Becoming Mindful of Golden Key Memories

When we are unsure of ourselves, lost or grieving, we can get trapped in past memories. When we allow them to be through mindfulness, we find that buried in a memory is a golden key; a hidden message that can trigger a shift in consciousness for healing.

I’d like to share one such memory.

It was an ordinary evening before my husband died. He had gone into the study after dinner while I sat in the living room alone. A profound feeling of sadness came over me and I got up and went to the study. I leaned up against the door and watched him stare into the computer screen. When he looked up, I remember thinking his cheeks were pale and his eyes weary. We had been married for 25 years and we considered ourselves warriors.

 “You can go,” I announced. “You’re so tired and you deserve to be happy.” The words just poured out of my mouth.

Under ordinary circumstances, that kind of remark would have seemed out of place, but in that moment he didn’t blink. He just looked at me and I looked at him and it was as if we were remembering our entire relationship. There was love and care in that moment and I wanted to cry, but I kept calm.

“You don’t have to worry about me anymore,” I continued. “And our kids? They are amazing. They’re grown up now and it’s okay. I just want you to know it’s okay, if you go. You deserve to be happy.”

My husband’s eyes closed and opened in slow motion. He was tired and kind. “What are you talking about?” He asked gently but somehow the question felt rehearsed. “Where do you want me to go?”

“You’ve been taking care of us for so long and you don’t have to worry any more. I’m strong now and time is passing so quickly and you’re so tired. You don’t have to take care of me anymore,” I said, getting emotional now. “You can be free. You can leave.”

He cocked his head to one side and a lightness of being spread over his face like when we were twenty something. “Where do you want me to go?” he repeated.

I just looked at him as if he’d forgotten.

Then, my lip quivered. “Home,” I said.

I remember feeling possessed with the thought that I had to give him permission to leave me, leave us. That he would not be happy if he stayed because it was obligation when his spirit wanted to be free. I imagined him running off to the country of his birth and living by the sea. How much he loved it there! Mostly, I imagined him at peace and carefree. His happiness was the most important thing.

“How am I supposed to leave without you and the kids?” He asked and then chuckled softly, gently.  

The moment filled with compassion.

Then, he turned away and after a moment, I walked away.

Back in the living room, I sat. I felt tender, sad and powerless but then the moment passed and I began to feel a little silly and confused like, what was that all about?

A few months after, my husband died. Later, when I tossed his ashes into the deep blue sea of his country, I thought he was finally home and his spirit was free. He had found the courage to go home and be free without me. At least that’s what I thought then.

Now, it’s been a year and I think, yes, he’s home and he’s free and even though we are not together, we are gentle kindred spirits with deep compassion for each other. What happened then and what’s happening now are simply part of our destiny. Becoming open and caring and mindful of these golden key memories have been part of my journey. That one, in particular, taught me how souls speak to one another and there are moments in life that transcend all reasoning. There is a language of the spirit and in death, in loss, in grief– we can open this window to reveal hidden truths about who we are and who we’re meant to be.

Love in the Time of Social Distancing

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.16.14 PMIn this time of social distancing, I’ve started experimenting with erotic writing. Sex is about procreation and love needs to survive. I think love and survival are the two things we are thinking about incessantly.

My husband died in November. He was my best friend. Now, months later, the virus has the rest of the world turning in with me. We’re questioning how we live, how we breathe, how we touch, who we let in. In this strange new reality, I watch my personal grief projected onto the outside world exponentially. I’m not alone facing this great mystery.

So, I started writing a chapter about love. It’s a full blown love making scene. It gives me joy and pleasure in a very basic sense. Making tantric love with the right person keeps you captivated by the present. It’s discovering your innocence again. Writing about making love is like recounting what it’s like to fall into the fountain of youth.

When you lose somebody close to you suddenly, you’re left amongst the living but without any sensibility. You’re straddling realities, touching this and that, but mostly gazing into the beyond. This half self is a paradox and very much like the act of losing yourself in love. Suddenly, you’re swimming in darkness only to realize that the sun sets on purpose so the moon can exist.

There is little advice I can share during this difficult time except, try not to be afraid of loving in darkness. You can help prepare for the dawn of a more sensitive world. Try taking off your boots with someone special and laying together on a big cushion or pillow. Try imagining that you’re floating and breathe deeply together. Don’t worry, you’ll begin to feel something… like you’re touching, the great beyond energetically. Now, don’t hold back, that wild in you, and don’t hold back the wild in your partner. When you’re all out, raw and naked, you’ll still be you, except fearless and breathless too. Don’t be afraid to  expose your true nakedness, your vulnerability is love and love is your survival these uncertain days. Kiss each other intimately until you are lost in the cave.

It’s only when we cease to exist, we find togetherness.

Don’t worry about being exposed right now. We’re already exposed because we’re human.

 

Looking Through the Cracks: Fighting Ignorance with Mindfulness & Critical Consciousness

Mindfulness is a constant unfolding that gives us new sight, called insight. It moves from the inside out, unfolding outward like the petals of a lotus. It is a way to see out, from the inside cracks of ordinary life.

Solomon, Emmonds and Paolini wrote a picture book called, Through the Cracks. It is about what is wrong with schools and society that makes kids get smaller and smaller until they slip through the cracks in the floor. This is a good metaphor for us to consider when thinking about the practice of mindfulness as a lever for advocacy; a pathway for us to lead the way for a holistic schooling model that is inclusive, creative and uplifting.

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We need to see clearly what is happening to students in schools and society. If we examine from the outside and think we can understand what is happening, we are misguided. We have to train our mind and our eyes to see differently, to move from our inner world to the outer world, to look through the tiny cracks in ourselves, to understand how all human beings can feel isolated and afraid, unworthy and confused, a real lack of purpose in the world. We have to change our perspective in order to understand that an individual is not solely responsible but rather, there are conditions in the environment that make people shrink.

When we first go into teaching we are creative and giving. Some of us are in love with our subject matter a little more than working with children, but we are in love all the same, and that is what matters, that we teach from this starting point, creativity and love. 50% of the teachers drop out of the teaching profession within the first 5 years. Why is this happening? Because they fall out of love with teaching. All awareness of what is wrong with our schools and what is wrong in society starts with an understanding of the self. We have to identify the how, when and where we have been separated from our passion, from our heart. I fell through the cracks a long time ago when the practice of education began to feel oppressive and boring. It lost its creativity and giving nature. I was forced to conform to what others wanted me to be. When I felt unseen, and not worthy, I fell through the cracks.

Mindfulness is raising awareness of your inner world, your inner dilemmas. This is entry to consciousness. This is the inner most layer, the foundation. Then, as you move along in the practice, your awareness unfolds and you can move towards critical consciousness. Critical consciousness is going beyond and recognizing how social, political and cultural factors influence your sight and receptivity, your thoughts, your feelings of worthiness and social standing in the world. It is about realizing that your state of mind and well-being are directly related to the state of mind and well-being of everybody around you. This in interdependence, integrative consciousness and systems thinking.

Mindfulness and critical consciousness are a choice because as I stated earlier, they are born out of continuous action, the discipline of slowing things down so that you can browse inside your mind and familiarize yourself with existence; to pick up on the fine details, the elements that have come together to create your story and context. When we allow ourselves to move on and on without reflection, we are mindless actors performing. We are not seeing the features and contours of our behavior, the impact of the scenery on experience. In essence, we are in a state of ignorance. Picture1Ignorance means to ignore. When we are not mindful, we are ignoring insight and knowledge of the world and the people inside it. That is why awareness and critical consciousness is a daily choice and active discipline. It starts with the self, looking inward, and expands to the outer world. It is constantly changing and adapting the image of yourself and the world.

Many teachers, especially those who work in schools and societies that are not healthy, distressed or malfunctioning, walk around in ignorance, ignoring the truth of the situation. It is awareness and critical consciousness that allow us to see clearly the cracks in the floor where children sink, that which causes us tremendous pain and discomfort so we want to ignore it. When we open our eyes wide, we may say, I would never send my child to this school, this harsh institution where lunch is served at 9:30am, kids are silenced, classrooms are housed in trailers or there is no library or gymnasium. We begin to attribute the conditions of the place, the negativity and the disruptions to something outside ourselves, something far away and foreign. If we opened our eyes and our heart fully to the conditions of our work, the conditions of our students’ lives, we may not want to stay and do the job at all. Who wants to live in such misery? We focus on pay at first, but money will never be enough in these situations.

So we suffer. We realize more and more that we can’t separate ourselves from them, from it, from the place. When children lack joy and creativity, when they are fearful for their lives, when our students fall through the cracks, piece by piece, our own humanity dies. We feel like failures inside, because we are those children. We go home at night and wonder— why can’t we do something differently to remedy the situation? The next day we try again. We are not trying to save the children, as some may say. We are trying to save our own sanity. Adults are falling through the cracks every day. Teachers especially. When thousands of teachers across the country are on the streets protesting, they are not blind walking. They are fighting for sanity. It is not just money they want, although this is important to our survival. They are fighting for the end of suffering. Money is the distraction. We know this because we love children for free.

Mindfulness that has led to critical consciousness is a lever for conscious action and justice in education. It is about asking the hard question, what do we do now? When we say, this is real, this is happening, even though it hurts, we keep our eyes open and we begin to dig deep into the cracks, exploring what part of our self is down there—we begin to gain more and more awareness of the context, the intersection of factors, the social, cultural, political matrix that has created the conditions for this situation, and our role in it. We begin to see the bird not separate from its nest, not separate from its mother, the flight, the food, the wind, the height of the tree. This is critical consciousness, and we are thinking, what to do with all this knowledge?