Sometimes we get so caught up in caring for others or responding to unplanned interruptions that we struggle to manage our own needs and desires. By asking others for help, we can create space for some much needed *alone time* and allow the flow of inspired action!
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,
The current 21 day meditation experience offered by Oprah and Deepak is really excellent. If you haven’t checked this one out yet, I recommend doing so.
It’s not scripted for children, but I’ve been playing the meditations at bedtime for my three little ones and they respond to it. My 9 year old daughter seems to benefit most. She is a chronic night waker and since starting this she has slept soundly in her bed until 7:30am. Her latest feedback on Deepak, “Mommy, he is a wise man.” The dharma talks also inspire great questions like, “What’s abundance?” and, “How does the Universe work?”
Typically Oprah sells downloads of the meditations upon completion of the 21 days so you can purchase what you missed. Visit Oprah.com for details.
From mine to yours,
I have a love/hate relationship with my period. I love it because my uterus is downright miraculous and menstruation is its required maintenance. I hate it because tampons give me a headache and PMS gives me a bad attitude.
Have you ever read The Red Tent? It’s the story of Jacob and his multitude of wives; the red tent is the annex where Biblical village women would go when they were OTR, though back then it would be more appropriate to say OTH (On The Hay). Our female ancestors menstruated simultaneously and would leave their men and boys in the competent hands of young girls who hadn’t yet started monthly bleeding and old women who’d survived the transition out of the cycle. So basically, once a month, young women enjoyed a whole week spinning stories and teaching each other feminine skills in a cozy tent without men demanding seconds of mutton stew or begging for blow jobs. Honestly, I think it sounds kind of awesome. I’m seriously considering erecting a red tent in my backyard.
The only reason I hesitate to bunk with a bunch of menstruating modern chicks is that most of us are crazy. We women are generally so out of touch with natural body rhythms that when the crazies set in we can’t see that it’s all just hormonal hocus-pocus. We pick fights with friends, feel offended by co-workers, convince ourselves that our children are purposely not flushing their poops to spite us. We weep and we lash out and we oversleep, all the while believing whole-heartedly that this is who we are. But here’s the newsflash: We are not psychos. We have PMS. And we are so totally disconnected that we accept PMS as our normal state of being.
Several years ago I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of NOW. (Most likely anyone hanging out on this website has read it, so I won’t recap.) Back in 2011 I responded to his study on the pain body with a rant on one of my blogs:
During his description of how to manage the pain body, Tolle strolls a bit through the forbidden forest: PMS. He actually calls it “menses,” causing me to choke on my pink lemonade. Menses? Who says that?
Whenever a man talks about PMS or periods, I reactively roll my eyes, and Tolle is no exception. But to my surprise, he is onto something profound. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, he says, there is “an opportunity for the most powerful spiritual practice, and a rapid transmutation of all past pain becomes possible.” He invites us hormonal bitches to observe the painful and emotional waves of PMS rather than be pulled down and drown by them. A fast track to enlightenment via the feminine aisle? Well, shit. I gotta try this.
My first problem appears to be that when I’m behaving like a raving lunatic I don’t connect it to hormones. For two weeks of every month, Aunt Flo moves in with her crappy attitude, her heavy suitcases, and her complaints about my cooking; she tosses and turns in my bed, she tries to tell me how to manage my relationships, she pigs out on my chocolate cookies. Half my adult life, I’ve shared a home with this cranky old rag…
Screeeeeeeeccchhhh! Hold up! There it is. The shift in perception. I’ll reiterate because this is big: Half of my adult life (2 weeks each month) operates under Aunt Flo’s grueling regime. I’m not the freak. She is! Awakening to this fact was the first step in keeping Flo contained in her guest suite so I could move around my home in peace.
So this is it, ladies. The big how-to in reclaiming your body, your emotions, your awareness: Observe your behavior in the 7-10 days before your period begins. Each time you are short with your boyfriend or hypercritical of your mother-in-law, each time you feel insecure about a relationship or explosively frustrated with your kids, take a breath and observe. Watch as if you’re hovering over yourself like a sweet Midol angel. Don’t judge the behavior. Just notice who’s doing the talking in your head. Is the voice loving? If the voice is not loving, it’s not you. It’s that curmudgeon Aunt Flo, otherwise known as your pain body.
These observations may quiet your pain body immediately. But it’s possible that longer term observation will be required. It depends how attached you are to your pain. We get used to having the pain around, we accept the pain as normal, the pain becomes our story, we convince ourselves that life is pain. But this simply isn’t so.
Meditation is the absolute best catalyst in detaching from habitual beliefs. And there are some pretty fantastic side effects. When I meditate, I better maintain composure, especially when I’m PMSing (yes, I use PMS as an action verb). I still get pissed and crazy and squeezy, but not for very long. The feelings become more like a motorcycle gang joyriding past my house on a quiet Sunday. The ground rumbles, my heart pumps faster, the engine noise fills every square inch of space around me; but within a few minutes, the last biker is out of sight, the engines are barely audible, and my heartbeat resumes its rhythmic thump-bump.
Another side effect is physical healing. A consistent meditation practice will do this: diminish cramps, diarrhea, cramps, headaches, cramps, cramps, and cramps. When we meditate we are simply more aware. We are more thoughtful about the food we eat, the cocktails we drink, and the lifestyle choices we make. When we meditate we create opportunities for our bodies to heal. When we are peaceful in our minds, we are peaceful in our bodies. All of our inner bits are connected, after all.
Meditation isn’t complicated. There’s really nothing to it. Just sit down, close your eyes, and breathe. Try to feel your heart beating. Try to sense the flow of blood under your skin. When your mind starts to wander and chit-chat with Aunt Flo, watch it without judgment, then ask it nicely to be quiet so you can focus on your breath and your heartbeat. Sit for 90 seconds if that’s all you can do. The next time you sit it’ll be easier. You might make it to two minutes. The next time three and so forth.
Go ahead and experiment. Try it and see if it works. You are your own best teacher. The proof will be in your period.
Please share this with the PMSy women in your life. (Did you know PMS is an adjective, too?)
From mine to yours,
Have you read this book yet? No? Well then, you must. While the target audience is Young Adult, the benefitting audience is ageless. Wonder is a story of inspiring compassion unfolding among the very unlikely ranks of middle school city kids.
Ten-year-old Auggie was born into a body that is, to put it diplomatically, atypical. He describes the way he looks in the first chapter: “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s worse.” His is a face that only a mother can love, though as it turns out, his is a heart that is loved by all.
Auggie’s is the collective voice of not only those with deformations or disabilities, but also of every person who has ever struggled with finding his place in the world. As a reader, I absorbed his perspective without judgment or pity – just deep compassion and lots of tears. My children responded similarly.
My 9 and 7 year old girls devoured this book. (My little one went cover to cover on a Sunday from noon to 5pm, forgoing a hike in the forest with her family to stay home and read.) They were completely invested in Auggie, his friends, and his family. And after they read the last sentence, they wiped their eyes and said, “Can we read another one like that?”
Our children crave inspiration and compassion. They want to know how to love without limits. This story makes acceptance acceptable, love lovable. Through Auggie’s vulnerability they were able to share their own soft spots with confidence.
This is a superb family read and is guaranteed to inspire even the most tight-lipped of children to share from the heart. We’ve been talking about Wonder all month, as there are countless ways to weave Auggie’s story into our own lives and experiences.
Wonder is wonderful.
From mine to yours,
This is a script that I loosely followed while teaching the children in my town’s public elementary school to meditate. I thought it might be helpful for other parents who’d like to do it with their own children, with scouting troops, with church youth groups, with summer campers, with classrooms. My best advice in doing this is to be animated. Don’t be afraid to ad-lib or get silly. The kids will respond beautifully.
For children grades 2-5
Hi, my name is ________________. I’m here to teach you a way to be happy. Not haha happy. Not that-was-a-funny-movie happy. Or I-love-ice-cream happy. Not even I-just-got-a-new-puppy happy. I mean heart happy. We’re going to use a tool to help us learn how to do that. Can anyone imagine what our special happiness tool could be?
The thing I’m thinking of is very close by. It’s free, it’s super easy to find and it does not require assembly or a special carrying case. It’s as close as your breath…. In fact, it IS your breath.
Just by breathing we can help ourselves find happiness. And we can use special breathing tricks to help us. But to be good at anything, what do we need to do? Practice! Right. Just like soccer or piano or drawing. If you want to be good at something, you need to practice.
But before we start practicing our breath work, I want you to help me with a check list. You don’t need to raise your hand, just check a little box in your head if you’ve ever experienced the following things:
I’ve felt all of those things. And I bet you have, too. And if you haven’t yet, you will. No one is exempt from this. We all feel bad sometimes. We all mess things up. We all feel insecure. You, me, the most popular kid in school, the bully down the hall, the star on the basketball court. Everyone. And it’s okay to feel these things. These feelings are important parts of being a person. The bad stuff lets us know when something’s wrong so we can work to ease those feelings when they’re no longer useful. Once we acknowledge the bad stuff and send it packing, we can create more open space for the good stuff that reminds us how wonderful it feels to be alive. Each and every one of us deserves to know happiness and success, acceptance and love. And we can achieve these beneficial feelings when we activate our superpowers. We are all born with super strength. No one is exempt from that either. We’ll talk more on how to use your superpowers later but I don’t want you to forget you have them, so let’s pull on our super suits, tie on our super capes and adjust our flashy masks. Check to make sure our tool belts are on tight.
Okay, good. So when we can find a comfortable balance amongst all these feelings, we can feel peaceful. Composed.
What does composure mean? Let me try to help you understand. Listen to this.
(Play a bit of Mozart.)
Can you hear how everything is in harmony? All of the pieces of the orchestra are very different. Some are deep, some are light, some sound a little sad, some sound cheerful or even silly. But when they work together they create something balanced, productive and beautiful – something composed. In order to maintain this composure, the musicians need to practice. They need to dedicate time. They need to focus.
We are like that. In our lives, we juggle lots of different feelings. They’re all important. But when we can make all those diverse feelings work together and still feel balanced, we can maintain composure. When we can engage that composure throughout the day, our frequency begins to rise.
Frequency is a big word. It’s like the radio station our lives are tuned into. You can tune into frustration and negativity or you can tune into love and empowerment. Which one would you like to tune into?
Yes, me, too. So think of frequency like energy – and get those super suits ready. When it’s on the rise, we’re getting happier and happier. We can use our super powers to feel good and think clearly. And when our frequency rises, the people around us can feel it and believe it or not, our awesomely fast frequency helps others. Just by being fast. Superhero fast.
Understanding that we are all very much the same may help in relieving some of the confusion we feel when we’re angry or sad or anxious. And we can team up that understanding with meditation to cool our own jets and ease the stressful feelings we’re carrying around.
Who has heard the word meditation before?
Meditation is a quiet time to connect with our breath, to be still, to remember that right here, right now, we are alive and safe and okay. When we meditate, we remember to treat our bodies well, to use kind words with others and think before we speak, to think clear, useful thoughts. When our thoughts are good, our lives will be good.
For some people, this comes naturally. But most of us need to practice to achieve that state of peace and harmony, which we can find by taking a moment to TUNE IN.
Times to use meditation:
There are many ways to meditate. But we always begin by breathing. So let’s sit straight in our seats, feet on the floor, spine long, chin tucked in, head reaching to the ceiling. Place your hands in your lap, palms up and close your eyes completely. Now think of yourself as breathing “on purpose”. Start with a deep inhale, filling your lungs as much as you can and releasing the breath, completely emptying your lungs. Try it two more times with me. Now breathe in and out through your nose naturally and notice the way your body feels from the inside. The chair supporting your weight, your hands relaxed on your legs, the air touching your skin, your soft belly rising and falling with every breath. If your thoughts get lost and you forget that you’re breathing, just gently bring yourself back to this place. Let’s breathe for one more minute and when the time is up, I’ll invite the bell as a signal to end this meditation.
(Wait one minute. Invite bell.)
A great tool to help us is this bell. You can think of the bell as a peaceful voice, inviting you to take a breath. You can accept this invitation each time you hear any bell. Keep your ears open for school bells, church bells, door bells – and use their sound as an opportunity to stop what you’re doing and breathe. Tell the people around you what you’re doing and invite them to stop and breathe, too. Use it as a reminder to think about your breath and about being connected to the earth and about being a perfectly imperfect human being. Listen to the way the bell resonates and stay still and quiet until you can no longer hear its sound.
The Pebble Meditation is visual type of meditation that we can use to relax. I learned it from a book called Planting Seeds, written by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. He worked with Martin Luther King Jr. to bring peace to America and to his own country Vietnam during a tough time in our countries’ histories. And he’s continued to help us find peace since. He especially loves to help children like you. So here we go. Each of you can close your eyes. Imagine that there’s a black movie screen behind your forehead and you are a film director. You choose all of the pictures in the movie. Let me guide you the first time.
Imagine a flower. Any color. See its petals, its center, its softness, its beauty.
Imagine a mountain. The weather around it is stormy, but deep inside the center of the mountian, it’s solid and still and quiet.
Imagine a clear, still, placid lake. See the way the water reflects the sky above and the trees around like a mirror.
Imagine the sky. See the clouds and the sun. See a bird wheeling through the air, turning and twisting, happy and free.
Now, I’m going to share Thich Nhat Hanh’s Pebble Meditation. As I share this meditation, I want you to imagine yourself as really being the things I say.
Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.
Breathing out, I feel solid.
Breathing in, I see myself as still water.
Breathing out, I reflect things as they are.
Breathing in, I see myself as space.
Breathing out, I feel free.
Flower, in, Fresh, out (3X)
Mountain, in, Solid, out (3X)
Still water, in, Reflecting, out (3X)
Space, in, Free, out (3X)
How do you feel? Do you have any questions? There are lots of ways to meditate and you can learn more about a mindfulness practice at the library or online.
In order to enjoy the benefits of meditation, we need to practice. Try to find a few minutes every day to sit and be quiet. Maybe for a minute or two after your alarm clock rings. Maybe when you get home from school. Maybe in bed at night when your mind is racing or before you start your homework. As you work on your practice, you will find that you’ll notice your breathing all day long. And that’s when you’ll know you’re getting really good at it.
Grades K-1 (Have kids sit on a line in a circle.)
Hi I’m ________________. I’m here to teach you a way to get happy. Not haha happy. I mean heart happy. But to be really good at something, what do we have to do? Practice! We’re going to practice something called meditation today. Does anyone know what this is?
(While you say the following sentence, use your fists to demonstrate the way these feelings look – ball up your hands and squeeze then hold them to your mouth as if you’re terrified, punch the air like you’re fighting, pump them in the air as if you’re excited, squeeze the seat bottom and bounce like you can’t sit still, pretend to hug something as if you can’t squeeze it tight enough. Give yourself over to the acting – the kids won’t judge and it’ll help them understand.)
Have you ever felt squeezey? We ball up our fists so tight like this. We feel Scared. Angry. Excited. Overwhelmed by love. (This puppy is so cuuuuutte!) Fidgety. Meditation helps us to control our minds so that when these challenging feelings pop up, we can let them go and make our hearts happy and peaceful. We can relax our bodies and our squeezey hands. It starts with breathing deeply. When I ring this bell, I’d like everyone to take three beautiful breaths. Then we’ll stand up and start moving our bodies mindfully. Stand in a circle and be sure not to touch anyone else’s body.
Invite the bell. Walking meditation…
Imagine walking through very deep snow, leaving deep footprints.
Imagine walking on thin ice, careful not to break it.
Walk like a business person.
like a big hairy beast.
like a robot.
like a burglar.
like a soldier.
like you are wearing a big crown.
like you are sad.
like you are happy.
like you are scared.
on a tight rope.
like a cat.
on hot coals.
like a toddler baby.
skipping across stones.
Now walk really slow. Notice how the heel of your foot touches the floor. Lift and move your other foot slowly. Can you feel how your body keeps its balance? Let your body relax in each step and put all of your weight on the floor. Breathe deeply. Now breathe in whenever you lift your foot and breathe out whenever you place it down. Walk this way for one minute.
When I invite the bell, I want you to stop walking and sit down where you are. Then close your eyes. Walking is a fun way to calm down, but we can also calm down by breathing deeply. And no one even has to know we’re doing it. Let’s try that now. We’re going to do some square breathing. As you breathe in count to 4. When you reach the top of the breath hold it there and count to 4. Then release the breath to the count of 4. Then wait at the bottom of the breath for the count of 4. I’ll snap my fingers 4 times while we breathe and help you keep track.
(Do 3 square breaths together.)
Now take 3 deep breaths. Feel the way your body connects to the floor underneath you. Relax your jaw, your hands, your belly. If your thoughts get lost and you forget that you’re breathing, just gently bring yourself back to this place. Reach your head high to the ceiling and draw your shoulders back. Let your body feel heavy and loose. We’re going to do one more meditation. It’s called The Pebble Meditation.
(Use same meditation written above.)
Invite the bell. Anytime you hear a bell ring, I want you to stop what you’re doing and take three breaths. Church bells, school bells, door bells, cow bells… any bells.
Try to do this at home. Teach your family and friends.
Have a peaceful day.
From mine to yours,