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Carpe Diem

Affirmation: This is the day The Lord has made, let me rejoice
and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
 Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are
death and taxes.”  I’m sure there
are those who hope to avoid taxes; I would imagine most get caught. Willie
Nelson and Al Capon are two who come to mind. Some others, however, don’t make
enough money to have to pay taxes and that seems very sad to me.  When it comes to death, however, no one, I
repeat, no one gets out of it.  There is
no avoiding it, we are all caught in the end. 
It seems to me that many people especially here in the west
believe if you don’t think about death, it won’t happen.  Certainly it’s one of our greatest
fears.  I’ve read that’s because it’s the
greatest unknown.  Those who have a faith
have reasons to believe in an afterlife and that can bring a great deal of
comfort.  I myself have chosen that
belief but I haven’t met anyone who has returned from the great unknown.  I do know one or two people who have had
near-death experiences and from what I’ve read that is usually a very positive
experience but other than the tales I’ve read about people who claim to have
had life-after-death events, I can’t claim any personal experience.  I guess part of the good news is those who
have those experiences report something, not a total void, not completed
nothingness.  In the Naked Now, Richard
Rohr shares his belief that our spiritual development here on earth will
determine our after death experience.  He
says that the relationship we’ve developed with God here on earth will be the
relationship we have after death.  I once
had a dear friend tell me she thought Christians would be met by Christ,
Muslims by Allah and Buddhists (even though they don’t believe in an afterlife)
Buddha.  Does that mean an atheist is met
by no one? 
Death has been very prominent in my life during the first half of
2014.  I lost my mom in March and that
was difficult but much of my life’s work revolves around supporting people in
crisis.  The two Duke advisory boards I
sit on are both for cancer programs.  The
DCPSP is for the patients and families of cancer patients and the other is the
Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Advisory Board.  My passion for the Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat
brings me in contact with many people challenged by breast cancer and I sing
for my church’s Resurrection Choir during the funerals and belong to two prayer
groups.  I don’t know if you know this
but most prayers on a prayer list are not prayers of praise and thanksgiving,
they are prayers for the healing, peace and comfort of the afflicted.  Lately, I’ve been inundated with requests for
prayers for a lot of people who are faced with some very serious life-threatening
challenges.
Even though I have practiced yoga for over 40 years I had never
given too much thought to the final resting pose, savasana or in English,
Corpse Pose.  When I attended the Raleigh
Yoga Fest, one teacher, Jill Stockman, told us that Corpse Pose is called that
to bring death to our attention.  At the
end of our practice she instructed us to imagine we were dying, to imagine
letting go of Everything.  She presented
it as an opportunity for growth and awareness. 
It was a very powerful exercise for me. 
It made the rolling over to one side into a fetal position before coming
to a seated position, even more meaningful. 
My practice is taking me from death into rebirth.  I’m beginning again, a new start and that’s
what I believe death is.  It’s a new
beginning, hopefully for me with Christ as has been promised.  However, even if I’m practicing, I’m not
ready.  What has happened, however, with
all of the news I’ve been receiving lately, is I’m even more aware of how
precious every day is.
Let’s admit it; we may be only one breath away from this life and
the next.  I cannot tell you how many
people have come into my life in the last two weeks who have had a prognosis of
less than a month to live.  These people
were not ill.  They just started feeling
yucky, finally went to get it checked out and boom, they were given the news
that they were terminal!  It’s really
scary.  It didn’t help that I then picked
up the book, The End of Life Book Club which came highly recommended by several
friends.  What was I thinking?  I know we have no way of knowing when our
final day will occur.  Sometimes there’s
absolutely no warning.  I heard a tale
about a man who went to market in Samaria and returned ashen.  When he was asked what was wrong, he shared
that he had had a brush with death.  He
asked a friend if he could borrow his horse so he could get away and go to
Bagdad.  His friend obliged him and then
went to the market to see what was going on. 
When he arrived he ran into Death and asked him why he was looking for
his friend.  Death said that he wasn’t
looking for the friend and was simply surprised to see him in Samaria because
he had an appointment to meet him tomorrow in Bagdad. 
Ever since my dad died in 1980 when I was only 34, I’ve tried not
to waste a day.  I became very aware of
the preciousness of each and every day.  Its
mediation, however, and I’m not always present to it.  But, after these last few months and
especially these last few weeks, I’ve been even more aware of enjoying every
day to the fullest.  I even ate
MacDonald’s french fries one day for lunch which for me is very daring. This is
it!  Seize it! Live it! Be joyful in it,
count the blessings, and be grateful for what is and what is not.  Do not utter a complaint or a criticism.  Look around, recognize what truly is a
problem and what are “ha ha” problems; those problems most of the
world wishes they had and then give praise and thanksgiving. Go ahead, eat
dessert first and even more important, and tell your loved ones how you feel.
Don’t let the day slip away without living it and sharing it to the fullest.

Embracing Mystery

Affirmation:  My faith is
stronger when I allow mystery to have a place in my life.
In Rachel Remen’s book The Will to Live and Other Mysteries,
she offers up the opinion that most people are more concerned with mastery than
with mystery.  She goes onto give
examples of events she and others have experienced that cannot be explained
with science or with logic but if one is open to believing in the unbelievable,
the events not only take on meaning; they become powerful examples of spirit
alive and at work in the world and in our lives.
My Christian faith is grounded in
mystery.  At some point I had to decide
to believe the unbelievable.  Let’s admit
it the whole story of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is pure mystery.  If I were to assume that my limited
intelligence or anyone’s, even that of the brilliant, is able to understand
God, I would not only be arrogant but stupid. 
For heaven’s sake we may one day completely understand our own bodies
but we will never be able to duplicate them. 
Only Divine power could have created a human being.  We may one day be able to travel the Universe
but will we ever reach its outer limits? Sir Arthur Eddington, British
astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century said,
“The universe is not only stranger than we imagined, but stranger than we
can imagine.” and David Finkelstein, a brilliant physicist said, “We
haven’t the capacity to imagine anything crazy enough to stand a chance of
being right.”  We are human and so
we are limited in our understanding but we are also spirit, made in God’s image
and likeness and therefore we can tap into, connect to the unknown and perhaps
even rest in it. 
I have discovered that in order for me to be at peace I need to
embrace the mystery of my faith and the mystery of life.  I choose to believe in a personal God, one
who can work miracles in my life, one who is listening to my dreams, concerns
and petitions and even the whispers of my heart if I stay close, open and present. 
I am not aware of any personal acquaintances that have experienced significant miracles. I wish I
were. Certainly, I have read about others who have and when my husband and I
visited St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, I was stunned by the
hundreds and hundreds of crutches hanging on the walls that were left by people
who had come there for a miracle and found one. 
I recently googled “miracle locations” and one site, ListVerse.com,
listed the top ten recorded miracles. 
You may recognize some of the more well known, Fatima, Lourdes, Our Lady
of Guadeloupe, and more recently Padre Pio. 
All of these places and events are known for the unexplainable.  Lourdes, the site of the appearance of the
Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette, has 68 “official” miracles but
thousands of unofficial healings.  
Are the healings simply the result of the power of positive
thinking?  People really believe it will
happen and so it does? Could be, so what? 
Something miraculous occurred. 
Maybe that’s the secret to miracles; if we are open to them, if we truly
believe, “even as a grain of mustard seed” our beings are transformed
into receptors for miracles. 
Notice I have a tendency to focus on the illogical positive experiences
that happen to people, this is after all a site for creating positive
affirmations.  I avoid focusing on the
occult or unsettling things one might hear about or see in the media.  Those don’t help me in any way to feel
hopeful, peaceful or grounded.  It’s my
choice on that which I focus. I know there is evil in the world. 
The news coming into my life these last few weeks has been very
unsettling.  There have been multiple
requests for prayers for the suffering and struggles of friends and friends of
friends.  In two cases acquaintances that
did not appear to be very ill were diagnosed with cancer and given less than
three weeks to live.  I, myself, had a
scare during my annual mammogram when a lump was found and I was sent for an
ultra sound.  It turned out to be normal
tissue but it shook me to the core. 
Besides deciding to eat French fries and a cookie, “Carpet Diem!”
I needed, I need a way to find peace with the whims of the world and so I did
what I have been practicing, I rested in my faith.  I not only don’t know what the future holds
other than death and I don’t understand most of what life is about but once
again, if I connect to the Divine, to my God, I find I can simply allow life to
be and allow myself to be at peace with all as it is, at lease for this very
moment. 
When I went through my yoga teacher training we were invited to
“rest in the inquiry.”  We were
encouraged during our practice not to try to figure everything out, but to
simply let our asanas unfold. I’ve taken that practice into my faith. I’m doing
my utmost to shed Divine light on life and into other lives, perhaps even into
the world. I’m offering us an opportunity to let go of our egos, especially
mine and to allow my Loving Father, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His Holy
Spirit, our Blessed Mother, my guardian angel and all those unseen entities who
want to guide me and you to a richer, peaceful, blessed life the opportunity to
do so.  For today, for now, I am allowing
Spirit to inhabit my heart, soul and body. 
I’ve invited it in and I am choosing to simply rest with it.  I know I don’t know and that’s ok with me in
this moment. 

 

I know in today’s world this is a path less chosen but my
intention for this year is to “connect to the Divine.”  My intention for my life is to strengthen my
faith.  With those intentions in place I
have chosen to focus on mystery and to release myself from trying to understand
all things.  Once I adopted that approach
even the unexplainable became meaningful and God’s presence became more real.  Along with this gift I’ve given myself, even
the great unknown, the future and the greatest unknown, life after death has
become less fearful, less anxiety producing and I find I can still breathe and
live peacefully, at least for these few moments.

Developing a Sense of Appreciation

Affirmation: I have an attitude of appreciation for all things.
The yoga class at Rex Wellness here in Cary had just begun when
our teacher, Karin Johnson, invited us to “take an intention.”  She then suggested “appreciation.”
Gratitude had been coming to me lately as the intention for my practice. I am
in a place of delightful bliss these last few weeks.  It feels marvelous.  It’s Spring as I sit and write.  The singing birds and flowering trees, bushes
and plants have filled my ears with music and my vision with the color and
miracle of new birth.  Presently life
holds the promise of a joy filled wedding celebration for that of my youngest
daughter, Ellen and her sweetheart, Adam O’Sullivan.  We have been preparing and planning for the
warm welcome and entertainment of our family, dear friends and new family to be
from all over the world.  We have gifts,
food, hugs and smiles ready and waiting. 
My spiritual director, Sister Judy Hallock, also invited me to
“take an intention.”  This time
it was to be for the upcoming celebrations and to hold it for the events and
for all those who would be involved in the celebrations. 
When I spoke with Sister Judy about the upcoming wedding I told
her I was simply staying calm and allowing it to unfold in its own way.  I am more than happy to be intimately
involved in the support of the celebration but both Sandy and I recognize that
this is Ellen and Adam’s wedding, not ours. 
We feel our role is to help them make their dream come true, not to
force our preferences upon them, even if we could.  Sister Judy, however, changed my focus.  An intention of sitting back and letting the
events simply unfold was not enough.  She
suggested I hold the week and all those who were helping us celebrate “in
Divine Light.”  I was ready for this
guidance.  I know about blessing events
well before they begin.  I’ve prayed for
our Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat, any workshops or classes I present, and all the
communities in which I’m involved.  I
pray for the people individually and as a group.  I pray for blessings and that the time spent
is only to their benefit.  I’ve done this
for many many years.  I seldom enter into
an event in which I’m either responsible for or in which I’m simply a
participant, without having held that event in prayer.  Does it change how the event or the meeting
goes?  It changes it for me and I am sure
I bring an attitude of joyful expectation rather than skepticism or worse, and
that has to make a positive difference. 
Now, I needed to do the same for the wedding of two of my favorite
people.  They’ve been together for over
fifteen years.  My husband and I are
overjoyed that they have decided to make this public commitment to one another
and to their world.
When Karin suggested we take “appreciation” as our
intention, I wondered how that would be different from “gratitude” so
I decided to give it a try.  Later that
day NPR had an interview with a man who had developed a mechanical spoon that
allowed people to eat who had Parkinson’s disease or any other tremor
illness.  It was explained that people
with that type of condition cannot feed themselves.  I had never thought about that
disability.  Immediately I remembered my
intention from my class and appreciated the fact that I wasn’t faced with that
challenge.  Recently I had also heard of
Non-24, a disorder affecting the totally blind. 
It’s a sleep disorder with which they struggle because they can’t tell
the difference between day and night.  I
wondered what other things I take for granted that may be a challenge for
another?  My appreciation of the lack of
struggle my life presently holds instantly surged.  I thought of all the friends and relatives I
know about and for whom I am holding in prayer and was again appreciative.  Really, when I look around the world and see
what so many people have to deal with, I am in awe of the blessings of my
life.  I have no reason to complain or to
be ungrateful about anything.  It seems
appreciation and grateful easily go together and I just needed a boost and
Karin’s suggestion helped heighten my sense of gratitude.  
By holding our upcoming celebrations in Divine Light I have found
I have a heightened sense of appreciation and gratitude for these events and
all the blessings I know will emerge during this time.  I also expect the weather to be perfect.  I expect there to not be any glitches or
bumps in the actual event.  I expect all
the guests will behave appropriately and there will be complete harmony among
everyone in the family.  Just
teasing!  What has already happened
because of my new intention is I have a peaceful, joyful heart.  I am expecting the best and am at peace with
whatever that may look like.  I am
writing this with an anticipation filled with the excitement of the union of
Ellen and Adam and of the blessings that will emerge from the union of our two
families. 
Thank you, Karin.  Thank
you, Sister Judy.  Thank you, Loving God
for the gift of Divine Light.  I fully
appreciate it and already feel its presence pouring forth blessings on the
upcoming weeks. 

Nuturing the Self

Affirmation:  I recognize
it’s important to take time to nurture myself.
Mother’s Day is tomorrow. 
It’s a day probably created by Hallmark cards but no matter, most honor
it as if it were a national or religious holiday.  Everyone has a mother.  If we are blessed she’s a woman who has
nurtured us and guided us towards a life of love and generosity and
compassion.  She has helped shape us,
both intentionally and unintentionally, in a way that has empowered us to lead
lives of value and worth; lives that make a positive difference in the world or
at least in our world.
I was recently invited by Alice Lutz of Triangle Family Services
(www.tfsnc.org)
to present a self-care workshop for the staff. 
This organization is seventy seven years old.  It is open seven days a week and serves over
five thousand people every year.  The staff
is composed of men and women who assist those who are experiencing family
violence, financial crisis and mental health issues.  I was honored to be invited. I am in awe of
the work the staff does.  They are in the
trenches serving the neediest of our area. 
I know it’s both rewarding and draining. 
Because of my experience with Hospice of Wake County and with the Duke
Cancer Patient Support Program, I know firsthand that helping people who are in
crisis is both gratifying and overwhelming. 
My goal, therefore, was to nurture the nurturers.  I designed an hour of respite.  From the feedback I received it appears to have
been well received.
With the help of Blaire Schultz and Monica Shelton, the women who
own and operate the Bodhi Tree Holistic Bodywork and Skincare Center (bodhitreeholistics.com),
we presented each staff member with a small vial of lavender oil.  Lavender is known for its stress and anxiety
reducing effect.  We began the hour by
placing a tiny bit of oil in the palm of our hands and rubbing them together to
create warmth and then gently placing our palms over our eyes and our
noses.  I invited everyone to sit
comfortably, close their eyes and to begin focusing on their breath in order to
gather their energy into the room and then into their bodies.  After several minutes of breathing, we gently
opened our eyes and did one consensual OHM, focusing on the “mmmm”
sound at the end.  It vibrates through
the body and releases stress. The energy in the room had already become calmer
and we had only been there for less than ten minutes.  We went onto discuss the “tools”
different individuals used to care for themselves.  There were a wide range of suggestions from
listening to music to cooking.  My hope
was that each person would go home with one new way to nurture themselves.  We ended the session with a guided mediation
CD and a final OHM. One hour of luxury in the middle of the work day, perhaps I
even gave some of the staff the opportunity to take a much needed cat-nap.  Everyone was appreciative and as they left
they moved a little slower, a little more deliberately than when they had
arrived. 
When the airline attendant demonstrates the use of oxygen in case
of an emergency, the instruction is always to place the oxygen over your mouth
and nose and then to help any child who is with you.  It’s a wonderful analogy for what’s needed in
order to care for another; we must find a way to care for ourselves first.  If we spend all our energy taking care of
others and never take the time to take care of us, we will be left without
enough oxygen to live.  Life is busy.  Most people like to be busy.  They like to feel they are being productive
and in order to produce, one must work. 
That’s good but we must also find some time and some tools that soothe
us.  They are different for different
people and for some, especially working mothers, they need to claim that time
and space or the responsibilities of their lives will overwhelm them and let’s
face it, no one benefits from a grumpy, overwhelmed mother, boss, spouse,
coworker or human being. 
I want to offer you a few simple suggestions to nurture
yourself.  Sure there are things like
retreats, yoga classes, massages, facials and dinners out but all those are
time consuming and costly.  If you’re
able to take advantage of those type of self-care activities, good.  Go for it! 
There are, however, other things of which one can take advantage, small
easy steps that soothe.  
*Take a few minutes between activities to breathe, perhaps you
can even get in a couple of deep breaths and a small prayer. 
*Let your time in the car be quiet time.  Don’t turn on the radio or talk on the
phone.  North Carolina in the spring is
absolutely breathtaking.  When I drive
without distraction, I can fully embrace the beauty of my surroundings.  I can also use that time to reconnect to the
Divine, adding a few prayers to my drive makes me calmer and less
frenetic. 
*I have a small vile of lavender in my purse.  Whenever I can I open it and let the aroma
sooth me. 
*Put some flowers or a pretty plant in your space.  There’s something about the softness of a
flower that can help me relax. 
*Take a walk.  It’s free
and it doesn’t have to be long. Sometimes just the intention of getting outside
for a short time can re-energize you. 
*Stretch.  It doesn’t
matter if you do it sitting or standing. 
Gently move your neck from side to side, shrug and release your
shoulders, make circles with your hips, flex your hands and feet.  Mini yoga, remember to breathe with the
movement. 
*Eat mindfully.  Say
grace.  There’s power in blessing the
food you’re about to put into your body. Don’t read, don’t watch TV, don’t do
work, take time to savor the food and imagine how it is helping fuel your body
for whatever it is you will need to do going forward.
    
Take some time and think about those small steps you can take
that will soothe your body and fill your heart. For all the mothers out there
and for all those who “mother” whomever needs caring, may you have a
blessed day filled with love and care both from those you care for and
especially, from yourself.