Accepting Parkinson’s

Those of you who have read my blog posts for some time might remember that one of Amma’s teachings is to “Be like a bird sitting on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.” She also encourages us to focus on the present moment, rather than dwell on the past or the future. I have had many opportunities to apply those lessons in my life. Each experience has helped in preparing me for what I am dealing with now, Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

During my years as a psychotherapy client and as a psychotherapist, as well as during my spiritual journey, I have had plenty of opportunities to learn that Resistance=Pain. Leap of Faith went so far as to say that Resistance=Death. Amma teaches us to accept whatever comes. Byron Katie wrote a book entitled Loving What Is. These teachings and plenty of experiences in learning the value of acceptance and the futility of resistance have also helped me to accept that PD is part of my life now and will probably be for the rest of my life.

My younger brother died at 39. Shortly before his death he wrote an essay, The Truth I Live By. The sections of that essay that impacted me the most were:

Is cancer unfair? Is it fair that we should expect billions of cells in our body to reproduce over and over again, over an entire lifetime, and always get it right?

 I can’t walk outside without seeing the beauty of our created world, from the rainbow in a line of earthworm slime, to another visible ring on Jupiter. 

Even though I have enough things to interest me another 10 lifetimes, I must take solace in knowing that, at least compared to others, I’ve had much more than my share even in half a life time.

I am now 72 years old. No matter what happens in the future, I believe I was given and have lived a full lifetime.

Right now, every day is filled with puzzles to be solved, whether it is getting dressed, figuring out meals or at times even walking. I’m grateful to Ramana for housesitting when I stayed in Woodinville and for staying on to help me when I returned home. I am grateful for the love and support I get from other friends and my neighbors. I am grateful for my doctors. I am grateful for my physical therapist and for all the zoom exercise classes he and his staff provide. I am grateful for the medicine I am taking to relieve the symptoms of PD. I am grateful for the love and support I receive from my adult children, Satvamrita and Chaitanya, and my ex-husband, Al. I am grateful for Amma’s never-ending love and guidance. I am grateful that I have so many things to be grateful for that I can’t list them all here.

I used to teach a workshop called Lessons on Lessons. When I started this blog, I decided to call it, Living, Learning and Letting Go: Lessons on Lessons. I am realizing that as I learn from Parkinson’s Disease I will have the opportunity to share those life lessons here. Consider this the first in a series! I don’t know how often I will write but I will write. As I wrote those last lines I remembered that the pastor’s wife of a church I used to attend always prefaced her weekly announcements with “If the Lord shall say the same we will……..”

With that in mind and knowing that I don’t even know “what is around the next corner” I will amend one of my last statements to say that it is my intention to write about the lessons I learn from this experience.

A Fascinating Plant- Update #2

You can read the original story about this plant and see the first update at Part 1 and Part 2.

The sweet potato plant has continued to send out shoots. I decided to buy a trellis and attempt to train the shoots to go up the trellis rather than cross the dining room carpet! These photos were taken on November 28 and 29.

I don’t know if the plant will ever produce sweet potatoes but it definitely has beautiful leaves.

PNW GreenFriends Newsletter: December 2020

To download the newsletter, click on the link or the photo.
Enjoy!

Note: If you have children or grandchildren, particularly those who are in elementary school or middle school or even if you know children that age, take a look at page 2 of the newsletter. Those children, and anyone else who is interested, are invited to participate in an AYUDH activity on December 5.

Only Love

When I was looking for something else on YouTube a few minutes ago, it occurred to me that a group video which had been made as a gift for Amma might be on it. And it was! The video was posted in August of 2020. Ten thousand participants from 360 cities and 39 countries were involved in making it.

Contemplating “Lover of Leaving”

I woke up sometime in February with the phrase “lover of leaving” in my mind. I knew those words were from a line in a poem I had read in the past, but I didn’t remember who wrote it. I searched under Kabir and Hafiz to no avail but soon discovered the phrase was part of a Rumi poem I had read, and loved, many years ago.

“Come, come, whoever you are,
wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving,
it doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.
Come, come again, come.”

Later, I thought about something I once learned from Jean Illsley Clarke, a mentor of mine. She taught me that there are four ways of leaving: come and go, eject, grow up and leave, and stay. None of those ways of leaving are inherently bad or good, and we more than likely do them all. However, the way we leave our family of origin often becomes a life template.

My father was in the Army, so I grew up in a situation where I was surrounded by leaving. Either my family left, or other families left. I believe in third grade we moved three times. And there were only two times where we lived anywhere longer than three years: my first five years, we lived in Sandia Base in New Mexico and we lived in Pirmasens, Germany for four years. Other than those times, I think we moved every year or two.

While my “Army brat” upbringing gave me plenty of experiences with leaving and being left, the style of leaving that became my template was to eject. I was not a happy child or teenager. As a teenager, I counted the days before I could leave home and I unconsciously picked a college that was as far away as I could go and still be in the continental United States. (My family was living in Florida at the time, and I moved to Seattle.) I went home a few times when I was in college, but it was rare. Soon after I graduated, I told my father I was thinking of marrying Al, an African American friend. He made it clear that, by even considering doing that, I was no longer welcome in the house. So, I had not only ejected myself but was also ejected.

The protective mechanisms I developed were to be overly independent and to not bond with people. I tend to separate easily and rarely look back. Over the years, I became much better at bonding, but am still reluctant to give up my independence.

Several years ago, a friend pointed out that I leave events without letting anyone know; people have no idea where I’ve gone. In reflecting on her observation, I realized she was right. But the impulse to leave when I want to leave has been stronger than a desire to do something different so I have continued to do that. I can see that leaving without telling anyone I’m going is a form of ejection.

That doesn’t mean I always choose to eject , sometimes I stay until it is time to leave; sometimes I even stay longer than is in my best interest. I rarely, if ever, come and go.

Al and I married in 1971. I worked at the University of Washington for five years (1974-1979) after I finished my Master of Nursing degree, followed by ten years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Swedish Hospital Medical Center (1979-1988). During part of that time I worked in the Maternal-Newborn units. I also helped to organize and run a Satellite Baccalaureate program for the nurses that worked there. Then I became a Psychiatric and Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist and, along with co-therapists, led psychotherapy groups for the next thirty years (1987- 2017). Even though Al and I divorced when our children were young, he and I raised two wonderful children. I still live in the house he and I bought in 1973. I did not eject in any of those parts of my life. That doesn’t mean I never had the urge to eject, but rather I didn’t do it.

The Rumi poem I talked about at the beginning of this post referred to leaving as part of a spiritual process. At first I was going to say that is not an area where I eject, but as I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t true. I picked a very conservative Christian college in Seattle. I was there during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. I became very angry, judging the students and faculty as having their heads buried in their Bibles. By the time I left there, I had labeled myself as being somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist.

I had definitely ejected from the Christian Church. I maintained that position for the next 20 years. I felt nauseous if I even heard someone say the word God. That changed soon after I met Amma in 1989. When the music started that first night, I felt as if I was Home.

Even though she has been my spiritual teacher for 31 years, I occasionally feel the urge to eject. When I get triggered by something she says or does, there are times I think: “I’m not going to do this anymore” …. “I’m leaving.” However, now I don’t take those automatic thoughts seriously. I may go to the back of the room and pout and/or indulge in self-pity, but I know it usually will pass in a day or two. And even if it takes longer, I know I’m unlikely to ever leave. Amma is still Home to me.

(Note: Even though Amma has been the central part of my spiritual journey ever since I met her, I have also been involved with Christian organizations from time to time. I guess that is my example of the coming and going type of leaving!)

So even though my original style of leaving is to eject, it is only something for me to stay conscious of. I can use my discrimination and embrace coming and going, growing up and leaving or staying; saving ejecting as a form of leaving only for when it is necessary for my mental or physical health or survival.

Writing this contemplation post has been helpful to me. Perhaps once the pandemic is over and we are able to meet in groups again, I will begin to let people know when I am leaving. Leaving without saying goodbye is certainly not necessary for my mental or physical health or survival! I do not need to eject.

Unexpected Beauty

A few days ago, when I was taking a zoom exercise class, I looked out the window and was stunned by the beauty of a tree in my neighbors yard.

As soon as the class was over, I took a photo. I was disappointed to discover that the photo did not reflect what I had seen with my eyes.

I decided to go outside and see if I could take a better photo, one that came closer to reality.

Success!

FOTD

Just What I Needed

I haven’t watched any of the new season of America’s Got Talent or Britain’s Got Talent. Then earlier today, a friend sent me a link for a video that shows three of the performances of the person who recently won Britain’s Got Talent. Within a few minutes of starting to watch it, tears were pouring from my eyes. Tears of appreciation, tears that come when my heart is touched. As I was putting together this post, I watched it again. More tears. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Amma Quotes

I’ve seen quite a few Amma quotes recently that I have wanted to share. I decided I would put them all in one post!

Having the freedom to decide how to act, we should exercise the faculty of discrimination to choose the right actions and attitude.

Pray: Let the music of peace and harmony be heard everywhere.

It is pure love and selfless service that sustains this universe.  

We must cultivate a spiritual culture that respects and worships the sanctity of all beings.

Patience, constant enthusiasm and firm determination are necessary factors for success.