My Life is in Transition

dehydrator
My new dehydrator.

Over the last few years I have felt myself inching towards retirement. Last month, I set a retirement date of May 31, 2017 but the size of my psychotherapy practice has reduced so much lately that sometimes I feel as if I am already retired. I know that could change, but I don’t know if it will.

This transition time has been very interesting. When my ex-husband had a massive heart attack in 2001, we began to reconnect. Now we are regularly doing things together, such as watching Seahawks games and Dancing with the Stars, and occasionally going together to movies or other events. We have talked about contacting two or three of our friends from our pre-marriage days.

I also have reconnected with Kathie, who was a close friend in the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. I helped her start a blog last year, ChosenPerspectives, so we have that in common in addition to our past history.

I’ve noticed other things that could be related to this transition. Since 2005 or so, I have felt a drive to reduce the number of my belongings. While I have never been much interested in material possessions, I began to give away anything I hadn’t used in the last three years, unless there was some major reason to keep it. Last year, I changed that number to objects that I hadn’t used in the last two years. I also have had an ongoing desire to organize and clean out cupboards, shelves and drawers.

I have had a renewed interest in numerous activities that I enjoyed doing in the past, such as gardening and canning. For about a year, I felt pulled to buy a microscope, an item I loved during my childhood. When I realized that I could add microscopic photos to the nature photography I put on my blog, I bought a microscope and started using it immediately.

I’ve also developed new passions during the last few years. The most important is blogging, which has become a major part of my day-to-day life. As a result of our mutual blogging interest, I have much more contact with my son, who is the person responsible for me starting my blog. (His blog is The Seeker’s Dungeon.) As the result of blogging, I have also developed a passion for photography.

For several years, I have considered learning how to dehydrate vegetables and fruits. Last month, I purchased a dehydrator and started dehydrating bananas, mangoes, plums, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumbers (probably won’t do that again), and as of yesterday, watermelon. I’ve also felt the urge to start knitting, crocheting, sewing, and possibly folk dancing and going to Dances of Universal Peace, all activities I enjoyed decades ago. These could all be retirement activities.

When I am with Amma, the frequency of the synchronistic events that happen in my life increase dramatically. This summer was no different in that regard. A clear theme emerged in the course of those synchronicities.

The week before Amma arrived in Seattle, I was at my Network Chiropractor’s office when a woman walked out of the treatment room. She looked familiar. I did a quick 20 year age-progression in my mind and then asked if she was the person I thought she was. I was correct. The next week, the same thing happened, in the same place but with a different person. Again, the woman was someone I hadn’t seen since the mid-90’s.

When Amma came to Seattle, I spent the first morning she was here helping a staff member find and go to a dentist. I didn’t walk into the program hall until 1 p.m. As I was walking in, a woman was walking out. She called me by name. When I looked at her, I recognized that she was also someone who had been in my life in the early to mid-90’s. I hadn’t seen her since then and she told me she hadn’t attended one of Amma’s programs during the intervening years. I was amazed by the commonalities between all of these synchronistic experiences.

The most amazing reconnecting events happened just before and during Amma’s Toronto programs. On Father’s Day, I received an email from my brother saying that his son had written a Father’s Day post about our father, i.e. my nephew’s grandfather. Before I tell that story, and the events that followed, let me say that I left home to go to college when I was 17; my brothers were 12 and 14 at that time. I saw them very few times after that. My youngest brother died in 1992. (My children and I did visit him several times between the time he was diagnosed with cancer and the time he died.) I have seen my other brother only three times since 1992, and those visits were brief. We do email each other every now and then.

So back to the story at hand. It was fascinating to read my nephew’s post and to learn about my father from his perspective. Even more fascinating was that I discovered that my nephew and his wife are professional photographers and that my father had also had an interest in photography. My nephew posted some of my father’s photos in his Father’s Day tribute. I knew my father had taken some family pictures but this part of his life was completely unknown to me. It was particularly interesting to me because of my current interest in photography. I was discovering there are things I have in common with my family that I didn’t know anything about.

In his post, my nephew had referred to my father’s military life. Some of what he said was different than my memories. When I checked those things out with my brother, he put together a time line of my father’s career. There was information in it that I didn’t know, and I knew some things that he wasn’t aware of. We wrote back and forth over the next few days. At one point, he added his two sons to the email exchange, so I added my son and daughter. All of us made a comment or two on the joint exchange and then the four cousins wrote each other separately. This was the first conversations they had ever had with each other. I marveled at the miracle that was unfolding.

Over the next week or so, my brother and I continued emailing each other about our childhood memories. He mentioned that he thought our father had gifted us with a love of music, books, education, hard work and the desire to do things right. I believe we also learned the value of hard work and education from our mother and even more important, the value of being in service to others.

I still don’t know my surviving brother well but over the years I have learned that we share some of the same political beliefs. Recently, I learned that we are both introverts and have similar thoughts about some religious issues. Since he is a landscape architect I assume we share a love of nature.

While I was pondering all of these commonalities, I realized that my current passion about nature is something I have in common with my youngest brother, even though we didn’t have that focus at the same time.  His room, both as a teenager and a young adult, was always filled with injured birds and other animals he had rescued and was nursing back to health. I remember visiting him before he married. At that time, he was raising snakes in his room. I will never forget this piece he wrote just prior to his death at age 39:

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..

As I approach retirement, I am grateful that a natural transition seems to be occurring. I am reconnecting with my past in many different ways. I have no doubt that I will have enough activities that I am passionate about to keep me occupied for years to come. The unanswered question that is most up for me now concerns where I will ultimately live: “Will I move to India?” “Will I live in one of Amma’s U.S. Centers?” ” Will I continue to live in my own house in Seattle?” Those answers, and the answers to many other questions, are yet to be revealed. At this moment, there is no need for me to know the future. I know I will know what I need to know when the time is right!

 

cropped-senior-salon  Senior Salon

Living and Learning in Amritapuri: Jan 7-8, 2015

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Final days

I shared most of the events that happened on the 7th in my last post, but that evening there were even more!  In the past, Amma often didn’t come to bhajans the night before a major tour because the big sound system had already been packed.  That day I noticed the sound system was still in place so was not completely surprised when she showed up at the normal time.  It was a wonderful last bhajan evening for me.  She sang several of my favorite songs, some of which I want to relearn and lead at our local meetings after I return to Seattle.

That evening we were given notice that an elderly woman who lives at the ashram had died and the funeral would be held around 9 p.m..  In India, funerals often occur very shortly after death and the person’s body is cremated immediately thereafter.  At first I wasn’t going to go, but I changed my mind.  I love to be a part of those rituals.

Amma returned to her room after the bhajan program and the brahmacharis set up an area close to the back ashram gate for the funeral.  When their preparation was complete, they carried the woman’s body into the area on a stretcher, and placed her on a table.  She was wrapped in a white sheet, except for her head. Shortly thereafter Amma arrived.  She kissed  the woman and then placed a beautiful flower garland that was at least five feet long over the full length of her body.  Afterwards Amma sprinkled flower petals on her.

The group who attended sang “Om Namah Shivaya” at the beginning and end of the funeral.  After Amma blessed the woman’s body, the attendees chanted the 108 Names of Amma and the 8th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.  Then family members and friends circled the woman.  It is traditional in Hindu funerals, for the eldest son, carrying a coconut on his head, to lead a procession during which the body of the loved one is taken to the cremation grounds.  Once there, the cremation rituals begin.  The man who took that role at this funeral was young so I wondered if he was her grandson.  Anyone can attend a cremation, but generally it is only the family members and friends who go.  I decided to only participate in the funeral.

I see this type of ending as the perfect way to complete one’s life time. There are other rituals that, for me, are a close second though.  Devotees who live abroad often want to have part or all of their ashes taken to Amritapuri after they die.  In that case, the urn containing the ashes is placed next to Amma during an evening bhajan program.  After the bhajans are completed, she takes the urn to the friends and family members waiting at the bottom of the auditorium stage.  She blesses the ashes and gives darshan (hug) to the close family members.  A brahmachari then takes the group to the ocean, performs some rituals and one of the friends or family members throws the ashes into the ocean.  I have no doubt that is the ritual that will happen for me unless I am blessed enough to be living at the ashram when I pass.

I knew the South India tour group was leaving at 5 a.m. on the 8th, but no one knew when Amma herself would leave.  As it turned out, Amma left the ashram immediately after the funeral.  That day, I had been there when Amma went to the auditorium to record music, when she came to the evening bhajans and when she led the funeral rituals.  I felt very graced to have my trip to Amritapuri end in this way.

On January 8, I finished packing my belongings and cleaning my room.  My taxi would be leaving for the airport at 5:00 a.m. on the 9th so everything needed to be finished that day.  I also spent time reflecting on the six weeks I had spent in Amritapuri.

Before I end this post I will share some of the synchronicites and nature experiences that occurred during my last days at the ashram.

 

Synchronicities

1)  For the last week, I had a need to talk to an ashram resident. Usually when that happens here, the person passes by me soon thereafter. This time that didn’t happen. For days, both my daughter and I were watching for her, to no avail.  On the 7th, I decided I would try to find out where her room was located. I soon found out the building and the floor. I knew if went there, I would probably find someone who could give me more specific information.

As I walked up the stairs to her building, I looked across the courtyard below and saw her talking to the man who was working in the phone room. This was after watching for her for days!   It was a nice reminder that effort is also necessary to make desires reality. When I put some effort into finding her, beyond just “keeping my eyes open”, there she was.

2)  This year I also noticed how synchronicities that happened in the past can have purpose in the present. Last year, I met a young woman from New York in the line of devotees waiting to hand Amma the prasad (packet of ash and a piece of candy) she gives  people who come to her for a hug. The young woman had overheard me talking to someone else about Sanskrit and had joined the conversation as she also wanted to learn Sanskrit.

As we continued to talk, I discovered she had been born in Seattle. That was interesting enough, but the synchronicity didn’t stop there. It turned out, she was born a hospital where I used to work. In fact, I was working as the Maternal Newborn Clinical Specialist at that hospital when she was born!  It meant so much to her to think that I could have held her during her first days of life.

This year that same woman walked up to me on my last day in Amritapuri, and asked if I remembered her. I said I didn’t recognize her face, but I certainly remembered the interaction once she mentioned it. She told me she has thought about that experience almost every day since it happened.

3)  Last year there was a 73 year old woman whom I saw over and over again. It seemed every time I turned a corner she was there.  I have friends at the ashram that I rarely see, so to see someone so frequently caught my attention. I talked with her several times during that visit and was extremely inspired by her life story. She was an incredible role model of what living in your 70’s can be like.

When I started having back problems this year a friend from BC Canada did some bodywork that was very helpful. I started healing at a rate that was much faster than when my back has “gone out” in the past. One day, another friend told me they knew a woman they thought could also be helpful and suggested I talk to her. I thought about it briefly and decided to say no. When I discovered it was the same woman, now 74, that I had been so inspired by last year I changed my mind.  That synchronicity was way too obvious to ignore, so I accepted her help as well!  I have no doubt that she will continue to be part of my life path in the future.

 

India’s Natural Beauty

The setting sun on the 7th was beautiful beyond words. No picture I could take could even begin to capture its glory but perhaps this will give you a glimpse of what it was like.

Setting sun

 

In the afternoon of the 7th, I was with a friend at the Arabian Sea beach. We saw birds swarming in the distance and walked to where we could get a better view. Their focus turned out to be a fishing boat.

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.That evening, I walked to the roof of the building I live in to watch the eagles soaring overhead. There were so many of them. Such a breath taking sight.  Here is a picture of one of them.

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After watching the eagle, I looked down and I saw this form of beauty:

Fishing boat in backwaters

And still later that day

Setting sun 2

 

I am truly blessed.

 

 

 

My 2014 Journey to India Begins

Photo Credit: Amma Facebook

I made it to India!   I have been coming to Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India almost yearly since 1990. Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) is an internationally known humanitarian and spiritual leader.  Her network of humanitarian projects is vast; including hospitals, colleges, schools, vocational training programs, disaster relief, orphanages, environmental programs and much more. Amma’s form of blessing (called darshan) is a hug. To date she has hugged more than 33 million people worldwide. Even though Amma was born in a Hindu culture, when people ask her what her religion is, she responds, “My religion is love.”  You can find out more about Amma and the humanitarian projects at Embracing the World.

Being with Amma (which means mother) is like coming home for me. When I am with her, I feel seen, known, and cared for, to the core of my being. My time with her is filled with lessons and life experiences.  The lessons can be intense at times, but growth is always the outcome. During the next six weeks, I will be sharing experiences I have during my 2014-2015 visit.

My journey begins Continue reading “My 2014 Journey to India Begins”