Welcome to the Space that always is…

During the most challenging and debilitating phase of a chronic illness transformation which I underwent beginning in 2008, Qi (Chi) Gong was one of the few physical activities possible. The simple movements helped me release stuck energy patterns. I would practice a medical qi gong style suitable for beginners known as ‘12 treasures’- for 5 minutes each day. It was all I could muster at the time.

The 12 treasures were part of the introductory phase of the Qi Gong taught by Medical Qi Gong Master Bingkun Hu, who has practiced for over 50 years. Master Hu studied with grandmaster Yang Mei-jun, who died at age 106. Master Hu is over 80 years old and one of the few Masters who knows the complete Wild Goose Qi Gong System. Master Hu has ‘passed on’ much wisdom through his many students.

Amanda Stiler-Kennett is one of them. Amanda has practiced Qi Gong for the last 10 years. She is also a certified Jin Shin Jyutsu healing arts practitioner who has attended many long silent meditation retreats over the last 20 years. When someone has basked in silence that much, they carry a vibration of stillness. Lineage mixed with Silence is a potent elixir that infuses Amanda’s Qi Gong classes.

Empowerment via a lineage is highly esteemed in the Eastern-based healing arts. Lineage refers to a living-link to all of those who have practiced before. These transmission links may go back thousands of years.

Qi Gong is a revered, holistic energy system that cultivates not only longevity and bodily health but has the ability to awaken the dormant seed of spiritual realization inside the heart. It invokes self-healing and soul-level renewal which can restore kindness and love to the areas in one’s life that have fallen out of harmony.

In China, according to Luke Chan, a couple of decades back there was a place simply known as ‘The Center’. It was the world’s largest Medicineless Hospital. The Center, formally known as- Huaxia Zhineng Qigong Clinic & Training Center was founded by Dr. Pang a medical Qi Gong Master. The Center utilized love of the life force, exercises and a particular Qi Gong style called Chilel which emphasized strong belief that the life force can heal, synchronized group healing, and Chi cultivation exercises. The Center was a non-profit formed in 1988 (and closed for political reasons in 2001) and during that period it treated nearly 200 different types of disease labels, including: diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, severe depression, paralysis, systemic lupus and cancer. The overall success rate was an astounding 95%.

I connected with Amanda, first through silent meditation daylong retreats which she co-led with her husband Jay. After lunch, during these silent daylongs, Amanda would lead our group through a 30 minute Qi Gong healing. These sessions were timeless as well as invigorating and relaxing.

Wu Wei is well-known as a Chinese and Buddhist tenet, which can be translated as: ‘doing, not doing’ or ‘action of non-action’. It refers to effortless movements which come about spontaneously when one is ‘in the flow’ or ‘no mind’. Wu Wei, often used in marshal art circles, is a beautiful way to describe Qi Gong. Many hatha yoga classes in the West, though they can be potent, may lead one into the realm of mind, where appearances or the postural forms become the central focus. Coming from a background steeped in a hatha yoga, initially Qi Gong seemed ineffectual, as if nothing was happening. Naturally Qi Gong eliminates the ‘doer’ from the practice.

Qi Gong is intrinsically set up to be a bridge between form and formless (as with true hatha yoga). Simultaneously, in Qi Gong, one disassociates from ‘me’ as a body and yet is even more fully embodied as the living spirit. It’s a great paradox, the yin and yang meeting point. The Buddhist refer to this quality as: equanimity. Those trained in Western terms might call it: ‘the balance point’.

Amanda calls her Qi Gong synthesis Wild Heart Qi Gong, an appropriate name, for she is a woman who embodies deep compassion and tenderness. Amanda leads her classes with gentle direction, pointing one back to their essential nature as the life force itself. This quiets the mind and allows a direct experience of: the incredible paradox of embodied formlessness.

The flowing movements of Qi Gong are potent and well-suited for anyone wishing to embrace their true nature, ideal for those recovering from chronic illness, injury rehabilitation or individuals in the later stages of life. Kids love Qi Gong too, if you keep the sessions short. Intuitively children feel the inherent grace of the practice especially when they see mom or dad becoming more emotionally open and available. Patience and kindness deepen with Qi Gong.

*Amanda, who teaches classes in the Santa Cruz area, is currently at a silent retreat until August 22nd but you can fill her email inbox at: amandaring@gmail.com.

When I was 4 years old (until age 10) our family lived in southwest San Jose. California. This was the mid to late 1960’s. At that time, Santa Clara County was still considered one of the most fertile valleys in the world. Fruit groves were everywhere; wildlife and healthy ecosystems flourished. This all changed quickly as the 1970’s and 80’s arrived. The soil, once black and rich became contaminated with toxic chemical residues as pollutants infiltrated the region. The fertility of technology and greed replaced the natural; the countryside transformed into the Silicon Valley.

In those days my dad worked for the tech giant IBM and on weekends and week day evenings, he created the best lawn in the area. In fact, dad’s entire yard was the envy of the neighborhood. His lawn-edger, produced circa 1950, was a ramshackle device requiring physical dexterity and strength. Dad manually mowed the lawn with an even more archaic push mower, the original blades needed to be hand sharpened weekly. Dad enjoyed working in the yard though he was not a fan of weeding.

When we moved into redwood trees just north of Scotts Valley, yard maintenance changed. Dad still had a small lawn to care for but beginning in 1974, hand weeding ended. A modern alternative herbicide arrived. It promised to ease the strain of weeding while being non-toxic to the environment. This new herbicidal invention was called Roundup. A stealth bomb had been dropped on us without a sound but its impact was atomic.

I thought nothing of dad applying one of the early versions of the increasingly popular Roundup around the house and yard. In a world driven by the next quick fix, Roundup was the weed king, promising to destroy weeds fast while you relaxed and watched TV. One no longer needed to touch the soil, perspire or even get dirty.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned the power inherent in a living ecosystem, like a vegetable garden. It’s healing to touch an organic earthen soil that has not been contaminated by chemical poisons. Putting my hands into the soil, I became part of the dynamic life inside this microcosmic environment. As a practicing massage therapist, I found that placing my hands into the earth was no less sacred than touching another human being or animal. The Earth Mother feeds and sustains all forms. The relish of one day consuming the bounty of simple food grown in your own garden was equally appealing.

Chemical herbicidal research started in the early 20th century. During the Second World War these early ‘products’ were originally designed as biological warfare agents.

Roundup was designed by Monsanto Company. Monsanto, for those who may not be familiar, began about 1900 as a chemical company which created saccharin (an artificial sweetener and known carcinogen linked to cancer) for Coca Cola. Monsanto has been exposed in several documentaries: The Future of Food, The World According to Monsanto, and Sweet Misery: A poisoned world.

Monsanto is an agricultural biotechnology company that claims to be saving the world with their GMO seeds. This business conglomerate is responsible for chemically poisoning the planet in myriad ways: herbicides (DDT, Agent Orange), through its pharmaceutical wing (attempting to crack the genetic code and takeover of the world seed market), and poisonous food additives, like Nutrasweet (a known neurotoxin).

In the 1930’s Monsanto bought the chemical company that invented PCB’s (toxic chemical compound) and disseminated these toxins all over the world, leading to wide scale industrial-chemical contamination, now linked to many diseases.

Monsanto has monopolized the world seed market because their Roundup chemical has been sprayed all over the world creating genetically modified seed strains which Monsanto now claims ‘patent ownership’ of. Crops sprayed with Roundup then contaminate nearby seed beds which are then claimed by Monsanto via patent. Monsanto continues to sue farmers in India (and elsewhere) creating a wild scale epidemic of suicides when farm saved seeds were no longer allowed. Over 25.000 peasant farmers, in India alone, have committed suicide in the last 15 years when these poisonous, mutated Corporatized seeds were forced on the farmers.

Roundup’s main ingredient, Glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine) is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. Glyphosate kills insects, aquatic invertebrates (via runoff), mice and other small creatures. Glyphosate was initially classified as environmentally safe. It is now known to cause numerous diseases. Besides the glyphosate, the other so called ‘inert’ ingredients in Roundup create a synergistic amplification of toxicity. Glyphosate binds to heavy metals and evades the detoxification pathways in the liver, instead being filtered through the kidneys, where high acidity breaks the metal’s bond and release the herbicide, destroying the kidney tubules. According to researchers at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Glyphosate wipes out the navigational ability of bees. After being exposed they are unable to return to their hive.

In 2013, the country of El Salvador banned Roundup because of an epidemic of Kidney disease which has been clearly linked to Roundup overexposure. Many people, from Central American, Sri Lanka and other countries, have reported similar incidents.

Animal sickness and death, lesser known poisonous pathways, related to Roundup usage affect both wild and domestic animals whose deaths can be attributed directly or indirectly to Roundup.

As an example, I recently visited my friend Victoria who was preparing to move. During the course of our conversation, she said with eyes, equal parts moist and tired:

“Moving is challenging enough but then my baby, my beloved Tasha almost died.”

Tasha is Victoria’s cat. Both Victoria and I are healing arts practitioners: my background as a health coach and former acupuncturist, hers as an enzyme therapist and nutritional consultant. As we began discussing some details related to Tasha’s acute illness, suddenly a flash of intuition came rushing in:

“Could Tasha have been chemically poisoned?” I asked. Victoria’s eyes widened as recognition arrived.

“She got sick the same day they sprayed the building with Roundup…”. She gasped.

Victoria cast her eyes in my direction but at the same time her gaze was inward. After a short pause, with energy open, alert, but aghast, she continued:

“They spray Roundup once a week around the sides of the apartment buildings.” She stopped. “Her symptoms started that day. She loves to play in the plants and then she, oh my god, licks herself!” She exclaimed.

Tasha would go outside and come back into the house and vomit a stringy plant substance. It was not food. She vomited a clear liquid with little pieces of long strings of plant in them. Over the course of a few days she got weaker and weaker and then her left eye got bloody and puffy and almost fully shut.

Victoria took Tasha to a vet and they ran a blood test. She told me:

“Her blood work showed hyperthyroidism, liver dysfunction based on elevated liver blood markers. The vet simply gave me three choices: cut out the thyroid, radiate the thyroid to kill it, or heavily medicate the thyroid so it stops functioning and producing its hormones.”

Cats, dogs and other wild animals are attracted to the chemical scent in Roundup and if they lick their fur after a recent coating of Roundup, they will become very sick or die.

In our appearance driven society, no one wants to see weeds cropping up to ruin their vision of what beauty is. Instead we put chemicals on. We do it everywhere: with perfume and cologne, paint on the walls and exterior of the house, while the sofa is dipped in chemical fire retardants, as are almost all mattresses.

Cleaning agents, soap and even the blue sky above is sprayed with chemicals to engineer the weather. And it has long been socially acceptable to allow our food crops to be dusted in the name of pest eradication. Chemicals have infiltrated our lives to the point that in one 2009 study of U.S. minority infants, the umbilical cord blood of a newborn fetus contained over 200 chemicals.

Tasha survived her scare, thanks to grace, love and innovative nutritional support which included high grade intestinal supplements, pet-specific probiotics, natural antibiotics and homemade non-grain based food. Tasha has gained 8 ounces, up to 7.5 pounds and is showing signs of playfulness and authentic well-being again. As Victoria said to me the other day:

“She’s my little daughter, and meowing at me right now to feed her and give her some attention- so I will go now.”

Grocery Shopping

“Man lives on 10 percent of what he eats, on the other 90 percent lives his doctor.”

I went shopping at Staff of Life, our local natural foods store. Really, it does have natural grocery items inside, unlike the other neighborhood establishments, Lucky and Safeway.

Lucky if you get out alive and Safeway, where you must shop with cover from a SWAT team.

“Danny, check the back, see if they’re unloading any of that new aspartame-infused, cow pus ice cream or antidepressant-laced jelly doughnuts. Move, move!”

“Stan, sneak in that front window and kneel by those 6 withering, organic carrots.”

“Ray, John, Billy, my green beret brothers, infiltrate the center aisles. Godspeed. Use full riot gear, the MSG crackers, bacteriophage bologna, Autolyzed yeast soup and nutrasweet, bonechar-bleached cookies, carmine-red mashed insect potatoes have been known to spontaneously combust.”

The only reason I went to Safeway was to pick up a few select ‘food’ items for an elderly lady friend. I use the word ‘food’ loosely because if we dissected the entire store into elements, like a chemistry experiment, food additives would take up the majority.

The Food Policing agency uses the term GRAS (generally regarded as safe). This means that untested, unregulated and ‘FDA authorized poisons’ take up most of the substance of our so-called food. This is what the FDA has to say:

“For centuries, ingredients have served useful functions in a variety of foods. Our ancestors used salt to preserve meats and fish, added herbs and spices to improve the flavor of foods, preserved fruit with sugar, and pickled cucumbers in a vinegar solution. Today, consumers demand and enjoy a food supply that is flavorful, nutritious, safe, convenient, colorful and affordable. Food additives and advances in technology help make that possible.

”If you are able to decipher the microscopic labels on these boxes and cans, interesting words for synthetic and scientifically- designed sugar, mutated wheat gluten- finely articulated in a lab to be as addictive as opium, shellac – to put a fine coating and optimize appearance. Many other chemical dyes and poisons are being consumed.

I think I will stick with the Staff of Life or maybe go to the farmer’s market or grow my own garden….

Death is Not Real

My father passed on almost 6 months ago. He did not die. More and more I see that our idea of ‘death’ is only a misconception. When someone ‘dies’, the communication avenue shifts, becoming more subtle since the bodily instrument dissolves back into the Source. As we pay attention to the inner, energy current, what we thought was lost in ‘death’ is instantly found.

During our most intense moments, the current increases to meet the challenge. This current is the vital force, our essential nature. From our true nature, we can sense and hear the ‘deathless ones’ residing in the light space that permeates not only the ethereal realm but the earthly realm–as they are not separate.

Lately, the voice of my father has arisen from within. I hear it most profoundly during moments when I feel disconnected, caught in thought identification, feel overwhelmed or distraught. My father is the eternal assurance, saying:

“All is well son.” And then a few tears come. I realize the truth in those words. The words come from me; because I am not separate from my father.

The great thing is:

We all have our inner father- inner mother, beloved friend or power being appearing when we most need to remember who we really are. They show up incognito as angelic-like presence but often they communicate quite loudly through ordinary life situations.

If we are attuned to the inner vibration of the heart center and keep returning there, resting in that love space, all that we need appears without fail. These curtain calls arrive even if we do not notice because death was not real. Our greatest friends and intimate ones are always here.

Medicine of the Heart

‘Medicine of the Heart’-that was the title of a book I wrote and published in 2008. In writing that book, I was asking for heart medicine. Immediately, this love potion began to pour into every orifice of my being. In the first few years, this medicine came in a form that was not immediately recognized as beneficial. In the last months, however, I have been saturated in -what I call: ‘heart friends’.

In my opinion there is no other type of friend. The word ‘friend’ comes from the Germanic word: ‘freon’ –which means:

“To love or be affectionate to”.

All of us have challenges in the journey called Life. Heart friends remind us that we are never alone. They show us that our greatest challenges are only tiny bumps on the road back to where we have always been, our true Home.

When one lives from the heart, they live from a fullness that never grows tired of sharing Itself. Each time a heart friend touches us, a healing takes place. LOVE floats between the bodies and is the bodies at the same time. Heart friends shine the light and help us see everyone through this love-centered space.

Heart friends transcend words, concepts or things. They do not fall into categories related to religion or spirituality. When you are with heart friends, this love and affection is all-encompassing. The room, the space you share together, is lifted above the surface ‘human’ mind-level.

From this authentic perspective, the real and true ‘being’ shines.

As this heart-saturation continues I am feeling the heart-being in everyone I meet. It does not matter what is said or done, how they act or what I say. It matters not what history we’ve had. Those things are superficial dust on the mirror.

Seeing through the heart-lense, is to see through what apparently exists. All that remains: The heart-being shining.

That light which is watching becomes inseparable from what It witnesses. Everywhere It looks, that essential heart-being is seen.

This heart-insight, how things really are,  is timeless, yet ever deepening. It melts away all resistance, effortlessly, like clouds evaporating and revealing the Blue Sky.

Thank You Heart Friends. You are everywhere and I embrace all of You.

Giving and Receiving

When I visited Thailand in 2005, I was mesmerized by the early morning alm’s rounds of the young buddhist monks. Alms is a process of giving and receiving- in a reciprocal energy exchange loop. The humility the young monks carried inside was matched by the lay people.

The monks had worked diligently at creating peace within and realizing their inherent formless nature. The lay people understood this and were grateful to receive the spiritual blessings. In exchange, the villagers gladly gave all they could- in food or money.

In America, if someone claims spiritual authority and we like them, we freely give them money. There are many deeply spiritual beings that do not publicize themselves or ask for money.

They do not wear robes or go into town in a formal way but daily offer blessings and yet we are too busy to realize it.

And then there are beautiful, heart-beings who come to us covertly, from the fringes of society, in the guise of homelessness or mental illness. In our culture, these heartful souls are mostly dismissed as annoying pests to be avoided at all costs. We seem to have lost our ability to recognize the heart qualities and formless aspect of reality which is alive inside these beautiful souls.

The formless gifts that are bestowed cannot be stopped by our avoidance tactics. These subtle, potent riches come our way each and every day whether one recognizes it or not. If we slow down, even stop, however, we would be in awe and feel honored to complete the energy loop by giving something tangible back to them: be it a sandwich, a dollar bill, some clothing or even a hug.

As we start to recognize the formless spirit reflected inside the heart, it will be impossible not to acknowledge the grace before our eyes in a way that is beneficial to all.

“Let’s Die Now. . .”

“Death is only an experience through which you are meant to learn a great lesson: YOU cannot die.” –Paramahansa Yogananda

I have been a professional in the field of death and dying for the last thirteen years, beginning as a hospice volunteer in the Park City, Heber Valley and Sundance areas of Utah in 2001. As a practicing acupuncturist and massage therapist, I traveled to the homes of those in the last weeks or months of life, offering compassionate presence and hands on healing to ease pain and suffering. In the years that followed, I continued to work with the dying or those severely debilitated and chronically ill with syndrome labels like ALS, MS, dementia, late-stage cancers and others.

The more I sat with the dying, the more I saw the futility of effort, the fruitless energy waste, when one attempts to control or alter experiences. I came to see and feel deeply that what the dying person wanted was a listening heart, someone not invested in their form. Those nearing this passage wanted a companion with no ulterior motive, someone who could just be. It wasn’t about my technical skills, gifts of healing touch, years of training, what really mattered was seeing their immortality and each encounter became a profound meditation on the eternal nature of Life itself.

I have never actively looked for clients in this realm. They always seem to find me. A recent encounter with Gary Muir came just six weeks after my own father had passed.

Sixty-four year old Gary Muir was out of options.  His bodily decline had come on quickly, his wife Katie informed me via phone one afternoon. Gary and I were acquainted. I’d seen him at a couple of events, the last time four years ago. After his rather slow-moving prostate cancer had suddenly spread, they decided to try chemotherapy which exacerbated the situation and nearly shut down his kidney function.

Gary and Katie did what they thought was best. With a teenage son to care for, Gary may have pressed the treatments farther than he wanted.  One day earlier, Katie told me that Gary looked right at her, with piercing intensity, and said:

“Let’s die now! Just die.”

The next morning I drove to the Aptos hills. Gary had returned home from the hospital the evening before and was set up in a modern cottage, which faced a wildlife-strewn, open meadow built adjacent to the main house. I peered through the sliding glass door entryway to see the 6 foot 10 inch Scotsman attired in only a hospital gown which made it just passed the knees. He seemed to be awkwardly resting on a child’s toy mattress. As I walked in, I realized that the contraption he was perched on was in fact a normal-sized hospital bed. His toes dangled over the edge of the back rail. Drain tubes, attached directly to each kidney, via specialized catheters, were hanging over the bed rail siding. Based on the amount of urine inside the bags, his left kidney was the only one functioning. I stood just inside the entrance, before walking to the bedside opposite his wife Katie.

“Hi Gary” Our hands came together. “How’s it going?” Gary looked at me silently. Katie began speaking quickly to avoid a growing sense of impending doom. Something urgent was coming through Gary’s eyes. I was listening to Katie exude forth practical formalities related to caregiving but they were of secondary importance. The forefront of consciousness was more interested in the subtle, dire question being put forth by Gary:

“Are you going to help me die!?” It said. The inner query contained equal parts vulnerability and strength. As our eyes met in that instant, a silent affirmation and contract was established. We were going to die together.
Suddenly Gary added:

“Are you okay with soiled sheets?!” Bedridden, his bowels were also out of his voluntary control. He was making sure that I could respect that in an easy, dignified way.

“Oh Sure,” I said, with certainty. His expression changed, the facial muscles released. I felt his body relax against the mattress. With his urgent, spiritual inquiry answered and now, the last worldly concern gone, Gary could get on with the effortless work of dying.

Because, really, how hard is it to die? We gladly go to sleep each night, our own mini-death. In truth, sleep is an essential respite which keeps the human-being alive and sane, well partially sane.

I’ve always been good with deconstruction. Tell me you’re about to build a new wood deck and I’ll be lost in a haze; if you want me to deconstruct an existing platform however, I’m your man. I will tear down the decaying wood with glee and determination, clear away the old junk and leave you with nothing but simple ground. I can show you that the old stuff was not needed, nor did you really lose anything at all. This ability is well suited for end of life caregiving. Those entering the dying process are not interested in building up, they want to let go.  So I sit with them in the still presence of being, wherein a harmonic attunement takes place, make-believe identities fall away, the stories and past histories of who we thought we were can release. It is a timeless space where the ‘I am the body’ idea fades, becoming less and less interesting.

I would sit with Gary for hours at a time, each day and night. We probably sat silently– six, eight, even ten hours each twenty-four hour period– in meditation together. The primary sound heard was the vital breath dancing into and out of form. I would be there 7:00 pm to 7:00 am and sleep only two to three hours each night, then work about six additional hours during the day.

Occasionally Gary would open his eyes (he was on a maintenance pain medication) and we would meet in the stillness. What was there to say at this point?! We both knew that exchanging words would move energy outward towards the mind, the world, when the natural inclination was to go inward and the vast depth of Spirit.

About two hours of each day, the first four days, I would give him firm acupressure on trigger points, releasing tension and energetic blockages from the body. As the final days came, the hands on sessions turned gentle and nurturing. Using my yoga-inspired-limberness, I negotiated around the hospital bed and Gary’s lengthy frame, maneuvering into leverage positions, using the wall, bed rails and various, never before used yoga props and moves. In this way, I was able to touch him with as little tension in my own body as possible.

I’ve always been suited for end of life caregiving. My former partner, an astrologer, once said to me:

“With five planets in Scorpio, four in the eighth house, you are someone who must first go through the medicine before you can help others with it. It is like you gets buried in the ground with a straw to breathe through as an initiation and only then are you able to work with others.” I guess being practically glued to a bed during a two year debilitating illness might qualify as an initiation.

Even as a young child, upon hearing that someone familiar to me had just died, I would formulate a fantasy eulogy for them. Equal parts awestruck and horrified by the end of life screenplays happening inside the mind, I would shake my head in wonder, saying to myself:

“Where did that come from?” Then I would laugh. Sometimes I would see that a sport’s figure, well-known to me, had died and the eulogizer would download yet another tribute. In my dreams for years, both in the day-dream fantasy-type and the nocturnal dreams, the eulogizer appeared as if deposited by a wise-cracking, Spirit Grandfather. I learned to accept this anomaly, and perhaps gift, much like one would a recurring, elbow twitch.

After that initial meeting, Gary and I spoke only one sentence, on separate days, during the entire time together. On the second day together, as I was releasing some tension in his lower neck with acupressure, Gary said:

“Oh, that’s so good!” That was it. I suppose I may be taking credit for some angelic interlude but I think he was talking to me. Another day, though he seemed quite deep in soul sleep, I told him:

“You remind me of my first meditation teacher, both in look and spirit.” Later Katie told me that Gary had been on an active spiritual pursuit in his twenties, meditating with sages and yogis in the Himalayas, traveling to India, Japan and many places in SE Asia. One time Gary was wrongly incarcerated. I never found out why. Ram Dass, the widely regarded spiritual teacher-author, came to the prison as part of a Prison Ashram Project. As Ram Dass was walking amongst the inmates, he suddenly stopped in front of Gary and said:

“Now there’s a bright light!”

Nearly forty years later Gary was drawing from those years spent on the spiritual quest. Like many others nearing the so-called end of life, he was letting go into the great beyond. With enthusiasm, happy to drop into the space of pure consciousness, Gary was blasting through the veils of conditioned beliefs, conceptual thinking and identification with mind states.

Most dying people I have been around have a natural inclination to let go. Some of those nearing death try to find completion with certain family members or with things they’ve done ‘wrong’ or not done ‘right’. I find that the biggest challenges the dying person faces is related to family members who often struggle to let go of the relationship form.

During my limited time away each day, it was critical to be in nature as much as possible. I would hike in the forest or walk on the beach, eat a simple healthy meal, then go to the Tea House Spa for some water medicine. This recharged my energy body so I could continue to meet the intensity that builds up as one nears the form change.

Each day a certain routine transpired with Gary and me. I would arrive, check in with Katie about caregiving considerations: shifts in bodily comfort, specific needs or challenges. Then I would watch Katie lovingly tend to her husband with a tenderness so delicate and deep. She would then leave and I would sit down on the futon couch next to the hospital bed so we could meditate together. Spontaneously I would get up, give massage, put a cold rag on his head, or swab his lips with a cream. At other times, after long periods of sitting, I would move into a nearby room for spontaneous dance movements, deep breathing, light yoga or qi gong.

My closest friends, along with newborns and infants, are those that predominantly rest in being, rather than mind. I am drawn to vulnerable and open souls, people who are comfortable with the unknown. Those that are dying are kindred spirits, as they too are moving into deeper recognition of being.

I love helping people to die well. It is a simple job and effortless for me. It is an honor to be with someone saying farewell to the world, for our deepest peace lies in forgetting this illusory “I” and the separate body idea that springs from it. We are always bodiless and timeless, whether we realize it while in form or not.

Even though Gary’s outer life may not have appeared spiritual-centered to some, it was. He was attuned to being and no longer needed specific practices or techniques. Most people who are nearing the end of form-identity begin to feel the bliss of being calling them home. If they are aware that this is a natural inclination, fear and other mind states have no sway over them.

It was only six days that we spent together, Gary and me. On day four, I kept getting a certain sense that the final exit was near. Katie was getting terrified that I wanted to have a night off. She did not know how she could do it. I kept feeling that no matter the escape tactic used, Katie would not be able to miss his final departure.

On the day Gary passed on, I told Katie I was still coming back to spend the night but was taking a break from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm. A large, one-day storm was to blow in that night. As I was returning that evening, a tremendous downpour ensued.  I drove through the gate and sprinted from the car to the covered deck in front of the cottage. Removing my rain coat and shoes, I peered through the glass slider.

Katie was kneeling by the bedside her head nestled on Gary’s chest, her left hand over his. One could easily mistake this for a birth scene. This birth, however, was the so-called death. The room was alight with a potent force. I felt lifted out of myself; I was walking into and being graced with a tidal wave of light, while being inseparable from that light. It was a palpable light coming through me, out of me, it was everywhere. It was animating the room. The impulse was to dance, sing and celebrate.

Instead, I moved towards the bed with a type of reverence one might have while entering a temple, holy shrine or attending the birth of a newborn child. Katie, looked up, she was quite distraught.

“I think he just took his last breath.” I did not need to look at the corpse beside me to know that the life force was free. Still, I put my hand over Gary’s heart, no movement, no sound and then searched for a radial pulse at the wrist: Nothing.

“What do you think?” Katie asked, looking at me, her eyes downcast, holding on to a residue of hope, that magically, I could reverse the truth.

I was kneeling next to a lifeless body, yet Life was never more alive.

“Yes,” I said quietly, “he’s gone.” I closed my eyes, then opened them, looking at Katie. “And still the room is alive with his spirit.” Gary was not dead to me. The room was a volcanic eruption of ethereal force.

“Really, you feel it?!” Katie said, holding tightly to the lifeless body, her eyes tearing up.

I scanned the room in awe. Whispering a few words of sympathy and compassion, I touched Katie’s arm tenderly.

“There was no struggle. It’s just that the next breath did not come.” Katie finally managed. “I was so scared that he would struggle or be in pain and I would not know what to do.”

After about thirty minutes Katie left to tell her fourteen year old son Nick that his father had passed. The last thing she wanted to do was call the mortuary and have them come out at night in a rain storm. I told her that leaving the body undisturbed for as long as possible is a good thing. At the sliding door to leave, she asked me if I could still spend the night with Gary.

“Of course,” I said, before moving over to the futon next to Gary.

With eyes wide open in rapturous meditation, I smiled into the illuminating and loving Spirit that is not born and cannot die.

–Michael Harrington lives in the hills above Santa Cruz, CA. Currently he is seeking a socially-connected, conscious and organized individual to help him set up retreats for his new business: Conscious Transitions. The position would be volunteer to start (trade for healing work) with the potential to develop into a PT/FT position. If you are deeply spiritual, with strong organizational skills, are socially-connected (marketing skills a plus)-this could be an ideal job for you.
Michael Harrington is a long time healing arts practitioner involved in innovative end of life caregiving. He is interviewing like-hearted souls for this new venture.

Please go to https://opentohealing.wordpress.com/conscious-transitions-group/
for more information and then call Michael at 831-419-6928 to set up an interview.

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