The Art of Dying

Peter Pan said, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” On June 25, 2017, my husband began his big adventure. It seems to me that the best way to do a Memorial Service for him, being a nomad, is over the invisible airwaves of the internet. That way it can wander around the planet as Ron so loved to do.

There is much to be learned from the dying process. And Ron, who taught me so much about love and forgiveness, continued to teach me with his dying. He suffered greatly as bone cancer devoured him from within. The courage and grace he endured it with made him a favorite of those who lovingly cared for him at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Florida.

We all build invisible walls around ourselves that are supposed to protect us but actually hurt us. Defenses are like that. They do the very thing they are supposed to protect you from. Ron’s wall caused him to sometimes come across uncaring, and say the wrong or hurtful thing. I knew that behind the facade was a sensitive, insecure soul. (As indeed most of us are.)

For Ron, it took a painful dying experience to break down the wall and reveal the pure, gentle soul behind it. During the dying process, all his defenses fell away. He surrendered to the journey. His vanity was stripped away but not his dignity. What many would endure with humiliation, he accepted with humility. Through the long, painful dying process, he expressed only kindness and gratitude. 

Why he had to suffer so, it is not for me to know. And for a while, I prayed that he would go quickly. And then I realized: this is his journey and his departure was between him and God. One person said to him, “You shouldn’t have to go through this.” Ron replied, “There is a reason for everything.”

Maybe it was his way of dissolving his defenses, overcoming pride and prejudice. For those who believe in karma, maybe he was working his out. Maybe it was to deepen our bond and bring us closer than ever. Maybe it was to hear some of the beautiful messages he received and know he was loved. Whatever the purpose, I do not know. But I know he succeeded.

Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea –
Past the houses –

Past the headlands –

Into deep eternity.

Emily Dickinson

In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, there was no word for death. When someone passed, they used a word that meant “Not here, somewhere else.” Ron is not here on the physical plane, he is somewhere else.  Somewhere beyond the laws of time and space, somewhere without limits and pain and sorrow, somewhere where the angels sing and the love of God fills him to overflowing.

And God Himself shall wipe away all tears. Where darkness was I look upon the light. All pain is healed; all misery replaced with joy.
A Course in Miracles

The death of a loved one is perhaps the hardest thing we have to face in this life. We think what we see and touch and hear is real but it’s not. We are ethereal beings and death is dropping the heavy garment that keeps us earthbound.

I do believe that there is an art to dying. I don’t agree with the resistance urged by Dylan Thomas…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Rather I would say…

Lay down your weapons, break down your walls.

Look back with gratitude. Reach out with kindness.

Resist not the dying of the day for this is but one dimension of life.

There are many roads yet to travel. Follow the Light and let Love be your guide.

This, I believe, is the art of dying. And I am so proud of Ron for mastering it.

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What are You Choosing to See and Be?

The world is our mirror. It reflects back to us the content of our predominant thoughts. We may think we are positive people, but we all harbor negative judgments, fears, insecurities. In fact, human beings have an inclination to be negative.

According to a report on the Cleveland Clinic Wellness site a while ago, “Each person has an average of 60,000 thoughts a day! That’s one thought per second in every waking hour! Amazingly, 95 percent are the same thoughts repeated every day. On average, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative.”

With that amount of ANTS (automatic negative thoughts), we can’t be living the best life possible. All too often we helicopter-1598077_640function on automatic pilot, letting our impulses and conditioning control our lives. While negative thinking, worry, stress and fear are natural, we can rise above them.

We have instincts but we also have choices. We have fear but we also have love. There is ugliness in the world but there’s also beauty. There is hatred but there is also kindness. There is darkness but there is also light. The choice is ours.

In the following letter written by Fra Giovanni in 1513, he urges a friend to see beyond the shadows…

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I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life

We can bemoan the injusticecandle-1342414_640 in the world or we can be a beacon of light in the darkness.
We can separate or we can join. We can be guided by fear or by faith. We can be apathetic or enthusiastic. We can surrender to our genes and conditioning, our regrets and grievances or we can take responsibility for what we think and feel and do. Relinquish that responsibility, and the power of choice is forfeited.

As you make your daily choices, remember…

Focus of attention creates. Change your mind and you change your life.

It is never what is happening that upsets us. It is always what we think about what’s happening.

Happiness comes from inside not outside.

Gratitude = great attitude. Pessimism and cynicism are hazardous to your health.

Growth comes from going beyond our boundaries.

The greatest ally or enemy you will ever have is your own thinking.

There is beauty in the world and in our minds.

Take time to relax and refresh yourself.

Take time to discover and pursue what you really enjoy.

Be kind to yourself, patient and forgiving. Take the lessons from your mistakes and let the self-recrimination go.

Take time to be kind. Wherever you are, there is someone you can make a little happier.

Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. Annie Lennox

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Compassionate listening is an act of love, and a gift more precious than words. Take time to listen.

Open your mind to new ideas. Open your heart to a pet, a child, a lonely neighbor.

Most of us have built walls around ourselves. We are in a constant state of self-defense. We are afraid of being hurt, disappointed, betrayed, rejected. Our fears imprison us. Let the walls down.

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. The Eagles

The key is choice. Set yourself free. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, thinking, feeling, doing, choose again.

Adapted from: Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life

How to Overcome a Bad First Impression

Did you ever take an instant dislike to someone? Or maybe you were on the other end. What happened? There are unconscious factors at play when we meet people. They automatically fire feelings of acceptance or rejection.

Perhaps Mary reminded you of Great Aunt Sally and you detested Great Aunt Sally. Could have been Mary’s face, her voice, her clothes, but the connection was made and feelings for Aunt Sally instantly transferred to Mary.

Joe is a policeman and you have negatively stereotyped all policemen. You instantly project your prejudice onto Joe.

Rosalind’s skin is a different color than yours. You instantly perceive her through the bigoted filters you were raised with. 

meditation-278793_1280Memories, prejudices, conditioning, stereotypes all influence our reaction to people – and theirs to us. That’s why we form a first impression in mere seconds. And just as quickly as feelings are formed by unconscious impulses, they jump to conscious expression. They infect our body language, face, and voice. If we don’t choose to counteract negative reactions associated with disliking people, we create an instant rift with people we meet.

6 Ways to Instantly Turn People Off

When we take an instant dislike to people, we…

CLOSE DOWN. Take a defensive stance. Arms crossed in front, fists closed.

FROWN. The face reflects feelings of displeasure and rejection.

LOOK AWAY. Avoid making eye contact.

OFFER A RELUCTANT HANDSHAKE.  A fast, poor handshake conveys distaste.

GIVE A COLD GREETING. Our words convey superiority, rejection, disinterest.

DON’T LISTEN. We’re focused on our negative feelings and the desire to separate rather than listening.

These actions clearly convey that we are disinterested, distracted and discourteous. Not only is it an injustice to other people, we are doing ourselves an injustice. We automatically reject people who may be well worth knowing.

Just as surely as you have done it to people, it has been done to you. So you know snappy, automatic judgments are unkind and unfair. Fortunately, we can choose to counteract those negative and defensive behaviors when they arise.

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6 Ways to Instantly Turn People On

OPEN POSTURE. Relaxed arms, open hands.

SMILE. A sincere smile puts people at ease. It conveys warmth, friendliness and a desire to  connect.

MAKE EYE CONTACT. Focusing on one person to the exclusion of all else makes him/her feel important and interesting. 

OFFER A FIRM HANDSHAKE. A good handshake shows acceptance. Offering it first conveys a confident, outgoing nature.

FRIENDLY GREETING. Keep that smile on your face and it will ensure a positive tone of voice

LISTEN. Listening shows interest and involvement.

How Can You Overcome a Bad First Impression?

If someone takes an instant dislike to you, it is based on who he/she is, not who you are. Fortunately, there are ways to help them change their mind.

Nothing makes a good impression more than a positive, outgoing personality. Emotions are contagious. Unconsciously, we imitate others’ body language and facial expressions thereby activating the same emotions in ourselves. Tears, joy, laughter, anxkids-1099709_640iety all trigger empathetic responses. Happy people resonate happiness in us. Unhappy people bring us down. Naturally, we like to be around those who trigger positive feelings.

Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you. Les Brown

We value intelligence and achievement. Our estimation of people escalates as we learn of  their education, knowledge, creations and accomplishments. Share interesting information about yourself. Don’t be afraid to toot your horn a little if you can do so in a modest manner.

I admired in others the strength that I lacked myself.
Georg Brandes

It is a rare person who does not respond positively to kindness. You can be sure of winning people over by demonstrating courtesy, understanding, and compassion.

You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force.
Publilius Syrus

Laughter puts people at ease, creates harmony and establishes a bond. People enjoy and immediately feel comfortable with someone who makes them laugh.

You take away all the other luxuries in life, and if you can make someone smile and laugh, you have given the most special gift: happiness. Brad Garrett

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Don’t let your first impression dictate your behavior. It is impossible to know a person in the few seconds a first impression is formed. So stay open. Be present. And, no matter how you feel, be kind.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama