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Archive for the ‘Life & Death’ Category

Choices and Consequences

Posted by Amanda Gray on August 1, 2014

I’m still thinking a great deal about the death of my cat.  Specifically, regarding the choices that were made along the way.

Dr. David R. Hawkins says that events do not actually happen in an A = B = C linear fashion.  It’s more like once a choice has been made, then the EVENT ‘ABC’ is created, involving all it’s resultant consequences, but then experienced in a, seemingly, linear progression.  There have been several incidences in my life where I observed this theory in action, and I hold it to be fairly accurate, at least, at my current level of awareness.  This idea is also inherent in the statement, “You can’t mess it up.”  You can’t, because you always make the decision that’s right for you in the moment, and then the consequences are, as they unfold, pretty much out of your hands.

My cat, Jonas, was 19 years old.  Even if he hadn’t gotten suddenly sick, he would have died, of something, soon anyway.  I made a decision, early in his sickness, not to take him to the vet.  Even in my own mind, it was an extremely difficult decision.   Do I put him through the fear and stress of a trip, a battery of tests, and an overwhelming expense, only to learn that compassionate euthanasia is the, most likely, resort?  Could I made a decision for euthanasia, with even the slightest, tiniest chance of recovery?  Could I leave him at the vet clinic for any length of time, for tests, and the possibility that he could die while away from me?   Could I nurse him at home, giving him my full attention, and every chance possible of recovery, while, if necessary, providing as much comfort as I could in his passing, like hospice?  I made the choice that was, to me, the most courageous and most natural.

Jonas started going downhill from the beginning of May, concurrent with my move to BC.  He lost a lot of weight, ate little, and slept most of the time.  But whatever sickness led to his eventual demise, it began with an acute attack in the night.  It was a big shock, and I thought he was going to die, right then and there, but he didn’t.  He recovered seemingly well in a few minutes.  What was the attack?  Heart attack?  Stroke? Was he poisoned by a bad can of food?  An acute renal failure?  Whatever it was, it was done.  There was no going back from it, and then, after a few days, I noticed that his health was definitely going downhill.

I provided all possible avenues of recovery.  He was still drinking water, peeing, moving about (with great difficulty in his back legs), but not eating.  I got high nutritional food and oral syringes at the vet and began to force feed him, a couple of teaspoons, every three hours.  I also started giving him 1/2 tablet of baby aspirin 2 to 3 times a day to minimize any pain he might be experiencing.  He took the food and the aspirin, I helped him drink water, and he rallied for a couple of days.  His will to live was strong and persistent.  I thought he might actually make it.  Yet, his eyes had changed.  They were small, and sunken.

In the third day of treatment, Jonas would spit out more food than he would swallow.  And he made an irreversible decision.  He stopped drinking water.  Looking back, I see that as the point of no return.  He was ready to die.

What happens in nature when an animal is passing?  They go off, alone, and hide.  They stop eating and drinking.  And they die.  No muss, no fuss, no intervention.  No resistance, no refusal.  I made a critical decision at that point too.  That I would allow him to die naturally, and I would stay with him until his last breath.  That was the most important thing to me, that we would be together.  Again, I deeply questioned my motivation.  If he was going to die anyway, why not make it quick with an injection?  Well, because I hoped and expected that he would go to sleep and slip peacefully away.  And I wanted to do for him, what I think I’d want others to do for me.  If I’m ready to die – just bugger off and let me go!

I stopped force feeding him.  I gave him as much water as I could with the oral syringe, to moisten his mouth, but he wouldn’t drink it down.  With great difficulty, I got him to swallow another 1/2 aspirin.  I kept his bed directly on my lap most of the day, looking into his eyes, holding him, hugging him, talking to him.  At bedtime, I took him to my bed.

But that was when he took another turn for the worse.  He began to make a horrible cry.  He vomited a couple of times.  I felt so helpless!  I forced another 1/2 aspirin down his throat.  I moistened his mouth.  Did we have anything else to give him – a sleeping pill?  No.  What if this went on all night?  OH GOD!  Why didn’t I get the injection while I had the chance???  I was terrified that I chose wrongly!  I said to Jonas, “We’re in it now.  No turning back.  We made our decisions and now we have to go down this road.”  Then I knew that I couldn’t have chosen any other way, because all choices would still lead to the same end – an end that I didn’t WANT – but that would happen anyway.  Is an injection ‘better’ than a natural death?  Is a natural death ‘better’?  What defines the word ‘better’ when all choices lead only to certain pain?  I don’t know – NOBODY KNOWS!!  I told Jonas, “You can go, little baby.  You don’t have to fight anymore.  Just let go.  It will be ok.”

He was quiet only when I had my hand on him, and when I kept the light on.  I discovered that he peed a little in his bed, so I gently cleaned it up and put a layer of paper towel under him.  This seemed to offer great solace, as it always disturbed him tremendously to be ‘unclean’.  That may even have been why he cried.  It didn’t take long after that, maybe 10 or 20 minutes.  I was so sleepy… I rested my head against his bed, near his head, with my arm around his back.  I couldn’t see his face, but I could see his body and hind legs.  His legs flicked out, once… then again.  I knew this was the moment.  I watched his last breath leave his body and he was still.   I sat up and looked fully at him.  He looked completely peaceful.  Was it over?  Could he still come back?  No.  He was gone.  His body soon began to feel stiff and cold.

I write about this because I want to remember these details, as morbid as they may seem.  Perhaps it’ll be helpful to another who’s faced with these same decisions with a beloved pet.  Perhaps it will be helpful to me in the future, with another pet or person, even.  And, who knows, this was the way I chose this time, but I might choose differently next time.  As a society, a culture, and as human beings, we still have a long way to go in learning about and dealing maturely with the process of death.  Shouldn’t it be a natural thing?  As natural as birth?  What if, wherever Jonas went, it was a WONDERFUL place?

Ultimately, my intention was love.  I’m confident that Jonas knew that.  Although I’m still grieving, I have no regrets, and I’m confident that I made the ‘right’ and ‘best’ choices that I could.  There is a giant hole in the energetic fabric of my existence right now and I just have to deal with it.  Nothing will make it feel ‘better’.  Jonas isn’t coming back.  All resistance and loss I feel is merely the denial of the fact.  I feel his energy missing at the foot of my sofa during the day, and a sweeping sadness at bedtime when I used to carry him with me to bed.  I actually feel an aversion to my bedroom now, as the pervasive empty loneliness in my chest is greatest there.  And I’ve developed a, perhaps unhealthy, attachment to a bone shaped neck pillow that I’ve been holding at night, in the crook of my arm, as if it’s Jonas.  I’m letting it happen.  Because I know that all of it, in time, will pass.

 

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God bless Jonas.  5 Sept 1995 – 26 July 2014.

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Saint Jonas: 05 Sep 1995 – 26 Jul 2014

Posted by Amanda Gray on July 26, 2014

DSC05376

Sigh.

My cat, Jonas, just passed away.

He was 19 years old.  Such an awesome friend – one of the greatest gifts in my life.  He taught me about unconditional love.  He liked to cuddle, sleep in the crook of my arm, and nuzzle my ear.  He followed me in many adventures across the country – I called him my "planes, trains and automobiles" cat.  He was a Saint because he was friendly and loving to every person and creature he encountered.  He was my handsome, little baby.

Here are three videos to celebrate his precious and incomparable existence:

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How do I Live an Authentic Life?

Posted by Amanda Gray on July 6, 2011

A Course in Miracles, Text, page 550:

Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother’s hand and keeping up to Heaven’s song, is difficult to do. But it is hard indeed to wander off, alone and miserable, down a road that leads to nothing and that has no purpose.

The past ten years of my life has been primarily characterized by a single goal of enlightenment, and it’s ‘process’ of separating the meaningful from the meaningless, the truth from illusion. I live for this work. I love this work. In the quote above: Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother’s hand and keeping up to Heaven’s song, is difficult to do. That’s how I feel when I’m meditating, or when I’m contemplating/praying about a stressful event from my day, or when I’m at a spiritual group meeting, or when I’m attending a retreat. Essentially, when I feel closest to spirit. The second part of the quote has characterized, pretty much, the rest of my life: But it is hard indeed to wander off, alone and miserable, down a road that leads to nothing and that has no purpose. Certainly, I’ve lived enough for three lifetimes, but it’s been, almost entirely, dissatisfying! I’ve done everything I can think of to do. Do, do, do. Learn, learn, learn. For what? I’m in the same place. I never ‘went’ anywhere. I never ‘got’ anything.

While the ego does an amazing job of substitution, it’s incapable of real and lasting love, peace or joy. Its selfishness, greed, hatred, and destruction are its only foundations, built entirely on shaky ground, but while these qualities are cherished, they can block the truth of the underlying Self. I have chased egoic illusions in the world, thinking that I could find the truth in the ‘right’ job, or the ‘right’ teaching, live in the ‘right’ place, or that the ‘right’ person could give me the ‘right’ answer. There has been no purpose to these wanderings and they have always ended painfully, just to shift again to a new, but similarly unsatisfactory situation. Will I continue to believe there’s someone out there who can tell me how to BE? That’s crazy!

I will not go one more step forward in the world to mis-create more suffering for myself and others. I will stop now and do the consciousness work that must be done. I feel that I’m at a major juncture and the choices I make now are crucial. I can continue with meaninglessness – taking ‘safe’ jobs and barely scraping by in poverty, mediocrity, and apathy – or I can, for the first time in ten years, define what is meaningful to me. If I’m ever going to take the risk of being myself, now is a very good time. If I set a true, meaningful goal now, then I can move forward with complete certainty. I’ll be able to disregard all thoughts of ‘getting’ something from the world and from others, and focus instead on what I have to give to them. I’m asking: what is my gift of true giving? How do I live an authentic life? How may I serve?

Adyashanti often asks his students, “What do you know that you don’t really want to know?” Right now, I would answer that I suspect I’ll go back on stage. I’m afraid of it, though, and when I think about performing, I feel a kind of ‘evil temptation’ with it. A mischievous smile will play at the corner of my lips, and it’s somehow associated with ‘acting’ and with ‘lies’.The Compassionate Samurai

I’ve been reading the book, The Compassionate Samurai by Brian Klemmer.

This stood out on page 83:

A person may become accustomed to telling people what he thinks they want to hear. When he does this, he’s really hiding. He’s not only hiding the total truth, but he’s also hiding a piece of himself that he really doesn’t want others to know.

Yes, that’s what comes from that ‘actor’ self – the ‘evil temptation’ to lie about myself – yet another part of me must have been aware of the lie and allowed it. If my higher self never stepped in to ‘save me’, it’s only because I never invited it to. Anyway, whatever’s being held back, it’s something that’s ‘bigger’ than the little egoic me, bigger than I’m comfortable with.

I quit acting ten years ago because I didn’t want to play a part anymore. I wanted to be myself. This time, I won’t go on stage hiding behind a role, promoting a fantasy, or speaking the words of another, I’ll be my Self and I’ll share the true gifts of my unique being. How? I don’t know. It’s not challenging to come up with ideas, I have a million, but what’s challenging is to pick one and stick to it. I often lose the motivation for an idea when I think about how much work is involved. Or how much I’d have to do by myself. Or how much it’ll cost. Sometimes I just hit this wall of “I can’t”. It’s almost like, if it’s something I really want… I can’t. Why can’t I? What am I so inspired by that I won’t lose motivation or energy for it overnight? What’s truly worth doing?

I recognize that, recently, my desire for spirit – to know myself, truth and God – has made me neglect and eschew my practical responsibilities. I’ve attempted to separate spirit from the world, but, yeah, I know it’s a mistake. Although I might wish it to be, enlightenment is not an ‘escape’ from the world. It’s true that in spiritual work, it’s necessary to surrender attachments and desires, but it’s also necessary to surrender resistances, and as long as I’m resisting mundane worldly experience – the action of love in the world – I’m missing half of the story. I’m missing “the forest for the trees.” I’ve been obtusely fixated on finding the ‘right’ tree (job). What qualities would make a ‘right’ tree anyway? The type of tree, or the shape of its boughs, or the colour of its foliage? Will the ‘right’ tree make me perfectly happy? No, I just set myself up for failure as I immediately focus on what’s wrong with each tree. Darting from tree to tree, I’m confused by the content of myriad details, and I miss the context of the fantastic forest around me – of wildlife, plants, flowers, insects, and rainbows. I put undue pressure on myself to find the ‘right’ tree, when I might just need to lean against a tree that’s right, for right now, and enjoy the moment in the woods.

I also see that I’ve got to quit trying to be perfect all the time. This is probably why I’ve been regularly haunted by a feeling of ‘impending doom’ at work. The doom is when everyone finds out that I’m a fake, that I’m not perfect, and that I’m pretending to be interested what I’m doing. I’ve taken work for the past ten years, almost solely on the basis of it being ‘safe’. Well, that’s over, I can’t choose that way anymore. I can’t force interest anymore. I’m no longer motivated by money, or position, or by being liked; I’m only motivated by something within me that says, “Yeah, this looks like fun. I want to participate in this game with these people.”

On page 71 of The Compassionate Samurai, Brian says:

When you live with death in mind, you’re not trying to preserve your life and simply survive, because you know it’s a lost cause. You play full-out because you don’t have anything to lose.

That’s a massive paradigm shift for me! Yes, I have merely tried to preserve my life, doing as little as I can, playing it safe. I used death as an excuse: if I’m only going to die anyway, why bother doing anything? But Brian clearly explains that death doesn’t have to be an excuse for a living death, it can be the reason for a full, passionate life.

Fascinating. These have all been awesome lessons.

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I Want to Live in a Wigwam

Posted by Amanda Gray on May 15, 2011

I don’t know what Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) was thinking about when he wrote his song about living in a wigwam, but, for me, it’s about chasing fantasies and trying to find a comfortable lifestyle in the world.  Sure, Cat, I’d like to live in a wigwam, or ride in a caravan like a gypsy, or live in a commune like a hippie too.  Just like Cat, I wouldn’t want to live in a barracks or in a jailhouse.  Like the song suggests, there are idealistic, romantic life situations that I’d like to try, and other situations that I would rather reject – some acutely so – like if I was conscripted to the army or sentenced to a prison term.

My life has been very much like this song.  It’s been a continuous sampling of situations and roles.  Some situations I was excited about trying, and some I wasn’t thrilled about, but gave ’em a go anyway.  Since I never knew what I really wanted to do or what would make me happy, I was willing to try anything and everything.  At first, it was exciting to take on diverse challenges and adapt myself to whatever the role required.  I soon learned that I could easily play any part and be anything I wanted to be.  I was a little like the main character in the movie “Catch Me if You Can.”  I never went to the extremes that he did, becoming a forger, a doctor, or a lawyer, but I played at disparate occupations such as pastry cook, PC support technician, and insurance agent.  I’d study my topic, adopt rather stereotypical characteristics, be what everyone would expect, and then, by God, they’d believe me!

I’d believe it too, for a while.  But then, it’d start to fall apart.  Eventually, I would feel the cracks forming under the surface.  Sometimes, the role would slip, and I was sure people would see through me.  Oh no!  I couldn’t let them see through my carefully fabricated lie!  I couldn’t let them know that I wasn’t really this perfectly coiffed concoction of lipstick and hairspray!  I would become so embarrassed by my slip-ups, those little imperfections in the carefully crafted script in my head, that I would, very quickly, transition to something else.  Another situation, a new role, and one more chance to convince others of my worth.

Yet, as time went on, I became more insecure, and more out of control.  Every role I played was like something I was conscripted to, or a prison cell I couldn’t get out of.  My heart was gripped by intense suffering; my gut, by intense anxiety.  I felt like I was loosing my mind, and instead of convincing others that I was perfect, or even reasonably well-adjusted, I was finally just trying to convince them that I wasn’t, underneath it all, certifiably insane!

I was on a hamster wheel.  Run, Hammie, run!  Always in the same place.  With no way to turn, go forward, back, or anywhere.  Eventually, I was exhausted.  No matter how I acted, it was still just acting, and it took a lot of energy.  I didn’t know how to be a real person!  I fell into a deep, clinical depression.  But even that didn’t stop me for long.  I tried again, and again.  Beating the same ol’ dead horse.  Trying to play the same ol’ games.  Stabbing at the same ol’ empty space in the same ol’ dark room.

In the second part of Cat’s song, he sings:

             We gotta get our heads up in the sky
             We gotta get a heaven, get a guide

To me, this is about getting off the hamster wheel.  I learned that I can’t run away from myself and I can’t, satisfactorily, define what I am by playing a role.  Yet, I don’t know what I am or what I’m here to do.  How do I find out?  What happens if I put my head up in the sky, get a heaven, get a guide? 

A Course in Miracles corroborates, saying, in Lesson 135 on page 252:

A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it.

Well, all my own planning has gotten me nowhere.  Time to stop running, Hammie.  Quit acting like a hamster while you’re at it too.  Just stop, and ask: what am I, really?   What happens if I just look at myself?  What happens if I let others see me?   If I ask, perhaps I’ll find out.

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