Friday, May 30, 2014

Life Can Change in a Blink. But Are You Even Living?

Life ... it's this fickle, beautiful, devastating, wonderful, awe-inspiring, heart-wrenching, fleeting thing.

It's so hard to pin down and just when you think you've got it defined, that you have it within your grasp once and for all, it somehow evades you, leaving a wisp of smoke in its wake.

Lately, I've been reminded in quite a few ways just how precious this thing we call life is. It's not really a thing ... it's a state of being. It's "being." But how often are we truly being? How often are we really living?

Most days, we are living in the mind chatter of the ego ... caught up in the drama, the pain, the past, the future, the worry, the doubts, fears, grievances, resentments, anger, love, passion, highs, lows, offenses, obsessions, fixations, indifferences, cares, reactions, judgements, comparisons, sadness and giddiness of the mind-made world we live in. It's almost madness when you think about it.

We are all over social media, our phones, the TVs, video games, ear buds, iPods, work, stress, work, stress. We are mindless droids some days and overly anxious, scared, passionate, emotional, irrational humans the next. We are amazing creatures, the capabilities we have, yet we still take for granted all that we have to offer the planet, the universe, the moment.

I guess, in seeing most recently, just how fragile life can be, just how quickly it can change, I realize how pointless the above worries, extreme emotions, fixations, ego chatter, etc. really is in the grand scheme of life.

All of that distracts us from the very act of living. And living is going on all around us ALL the time, if only we tapped into it more. It's shown in nature every moment of the day. It's shown in our pets, in those few moments of completely present awareness when we feel our actual bodies living, when we step back and just exist without trying.

I guess what I'm saying is ... all those cliches about living each moment as though it was your last, stopping to smell the roses, seizing the day, living in the moment, etc., those have become cliches for a reason ... because so many humans have stumbled upon these realizations over and over again in the history of our existence and expressed them in one form or another that they've sadly become redundant and lost their staggering power.

Those mantras lose their power until that very moment, when you're life does, indeed, flash before you, when something does drastically change either personally or to someone close to you, bringing you face to face with your mortality (at least your body and mind's mortality). And my question to myself and all of you is, WHY do we wait until something "happens" to embrace this wisdom we've held within us our whole lives, that has been passed down to us by our former human ancestors?

Why do we let our minds run the show and distract us from truly living each day to its fullest as they say?

I can't answer those questions for you ... I'm still working on them for myself. But what I do know is, continuous practice of present moment awareness, using my compasses (like Lakota and Bella, nature, yoga, meditation, my breath, my heartbeat) to bring me back to that place whenever I can, that's going to be the key to me living more and more fully. Because time is, indeed, moving. We are aging. Life is happening.

And the only thing there truly ever is ... is the present.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Inspiration Incarnate

As I sit here, in my parents' living room — my childhood home — the indoor porch is open, birds are singing and I'm brewing tea in the kitchen.

It's the first warm, sunny day in awhile. It finally feels like Spring has arrived after a very long, very brutal winter ... the kind of winter that made me actually wonder a few times if it would ever be warm again.

Today reminded me yes, it will be. It is. And nothing is ever permanent.

My dog Lakota is teaching me once more. I'm not sure he even knows it. He hurt himself a week and a half ago — a herniated disk — and can no longer walk on his own. At least not now. Surgery was the farthest thing from my mind when my parents and I took him to the emergency vet. In the days that followed, like bread crumbs, I was lead down a path that took me to a crossroads: Surgery (costly surgery) or therapy that isn't looking promising considering the degree of his nerve damage.

Without getting into all of the details, I opted for surgery. I had to know I gave him the best chance I could. You see ... Lakota isn't just a dog. He isn't just a companion animal I've cared for all these nine years. Sure, he offers me unconditional love, loyalty, friendship and protection.

Those things alone are worth giving him his best shot. But he's much more than just those things. Lakota is a soul mate, a guide, he's a teacher, a best friend, a piece of heaven meant to remind me what life is all about, that life is happening in the moment, that the present moment is truly all we've got.

He is inspiration incarnate.

I know, if I'm lucky enough, privileged enough ... blessed enough to have him in my life a few more years, there will come a time when he will move on to the next realm — from form to the formless, as Eckhard Tolle calls it.

But that's then. This is now. And right now, I'm hopeful that with enough patience, enough positive energy, work, therapy, love and care, Lakota will walk again.

Where am I going with all of this? I guess ... I'm not quite sure yet. The entire experience has been transforming. Over a week ago, I was stressing about over committing myself to too many things, having way too busy a schedule to stop and take life in the way I need to to stay grounded in myself, to stay true to myself. I was trying to prioritize everything and fitting walks in with L where I could. I was trying to enjoy my time with him more, having a strange feeling something would be changing soon ... I just didn't know what.

And just like that, everything did. My life changed. I can no longer just drop everything and leave. I can no longer just flutter around from this engagement to that. Will it always be this way? Of course not. But I'm learning to accept what is. To work in tandem with what is ... with the present moment and situation. To resist it, longing for some future, better moment, is living in the mind and in illusion. And that's not living at all.

Sure, to some people, it's "just a dog." And I get that. However, I don't have children. So to me, Lakota is my heart. He and Bella have been through quite a few chapters of my life ... very big ones. And what this reminds me of is, nothing in life is permanent. So, nothing should ever be taken for granted.

I'm sure I'll continue to learn more, and share it here ... but all I know is, what happened to Lakota brought some MAJOR fears to the surface for me that I thought I'd buried or, quite frankly, overcome. The fear of losing those I love. The fear of being out of control.  The fear of being alone. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the dark. The fear of what the future will bring.

And instead of doing everything I could to get away from those feelings, I stayed with them. I breathed through them. I cried, I fought with my mind, my ego, I fought through sleepless nights, a suppressed appetite, depression ... I continued to view all the things I felt from a lens that was almost in the background of it all, like the awareness behind the emotions. And all those fears, I worked through them one by one, plunging into the dark without a candle, feeling my way back to the light of each tunnel.

Instead of crying, "Why him? Why us?" I went inward and asked what it is I can learn from this. What is the lesson, what is the teacher ... what is the challenge, because I'm open. I'm utterly terrified, but I'm open.

And one of the biggest things I found ... faith, hope and an overwhelming response from people I did NOT expect. I thanked people over and over again for their responses, for their private messages, for their understanding, for making me feel less alone. Yet, I don't think I can quite express right now how much all of that impacted me. I was in deep at that moment when I reached out and needed some help back to the surface. And all of that support lead me there.

So to all of those who reached back — thank you, from the bottom of my heart <3

I suddenly have a deeper appreciation for the hardships of others, for those who have to be caretakers, for those who have heavy burdens in their lives they struggle with day to day. Not that Lakota is a burden. He isn't. But I appreciate the people who do sacrifice for those they love.

Because, if Lakota can go through what he went through. I can go through this with him. And every day, he inspires me. He reminds me of what love is, every time I look into his gentle brown eyes.

And so, my life has slowed down. It's grown very simple in a matter of a week. And I'm OK with that. Because I know if I go with it, rather than resist it, I will gain so much more than I ever would otherwise. And anything else that seemed so important to get to before ... no longer does.

After all ... as the quote goes: "Finding myself through process of elimination." ~Jonathan Stefiuk