So you have excellent news? Exciting news? The kind of news where you won tattlotto of the life kind. You found out a life threatening condition just healed, you are going to live! Well, you might have some ideas on how that one is going to roll, so here’s a little help.
1) Not everyone will respond like you. Ok, I am serious, you might think you can fart gold stars, but not everyone will see it that way.
2) Spontaneous dance is completely fine.
3) Going into a flight center and telling a poor young random man that you aren’t going to die anymore is not okay. He cried. Not cool. And you didn’t book the trip to Paris with him, again, not cool.
4) Buying a ballet barre for shits and giggles when it doesn’t have anywhere to go- rethink that one.
5) Take deep breaths. Be prepared for a shock. Hot water bottles will be needed, blankets and a good dose of sister love. A sedative may help.
6) Be prepared for the dreams. Your little red car might turn into an airplane, and you might fly to some REALLY cool places. It might have been the sedative and pizza combo, but that’s ok.
7) Don’t downplay God to anyone. Not one time. You asked for this miracle, and you got it. You don’t ask the chef for the best parmigiana in the world and then double check it’s what you asked for. Also, don’t take claim responsibility for cooking the parmigiana. You are sitting at the table. You might have walked into the restaurant and known which table to sit at, you might understand what goes in it my dear, but you did not cook it. Note: in giving thanks for the miracle you are also giving thanks for self-understanding, for a surgeon who spent 25 years learning about brains and dared to give it a crack. You are giving thanks for listening to your body, and it’s requests.
You are not leaving out modern medicine, but you do however also know that science has not yet caught up to the stunning underpinning cosmos reasons for existence and rapid physical healing. They are 30 years off. It’s a quantum thing. It’s not always rational. The earth isn’t flat people.
8) When you tell your child you are not going to die from an aneurysm rupture, he might say to you we need Weetbix, and the dog crapped in the outdoor area. Its ok, don’t take it personally he loves you. He just loves Weetbix as well.
9) You might be allowed to run now but don’t do it until your lung fills with blood. It feels good to run, but your sciatica needs TLC, and your Foofa valve does too.
10) Don’t grin at strangers when you are in your convertible. You might be telepathically telling them you are so happy you are alive, and your aneurysm just, and they said they couldn’t do anything, and then it just healed…and last night your car was a plane. Basically, you are just going to look like an arsehole driving a red sports car who is very pleased with themselves. Road rage is real. Just don’t.
11) Do not dilute your happiness. You will be tempted too. Not everyone else likes joy. Some people even break out in rashes and may start twitching. There is an epi pen for that- it is called the front door and a foot.
12) People will be joyful with you, they will cry for you and with you, they will send you flowers, messages and may even spontaneously dance with you. Keep those ones, in fact, chain those humans to your foot before they get away. Or pop them in your pocket. You just identified your tribe.
13) Be ready for the rollercoaster. You might have thought a joyful cry, and a high five would be the best, and you would just get on with your life. This doesn’t happen. You will meltdown. It’s what happens when you try and keep your shit together for more than 3 years with an impending rupture of the artery that supplies your entire brain with blood and was hanging on by a thread in a big mess threatening your life and a stroke on a daily basis, causing PTSD for family and seizures, migraines, TIA’s, brain bleeds, blackouts, chronic sleep apnea and the fear of being left in a vegetative state getting Sunday visits from your children while you suck liquified lamb cutlets through a straw- is now a reformed wonder.
There will be tears of happiness, tears of sorrow, tears of grief, tears of relief, anger and gratitude. A whole lot of liquid will spill from your deep internal soul and kleenex might not cut it. Try the super roll of toilet paper and an even a maxi pad?
14) Don’t go into your teenage son’s bedroom each morning ripping open the curtains with gusto and announce you are ALIVE, you might think you are a Disney princess with a bird singing on your shoulder. But you are in fact a very disheveled middle-aged woman with a tracksuit wedgie and yesterday’s eyeliner smudged. There will be consequences. He will tell you to get out.
15) As much as you think every song that comes on the radio is an anthem just for you, it isn’t. It really isn’t. But that’s okay. This does activate that spontaneous smiling and dancing response, this is good for your soul.
Most importantly wake up tomorrow and kiss the ground and give praise to God, because my dear, your life is yours and it will never be the same again.
Do you reach inside and find the beauty or accept that skin and shape and lumps and bumps are but an illusion you must not fixate on?
That bump filled with brain fluid was not there before. The under layers of skin were not torn and stretched from the swelling of a saw and staples.
It is 2012 and the only story you know that tells of such things is Frankenstein. A monster. A craniotomy will do that. Little children cannot come in to visit. It is too distressing. Grown men you have known for years are reduced to tears when they see you, and they struggle to hide it. That thing- that expression. It is a pity and sadness. Yet everyone says you look great, you look fine.
They tell beautiful lies to help keep you grateful for the life you have. The life you hold that keeps your heart beating is what is so important. Their hearts shine true in that moment.
In those months after a craniotomy, I was not a monster, just a little broken. But no longer a girl, no longer a woman. No longer a dancer of ballet, of quick human movement and a painter or a poet. No longer the protector of my children at night while they slept. I prayed each night they were okay. That I could trust those loving them on the daily to make sure they looked at them in the eyes and told them they were loved and safe. Like I did.
I think of myself sometimes when it was tough in the third person.
I think it has been a way to compartmentalise. I was a grateful survivor, and yet a soldier of war with battle scars she did not ask for. She did not volunteer for. Yet she did not fight anyone off, she walked right in and took the needle and signed the forms. She wanted to run, she wanted to scream and hide and say no. But she could not. The inner confusion and turmoil, to damage oneself to live. What a notion.
To say goodbye and kiss the heads of your children, to get in a car and drive to a big bustling place. To get your head shaved and your body naked under a cotton gown not knowing if you will kiss their heads again.
Consequence is a word you hold in your hand like a strange seed you found. Which garden shall you plant that in? The one that faces the north and screams of Victim or the one that says Growth?
Then there is the now.
When I lose myself in the energy of the room, I forget about what I look like, what anyone looks like. It’s because I can feel everything, the love, the humor, the frequency of those around. Things like traditional beauty or prettiness or ugliness or any such appearance do not concern me. Until someone takes a photo. Because then it’s like an ugly little version of my surface just got captured in a bottle and can’t get out. Unless you smash it with a delete button. And then there is the fear with social media, that someone else will share the little version of you and others won’t see your energy, they will see the damage the war did. Why does it matter what they think and see?
Blindness was freedom from all of this. It was a relief. I did not need to see myself; therefore I did not have to validate my appearance. It didn’t matter. Out of sight, out of mind.
No makeup, no hair, no eyes to see the damage. Those super hearing marvel style skills were too much fun and the challenge of learning my environment in a new way all wrapped up in the happiness of still being on the planet surpassed any vanity.
Until my vision returned.
So much joy. Because I got to see my children’s smiles again, the pictures they had drawn for me. The sky windows- puddles in the ocean. So glorious and full. My husband, my family. Their physical, visual picture was mine again to capture with my body’s camera- the eyes. I was not prepared for the trauma of seeing myself again and finally understanding why my little boy cried so much. He wanted Mummy to look like Mummy again, and why the grown men cried. Why the mailman did not recognize me at the door and asked me who I was. I told him it was me and he said it was so sad. I asked him why and he said I was so pretty before… but don’t worry you will be again. And the nurse saw my picture on the wall and asked who it was.
”That’s me.” It is one of my favourites. It doesn’t look like me anymore.
Society tells you it does not matter it does matter it doesn’t.
Like this barge going back and forth between the shores of depth and shallow. Which one is it? Why do we get so distressed with scars and physical damage? We hero worship the survivor and yet as a species we spend millions on maintaining and enhancing the symmetry of the human appearance. A world that celebrates the beautifully broken on one hand and shining perfectional beauty on the other. Where do they connect? For surely beauty is unique, not a blended image of sameness.
Where is the distinction or balance in this? It used to baffle me, now it intrigues me and mortifies me all in one. I now believe when people speak their perception of what beauty is to them, it reveals the contents of their heart.
Then I got the all clear. Then the all clear was taken away. An inoperable option. Not an option. The lack of an option. We can’t do anymore. How much longer do I have? Not sure. Ok.
So we walk that walk. As a family and yet the unshakeable truth sits within me- LIFE IS FOR LIVING. Not for fear. It is the walk of the possibly dying. Because we all are. So it counts. Every day counts- it’s not a cliche. It is the essence of every single molecule and particle, shape, symmetry and pattern that exists for life to prosper. There’s a whole lot of work going on in the living here and in whatever comes after this version of life, there are many more of this I am sure also. But death is real too, and it might just be that death is but a doorway to another life.
So now I live in this one, I rejoice. I choose to live a life that is full with no excuses, to feel my way intuitively, guided by my understanding and perceptions, hoping to keep them as precise and sharp as possible to be valid and true. I listen to the guidance I receive, and I do my best.
I love within an inch of my being, and I hold those I love dearer than my own heartbeat. The patterns of nature and the design of our world intrigues me, as does geometry and physics, the gleaning of the matrix that supports the whole system has captured my fancy in a way unimaginable. The gifts of the spirit are abundant and my cup runneth over.
Yet still, this undeniably human desire to be physical as I was before the surgery haunts me every time a picture is taken, every time I look in a reflective surface, each time my body won’t work the way I want it to. So I will be grateful, and I will work on trying to mend that broken part within. I will be grateful for the scars and the bumps and distortions, I will be thankful for the migraines, the weird inexplainable seizures, the sleep apnea, and the blood pressure, the brain fog, the short-term memory and the fear of the sound of chainsaws, the narcolepsy stuff and the heartache and even the scar dandruff, because all of this means I am alive. I breathe. I eat. I love and I live. I am surrounded by good friends and family. I live in a country that is not war inflicted and where I can live this life this way. Because we all have our path to walk.
And I could not have captured this view of real life unless this had all happened. I choose growth and the power of the inner spirit guided by my God to overcome all and sit in Grace.
Why? Because you see restoration of the spirit and growth cannot happen without trauma.
Regardless of what any doctor might say I am going to live.
Car Park: screaming and crying hysterical woman spotted ranting loudly in Major Melbourne Hospital. Blue eyed man pacing in shock with what witnesses say was a a look of dumbfounded oblivion.
Incoherent phone calls to family.
Sister may have fainted.
Shock (hot water bottles, blankets and sister needed for this one)
Humbled like a small pebble in the bottom of a deeeep ocean. Feeling so small.
More Joy (don’t freak out the kids)
“Mum- we have run out of milk again”
No more fear- running under the moon
Crying (lots and lots of crying)
Dehydration from crying.
“Are you sure you got it right dear? You didn’t get confused?”
Parked outside Flight Centre and considered flying and climbing something really big and shaving my head at the same time and screaming ODONNELL RULES. (That was a weird moment) rang one besty who told me to do it and the sensible one said go home and sleep.
Spontaneous outbursts of laughing
Sat up in bed next to my sister while we planned our nursing home antics. (We will be room sharing)
Persistent need to kiss my children and it’s now giving them them shits.
Uncontrollable smiling – it’s a little creepy
Life is good. I need a new word. There are no words. I think I am going to faint and cry and I don’t know what.
The Ferris Bueller soundtrack is playing on Spotify, Twist and Shout sounds so good on a Saturday.
The sun has finally decided to show up, and I am sitting here, fingers to the ready- heart on a wire and full to the very edge of the teacup with feeling. Is it a safe time to write? The new discovery for me is- yes. These are the times when the writing comes easily, flowing from brain to page like an overzealous child- all vulnerability has sidestepped when this takes place. She has taken off, shaking her head in disgust. I ignore her. We need to give her a name. She is the hider of the Freak Flag, she doesn’t like it when I fly it. We shall name her Sargeant Tiffany. She’s no fun.
It is a big week for us. For me.
It either has the potential to go either way- a crazy game of Sliding Doors and what’s behind door 27? Shall we peek? Let’s not think about it. Let us think about it non-stop. Distraction, distraction…Hello, Monday you wonderous creature.
There are several options on offer Monday at the Hospital. Are you ready Madame?
Option 1: This revolting thing in my brain has actually completely stabilized, which means is still sitting there like the terminator with its finger on the trigger, but the finger stopped getting itchy.
Option 2: The bugger has gone. I repeat the A-hole has left the building. See you later alligator, astalavista. Like a magical butterfly and the power of all healing, it is completely gonesky, which means I can just die like mostly everyone else- unexpectedly.
Option 3: It has sprouted some new leaks which means more brain surgery. This means getting really fat again because of steroids. This is not an option. I love a good rolly polly belly like anyone else, but enough already.
Option 4: Some wonder human somewhere on this planet has come up with a way to fix it. Let’s call him Bob.
Option 5: I don’t go, and I pretend everything is perfectly peachy. This is a very tempting albeit stupid. I have done this multiple times. It stops me thinking about the D word. No one likes that word. No matter how enlightened we believe we are. No one likes a D word dropper.
Option 6: I’m still pondering on this one…I will keep you posted. At the moment it resembles smoking a joint with Willie Nelson and playing with a basket of baby Sloths. I can’t technically smoke a joint so I might be on rolling duties for Willie. That’s ok. I can roll a mean paper (don’t judge me, I had to roll my dad’s cigarettes ok?)
This resilience thing is mad.
Yesterday I stood at my sink, elbow deep in this beautiful new grandma sink, fired in France, beautiful fireclay, deep and shiny. I hated washing dishes, now it’s like a lovely bath. Blue eyes stood next to me drying the dishes.
“I don’t want to die.”
“I don’t want you to die either.”
“Well, that’s good. Because if you did, that would kind of suck. Lucky you still like me.”
“How can I not? You make me laugh.”
“It’s not very fair any of this is it?”
“I am feeling sorry for myself.”
“I just want it to be fixed and never think about it anymore. It’s taking up too much space in my brain.” I am good at puns.
Then Hilltop Hoods Cosby sweater starts playing, and he does the dance that makes me laugh too hard. There is some pelvic thrusting that is slightly off rhythm and this thing he does with his butt.
How did we become this resilient?
We talk about it a bit. As we get older, the conflicts between humanity become more obvious. The bigger things mean more to us. The need for emotional intelligence suddenly becomes the focus and not the mortgage. It occurs to me that the friction of humanity is the cause of joy and pain.
Echoes of the inflictions of childhood build walls of muscle and grit- a toolbox of tricks that can protect us and then trip us up. All in one- a double doozy. The perseverance and seeking of peace propel us forward if we are brave enough to break open the armor and bare our skin. Telling old Sargent Tiffany of vulnerability police that it is ok to show vulnerability and truth.
It is vulnerability and truth and being aware of the silent witness within that breaks us into freedom. Deep huh? Hey don’t analyse mine, check out your own muscles, those suckers are there, along with a peacepipe and a marching band. So many situations rely on those muscles, and then we need to break free of them. All sorts of circumstances, in all walks of life.
The opposite of this is building a romance with defense.
Gathering evidence to keep ourselves safe. The internal bodyguard becomes a jailer. Whispering platitudes, distractions, and conflicts on replay. Playing back all the old vinyl with their scratches and grooves. Maybe it’s time to sharpen the needle, to play the real music and stop whistling everyone else’s tune.
I have realized I don’t like significance. Weird huh? I love it when other people wear it like a beautiful cape or jacket- but it’s never looked delicious on me. It makes my skin feel ick.
I do not want to be significant. The feeling creates anger within. Why?
If I am sick- it is significant. If I suddenly become miraculously well- this is also significant.
Both matter. Both have weight. I don’t like the weight. I learned very young that importance of not being too significant- to go under the radar. I don’t do it very well, but it is a primal part of my core belief system. These feelings of deep anger are being triggered by the romance of defense. So I write these words fiercely as if I am paddling as fast as I can in rapids, something pushes me forward. The anger is not good. It makes me angry. The irony is deafening.
The cognitive pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together. Stealth mode can kick in at any time, so watch it. I cannot control it.
Tiffany just sat down in front of me looking very dazed and confused, she just dropped her badge on the table and asked me why I was writing this piece of communication? Who is it for?
The introvert-extrovert pendulum is swinging like a crazy monkey on a swing with a banana.
I am not an angry human as a rule. It doesn’t sit very well in my body. But I am a writer. So what does one do in this situation? She writes, prints and rolls it up, placing into a very groovy hipster bottle, it is some kind of pharmacy bottle from the 1940’s, pop a cork in the end and throws it out into the sea, watching the waves take it to whoever feels they may like to read it. I just wrote about myself in the third person. It’s a Ferris Bueller thing to do.
Then I get off the car in the middle of the street, the marching band and street parade has gone home.
So I go to my candle, and I pray. The anger has gone. Just like that. With a request and a chord of silver shooting to the architect. I am grateful for life. A big fat full life. The little version of blue eyes comes out and asks if I would like a cup of tea. The middle blessing is smiling getting ready for a party, very handsome. The eldest, the strong and vibrant young woman is finishing an essay. We did ok. We did more than ok. We are here and that sun is shining.
I stop typing, and then there’s that Ferris soundtrack. Hey ustj-ay no-ay het-ay- uietqay- does anyone have Willie Nelson’s phone number?
As the dusty and crater filled road sweeps around, edged with thick green forest an outcrop of buildings emerges, opening to a carpark with an OM symbol on a signpost.
Kangaroos laze like families on vacation, noses twitching, passing the time. A kookaburra starts laughing.
Burning wood and the warm scent of oranges drift to meet the nose. A plate of orange peels sits on the wood-fired heater. Shoes are removed and the next wave of smells drifts in– spices, cumin, herbaceous and welcoming. A faint waft of incense is in the air. However, it is not strong. It is an element.
We are greeted warmly.
The kitchen to our left is a bustle of activity. Not noisy. There is a busyness, but I observe this is a quiet calm busyness. There is no hurry. No eye contact.
Clean, crisp, worn and trusted, are the words that bubble up in my mind.
It is raining this day. Gently, then heavily. While we wait for our host, we sit in a mud brick temple, glass hobbit like windows peeking at the greenery outside. Beads and ancient symbols decorate the walls, and the rain falls down like a soothing pitter-patter- Why is rain so soothing?
We go for a walk amongst the abundant market garden, a destination for global specialists, botanists, and horticulturalists.
Every section planted and plotted as it has been done for thousands of years continents away. A gardening hut sits at the entry of the garden. Inside are saved tins containing harvested seeds, 50 years worth. Heirloom seeds. A trove full of jewels. Do these seeds capture the genetics of lost nutrition? A lost nurturing of the passionate gardener and gatherer of goods?
It feels tribal here.
Why am I here? A dear friend and mentor recommended the Ashram to me at a time of turmoil 2 years ago. My experience is this is a place outside the hurry curry of the world. A beautiful bubble where you can sleep, you can rest and learn. Learn so much… How not to rely on the feedback from people. How to be on your own in your own thoughts in a space where it is perfectly acceptable not to interact on any level other than- where do I wash my dish? No pressure. Acceptance from that which comes from within whispers.
Some people welcome it, some brave it, some reject it.
Sometimes our inner noise is confounding and deafening, we need the hectic of life to fill the void, so we don’t need to have a conversation with ourselves. Those convos can be deep. Too deep. Life changing deep. Or it can be a gentle getaway for those seeking quiet.
Every time I go there if it is for morning tea and a meditation session or a 3-day stint- something of incredible value is gleaned. Unpacked gently and quietly in the comfort of beautiful nature.
You will not find cappuccinos or fancy yoga gear. Comfort, ease, and lack of adornment are at the face level of this special place.
Today I get to sit and palaver by a fire withSwami Atmamuktananda, lovingly named Atma by those that know her.
She has returned this year from the Camino, a 330 km, trek – 20 km a day. A pilgrimage thousands of people from across the globe take each year to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. Camino Information Click HERE
The mantra she spoke every day was for peace and wellbeing.
So how did this delightful human become a Swami?
After traveling the world as a young woman for 7 years across continents and oceans, Atma returned to Australia looking for something different. 10 months into running a vegetarian restaurant in Perth a Yoga person came to visit. Life was never the same again. Atma was seeking completeness that she could not find in the Western World. She traveled to India and stayed for 10 years. Her journey leads her in 1976 to become the caretaker of the Rocklyn Ashram. India’s sister Ashram in Daylesford Victoria.
42 years later here we are.
In India the positive impact Ashram life has on its local community is immeasurable. Tonnes of rice and vegetables are provided for locals, children can come and eat whenever they like, distribution of medical supplies and blankets as well as building houses and shelter are just some of the services provided by the Ashram.
The wageless life of a Yogic Life is filled with gifts says Atma. She is looked after by having a roof over her head, warmth, access to good food, and fulfillment. There is no superannuation, no medical but there is contentedness. The Ashram is self-sufficient and relies on the caretaking of its inhabitants and visitors to make it available for the general public to enjoy.
So what is a Yogic lifestyle? Is it sweating it out in our Lorna Janes, bending ourselves into pretzels and stretching those muscles? Well, this is a western interpretation of the original lifestyle practice made up of many facets that began thousands of years ago, but to give you the very simplified version-
Hatha Yoga is primarily concerned with bodily purification practices which tranquilize the mind and discipline the body, based on the principle that one can become aware of higher states of consciousness by manipulating the different forces and systems in the physical body. Hatha Yoga considers the body as the temple of the soul and as such should be kept in excellent condition.
Mantra is chanting or repetition of sounds which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness of man. This is a powerful way of approaching meditational states, for the mind is rendered calm and at the same time concentrated on the mantra.
This is the yoga of dynamic meditation or action performed with meditative awareness. Karma Yoga is doing work with complete awareness but without attachment to the fruits or outcome of the work. The work is not the means to attaining some reward, payment, etc. It is selfless work. It is work in which one loses identity with one’s ego. One merely becomes an instrument. When visiting the Ashram, it might be gardening, preparing vegetables, folding blankets or sweeping the paths. Think Mr. Miagi wipe on, wipe off.
It goes on from there with various practices, but for the beginner, these are the daily practices at the Ashram.
As a Christian woman I have never felt my beliefs have been at threat when visiting the Ashram and in fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. I ask Swami Atmamuktananda why this is so.
“Yoga is not a religion, and it need not be a threat to any belief system, because it is a science of the body-mind lifestyle. It is science, not religion. People become stressed and need a place to stay, a place with a structure and simplicity, a place where personal reflection can be heightened when there is no life clutter. There is nothing personal at the Ashram, it is open and unobtrusive. There is a level of comfort where all is provided, a nurturing comfort zone if you can allow yourself to let go and accept the environment for what it is- you can experience Ashram life and the gift it has to offer.”
“This offers stability and routine each day, there is a regularity to daily life, of re-establishment we all need. There’s no having to rush, everything is there for you. These practices and this environment allows you to enhance whoever you are.”
The simplicity of the Rocklyn Ashram is no accident. There are no televisions, radios, and phones are respectfully asked to be left switched off.
“Not having the senses so wildly exaggerated as they are in the outside world helps to see within. Externalisation makes people stressed and confused, the outside world bombards people with all of the noise, this is not natural to our state of being. So we are honored to provide this space in Victoria for people of all denominations and walks of life to come and practice Yogic living to help rebalance and harmonize themselves. People tend to seek acquirement instead of peace, and this can be a very lopsided journey. A Yoga lifestyle helps to restore and rebalance this,” says Atma.
The Rocklyn Ashram attracts schools, VCE students, Backpackers, CEOS, Doctors, Nurses, Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents and Retirees, every walk of human has passed through those doors from around the world.
I ask Swami over all of the years what is the biggest issue facing people right now in 2018.
“Financial status and image, we find it very difficult to detach from these things. Never before have I seen such an attachment to physical appearance, an impermanent state.”
It has been my understanding of the philosophies of Buddhism and some Hindu practices that we need to “not attach” and practice detachment to gain insight and enlightenment.
Atma says “we cannot avoid attachment, we are human beings and it is is in our nature to attach, and there is nothing wrong with this. We get into trouble when detachment comes into being. We don’t know how to detach. The detachment of external factors can cause problems in paradise. We attach ourselves to things of impermanence- knowing very little about our realness, and it is when these things disappear, it leaves us in trouble. We don’t understand where our central self is and we depend on that impermanence.”
I consider this. It is easy to fall in love, but not always easy to detach from it.
We love life, but we find grief and dying a problematic concept. I took up smoking easily as a teenager but found quitting difficult. My eyesight was expected, something I took for granted but losing it was detaching from this natural expectation that I should be able to see. My life is mine to keep…Hmmm.
What is the funniest thing to witness at the Ashram I ask Atma because for me it was the abundance of porridge and fruit that made people fart in Yoga class-torture for me to not burst into idiotic giggles over?
“Sometimes the Mantra process can really bring joy up in people, or they have experiences where joy, grins, and laughter may erupt or anger. People can become quite funny when they get cross. It is funny the expectations people sometimes have, their interpretation of things can cause a reaction which can at times be amusing.”
So is there life after death Swami?
She smiles warmly, “There are pointers to indicate a continuation, there are thoughts and beliefs that there is a proposed system of continuance. Don’t you ever get the feeling you are picking up where you left off Kirsten?”
The Ashram offers a range of retreats to cater for everyone’s circumstances, from:
day visits to weekend or midweek courses,
personal time out stays and
retreats of one week,
one month, three months or one year.
Visitors require no prior experience in yoga and are encouraged to participate in the general daily program with the Ashram residents. The program includes a morning yoga class, Karma Yoga (a practice of awareness), Yoga Nidra (a deep relaxation practice), evening meditation and varied evening programs.
What is this magic? A cabin by a lake, squirrels and tall trees, moss and berries growing wild. I feel like I am getting a glimpse again of home- the other home. I am here creating memories with 2 of my children, a sibling, and Lothario. A Scandinavian dreaming.
Sidestepping again. Why is it when we step aside from our everyday life things bubble up to the surface like stirring mud from the bottom of a bucket?
The sediment settled so long ago on the bottom, and everything above it is bright and sparkly. Then the stir happens and all the crap you forgot about and didn’t want to acknowledge existed rises and creates a murky soup. What on earth does one do with that soup? You can’t drink it, or pour it on the plants- it would surely poison them, or maybe it will go into the soil and help fertilize making the soil resilient and grow into 200-year-old oak trees?
You do not know THEY are there, this is the irritation.
Things that lurk and murk and you didn’t know it. It undoes all of humanity, doesn’t it? The detachment from not knowing, when we find things out, we didn’t know if other people know and we don’t. If a doctor knew you would die and didn’t tell you. When you still had fear buried down so deep, and you didn’t know. A brain tumor, a brain aneurysm. Cancer. Affairs. Lies. A missing body. A lost love. The lost bracelet. It’s what we don’t know that injures our sense of us. I wonder what it is. Are we allergic to mystery or is it desperate FOMO?
We are information junkies aren’t we? We seek truth as the real enlightenment and Google is the makeshift heroin.
It is the fixtures and habits that anchor us to normality and keep the fear at bay. Unless you bathe in frequent faith- that stuff is Vanilla to the ice cream. But it is difficult to be soaking in that all the time. Humanity has that effect.
When the fixtures in life are not in focus, what becomes the focus?
What parameters, what thoughts and observations come into the picture? Each time I sidestep it never feels long enough. A moment longer, a little longer to linger. To hold my own hand and a pen to paper. To achieve something changing and significant. What is this feeling? Discovery and to come back revitalized and with a new perspective. There is such quietness to this place, an occasional bird or child chatting, brothers giving each other wedgies and screaming at each other to stop the headlock. The occasional fart, a passing motorboat and the sound of the lake water lapping against the bank. Quiet + nature = feels.
I promise myself as I munch on a croissant and sip my strong coffee (my eyebrows may have just fallen off, and I may have instantly grown a beard, – this shit is strong) that I will no longer wait to leave home or travel to sidestep. I will spend some time sidestepping each day- to savor something beautiful, to hold my pen to paper but most importantly to use a little strainer each day to empty the dirty water gently from the cup, so no bucket stirring is required in a year’s time.
I am thinking ahead, I am thinking of next year.
I am thinking 5 years, I started putting more money into my superannuation. This means my future is real. Perhaps it may be a fixture that lasts longer. Maybe not. Either way, the Finnish need to learn how to make a good coffee.
I just looked up across this lake and if you have ever read/ watched The Shack- I am seriously having visions of Jesus walking over the water to pop into the old cabin here for a pancake and a coffee, but I had better find better coffee. I don’t think my Gallelian friend would like Finnish coffee anyway. He’d love the croissants. I reckon he’d laugh at the bum hiccups too.
Oh, you will know! It will be the worst pain you could experience in your life. You will either be dead or wish you were.
Good to know.
Social Skills may not have been in his repertoire but hard facts certainly were.
When someone tells you this, you don’t forget it.
I forget my pin number and my sunglasses. But never this.
Then it happens. The Thunderclap headache. Standing in the kitchen having a conversation, perfectly normal. No build up. No symptoms, no warning. Instant projectile vomit and what feels like someone shooting me in the brain from across the room. Shock. Trauma.
Not in that given order.
The pain. Today, some six months later I can’t believe I could be in that much physical pain and not be dead.
The ambulance came quickly that night.
Then the sirens. My name, over and over again. Kirsten, can you hear us?
She’s not breathing; BP is dropping. I answer. Why can no one hear me? They can, someone is screaming. I think it’s me. Don’t leave me.
The rolling vomit, the wave after wave of nausea surges through my body, like nothing I have known. The entire contents of my body feel like they are pouring out of my mouth. A tsunami I have no control over, and my whole body shakes and shudders from the violence of it.
By the time we got the hospital I was passed out, pupils dilated, and I was in trouble. A suspected brain bleed. 25% of bleeds cannot be picked up on an MRI; they require a lumbar puncture. I had one of those once. Never again. When one’s spinal chord is impaled with a thick needle by an intern with shaky hands, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I awoke in time in between vomiting to say No thanks. They were not happy with me.
By Friday I was washing the dishes and planning dinner. At my kitchen sink, with what felt like a hangover but no other symptoms. How? How is this possible?
Gratitude, wonder and then Uh Oh set in. Then “everything is fine today, so let’s move forward, nothing to see here” set in. Its the survivor in me. Thinks she’s a cross between Charles Bronson and a Williams sister. No one likes a martyr. The grief counselor reassured me this sweet denial was a path to potential disaster. It happened. It happened to me, it happened to Lothario, my children, my brother and a lovely friend we had visiting at the time of the “Incident.”
So I went to Magnetic Island with my youngest son and Mamma bear for a month. I wrote it off, played with him, had adventures, explored my second home some more in all of its pre Summer glory. I enjoyed the company of my island friends. I walked the beaches alone and cried out my fear, my panic. Papa G and I had many conversations on that beach. He was helping me mourn.
What was I mourning?
Well, it’s more than easy, in fact it is downright intoxicating to forget you are unwell when your symptoms do not stop you. You are invigorated by the hypnosis of a fulfilling life and do not want to subscribe to fear. EVER.
But then there is being emotionally truthful. The fact is unless someone comes up with a solution, I am not going to hold my grandchildren. I will not get to be old and grey with my boy. I will very possibly die from one of the most physically painful experiences you can have. Or I could end up a vegetable sucking bacon and eggs through a straw and getting Sunday visits. Sound depressing? It is! Bring on the Tropical Island and a few well deserved Margheritas. Rule: don’t ever talk about this to people. They will stop you immediately with: Well I Just Know You Are Going to Be Okay, I Can Feel It. Or No Kirsten, Don’t Say That, YOU WILL BE FINE.
Here’s the thing, I am really glad you can feel it.
I know that the love we have for people makes us want to make them feel better again. For those reading this that have said that to me, I love you for caring enough to say it. I am invested in believing that I am going to be fine too, 365 days of the year which is 825 days longer that they expected me to live. BUT sometimes shit gets real.
Sometimes it JUST IS. Left with the facts you then rely on your faith to surge through again, creating an equilibrium that is a force to be reconned with. In the meantime? There are moments of emotional truth. Good or Bad. Pretty or Ugly. They just are. But this can be distressing to others. So I don’t do that. I take it to God. I take all of those “thoughts” and talk to God about it. We are sitting in a kitchen eating pancakes and discussing matters of the universe. Like what on earth is She going to do with Stephen Hawking now? Whoa. That’s a big one.
There are people out there who walk around with some disease inside them, not of their own making. Someone operated on me and made a mess of my brain. The entire contents of my cerebrum, my grey matter, the old think tank and noggin is being held together with a microscopic thing called a FRED which isn’t doing it’s job very well, because it has slipped and has created a high volume bomb ticking in my head. Sneezes- dangerous. Flying – Dangerous. Humidity and the Common Cold ain’t great.
Constipation now holds a genuine concern. Vomiting? Forget it. Anxiety, Stress, and a raised heart rate are the worst. But head knocks? I can take those. I have titanium in there. One unfortunate head butt from my husband getting out of the car almost knocked him out, and I didn’t feel a thing. It was quite amusing.
As much as I love Louise Hay, I did not manifest this. I am human. Therefore I can break.
I did not have unresolved anger issues, but thanks and no Frankincense oil under my tongue each night won’t cure me or special drops made from a rainforests Monkey’s toenail clippings, as delicious as that sounds.
There is a process involved, and it has taken me places I never dreamed possible.
So is it a dis-ease? Or is it a blessing of the most peculiar kind? Depends on the day. Everyone lives and everyone dies, why does dying have to be the worst thing that happens to us in the Western world? Why can’t it be a celebration of how we lived and then the next journey begins? Like saying “Wow, you lucky thing, you are off to Hawaii now! Good luck and see you soon!” “She’s gone to walk with Jesus, lucky bugger.”
Because time is relative don’t you know? A word of advice- religion is not just a safety net for the emotionally weak. I am strong. I did my research. I believe in Physics. I believe in science. I also do not believe in chaos, but design. Conclusively. I do not believe in some Zeus like Gandalf in the sky. Please with a cherry on top, do not spruik your disbelief about the existence of a universal architect to the possibly dying. It is unkind. It’s just a shitty thing to do.
This journey is upsetting at times. Especially times like “the Great Vomiting incident.” If I can change that fear, that sadness I will. Purely because the vibration is heavy and it doesn’t feel very nice. Good one Captain Obvious.
But it is life.
It is. None of us get out of it unscathed or without learning, so why pretend we do or can? For me, its the faith I foster through it and the learning it presents me that creates joy within the crisis, as I have mentioned before, the alchemy of it all is the light that changes any darkness.
Think of it like walking in a deep dark cave, you know you need to turn on the light, so you do. You find yourself looking at a cave filled with magnificent, luminous waterfalls, diamond-lined walls, and beauty. But you are still in a cave. You have stumbled over sharp rocks, trying to find your way in a cold and hard place, and everyone else is standing in the sunshine. You are in a cave. No denying. There’s the emotional truth bomb. It’s what you DO with it that counts.
Sometimes the message is clear for me to write about this path I walk.
Other times I don’t think it’s a great idea. I enjoy writing other things more. I enjoy writing for others more. But I am reminded. It’s not just about me.
I reminded that there are 1 in 50 aneurysms out there. I am reminded that there are people out there in Australia who have a Used By Date that just keeps going. There are people out there that every time they cringe with a tiny pain, their child looks at them with fear and they must wrangle with the conversation “no sweety, I don’t plan on dying today, did you put your uniform in the wash?
There are people out there who are losing friends and family because the journey they walk is too painful for others to bear, so they walk away. Sometimes it’s time. It takes too much time. Seriously? You keep going on about dying, but you are still here.
There are people out there who have been told they are going to die and it feels like someone took your arse and shoved it through your nose and out your ears.
Then you have to get back to being “normal.” You have to make sure it doesn’t ruin you, consume you or turn you into a victim. Becoming a victim to me is like denying the existence of a JEDI, somewhere a light saber just dropped dead. It’s just not cricket. (I was only joking about the Light Saber thing if you doubt my cred about the whole God thing.)
You are out there. Hopefully, you are reading. Hopefully, you feel a sense of connection that says I am not alone.
I see you. You are not alone.
PS- I know Mr. Hawking was an Atheist, but at the same time I wonder if he is having maple syrup with those pancakes?