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We are one, after all, you and I; together we suffer, together exist, and forever will re-create each other. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Well, today’s the day for my second physician’s appointment to determine eligibility for the new Colorado Aid-in-Dying law. A major factor determining eligibility is to establish that I am of sound mind.

To determine if one is of sound mind, a mental status exam is performed. The patient needs to be “oriented times three”, as we say in the profession. That means the patient needs to know who they are, where they are, and when they are – person, place, and time. Often a common question that is asked is, “Do you know who the president is?” Please please please, don’t ask me that question!

Allison, my primary caregiver, friend, and partner in discussing philosophy, spirituality, and geopolitical ramifications of the present day circumstances, etc., has been with me every step of the way through this end-of-life learning curve. Allison and I do not shy away from any topic, no matter the depth nor the breadth, and we share a sense of gallows humor that would make other people shutter. It is the sort of humor I relied on in the mental health center while dealing with continual heartbreaking situations. One has to be initiated, in order to share this type of Mash humor, in order to meet each moment. Allison and I are talkers, and when we talk we become so entranced with the content and our brilliance that we become somewhat disoriented, that identifying the date during such discussions becomes momentarily unreachable. We have this joke that when the doctor asks me the date, my reply will be, “Can I call my lifeline?”* It’s not that we are mental status-deficient, actually, quite the opposite is true; we allow ourselves to be transported. I hope and know that Allison will go on to do fascinating, significant Work in the world, when this work together is complete. I know our time together will be a catalyst for both of us. That is the nature of our connection, not a small ask from either of us.

The most common question I get from people is, “How are you able to be so present with this curriculum and be so lighthearted and present with other people’s suffering? Well, my answer is in two parts: I have people like Allison in my life who can go there with me, to be in my pain or to be in my excitement of going on The Great Adventure, both equally as important. Secondly, I have come to understand that I AM much more than my physical body. Realize that I live one injury, one choking incident, one errant bacteria or virus away from death. All my caregivers and friends are well aware of this fact. They, too, have been initiated, by loving me, watching my body weaken over time, and watching my life force grow.

Since I am not quite ready to feel the weight and magnitude of my meeting today, I will offer some other topics Allison and I find hilarious. After I have a choking attack where my eyes bulge and the caregiver is listening intently for that crucial in-breath, my mind is thinking about other things. As soon as I catch my breath and resume the ability to speak, I will often comment on something totally unrelated and banal. Perhaps there is a dissociative process happening, but as long as the choking is not life-threatening, my mind entertains itself, which then entertains my caregiver. Often, this is a moment where comic relief is needed. (I learned humor as a coping skill in my family of origin.) Many people find this type of humor tasteless. I’ve certainly had that reaction from people. Either you get tastelessness or you don’t. Either you experience relief from it or shock. It is, perhaps, an acquired taste. Nevertheless, sometimes we laugh so hard we have tears dripping down our faces. I know what dying laughing means.

When I assess people, I look at physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Fortunately, for me the last three are functioning and developing well. Today, the doctor is assessing the first three qualities. Today, I hope he doesn’t ask me that question. Dissociating during a mental status exam would be counterproductive.

The shit is getting real. I am needing to accomplish a multitude of tasks in order to secure the medicine before I can even fully open to the grief for where these practical matters are leading. My grief is personal, but I also feel grief for the people who desire this right to lessen suffering at the end of their life, but don’t have a Masters degree, the capacity for humor, or a support system like I have. For them, the shit is very real and many likely don’t have the resources to complete this arduous task. My wish is for my words to reach them and they somehow feel comfort, that they can reach for the Love that is also reaching for them.

*This line is from the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, aired in 2002?

crestone-eagleMany years ago, a close friend who was a hospice social worker asked me to cover her hospice clients while she was out of town. I told her, “I don’t do death.” She then taught me something that was way beyond my 40 years. “Hospice is not about death, it is about life.” Because I had been experiencing subtle neurological symptoms for years and I feared a degenerative, life-threatening illness building in my body, this concept peaked my curiosity as it assaulted my logic. How could dying be about living? Almost like a Zen koan that evokes enlightenment by showing the inadequacy of the logical mind, I had the next two decades to contemplate this paradox, because two weeks ago I became a client of Hospice del Valle in Alamosa.

When I was considering entering hospice, I received desperate messages from friends around the country who had heard I was actively dying. After all, I must be actively dying if I was in hospice. This is one of the major misconceptions hospice workers encounter. Families usually consider hospice only in the last days or weeks of a person’s chronic or terminal illness, which, in my opinion, does a disservice to the patient and greatly limits the level of care available through the organization. The main purpose of hospice is to provide palliation to chronically, terminally, or seriously ill patients (not expected to live more than six months), which includes attending to their medical, psychological, and spiritual well-being and those of their families.

Living in a culture that is death-phobic, no one wants to mention the H word to a person who still has some life in them. What if hospice involved helping to reduce the suffering of persons deemed terminally ill, but still living for many months? The illness I have been living with is a slow, degenerative illness that has only affected me from the neck down. The effects have been devastating, but from the neck up I have been able to maintain a quality of life that is different, but regenerative in nature. Having been a psychotherapist for thirty years, my work has become more selective but much deeper, given my spiritual growth directly informed by what I consider my “spiritual curriculum.”

I had considered hospice for the last year, but since I was not actively dying, I did not consider it seriously. My most experienced caregiver who had worked ten years in a hospice told me that about 10% of her hospice clients lived an average of two years. Working through the necessary emotional stages, I engaged the closest hospice serving Crestone. To my surprise and tremendous relief, I have received care on every level I could imagine—physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual. They are an interdisciplinary team: MD, RN, CNAs, chaplain, and Family Support liaison. Whereas in home health, improvement needed to be noted, with hospice I could let go and receive care on all levels. This is supporting my dreamtime, depth of meditation, and, I believe, allowing me to begin a conscious death with open communication to my Guides on the other side. Intuitively, I have been able to let go and begin my journey through the Bardos.

I imagine that choosing to work in hospice naturally screens out individuals who are not comfortable “doing death.” My experience with each professional is that their level of skill, compassion, and care have surpassed my high expectations. I now know what my friend was saying; hospice has been about improving my quality of life, even though I can die within days. I can also live months and perhaps a year or so. That was never a possibility before I engaged hospice. I am a natural strategizer or I would never have been able to live alone while quadriplegic, but their expertise has taken this to a new level.

I will likely see 2017, but perhaps I might see 2018! With the help of my care team and now hospice, I can continue to lead my psychotherapy group on Skype, share my growing wisdom gained from living in stillness, and perhaps I’ll live to write another book!

“When you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.” Nietzsche

SpeechlessRecently, a caregiver asked me with a slightly horrified tone, “What if you can no longer speak?” Actually, there are times now, during the day when I cannot speak, like when I am on the stationary bike, when I am on the stander and late afternoon when speaking in groups, of which I am in ten per month. This particular disability has been happening gradually for the last four years, especially since I returned to high-altitude and It has become much more pronounced in the last six months.

I have learned to accommodate yet another disability, dysarthria– motor speech disorder caused by muscle weakness with neurological illness. I have learned that if I pause or whisper for a few sentences, I can often get my breath back and project a little more to make myself heard. Summer and the heat it brings exacerbates this symptom.

The potential for having this disability has been obvious to others, but being unable to speak and the ramifications had never occurred to me. I tend to not project into the future imagining what abilities I might lose next. This has probably been an effective strategy for lessening what is called “anticipatory dread” and, therefore, decreasing unnecessary emotional suffering. This represents another way my personality has evolved. I used to be accused of seeing the cup as half empty, as opposed to half full. Ironic that with this terminal neurodegenerative disease I’ve become more optimistic.

Actually, my first thought upon hearing this question was of recently having seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a film about a man with “locked in syndrome” who, after sustaining a severe stroke, could not communicate after having been a robust communicator all his life. Somehow, I trust I would get my point across, even if I need to blink my eyes three times as he did. Sometimes I practice that while laughing about the irony with my caregivers. Fortunately, I don’t take this ordeal very serious much of the time. I don’t tend to marinate in fears of the future, at least not these types of fears.

What I have learned in accepting this “curriculum” is that if I become unable to speak, there is a greater teaching in the symptom. I have no doubt that my focus would need to go beyond the cortically-based area of the left brain where speech arises, exploring areas much deeper than the fears of becoming speechless. I bow to this anomaly and will accept it as my next teacher.

In my humble opinion, nothing is arbitrary when I have accepted such a rigorous path and it becomes more clear that I have, in fact, entered the Holy ground.

“Pain and happiness are simply conditions of the ego. Forget the ego.” -Lao Tsu

Late 80s

Late 80s

 

Jordan was born in 1985. His father and I were deeply in love and Jordan was born with much love and readiness on the part of his immediate family. His sister Casey, had been asking for a baby sister or brother for years. Being nearly seven years old when he was born, she was allowed to hold him and watch over him as much as a seven-year-old could.

There is an expression that true happiness is when you realize your children have grown up to be wonderful people. My son is a wonderful person. He is deep and sensitive, intelligent and he loves his mother very much, which is a quality I find admirable. Smile.

When his father and I separated, his heart was broken for the first time. No doubt this catastrophe in his life also fed his depth and sensitivity. Who knows why “things” happen to people. I never believe these things are arbitrary; not marriages, divorces, illnesses or addictions for that matter. (For an evocative read on this theory see Robert Schwartz’s books on soul plans. They changed my life.)

During my last essay, when discussing my difficulty breathing, Jordan offered a quote from the Smashing Pumpkins:

A pure soul and beautiful you, don’t understand
Don’t feel me now, [I will breathe, for the both of us]
Travel the world, traverse the skies
Your home is here, within my heart

This, and much more, is what my son offers the people he loves. I have come to terms with many of the losses from this terminal illness and have transformed those losses into gains. The hardest is losing physical proximity to my children. When Casey, my firstborn, left for college I had to prepare emotionally for years to deal with this grief. I talked about this grief, performed rituals surrounding my perceived loss and wrote about it. Probably, the deepest teachings on grief surrounding my children have been from five discarnate monks who imparted these profound words. Instead of paraphrasing, I will print their original, penetrating communication:

Loved one, you must rest assured that death and loss are an essential piece of life that is so often ignored in this time on earth. Not only will your family be ok, but they will be matured through this gift of sharing your experience. Death is a beautiful path home to a place of peace and joy and magic. We are bothered with the sanitization of death from life as though it were a disease or a plaque or scourge or evil. It is none of those things. The false sense of immortality that cripples the souls of so many will not cripple your family. Your family will always be more aware than others, more present, more able to love and forgive. Please understand that through what they have witnessed in you, they will be much more aware as human beings with a broader perspective on life. We suggest again, although we know it will take much will power (of which you have an abundance), that when walking through the valley of the shadows of fear, you tell yourself “this is not real”. Right now, your fears of death and for your family are fears of the unknown. That is truly what they are. Just like the primal need for survival, the fear of the unknown is powerful. And the lower self can chime in and say “what will they do without me?” The truth is that your power becomes a part of all of them. Your words and your presence and your attitude and experience filters through them even now, but in death, you are sealed into their souls. This is not what we say to sound “Pollyanna”, but this is truth. Real truth. Try to resist the “boogey men under the bed”. Your loved ones will miss you and they will grieve, as is healthy for the emotional body, but they will rebound with your power and take that into the remainder of their lives with them as a part of their constitution. Continue to show your grandchildren your hope and power over mind. They will not be lost in a quagmire of sorrow or loss or feel abandoned. They will always be strengthened by your courage and their lives changed by the acceptance and awareness of the transition of the body as a natural flow of life and love.

Whatever one thinks about how these teachings were imparted, one cannot discount the quality of the message. I have found tremendous comfort in these words and hope others, my beloved readers, will as well. I think it was Ram Dass who said that we are all just walking each other Home.

“I admire that you are not willing to sacrifice life, for survival.” – Harald Kasper, physical therapistperson-sitting-on-cliff

When I was two years old, I was standing in the front bench seat of our 1955 automobile when we ran into another car. My mother broke her pelvis, walked around to be sure all the children were safe, sat down and could not stand up. There were no seatbelts those days and there wasn’t yet an awareness of the lethality of motor vehicle accidents. As we integrated automobiles into our culture, the need for safety came to the forefront. During my generation, car seats for children became a necessary commodity. Some people wore their seatbelts and others did not. It was a choice, until it was not. When people were sustaining injuries and dying, wearing a seatbelt became law. Some laws evolve with the technology and some laws become obsolete as the culture evolves.

Recently, I have been criticize for choosing a lifestyle that is unconventional for someone as disabled as I am. After all, I cannot move a muscle from the neck down. I am completely dependent on my care team for every bodily function, except breathing. And I live in a remote mountain town that is considered the frontier, not even rural, which would have more medical services.

I have always lived on the edge of this paradigm we call life, but it has never been as obvious as now when I am breaking all the rules of what one should do when one is critically ill. From pushing my limits as an adolescent to riding my motorcycle to Key West during college (yes, I wore a helmet with a visor!) I have always pushed people who love me to their edge of reasoning, past their comfort zone. I don’t mean to sound cavalier about this at all. A lot of me wants to stay safe in the old, familiar ways of living life. I have to trudge through a lot of difficult feelings to summon the courage of forging new ground.

First, I have to feel the uneasiness of moving forward from a place I could call familiar, but as I’ve become more sensitive, I notice and incongruence. When I think of taking an an alternate route that feels more authentic, I have to wade through the density of darkness. When I dissect this darkness, it not only includes my own remnants of self-hatred, but also ways I’ve absorbed other people’s fear of the unknown. For me, fear is always a catalyst for entering this level of blackness. Being able to bear the pain at this level of malignant, self-hatred and, instead of retracting, going one step further and creating expansiveness around it allows the blackness to begin to lighten. Peering into the light, I can see the anatomy of this old, familiar feelings of unworthiness. Memories of all the times I’ve betrayed myself from deferring to other people’s truth. In deeper exploration, I was able to see the many times I was  willing to sacrifice my life for mere survival, which translated into sacrificing my significant need for autonomy for either of two reasons: to avoid feeling my greatest fear – being alone and helpless or to alleviate other people’s pain. Although the former is more conscious, the latter might seem noble, but, believe me, it is more insidious.

So, yes, I am on the leading edge of the natural death movement, something I hope will lead to “a good death,” not unlike the natural childbirths so inspiring in our area. And yes, it does push the old boundaries of the medical model, making people fearful of the issues like liability . I followed the medical model with my childbirths and I had two cesareans and general anesthesia. As many of you know about me, I don’t want to be fearful in this new birth.

I have always taken myself to the edge and rallied the resources to push a little further, so it would make sense that I would do that with others, especially being in the capacity of psychotherapist. My astrological natal chart reflects one of a powerful revolutionary with heart. It is ironic that when I cannot move a finger, I am still projecting that energetic essence. My daughter once told me that I go to places that scare her and show her that it is safe. During this time when people are creating a new paradigm for living and dying, it’s important to illuminate and dismantle that which keeps us from our birthright, living life and death fully and authentically.

Love and grief are two sides of the same coin. – Derived from talk by Stephen Jenkinson 

GriefThe hint of a life-threatening illness when I was thirty-five years old was almost too much for this young, vibrant woman to bear. In retrospect, I have deep compassion for my younger self’s initiation into this accelerated curriculum and I now know how essential it is for my soul’s evolution. Coming to terms with my mortality at that age was a tall order, living a mortal life while being in touch with its transitory nature was almost more than I could bear and has taken me more than a decade to integrate.

When I really think about it, how can we live fully if we cannot contemplate our impermanence? How can we fully live if we can? The human condition is quite a paradox. This is why mystics acknowledge that being human is not for the faint of heart. There is crescendo and there is de-crescendo, inhaling and exhaling. How do we  be with this human condition that feels so out of control to our egos without becoming completely overcome with fear? How do we not connect these fears with the cultural epidemic of our time – fear of death? How do we hold death with equanimity, as truly a part of life?

What I have come to understand is the only way to hold both is to feel  it all. Feeling the difficult feelings in our culture is not encouraged. Numbing or distracting behaviors are pervasive. Allowing oneself to sink into the grief of this illusory existence, to essentially face one’s fears of death is not an easy undertaking. The pun is intended. In my experience, only by following grief and despair to completion can the heart lighten and the healing power of humor emerge.

Grief is better tolerated than despair, in my experience. Despair implies hopelessness. I guess the question is: “What are we hoping for?” Are we hoping for immortality? It is painful for me to be with someone who is dying, but wants to live at any cost. The ego wants to convince us that if we succumb to these feelings, we will never get out. There are so many archetypal dramas in literature that demonstrate this primal fear. When one finds the courage to bear the grief, liberation is assured. Allowing oneself to fall completely into grief is the only way through this dense, vibrational field. Despair can be treacherous, becoming an impenetrable wall if you are at all ambivalent about your leap. I liken it to bouldering. You cannot have ambivalence when jumping from one boulder to another; you cannot look down, you just leap focusing on the boulder ahead.

Stephen Jenkinson, once the leader of palliative care counseling at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has written extensively about the prevalence of “death phobia and grief illiteracy – how they distance us from one another, our planet and our world crisis.”

Grief can become a wall or it can be a portal to a deeper way of Being. Once we have come to terms with the illusory nature of the personality as our totality, the fulcrum tips. Only by leaping fully can our toe touch the boulder of the numinous.

“Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined.” -Deepak Chopra

HeavenYesterday, an opinion commentary I submitted to the Denver Post was rejected. His words were, “Thank you for your submission. We’re going to pass on this one.” That’s it. No other comment. I suspect this is a reflection of the management’s view. I’m slightly exasperated that opposing views would not be presented for people to make their own informed decisions about laws that affect us.

This brings up a greater issue I tried to avoid addressing in my last blog essay, but I cannot avoid it any longer. For many in our culture, accepting death is taboo. Perhaps it is considered a failure in a culture where might is idealized and vulnerability considered weakness. In order to understand that the opposite is actually true, a paradigm shift needs to occur, culturally. As each person awakens to the truth that death is a natural part of life, ideologies will change. War and destruction of the planet will be incomprehensible. Everybody does not have to shift their consciousness, merely reaching a critical mass will be sufficient.

What is holding this revolution back is fear. Perhaps this fear is caused by wanting to avoid the grief of losing a loved one. Perhaps it is the fear of facing one’s own mortality, letting go of the personality into the numinous. Being in my situation, I can clearly see that this fear keeps people from understanding the continuity and interconnectedness of the soul. Courage is what nearly everyone will have to summon when they are in the dying process. Kathleen Singh wrote a brilliant book titled Grace In Dying where she described the stage of panic and despair being just prior to the stage of transcendence. What keeps people from understanding the continuity of the soul, I believe, is a lack of courage, or cowardice. Wikipedia’s definition:

Cowardice is a trait wherein fear and excess self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good and of help to others or oneself in a time of need—it is the opposite of courage. As a label, “cowardice” indicates a failure of character in the face of a challenge.

My commentary was a rebuttal of the now minority held belief that people should not have the right to choose when to end their pain and suffering when they are in the dying process. The anti-right to choose group Not Dead Yet’s perspective was presented in a previous commentary. I presented point by point a rebuttal. Obviously, the Denver Post is biased.

I recently interacted with some state representatives and state senators in a respectful and interactive way. Personally, I am not near the need to consider these choices mentally, emotionally or spiritually, but physically I am extremely vulnerable. If faced with this choice, I’m not sure what I would choose for myself. Everybody has different thresholds for what they can bear. If I got pneumonia again, that would be my threshold. I’m not interested in drowning to death in my own fluids. That would be my moment to call in hospice for palliative care and to hasten my final transition. Having the option to lessen needless suffering for myself and my family would give me great comfort.

What I truly believe is what Rabindranath Tagor succinctly said: “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lantern because the dawn has come.”

When the majority of our culture accepts this, there will be much less violence and suffering in the world, much more peace and compassion. Making peace with our final passage can happen at any time in our living or dying process. After all, we are all merely returning Home.

“Transcendence can not be accessed through the mind, but through direct experience with the numinous.” -Ilene Aliyah Alexander

Woman-hiking-in-nature

The diminished physical ability I have been living with is becoming increasingly more limiting leaving primarily the autonomic nervous system. When I acknowledge the disease progression and how some functioning is becoming nearly impossible to do and my strategies are no longer effective, I feel grief and need take time to mourn for what was and will never be again in this glorious body that has taken me so far. Usually the grief lasts a few hours to a few days. This is very different, because it used the last for years. I have evolved emotionally and spiritually with the understanding, the profound revelation that I am not my body, nor am I my strategizing mind. My empathy and love for self and other is growing exponentially. This curriculum has given me the opportunity to live more from my Soul.

Some people call my journey courageous; some people call it miraculous. I just call it what is. I can either kick and scream (although I can literally do neither) or I can just choose to say yes to the new level of functioning, my new baseline. What I am finding with this accelerated curriculum is that with loss always comes a new awareness I had not been previously able to access prior to the limitations.

I am not a saint and I am not an exception. I am just no longer interested in suffering on a day-to-day minute-to-minute basis. If I am unable to control anything physically, I can control my reaction. And that is about all I can control.

Being alone nineteen hours a day, sitting overlooking the 14,000 foot mountain range called Sangre de Christos, I am realizing the importance of the spiritual teachings of Ram Dass and others. As a collective consciousness we are moving from the third dimension to the fourth dimensional reality. The latter involves unitive consciousness. The field of unity is already around us. People are gradually being able to access this field  to eventually reach a critical mass where the rigid boundaries of duality will be rendered unnecessary. We are moving into Love.

I am realizing the wisdom in choosing this curriculum as a default in order to assure the integration of this teaching. This is a very different response from feeling victimized by a random, mysterious disease constellation. As I let go of each ability on the physical level, I open to a new ability on the subtle level. From this perspective, I wonder what disability really means. The liberation possible from reconfiguring the evolutionary potential of suffering is immeasurable.

I am seeing that whatever the challenge that may seem catastrophic from our human/ego perspective, there is always a gift on the other side. Fully experiencing the grief is essential and once on the other side of the seemingly endless grief, there is the opportunity for transcendence. Transcendence is beyond the five levels of grief Elisabeth Kubler-Ross generously illuminated. For me, I now understand that this rigorous curriculum was perhaps the most expeditious way and perhaps the only way for me to access this state given the trajectory of my choices during this lifetime.

The surrender into transcendence is where the fourth dimension lies. I’m convinced that this is what my father who had been a lifelong atheist described on his deathbed, “heaven, a place of tranquility.” I am realizing that whatever the challenge that may seem catastrophic, there is always a gift on the other side. The opportunity is that we reach this place beyond acceptance into transcendence where suffering may no longer be necessary for growth. Many are being called to this expanded state of consciousness, the dimension where love and unity are the only reality.

“I was immature; I became experienced; I was consumed. -Rumi

What would it feel like to live each moment in unitive consciousness, including the whole continuum of life and death? There would be no loss, nothing to strive for. Love would be all there is and that would be true perfection. The Spirit world is like this, I hear, but there is no contrast in which to experience duality and therefore, accelerated growth. We come to “school” for those teachings.

Astrologically, the past month of April was projected to reveal extreme highs and extreme lows. Astrology has always been a Sacred helper on my Journey. It has become increasingly clear through the ups and downs of April, that I have been living much of my life with the proverbial one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the brake. The events of the month were grueling and have revealed my exhaustion and, perhaps, some denial that I actually do have a progressive, degenerative illness, complications from which will eventually end my life. A hospice chaplain friend succinctly reminded me that this athletic regime I have created is not so much about healing my body, but the healing I am truly seeking will come with the surrender of death and that process is directed by my soul. I really needed to hear that. Sometimes I get so caught up in strategizing, that I forget what is truly in charge.

What is the expression, “Life is what’s happening when you are busy making other plans?”  Well, perhaps, physical decline is what has been happening when I’ve been busy making other plans. April has brought a rude awakening to my ego, the part of me that has been doing fitness training with a life-threatening illness. No matter how much I have been training, a physical downward spiral has been steadily progressing.

What is the alternative? The alternative is not to merely stay in a place of helplessness or despair, but to feel it all; to feel the depth of the grief and the occasional panic, to feel it all. Allowing myself to feel the despair, though challenging, can be a pivotal point where transcendence can be accessed. In my experience, attempting to grasp onto hope can be an illusory detour if it is keeping one from hitting the proverbial bottom of no hope. It is after one accepts that there is no hope that true transcendence is available through surrender. Weathering the pain of hopelessness is where spiritual maturity is required.

Surrender has never been easy for me. I have been told that the purpose of this illness is to treat my willfulness by five disembodied monks. After I thought about it, it made perfect sense when I think about all the times that I used my will to push through which ended up not being be healthier choices in my life. What better way to learn the limitations of my ego, but to get an intractable, progressive illness. True to form I have tried everything to heal imaginable and then some. I’ve had no choice, but to let go, to open more to the illness, what it is teaching me and to ultimately have gratitude for the deepening of the love in my life. Becoming comfortable with stillness was not something I would have chosen from my ego, but big gifts have been immeasurable.

I recently watched Ram Dass’ documentary Fierce Grace once again about his experience post stroke and he acknowledged that when he was “stroked” he did not have one spiritual thought. Upon this revelation, his reflection revealed, “I have more work to do.” Well, I have more work to do. Surrender, on a significant level, still feels like resignation, giving up. What is being required is an acceleration of my spiritual work, letting go more into Trust. That is my next big piece. Opening up to the freedom that comes from that. I suspect if we all could do that, we would all be beamed up into Spirit. We will meet in that “field” together that Rumi talks about. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”  

Well, the limited amount of functioning I have had is becoming increasingly more limited leaving just that of the autonomic nervous system. When I realize some functioning is becoming nearly impossible and my strategies are no longer effective, I feel some grief and mourning for what was and will never be again in this body. Usually the grief lasts a few hours to a few days at this point. That’s very different, because it used to last a few years!

Some people call it courage; some people call it miraculous. I just call it “what is.” I can either kick and scream (although I cannot literally do either) or I can just choose to say “yes” to the new level of functioning. What I am finding with this accelerated curriculum is that losing something always has some new awareness I hadn’t been able to access, before.

I am not a saint and I am not an exception. I am just not interested in suffering on a day to day minute to minute basis, if I have any control over that. And that is about all I have control over!

Being alone nineteen hours a day, sitting overlooking the 14,000 foot mountain range called Sangre de Christo, I am realizing the importance of the acceleration of the spiritual work Ram Dass talked about. As a collective consciousness, we are moving from the third dimensional reality to the fourth dimensional reality. The latter involves unitive consciousness. The field of unity is already around us. People are gradually being able to access this field to eventually reach a critical mass, where rigid boundaries of duality will soften.

I am realizing that as I let go of each ability on a physical level, I am opening to a new ability on the subtle level. So I ask myself, what really is disability?

I am realizing that whatever the challenge that may seem catastrophic, there is always a gift on the other side of the grief. We can reach that place beyond acceptance into a place of transcendence, which is where the fourth dimension lies. Many are being called to experience the expanded. awareness of the fourth dimension. Rumi and Ram Dass are great teachers beckoning us to this dimension of heightened love and unity.

I will meet you there.

“It’s the stuff God hits your ass with, when he doesn’t want to kill ya, he just wants to slow ya down.” -Richard Pryor on MS

Leanne_Spiritual_Heart.341200433_stdI believe that people take on catastrophic challenges for different reasons, because in our deepest Being, we want to wake up; we want to evolve and we want to effect the collective evolution of humanity. That is not small potatoes. Otherwise, the Universe would be seen as an uncompromising, sadistic force, which I do not, cannot and will not ever believe; that is too antithetical to what I feel in my heart. Without my cumulative felt-perceptions nurtured over many decades and perhaps many lifetimes, I might have the consciousness of a chickpea, not meaning to disparage a chickpea. Sorry Rumi.

My belief system has been nurtured by my evolving love for myself and humanity. How could this curriculum be for anything but my betterment? When I feel moved to look deeper into the etiology of the illness I feel like an investigator looking for clues. Either we volunteer for these rigorous curricula or they are arbitrary, the latter of which I don’t believe for a minute given the outcomes I have witnessed and experienced. I also believe that we set up reminders along the way when we might be deviating from our chosen course. At these points, like breadcrumbs along the path, we face crossroads where free choice can be exercised to alter the trajectory.

I can remember making choices during my life that, in retrospect, were not in my best interest. Rather than seeing these choices as failures or even tests that would imply right or wrong, I see these moments as opportunities for my Soul to catch my attention. Based on the curricula chosen by the Soul, these nudges are instructive and they become louder and louder when ignored.

Working on surrendering my egoic willfulness, I suspect that I created a failsafe plan to get my attention that would not allow for error. Early in the illness, I felt punished and ashamed. Now I understand that the opposite is really true. Because I am a courageous soul with fierce determination, I set out a curriculum where surrender was the only option.

I can remember example after example of times in my life when I deferred my own judgment to other people’s opinions. I can remember denying my own intuitions and desires to meet other people’s needs. The most representative example of this self injurious behavior was after a marital separation where I was left emotionally devastated. It took two days to get myself out of bed and back to work, after six weeks of singing Amazing Grace for an hour each day while driving over the causeway to New Orleans, I gradually brought my life back to a place of joyful homeostasis. I began to dream of finding a small house for myself and the children that was only mine.

When my husband sensed my joy he requested  a reconciliation, I pivoted away from my dream to reconcile. I began having anxiety attacks like I had never experienced. I remember being unable to leave the car, but still I ignored them. In retrospect, these felt like wake-up calls that I systematically ignored. What could my soul do, but make the alarms louder? That was when the symptoms were beginning. But it is never just one incident; there are often many unheeded calls. Remember, the illnesses or injuries are not punishments. They are sacred breadcrumbs to assist your return to your chosen path.

Around this time the symptoms had begun. Instead of abandoning my dream, I needed to turn toward my dream, to empower it, to empower myself. Only in retrospect do it realize the significance of ignoring the prompting from my soul. I gave my soul no choice but to intensify the constriction. This was a loving gesture, like a parent creating instructive containment to assure healthy development in their child. There is no judgment regarding the required curriculum on a Soul level. Challenges and resulting behaviors are met with neutrality. What is most important is the return to a deeper sense of self-love. “God does not want to kill ya, just slow ya down.”

People design specific karmic lessons during their pre-birth planning to focus on developing particular traits, i.e. self-esteem, generosity, compassion, becoming more self-referential during their mortal lifetimes. I believe that becoming self-referential was central to my learning and being willful was in the way of making better choices that would deepen self trust. Okay, enter progressive degenerative illness  to affirm to my ego that my soul is in charge. From the perspective of this singular life, it seems like a big deal, but from the scope of thousands of lifetimes it is a mere speck in the bigger picture.

The hope and promise of a life fully lived brings with it the perspective of seeing our lives from the bigger picture perspective. With this understanding, suffering can be greatly reduced and deep joy and satisfaction attained from the knowing that we have done our best. It is for this intended outcome that I continue to log my Journey.