships and my soul’s calling.

I’m not saying the human tragedy story isn’t real.  But the soul journey perspective is also just as real although harder for many to see, obscured by the human tragedy story.  The soul journey perspective allows me to live into joy and delight and allows me to fall in loveover and over again in a way living into the human tragedy story does not.

For my mother, I continue to experience a dance of joy, delight and lightness as her spirit soarspixies_in_the_sky-1868 free from the human tragedy unfolding of her physical body.  She continues to be my teacher and my friend and very, very real in my human experience.

(Originally published at Shape Shift Strategies Inc. on March 1, 2012)

Expanding Awareness: A Few Suggestions For Growing Your Consciousness

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Lake Park, MN

Have you ever walked in the woods and felt yourself enveloped by the silence? Laid in the sun and lost awareness of everything around you except the warmth of the sun on your body? Or sat by the ocean and experienced the timelessness of the sand and waves, understanding your own life as a grain of sand on an ever changing beach? Or entered a cathedral and felt the history of the ages whisper in your soul? Have you encountered experiences and stories that raised every hair on the back of your neck?

All of this is information. All of this is expanded awareness, expanded consciousness. How do you go about intentionally expanding your awareness, growing your consciousness? Here are a few simple suggestions.

Pay attention to naturally occurring situations – any or all of the ones mentioned above and more – let your attention rest there and slowly expand your “gaze” to “see” or sense more. This is not necessarily seeing with your physical eyes, although it can be that too. This is seeing with your second sight, or your third eye, or your imagination – whatever you want to call it. Let a story unfold – or make one up. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. And when you know that your body is around 65% water, you begin to understand how much of what we think is real might actually be illusion.

Soften your gaze anytime, anywhere – including in your own living room, back yard, in a place with people – airports, malls. You can allow the energy that is in the space you are in float around you as if it has its own movement, its own story, its own being – because it does.

You can tap into your imagination, letting it run away in its own directions. Where does the inspiration for imagination come from anyway? Do we know it doesn’t come from some metaphysical influences?

pixies_in_the_sky-1868When you are in the woods and you soften your gaze, can you see the wood nymphs, the faeries, the elves and other entities that wander there, that call it home? (If you are wondering if it is real or if you are making it up, see the previous post – it doesn’t matter.) If you could interact with them or talk to them, what would that interaction look like or sound like? Every time I expand my conscious to invite interaction with what I cannot see with my eyes but can sense with my being, the very first feeling is one of gratitude and appreciation for the acknowledgement. “Thank you for seeing me.” And very often there is light heartedness, joy and delight. A sense of playfulness. Hmmm, yes. Playfulness and light heartedness. True story.

It seems particularly important to see and acknowledge these beings / non-beings in city parks and green areas because so much more of the city’s energy is weighted down with concrete, asphalt and other man-made building materials. Every time these beings are seen and acknowledged it fuels them, gives them additional sparks of life.

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Beach photo courtesy of Peter Moorhouse

When you are on the beach, let your imagination wander into the water and see what comes into your awareness. The sea creatures – physical, non-physical, mythical. You can see them dancing on the waves, in drops of water, in the way the rays of the sun touch the surface and penetrate the depths.

In cathedrals built eons ago, feel the blood, sweat and tears of the men and women who built these structures. Feel awe at the feat as well as the grief and sorrow of those that lost their lives, the harshness of the times and circumstances. Imagine what it was like in the day they were built and what vision and perseverance it would take to bring it into being. And all the sacred ceremony that has filled the cavernous spaces inside, still alive in the density of the air.

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

The ways to expand your awareness, expand your consciousness are not even limited to your imagination, although they are limited by doubt, by questioning, by not believing. Allow – no, invite – yourself to play, to dream, to imagine. And learn to trust your own experiences.

My Passive-Aggressive Relationship with the Law of Attraction and Some Simple Steps

It is safe to say that the Law of Attraction was not on my radar prior to my life crashing and burning around me when I was in my mid-thirties. Up to the point of dramatically losing my job and my first marriage falling apart, I was blissfully unaware, and some days I still wish I was.

When it did come into my awareness through Alan Cohen’s book, The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, it was a tremendous relief, almost a lifesaver, at a very dark and paralyzing time in my life when my only way of dealing with each day was to look only at what was right in front of me, not the next day and certainly not the next week. Essentially the message I received was: if I attract the circumstances of my life to me, and I had powerfully attracted destructive forces, then I had equally the power to attract good into my life. And that was a hopeful promise and expectation. It meant my life didn’t have to be all bad. That this day and circumstance did not need to be a predictor of my future. Hallelujah!

Since then, for almost two decades, my relationship with the law of attraction could probably be described as passive-aggressive and fraught with pitfalls along the way.

The basic premise is, set your intention, write it out, visualize it and then let it go. Cool, simple, easy. Until it isn’t cool, simple or easy. Especially when those big dreams of enough money, enough opportunity, enough love and enough success don’t materialize. Are they right around the corner or miles and miles away? Do I stay with it or give up on it and how do I know the difference?

I have experienced myself, and witnessed others, move from hopeful anticipation that this stuff really does work to painful desperation in their visualizations (“I trust, really I do, but how much longer do I need to wait?”). Some books and authors, The Secret being one of them, would have you believe it is as simple as visualizing – forget the how, just know what you want. It’s not what you do, it’s your state of mind, your energetic field, the vibes you give out.

Then we look around to see what other people are doing, judge ourselves for not measuring up and, in our jealousy of believing they are achieving something that eludes us, judge them for not being perfect enough, for being inauthentic or for abandoning their values in the pursuit of success – all projection, by the way, since rarely do we have enough knowledge of them or their path to truly know their intentions, their values or whether they are being authentic or inauthentic.

I am not totally disillusioned with the law of attraction but I have been in deep inquiry about what works, when it works and why it matters – to me anyway. While it is not as simplistic as thinking happy thoughts and life will be happy and full of success, there are a few simple guides I am learning to adhere to as my passive-aggressive relationship with the law of attraction becomes more moderate (and seemingly more successful).

Self Talk

It is true that it is as simple as: our self talk influences how we feel and essentially our basic health. Aside from all the of the promises offered by the law of attraction, when our self talk is positive rather than frustrated, anxious or worried, our anti-aging hormone goes up, our immune system hormone goes up and cortisol (nicknamed the stress hormone) goes down. When we are more at peace with ourselves, it shows on the outside, others notice and are attracted to us. We make better decisions. We have more energy. We treat ourselves and others better and they treat us better – because in this process we also fuel healthy boundaries. Win-wins all the way around.

Setting Intention and Acting

It is still true, as Yogi Berra said, that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

And the truth is, if we are not consciously setting intention, the pathways are just being filled up for us – by circumstances, by other people, by non- or in-decision. What is it you want for yourself and for your life? Grow your clarity on this, imagine the end result and let it go. But don’t stay home on your mediation cushion or on your couch waiting for the miracles to start rolling in. Begin to do what you can to move in the direction of the intentions you set. One of my favourite teachers in this respect is Mike Dooley and his messages from The Universe. Love, love, love the beautiful balance of dream, dream, dream, remember you are a forever being and everything will be fine and ACT. Do what you can, when you can, from where you are or nothing will happen. And acting in accordance with your intention takes your attention off whatever it is you think isn’t manifesting in this moment.

IMG_1495What I have witnessed over and over in my life is that clarity of intention does bring results. Sometimes in immediate timing like when my second marriage ended and the assets were finally being separated and I was moving into my own place. The house was prepped, physically and energetically (I would meditate outside, walk around the house, say my goodbyes and invite welcoming energy), put on the market and, against all odds, it sold in 24 hours. My new home had come on the market just before that – ready and waiting for me. In three weeks, I was in a physical locality that represented sanctuary, joy, movement and home for me.

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Me and my sweetie

Sometimes it takes awhile and a few tries. Prior to my second marriage, I began to imagine what my ideal relationship might look and feel like. It was supposed to be my second marriage. It wasn’t. I let go of the idea, quite content to be joyful alone. And then love tapped me on the shoulder in the most unexpected, improbable and gentlest of ways and the relationship I imagined plus more showed up. It is not what I expected it to look like or how, but it is a gift I cherish every day.

Who Cares What Other People Are or Are Not Doing; What Am I Doing?

Focusing on what other people are doing or not doing, imagining how successful other people are, worried that there is “not enough” for everybody so I won’t get “my share” are all counter-productive distractions that do not reflect healthy self talk but is the purview of your “itty-bitty-shitty committee”. While your attention is in minding someone else’s business instead of your own, opportunities pass you by. What is yours to do? Do that. Pursue it with singular focus – while keeping your peripheral vision active to catch those things that activate, fuel and will manifest your own visions and intentions. Keep your head down, your eyes focused on your own destiny, your actions aligned with your intention and more of what you want will come your way.

Appreciation and Gratitude For What Works and for “Your People”

Pause. Breathe. Look around. Who is there with you, supporting you, respecting you, valuing you, working with you in the movement toward your intentions? Deep gratitude to these people. They matter. And, notice how far you’ve come from time to time so you can begin to believe that more is possible, your vision is attainable and maybe more than you ever imagined.

Review Your Own Relationship with the Law of Attraction

Read a lot of stuff on the law of attraction. I have. Sort through what resonates for you. I like a lot of what Abraham-Hicks offers. And Napolean Hill‘s Think and Grow Rich is a classic. One of my favourites is Florence Scovell-Shinn. She wrote this little 100 page book: The Game of Life and How to Play It, which for a time, practically became a bible for me. I still use affirmations from her work and it was a simple one that made me feel like I finally actually understood prayer for maybe the first time in my life. “Following the path of love, all things are added; for God is love and God is supply.” Or you could substitute ‘Source’ or ‘creator’ or ‘Allah’ or whatever works for you for God. Because it is whatever works for you not what I think it should or shouldn’t be or even what works for me.

Limiting Beliefs

Examine your limiting beliefs (which I intend to be my next post). Focus on what matters. Do not suffer fools gladly (including yourself) and Go Get ‘Em!

Unconditional Love – A Daily Practice

Unconditional Love-Oscar Wilde Quote

To give and not expect return, that is what lies at the heart of love. ~ Oscar Wilde

“To give and not expect return.” How many of us know how to love like that? How many of us have been loved like that? We are imperfect beings in an imperfect world. We may think we love unconditionally but anytime we are disappointed by the words or actions of one we love, we may not be loving as unconditionally as we like to think.

I have been reflecting on this because it is almost Mother’s Day and there are so many posts and images that speak of a mother’s unconditional love – as though all mother’s love unconditionally, all the time. If we are lucky, we experience moments of unconditional love from our parents, as parents, as partners in a relationship, with friends we hold dear. Rarely are we loved completely unconditionally all the time; rarely do we love unconditionally all the time.

Unconditional love-nothing expected in returnWe are born with unconditional love and complete trust. As babies, we learn very quickly what behaviours and actions get rewarded and what don’t. It is a matter of survival to adapt to the expectations and conditions of people around us.

We know our soul qualities when we are very young, before we learn concepts of right and wrong, good and evil. We know our soul qualities before we build constructs around ourselves that we fool ourselves into believing are truth and essential to survival. We shape life to fit in and shape ourselves in trying to make other people happy.Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness (p. 13)

Loving unconditionally is a practice that starts with loving self unconditionally. The more you can be in a place of loving yourself unconditionally, the more you open up the portals to receive love unconditionally. Can you love another person fully, without judgment about who they are, what they say or how they act? Then you offer unconditional love.

I have been learning about unconditional love through recognizing the times I have been “loved” with conditions – conditions that often asked me to be someone I am not, to be there for another person at the expense of myself. These relationships showed me who I was not and where I was not loving or accepting myself.

IMG_1493I have been learning about unconditional love through my cats who also come into the world loving and trusting unconditionally. They remind me of the simplicity of life.

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I have been learning about unconditional love through my children, the hopes and dreams I have for them to be successful in life. When we examine what that means, often we have an idea of what success means and looks like and it carries expectations or conditions we are not always aware that we are carrying. Letting go of the expectations and personal hopes for our children’s lives is an act of love. We also hold hopes and expectations for our parents and our siblings and how we want them to be in life and in relationship with us. Letting our expectations and our judgments go is an act of love that opens the way for unconditional love. And I say this in full awareness that there are some relationships that are so toxic there is no opportunity to heal them inside the relationship – just the opportunity to heal within yourself by loving and trusting yourself unconditionally.

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And I have been learning about unconditional love through my relationship with my partner and our love for each other. It is as close to unconditional as any partnership can be, infused with mutual love, honour, integrity and respect. And it is a daily practice.

Unconditional love. We get there through awareness, intentionality and practice. Daily practice.

Dementia and Death Illuminates Choice to Tell Stories Through Soul Journey Lens

My mother with the beauty of youth.

My mother with the beauty of youth.

My mother with her mother in 1990 (the year my first son was born)

My mother with her mother in 1990 (the year my first son was born)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We make meaning of our lives through the stories we tell. We can tell those stories through the lens of human tragedy or the lens of soul journey. I learned what this means through my mother’s journey with dementia and in long term care. I share a bit about that in this 2014 interview with Terry Choyce: 

Drumming and the Soul

In 2000, I experienced my first drumming circle. At the time, it was a brief, but profound experience and even then I couldn’t imagine how profound it was, would be, as it reverberated through the next decade of my journey and beyond. It was so profound that my book, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, begins with a description of the drumming circle.

I did not deliberately seek out the depth of spiritual journey that showed up – at least not all the time – although the spiritual journey was persistent in seeking me out. At times it felt like I had no choice but to respond, to follow the nudges and to give in to what kept wanting to show up. This journey for me was an opening to gifts and talents I did not think possible for me or available to me. I had imagined only “special”, “deeply gifted” and “powerful” people would have access to these kinds of gifts. The realization over time is that we all have access, we all have gifts. Most of us just need to find our way through the persistent story telling that tells us otherwise, that tells us that these experiences are not real, that we are making them up. The mind does not know the difference between what we imagine and what is real – which is why visualization is so powerful.

In this audio clip from an interview I did with Terry Paul Choyce, she asks great questions about my soul journey and I share snippets of my experiences and understandings that have emerged through this part of my life journey.

My favourite picture from when my son and I made our own drums in 2009.

My favourite picture from when my son and I made our own drums in 2009.