Letting Go

Do you ever have moments when you sit back, take stock of your life, and grieve because it’s not what you’d planned? I’m going through that now.

My husband and I have separated. We originally agreed to share the house – me living upstairs and him finishing the basement the way he wanted and living downstairs. We’d share the kitchen and laundry on the main floor. Now, he wants to buy out my portion of the house. I know that mentally and emotionally, it’d be easier. Yet, I’m having a hard time letting go.

I wasn’t supposed to be starting over at this age. We were supposed to be easing into retirement in this home we bought together. I’ve spent 8 years creating a backyard oasis. Last year, we put on a 600 square foot deck that is more a work of art than a wooden structure. I had plans to build a fountain, dry creek, and arbor this summer. We have a beautiful south exposure and I enjoy being in the yard.

Even after we separated, I wanted to believe we could truly be roommates. It wouldn’t be much different than how we’ve lived the past few years. Now that I’m not trying to salvage our relationship, I see his true colours. He’s stopped trying, too. I doubt we can even be friends going forward.

I’m looking at giving it all up to move into a condo or townhome. I can’t afford to buy him out if I want to retire at a reasonable age. For the last few years, I’ve had the better paying job. Our agreement was always I’d support the majority now and, because he had more in RRSPs, he’d support the majority in our retirement. Now, I have to uproot my life, pare down and purge, move out before my son leaves the house (he wants to stay in the house where he’s grown up), and give up my dog – not many condos accept a 120 pound rottweiler – no matter how friendly he is! I can’t imagine a life where I don’t have my own yard space and it’s been 32 years since I lived without at least one dog.

I’ve spent the past week or so feeling sorry for myself. Last week, my Dad moved into long-term care. He’s completely lost his sight and, after four years of living with me, I can’t take care of him anymore. I could barely leave the house for more than an hour. I’m also coming up to the two year anniversary of my mom’s accidental death, I lost my job in the fall, and now I’m losing the house and neighbourhood I love.

I’ve been working to reframe my thinking. I am truly experiencing Midlife Arising!!

I get to go into the next stage of my life on my terms. It will be the first time I own a home that is what *I* want. The compromises I make will be based on my wants and needs – no one else’s. I can choose where and how I live. If my son decides to come live with me – that’s fine. But, it will definitely be “my house, my rules”.

The neighbourhood isn’t going anywhere. I won’t live here, but I can visit my friends.

Dad is happy in his new home. He feels safe and his needs are met 24/7.

Will I miss this place? Yes. Will I miss putzing in a yard on the weekends? Yes. Will I miss my dog? Absolutely.

Yet, as scary as it is, it’s exciting. I’m thrilled and sad. I’m eager to see what the future holds, and grieving what I thought it would be.

Change is messy. It’s hard. It hurts. Yet, somehow, when we let go of the past, we come out stronger in the future.

The Empty Pool, The Snake Charmer & The Cobra

The practice of dream yoga

March 11, 2021

I am sitting in an empty pool in lotus pose. I notice a snake charmer in the distance and he is working with a cobra. I can’t make out his facial features or too much about his physical characteristics. His being is blurry. The snake, however, is quite clear and vibrant HD quality. The snake comes towards me and I keep expecting the snake charmer to call it back. This doesn’t happen. Soon the cobra is raising up right in front of me. I keep expecting the snake charmer to do something but he is silent. The reptile presses its snout into my cheek. I feel the pressure and become terrified that it’s going to bite me. It puts more force behind the action. I try to jerk back but realize the response will get me killed. The snake has poisonous venom leaking from its mouth on my cheek. I am frozen in place. I hear the snake charmer in the distance speak in a quiet tone. “Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out”. It’s all I have right now so I start to control my inhalation and exhalation based on his advice. Soon, I start to calm and the snake eases up a bit on the pressing. I feel that as long as I stay calm and control my breathing I will live through this experience. The cobra loses interest and backs away. I watch as it slithers into a crack in the pool. I feel it hasn’t completely gone just given me some distance for now.

I don’t recall a lot of my dreams and yet, since coming to the ashram I have started to have more of them that are coming to the surface. Last week we started in a workshop series on interpreting our dreams, their symbols and sage advice they can give us. We were given some instructions on how to set up an environment around us to prepare our sleeping area to best encourage dreams to occur, capture and recall the details and then think about the events that lead up to the content of the dream. Once the dream has been recorded in as much detail as possible, you can start to work with its message and symbolism.

We were asked, in the workshop, to pick three symbols in the dream to work with. I chose the pool, the snake charmer and the cobra. The next exercise was to try and define what each of those symbols could represent to you. Our dream language can be quite different than our reality. Objects, words, colors, tones are not necessarily what they seem or are they literal in their use within the dreamscape journey.

Interpreting my dream

What was occurring that led to the dream? 

The day before the dream I went to a Hawtha yoga class. I was feeling like I might never be able to do the poses in the limber way of some of the others in the class. My body is stiff and tight and resists the stretches every chance it gets. There are many reasons for me being at the ashram some of which are because I am out of shape and in need of a regular routine of exercise, clean eating and living. I lack “know how” and discipline with my spiritual practices and I have been trying to create habits that will help me to sustain my growth after I leave here. I have been feeling very supported, encouraged and reminded of the benefits of establishing positive routines, rituals and habits.

Initial Thoughts About The Symbols

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to make of the dream at first. It was short and to the point and I didn’t think it was very significant other than reminding me of my lack of flexibility in the cobra pose. As I worked with sequences, chanted and meditated on possible messages a theme started to appear. It took several tries and some discussion with others to help me realize the potential learnings my subconscious was giving me. 

The Empty Pool

A pool is a confined space. It holds fluid. You can become weightless once it’s filled with liquid. It’s meant to be used to exercise the body. It’s relaxing,comforting and a safe space. An empty pool can mean “potential”, a controlled space that contains a substance that normally wouldn’t be easy to keep for long in one place. At least long enough for it to be effective. I started to think about the ashram and how it can be compared to an empty pool for me. I have many options as to what I can fill my “pool” with while I am here. 

The Snake Charmer

Why is this person blurry? I think it’s a man but not really sure as I can’t make out any details of the figures appearance. I get the vibe that it’s unsure of its ability to control the snake. I am irritated by the lack of confidence and feel that the person could try harder to help me. They only become useful when the threat gets to a point of crisis. The snake is about to kill me and then I hear the voice to breath. This symbol I got wrong a few times before I started to zero in on understanding what this could mean. My yoga practices has been a hobby in the past. Something I dabbled with like so many other things. I know a little about a lot of stuff. I lack confidence to help myself sometimes out of everyday challenges. In a crisis though, I come to life and I am able to manage my way through. My practice is the snake charmer, they are vague and need commitment and regularity to become more effective.  

The Cobra

The snake is pressing hard into my cheek. What am I supposed to face that I am not? On a walk with my guide, we talk about the dream and the cobra pressing me hard. I am very afraid. She asks me “How do I feel about facing my fears?” The light goes on in my head. Facing my fears. The anxiety is real, the F.E.A.R.- false expectations appearing real, has been with me for a long time. I have a safe space, I have the start of a practice that can help me with anything I chose to use it for. I have the opportunity to face my fears head on and learn what is real and what is false about them.

Now, the conclusion to this dream sequence. What can I do with this message? Like life, interpreting what our inner self is pushing up to the surface is tricky and takes patience, time and determination. Swami Radha, who founded the ashram, has a useful book called “Realities Of The Dreaming Mind, The Practice Of Dream Yoga”. In the book, it gives a practice to follow and details of how to start the flow of information from our inner guru.

Dream yoga opens up the opportunities for us to speak with the guru within us. I want to continue this practice as well as others that are pouring into my pool. They keep me resilient and buoyant on my life journey. I know that cobra will always be present somewhere and yet, I am less afraid when it comes into view. My inner snake charmer is growing in confidence and clarity of self and tools associated with its craft.

Namaste

Change is Tough

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus

This quote, along with “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” have been running through my mind a great deal the past while. Do you ever think, “Enough! I’m strong enough! Stop testing me!”?

For the past four years, I’ve been the primary caregiver to my parents. We lost Mom two years ago, and today, I moved my dad into long-term care. I had no idea how difficult the day would be for me. On one hand – he and I are both ready for it. He asked to move. I’m burning out. I know, deep in my heart, it’s the best move for both of us. With his vision loss, he was getting more easily disoriented in the house and it was scaring him. I was responsible for getting his meals, medication, doctor appointments, transportation, and keeping an ear open to make sure he was safe at all times. I couldn’t leave the house for more than an hour or two at a time. We were thrilled when a spot opened at one of the homes we had chosen.

Today was moving day. I thought I’d feel relieved. It’s the last thing I feel. I’m sad because Dad won’t be in the house anymore. As much of a toll as it was taking on me, I feel sad that he won’t be cared for by his family. I feel sad that Dad can’t see what a lovely place he’s at now. He’s got a room that faces the mountains and the airport runway. I know he’s love to sit and watch the planes take off and land. The home has pool tables, plenty of couches for cozy conversation areas, raised gardens outdoors – all things he’d enjoy if he was more able bodied and had his vision.

I’m concerned that he’s going to get disoriented in his new room, despite setting it up much the way he had it at the house. I spent 30 minutes having him walk to/from the bathroom so he felt confident he could find his way on his own. I had to teach him how to “see” with his hands in his new environment – a bit of a challenge for an 83 year old man who is also in cognitive decline.

I worry that he won’t get the care he deserves. I have no reason to believe he won’t, but this is brand new and it’s not me anymore. I need to put faith and trust in others. The people I’ve spoken with the past week, and met today, are lovely people. I’m sure he’ll be well cared for, but I’ll need to hear from him that he’s content.

Dad has to quarantine in his room for 14 days. My niece and I are the only two people who can visit him. His meals and activity workers will spend time with him – but will it be enough stimulation? Will he be bored? How scared is he?

Once quarantine is over, he can leave his room and socialize with others. He will require assistance to get out of his room and into the social areas. Will the staff remember he can’t see? Will they get him out and about? It’s all so new for both of us.

After getting Dad settled and hearing him say, for now, he is happy, we left. I cried all the way home. I feel that I’ve let him down. I know he’d say I haven’t.

It’s tough. Even though it’s a change we were both ready for, and wanted, we’re not prepared for it. Within an hour of getting home, I fell asleep. I can’t remember when I’ve felt this tired. It’s weird not having Dad here. Dinner time came and went. I didn’t have to get him to the table, get his meal ready, and his medication out for him. I don’t hear the TV blasting from his bedroom. There’s an emptiness in the house.

Dad’s move marks the start of more changes. There’s no reason for my roommate and I to live together anymore. I’m free to move. Our mortgage is due and it’s the perfect time for him to buy me out. I’m looking at being a home owner on my own for the first time in my life.

None of this was in the 5 or 10 year plan. Will there ever be a time when my life feels settled, when change isn’t the constant it’s been the past few years? Or, has it always been like this and, as I age, am I simply more aware of it?

So much of how we react to change has to do with mindset and resiliency. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being a strong, dependable, optimistic woman who can handle whatever life throws at me.

Tonight, I want to be the little girl who misses her dad.

W.A.I.T.

There is a badge you can get in the gift shop here at the ashram. It says Speech Awareness on it. Silence and speech awareness are part of the daily practice here. Meals are taken in silence and karma yoga is practiced with limited chatting if possible. At first, I was a bit taken back by not being encouraged to talk while we work. I then started to read the Kundalini writings.

Why do I need to talk? Is there a purpose to my words or am I enamoured with my own voice? Hmmm. The text talks about those that feel the need to fill the silence with chatter and equates the behaviour to being an infant or full of self importance.

Why Am I Talking? W.A.I.T for short. For many years I have got paid to talk it’s a hard habit to break. My daughter and I took a rode trip from Vancouver to Seattle and back one time. On the way back, she told me I talk too much. I love my daughters directness. We drove in silence for a while and then she couldn’t stand it and told me to start talking again.

I have been practicing speech awareness here and to reduce my need to contribute often to the conversation. Its a hard habit to break and yet it feels warranted. Do I really have something worth saying or do I feel the need for attention? Wow, taking a closer look at ones own ego trips is revealing. How many times have I felt the need to add in my own experiences instead of sharing in others with the gift of just listening? The more I make a conscious effort to restrain myself the more I am aware of my speech.

So where do I go from here? Just stop talking? No, I don’t think that is the point. Be comfortable in the offering of silence. Be generous with my ability to listen. Become more present and speech aware. Practice W.A.I.T. when opportunities are available.

W.A.I.T.

Be Your Own Witness

It’s easy here to get distracted about the reasons I came to the ashram. These are my type of people. The place is jam packed with musicians and artist. It’s wonderful to share the space with them and exchange ideas and riffs. I find myself torn between enjoying that connection and yet keeping with my goal of being here. The goal was to take advantage of a regular practice of meditation, yoga and service.

The time is very short and you have to choose what you will focus on. So finding a balance to feed both needs of creativity and spiritual practice have become a goal. In the book, The Divine Light Invocation by Swami Radha, she talks about how to make personal changes. To start to think about what kind of person you want to be then to meditate on your daily inventory of actions. Do your actions mirror your desired reflection?

Renovating your internal garden takes time. The current image has been forged over many years. What’s important now is to concentrate on what it would take to alter the self and then start to reenforce necessary change in behaviour, thought patterns and actions.

As I zero in on who I want to be I know that my thought patterns can be my worst enemy. Am I good enough to contribute in a way that anyone would value? Do I value others contributions? The fact that we want to be appreciated for what we offer and yet,we can’t do the same for others indicates that some work still needs to be done.

Be your own witness. I like that idea. It gives me opportunity to gauge and reflect as I meditate. Who am I? Do I emulate that person daily? Do I appreciate others contributions as much as I want to share my own?

sing along bonfire

The Offering

The halfway mark coming quickly approaching for my time at the ashram. Time is clocked differently here. At times it seems to stand still at others it disappears in seconds. I have learned so much about myself, about co-existing with others, about living in a dorm like dwelling. If I ever was regretting going away to school and living sorority style then I can check that epic moment off my bucket list…lol.

Some mornings the karma yogis get together for chanting and discussion. There, a question or exercise is posed to carry throughout your day. This morning the discussion was around “What is an offering?” Is there a difference between helping and an offering? What defines the difference?

So what is the difference?

When I look back at my life and think of when I have helped others I had to really ponder whether what I was doing was selfless or self-serving. As I pondered the question during my day of cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, then doing dishes I began to get a glimpse of what I think is the true meaning of the words “offering”.

In the past, I have looked for a form of recognition when I help others. A thankyou,  a word or two about being grateful or recognizing that I did something for them. It didn’t matter what it was from borrowing money, to helping them move, or even taking on the task of caring for a parent or relative in life and then in death. All that time I could have alleviated my resentment for any lack of acknowledgment from others that I did something they should take notice of. As I think about it now I can’t believe my behavior. I have had many opportunities to offer up service to others in need in a form of less self and more service. I can now let go of my self-serving attitude towards doing things for others. It opens my heart to genuine kindness and pure light.

Many may call my “ah ha” moment non-attachment. I am starting to get the meaning of this and what a profound difference it has made in my feelings towards compassion and empathy.

If the next half of my stay here is as life changing as the first I am indeed lucky to have made this shift. Change is hard for many of us. Some of us let fear and the pain of potential loss over power the desire for something more. Change happens whether we participate or self medicate with our heads tucked firmly in the dark corners of our minds. I am loving the light. The warm divine light that sustains me here. The muscle memories are finding new poses. I have unlearned almost as much as I have learned.I know it’s a fraction of what the potential for enlightment can hold space for me. My cleared space has expanded and now reached into the cosmos. 

I am sharing this blog with you today as an offering. May you be healthy. May you be whole.

Om

Feeling Blue

A Soul Gift

I practice shamanism and try to journey as much as possible. During the pandemic I am dearly missing my monthly drum circle connection. There is some contraversy over whether you should share your journeys with others or keep them to yourself. I don’t plan to share all my journeys or even all that occurs in them in my posts and yet, I do believe that inviting you to experience some of them is somehow “the right thing to do”.

I went on a shaman journey in search of my grandma Campbell. She is one of my spirit guides. In life, she was a formidable no nonsense kind of woman with a strong mind and a loving heart. I wanted to ask her some questions. What is a soul gift that I could use to help others was the first question. The second question centered around how best to use this gift. I was hoping she would demonstrate the gift for me or show me the best way to use or interpret it also.

I struggled to focus on the journey. Lots of false starts, distractions and obstacles which usually indicates the approach of deep learning and understanding for me if I can just press on.The drums had been beating for a while when I finally reached my desitination. I found myself on the back steps of my grandparents old homestead in Hillspring. I sat and looked out at the yard. The corn was nearly 6 feet tall in the garden and the bees were buzzing around grandma’s favorite geranium pots. I soaked up the sun as I waited for grandma to come. Grandpa appeared at the bottom of the steps. He was wearing a lopsided knowing grin, baseball cap, grey work clothes, checkered jacket and suspenders.

One version of clothes that suited him. His eyes were filling me with so much warmth that I couldn’t help but smile back. He didn’t speak. “What do you see?” I jerked a litte at the sound then realized it was grandma behind me coming out of the old screen door. The door made a WHACK as it closed and gave me some time to peer back at grandpa. What did I see? Home, love and an amazing creative man who worked hard to support his family. An interesting artist too who tended to paint with neon colors no matter his subject matter which included mostly images of the Mormon temples and nature. I had learned that my grandpa was color blind. It didn’t seem to slow him down at all. If I hadn’t been told that fact I probably would have never considered it the reason for the vibrant hues he used in his art. “How do you think he knows what the colors will look like together?” grandma nudged. I hestitated to think and was a bit puzzled. “ I am not sure” I replied. She smiled and sat down beside me still looking up at grandpa. “He feels them” she said. Still puzzled grandma I thought “What do you mean?” I replied. “Blues, purples and some reds feel cool when applied to the canvas” she explained. “Yellow, oranges, pinks and some other reds feel warm to him”. The concept wasn’t lost on me. I seemed to intuitively know that this was true. My uncles, who are also deceased,Walton and David appeared on the steps. David asked me if I wanted some raspberries. Of course I did! I took a few bites and enjoyed the sweetness. They drifted off into the yard puttering around the gardens and shed. We all had grown up eager to come to the homestead, raid the gardens, pick a few weeds and devour their rapsberry patch at every opportunity. Grandma and I enjoyed the sun and the closeness for a bit.

I almost forgot my task and the drums seemed to beating so far off in the distance it was easy to believe they were just part the universe keeping time with my experience for the moment. My uncle Blaine appeared suddenly. He had passed away in the fall of the previously year. He sat down on the steps and took my hand. I started to cry and was swallowed into his big bear hug. “Why are you here?” I asked when I could regain my composure. “You asked about soul gifts?” I nodded. “Like grandpa knowing which colors to use, you know things by associating images to how they make you and others feel”. “That gift has to do with who you are and where you came from. Within you are generations who have felt when to provide a sanctuary for others. How to open a space for comfort, relief from grief and support. Your mom fills that roll for your family and for others. Her loving reach has touched so many lives and changed the future of many a stray for the good during her lifetime. I could hear the drums calling me back from my journey. I had spend so much time getting here and now had to leave without all the answers to my questions. It figures, I thought bemused. “You have our soul gifts and those of previous generations.” “What makes this different, in you, is the combination of the sight and the feeling. Sometimes what we see doesn’t match the energy we feel is being manifested. The images that form when others talk help you to process the meaning behind their words. This is part of the soul gift and it enables you to fill in the spaces with intuition and intent”. “Our hope is that your learn to use it to help yourself, family and others you encounter”.

I had to go quickly. I waved back to my ancestral guides and followed the drums back to the present.

A few minutes of reorientation took place when I come back from the journey. I was laying on my mat on my side in the drum circle processing what I had experienced. I sat up and started trying to write in my journal what had occurred.

Even now it’s a struggle to practice the soul gifts offered by those that have come before and yet I try to honor the opportunity.

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