Laughing is Good for Me- Part 5

I am currently living in a senior living facility in Woodinville,Washington. They have all sorts of activities here. Most of them I do not participate in because of my health but I do what I can.

One day around.Halloween, they offered a complementary pancake breakfast. People were invited to come in their pajamas. I decided I would participate in the breakfast although I would not be wearing my pajamas.

I hadn’t looked at the flyer carefully and showed up on the wrong day. After some confusing moments, the hostess figured out what was wrong.

I decided not to participate in the actual event. I went down to the lobby soon after it was over however and saw a staff member in a very large onesie. I don’t know how many people came to the breakfast and I don’t know how many wore pajamas.

I don’t even remember who was wearing the onesie and I don’t remember if it was a costume or actual pajamas but I will long remember the experience of turning the corner and seeing her. And I will laugh.

On Thanksgiving Day, I also walked to the lobby. This time the person that is most often in the front desk said “Look at what I’m wearing.” She came from behind the desk, pulled up her skirt and this is what I saw … big skinny chicken legs. (They were actually socks.) I laughed.

I was pleased that when I asked for one, she gave me a photo and permission to put the picture on my blog and to say whatever I wanted to say. I will hold that whole experience in my memory. And I will laugh when I think of it.

***

I thought I would give a warning before the next section. some of you may not want to read it because it is gross or because I sound like a middle school student who is obsessed with bodily functions.

My stomach is gurgling a lot. Actually it is more than likely the gurgling is coming from my intestines. One day I was too tired to hold the phone while I was talking to my son, so I set the phone on my abdomen with the microphone pointing towards my head. All of a sudden the gurgling started. “What is that?” my son exclaimed! Remembering that moment still makes me laugh deeply.

I am on so many medications that constipation can be a real problem. I celebrate it on a day that I poop at the beginning of the day. I sometimes even celebrate the size of what comes out of me!

It isn’t only stories about humans that are making me laugh. Somebody sent me the cartoon about two crows, a baby and a parent. The parent crow was saying to the baby crow “Just hold it until we find a parked car.” Not only is that like middle school humor but it also feels like it is actually true that the crows have their strategies for interfering with human lives all planned out.

For many years, I have only remembered one joke. Question: How do you make God laugh? Answer: Tell him your life plans.

This week, a friend added to my joke repertoire. I don’t know why he told me this joke unless it is because I have so much gas and essentially no control over when it comes out but it certainly fits the category of bodily function humor:

An elderly couple is in church. The wife says to the husband, “I’ve let out one of those silent farts, what do I do?”

The husband says, “Get new hearing aids.”

I laugh every time I remember it.

Transformation

For most of the time I’ve been here, what is called the “creek” has just been dry ground. On the rare occasions that it rained though, some puddles formed. When it began to rain more frequently, the puddles lasted longer and then turned to mud.

dry “creek”

About two weeks ago, there was a big windstorm and at least one tree fell. (There are pictures related to that incident in my last post.) Since then, friends and I have speculated that one fallen tree might have pulled others over as it tumbled.

Last week it rained heavily. The next time I pulled up the blinds, I had the view below of the creek. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This time it looked more like a lake.

If it hadn’t stopped raining the water likely would have soon gone over the embankment and probably would have made it to my building.

The water was significantly down by the afternoon. I could see ducks, along with a brown animal, playing in the water. When I looked at the brown animal, the word mongoose came to my mind.

I found a picture of a mongoose on the internet. The brown animal could have been a mongoose, but it could also have been something else.

(I’m not wearing glasses regularly nowadays because they fog up when I am wearing a mask and if I have any screen time on the laptop or phone my eyes get blurry so my eyesight is almost never clear.)

The next day the creek was back to just mud and puddles. More logs and branches were visible and they were closer to me. I suspect some had been submerged when I last looked and had become visible again when the lake turned to mud.

Also, it was possible that other trees had fallen in the storms and maybe there was running water under the still water. If so, tree parts may have been washed downstream and were caught here when the creek became mud again.

back to mud and puddles

The Angry Bird T-Shirt

I bought a new T-shirt three or four years ago. I thought the design on it was lightning. I was dismayed when I discovered that it was actually a depiction of an angry bird.

I did not want to wear a picture of an angry bird on my T-shirt but it is the most comfortable T-shirt I’ve got and it is also easy to get in and out of. Both of those qualities are very important to me right now.

As I continued to think about it, I remembered when the crows used to dive-bomb me in the Greenbelt behind my house. There was an old helmet that had been left in the Greenbelt sometime in the past. If it hadn’t been so dirty, I would have been tempted to put it on as I felt I was being attacked. I was told that it was nesting season and that I was coming too close to their nests. The crows were only protecting their young.

This year, the same thing happened at the place that I am staying now. Crows dive-bombed me two different times in May or June. It happened in different parts of the property, so I don’t know if it was the same crow or two different ones. Those incidents happened three or four weeks apart. Both times, I could feel the wings of the crow touch my head. And once again, it was nesting season so the crows were simply protecting their babies.

When I remembered those experiences, I no longer cared about wearing a T-shirt that had a picture of an angry bird on it. Then, I realized that my role as a corrective parenting group psychotherapist had been to teach adult men and women how to take care of their inner children.

As such, I was an advocate for the young. I was also a protective mom when it came to my own children. Even though they are now adults, I don’t want anyone messing with them and will definitely come to their defense, at least in my mind.

So now I am able to wear my angry bird T-shirt proudly. It is one of the symbols of my life. What are the other symbols? I’ll have to think about that.

The Angry Bird
Going for a walk with friends

Addendum to My “Stay Alert” Post

When my friend Pat mentioned a warning that went through his mind the other day, it occurred to me that I had missed an important aspect in my “Stay Alert” post. The area that I had not thought to include is to stay alert for warnings. We often are warned about impending problems but instead of heeding the warning we may answer the inner voice with a flood of discounting responses.

I wrote a post (Heed the Warnings) about these warnings in 2014. I gave a lot of examples from my life. I suggest you read that post first and then read this one. This post I consider an addendum to my recent Stay Alert post.

I asked Pat to write down and send me a copy of the warning so I would be sure to report it accurately. What he wrote was an expanded form, written after he read my 2014 post. I am going to include most of his comments. He wrote:

Loved the “inner voice”! Reminds me of the times I have heard “that voice” – that quiet voice …

And as Karuna knows, I heard it just recently about ten days ago when I was walking through the fraternity’s renovation project and heard that voice say, “watch out for nails!” . . . Just before I stepped on a nail! OUCH! 😳😲😀😂 (and just between you and me 😂 I didn’t listen to nurse Karuna’s voice telling me to get a tetanus shot . . . But I survived and all is well!)

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 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!

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.