bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: jesus

I’m not Catholic, but you’d think I was based on the way I jog.

IMG_3959

I lace up my running shoes and open the front door, greeted by 39 degrees and spitting rain. It’s Saturday morning and I’m excited to hit the sidewalks after several weeks of snow and super cold temps. I took up jogging a few months ago — a real shock to the system as this meditation-loving lady is notoriously sedentary. I had come to realize that at age 41, the only way to keep my waistline from feeling like a jelly doughnut was through cardio. And guess what? I like it. Not because of the cramps or the sweat or the having to wash and blow dry my hair after — I like where I go, physically and mentally.

My destination is always the same: Mother Mary. There’s a statue of her tucked away in a small garden at St. Mary’s Catholic church, a mile from my house. Sometimes I take a creative route and sometimes I beeline for her. Today I choose a direct shot because of the rain.

Per usual, I find a kick in my pace as I near her. I leap over snowbank remains and charge past side streets. I can feel Mary’s energy. It’s like we both know a reunion’s coming and we’re giddy to experience each other.

I greet Mary with silence, then begin our private ritual, mother to mother. After a short time together, it’s time for me to get home, but I’m all jacked up on Love and decide to take the long, hilly way.

The hills are hard for me. My mind starts wandering, thinking about discomfort. I start silently chanting, Left. Left. Left-right-left, understanding for the first time that our military forces use a matra-based mindfulness technique to keep soldiers present, in the moment. I play with other chants, Fat. Fat. Fat-burn-fat, and then decide the military version is much more effective. The chant keeps me focused, but I’m jogging uphill at a good clip and I’m starting to lose confidence.

I consider ducking down a side street to avoid the climb. I know Prince Street is ahead — and it’s downhill. Whenever I pass Prince I think, Prince of Peace, so I decide I’ll take refuge on my boyfriend Jesus’s street in a few blocks.

I’m thinking about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. How good he’s been to me over the years, how supportive he’s been of my relationships with Buddha and Krishna and Ben & Jerry. As I arrive at Prince Street, a voice directs, Don’t use me as an exit strategy. Use me as your inspiration to keep going! (It’s so amazing, the things you can hear when you’re listening.) I find another kick in my pace and pass Prince. A block later, the road flattens out.

I pad past a few more side streets and reach the final turn toward home. Slowing down, tears suddenly roll down my cheeks. A big, bright love is swelling my my chest and I feel both Mary and Jesus with my full presence. Those words Exit Strategy are building in my mind. I’m sorting through messages about Salvation and Faith. The messages are beautiful, simultaneously simple and complicated. They’re about not hiding behind heaven, not waiting until then end to reunite with The One, but instead experiencing the Kingdom in ordinary moments, trusting that Salvation is not later, but NOW. I’m wiping tears away as a man walks past me with his dog. I smile and try to maintain focus on the loving, mighty voice in my head. Messages keep streaming — fast. Let me hold onto your words, so I can write them down, I beg in a whisper.

I start running again, then break into a sprint. I need to get home and write before the words dissipate, like wispy clouds on a sunny day. I burst through the front door, toe-heel my sneakers into the corner, abandon my hat and gloves on the kitchen floor, whip out my laptop, and write. But the messages are gone. They only existed for me on the wet road home, in that moment. In this moment, there is something else. There is gratitude.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

 

when your meditation practice is a disappointment

Do you ever feel like your practice is letting you down? I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m just dialing it in – a getting-it-done-to-say-I-did-it sort of thing. A chore. Sometimes I’m super bored, especially when I’m sitting for long periods of time. Sometimes my mind scatters in a gazillion directions and then returns to focus: scatter-return-scatter-return-bored-return-antsy-return-blah-blah-blah-return. Sometimes I get really hungry and can’t stop thinking about cookies. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond but I do. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond and I don’t.

Sometimes I sit in meditation and nothing happens and then I wake up in the middle of the night with what I call a “spiritual brain dump,” receiving some sort of revelation that helps me better understand the world as it is. Sometimes I see and talk to Jesus; we hold hands or hug. Once he told me to keep chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.” (Jesus loves Buddhism. He’s so Badass.) Sometimes I feel like I’m floating but I’m not. And sometimes, not often, I see gorgeous colors and patterns – colors I’ve never seen in real life. And it’s wonderful.

I’ve been meditating formally for 7 or 8 years, consistently for 5 or 6, and I’ve got to say, for me, it’s 90% relaxation, boredom, and stick-to-itiveness. The 10% of wonderful that comes through makes it all worth it, as does the self-awareness that seeps into existence when not in formal sitting.

If Forrest Gump were bu-curious like me, he might say, “Meditation is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” When you meditate, try to release expectations and trust that you’ll get what you’re supposed to get. Going into meditation with a particular outcome in mind can lead to the following:

1. Disappointment. Last time you meditated you felt buzzing all over your body. It was awesome. You felt like you were finally “doing it right” (ha) and are eager to get back to that feeling of full presence again. But this time you drop in and wait for the buzz, and you just can’t get there. You’re bummed.

2. Frustration. Since you’re not achieving the particular outcomes you’d intended to achieve, you are convinced you must be “doing it wrong.” In actuality, the only thing that’s getting in the way of your practice is your expectation that it should be something else. Remember, whatever happens, that’s what’s happening. The whatever is the sweet spot. Just eat the chocolate, Forrest.

3. Limitation. While the buzzing (or blue lights or numbness or gap) may be totally captivating, by wishing and willing yourself a return visit to those places, you are limiting yourself to those experiences and perhaps closing yourself off to other experiences that could serve you in ways you never imagined.

4. More limitation. Setting expectations for your practice is giving in to the human brain’s need to constantly create metaphors that spin out of the familiar. We can only describe objects, feelings, and experiences based on objects, feelings, and experiences we already recognize. Expecting to experience something you understand may be the ultimate limitation. Opening up to a pure wonder may allow you to experience that which you cannot explain and never could’ve expected. The Kindgom of Wonder is home to mysteries and colors and sounds and wisdom infinitely deep and wide, so try to notice when you’re hoping or expecting a particular experience or outcome and loosen up your grip on it.

And after all this is said, just as a wandering mind is a crucial part of meditation (if the mind doesn’t wander, we live in the now and meditation is obsolete), so, too, is expectation. It helps us better understand the nature of our minds and our habits, leading to a fuller awareness of self. So when we notice that we are engaging in disappointment, frustration, limitation, and more limitation, we can open up to the greater mystery by cutting the cord between our practice and our expectations.

Headshot Vanessa 3

Blog post written with love by Vanessa Gobes. Vanessa is co-founder of Chrysalis Meditation Center in Winchester, Massachusetts, a place where people can develop or deepen a spiritually-based mental health practice. Located 15 minutes north of Boston, Chrysalis supports people of all ages, genders, races, abilities, and incomes in their journey to peace. To learn more about the programs offered at Chrysalis, visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com.

Talking to dead people, snuggling with Jesus, and other strange, spiritual happenings that just sort of make sense

It’s a hot night in August and I’m heading into Boston to visit my very cool friend, AT. To add to AT’s coolness, she is a talented spiritual medium who does “table tippings.” Have you heard of this? You sit at a table with a medium. The medium calls upon your spiritual A-team, and the next thing you know, the table comes to life. Spirit guides, angels, and ascended masters fill the table with their energy and the table starts bouncing around, hugging you, spelling out words… it sounds crazy until you experience it.

So back to summer in the city, I’m in AT’s apartment with another one of our spirity girlfriends, JC, and we are sitting around this regular old side table, our hands placed lightly on the surface, and our fingertips begin to buzz. The table is vibrating. And then it’s full on moving. It spells out a name by rocking back and forth. One rock is “A,” two rocks is “B,” and so on. It’s wicky-woo equivalent of a flip phone. Next thing we know we’re welcoming some dead dude named Peter into the room. He is there for JC and they have a lovely chat. AT’s grandfather comes through next and he is hilarious and adorable. I mean, he’s in a table, but he’s still adorable. Funny and caring and charming.

Soon after, my mother’s mother makes her entrance. Pauline. I’ve never met her – she died before I was born – but I have always felt a deep connection with her. She is excited and begins spelling things out quickly. She wants me to know that “NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW” is the time for me to open a business. (I opened a meditation center with my neighbor in September – YAY!!!) Pauline wants me to know that everything’s going to work and that the business will be a great success. She’s hugging me. I mean, the table is lying on my lap, but somehow it feels like a warm embrace. She gives me some more business advice and then she is gone.

Spirits take turns entering the regular old side table, talking to AT and JC, one at a time. (Very polite, these spirits, I must say.) My Gram, my father’s mother, appears on my next turn and she has big hugs for me. (I start bawling.) Gram died in November of 2005. I was pregnant with my daughter SG. Gram tells me that she held SG in her arms the whole time I was pregnant. (Did I mention I’m bawling?) They have a special connection and Gram will always watch over her. (Bawling.)

It turns out, Gram is really into eastern medicine – which is a total surprise as her earth family is traditional Irish Catholic. She schools me on my chronic back pain. “It’s stuck energy,” she says through the regular old side table, and I should seek out alternative healing like acupuncture. (Not scoliosis? No. Not my crappy diet? No. Not my messy house? No. Not my poor exercise ethic? No. No. No. Go to acupuncture!!!) We talk about other things and when we feel fulfilled, she makes space for the next spirit.

Or should I say the next Archangel? So, I never knew this guy Archangel Michael, but holy kapow. Michael is amazing. He guides and directs “Light Workers,” people whose purpose in life is to raise the earth’s vibration. He also protects all policemen and will help and protect anyone who calls on him. A “Yo, Michael!” is all it takes.

So Michael gives crazy juju to all three of us, as we are all considered Light Workers. The table is bouncing around and tilting to the side, “shining light” on us, and the room is getting hot. Really hot. We’re actually sweating. We’re sitting right in front of a blasting air conditioner but the temperature keeps rising. Michael has messages for each of us. For me, he has some intuitive gifts and he wants me to get to know him better. So I promise I will.

And then I ask, “Michael, is Jesus there with you?”

The table becomes still and the room is flooded with heat. More heat. Jesus announces his presence in the room through the regular old side table and the room is on fire. I’m asking questions and AT is like, “Vanessa, he’s not here to answer your questions. Just take what he’s giving.” So we get quiet but we’re all freaking out a little because his energy is HUGE. AT is giving a running commentary on the crazy shit happening in her body. My solar plexus feels like it’s burning up. It’s a fireball. Then the whole table flips upside down on top of our girl JC and it’s got her pinned to her chair. Jesus is dousing her with love and she’s, like, totally overpowered by it. OVERPOWERED BY A REGULAR OLD LITTLE SIDE TABLE.

The table eventually dismounts JC and starts bouncing around the room. I shit you not. I know this sounds so weird. But it’s bouncing and we’re trying to keep up with it and finally we’re all drained and AT closes the session. My solar plexus is still burning.

I drive home and wake up my husband at midnight, “Hon, wake up! Feel my solar plexus. Do you feel that? It’s burning, right? Jesus did that to me!” He mumbles something that sounds like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but sure, I guess it feels hot,” and rolls over. The next morning I make everyone in my house feel my solar plexus BECAUSE IT’S STILL HOT! And my back feels like new (at least for a couple of days).

So it doesn’t end there. AT comes to the new meditation center. (It’s called Chrysalis Center in Winchester, Massachusetts. Super cute. You should come visit.) She clears the office and the meditation room with sage and crystals, and we decide to try out her new spirit board – like a Ouija Board but fancy. She pulls it out of the box, sets the board on the rug and the box in a bag and leans the bag against the wall nearby. We are chit-chatting about crystals and new age nonsense and suddenly the box jumps inside the bag. AT and I stare wide-eyed at the box, “OMG that’s weird. The box just jumped. We need to start.”

All of our grandparents come through the board and, as it turns out, they knew each other in life and have been orchestrating our reunion from the great beyond. Lovely. Pauline couldn’t be more excited about Chrysalis. She says she has anchored herself to the center and she is living her dream out through me. It’s amazing how connected I feel to her. How supported. Family bonds are truly unbreakable and undying. She promises that she is always right behind me, at my back.

Gram comes through again, too, talking about crystals and energy and ways to bring good vibes into the center. She is incredibly wise. We talk about some other things and then everyone is gone.

That week, following Gram’s sage advice, I have an amazing acupuncture appointment. I invite my spiritual team into the room to help me heal. Jesus is the first to answer my call. My eyes are closed and I’m lying on my back on the table and I feel Jesus scoop me up in his arms. My body is on the table. But my essence comes right out. He holds me like a baby. My arms wrap around his neck and my head rests on his heart. His love is huge and true. I find that instead of fully surrendering to the love in the moment, I’m anticipating its end with sadness. He laughs, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for you.” And I relax into his embrace. After some time, he moves to release me and I squeeze my arms around his neck like my kids do to me when I try to put them down. He laughs and holds me a little longer. I hear him say, “Keep chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” which makes me smile. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is a Japanese Buddhist chant that means “I surrender to mystical law,” and I chant it regularly. I love it. And I love that Jesus wants me to chant like a Buddhist for no other reason but it works for me. When he (He) puts me down on the table, Archangel Raphael, who has a talent for physical healing, enters the room in the form of an emerald green mist. The mist takes the shape of my body and settles into me while I lie on the table. It’s a beautiful experience, and again my back feels great for the next few days.

A week later, AT and I sit together again, this time for another table tipping with my business partner DC. As usual, the spirits take turns coming around to communicate. Each being who comes through the table has a unique energy. They communicate at different speeds, move in different ways, offer different things. Pauline loves my partner and hugs her. She wants us to visualize our desires wrapped in gold. She urges us to visualize several times a week so we can manifest wonderful things for the center. Gram comes through full of energy. She loved to dance when she was here on earth so I ask her if she could dance for us. And gosh darnit she does! The table is hip-hopping around the floor and I laugh. She is so adorable. I know it’s a regular old side table, but her energy brings it to life and makes us all giggle.

When Gram is done dancing and hugging us all, she says that we should look to Mother Mary for guidance. Mary is happy we are doing this work at Chrysalis Center. She is here for us as we teach children how to meditate and find peace. “Can we talk to Mary or Jesus?” I ask. “Not today,” AT says and I feel disappointed. “You get who you need,” she assures.

So a few minutes go by. Archangel Michael lights up the room with his amazing energy, confirming that DC is also a Light Worker. He blesses her and us. And then a new energy enters. He gives us the first letter of his name – G – and I yelp, “Gabriel??” He keeps spelling. G-A-U-T-A-M-A.

I burst into ugly tears. I knew Jesus could see me. While I was moved to tears by his appearance at AT’s apartment weeks prior, I wasn’t surprised because I had felt his presence in my life for many years. But Gautama Buddha? I never imagined that he was with me, too.

That he would acknowledge the work we are doing is more than I have words for. His energy bounces the regular old side table around like it’s a rubber ball. He says “thank you” to us for our work. (He thanks us? Humbling.) He tells us to keep going and buy more mala beads. People will want to buy mala beads.

So that week, we buy more mala beads (Gautama, you totally nailed it. Great call.) and I also buy a few books about Archangel Michael. I fall in love. He’s a hot blonde hunk with golden wings, a huge protective shield, and an enormous sword that cuts away negativity. What’s not to love? I start asking Michael to protect me several times a day and believe it or not, an electrical fire catches in the dry mulch bed in front of my house. I dial 9-1-1 just before it lights up my house. The divine part is that I’d been working at the office every day that week and I decided to work from home this day. Coincidence? No way.

But like I said, he does more than protect. He cuts away attachments. For example, you just had lunch with your mother-in-law and she spent the entire time making you feel inadequate because you work instead of staying home with the kids. Your jaw is clenched, your heart is beating fast, you are ready to blow. Instead, though, you offer to pay the bill, kiss her goodbye, get in your car, and say, “Michael, cut any cords connecting us.” He will do so immediately and you will feel better immediately. I swear it works. Try it.

The other emotional cords that he can cut are the ones that manifest pain in the body. Say you have a big presentation and you need to be in front of an audience in 5 minutes. As the seconds tick down, you realize you’ve got to poop. Your face flushes and you try to decide if you can make it to the bathroom before the spotlight goes on. As your tummy cramps up, you take a deep breath and ask, “Michael, cut this anxiety away. It’s not serving me. I don’t need it.” I’m telling you, you will feel the relief.

What Michael is cutting away is the delusion of dis-ease. We humans are very good at forming attachments – to fear, to anger, to resentment, to pride. But none of these feelings are real. They’re creations of the ego mind. A Course in Miracles calls them “miscreations.” But delusional miscreation or not, emotional pain can manifest in the physical body if it’s not kept in check. And it sure feels real to us.

This weekend, I become convinced that that regular old side table had been giving me a sneak preview of the ways Michael and Buddha would work together in my real life. I attend a Metta retreat – 8 1/2 hours with 50 Bostonians at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. We practice Metta all day. The specifics of this Buddhist practice vary from person to person, but the idea of Metta is first offering safety, love, peace, and joy to oneself, then offering it to others. It can be done this way:

May I be happy.

May I be safe.

May I be loved.

May I be joyful.

May you be happy.

May you be safe.

May you be loved.

May you be joyful.

The teacher begins directing us: “May I be safe and protected.” As she says these words, I almost immediately feel Archangel Michael’s wings wrap around my shoulders. It is lovely. I am so focused on Michael that the rest of the sitting blows past in a haze.

The teacher invites the bell and encourages those of us on our first Metta retreat to join her in the library. When she asks me directly about my experience, I choke my way through explaining what happened with the angel wings. She leans her head to the side and squints her eyes a little, “Well, you’re on a different path so I can’t really help you with that.” My face flushes and I recover by asking her how to better embody the “May I be safe and protected” part of the prayer. She says that it is not about safety from external stimuli but protection from the chaos of the inner landscape. She digs deep into this idea before we return to our cushions for round two.

I close my eyes gently and examine this idea of needing protection from my own thoughts. The way stress makes me sick and depression makes me lethargic and anger gives me a headache. I think about my chronic back pain. I think, This pain exists for no diagnosable reason. It’s got to be emotional residue piling up. May I be safe and protected. May I be safe and protected. May I be safe and protected. I feel Michael with me. When the sitting ends, I open my eyes and look to the teacher. She sits in front of a wooden altar carved with images of the Buddha. The first one I lay eyes on is of the Buddha holding a sword (below). Just like Archangel Michael.

IMG_0091

After the retreat, I ask the teacher about this carving and she tells me Buddha uses the sword to cut away attachments. “I knew it! Just like Michael!” I announce. “It’s all the same! How beautiful!” There is no one-or-the-other. Heaven doesn’t conform to our limited vision. Our guides and masters and angels are working together with common purpose. Collaborating. Cheering us on. Guiding us toward ideas and people and practices that meet us where we are. We awaken to spirit in countless ways because the Universe, knowing how diverse we humans are, has purposely made countless ways available to us. A Buddhist monk named Shunryu Suzuki once wrote, “Everything is the path.” Ain’t that the truth.

I scoop up my new pieces of awakening and bounce out of the Insight Center, excited to see how Jesus and Michael and Buddha and dead grannies and new-agey-wicky-woo all fit together perfectly in this amazing, crazy, weird, synchronistic, spiritual world we live in.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s. Apologies for typos. This is long and I’m out of practice! Thank you for reading despite the imperfections!

god wants you to be happy. that’s all.

Sometimes I read something so darn pretty I just need to share it:

“God’s will for you is perfect happiness… Your joy must be complete to let His plan be understood by those to whom He sends you. They will see their function in your shining face, and hear God calling to them in your happy laugh…

For this you came. Let this one be the day that you succeed! Look deep within you, undismayed by all the little thoughts and foolish goals you pass as you ascend to meet the Christ in you.”

This is from Lesson #100 in a spiritual text called A Course In Miracles​, a modern day interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. To be honest, I never thought Jesus was for me. I was so turned off by Christians baptized in judgment and anger and righteousness, that I let the behavior of fear-minded strangers sever my innate curiosity surrounding Jesus. I thought Jesus was scary and separate and kind of mean.

The Buddha on the other hand, with his placid face and round belly, was much more inviting. His followers didn’t judge. They didn’t recruit. They didn’t stick swords in each other or picket abortion clinics or look my little boy in his sweet brown eyes and tell him he’s going to hell. (This actually happened to my son last week and it was shocking, especially because it was his great-grandfather who said it.) So for these reasons and many others, I turned my back to Jesus and invested years in Buddhist studies and New Age – and I began to find myself.

You can imagine my surprise when, one day while rummaging through the Eastern Philosophy stacks, I closed my eyes in contemplation and discovered Jesus rummaging with me. A few weeks later he sat with me while I chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Then he hovered over me while I explored past lives under hypnosis. He held my hot hands in his during Reiki classes. I didn’t invite him to join me on those occasions, I only invited The Love. But Jesus came along with The Love because, as it turns out, Jesus IS The Love.

Jesus and I are only in the newlywed phase, but he seems to have my back *regardless,* which, again, surprises me because I can be such a beast of a person. During my weakest, most vulnerable moments, when I’m about as cuddly as a crocodile, I close my eyes and he’s waiting there behind my lashes, drenched in light, arms open wide, taking me in like a lonely baby bird, petting me and comforting me and loving me, all patience and forgiveness and humility and assuredness.

He must see something in me that’s precious and beautiful, something that’s worth his effort. I wonder how he recognizes that beauty so easily, when it’s so hard for me to see it in myself. I wonder why he has such faith in me, even when I’m not always so sure about him.

And then I read something like Lesson #100 in A Course in Miracles. And I understand a little more.

He’s rooting for me not because I’m special but because he’s rooting for all of us. Come on, kids! You can do this! I know all that suffering is hard to feel your way through, but trust me! Just TRUST ME! Happiness is yours today if you just open your heart! You are made to succeed and this is the day you can do it!

And with this I know that Jesus isn’t just a cameo who appears in the suffering. He is permanence itself. And permanence is happiness. Reliable and intimate. He is campfires and belly laughs, sunshine and dragonflies, cherry tomatoes and fists full of dirt, newborn babies and wrinkled old hands. He is there in it all, living it up in our joy, taking a little break from our burdens and woes.

I don’t know if Jesus is the *only* path to salvation. Who am I to make such a definitive statement? But I’m learning that he is *my* path because he’s the one who keeps showing up for me, without judgment or anger or righteousness.

There’s another line in A Course in Miracles: “It is God’s Will that He has but one Son. It is God’s Will that His one Son is you.” Me. You. My happiness. Your happiness. It’s not about recruiting or sermonizing or even being right. It’s just about us feeling the happy *regardless.*

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Please share if you connect to the message.

http://www.vanessagobes.com

putting our animals to sleep: is it really an act of compassion?

1455105_559675387441381_1357811353_n

This is Rufus “talking” to me at the hospital. Maybe you can hear him, too. He’s beautiful, isn’t he?

Rufus has been moody lately.  I attributed his swings to the new gal in the house – a rescue pup from Tennessee.  Her name is Lolly but we affectionately call her “the rat.”  She’s a dump puppy – predominantly rat terrier, we believe, with a sprinkle of spaniel that makes her ears flop down and her hair stick up.  She’s sassy and playful.  Her favorite activity is growling viciously while hanging off Rufus’ beard by her clenched teeth.  If a thought bubble could magically appear above his head it would say something like, Girl, I’m too old for this.  Go play in traffic.  

But Rufus is too sweet.  When he’s napping in his bed, he simply looks the other way when Lolly wedges her tiny body next to his.  When she scarfs his food, he shuffles back quietly and seeks me out for a snuggle.  When she howls at the squirrels on the fence, he lets her bark be the one that scares them away.  He’s just a great animal.

A wheaten terrier, Rufus is predisposed kidney problems.  At age 8 this predisposition became his reality.  He hasn’t been moody because of his new little sister.  He’s become moody because he’s in kidney failure – and apparently has been for some time.

I discovered the severity of his illness at the vet last month (on my birthday no less).  I climbed into bed that night feeling distraught about what I’d learned that day.  I meditated for a little while, creating a tiny angel version of myself that hovered above my head.  Then I created a tiny angel version of Rufus that hovered above his head.  And we talked for a little while.  What do you want me to do, buddy?  my angel asked.  Let me go, his angel replied.  I tried to make his angel say something different, something like, Fight for me!  I can survive this!  I want to live!  But that’s not what happened.  Let me go, was his reply.  Let me go.  That was it.  There was no denying.

Being the creative child of the Universe I am, I wondered if I could help him through meditation.  Could I do enough Reiki on him to repair his kidney damage and save his life?  Could I channel my inner Christ light and heal him with my mental fortitude?  What if I tried and failed?  Would I lose confidence in the strength of my spirit?  What if I tried and succeeded?  What difference would it make?  And then I remembered what Roof’s little angel guy told me.  Let me go.

The next day was grey in every sense of the word.  My schedule was as messy as the weather.  My emotions were even messier.  I made some calendar adjustments, hired a babysitter, and trucked my boy through sideways rain to the animal hospital where we spent the entire day.  It went sort of like this:  ultrasound, consultation, tears, prognosis, tears, privacy, tears, $530 bill, tears.

The full story?  The radiologist advised me to keep Roof in the hospital for the weekend.  He was incredibly dehydrated and she wanted to flush his kidneys with fluid.  The idea made me uncomfortable, but as the doctor told me emphatically what was best for Rufus, that intimate angel-to-angel conversation from the night before seemed a little woo woo and ungrounded.  I agreed to admit him.

She left the room to start paperwork.  Roof jumped off my lap, where he’d been curled up for the past hour, and put his chin on my thigh, looking for eye contact.  He’s always searching for my eyes these days.  It’s amazing how much a person can learn just by looking into an animal’s eyes.  We stared at each other for a long while and once he felt like he’d been heard, he squeezed under my chair, flopping down with a humph, his legs sticking out from under the chair like a frog’s.

He was hiding, nervous.  He didn’t want to be there.  Instead of helping Rufus by admitting him, I felt like I was making frantic, harried, desperate repairs on a sinking ship.  I called my husband who was indecisive but leaned toward admission.  I called my sister-in-law.  She was supportive of my intuitive urge to take him home.  Clearly this was my decision and mine only.

When the radiologist returned I apologized up and down for spending hours sniveling and waffling then told her I would not admit my dog.  I loaded up on IV bags and Priolosec, paid the extraordinary hospital bill, and carried my furry boy back into the rain.

Rufus doesn’t understand time.  He lives only in the NOW.  And his NOWS have been so happy.  He’s had a great life.  If this is his time, it’s okay.  I started thinking about the lessons we’re both here to learn and what brought us together.  Why me?  Why him?

People who practice Buddhism do not take life.  Not even to end the struggle.  Those who practice understand the karmic purpose of the struggle.  We struggle through the lesson and find the wisdom in it, when we accept the wisdom, we no longer need the pain.  We completely align.  The pain ceases to exist.  It is a delusion, just like life.  I keep wondering if Rufus has chosen me because I will allow him a *full* life, with all its joy and all its pain.  If I end his life early, even by a few hours or days, will he have to return to physical form again in order to learn that painful lesson?  One I could allow him to learn now and possibly evolve his spirit?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what to do.  I mean, I think I know, but the norm is to provide compassion to animals in a way that relieves them of their pain.  I’m just not sure if physical compassion is aligned with spiritual compassion.

Spirit is our most natural state.  Our physical bodies are just the vehicles through which spirit functions in this world.  We settle into the physical with discomfort and we’ll transition out of it with discomfort – if the lesson of discomfort needs to be learned.  I think of childbirth, of how incredibly painful that experience was for me.  When I had my first baby I thought I was going to die.  My intention was to give birth naturally – no drugs, no epidural – but 3/4 of the way through I was searching for my doula’s eyes, sort of like Rufus searches for mine.  Help me.  Please help me.  I don’t want to do this.  I’m terrified.  I’m not strong enough.  But she looked at me and stroked my hair and said, “It’s just the baby coming.  It’s just the baby coming.”  I trusted her.  I trusted my body.  I trusted my baby’s transition into physical life.  Within minutes I was fully dilated and ready to push.  I had my baby naturally.  It hurt like hell but I understood the purpose.  I learned the lesson.  I had to trust the process and let go of the fear.  Paradigm shift.  When I had my subsequent babies, the labors were much more manageable and free from fear.  And I never once considered calling the anesthesiologist.  Never once.

Can I be that person for Rufus?  Can I help him through the transition naturally?  I think I can.  The vet has clearly told me that when the time comes, the only humane thing to do is put him to sleep.  But I keep going back to these questions – What’s so wrong with death?  Death is a release, a return, a reunion.  Death is natural.  And why are we all so afraid of pain?  Through my own fear of pain am I stifling my animal’s spiritual development by disallowing him the full experience of life?  Am I really helping him?  

Compassion to me looks different now.  Can I find the spiritual compassion to let go of my own fears of physical death in order to transition this animal to his natural state of spirit?

So we’re home, Rufus and me, riding out the storm.  My vet and I are on the same page with his treatment.  No extraordinary efforts.  I give Roof a bag of subcutaneous fluids combined with a little Reiki three times a week plus a few inexpensive meds twice a day.  This will keep him as comfortable as possible over the next few weeks or months.  I will not interfere with the course of Roof’s life but I will pray for mercy.  That is the plan.  And just as I knew that epidural was nearby when I gave birth to my first child, I’ll have the number of my vet nearby if it all gets to be too much.

This whole experience has caused me to think more deeply about my own life.  I made a birth plan for myself, I can make a death plan for myself, too.  I’ve now dedicated years of my life to spiritual evolution, and every day I feel more trust in the Universe.  I trust that the Universe can provide peace for me better than any clever manmade invention.  I’ve begun to think of my own physical departure as just another experience in life, and I’m not sure dulling it in any way will benefit my spirit.  If part of my divine plan is to suffer, I hope I can accept it and learn from it.  And if I can do that, I know I will be released from the suffering with mercy.

Kind of a lot to think about.  You are so welcome to join me in this conversation in the comments below.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

love this

a hard pill to swallow

I love writing about my spiritual awakening.  And I love reading about other people’s spiritual awakenings.  What tickles me most about it all, is how we all seem to feel as if we’ve just discovered uncharted new insight or invented a revolutionary technique that can help not only us, but anyone who is willing to try to think like us or act like us or serve the world like us.

We’re Utopians in that respect – so sure that if the pained people of the world could just drop their weapons, feel gratitude for their challenges, treat others with kindness, be mindful of the environment and eat healthier food, that a giant wave of tenderness would wash over the planet and soothe humanity’s woes.

I’ve had a revelation or two of my own following a particularly meditative and pensive week.   I’ve realized that, while world peace is the goal, it is simply impossible.  Earth is designed to be a place of learning.  And without suffering, there’s little opportunity to understand the incredible depth of love.

Though this tiny shift has been simmering quietly in my being for quite some time, I’ve been unable to accept it.  Unable to accept that man is robbing the earth of her heartbeat; unable to accept that our children are being taught to value competition over collaboration; unable to accept that national leaders are so angry and disturbed that they truly believe nuclear attacks will heal their pain; unable to accept that children are abused and people are starving and corporate greed rules the world and there’s very little a peace-yearning person like me, like you, can do about it.

I cannot change the world.  I can only change myself and, as Gandhi said, “be the change [I] wish to see in the world.”

This whole planet spins for us.  So we can learn.  The Universe lives only in our own hearts, and there we can find peace.  This tormented planet serves our human existence so we can learn and elevate and evolve.   It’s all so clear to me today.  I get it.

Heal thyself.

The Universe in Krishna’s mouth.

Work hard to gain your own salvation.

Instead of wishing that the world were different, I’m replacing that wish with a feeling with gratitude.  I’m thankful for the existence of this place of learning, grateful for the opportunity to serve my soul as a human experiment, joyed with moments – the highs and the lows – knowing that each experience is a valuable addition to my soul’s journey.  I see that the best thing I can do to create peace in my heart is to love unconditionally and serve others as much as I can.  I don’t have to fix the world, in fact I can’t.  I just have to fix myself.

Honestly, I’m a bit weepy typing out these thoughts.  I feel like I’m mourning a lifetime of misdirected thoughts, but I’m also relieved to come to grips with what I believe is truth, even though it’s a hard pill to swallow.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Baudista1

engaged whatever

P12105461

It’s funny how some words pop spontaneously into your vocabulary and then you start saying those words all the time.  For months.  For years.  It could be a a saying – Gag me with a spoon, Cool beans, Shut UP!, Seriously?  Really?, That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout, etc. For me, it was a word.  Last year I was using the adjective “engaged” a lot.  Random, I know.  It’s not a hip saying, but that word got stuck in my craw and I was inserting into sentences at least once a day for about 6 months.   And then one day I was reading something – an article, a book, I can’t remember – by Thich Nhat Hanh about “engaged Buddhism” and thought, “Oh my God!  That’s my word!”

Again, this is sort of silly, but since I’m always looking out for signs and omens, I took this as one of those synchronicities and read a little more closely.  Engaged Buddhism is living life with your Buddha light turned on.  It’s walking and talking and working, knowing that you are a sacred being and behaving in a way that reflects that.  It’s applying your practice practically.  It’s employing mindfulness and gratitude with every breath, with every action.  But you’ve got to engage your practice to make it work for you properly.

For example, your Mr. Coffee is just a kitchen appliance.  It has knobs and buttons and carafe that holds liquid.  But when you plug it in, your Mr. Coffee reaches its full potential, providing a beautiful service that tickles each of your senses.  We humans are sort of like that.  We are full of potential, but once we plug in, or tap in, to the source, we can do a wonder of the great things.

I subscribe to Buddhism, though I haven’t yet taken refuge vows because I want to be as sure as I can be that this is the right commitment for me.  Each time I listen to a sermon or attend a class, I’m amazed to discover how beautifully my heart lines up with the Dharma.  I think I’ve been a Buddhist my whole life but just didn’t know what to call it.  When I take in the lessons I think, Yes, this is what I think, too.  Yes, I do that.  Yes, these are my intentions, too.  Yes, yes, yes!  

Buddhism works for many, like me, but for countless others the answers to life’s mysteries are found elsewhere.  As passionate as folks are about their mindfulness practices, you will never find a Buddhist missionary out there converting people.

The important thing is, that no matter what your source, in order to live your best life you need to plug in.   Your source might be religion or philosophy or family or school – we’re all so different, there’s no defining what the source is for an entire race of earthlings.  For many, at least here in America, the source is Jesus Christ.  If Jesus is the guru that speaks to you, engage Him in your heart.

This does not mean knocking on doors and telling people they’re doomed to hell unless they commit their lives to Jesus.  This does not mean falling asleep in the pew on Sundays.  This does not mean volunteering to lead the church youth group retreat.  These are all important parts of a church community.  But engaging the Christ light means something deeper,  something that can serve humanity even better and create real peace in your life.  I’m talking about breathing in Jesus each time you inhale,  I use the word Jesus, but I could also use the word Holy Spirit or God, source, Universe, energy, Buddha, Allah, Krishna.

We’re not just human beings.  We are spiritual beings.  Hiding under those layers of skin and bone is divinely perfect energy.  Look down at yourself right now.  Spread your hands over your chest and your belly.  A little piece of heaven has broken off and lives right under your hands.  This energy wants to be acknowledged, to be useful, to shine.  And it can, if you engage it.

Use whatever awesomeness inspires you.  If you want to engage but find yourself forgetting during the day, wear something that reminds you.  We wear engagement rings to remind us of our commitment to a significant other.  Maybe you can wear a ring to remind you of your commitment to yourself.  I wear a special necklace.  Or sometimes I wear my mala beads.  They help to remind me to feel gratitude, stop gossiping, smile at strangers, meditate, clean my house, give my time, be a better mom.  They remind me to tell people, “I am here for you.”  They remind me to engage my spirit and let it pull me in the right direction.

I’m trying really hard not to sound cheesy or hippie right now, just honest.  While there’s nothing I know about this world for sure, tapping into my inner Buddha causes a shift in me that feels real.  I attended a retreat last weekend and at the end a Buddhist nun blessed me by gently wrapping a scarf around my neck while holding my forehead to hers.  A surge of loving kindness flooded my heart and I started to cry.  It was beautiful.  This energy is a vibrant gem in each of our hearts.  When treasured properly through wholesome behavior and daily engaged practice, it will become a magnet that attracts goodness and, in turn, spreads that goodness to others.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.  As always, if you like this, please share it!  Many thanks and much love!