My beautiful mother Leslie died on November 13th of this year. As far as deaths go, it was a good one – peaceful, at home, from natural causes and with no accompanying illness. I’m proud of how she chose to leave, and at the same time it is a huge loss. She was not only my mother she was my co-author, close friend and confidante.
Since she died I have had to step up to do things I didn’t know I could do. Like, together with my youngest brother, lovingly dressing her body, combing her hair and laying her to rest in her wool-lined eco casket. Like organizing and conducting her intimate burial service. (We walked her casket to the churchyard ourselves, spoke prayers for her, played beautiful music, lowered the casket into the ground, filled the tomb with earth and decorated her grave with flowers.)
Two weeks ago, we held a live-streamed celebration so that her friends and fans around the world could join us in honoring her. It was beautiful. It began with a video of outtakes from some of the many Sacred Truth videos Leslie shot with my brother Aaron. In them, she bursts out laughing at mistakes she makes. (Her ability to laugh at herself was one my favorite things about her.) The whole audience at the event laughed whole-heartedly along with her. It was not a funeral. It was not a memorial. It truly was a celebration of a remarkable and inspiring woman I was, and am, blessed to call my mother. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZWRAZ5Zhmg)
I feel grief, sadness and denial – can she really be gone? The tapestry of my life feels torn. It’s as if the bedrock beneath me that always felt so solid has turned to quicksand. I’m OK, and I am not.
This morning I went for a run in the botanical gardens. It was peaceful and beautiful. And as my body moved through space I had the thought, “Leslie would have loved this - like she loved so much of life.”
I am left with the desire to live my life soulfully and full-out, to leave no part of me unlived, to be awake to the wonder of each moment and to love and embrace it all – including death – as best I can.
... so when you don't, what can you do about it?
In this 1/2 hour radio interview with medicine man Michael McCammon we share simple tools and practices that can help you feel better no matter what challenges you face.
There’s something about performing a random act of kindness that leaves you changed.
Yesterday I was fretting about what I want to create next and not getting clear answers. I wanted to feel in-the-flow and wholeheartedly invested in something, but couldn’t figure out what that might be. Then a random opportunity happened my way.
I was walking in Victoria Park with a friend and I pointed out the memorial of a young woman who was killed in 1998 in a mountain biking accident there. Her family had planted a tree in her memory and the humble shrine was completely covered with weeds. The tree looked sickly and the flowers beneath it were dry and faded. There was even an empty soda can sitting next to them and a shattered plastic vase.
(Ever since I bumped into the deceased woman’s mother tending the site a few years ago, and she shared her story, I have wanted to offer my support. I can’t imagine a more intense grief than losing your child.)
My friend and I got stuck in. He weeded the long grass and cleared the debris while I gathered pinecones. We found a huge pile of bark and brought bags of it to lay on the weeded ground. We made two trips to a nearby drinking fountain for water to quench the thirsty tree.
45 minutes later we stood back in awe at the transformation. The shrine was radiant and so were we.
I’m not sure it matters so much what we do here but how we do what we do. The feeling of bringing your heart to a random act of kindness is utterly delicious. Here's to the next random opportunity...
Crying in public isn't comfortable. I know because I've been doing it for years and shaming myself for it. I used to envy people who could "keep it together" no matter what. But recently I've begun to see tears in a new way.
Last night I taught a workshop. As one woman began to share with the group her eyes filled with tears. "I'm so sorry" she said, lowering her head with embarrassment. I knew how she felt. I decided to offer her my new take on tears.
"Your tears are precious," I began. "They're like jewels tumbling out of your heart. You honor yourself and us by sharing them." The woman raised her eyes tentatively, saw that her feelings were welcome and continued on with her story. As she did, others in the room wept gently along with her.
The Kleenex box moved freely around the circle throughout the evening and there was no more attempt to hide tears. By the time the workshop ended, precious heart jewels were scattered everywhere and the eyes that had shed them were shiny and bright.
I know how it feels to be shamed for feeling - I've shamed myself and even been shamed by a loved one. But what if we were truly free to share our feelings and shed our tears? What if, instead of putting us down for being emotional, a loved one gathered up our sacred heart jewels and held them gently to his chest? And what if, as he did, his own heart jewels began to flow with love?
Last night I taught a workshop on stillness. Coming at the end of the day I’d experienced it was a joke. I’d had almost no sleep and was feeling completely spun out. The peaceful walk in nature I’d anticipated with my dog turned into a two-and-a-half hour fiasco involving a possum that left me hoarse and exhausted - both of us covered from head to toe in mud. I couldn’t imagine experiencing stillness, let alone teaching it to anyone. So I did what I often do in the face of impossibility. I showed up and told the truth.
Truth is, I’m not a regular meditator. I love feeling centered and peaceful but a meditation practice has never been my strong point. I asked the group does anyone here meditate? All of them raised their hands. Great, I thought. But when I probed a little deeper I discovered that many of those meditators felt they “should” be doing it more or better.
So we opened up the possibility that living a conscious centered life and developing a personal practice for peace might look different for each person. I felt the whole room breathe a sigh of relief at the dropping of yet another story of how we should be doing better. What unfolded was one of the sweetest workshops I’ve ever experienced.
Here are a few of the ideas we explored:
That last one, today, is how I chose to begin. I stepped out on to my porch and a little bird in a cherry tree was singing its heart out. All by itself, in the darkness like a solo Gospel choir. The perfect new beginning…
It's amazing how something so simple can be so life changing...
I promised to report on my meditation retreat. It was hard – very – but also deeply rewarding. Not talking was surprisingly easy and enjoyable. Eating just two vegetarian meals a day felt good. Having no Internet access or contact with the outside world was refreshing.
The hard part was:
What I learned:
I emerged feeling deeply grateful for the Vipassana volunteers who taught me and prepared my meals, and for the 60 or so other students who had the courage to took this journey with me.
I told my brother in a week's time I'm going to do a 10-day silent meditation retreat. He laughed out loud. I can't blame him. He knows me. For me to sit still or stop talking for 10 minutes is a big ask, let alone 10 hours a day.
So why am I doing it?
I want to discover how life feels when I am not being run by "monkey mind." I want to dedicate 10 days to stepping outside of the Matrix to see Reality (and myself) as it is. Ultimately, I want to live my life more on purpose and unencumbered by "stuff" than I ever have before.
Am I apprehensive? You bet. But I'm also inspired. Simon recently did the same course. When I saw how clear, centered and inspired he became through the process, I thought to myself, "I'll have what he had." He's actually been inspired to develop a new business teaching meditation. Check out his website: www.simonjonesmeditation.com.
Maybe stillness comes easily to you, maybe it doesn't, but I want to know this: How might your life be different if stillness moved you beyond the story you tell about yourself?
I was chatting with a friend who wants to lose weight. She told me she'd worked out to a tough home exercise DVD. When I congratulated her, she immediately began minimizing her effort: "I didn't do it very well and it was just 20 minutes long," she said.
Her reaction saddened me and made me realize how much more accustomed we all are to judging and criticizing ourselves than giving ourselves credit for our achievements.
As a result, I have been making an effort to feel proud of myself for small achievements each day. It might be taking care of an errand I've been putting off. Or booking an appointment to see the dental hygienist. Or writing the outline for a new project.
Consider one way you could do yourself proud today - then do it - and celebrate. It's a great way to promote your inner coach and demote your inner critic.