The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “karma”

The Lessons in Everything

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Nal

My grandfather’s hand held firm on my rudder throughout my life, even after he was long gone.

My earliest memory of a lesson that stayed with me throughout my life was at age 4 or 5.  We had planned a day at the beach, just the two of us.  I had him all to myself (and he, me.)  Before we got on the train,  he took me into a small shop that sold children’s clothing and toys, and let me pick out something special for the day.  I chose a colorful pail and shovel, imprinted with my favorite cartoon character.  I was as happy as a child could be.

We set out a spot on the sand.  He took me into the water and held me while we dove through the waves, me clinging to him tightly while laughing and giggling in pure joy.

Back on our blanket, he showed me how to make sand castles.

On the next blanket, there was a boy about my age, who did not seem very happy.  His mother was kissing and touching a man who I learned later was not his father, but his mother’s new boyfriend. They were secretly drinking beer even though it was not allowed on the beach.  They were in their own world and mostly ignored him, except to yell at him for some small infraction.  His older brother, maybe about nine or ten, entertained himself by harassing his younger sibling.

The boy seemed lonely so I invited to join me, building castles.  He was a fun and willing playmate, running down to the water’s edge again and again to fill the bucket to wet our pile of sand.  My grandfather had brought some lunch along, and I offered him half of my sandwich, which he ate hungrily. Even in my child’s mind, I had the impression he wasn’t very well-fed.

When it was time for us to go,  my instinct was to let him keep the bucket.  I recognized, in my childlike way, that I had so much more than he did.  I had many toys at home and he probably had none.  I had parents and grandparents who loved me and paid attention to me.  His mother treated him like an annoyance.    But the pail had been a gift from my grandfather.  I wasn’t sure how he would feel if I were to give it away.

I asked him.

“It is yours to do with as you please.  You have to ask yourself if it is better to keep it  or if it’s better to use what you have to make other people happy.  I have found that sharing with others makes me much happier than keeping things all to myself.  I am proud that you feel the same way.”

And so, I gave the boy my special toy.

My grandfather could have replaced it for me but he didn’t.  This was a good thing.  If he’d bought me another, I would not have remembered the lesson.  Missing it reminded me of the pleasure of sharing, the joy of making another happy.

A few years later, I was in the small grocery store my grandfather owned.  A boy, about thirteen or fourteen, came in and took some cans of food and hid them in his clothes.  Grandfather caught him.  I expected him to be outraged; to give him a lecture and call the police.  But instead, he recognized that the boy was poor; that he had stolen only to eat.  So instead, he offered him a job.  It didn’t pay much but it was enough to keep him from stealing.  Grandfather often gave him food to take home to his family.  The boy worked for him for many years, until he left to join the army.  From this, I learned that believing in someone can change their life.

When the school bully started harassing me, Grandfather explained to me that bullies puff themselves up so nobody will see how weak they really are.  They were not to be feared, but rather to be pitied.  And so, I learned to show compassion in the face of fear.

Even after Grandfather died, his lessons remained with me, guiding me in my judgment and   in my relationships with others.  He was then, and remains even here, my spiritual teacher.  We have been together in other lives previous, and will be together in the next life coming.  Not always as grandfather and child, but always as teacher and student.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

The Pleasure in the Pain

first published Nov 30, 2015

 

crying eye

Ri

Life became so much easier once I learned to feel the pleasure in the pain. I do not speak of the passion of physical pain, which is not pain at all; I speak, rather, of emotional pain.

This is not to say I sought it out, but life is full enough of pain that there is no avoiding it. My life became easier when I no longer numbed myself to the inevitable. I stopped running from it wherever it found me. After time, I didn’t even bother to step out of its way.

I stopped fearing it. What a release to enjoy the beauty in sorrow! To savor the taste of my own tears. To climb down deeper into understanding on the rope of my pain.

Great emotion – both joy and pain – is opening. The heart is rent wide, laid bare without defense. No walls. No ego.   Only in this state — without ego — is it possible to connect to the universe.

I learned not to waste that state of grace.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

 

A Collection of Moments

First published November 21, 2015

Dungeness River, Sequim, WA - Magdalena Bassett

Jek

I can remember the screeching of the sea birds as they descended on the harbor to feed on the offal of the fishermen’s catch. At the time, I thought of them as a nuisance. But I remember them now with affection. They were so purely alive, exploding in a storm of biological imperative.

There are a lot of things I remember now that I didn’t take the time to notice then: The way the air on the skin changes from season to season – a floral caress in the spring; in winter. A slap on the cheek from an angry lover. The way a certain scent, not smelled since childhood, catapults you back to the nursery.  The quiet breathing of a lover, in the place beside, and the warmth left behind when they are gone.

Plodding along, one foot in front of the other, I never took my eyes from my path; I never noticed the small miracles lining the way.

Only later, perhaps too late, does it become clear: there is no prize or grand finale. What you have in the end is only the joy you’ve collected along the way.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.
 

 

Photo by my pal, the very talented Magdalena Bassett. Image: The Dungeness River on a rainy day in Sequim, WA

A Rose Blossoms

First published November 12, 2015

child adult holding hands

Kif

I met her when she was very young, a perfect rose among the wilting asters. Even as a child she was poised and full of grace; wise beyond her years. Her natural talent was unmistakable, but it was more than that. She shone, as if a pure light passed through her, magnified.

Children such as this are gifts to the world. It is a rare privilege to teach one.

I did not normally take on students so young, but she needed to be trained properly. To be taught bad habits as a girl might destroy any hope of future perfection. She needed the best. I was the best. It was my duty.

Her parents recognized this. They considered it fortunate that their child had caught the attention of someone such as myself; someone both of deep knowledge and high influence. They believed she never would have been born with such remarkable abilities if they were not meant to be fully developed. And so, because they truly loved her and understood the needs of her soul, they abdicated their obligation and entrusted me to mold and shape her as I felt best.

Our dynamics were complex. One part parent-child, another part ego. Some of it was about legacy. A certain a measure was about need. One share was about wiping clean a tablet full of regrets. We had a mutual fear of abandonment and also shared the fear of being too needy. In this churning stew of high emotion, there was jealousy and suspicion of betrayal; there was anger and frustration; envy and longing. Sometimes, the teacher became the student. We fell in and out of love with each other but never mutually at the same time, and never for the right reasons.

Such a relationship offered many opportunities for furthering my spiritual wisdom and deepening my self-knowledge – if I’d only looked deep enough. But even a dedicated seeker of Truth cannot possibly understand the lessons whilst in the thick of it. The emotions come spilling out in a jumble, too confused and fleeting to analyze.

From here, I am no longer lost in the minutia. From this height, I can see the broad strokes, the course of our individual paths on a map that was drawn before we were born.   They ran parallel, then diverged, crossed and forked, rose and fell, once again ran parallel only to diverge yet again.

It will take me a long time to understand this journey.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

Eternal Infant

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Gai

For many years before I was born,  my parents prayed for a baby.   They went to church. They lit candles.  They visited shrines.  And then,  just as they had given up hope and were acquiesced to living their lives childless,  my  mother conceived.  They were overjoyed.

It was obvious at my birth that something was very wrong with me.  In another time or place, I would have been left to die.  I would not have been nurtured or fed and would not have lived more than a day, if at all.  Perhaps I might have been allowed to take only a few breaths before I was suffocated and buried without a ceremony, so no one except the mother and the midwife would have seen such an abomination.

But my parents did not live in those times.  They had waited too many years to be blessed with a child and they were too old to have another, so they cared for me with love.  They accepted me as God’s gift; as a test of their faith and devotion.

Their prayers were answered quite literally.   I was barely a person.  I remained an infant my entire life.   I was aware only of the pleasure of being held and fed by my parents; of being rocked and bathed and fed and caressed.   I could not walk, nor speak, nor feed myself.  Still, I was happy, cooing to the sound of my mother singing or laughing at my father’s tickling.  My parents did not expect me to live very long, and were dedicated to making whatever time I had on the earth as happy and comfortable as possible.

When other children my age were learning to walk, I remained gurgling in my crib.  When the others were starting school, I rolled around on some blankets my mother laid out in the middle of the floor.

For many years, I was small enough for them to carry,  but to both their joy and dismay, I did not die young but rather grew in size as a normal human, without ever maturing at all mentally.  This presented many logistical problems for them as it became more difficult for them to attend to me. As they got older, they had trouble lifting and carrying me.  It was a challenge and heartache to bathe and dress me, to change my soiled diapers.  I often hit them hard with my flailing arms and legs, leaving bruises on their face and bodies.   Even leaving the house was a daunting task. They did not have much of a life, not my mother especially since she was home with me most of the time.   They had created a prison for themselves, with me as their jailer.

I do not know if they had regrets about their decision to keep me with them.  I don’t think anyone would have judged them harshly had they put me in a place where others could care for me, or if they had been less attentive to my medical care and allowed infection or disease to take me.  But in their actions, they were committed to me.  It was the path they had chosen and in this life, I was merely an instrument of their learning.

When I was in my forty-first year, my father became sick and infirm.  He could no longer help in my care and in fact needed care of his own.  My mother was old and weak herself from years stress and physical strain and lack of sleep and inability to attend to her own needs.  She did not have the strength to care for both me and my father.   But the pain of giving me to the care of strangers was more than they could bear.

And so,  one night,  they fed me medicine that made me sleep and never awaken.  And when they were sure I was peacefully gone, they took the same.

 

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Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bun

 

photo:  © James Whitlow Delano/Redux

Bound

NEW!

 

Ipo

When will you understand that all your pain and suffering is the result of you being bound to your ego?   It swaddles and smothers and imprisons you so you cannot escape outside yourself;  you cannot view the bigger, more beautiful, more meaningful story.\

 

 

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Voices in the Calm

NEW!

 

Cla

When I grew old, I spoke to the dead and they spoke to me.  I heard them, clear as if they were standing in the room with me.  They told me their stories, just as I tell mine to you.  I answered them, and asked them questions.  My neighbors could hear me chatting through the door and the walls, apparently to no one.  They thought me odd but I was harmless,   so they left me alone. They whispered that I’d gone mad after my husband died, and my son a year later.  Some said I talked to the dead in my imagination because I couldn’t stand to be alone.  Others believed I imagined the dead to be alive because I was afraid to die.  If the dead were alive, then I need not be afraid of death.  Most assumed the dementia of old age had set in and I was just imagining things.

But they were wrong about everything.

I also spoke to the dead when I was young.  But then life got busy and I no longer had the time for them.  But the main reason was that the noise of the world, the noise of my own questions and worries inside my head, crowded out any other voices.  I could no more hear them than I could perceive a hushed whisper across a noisy, bustling train station.   I could not stop the noise, nor did I think to do so.   Whatever was inside my head was me, and that took up all my mental energy and attention.

But then, eventually, I found myself old and alone.  I had lived long enough to be philosophical about life. I no longer worried or questioned.  I simply accepted.   And finally, once again, it was quiet enough to listen.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

 

Note:  this one’s kinda meta, isn’t it?

One Truth

First published Oct 16, 2015
truth2
listen to One Truth/Omar Faruk Tekbilek
Ipo

Whoever believes without question and adheres most closely to dogma is not the holiest among you. There are no answers without questions, rejected answers, and more questions.

There is only one truth and it is this: You will never know the Truth.

To settle on understanding is delusion, but to cease questioning is to shackle the soul’s ascent.

 


Omar Faruk Tekbilek,  an amazing and deeply spiritual musician whom I’ve had the privilege to meet, interview and chat with many times.  If you don’t know his work,  I encourage you to search him out.  His first solo album, Whirling,  is still one of my very favorites,  even 25 years after I first heard it.  Absolutely hypnotic.  If you’re looking for one album to listen to when you’re in “that mood” — that’s the one!  He is a virtuoso on many instruments and his voice is like buttah.  Or honey.  Or honey buttah.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is
If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is

 

 

photo from http://www.ruthlera.com/

In a Flash

NEW!

Ure

I never had much luck in love.   Most relationships barely got started before they were over.  I accepted this as my destiny and made a life without romance.  And then, when I was in my late 40’s, I met my soulmate.  We were quickly inseparable. We’d found each other and we weren’t letting go.  Finally, I understood viscerally what poets and writers and lyricists wrote about.

It felt miraculous.  It felt destined.  It felt absolutely right.   At last, there was somebody who understood me; someone who wanted my happiness more than they wanted their own.  I became a new human being.  I blossomed.  I felt things I’d never felt before. I saw other human beings through a different lens, viewed the world from a different perspective.   I was joyful. I was happy.

And then, tragedy., insanity. A robbery.  A shooting.  Death.  And suddenly,  I was alone again,  my happiness shattered.  It had taken so long for us to find each other, and we were so uniquely suited.  How could I hope to ever find that again?   I could not return to my old life, being happily content without love.  I missed it like a brutally sawn-off leg.

That phantom limb pained and grieved me to the end of my days.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

digital collage by yours truly

Great Expectations

NEW!

 

Kor

My parents  did not have much formal education but they possessed a natural intellect and curiosity.  They read voraciously – books, several daily newspapers, news and educational magazines.  Our shelves were filled with literature and second hand books on politics, history, art, science.  I was encouraged to explore them all.

I was an only child by choice.  They both held civil service jobs which, while it provided steady income, their salaries were not high. They decided when they married that it was better to devote all their available resources to one child rather than spread the money thin over a larger brood.   I was the sole beneficiary of their time, their attention, and their assets.  My mother wore the same out-of-date cloth coat for a decade so there was enough money for me to take violin lessons.   When I was born, my father gave up cigarettes and drink to save for my higher education.  They did without restaurant dinners so I could go on class trips.  They took me to museums and free concerts and lectures by powerful speakers and to political rallies. Every week,  my mother took me to the library where we both chose a pile of books.

From the time I was a small child, I understood that I was expected to go to university.  It was my obligation to excel in life; to grab opportunities which had not been available to my parents in their youth. I was grateful to have such supportive parents.  Every part of my extra-curricular education was provided with the expectation that I would rise to the top both at school and in any endeavor I attempted.

Mostly, I fulfilled that expectation.  I was at the head of all my classes, and was accepted into a handful of well-respected universities, each of them offering a scholarship.

Nearly two decades of investment into my future was finally paying off.  I was gratified that I could make them proud.

One summer evening,  the month before I was set to go off to college,  I went out to meet some friends.    Down on the corner, there was a fight among some tough kids.  I knew them to be trouble and always gave them a wide berth.  I crossed the street to steer clear and set off in the other direction.  Behind me, the fight escalated and one of them pulled out a gun. Shots were fired and though I was some distance away, I was fatally hit.  I was gone before the ambulance even arrived.

My parents were inconsolable.

I am still trying to understand the point of my end.   Even to me, here, it seems like a tragic waste.  But I accept that this is how it was meant to be. I chose this going in, so there must be reason.  I’m beginning to consider that the lesson was not about achieving success, itself, but my giving myself over to the preparation for it. Or perhaps it was to teach me that no matter how well we prepare, no matter how much we devote ourselves to a goal, ultimately life is never within our control.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

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