Surgery

What happens in a year following brain surgery?

FlyingI’m grateful to be here and okay.  I never really considered that it could have gone otherwise.  But anything could go otherwise.  And I’m grateful.  So what have I learned in this one year since surgery?

What I think will be the hardest things for me to live through, won’t be.  Other things will be harder.  They will not be what I expected, so there is no need to worry.

Physical pain is not forever and often has an antidote.  Psychological suffering requires conscious effort.

While physically painful, I look back on the months of recovery after surgery as a beautiful time of peace and loving-kindness.

Life is always worth it.  No harm no foul.  We are life and there is no alternative to being who we are.

Suffering unites each of us with all of humanity.

My feelings of happiness and sadness are almost always prompted from the outside.  They don’t have to be.

When it isn’t happening right now, it is as if it never happened.  Experiences can live on inside of us if we let them.  They can make us suffer or make us happy, but either way they are no longer absolutely real.

When the thoughts of others seem important that is a sign I see my thoughts as important.  I don’t want my thoughts to be important.

Desire depletes experience of authenticity.

Sleep, meditation, and silence are life giving.  They enable us to wake up.

Life experiences are seasonal.  Winters contain Christmases.  Darkness is the platform upon which light is born.

Thank you for being with me in spirit this past year.  It is my wish that the love, seen and unseen, which you have been pouring out, will return to you having grown and multiplied.

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Inspiration

“There is no situation to which miracles do not apply,” ACIM

NatureThe only time a miracle can occur is now. Past and future occur as thoughts, and miracles are not the result of thinking. Stay in this moment, it is the place where all new things are born. And when your mind begins to drag you along on a habitual train of thought, remind yourself why the now is worth it and watch for the miracle.

 

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Inspiration

Was it worth it?

Light of Truth Universal ShrineI don’t know how it happened, but all of the sudden I’m back in the city full of its noises, lights, tumult, and excitement.  In my mind I’m still walking beneath a blanket of stars to a dark meditation hall, watching Swamis dressed in orange quietly manipulate their patterns of breath.

At the Satchidananda Ashram inner peace is laid out before you as a banquet for an honored guest.  There is no end to the forms in which it is presented.  Hatha Yoga, pranayama, meditation, selfless service in places like a kitchen or farm, immersion in nature, chanting, study of holy texts, and the loving-kindness of friends are all abundantly offered as pathways to the peace within.

And while it had never been so easy to have a joyful open heart, the sweet Swami guiding me through my month made it very clear; nothing outside will change, only your perspective will change.

Gurudev's KitchenBeing back in Chicago I understand these words more clearly than I did immersed in the sacred space of the ashram.  Everything is the same.  People are the same. Work is the same. The loud noises that wake me when I’m trying to sleep are the same. Even the thoughts in my mind are the same.  But the fog clouding the lens of my heart has been wiped clear so that I can surrender to the infinite love that pervades all things.

Of course while that may sound quite romantic, in practice it isn’t.  It means waking up hours before work to sit cross-legged, feet completely asleep, in the silence before dawn.  It means doing a half hour of poses and breathing even when my mind is asking me to skip it and take a nap.  It means convincing the voice in my head it can have some more chocolate tomorrow, but not today.  It means looking at what is happening with my own mind when someone is upsetting me, and letting go of judgement.  It means relinquishing the misguided hope that something “out there” will make me happy.  (And I still haven’t kicked that coffee habit.)

Loving Friends!Each moment is another chance for this practice.  What I learned living this way for a month is that it is worth it.  There is nothing in this world worth more than inner peace.  And, in the words of Eckhart Tolle, “If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.”

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Life

“We have to go back, Kate!” -Lost

Katie At The AshramThis time last year I set out on a month of adventure.  I am about to venture out for another August, but this story is very different than the one I was telling a year ago.

After returning from last year’s excursions I found myself jobless, and quite without a sense of direction.  The time seemed ripe to return to a place of great importance to me, the Satchidananda Ashram.

I had once sought the ashram as a refuge at the age of 20.  That period of time was one of great turmoil in which I found myself suddenly living alone, instead of with my partner, and feeling crushed by the weight of my own responsibility for my life situation.

The brief time I spent at the ashram was one of the most meaningful experiences of my short life.  But it was just that, brief.  Instead of the planned month of service I was to do there, I rushed home as soon as the voice in my head told me it had had enough.

The work was too hard.  I missed my family.  I couldn’t stomach the health food.  And God didn’t want or need me to worship Him this way.  These were the patterns of thought that I let drive me back home.

However, I never regretted my short stay.  I loved my time there.  I loved my roommates and the lifestyle.  I knew I would be back.  I knew there was some purpose in this brief introduction.

Cut to last fall, six years after leaving the ashram.  It was time to go back.  But the tumor living incognito in my skull caused a seizure, and the long road to surgery and recovery began.  I was okay with this, I was just happy to be alive.  And I knew my time would come.

Then it was February of this year.  I felt more myself again.  Now that I’m more recovered I can see how ambitious I was being, but I decided February was my chance.  I was finally healthy, and I had been looking forward to this since before my surgery.  Then the phone rang, and a job opportunity thrust its way into my life.  It was a blessing, but I felt let down.

Now all these months later, with many hitches along the way, I’m packing to leave in a week.  I won’t be back until September 8th.  I can’t really have any expectations about it now.  Just getting to be there will be a tremendous gift.  And that is one of the major lessons about life that I’m constantly losing sight of.  Just getting to be here is tremendous.

Life can easily feel like one burdensome situation after another, but I know it doesn’t have to.  If you’ve ever experienced a moment of inner peace, of the stillness of nature, of laughter with people you love, you too know life doesn’t have to feel like a burden.  It is as if a bright light is shining down on all of us, and if we shift just one step to the right we will be completely immersed in its glow.  My going to the ashram is taking that one step.  What is yours?

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Life

Why Not Knowing Is Not Bad

By Peter SperoEverywhere you turn the world will give you a piece of its mind.  Well-meaning loved ones, TV talk show hosts, commercials, and Yelp are all here to help you figure things out.  As we get older we add beliefs on top of beliefs until there are only a few corners of our minds left available to be filled with new understanding.

We are so accustomed to being able to figure things out that a lack of understanding can trigger fear, anxiety, and an immense amount of pain.  If life situations that leave you scratching your head are disturbing to you, that is a sign to let go of your need to know.

Letting go of the need to control life through your thoughts is not only liberating, but it is also your best chance for you to experience your best possibilities.

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Peace

How To Step Out Of Stress

DucksOn Friday night I was so stressed from my vision of the coming week that all I could do was cry about it.  Then just the next day, I got sick.  The negative emotions generated by the spinning of my anxious thoughts so quickly translated into physical illness that my choice became clear.  I could do my work with stress, or I could do it without stress.  The former was so obviously uncomfortable that I opted for the “without stress” option.

It did not seem easy at first.  My mind wouldn’t let go of thinking about the end products and panicking about how I would get there successfully.  I wasn’t going to find peace of mind from my mind.  That was the stress trigger itself.  I knew that to make the decision to go about my tasks stress free I had to surpass the mind’s attempts to help altogether.

It then became all the more clear that the uncomfortable state I had been experiencing wasn’t due to any task I had to perform, but rather, by my thoughts about their outcomes.

Focusing on the fruits of your actions instead of the actions themselves creates stress.  If you’re feeling like I was last Friday, look at your situation and notice if you are thinking about the end product instead of just dealing with the task at hand.  That slight shift in perspective may be the step that takes you out of stress altogether.

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Inspiration

Party More

Joey's GraduationThis weekend I had the great privilege of celebrating my baby brother’s graduation from college. Then came Mother’s Day.  Celebrations transformed both of those days.

This month also marks the six-month anniversary of my brain surgery. And while I didn’t have a party for that, I must confess that I’ve been celebrating its anniversary every single month since it happened. I celebrate mainly within myself, congratulating myself, feeling grateful for the passing months. But I also excitedly exclaim to my boyfriend about it every 5th of the month. So what difference does it make?

Continual celebration for any reason makes each day more memorable as well as more fulfilling. To me celebration is the practice of aligning your perspective with the reality of life. It is easy to think to yourself, “Every day is a precious gift to be treasured.” But that is just a thought in the mind not yet born into the reality of experience. When you celebrate you are acting out the reality of the sacredness of the now. You are honoring existence. And in the process of aligning yourself with this perspective, you uncover the latent joy within.

Find something to celebrate today. Did you wake up this morning? Did you go to work? Did you share a smile with another person? You experienced the miracle that is conscious existence. Celebrate it in whatever way you personally enjoy. Eat a wonderful meal, make a toast, share time with someone you love, dance to your favorite song. Instead of making your worries, thoughts about the future, and painful stories the center of your attention today, create a reason to celebrate. It will move you ever closer to a state of joy and peace, and you may find that celebration begets further celebration.

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