Surgery

Brain Surgery Two Years Later

Pre-op 2014

Pre-op 2014

On the second anniversary of my surgery adventure I am (still) grateful to be alive. And not only to be alive, but to be sitting on a comfortable bed looking out a window at crisp blue sky bordered by colorful almost-falling leaves. I’m about to go eat a baked potato and sit outside with friends. Tonight I’ll sing along to every song as I watch Frozen while eating popcorn and chocolate. I almost cannot believe this is what I get to do today. But I can, because of what I’ve learned in this past year since surgery:

No experience is forever. And when the experience is painful, I get to know without a doubt that it will change.

I can do whatever I want. There are no rules. I just have to admit to myself the secret desires of my heart. Those desires are for my good, and are leading me on the adventure I came here for.

I am good. I am made up of pure loving goodness, and no matter what I do or what happens to me, that is permanent amongst impermanent.

Even if my mind disagrees, I am doing my best. If I knew a better way I would be doing it.

Love is easy because love is everywhere. I cannot escape its abundance, but I can be distracted from it through thinking.

I can forgive everything for being as it is, because it already is.

My body is trying to help me stay alive. It loves being my vehicle in this world, and it is always doing its best to serve me. There is nothing about my body of which to be afraid.

I love being myself. I love you being yourself. And I’m so grateful we are being ourselves at the same time.

What you think about yourself, or me, or the world is not who you are. This makes it very easy to love you no matter what.

When the present moment is happening it is never what I thought it would be like. It is usually easier. Thank you for making it easier. I am grateful for your spiritual presence in my life, and your unconditional love. May your love return to you tenfold.

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Relationships

Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing

Gus Spero PaintingFor the past few months I’ve been carrying around a ukulele like Stacy and Clinton had personally recommended it.  It makes meeting people incredibly simple.  “Requests?”

While it may come off as an endearing eccentricity, going around singing to innocent bystanders, this isn’t an altruistic musical exchange. If I peak behind the curtain, the thoughts driving these actions are not of giving, they are of wanting.

In every interaction this ego is trying to get love.

The attempt to “get” something from another person, like we’re all perusing some crowded emotional bazaar, is how many egos live their whole lives.  It becomes the subtext of relationship.

The mind made self sees other people as fulfillers of needs. While the true self, who is watching and observing this all take place as I sing “Part of Your World” for the nineteenth time, is aware that there is nothing to get.

Unbeknownst to the mind, love is not a thing, it is a state of being. Love is a reality, and it is really within me, obscured by the insatiable wanting of my mind made self.

So how can I get the love my mind made self so admirably tries to win for me?

Give up. Be with people without trying to get anything from them. Let each interaction be an end unto itself. And let that unfulfilled desire rise up and subside like ocean tides. This is presence. This is being in the actual present moment and not asking it to be something else. This is letting go of the war the mind creates with the now. This is surrender.

The state of being that then rises up, in the space between what was once a constant stream of thought, is love. Real love. It is always there in the quiet chambers of your consciousness. In silence, in surrender, it will sing to you, and you’ll realize what you were wanting before was merely a phantom of the real thing.

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Present Moment Living

Home Movies

Home Movies
Right now it looks weird. There are turkeys on the side of the road, a small aloe plant beside a telephone, a twin bed on blue carpeting, dozens of yellow butterflies, bells ringing at noon and then again at six. And there is me. Living in it. But I don’t know this story, this character. I’ve never watched this one before. 

If I were a movie, this would be the good part. When life looks strangest, let that be the good part of your movie. And if you have to keep something in mind, remember who is watching, and that at some point, before you decided to go out to the theater, you thought this would be fun.

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Present Moment Living

The Next First Step

Changes

When a Virginia leaf decays beneath my shoe change is coming.  But on the cusp of my first East Coast fall I cannot know the picture that so many hundreds of thousands of trees will create as their air cools.

My life; hundreds of thousands of unfathomable future moments. What they will look like, I do not know.  That a change is going to come, those first fallen leaves have already foretold.

If you try to answer the problem of your life with a solution from your mind, all you will end up watching are odd remakes of a better original.

There is a new story being told in each successive now. Only watch.  Only listen.  Pay no mind, rather, pay attention.  Then the author that wrote millions of leaves flaming into color will give you a sight into which you couldn’t possibly have spun any string of thoughts.

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spirituality

How To Practice Being Yourself

NatureIt is easy to believe a spiritual practice will help you feel better. But from my experience, spiritual practice necessarily cannot concern how you feel.

Today I remember that sometimes I will not feel like engaging in the sadhana which is set before me. Yet, each day I do it. Sometimes I am sleepy, sometimes I feel listless. I experience the practice with those feelings. Some days I am motivated, some days peaceful, and I experience the practice with those feelings too.

A spiritual practice gives clarity to the inner world of emotion through its consistency among the fluctuating and fleeting nature of feelings. It shows up emotions for what they truly are: not you. Anything changing cannot be you, rather you are here experiencing change. Doing the same spiritual practice each day gently lays the ephemeral at the feet of the unchanging consciousness that you are, lets you gaze upon it, and do with it what you will.

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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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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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consciousness

Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

QuailIt would be nice if becoming another year older meant you actually became another year wiser.  But I have not always found this to be the case.  As I approach my birthday I’ve noticed that I can look back at my younger self and learn from an understanding that I had once gained but later lost.  On a smaller scale, there are some days when I really feel in tune with the rhythm of life, and others when I am lost in the darkness of my own ignorance.

How is it that wisdom and understanding come and go so easily?  They are measured by the degree to which you are present.

When you choose to be the witness of your thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, environment, you inhabit the space where all knowledge and inspiration reside.  When you are strung along by habitual thought patterns, you step out of the flow of life.

In the moment you become aware of your breathing, of the beating of your heart, you are wiser than anyone could ever aspire to be.  May we all meet there together.

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consciousness

What The Trees Are Telling You

TreesDuring a storm a tree sees its branches whipped about by wind. Leaves fall off. Rain drenches its limbs. The sky turns dark, but the trees don’t go inside. They stand there bending, breaking, bearing the brunt of the weather. Yet not all of the tree is touched, not every part lives outside.

Inside, underground, spread the tree’s roots. And while storms rage all around it, the roots remain unscathed. The roots’ only experience of the storm is the nourishment that makes its way in.

Weather the storms of life like the trees. Bear witness to the force of the outer circumstances that shake you to your core. Feel their immensity. But remain inside. Be the roots; for part of you too remains untouched. And watch, as all the rain that pours on you becomes life-giving nourishment to your soul.

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