Laughing is Good for Me- Part 4

I saw a new doctor a few months ago. At one point during the appointment, he saw that I had something in my mouth and probably figured that it was gum or candy. He stuck out his hand and said “Spit it out.” I was shocked but I’ve been laughing about it ever since. I am 72 years old. I wondered if he had children and how old they were. At the time, I simply mumbled “It’s for dry mouth and it is gone now.“

I kept waiting for something else funny to happen. One day last week, my phone provided me with that experience. I dictate almost everything nowadays. What I dictate and what the phone writes is often drastically different. That day, I wrote a friend who is out of the country and said I hoped that she and her husband were having a good time. What the phone wrote was “I hope that it was everything that you want and that you were in the freezer having a good time as well.” I have laughed about that change ever since it happened. Where does the phone come up with these things? At least this time it was not cussing.

Two friends visited me a few days ago. I was telling them about something that I wrote about in the first post of this series. The husband’s response was funny. I wanted to use it and to quote him correctly so asked him to write it down for me. When I received it in the written form, I discovered he had added to it. This was his response:

The way I figure is if you are old enough to be passing by a window, and you haven’t seen a naked body — now is as good as time as any! Not that I would give them much to see, and quite likely could scare the aliens away from the human race if they were seeking a probe-able body. In reality, I would likely be a little embarrassed, but not enough to think twice about the matter. 😊

If you don’t know what this is referring to I suggest you go back and read or reread the first post. I still am uncomfortable with the thought somebody might walk by my window and see my butt but I always laugh when I think of these responses.

Stay Alert: What We Need to Learn Will Be Revealed

I have learned during my life that the answers to our questions are often nearby; Likewise, if we keep our eyes open and stay alert, we will be able to see ways we have been prepared for what is to come. The knowledge that an event was preparation may not be evident until sometime in the future.

Amma has taught me a lot about those things and has given me lots of opportunities to practice them but I also learned from other writers and experiences.

I remember reading that often where there are poisonous plants, the antidote to the poison is a plant that is nearby. I also read that whenever our path crosses someone else’s, we have something to teach them or something to learn from them.

I used to teach a workshop called Lessons on Lessons. There was one exercise where I asked participants to go outside and ask questions of inanimate objects such as rocks, fences, or light poles as well as plants, trees, and animals. And after asking their question, participants “listened” for a response. What amazing wisdom we can gather that way. If you haven’t already tried it, then do!

I learned the benefit of accepting lessons as they come as opposed to resisting them which often results in prolonging the lesson and any pain that comes along with it.

In addition to teaching content related to some of the areas above, Amma also taught and gave opportunities to practice lessons such as: “Be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice”; discrimination between right and wrong; detachment; the importance of staying alert and putting in effort; and the importance of love and compassion.

Now that I am dealing with major health problems, I can see ways that I have been prepared for that experience by Spirit , the Universe, God, Guru, or whatever we call our higher power.

Most of these occurrences happened before I knew that there was anything wrong in my body. But each has been invaluable since I have known.

Some examples that I am aware of:

In the mid 1980s, a friend of mine took a workshop with Virginia Satir that lasted a month. I wanted to do that too. But I had young children and a job so I rationalized that I couldn’t do it then, I would do it later. She died before I took the training. Having lost that opportunity, I reacted very differently when I met Amma.

I met Amma in June 1989. That weekend I spent a day at her Orcas Island retreat, six weeks later I was at her East Coast retreat and six months later I was with her in India. I continued spending time with her each summer on the US tour and each winter in India for the next 30+ years. I had learned an important lesson from my Virginia Satir experience. I no longer put off doing what was important to me.

In 1997, I was on a plane headed for India when it had a decompression problem and dropped 25,000 feet in about a minute. Amma was aware of our plight at the time that it happened. Part of me believes that I was meant to die that day and that every day I have been alive since then has been a gift. So if I died tomorrow, I still would have lived a full life

In the early 2000’s, I had another experience that impacted my life. I read what I think was the last book that somebody I respected wrote before her death. She was asked if she still thought God was a loving God. She responded “No”. I thought she sounded very bitter and had the distinct impression that it was due to her not accepting help when it was offered. I vowed that I would learn to accept help so that when I needed it, I could let go and gratefully accept what was being offered rather than push it away saying “I can do that for myself.”

Now that I am having physical problems, I am receiving lots of opportunities for doing that and experiencing the benefits of following through. I really appreciate all the help I am getting.

In 1973, I broke my right wrist just before I started graduate school. In 2017 or 2018, I broke it again. Again, I had to learn how to do many things with my non-dominant hand. I don’t remember much about the earlier experience, but in the more recent one I remember having considerable difficulty figuring out how to put on a bra and fasten it.

Because that incident happened then, when my left arm and hand became weak with my current illness, I knew how to put on a bra. That may seem to be a minor thing, but it meant a lot to me.

In 2018 or 19, I started noticing a man in my Seattle neighborhood who I believed had had a stroke. I did not know him but I watched as he walked for long periods every day without fail. He even walked up and down big hills seemingly unafraid. I was so impressed. He was an inspiration to me and gave me hope when I started having trouble walking.

Because of my years as a psychotherapist and a nurse I am prepared to speak up and advocate for myself when I think that’s in order.

I have many friends, colleagues and family members who have dealt with cancer or serious chronic illnesses. All of them have modeled courage in the face of adversity. I hope I can be like them.

When I came back from my last trip to India in January 2020, I had an intuition that I would not be going back to India the next year as had been my practice. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would ever be going back. By then I knew I had a physical problem, but I didn’t know about Covid. I didn’t realize essentially the whole world would be on lockdown and I wouldn’t be the only one not going where they wanted to go.

A recent example of the value of staying alert and of the answers to problems being nearby occurred when I decided to put together another issue of the Pacific Northwest GreenFriends newsletter. I completed it but it was much too hard for me to do, I needed to put this in my past.

Then it occurred to me, that I had gotten direction for the next step in two emails that came while I was doing that project. Both emails said something like “Why is this newsletter still a PDF, why is it not a blog or a website?”

I realized that in the 11 years I had been organizing our newsletter, GreenFriends- North America had started a website and a newsletter. Our newsletter could end and I could encourage our writers and photographers to contribute to that publication. I got support for that plan from the appropriate people and then announced it.

So in summary, remember that if you stay alert that you will be more likely to find the answers to problems nearby. And you might also discover ways in which you have received preparation for some of the problems that you have faced in life.

There is value in keeping your eyes open and making these observations. Perhaps the greatest value is feeling you are not doing this life journey alone. There is help all around you.

Sadhana: Chanting the Meal Prayer

I am resistant to doing spiritual practices (sadhana) other than bhajans (singing) and since sound is bothering my nervous system I can’t even do that.

I decided four or five months ago that I would start praying before meals. That is a practice that I am very lazy about doing. And I would like to change that. I made a new rule- if any food touched my mouth before I chanted the meal prayer, I had to do the chant three times instead of once.

Amma has us chant Bhagavad Gita 4:24 as the meal prayer:

Sanskrit Prayer: 
brahmaarpanam brahma havir brahmaagnau brahmanaa hutam brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahmaa karma samaadhina
Translation: 
Om, the ladle is Brahman. The offering is Brahman.It is offered into the fire of Brahman by Brahman. Brahman alone is to be reached by him who sees Brahman in each and every action

I started that practice sometime before my daughter arrived from india. When she got here, she decided to join me in the endeavor. At that point, she would remind me to pray, since she didn’t want to chant it three times.

After some time, she realized that we frequently weren’t eating at the same time. She changed her mind about participating at all. At that point, she also quit reminding me.

As time went by, I found myself often chanting it 9 times at night! I obviously haven’t integrated this practice yet. At least this week, there have been several times I have remembered to chant the prayer at mealtime… before I ate. Today, I had visitors during lunch so I had them pray with me even though they weren’t eating!

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 3

I remembered the story I was going to tell the day after I published the last post without it. So I will begin this post with that one.

***

During the height of Covid everybody ate in their rooms. When I first came here, they were starting to use the dining room again, but most people preferred to continue eating in their rooms.

When a meal is prepared, a staff member writes the name of the person who ordered it on the box that holds the entrée. They get your name from the dinner menu we fill out each morning.

I have found that staff members learn the names of residents at astounding speed. But my name was not familiar and my writing gets continually worse.

One evening, the word “Karma” was written on my box!

I really laughed at that one. I hadn’t been asking “Why me?” or “Why is this happening to me?” but if I had been, I imagine, but of course don’t know, Karma would have been Amma’s answer! At least it would have been MY answer.

***

Last Saturday I had company. At one point I said I usually walk out to the front desk lobby area or beyond five times during the day. I remember when I walked to my room for the first time. It seemed so far. I couldn’t imagine doing that walk every day even once. Even by the next day, the distance didn’t seem so far.

Back to the story at hand. I listed the reasons why I went out to the lobby area so much. 1: pick up the free pastry that’s put out every morning for us and to fill out and submit the menu for dinner 2: pick up the free afternoon cookie that’s put out for us 3: pick up my to-go dinner 4: pick up mail or a delivery and/or 5: to meet a visitor

The visitor that I was telling this to laughed and said that the staff had certainly found good ways to keep us moving. I also laughed when I realized that what he said was true. I’m not going to pass up a free freshly made pastry or a free freshly made cookie. Especially when I can rationalize that they are small. and I was also not going to miss out on a dinner, a delivery, or a visitor.

***

I was wondering what my third story would be. And then Pat came back from vacation and provided the perfect opportunity. (If you don’t know who Pat is, read or reread the last story in Part 2 of this series.)

I had walked out to the lobby to get my cookie for the day. I picked up the cookie and then decided to also get some cold water. I put a lid on the water and then put it on the walker seat next to the Amazon packages that I had just picked up.

The water slid off the walker seat and spilled on the floor. The lid had come off. It created quite a mess and I was mortified. Especially since I couldn’t clean it up myself.

All of a sudden I heard “Karuna’s water has broken. Karuna’s water has broken.” Being the mother of two children and an ex labor and delivery nurse, I had no doubt what he was referring to. That was so funny considering I’m 72. What could I do other than laugh.

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 2

I am staying, temporarily, in a senior living facility in Woodinville. I really like it here and it is wonderful to only have to navigate one room instead of a multi-story house. (I’m in a studio apartment now.)

***

More than twenty people live in my wing of the facility. Most I have never seen. But there is one couple that I have passed in the hall so many times. I see them when I’m going to pick up my to-go dinner and they are coming back from their dinner in the dining room. (Both options, and more, are available to everyone.) We often come out of our rooms and enter the hallway at the same time. Now, we laugh whenever that happens.

It reminds me of being in Amritapuri. There are many people there I never see. And there are others that it feels like are around every corner I turn. Those people often become major parts of my trip.

I wonder what the frequent meetings mean in this case, in addition to giving us something to laugh about.

***

This morning when I went to the bathroom a mosquito caught my eye. It was in the toilet. I felt a dilemma. I didn’t want to sit down and have it sting me. but I wanted to use the toilet! I decided to flush the toilet and see if it would leave. It did. But did it come right back? I would have to take my chances.

Soon thereafter, there was a mosquito on the window screen of the main part of the studio. Was it the same one or a new one? To be determined. Maybe. This is a new experience but is one I will laugh about.

***

Probably the person that has caused me to laugh the most is a staff member named Pat. He is quite a jokester and to me is committed to seeing beauty and joy all around, and adding to it whenever possible.

Whether it is by wearing mismatched or playful socks or forwarding a file to my daughter and adding a note saying that I am behaving myself, he brings light into the world. And he always waves and calls me by name when I walk by his office.

My earliest memories of him happened on my first days here. The first thing I remember him saying is that at one time he had been a priest for 15 years. That certainly peaked my interest.

He came to see how I was doing for the first three days. The first time he asked me where I got my spiritual guidance and I gestured to a picture of Amma. “The hugger!” he exclaimed. (Amma is known for having given 39 million hugs. So far.) I was amazed that he even recognized her picture because it was a really old one. During that visit, a mother duck followed by seven ducklings walked by my window.

Since then when people visit me, if he knows that they are coming to see me, he asks them if they are huggers. If they look at him like he’s crazy then he asks if they’re devotees. Most are. This process has brought much needed laughter into my life.

***

I think there was one other thing I was going to write about but I don’t remember what it was. The mosquito incident drove everything else from my mind. I guess there will be a part three to this series at some point!

108 Degrees!

The Seattle area has very moderate weather historically, neither cold nor hot. Weather patterns are changing here though. A good example occurred in June of this year. I was staying in Woodinville, a small city near Seattle, at the time. I took screenshots of my weather app on the day leading to it and on that day.

Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Monday
Monday

At least it never reached 109!

I hope this is a once in a lifetime experience for Seattle area which does not for the most part have air-conditioning but I suspect it isn’t. Hopefully it’s at least over for this year. But that may not be the case either.

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 1

There are things that have happened since I’ve been here that have consistently made me laugh when I think about them. I will describe three of them.

***

My room has a view of a tiny Greenbelt. People rarely walk by the window. I’ve seen a woman walking her dog go by numerous times but no more than once a day if that. Once a week the facility staff work out there but they use noisy tools so I always know when they are nearby.

I am using a walker all of the time now and I am staying in a studio apartment so if I forget to close the bathroom door or if it swings open because it was not shut fully there is a very remote chance I will be seen.

A friend was visiting about a month ago and I shared my concern. her response was: “Karuna, if someone saw your bum (butt) it would make their day.” I have thought of her statement many times since that day and I always laugh.

***

I have had many medical tests over the last two years and recently had some that when I wrote about them to my son and daughter said “it sounds like i’m writing about a torture chamber”.

I have a friend that’s currently a patient in a hospital in India. When he described two procedures he had, they sounded like two of the three i had recently experienced. He called the equipment ancient medieval torture devices.

I couldn’t believe the words he used were so similar to the words I had used. I felt validated. I always laugh when I think about that memory too. (I got his permission to talk about him.)

***

I have been getting a variety of services from a home health care agency. Last week one of those therapists was doing a cognitive test with me. Afterwords she wondered if having big letters would make it easier for me to read since my eyes tend to sting when I read… so i don’t read.

During the session, she had me read a 100 word story in a big print book. As I read the story, she became mortified. The story was about the death of a cat and the stories in that publication had apparently always been light. This one was pretty grim.

Towards the end of the story, the cat died and was buried. What happened next in the story surprised us both. There was a sound at the door and when the door was opened it was the cat that had died. The author speculated that either they had buried the wrong cat or that he should be renamed Lazarus, because he had come back to life. Whenever I think of the look on the therapist’s face or the sound of her voice as I read the story I laugh.

There are other things that have brought a smile to my face or full-blown laughter. Maybe I’ll write about them in a future post!

Update on Over or Under?

When I wrote Accepting Parkinson’s article in December 2020, I had no idea it would be be a very long time before I would write an update. I’m not going to do that update today either but I am going to write about a topic that has been on my mind, a topic that is completely irrelevant and unimportant.

in November 2015, I published a post on this blog called Over or Under? it is about the controversy about how to hang toilet paper. (https://livinglearningandlettinggo.com/2015/11/15/over-or-under/.)

I suggest you read the original post before you go on if you don’t remember it or have never read it.

I believed I had always been an under without knowing it. I had a client at the time I wrote the post who admitted that she changed the toilet paper from under to over whenever she came to my office.

I never dreamed that being sick would be the occasion that would cause me to change from being an under to an over.

But it has done just that! My hands are both weak but the left is weaker than the right. The toilet paper roll is now to my left which is also something I am not used to.

I have found that putting the toilet paper in the over position makes it much easier for me to break it off. So I have joined the overs!

I said this was to be a irrelevant and unimportant post. I think it was just that. I hope it is the first of many posts, some important and some not.

Surprise Visitors Update

On September 27, 2020 I wrote a post about two hens and two roosters who visited our neighborhood daily. I can’t believe it was that long ago.

For most of this year, the two roosters have made quite a ruckus; crowing endlessly at many times of the day. Then all of a sudden the crowing stopped. I didn’t think about it at the time but I wonder now if the roosters are still living. Had they been killed by a raccoon, or a dog or had somebody or several somebodies complained about the noise.

Since then only one hen has been visiting. But she’s been coming by almost every day for a while. I have tried to take her picture. But by the time I find my phone and get the camera ready she is walking away.

Three days ago, a young woman was outside my house when the hen came. She said there were still two hens but didn’t say what happened to the roosters, and for some reason I didn’t ask. I told her of my futile attempts to get a picture of her. She asked if I wanted her to hold the hen so I could take a photo.

It still took me too long to take the photo. And the hen wiggled free.

I asked if the hen would let her pick her up again and she said “Sure.” This time I was ready.

The next time the hen came I was outside walking. This time the other hen wasn’t far behind. I didn’t even attempt to get a photo!