Dying Well

sacredwell

Movies and mythic journeys always talk about “dying well”. When you think about dying well in this instance it usually involves something heroic or being remembered for an altruistic life. Extraordinary experiences of profound impact on others or the world in general are usually what get written down in books or played out on screens. Immortalized character traits that set the bar high for all of us left living to aspire to.

In the Mayan culture a human would  volunteer to be sacrificed to the God’s because it assured them a place in heaven. To be sacrificed was “dying well” to the Mayans. The human sacrifice was thrown into a cenote, a deep dark cave with an underground river and if the bound human sacrifice survived the 60 foot fall, after a period of time they were brought back up and asked what the God’s told them while in the cenote.

In my experience sitting with people that are dying, people die the way they lived. Those memorable heroic moments that happened maybe once and that everyone always associates with the person…yeah, that isn’t what the dying are sorting through in the end. The end brings what one spends the majority of their time and energy on. If it was being fearful, then it is fear gripping you in the end. If it was regret, then it is regret that wafts over you and spills out of your eyes and soul. Our one defining moment is death and it is at this time that our truest spirit is expressed. Not the many faces we live and use daily in life. Those are only needed by the living. Death being the equalizer that it is, brings us to ground zero where our base energy lies…that which fuels our thoughts, desires, needs, and propels us into action. It rarely is altruistic and even rarer is heroic, at least not in historical or Hollywood terms. It is instead that day in and day out, moment to moment, small hum of energy that is not noticed by anyone but you most of the time. That lingering tug at your consciousness as you are falling asleep at night..there, that is what surfaces in the end, like it has been waiting and trying to get you to acknowledge it for a long, long time.

It makes you think about the way you live now. At this moment. If you spew anger and hatred towards your family, if you judge people, if you are jealous or resentful, if you love and respect others, show compassion, are generous… whatever you spend the most time and energy on is what will be staring back at you from the mirror placed before you in the end. And that mirror comes to us all.

And of course no one knows what happens after death, what if we continue on in some other existence based on these very characteristics that we lived in this life? What if this life is step one and our actions in it determines step two? Would you change the way you live your life now to “die well”?

What Do You Eat?

Meat lovers

Potatoes, onions, sundried tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, morningstar farms breakfast links, marjoram, salt, pepper and fried in coconut oil.

This was breakfast this morning. I call it “Meat” Lovers meal because it has lots of texture, and grinding and chewing involved. EXTREMELY satisfying when you just have to masticate. Three months ago I switched from eating a vegetarian diet to eating a whole food plant based diet. To put it simply it is a diet that is based on eating all whole foods and all plants. Processed food out and dairy out. This has been the BEST experience of my life and my body loves me for it. In fact, my skin, hair, nails, asthma, allergies (well my allergies hate it, cause they were eliminated), bones, muscles, memory, stamina etc., etc., LOVE me for eating this food.

A lot of things begin to happen when you change your diet, any diet but two big things that changed for me had to do with digestion. Digestion is where the money is people. If your digestion is not working well, it doesn’t matter what you eat. Digestion is where all the nutrients get taken to the rest of the body and the yucky stuff discarded. There is a lot of information out there on this and I wish I had time to recount it all here but I don’t. What I will tell you is where I began.

Mind you I have to tell you that I grew up hating vegetables and water and ate macaroni, potatoes and hamburgers. Then I also continued to eat all carbs and processed foods as a young adult. Drinking a V-8 or eating some canned corn was my definition of eating vegetables. I began eating fresh vegetables by cooking vegetable soup. I love soup and I bought some really good broth like knorr’s vegetable broth and I made really good soup that had vegetables in chopped really small so the taste was not too noticeable. I ate it everyday. I batch cooked it on Sundays for the whole week. Whenever I needed something fast to eat, instead of reaching for the frozen bean and cheese burrito I had a bowl of soup. When that didn’t satisfy, I made stir fry with brown rice. So something amazing happened with my digestion. Increased vegetables and taking a daily probiotic, my fiber was increased and my body was no longer starving for nutrients that are not present in processed food, I began to really feel alive. Feed your body living food and you will feel alive. The two big things that changed for me was nutrient absorption and elimination. If these two things are taking place in your digestion then you are golden if not you are starving and stagnant at the same time. A clogged up system is no fun. You don’t feel like part of the cycle of life that is for sure. Nothing cycling through you except when forced. We were made for greater things than that image presents.

I do still feel the need to masticate and 95% of my diet is whole food plant based the other 5% is whatever in the hell I feel like eating. I NEVER deprive myself of anything I want to eat. Sometimes I have pizza laden with cheese or a donut or my big love, Denali Extreme Fudge Ice Cream. I used to eat something in the 5% everyday, after awhile you eat it less and less as you reap the consequences. It just loses it’s special feeling. But the key is to keep a balance, our lives and bodies need a balanced existence between “good” and “bad” too much “good” can be just as detrimental as too much “bad”.

Fruit lovers

This was breakfast yesterday morning when I wanted the comforting numminess of hot oatmeal. I threw in some strawberries and blueberries and eating a bowl of grain loaded carbs became healthy. See what I did?

People ask me regularly, “what do you eat?” and in the beginning of the change I had my moments where I thought I would starve for lack of options. It gets better and easier. Make your old standby, mine was soup. When that gets old, make another old standby, my second one now is a wonderful black bean quinoa loaf, I always have one in the fridge for a quick protein. When you bump up against cravings, ask your body what it wants and then listen. My body regularly tells me when it needs protein, fat and carbs. Some days I eat sprouted whole wheat bread four times and other days I eat nothing but sweet potatoes. I eat according to my body and I feel terrific. By the way, oven roasted sweet potatoes mixed with coconut oil, marjoram and salt is better than candy!!

Some of the many benefits: rosacea disappeared, allergies disappeared (no longer take allergy med), asthma symptoms under control, skin blemish free, weight began dropping, skin tone improved, tons of energy, memory fog gone, vision improved, all joint aches gone, bloated abdomen gone, water retention gone, mood improved, hypothyroidism gone. I am medication free. All previous sensitivities to my environment are gone. My body has reached homeostasis and can react to environmental toxins normally and repel them.

Not going to lie, it is hard to make changes to your diet. Our diets are so wrapped up with emotions and memory and we eat for so many reasons and it is so personal. There will be times that you give up and eat whatever you want but that is okay, when you are ready then get back to eating what makes you feel good. I never think of those times as failures they are the 5% when I eat whatever I want and that makes it that much easier to not ever give up eating what makes me feel good.

Up next…Water our very foundation and eliminating chlorine!

 

 

Your mileage may vary

This is a great message for all…young, old or in-between! Go for the dream! Always go for the dream, everything else will work itself out.

Piaggia Del Giuggiolo

Libba Bray

Recently, I received a post that really got under my skin. It’s from Fiona (Hi, Fiona). I started to dash off a reply and then I thought that it required a much longer, more considered answer. With her permission, I’m reprinting her original comment below followed by my response. My response is lengthy; I apologize. But it is from the heart.

“I’m in a bit of a dilemma and I made a deal with my father that I would get advice from three people: my high school counselor, my voice coach, and an author. I want to go into the fine arts: writing, singing, composing. My father wants me to go to Columbia, Yale, or Harvard. I’d be fine with these but I want to go to a smaller school and then study abroad for at least two years. “It’s my life and this is a decision that will alter…

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“Pretty Good but not Great”

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That is my favorite line from the movie Julie and Julia. Julia is standing before a full length mirror with her sister checking their appearance before joining a party in her living room and she says this line. I just thought it perfect and endearing. They were both satisfied and happy with pretty good. That seems to be an elusive place we all strive to find. Content, full enough, satisfied, happy with where we are, happy with who we are…all immeasurable except by our own yardsticks.

It is a concept I grapple with often. Especially coming up on my 50th birthday in a few months. I always thought by 50 I would be settled in that place but instead I see my life more in flux and transient than ever. I do feel more satisfied with who I am and there is contentment in that. I suppose contributing to the unease of turning half a century is the fact that I feel I haven’t made any significant contribution to the world, aside from my beautiful offspring. They will always be my greatest gift to you all. Or I suppose specifically it is that I haven’t found my niche. Rather I have found several and they shift and change often. I always equated success to finding a niche and staying put for many, many years. Well, I haven’t done that. But I have enjoyed what I have done and where I may go in the future. I feel a bit torn between settling down in one place and not ever settling down but instead  taking off. When I told my son I would like to start building my own cob house and grounds, he said, “Really, you’re done, going to settle down now?” I just kind of blinked at him speechless. I hadn’t until that moment known he thought me unsettled. I digress.

I began this entry about being satisfied with yourself. What you look like, who you are, where you are in life. I am pretty happy with all of those. Sure there are things I want to improve upon  but that will never completely go away.  I changed up my diet lately and am eating healthier which has made a huge improvement in my allergies, asthma and overall energy level. I eliminated gluten and sugar, cut way back on dairy and grains. I have been researching recipes and cooking a lot. Every meal takes longer to prepare and cook. I cook staples like vegetable soup and black bean loaf ahead of time to have on hand for fast food. I just baked up a batch of brown rice muffins with apple butter in them. They are yummy. You can find the recipe here.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but I continually am, it wasn’t until I went to the source, our water and eliminated toxins that are added in to our water supply that I began to see so much improvement in my health. My skin cleared up, my asthma wasn’t triggered during each shower, my hair stopped falling out. All due to the massive amounts of chlorine added to our water that I eliminated with good filters.

These two areas are the most significant: water and diet. It really changes the way you think about your health. Turning 50 and still being able to climb hills in Greece, steps in Italy, castles in Germany and next up, streets in the U.K., is really important to me and I plan to continue doing it for another 50 years.

The Times They are a Changing…Still and Forever

mothergoddessearth

If I had to define my belief system at this moment it would be ” a follower of signs from the Universe.”  Now, in the next moment the definition may be completely different. I feel most at ease and peaceful when my sight is open to the synchronistic revelations that appear all around me everyday but on many days I am too preoccupied with mundania to “see”. I feel at my most optimal, creatively, at these open time periods. I can make sense of my path up until now, I can look back with more clarity than I had going forward at the time, I can see how all the minute pieces of passionate discovery fit together and add to the layers of generation. This morning I had a window of this blissful, purposeful time and found quite a few bending moments while following threads of knowledge, one tidbit leading to another, leading to another, leading to another.

This link is to a lecture by Marija Gimbutas. It is quite long at 1 hour and 42 minutes but I can tell you I was mesmerized the entire time. I had several revelations and made even more connections while watching. Professor Gimbutas is a weaver most definitely. I believe that the collective “we” are heading back to the Paleolithic period in terms of returning to the earth. We have been traveling through the sky far too long and have forgotten our roots that come from the earth. Gimbutas discusses in the lecture the pre-Kurgan invasion of the horse riders and the patriarchal (Sky God) beliefs. Sustenance for all came from the earth, agricultural and arts were an extension of spiritual practice all tied into reverence of the Goddess. There was no war, no violence. It was an “earth loving, art loving culture”. I can see a huge movement back to this time when we ate local, grew our own food or bartered for it, goods and services were not transported long distance. The earth was given thanks for it’s sustenance and it was cared for as a reciprocal practice of give and take in the circle of life. The balance was in the regeneration from life to death and back to life. Sustainable practices were not a catch phrase, it was a natural way of living off the earth.

We have become too much in our minds and technology has created mini-Gods of our brains that we worship above all else. Learn to make it easier, better, cheaper, faster…man-made is where it’s at! We are our own God. We can create it all. No need for a reciprocal connection with the natural world. Plastic does not die, it can never be a part of the regenerative cycle.  The disruption in Paleolithic times when those first horse riders rode in and decided that hunting by men was better than agriculture by both men and women was the turning point. It is apparent where this has taken us. Now the natural world is taking us back home. Through climate change, extinction and global eco disasters we are being told “No More”. The return to the old ways is upon us and I for one am looking forward to the changes and getting back to the basics that feel stable and life affirming.

Five Generations of Women in my Family

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I organized a photo shoot over a year ago with five generations of women in my family. We all went to my gram’s house and stayed overnight in order to capture a full day of photos. I assembled a back drop against the living room wall and brought a suitcase full of props and ideas. I was one of the five generations so I used a remote when I was in the photos. My granddaughter was only a little over a year old and it was a long day for her…well for all of us. You see when you get five generations of women in one room for an entire day, well more unspoken communication happens than spoken and the dynamics that play out between all is a constantly changing wave of emotionally charged energy. The shoot didn’t turn out at all like I wanted it too. My mom couldn’t stop moving and most of the shots of her are blurred and she wouldn’t look at the camera unless I told her to. My daughter was trying her best to corral a toddler. The toddler got bored, restless, tired and wanted “booby”.  My gram was in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s and needed a lot of direction. I wore shorts and you can see me holding the remote in many shots. It was a rough day and we got tired and cranky but we got through it. I thought about doing another shoot in hopes of coming closer to my ideal goals for the shoot but I never want to do that shoot again…ever.

I finally after months of staring at these photos, trying to edit out the parts I don’t like, thinking I would re-shoot myself now out of context of the previous shoot and various other avoidance behaviors, have decided that this photo shoot shows these women and me exactly the way we are…a chaotic mess of interwoven complex energies that are reflected in the photos. I threw up my hands and picked out the images that show the story of that shoot. You can view them here.

Forehead to Floor

We are in the throes of packing up the apartment for storage. The sound of our voices echo off the bare walls. My son, Chad says it isn’t a home anymore. While we put on our smiles everyday before greeting each other, this self imposed limbo is taking it’s toll on each of us. Neither of us want to say to anyone or each other how much this feels like loss with the associated heartache. The true friends don’t say, “how ridiculous, you are going to Italy, be happy!” The ones who keep it real understand that there are requisite good by’s to say and much to let go before embracing the new. These real ones are my mirrors at moments when it becomes too much and my forehead touches the floor. 

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nelseverydaypainting.blogspot.com

Those floor touching moments are so grounding. The moment of release, when our ego/will succumbs to the emotional moment and for a split second all is completely lost and found. The yogi’s seek it out on the mat. The Buddhist monks put forehead to floor daily in prayer. For me it is a battle of gravity. I will hold my head up, I will not bow down to my fears and insecurities. Until I am taken out at the knees. The more courageous, willful, driven and motivated, the more forehead to floor moments needed to remind me that this is where it lives. Here on the ground, in the earth, the center of life, the base, the root of all life. Not up there in the clouds where the wind blows but down here where my toes dig in and the creepy crawlies make tunnels. 

I am a dreamer of the worst kind. I actually believe that my dreams will come true. What happens when dreams don’t stay dreams? Whether a dream begins to be real or you release it, the emotions are the same, fear, loss, mixed with hope, and elation. You feel the sun on your face and your forehead touches the floor often. And you let everything go over and over again. You say goodbyes. You cry. You reassess priorities. You adjust figures.  You reach for something that is only a partial outline in your mind’s eye. You shape, mold and fabricate that vapor dream into something you can touch, smell, taste and see. You create new right out of thin air. This is what it is about, what you are about. What I am about,  What moves us. Creation. Creating a new life, a new dream, a new reality, a new forehead to floor moment. We have come full circle, let’s begin again. 

4 days until storage move. 22 days until we fly to Italy. 

P.S. Sun salutation has taken on a new meaning for me. It is all about this forehead to floor…look it up.