Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Just Another Spiritual Adventure With The Mountain Dreamer

People make assumptions. We all do it. I am sometimes surprised at the assumptions some people make about me because they’ve read something I’ve written, or heard my medicine name (and that can go either way: either Enlightened Spiritual Teacher or Flaky High-Woo-Woo Nut- wrong on both counts) or know someone who knew someone who once attended a ceremony I lead or a retreat I facilitated.

Once, a lovely young woman who was interviewing me mentioned something about a television show she’d watched and then apologized, saying, “Oh I know you wouldn’t watch TV – you’re probably meditating in the evening.”

Yeah. Right. That’s me- in a constant state of meditative serenity.

I could not help but think of inflated projections on Saturday night. I’d gone to get groceries after an early dinner. (Yep, life in the fast lane.) When I got home, unpacking included unwrapping a twelve-roll pack of toilet paper and stashing it in the cupboard under the bathroom sink.

Suddenly I noticed a strange smell- an odd chemical scent. I was alarmed.

For those of you who don’t know, I recently came out of a (new record for me) seventy-three day migraine. Like most who suffer from this affliction, my migraines can be triggered by chemical scents, and you can bet that after two and half months of agony I was hyper-alert to anything that might send me down that road again.

I sniffed around cautiously and discovered it was the newly purchased toilet paper. They make scented toilet paper! Who knew? I closed the cupboard door and stepped out onto the balcony to gulp some relatively fresh air. But there was no way around it- I needed to get rid of the offending toilet paper rolls. The trouble is, they were now mixed in with old rolls- all white, with no distinguishing pattern on the paper.

This is how I came to spend my Saturday evening sitting on the bathroom floor, sniffing toilet paper rolls one at time and stuffing the stinky ones into a garbage bag between breathing breaks on the balcony. At some point, as I lightly passed another roll under my nose to detect what the manufacturer called “chamomile fragrance,” I muttered to myself, “Yep, just another exciting and enlightening evening with Mountain Dreamer.”

And I started to laugh.

I was still laughing and shaking my head as I took the garbage bag to the recycling bin outside my building. The good news is I did not get a migraine, and laughing at the whole predicament truly sent me to bed with a smile on my face.

The truth is I don’t know anything about enlightenment- and have never claimed I do. But I do know that not taking myself too seriously makes life easier and more joyful. Laughter makes me glad to be alive, even if it is in a world where resources are used to create something as absurd as scented toilet paper.

Good to laugh, wherever we can, whenever we can.

Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Possibility of Healing After Death

My father died of advanced Alzheimer’s one year ago tomorrow- April 22, 2015. He was eighty-three. My brother died three weeks ago today, of an aortic aneurysm. He was sixty years old.
I’ve been kind of quiet this week, just sitting with my own heart and what arises in the stillness.
Often the death of those close to us reminds us of our own mortality and encourages us to live and love fully and deeply. In the shamanic traditions in which I was trained this is called making Death an Ally.
My father and my brother had not spoken in years. My father wanted nothing to do with my brother because he was an alcoholic, and my brother’s anger with my father for abuses during his childhood meant he did not want contact. I do not judge either’s choice not to be in touch- they did what they felt was right for them- although I was witness to the pain this choice reflected and created.
I cannot help but wonder if their paths will cross now, wherever or whatever continues of these two men I knew and loved. I have no set belief about what happens after we die (and I am fine with that.) I can imagine reincarnation, movement to other realities, or other scenarios, and I have an overwhelming sense that whatever happens it is truly. . . okay.
But, I cannot help but imagine some kind of encounter between my father and my brother. . . . elsewhere.
If this is possible- how might it go? Will death soften their hearts and offer them perspective on how each did the best he could without denying the harm sometimes done by the other’s best to self and others?
I don’t know. But as I sit quietly during these days of remembrance and grief, I find myself hoping for some healing between them. I like to picture them sitting in the small red row boat we had, fishing. I imagine them in companionable silence, enjoying the northern wilderness they both loved, appreciating the quiet together.
And I know that this is my vision. I can't know if something like this is even possible- and I am okay with the not-knowing and the holding of this hope. Envisioning this possibility is my way of holding them both in love right now, a way of remembering what matters and what does not, a way of helping to heal the family spiral. ~Oriah
Deep gratitude to Karen Davis for this beautiful photo found on Open Door Dreaming this morning.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Losing My Brother

I've been off line for awhile, dealing with some health challenges. Thought I would be back last week, and then (as so often happens) life intervened in my plans.

Last Thursday, on the final day of March, my brother Doug, died suddenly at the age of sixty when an aortic enlargement (that he did not know he had) burst. These enlargements run in the family and can be monitored if they are known- I have one, my father had one, both discovered by tests for other medical conditions.

Doug and I were only sporadically in touch over the years, but we'd had a number of phone conversations more recently when our parents were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He was often preoccupied with how he was going to die. Doug had been an alcoholic since he was a teenager and was beginning to show signs of alcohol-induced Alzheimer's. He was not interested in giving up alcohol, and I accepted that this was his choice. He was however worried that he would be incapacitated by Alzheimer's and linger long after he wanted to be here. In this, the death he had was mercifully quick and without suffering.

My brother and I lived very different lives- but, of course, we shared our beginnings. Here we are at Easter in 1960- I was five and he was four, with our baskets of chocolate eggs and jelly beans. I look at the face of this boy. . . .and I pray that he is now at peace, without pain or suffering. I remember his innocence, our shared silliness, and. . . . I hold tenderly the girl who could not protect her little brother, and the boy who bore the brunt of our father's woundedness. Like all of us, he did the best he could. May he feel held in love now. ~Oriah