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.


Why My Relationships Will Never Be The Same

DucksAll of the sudden it happened.  After months of lazing about recovering from surgery I have found myself back in the workforce.  I now have emails to respond to, lessons to plan, projects to coordinate, and an alarm clock going off in the morning.  Of course I am grateful, but I have yet to experience a transition without growing pains, yet to feel completely comfortable with letting go.

This new lesson in acceptance is one I am beginning to navigate, but there is one lesson from the surgery that I’m still holding onto: I was treated differently, and still am over three months after the fact.

I found on the whole that friends, family, and acquaintances were kinder, more appreciative, and altogether more forgiving of me than I had ever experienced.

These changes in relationships could be chalked up to compassion during a difficult situation, but I don’t buy into that.  I’ve experienced compassion before, and it is beautiful and life affirming.  I also have a ridiculously loving family.  But the kindness I received during this period of my life carried an even deeper undertone that I’m sure few would ever admit, even to themselves.

People realized I was mortal.

I know how this sounds; am I ridiculously asserting that my friends thought of me as immortal before it turned out I had a tumor in my skull?  On the intellectual level, of course not, we all understand the reality of birth and death.  But one of the things that makes life less scary, more ordinary, and makes relationships easier to handle is that, in the words of my friend Mark, we temporarily assume we are all immortal.

Having brain surgery created relationships in which the fragility of life became more real.  And while this could sound grim, it was the most profound, loving, and fulfilling experience I’ve been blessed to witness in my short life thus far.

Now that I’m well again, what does this lesson mean, and why am I still holding onto it?

I saw that it is possible to love deeply, appreciate people meaningfully, and forgive people’s faults easily.  This can be the reality of all of our relationships and interactions.

Perhaps contemplating the unstable nature of all forms will be your catalyst toward this type of human interaction.  Or perhaps, like me, that is altogether too frightening an approach.  If that is the case, just love others, and be kinder than necessary.  Even if you haven’t been on the receiving end of this depth of kindness yet, you can be the initiator of a new way to be human together.


Tidings of Comfort and Joy

PresenceAs December is coming to a close, I am writing to you in good health, as I now feel normal again over a month after surgery.  I could never have imagined the magnificence of simply feeling normal until now.  But while my body has a normal state to return to, my life situation has a completely different story.  Before surgery I was in the midst of searching for a new normal after my job of four years came to a close when its grant cycled out, and I was imagining new passions and opportunities that might emerge.  A seizure, concussion, myriad of medical tests, and brain surgery later, that new normal hasn’t yet found its way into my experience.

Have you ever experienced a transition that seems to be followed by still more change?  Have you seen uncertainty lead to greater uncertainty?  When life shows its true colors by unmasking the illusion of stability you are left with an important task.  That task is your reaction.

An easy go-to reaction is fear, but if you have had enough suffering you’ll bypass that one quite quickly.  Another reaction, which may not even seem like a reaction at first, is waiting. You can wait out the uncertainty.  You can wait to feel comfortable, at peace, joyful, and grateful until you have your new normal.  Of course waiting to be at peace until your outer situation looks a certain way is the ego’s best kept secret in how to never be at peace.

Without fear and waiting, how can you react to uncertainty and transition?  I have found that my favorite, most joy-filled, peaceful, hopeful reaction to such an outer situation is to allow myself to inhabit the present moment.

It feels a bit uncomfortable at first, and I always get the initial sensation that I have to distract myself with something.  But after I let myself be present through the discomfort it turns out that the present is a pristine, perfect place to be, that asks nothing of me but my awareness of it.  When I let myself place my attention on my sensory perceptions of the present, the mind, which is busy worrying and trying to fix various aspects of what it deems an unacceptable life situation, starts to lose steam.  Real life emerges.

While the future feels like it needs constant attention, life is always happening right now and no place else.  It isn’t waiting for you to notice it.  You could go your whole life unaware that you’re only living in your mind and missing the moment that living takes place.  But uncertainty will help you notice the living present if you let it.  Life is beckoning you through every situation you find yourself in.  This time let your life situation drive you home to the present moment.  You’ll be glad you came.


A Seizure, Surgery, and Search for Peace

Story Of Your LifeTwo weeks ago I was walking down the sidewalk with my younger brother, and noticed I was having a strong experience of déjà vu.  The next moment I woke up in an ambulance with two handsome men enthusiastically declaring, “You had a seizure!”

The good news, as my brother told me, was that I came out of the seizure laughing. The hospital staff wasn’t even sure at first I had suffered a seizure; perhaps I merely passed out, because I was so very conversational after regaining consciousness.  But after several different tests, it turned out that I did have a seizure, and that it was probably caused by the 3.5cm benign tumor that has taken over a portion of the top left of my skull bone.  While quite a shock to discover, this “epidermoid,” as the doctors called it, could have been present since birth.  Even though it may have been pressing on my brain all this time, it has only just shown itself to be an issue.

Although you never hope to hear such news regarding your own body, there are many things I have to be grateful for in my situation.  The tumor is almost certainly benign, it is not in the brain itself but in the skull bone, and it is in an easily accessible area.  And come November 5th I will undergo surgery to have it removed.

So now what?  Where is the lesson in this?  While I do feel that my religious practices, spiritual study, meditation, Yoga, and the writing of each post here on Let Yourself Learn have been tremendous training for just such a life altering situation, I have been at a loss for insight.  I have experienced fear, confusion, mistrust of people’s advice, and even a small dose of self-pity.  Yet through all of those feelings I kept saying to myself, “I am on the cusp of acceptance, I am on the edge of peace.”

There is a deeper knowing that, even in a moment of fear, still faintly flickers as a beacon for the understanding and abundant miracles to come.  Sharing my situation with all of you helps to fan that flame.

In my last post I talked about the uncertainty in my life, the space being created, and what it was teaching me about living in the present.  With something like brain surgery looming in the future, the present moment becomes more obviously the only tolerable space to inhabit.  There is no more time for what-if scenarios; the suffering they create far outweighs the mild ego satisfaction of “knowing” the future.

Before this series of events took place I had planned to write about my acceptance into the Living Yoga Training program at the Satchidananda Ashram, where I was going to live the yogic lifestyle and be of service to their community for one month starting yesterday.  I thought I was finally going to get that push into present moment awareness I so longed for. Now sitting here, at my same old apartment in Chicago, I am learning what it means to be present in a way I never could have thought up.  It may not look like it now, but this is happening for me, it is part of the highest potential for my life journey, and I am right on the cusp of acceptance, right on the edge of peace.