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 those golden key memories has 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.

A Glimpse into the Pandemic

The ground around the mall is covered with snow and ice. People are covered with masks and parkas. I imagine tight lips behind the masks, but I can’t see so maybe I’m projecting. I follow a couple who looks lost in some random search for Gucci or Kate Spade. We’re in the middle of nowhere shopping and pretending.

Emptiness. A flutter of anxiety. The horror of shopping. I’m thinking everything looks and feels dead and empty. This emptiness feeling is relentless suddenly and I’m having trouble breathing. I pull down my mask and wonder, when will this feeling end? When will this feeling that everything is unreal and wavering end?

We leave empty handed. I’m hungry and driving down the interstate. Now what? People are waiting for normalcy but there’s no normalcy after this. We’ve seen the void, the big black hole in the center of the universe. We know fragile and temporary and how relationships unravel under pressure, revealing. We know that some of us can keeping going on while others lose it. We know there’s an end to wishful thinking. We know we can survive without living.

My son, who is sitting in the passenger seat, lets out a heavy sigh and closes his eyes. I think, this man creation came out of me! He’s grown up now so I see him as my son but not belonging to me. We are two passengers on the same ride but tomorrow is unknown. We are thrown together for this fleeting moment and somehow I find solace in his presence.

I’m exhausted when I get home, like the sensation of emptiness sucked the life out of me. How nice would it be to slip into some drug induced coma right now but instead, I pour myself a scotch and start cooking.

I thought I had learned to surrender to all this already, to just let tomorrow go, find joy in the present ordinary. I thought anxiety would’ve disappeared by now and that I’d be swimming every day in the great big ocean of freedom like a Buddha whale. I thought eventually my heart would stop aching. But alas, this being human is a guest house and I’ll be visited every day in spite of awakening.

Minding Love a Simple Pleasure

I’ve learned through my practice of meditation that joy and inner peace are usually wrapped up in the simplest things and we have a choice.

Sometimes we get caught up in the spirit of wanting to our detriment. We think that if we’d just hit the lottery, for example, we would find joy and peace. Having come from humble beginnings, I know money is a necessity but it’s not everything. I’ve seen great suffering in people with money in the form of pain, loneliness and self-loathing. I think we can get lost in wanting when we don’t know who we are or we know but don’t allow ourselves to be.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the renowned psychiatrist who dedicated her life to the study of death and dying believed that deep down, at our core, there are only two emotions that drive everything: love and fear. I tend to agree. I would also add that fear breeds when there is lack of loving. Where there is loving, there is happiness and peace. Where there is fear, there is lack and suffering.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these two scoundrel emotions that we often feel cheat us out of a quiet life. I’ve been wondering how we can make decisions that lead us to joy and peace. In other words, how can we choose love over suffering?

Let me share an anecdote to elucidate my thinking. I woke up this morning and my knee was hurting. I had been running hard on it for weeks. I immediately tensed up and felt worried. Running is an activity that makes me feel happy and anxiety-free. My mind raced. What would I do if my leg stopped working?

I decided to sit and ice it. I put my leg up and chose to embrace the moment as an opportunity to focus on my inner world and breathing. Within moments, I slipped into a casual meditation. I became aware of my thoughts and realized that my tension was fear of losing control of my physical body and simply, getting old. Running for years had made me happy and anxiety free because it makes me feel strong, carefree and my appearance pleasing. I was scared that if I stopped running I would lose all these things which would lead me to feeling weak, trapped and unlovable. Who will want to be with me when I’m old and useless?

Now, I understood the pain in my knee to be insight. It was showing me my self and my self was showing me the condition of the human being. After all, we live in a society that values youthfulness, beauty and utility. We are all susceptible to this thinking. So what to do with this? What does one do when it’s time to stop running?

As I allowed these insights to sit with me, I began to appreciate how vulnerable I am and how vulnerable we all are. I appreciated how important it is to feel loved and useful. We are all growing old and dying is part of the human experience. Everyone loses vitality until we perish. So, what to do? What to do with this knowledge?

Then, I thought about love. The antithesis to fear. I thought about how powerful and precious love really is. What does it look like and feel like to shower love upon yourself at a vulnerable moment? What type of relationship characterizes your love experience? What simple pleasure can we offer ourselves, even in adverse conditions? And, how can we find the courage to be with the lover who makes us feel valued and delicious?

After the meditation, I got up from the couch and walked to my office, slowly and gentle on my knee. I knew I couldn’t run but I could sit and write with ease. It was the most loving thing I could think about doing for myself and for you my dear reader. To share this news. We are indeed getting older with each passing day and sometimes your years on your body will be hurting… but you can be mindful of that simple pleasure, like what writing means to me. You can choose to wrap your arms around your lover, whoever they may be or you can love yourself, in the best way you know how. Simply, choose. Choose the next loving thing and decide only upon those things that will bring you closer to love.