In terms of fruit, my son Satvamrita has only put up with bananas or the occasional orange, for most of his life. Fruit was just too messy to deal with. Now that he’s in Seattle taking care of his father who recently had a stroke, he has decided to expand his fruit horizons. The closest big grocery store to him is in the International District so he is exploring Asian fruit.
At the market he discovered dragon fruit and star fruit, as well as more common staples such as pomegranates, papayas, and persimmons. This is proof it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. He’s 47!
A friend who lives at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in India and I have been writing to each other a lot…using Whats App. She has a sign in her room that says “Seize the day. Live, Laugh, Love” I decided that would make a wonderful motto for me.
I had one friend print a copy of the sign for me and another friend put it on my bathroom mirror so I would see it throughout the day.
I also wrote two staff members from the senior living facility in Woodinville where I am staying now more and told them about my new motto. Their reaction to my announcement and their interaction makes a good contribution to this laughing series.
Pat: LOVE IT ❤️❤️❤️
Although at first I thought it said, “SNEEZE the day”!!!! 🤣
Emily: I LOVE this too!
Thank you Karuna ❤
I wasn’t familiar with LMAO so I looked it up. When I found out it was the acronym for Laugh My Ass Off I looked at my Bitmoji app to see if it was there. It was.
A friend was writing about her yearning to be with Amma again and autocorrect did what autocorrect does.
I so cherish all the times we have had with Amma-. And I feel a constant deep connection with her. And yearn to be in her presence again.
(auto correct (actually)changed yearn into urine 🤣🤣 I guess that means I have to pee)
I learned this week that earlier this year, Amma (Amma means Mother) had started singing a song about laughing at our ignorance. I don’t know who wrote the song.
In addition to the concept of laughing at our ignorance, three lines caught my attention when I heard it for the first time. One pointed out that we focus on what we don’t have rather be happy about what we have. The second line said that even after we learn our next breath isn’t in our hands, we keep on gathering wealth. The third line was one that said even with people around us dying, we think we are immortal. Each was followed by the statement “Mother told us to laugh at such ignorance. “
A friend found the English translation of this song for me. When I read it, two more lines caught my attention. 1) Mother told us to laugh at fate by using our intellect to overcome it and 2) Mother told us to laugh loudly forgetting our worries.
While my laughter blog series is not about laughing at our ignorance, it is about finding humor in serious situations. And humor definitely decreases my tendency to worry.
A friend that was visiting me was trying to convince me that I should replace my mattress. I could imagine flipping or rotating it, but saw no need to replace it. Later in the visit, she was lying on the bed and slipped off the comforter and landed on the floor. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt.
After going home, she wrote me and said she was still chuckling about being tossed out of the bed. I said for me it was more like full laughter than a chuckle and that she had fallen too gracefully to have been tossed. Later, I added that I thought that if she had been tossed it was the mattress that was the culprit, because she was trying to get rid of it. That image made me laugh even more! In fact, I still laugh when I think about it.
This week there was an African drumming performance at the Woodinville Senior Center where I am living. There had been a text and a phone call about it but I didn’t hear or read either of them. The performance was already half over before I was aware that it was happening.
African drumming speaks to my soul. I was filled with memories of being in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as well as the grassy part of Seattle Center where I had listened to drummers and danced. At one time I had taken African dancing lessons. I never was good at the dancing but I sure loved to do it. I cried deep tears all the way through the performance.
There was a point when the drummers invited everyone to dance. I stood up but my feet wouldn’t move. My dancing days are probably over.
The African drummers got the African employees to dance and that was fun. Pat, an employee I have talked about in previous laughing posts although I may not have named him beforebefore, started leadng a group of residents in a dance. I had an intuition about him later that night. The intuition I had was that he was a introvert masquerading as an extrovert because of his commitment to bringing joy to the world. I asked him about my thought a couple days later and he said he wasn’t sure. He said he definitely was an introvert before he went to seminary but he may have changed to an extrovert there.
My ex-husband AlI had a stroke the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day my son Satvamrita arrived from India to take care of him him. Satvamrita was allowed to take his dad back to his apartment at that point. It is certainly not a funny situation but funny things have happened. Like the day Al decided to go to the store. Satvamrita was walking and Al was in his powered wheelchair. Al wouldn’t tell Satvamrita where they were going. Satvamrita videoed part of that experience.I will this post with two video clips of their journey
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!)
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 Faithwent 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.
There is no doubt in my mind that Amma has helped me the most in finding peace in uncertain times; by her presence, her teachings and the opportunities to apply those teachings, her music, her guidance when I have questions, the example she sets in living a life of service and the community of people I have in my life because of her.
As I am dealing with my own health problems, as well as living in the world during a pandemic, I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to learn persistence, flexibility, letting go, being like a bird perched on a dry twig, and being in the moment. While my mind still goes into overdrive, most of the time I am able to find a centered place within me.
As I am writing this, I am remembering a prayer I wrote in the mid to late 90’s. It is still my prayer.
Mother, may my hands be in service, my mind fill with mantra May my voice forever sing your praise, my heart dance with joy May my love shine ever brighter, my faith ever grow Mother, may each day I become more like you, only for this I pray Only for this I pray
I shared this piece written by my younger brother on this blog in May of 2014. He wrote it before he died of cancer at the age of 39. This seems like a good time to share it again.
The Truth I Live By
(William John Smith 1953-1992)
Everything makes sense. This can be paraphrased many different ways, although many attempts are less accurate. One of Voltaire’s characters stated, “All is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.” This is unnecessarily optimistic. My phrasing doesn’t imply that everything that happens to us is good either in the short or the long term. Everyone experiences moments or long periods of unpleasantness. One can hope that over the long period of a lifetime these sad times may not add up to much overall, but most persons with a little thought can think of individuals whom “fate has treated unkindly,” i.e. who have received more than their share of agonies. I think this is one of the hardest things for you, C., that what has happened is just not fair. I’m not sure how long ago I came to believe (or realize) that fairness isn’t the issue. There is nothing fair about life, either in distribution of rewards or unhappiness. And what’s to say that it should be fair. If each of us had an opportunity to create a world, then maybe that’s an attribute that we would build in. But this world is not of our making, and all of the mental checklists that we might make comparing who’s gotten more breaks than we have, etc., will never change the fact that we have to make the best of what we’ve got, not despair over what we perceive as inequities. So life isn’t fair. How do we cope with that? One way might be to remind ourselves that no matter how bad things seem to be at any one time, a little time spent flipping around the TV channel or reading a news magazine will serve as a reminder that we should be embarrassed to be heard complaining about the vast majority of things that concern us. I don’t doubt for a second that I have lived a very privileged existence compared to 90% of the world’s people.
I’m not sure that that is the best way to approach a new tragedy, though (i.e., making ourselves feel better by thinking of others doing worse). I would appreciate a more optimistic approach. The best way to greet each unpleasant event is to grab it by the throat and make the best of it. C. and I have both had our share of suffering, almost all of it, I’m happy to say proceeding our first date. There is no doubt that led to a degree of maturity that made our time together (pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis) much more meaningful than the lives of those growing up “with the silver spoons.”
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? Doesn’t it make more sense to recognize the initial miracle of our birth, the magnificence of our growth into feeling, loving, praising adults, the privilege of experiencing enough of life that we can despair over not having the time to spend longer doing the same? One of the things I am most grateful for is that many, many years ago I learned to be grateful for what I’ve been given. I didn’t, as occurs with many, only get shocked into this realization by a terminal tragedy. This type of appreciation often does begin in the midst of despair, and for that reason I am actually glad that I had enough hard times as a young man, to allow me to think hard about what things are and are not important. Accordingly, for the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve been able to ignore aspects of 20 th century American living that are of no consequence to me (parties, cars, frivolous chatter, clubs, etc.) and concentrate on things that touch me personally. I am forever grateful for what it was that dropped the blinders from my eyes so many years ago.
I am very sad that people seem to see so little of the world around them. 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. We have been given this magnificent world to study and enjoy in limitless detail at any level, microscopic to cosmic. 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 blessed to have had a brother who could embody these attitudes. I hope those of you who read this find his words meaningful in your lives as well.
As I mentioned in my posts from India, I have been having trouble with balance. It started about two years ago but has been getting worse. With my doctor’s support,I had dealt with it by working with a personal trainer at a gym and doing physical therapy. Both have been valuable, but it was while I was coping with uneven ground in India that I realized how much worse my balance had gotten in the last year. And I also noticed that the balance problem was often accompanied by a sense of wooziness and exhaustion.The India heat and jet lag made those symptoms even worse. It was towards the end of the trip that it first occurred to me that I should stop leading work parties in the Greenbelt. I let that thought percolate in the back of my mind.
Seeing that the symptoms were getting worse, and that strength building at the gym and physical therapy weren’t sufficient for dealing with the physical problems, once I returned to Seattle, I started getting medical tests to rule out underlying causes. (Some of those tests have been delayed because of the pandemic.)
Around the same time, it occurred to me that my physical problems might also be due to overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed. After all, from the time I started working in the Greenbelt, I had thought and even dreamed about the restoration work incessantly.
Overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed and exhausted have been life patterns for me. There were times in my life when I felt as if my mind was like a computer that was about to explode. My present-day physical symptoms were eerily similar to those experiences. My old pattern was to keep doing all of those behaviors until I got so sick that I couldn’t do the work anymore. I believe that was why I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the mid 80’s and in the 2000’s developed high blood pressure.
Having these insights felt very helpful, but what was to be done with them? Since August of 2016, my life had been primarily focused on the Greenbelt restoration project. I had loved working on the land as well as working with the team leaders and the many hundreds of volunteers who had helped. I had treasured watching the land transform from space overrun with blackberries, ivy and bindweed to land filled with native trees, shrubs and ground covers. But the joy had been accompanied by hardship. The ground is sloped and uneven and I had tripped and fallen many times, once even breaking my wrist. It had taken a tremendous amount of effort to find volunteers to help with the work parties. All of the planning and administrative work had practically turned into a full- time job. And everything had gotten more difficult for me to do as the balance problems and wooziness worsened.
I realized that almost all of my overthinking, overdoing and stress was related to my Greenbelt restoration work. I knew myself well enough to know that cutting back was not an option; I wouldn’t be able to stop the overthinking with that approach. I knew I needed to stop doing the restoration work as soon as possible. In addition, I needed to accept the fact that I am 71 years old now and have limitations that go with aging.
But I would not makethe change immediately. If at all possible, it was important to me to finish Winter Quarter activities since I had University of Washington Service-Learning students as well as Capstone interns from the UW School of the Environment. Even though it was difficult, I was able to complete that commitment!
I have never questioned my decision to stop my involvement in the restoration project, but I knew that I would feel devastated if the land reverted to its 2016 state. I felt relieved when the Green Seattle Partnership staff told me that they were committed to finding another Forest Steward to continue the project.
Several friends and family members told me that my replacement would be revealed. One day, our newest team leader came into my mind. She knows so much and has so much energy. And she had participated in almost all of the student work parties this quarter. I contacted her and asked if she had ever thought about becoming a Forest Steward. I was astounded when she told me she already was one, she had taken the Forest Steward training in 2014. And she was interested in the position!
She prefers to work in a team, so hopefully one or more of our other team leaders will take the training when it is offered in October. But the fact that she is already a Forest Steward means the project can continue now. The saying “what you need will be provided” has certainly come true.
I will miss leading the project but know that I can potentially help in the future. And since the site borders my property, I can still watch the new plants grow and take nature photos. What I am primarily experiencing is a sense of relief.
Just before I sat down to write this post, the title of a book I used to recommend came to mind.
Life is Goodbye, Life is Hello Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss
I know I am saying both goodbye and hello in my life and realize that I may experience a myriad of feelings as I continue this process of living, learning and letting go.
I’m not the only one letting go. While I am feeling a lot of relief about my decision about my own life, I’m much more excited about another person’s transformation. Have any of you wondered why you no longer can find my son’s blog, The Seeker’s Dungeon?
Sreejit deleted The Seeker’s Dungeon when he found out he was going to receive the yellow robes of a brahmachari. (To learn more about brahmacharis and brahmacharya click here.)
The decision to delete his blog was part of letting go of his Sreejit identity as he moves into the next stage of his life.
His name is now Brahmachari (Br.) Sattvamrita Chaitanya. Chaitanya is like a last name for all brahmacharis so would only be said in a formal setting. Most of the time he will be called Sattvamrita. The phonetic spelling is sut VAAM ri tu. The u’s are like the short u in hut, the aa is long like the a in psalm or alms, and the i is like the i in knit. The capitalized letters are for the syllable that is emphasized.
I have loved seeing him so excited and happy.
Here are a few photos of Sattvamrita. Cutting off his hair and beard was part of the initiation process.
His sister is so happy for him too. (BTW The sleeves on Sattvamrita’s shirt will be hemmed at a later time! 😁)
I’m doing pretty well with balance. I mainly have problems when I stand up after being seated and when I’m tired. I walk slowly and carefully at all times. I’ve used a cane once for going up to the 7th floor of the temple; I imagine I will use it more as the crowds increase. I decided to order a folding cane from Amazon India, so I have one for the trip home. It is amazing that Amazon is so accessible in a fishing village in India!
Most of the times I have fallen in the past have been when I’ve turned abruptly. Part of my café job entails standing in a space that is about three feet in depth, picking up one plate after another and putting it on a shelf directly across from the kitchen counter. The space is narrow enough that there is no danger of falling but I am doing 180 degree turns constantly. One day this week, it occurred to me that this experience might be providing me with an opportunity for some neurological reprogramming.
Sometime during the last few days, I remembered that whenever I had Chronic Fatique Syndrome relapses in the early 90’s, I listened to a recording by Robert Gass and the Wings of Song called Om Namah Shivaya throughout the night. The recording was 45 minutes long but I set it to “repeat.” My relapses were much shorter when I played the recording in that way.
I decided to see if playing it might help me with balance. I was able to locate the same recording on Amazon Prime Music and downloaded it to my phone. I listened to Om Namah Shivaya as I went to sleep the last two nights. I disconnected it when I woke up briefly 2-3 hours later. I don’t know if it will do anything for my balance but my Fitbit says my deep sleep+REM sleep was over 50% both nights. I have rarely to never had readings like that. And the first night I slept more than 7 hours!
[Shiva is the male aspect of God that is the destroyer. I think of him as destroying disease, illusion, delusion and other negativities. I once read that Om Namah Shivaya is the most commonly used mantra in the world. It has many meanings, but I like one that is actually a combination of three definitions: “I bow to Shiva. I bow to the universal God. I bow to the God that is within me.“]
Café and stage sevas
International devotees are pouring into the ashram for Christmas. The café is getting busier and busier. I knew that there would be a point when another person would be assigned to help me during part of my shift, because the work load would be too much for me to handle. As far as I’m concerned we reached that point on or about 8:40 a.m. on Thursday. There were so many plates waiting to be given out that there was no room on the counter for the kitchen staff to add new ones. That deluge only lasted about 10 minutes, but I was totally overwhelmed during that time. As soon as my shift was over, I told Chaitanya that I needed help, but I find it very interesting that it never occurred to me to ask for help at the time. My brain felt scrambled.
My brain is getting a workout during the stage seva too. Amma is continuing to set the prasad-giving shifts for one minute, so I’m constantly giving people the chance to practice handing prasad, watching for people to finish their minute so I can send another person, passing along orientation information that is regularly being added to, tracking the number of prasad-givers who have gone through the line and occasionally calling people to the stage from the auditorium line (when the person responsible for doing that is out finding people to join that line).
I hope to one day have the experience of concisely and coherently orienting the person who replaces me after my hour shift. Right now I am quite flustered as I try to relay that information at the same time I’m doing all the other things. Amma certainly is giving me plenty of opportunities to practice focusing and maintaining equanimity.
Confronting my know-it-all
On Wednesday I saw a notice near the Western Canteen that said a big event would be held in the auditorium on Thursday morning. As the area was being set up, I could see it was an event involving the Amrita University students. I assumed it was their graduation ceremony since graduation has taken place in the auditorium around this time of year the last two years.
When I was eating my breakfast on Thursday, a visitor asked me why there was an American flag in the auditorium. I was surprised and said he must be mistaken. I was curious though, so went to look for myself. On one side of the stage there was what appeared to be a U.S. flag and on the other side was the flag of India. I was a long way away from the U.S. flag though, so it looked like the stars were curved rather than in a straight line. I assumed it flag was something other than the U.S. flag, and went back to the table to tell the visitor my new information.
I was still intrigued though and wanted to check it out further, so after I finished eating I went to look at the flag up close. It indeed was a U.S. flag. That made no sense to me at all. I went over to a swami and asked him about it. I don’t remember his exact words, but I had the impression it was there because of U.S. and Amrita University cooperation. I knew that Amrita University had joint projects with several U.S. universities, and I still was thinking this was a graduation ceremony, so figured the graduating class must have had involvement with one or more of these U.S. universities. But it still seemed strange to me to have a U.S. flag there. Regardless, I went back to the table once again to relay the additional information.
It wasn’t until later in the day that I discovered it had not been a graduation ceremony at all. It had been an event where a partnership agreement between the University of Arizona and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham was signed.
When I looked on the internet for more information, it appeared to me that Amrita University is now called Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. I wonder how many years ago that change occurred. I also found this statement:
Over the years Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has developed working relations with many of the best universities in the world. Amrita Center for International Programs plays a developmental, strategic and co-coordinating role in the institution’s International work, seeking to provide quality support both internally and externally. Strong collaboration with national and international organizations is the hallmark of all research carried out at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and to this extent we have developed a broad range of international partnerships around the world.
That webpage also had a list of the partners. I would assume, but don’t know, that the University of Arizona will soon be added to this list.
I am aware of how many times during this “investigation,” I had assumed that I knew what was going on even though I didn’t have a clue. And in the process I had passed along incorrect information. Once again, my know-it-all part had been exposed, to myself and others.
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”-William Shakespeare