Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Time

One afternoon after having picked up my twin daughters from school and arriving home I began to shuffle through the piles of paperwork they had in their folders.  Only in kindergarten, each day they usually still come home with a stack of completed worksheets, art, newsletters, homework packets and various event and activity announcements.  Since school started in August we have already sold Ducky Derby tickets, raised donations for a Jog-A-Thon, purchased school t-shirts, put in an advance order for a school yearbook, ordered reading books from Scholastic to raise money for their class, donated snacks a couple of times for the classroom and I’ve gone on two field trips.  I actually love seeing their completed work and “ooh and ahh” over their art and the field trips with my daughters were wonderful.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss them for anything.  Yet on this one particular day, as I saw requests for parent volunteers for the upcoming Harvest Festival, the sign-up sheet for parent conferences and yet more announcements, I felt like I was either going to cry or hyperventilate. 

In the midst of this new role of kindergarten mommy I still work a 40 hour job Monday through Friday and I still pursue my writing and art interests.  The last two are simply a big part of who I am as a creative person.  There are at times other events that come into play.  The most recent was preparing for my mom’s 70th birthday party.  It didn’t help that I went through a melancholy state prior to the big event.  Fortunately my creative and artistic sister-in-law sent some much needed inspiration my way and before I knew it I was in full blown creativity mode putting together photo posters, a memory/photo book, and a slide show.  It was all fun and I loved the reason for doing it.  There was however also a moment, much like the hyperventilating/crying episode, where I told my husband in the kitchen, in the midst of the mayhem of a dog, a cat and two very busy and talkative five-year-olds, that I felt more like a human doing than a human being. 

The act of going through loads of family photos to create a memory/photo book also made me take a good long look at the passage of time and how it all flows and moves and spirals along.  There was nostalgia and this thought that in some regards the passage of my mom’s 70 years on this planet went by so quickly. The same goes for my 42 years.  It seems like my five year old daughters were just babies and I do know that, in what may seem like just a blink of an eye, they will be teenagers and then adults.

Perhaps it was divine intervention or synchronicity working its magic, but I happened to receive a newsletter from a Buddhist publication called Tricycle Magazine.  Honestly I get so many emails that some days I just go through and delete anything that isn’t from a human being I actually know.  This time I happened to take the time to peruse the newsletter and a book by Lama Surya Das called Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now was featured.  The synopsis caught my interest and I ordered a copy.  I felt a little desperate to learn how I might better handle time.

The very day the book arrived I read the introduction that night in bed.  I had to laugh out loud when only on page five the author writes this (note the bold section is my emphasis, not the authors):

“One of the main obstacles to making peace with time is that we tend to experience it linearly: we keep moving forward, doing and accomplishing things, rather than just being.  We are human beings, after all, not human doings.  It costs us dearly to live only on the linear axis of time.  We lose connection with our deeper and most authentic selves, too often mistaking mere movement for purpose and meaning.  We adapt to a fast and faster tempo that keeps us feeling busy, but rarely with a sense of accomplishment.  Staggering forward on a treadmill of events, we gather momentum until we lose any sense of how to stop.  We are expert adapters, but the complexity and speed of our world require something other than merely adapting to its pace.”

In the introduction the author also shares these thoughts to which I found myself shaking my head in agreement:

“Many of us feel that the modern efforts to save time have backfired, bringing onerous new problems of their own. Our technological advances and constant availability have blurred the line between leisure time and work. No sooner do we wrap our minds around a new computer program than it becomes obsolete. We can end up wasting precious minutes stuck on the phone with someone on the other side of the world, trying to figure out how to reset the computer brain in our dryer, or stove, or espresso machine. It takes time to learn how to do online banking, connect with friends on Facebook, master the complexities of smartphones and GPS units, and download a best seller to our e-readers. When Excel crashes and the work is lost after we’ve spent an hour entering data for a deadline, our blood pressure skyrockets. There’s even technology to fix stress created by technology. I recently learned of an experimental Google feature called Email Addict that shuts you out of your inbox, forcing compulsive e-mail checkers to give it a break.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we’re living in an amazing age, as miraculous and futuristic as anything out of Star Trek and Jetsons episodes of my youth. I love being able to talk on my laptop face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world or to download a book or piece of music in a minute. The problem for a lot of us is figuring out how to disconnect from all this intensity for some peace and quiet. And how much of the time-related stress in our lives comes from trying to accommodate every single person who wants a piece of our day? Do you suffer from the “disease to please,” striving to satisfy all those who make a claim on your time? Many of us are torn between the desire to be generous with our time and the need to conserve our own energy. It takes only a few seconds to read a 140-character Twitter message, but the cost of the total distraction lasts far longer. The thinner we spread ourselves, the more we skitter over the surface of our lives, never going deep. And since we can be tracked down just about anywhere, anytime, it seems there is literally no escape.

In the pages that follow, I’ll teach you how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction—in much the same way that a snow globe becomes calm and clear when you stop shaking it and allow the flakes to settle. You’ll see, for example, that we can stay at our desks or in a traffic jam and, however momentarily, genuinely give our attention to the present moment as a way of finding inner peace.

I want to show you how to coexist peacefully with the inevitable, the inexorable march of time. As a Buddhist, I’ve long studied the question of how to live authentically and joyfully in the present moment, and how to remain mindful, centered, and harmonious no matter what challenges come my way.”

In my own head I am shouting “Yes! Please show me how to find inner peace and coexist peacefully with time!”

As I’ve delved deeper into the book here are some excerpts I have highlighted and would like to share:

“If we cultivate clarity, detachment, and equanimity, we can learn to remain still and calm amid the torrent of commitments, no longer our over scheduled lives to rob us of the time we need to recalibrate and connect to the natural world, ourselves, and each other.  For time moves on whether we are hurtling through life or savoring it.  The big transformations can take place outside our daily awareness, until a stark reminder catches us up; hearing the new crack in the voice of a teenage son, perhaps, or seeing the unwelcome surprise of a gray hair, or wondering how it ‘suddenly’ became winter.”

“In my lectures, I always advise people to spend some time outdoors every day, even if only taking on e deep breath out of the window or star gazing on their way to their front door…When was the last time you felt the supportive, accepting vital energy of our earthly mother?  Was it when you were a child, lying on your back in the grass?...Nature is the original fountain of knowledge, beauty, sustenance, and spiritual inspiration for all people everywhere,,,And then when you get a chance, go outdoors and find a quiet place to experience that moment of grace.  It is a choice to go through life with a cell phone in your hand. Disconnect yourself from the wondrous gift of our technology often enough to remember that natural wonders have always existed and have always brought solace.”

“Don’t discount the possibility that you are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself…Ask yourself, Will it really change anything if this gets done a little later, or tomorrow?  If not, relax and work out a realistic schedule. IF so, keep going, but intersperse the task with brief exercise, meditations, breath, or phone breaks, and don’t worry that they’re keeping you from your work, because they’re not: they’re enabling you to complete it.”

“One study indicated that in the busiest, most fast-paced modern American cities, people were the least likely to stop in the street and exhibit basic helping behavior, whereas slower-paced cities, such as those in the South and Southwest, exhibited more such altruism.  It’s been theorized that cognition narrows through making haste, and also that as the speed of life increases, ethics becomes a luxury.  As Rumi, the sublime Persian poet and mystic, wrote, ‘Come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.’”

Creating a sacred space is another suggestion of the authors and he describes his own practice this way.  “For over forty years, I have always kept a little altar or shrine of some sort, made out of furniture, logs, stones, cardboard boxes, crates covered with cloth, or whatever was handy and fitting.  Such a space helps focus my meditation as well as my energies and daily home life.  Now I have a meditations room in my home and I sit there first thing every morning for an hour, and sit there, however briefly, at night too…On the altar, I like to see a peaceful Buddha statue and some flowers or fruit offerings, incense, perhaps a crystal or special mirror to remind me of the timeless, ever-shining innate light of Spirit.  Sometimes, during the day, I just cruise by, wave, and say hi to my teacher’s picture and the icons on the wall – just to cheer myself up.  It’s like putting myself through a little karmic drive-through car wash, and I come out brighter every time.”

In the closing chapter Lama Surya Das shares these thoughts:

“When you make peace with time, and are not hurried and harried, you will find that room mysteriously opens up for new possibilities.  Each moment is a doorway to the divine state of grace.  Patience is a facet of the jewel of love, allowing enough time to create intimacy in relationship rather than experience them as ships passing in the night, which rushing through life is likely to give you instead.  Mental calm, centeredness, and clarity provide a healing, nourishing pause in the frantic activity of our lives.”

Last, but not least, the final chapter closes with the author’s Ten Tips and Pointers for Befriending Time.

  1. Rest in the breath while letting go of all thoughts, concerns, plans, worries and preoccupations.
  2. Be mindful of the physical sensations you feel right now.
  3. Feel the good earth beneath your feet or the seat that cradles you.
  4. Chant a mantra or sacred phrase again and again, with pure, undivided concentration and focus.
  5. Make eye contact with another being, and feel compassion and loving-kindness for whomever you are with.
  6. Smile at someone, hug someone, or help someone.
  7. Go outside and make contact with nature through the sky, clouds, trees, a flower, a body of water, the earth between your fingers, or any other manifestation of the magnificent natural world.
  8. Read sacred words from the world’s wisdom traditions and scriptures.
  9. Take a bread, a sacred pause, an “honorable rest” – whether for Sabbath or just for an hour or two – at least once a week, if not every day.
  10. Listen to music, sing, dance, create, pray, and play.

Now breathe, smile, and relax…You have time.

So has the wisdom of the book sunk in yet?  Am I feeling more at peace with time?  Am I likely to hyperventilate any time soon?  The first step I have taken, which is the author’s first recommendation, is to turn to nature for my grounding.  I have always loved nature.  I have always found some peace in just gazing at a scenic natural view.  When life gets busy, even doing this can get cast aside.  There are times like today when I went for a walk through the neighborhood with my daughters.  We marveled at some of the giant leaves lying on the ground.  We stopped and watched some birds at a neighbor’s giant bird feeder.  I pointed out some mushrooms and a gnome almost hidden in another neighbor’s woodsy front yard.  When we returned home the three of us raked leaves in the back yard.  It is cute what can entertain and amuse five year olds.  After creating piles the two of them then had a ball jumping in the leaves.  My heart was happy at watching my daughters enjoy such a simple pleasure.

And sometimes, when time feels more fleeting, I am merely reminding myself to stop, take in the view of the sunrise, or my backyard bathed in the golden light of an autumn evening, or marvel at a gaggle of geese flying above, and simply gaze. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Just Breathe

 My latest creation ~  a reminder to just Breathe

If that isn't working here is what author and artist Mary Anne Radmacher recommends:

Persevere. Plan. Strategize. Focus. Breathe. Write.
Let go: relax. Forgive. All this failing: take a nap.

- Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Freeing Your Spirit and Dancing with Life

A melancholy feeling had overtaken me.  My most recent music mix even took on a slightly gray hue of sadness.  I knew it was bad when spending some time in my artist room playing with paints and glue and glitter could not pull me out of my funk. In fact the funk grew deeper as the art piece I had envisioned and was attempting to create would not come together.  Instead of feeling pleased with the creative process I grew more frustrated because what I was seeing on the canvas was making me feel more mediocre than ever.  My woe-is-me attitude began to spiral into questioning my purpose and bemoaning that I don’t have a local women’s circle.  One way for me to try and short circuit the negative thought patterns is to pick a favorite book to read or take a bath.  Even better yet is to combine the two.  So that is exactly what I did. 

As soon as I was immersed in the hot comforting water I began to read from a well-read copy of Finding Joy: 101 Ways to Free Your Spirit and Dance with Life by Charlotte Davis Kasl, PhD.  My spirit chose well that evening because the short excerpts in this particular book were so perfect for what ailed me. 

There are twelve themes in the book and each one has a multitude of topics within it. The twelve themes are as follows:

  1. Discover the Power of Joy
  2. Loving Yourself, No Matter What
  3. Tapping the Power of Your Mind: A Training Manual for the Brain
  4. Lighten Up: Finding Balance in a Crazy World
  5. Marvel At Your Amazing Body
  6. Reaching Out, Breaking the Rules: Tips for Making Life Easier
  7. When You’re Sinking Grab a Life Line
  8. Loving Your Body In Spite of It All
  9. Loving Children, Discovering Ourselves
  10. More years, More Wisdom
  11. Dancing with Life
  12. Joy to the World

Here are some excerpts for you to explore.

From Discovering the Power of Joy ~ #10 Allow Grief and Other Scary Feelings

One of the barriers to joy is a pent-up grief, sorrow, or anger.  Other barriers are the secrets we keep because we are ashamed.  Burying emotions and keeping secrets is like wrapping a shield around your soul that shuts out the smells of spring, the delicacy of touch, the softness of love.

It’s difficult to feel free and open when we’re congested with buried pain or rage or secrets. Joy flourished when we accept all of who we are.  This includes experiencing our feeling and clearing out guilt and shame by being honest. How can we ever know we are loved if we show only a little part of ourselves to others?...

In my work as a psychologist I frequently see people emotionally constricted by repressed grief and anger.  Over the years they become divided, detached or distant or turn to addictive substances or relationship.  Because the human psyche is a holistic system, to numb one part of our being is to numb the rest and create constant inner struggle.  I have worked with many couples who believe the love between them is gone. Often, after they open up and express their anger, hurt, and frustration, the love starts to return.  It feels like magic, but it’s not magic; it’s the power of our ability to shift to new states of consciousness as we unblock the illusions that come between us and our love…

So when we sob with grief over a loss, cry because we’re hurt, respectfully express our anger and frustrations, or tell our shameful secrets, we are freeing ourselves emotionally and physically, which makes room for joy.  This is a process that takes time.  We need to be gently yet remind ourselves that freedom comes when we stop repressing our feelings and honor the truths of our inner world.

From Tapping the Power of Your Mind ~ #30 Accept Yourself, Remembering and Forgetting.

You get on the path of exercising, saying affirmations, writing regularly, paying the bills on time, not criticizing your partner, and then…yikes!  You revert to old behavior.  You can’t seem to drag yourself out to exercise, you start carping at your partner, you gorge on food, In short, you forget to do all the things that are good for you.

One the path to joy, it is important to accept that we wax and wane like the moon.  We remember, we forget—and it’s all part of the dance.  We push through our fears, get organized, take a risk, then retreat for a while.  After a break, we once again push through inertia, and get going again.

Remember, you never have to do anything perfectly. Four affirmations are better than none.  Walking one a week is better than once a month.  Fresh vegetables three times a week is better than an unmitigated junk food diet…The important thing is to watch yourself play the remembering and forgetting game and be gently at all times.  How you fall of the path is part of the path.  It’s easy to love yourself when you’re winning.  The real test is maintaining that love on the tough days.  So keep remembering (until you forget) that it’s all drama, it’s all a dance, and it’s all okay.

From Reaching Out, Breaking the Rules ~ #48 If It’s Worth Doing , It’s Worth Doing Badly

Many people block themselves from undertaking new endeavors---from learning a language to taking up a sport or music lessons—because they are afraid of being clumsy and mediocre.  I suggest that clumsy and mediocre can be wonderful compared with burying one’s dreams and shrinking one’ life.  It is excellent for the spirit to be a beginner at something.  Being a beginner keeps us humble, helps us understand children, and can bring tremendous pleasure if we stop judging ourselves and just enjoy.  Better to a be a run-of-the-mill piano player than go to the grave regretting you never tried.

From Reaching Out, Breaking the Rules ~ #50 Stay Awake, Stay Aware—Learn from your Struggles

Sometimes we resolve to control a behavior and then find ourselves doing it again.  At 8 am we say we aren’t going to eat sugar and at 10 am we’re munching on a sweet roll.  We tell ourselves we shouldn’t spend more money and three hours later we’re ordering a new dress from a catalogue.  It feels like something driving us that we can’t control, but it’s usually a substitute for a deeper, underlying need. Lonely?  Eat.  Angry?  Seduce someone.  Ashamed of a mistake?  Blame someone.

The stay-awake-stay-aware approach helps you gain insight when you are going against your principles but can’t seem to stop yourself.  The basic principle is that by adding awareness to compulsive or addictive behavior you transform the behavior.

From When You’re Sinking, Grab A Life Line ~  #56. Connect, Connect, Connect

We have talked about feeling overwhelmed or feeling like a child.  Usually when children are upset they need to get rest, be held, be reassured.  There are several types of connections that can help us out of an emotional jam.  We usually need to do one or more of the following:

1)     Connect with feelings.
2)     Connect with another person.
3)     Connect with our spirit.

Connect with feelings.  When you suddenly feel disconnected, scattered, self-abusive, or nasty to others, it can be the result of repressing feelings about an event that recently occurred in your life.  Backtrack to when you first go off course.  Did you not stand up for yourself when you were angry with someone?  Did you feel misunderstood and not tell anyone?  Have you been rationalizing your feelings and need to be honest with yourself?....

Connect with another person.  When we’re in crisis or being hard on ourselves, making a connection with another person can reassure us.  No, we’re not unlovable to the core.  No, we’re no the only one who ever blew it.  Yes, other people care about us even when we get scared or make mistakes.  Talking with another person can bring back perspective on a situation.  The goblins in our mind get bigger in isolation….If you tend to tell yourself you shouldn’t bother people with your troubles or that you should figure it out on your own, you may have to push through shame to call someone.  But on the path toward joy, connecting honestly with another person and sharing your vulnerability is crucial…

Connect with your spirit.  Simply remember, this is drama, it’s not about your worth.  You are sacred, you are life.  You have the capacity for joy no matter how buried it seems at the moment.

When melancholy looms large in your life what do you do?

Did any of the excerpts shared spark something for you? 

Author Charlotte Kasl describer herself this way on her web site
"I wear the hat of psychotherapist, author, and teacher, but at my core, I am a peace and social justice activist. I believe the starting place for healing the planet is in our hearts and in the ways we practice respect, empathy, understanding and equality in all human relationships, including our relationship to ourselves." ~ Charlotte Kasl

Charlotte has written a number of books.  One I have already read is called If the Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships on A Spiritual Path. Her newest book that has yet to be released is called If the Buddha Had Kids: Raising Children to Create a More Peaceful World.  It is one I will read once it is released.

Have you read any of Charlotte's books?  If yes, do you recommend any?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ The Letter That Needed To Be Written

Goddess Leonie with her beautiful daughter.
This morning I read a powerful and honest account regarding pregnancy, birthing and post partum depression. It was written by Goddess Leonie and I applaud her bravery in sharing her personal experience.  I believe that it will touch lives and comfort thousands of women who have felt alone or suffered in shame.  You can find her story by clicking here:

I wrote Leonie a private heartfelt letter.  It isn't one I will share here.  What I can share is that it struck a chord with me. It seriously had me blubbering early this morning, because I can so relate to her story. The pressure of caring for twins was really hard, but adding to that was marriage challenges, low self-esteem and on top of it all trouble in friendship land. I felt so incredibly depressed and so alone for quite some time. 

As I began to do intensive work on myself and my marriage, finding my voice was a part of the journey.  An important step I took was to write to some medical professionals about my birthing experience.  I wasn't treated the way I needed to be treated and I wanted to speak up because I didn't want any other women to experience what I did.  I originally posted this back in January of 2009 on my first blog, which started off mainly to be about raising twins.  That post was called "The Letter That Needed To Be Written."

Today when I awoke my mind was already in the middle of composing a letter. I lay there in the dark listening as the words weaved their way through my mind and to my fingers. I went straight to a journal and began to write in long hand, the words flowing and pouring forth onto the pages. My letter was in regards to a very personal experience, the birth of my children. I am finally sending a letter I feel could have been sent much sooner. I won't say "should have" because for whatever reason it must not have been time quite yet for me to write this letter. Perhaps this is the right time because I am feeling so much more open to messages from the greater universe and I find synchronicity glittering along this path I am traveling. I wanted to share my letter as I wrote it not just for myself but for all women. I write it for all women who have or will birth a child. Symbolically this letter can also be for anyone who births a painting, a book, a song, a dance...

I share to empower you to speak up when someone has not shown you or your birthing respect and consideration.

Dear Dr. Skipitis,

This letter has been residing in me for a long time. There was a point in time I thought of not writing one at all. Yet just this morning I awoke with the words flying through my head. I hadn’t even been thinking about this for quite a long time. Yet I suddenly felt compelled to write this letter, not just for myself, but for all women who will seek your care or will inadvertently find you are the physician on duty when they arrive to deliver their baby at Mercy Medical Center.

My intent in writing this letter is to share with you an experience I had almost three years ago. You played a role in the experience. I am hopeful that you will really hear me and give thought to the role you play and the impact you can have on the lives of the women you serve. You see I believe that doctors in your position serve in a beautiful way. You are there to help bring new life into this world. You are a witness to a human being’s arrival.

A little less than three years ago I arrived at the Mercy Medical Center with my husband to deliver, not just one baby, but two. I was expecting identical twin daughters. I was 36 weeks along when my water broke. The girls had been growing and developing beautifully according to the many ultrasounds. The estimates of their weights and sizes were right on track.

Early on in my pregnancy there had been a concern that the girls were monoamniotic. This was troubling when we read about the complications that could arise. Fortunately this was ruled out by an advanced ultrasound. We traveled to Sacramento several more times, as our doctor felt it was necessary, due to concerns about twin-to-twin transfusion. Again, fortunately we had no such problem.

Except for my own discomfort throughout the pregnancy, nausea that lasted for months and months, a persistent cough and the swelling, the girls appeared healthy and perfect in their safe first home. As we grew closer to the estimated delivery date the weekly monitoring of the girls heart rates began. I would lay uncomfortably propped up with pillows on a table, wires and monitors strapped to my belly. I couldn’t lay flat and being on my back, even though propped up, was quite uncomfortable. A few times during the monitoring I even experienced painful contractions. Yet this is what was required of me in order to ensure my daughters were healthy and thriving.

You were not my doctor so I had not shared any of this journey with you. It really is a journey. One that changes the contours and map of your body. It is also a journey that affects your mind, spirit and emotions profoundly. Your body is no longer your own. You are sharing it with another human being, in my case, two new human beings. My body was giving them life, feeding them and sustaining them.

While you were not my doctor and did not know me, you were the doctor on duty that night I arrived at the hospital. I learned later that my own doctor, Dr. Mooney, was attempting to celebrate an anniversary that same evening. He would eventually be disturbed with a phone call about me, his patient. He tried to assist from a distance the best he could that night.

When I arrived at the hospital that evening with my husband, bags in tow, I was beginning to feel the first tugs of the contractions. I had been feeling so completely calm ever since my water broke at home on the bathroom floor. I felt prepared. My bags were packed. I had drafted an email to family and friends already. All I had to do was hit send and load up the car.

The nursing staff was incredibly welcoming upon our arrival. I was quickly admitted and we were shown to our room. I changed into a hospital gown, leaving all sense of modesty at the door. The staff efficiently helped me into bed and began placing heart monitors on my belly and wheeled in a portable ultrasound machine.

The ultrasound showed that Baby A – our Maya – was head down and in position for delivery. Baby B – our Aubrey – had been head down for months, but just a few weeks back turned into a transverse position. This being a fairly recent change in positioning my doctor had not talked about what this might mean in regards to delivering.

It is about this point in the story, babies’ heart beats being monitored, me trying to find a more comfortable position, and the contractions beginning to intensify, that I received a phone call from you there in the room. You introduced yourself as the physician on duty and explained you would be delivering my children. The conversation we shared was rather brief so the next part of your message came out rather quickly. You said that you would be performing a c-section. I responded that we had wanted to deliver vaginally. You stated that a c-section was necessary. I asked why we couldn’t still consider a regular delivery. Instead of explaining or speaking to me as if I was an intelligent person you responded that this was the only way you’d deliver the babies. I said I needed to speak with my husband. You added at the end that if we didn’t agree then you’d have to have me removed from the hospital and flown by helicopter to a distant hospital.

I was holding the phone, lying in a bed in a hospital, in a hospital gown, contractions pulling at me more strongly, baby heart monitor beeping and I was calmly registering your statement that if I didn’t agree to a c-section with you that you would have me removed from the hospital.

There was some final statement from you about calling me back in a few minutes to find out our decision. The phone was hung up and I relayed your message to my husband. My husband felt a twinge of fear as he wondered if you really had the power to make such a decision. The idea of his wife being removed from the hospital while in labor with his children was rather terrifying. The staff in the room was listening and hearing what you had said too.

At that point in time the saving grace in this situation was the supportive and caring, truly caring, responses from the medical staff in my room and my husband. I could feel the women in that room circling around me protectively, offering me their strength and support. I was comforted with statements like “You aren’t going anywhere,” “This is your delivery,” and “You have choices.” Their statements were true and I knew it.

The mere idea that a doctor would threaten a patient in labor with twins that she could be removed from the hospital seemed ridiculous. It felt like a scare tactic to get me to do what you wanted, with no discussion or questioning of your opinion. It made me think of the old cliché “My way or the highway.” If I didn’t acquiesce immediately to your orders I needed to hit the road.

I am an intelligent and reasonable person. I needed you to explain to me and I needed you to converse with me. I didn’t need to be ordered around or spoken at.In light of what you had told me the staff made phone calls to other doctors. We awaited another doctor’s call or arrival. In the meantime the babies were still being monitored and my contractions were growing more intense and painful.

When you called back I was focused on what was happening with my body and the babies so my husband took your call. You asked what we had decided. My husband responded that we were waiting to hear from another doctor. You sounded angry on the other end of the phone and asked who was this other doctor that was being called. My husband replied that he didn’t need to tell you that. You again sounded quite angry over the phone and stated that you wouldn’t be our doctor and would not be delivering our babies. My husband told you that he thought that had already been decided.

Not too long after that phone call from you Dr. Pena arrived to speak with us. He was kind, gentle and reasonable. He performed another ultrasound himself to check the babies’positions. I asked him why we couldn’t try for a regular delivery since Maya was head down. I suggested maybe Aubrey would then have room to turn around. Dr. Pena explained he had not heard of that happening in all his years of delivering. He calmly explained the risks. He said that if Maya was the smaller baby and she came out first we ran a risk of trying to deliver Aubrey breech and the vaginal opening not being big enough for her head to come through last. The danger was lack of oxygen and rushing to perform an emergency c-section to save her. He explained all this and shared that he was not comfortable with such a delivery, but there was no ultimatum or orders. He simply said he would give us time to ourselves to talk about it and make our decision.

Upon his departure we had our discussion. While I had hoped for an old fashioned delivery I knew that I had not carried these two beautiful and healthy girls all these months to risk something happening to one of them. We did not want to risk their safety and so we had a nurse let Dr. Pena know we would go forward with the c-section.

The exchange we shared with Dr. Pena is how I felt it should have been from the very beginning. Speak to me reasonably. Don’t just toss out orders. Especially when it comes to something so amazingly intense and personal as the birthing of ones’ children.

The story of course continues without you. Dr. Pena delivered our girls and they were healthy and beautiful. There was a complication with my recovery as I hemorrhaged and a code blue was called. There was a bit of excitement as the hospital staff worked on me to stop the bleeding and save my life. In the end I was okay and I began my recovery. In a few days we went home with our daughters and began the journey of being parents and caretakers.

Family and friends asked us about the delivery. Some of our contacts were with people in the local medical community. When they heard the story of what had been told to us about being removed from the hospital they asked who it was that said such a thing. We told them.

I am insightful and I am willing to consider that anyone can have a bad day or an off night. At one point I wondered if you were having a bad day. I was willing to make an excuse for your treatment of us. I was willing to consider that maybe this was very out of the ordinary for you. Yet, there were several people who heard the story and who either knew you or knew of you, and they gave a knowing smile and a nod of the head. This story did not appear to surprise them.

I trust that you are a good doctor. Perhaps you are even exceptional. I am sure that you have had patients who have liked you and found you to care for them in all the right ways. I have seen you on television in support of public television. In fact that was the first time I ever “saw” you. Seeing that made me think that you must be a thoughtful and caring man. I noticed at the local Kids Kingdom playground your name on a plaque as a donor. It made me think that you must also be a generous person who gives to the community and cares for children and families. I don’t think you are a horrible person from my one experience with you.

What I do still wonder though is how many patients have you treated and spoken to the way you did me that night. How many women have been scared by the threat of being removed from the hospital by you? Perhaps I am the only one. It seems doubtful, but maybe that is the case. Yet if that is the case, what made my particular situation the one where you would say such a thing?

I don’t expect or even want a response from you. You may choose to crumple up this letter and throw it away. Yet I write with the hope that you will stop, listen and really be able to see through a woman’s eyes what it was like to interact with you on a momentous occasion in her life, a night like no other. I write with the hope that you will never speak to another patient the way you spoke to me that night. The women you serve as a doctor deserve more respect and consideration than I was shown that night. I hope that will always be the case for the women you serve in the future.



P.S. I am sharing this letter with my previous physician Dr. Richard Mooney, my delivering physician Dr. Pena and with President/CEO Rick Barnett with Mercy Hospital. I believe it is also important for them to hear this story in hopes that they too will be reminded of the very important role you all play in caring for a patient and providing him or her with respect and understanding, in addition to the best medical care you know how to provide.

Cc: Dr. Richard Mooney
Dr. Jorge Pena
President/CEO Rick Barnett

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ The Invitation

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.  ~Kahlil Gibran

Have you ever read something, a book or a poem, that made an immediate impact on you?  In the year 2000 I was first introduced to the writing of Oriah Mountain Dreamer.  Someone I knew handed me a copy of her poem The Invitation.  Back then I heard the false rumors, that still circulate today, which is that this poem had been written by a Native American elder. What I later learned is that Oriah is a woman who was raised in a small community in Northern Ontario.  Her web site shares that Oriah’s family encouraged her to bring her questions and explorations to the Christian tradition they espoused. At home in the wilderness she was drawn to and at home in the ceremonies and earth-based teachings of the First People’s, eventually teaching and sharing what she learned. Her daily practice includes ceremonial prayer, yoga, meditation and writing. A graduate of Ryerson University’s social work program (Toronto) and a student of Philosophy at the University of Toronto she has facilitated groups, offered classes and counselled individuals for over thirty-five years. The mother of two grown sons, Oriah lives in Toronto, Canada.  You can read about how her name came into being on her website here:

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Years later I read her books What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of the Soul, as well as The Dance: Moving to the Deep Rhythms of Your Life.

Here is an excerpt from What We Ache For:

"I experience the greatest resistance to writing when I am beginning a particular piece, writing a new poem or short story or starting a new book.  As the day and time I have set aside to begin approaches, I feel a strange but familiar dread, a slight tension in my chest, a barely perceptible agitation in my arms and legs. If I sit with this sense of uneasiness, I discover a wide range of not particularly unique or fascinating fears: the fear that I have nothing wrothwhile to say; the fear that this time I will not be able to find the end of the thread  that will take me into an effortless flow of words; the fear that the writing will simply be bad--unclear, uninspired, awkward, tedious.  But beneath all these is the fear that the creative process will affect me in some unpredictable way, requiring changes in my life that will be at best uncomfortable and at worst truly risky.  This latter fear is probably the strongest, and it has a basis in experience.  Creative work, because it cannot be separated from our spirituality, inevitably connects us to that which is larger than us, and experiencing the sacred center of life can create a shift in perspective, can bring new insights and understandings that demand something of us."

Here is an excerpt from The Dance:

The Dance

I have sent you my invitation,
the note inscribed on the palm of my hand by the fire of living.
Don’t jump up and shout, “Yes, this is what I want! Let’s do it!”
Just stand up quietly and dance with me.

Show me how you follow your deepest desires,
spiraling down into the ache within the ache,
and I will show you how I reach inward and open outward
to feel the kiss of the Mystery, sweet lips on my own, every day.

Don’t tell me you want to hold the whole world in your heart.
Show me how you turn away from making another wrong without abandoning yourself when you are hurt and afraid of being unloved.

Tell me a story of who you are,
and see who I am in the stories I live.
And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice.

Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be . . . some day.
Show me you can risk being completely at peace,
truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment,
and again in the next and the next and the next. . .

I have heard enough warrior stories of heroic daring.
Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall,
the place you cannot go beyond by the strength of your own will.
What carries you to the other side of that wall, to the fragile beauty of your own humanness?

And after we have shown each other how we have set and kept the clear, healthy boundaries that help us live side by side with each other, let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving those we once loved out loud.

Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance,
the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart.
And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again.

Show me how you take care of business
without letting business determine who you are.
When the children are fed but still the voices within and around us
shout that soul’s desires have too high a price,
let us remind each other that it is never about the money.

Show me how you offer to your people and the world
the stories and the songs you want our children’s children to remember.
And I will show you how I struggle,
not to change the world, but to love it.

Sit beside me in long moments of shared solitude,
knowing both our absolute aloneness and our undeniable belonging.
Dance with me in the silence and in the sound of small daily words,
holding neither against me at the end of the day.

And when the sound of all the declarations of our sincerest
intentions has died away on the wind,
dance with me in the infinite pause before the next great inhale
of the breath that is breathing us all into being,
not filling the emptiness from the outside or from within.

Don’t say, “Yes!”
Just take my hand and dance with me.

© Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book The Dance, HarperONE, SanFrancisco, 2001

Questions to reflect upon from Oriah in the Prelude to The Dance.

What if it truly doesn't matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?

How would this change what you choose to do with your life?

What if you could be more present and openhearted with each person you met if you were working as a cashier in a corner stone, or as a parking lot attendant, than you could if you were doing a job you think is more important?

How would this change how you want to spend your precious time on this earth?

What if your contribution to the world and the fulfillment of your own happiness is not dependent upon discovering a better method of prayer or technique of meditation, not dependent upon reading the right book or attending the right seminar, but upon really seeing and deeply appreciating yourself and the world as they are right now?

How would this affect your search for spiritual development?

What if there is no need to change, no need to try to transform yourself into someone who is more compassionate, more present, more loving or wise?

How would this affect all the places in your life where you are endlessly trying to be better?

What if the task is simple to unfold, to become who you are already are in your essential nature--gentle, compassionate, and capable of living fully and passionately present?

How would this affect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?

What if who you essentially are right now is all that you are ever going to be?

How would this affect how you feel about your future?

What if the essence of who you are and always have been is enough?

How would this affect how you see and feel about your past?

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I infrequently want to be the person I really am?

How would this change what you think you have to learn?

What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?

How would this shape the choices you make about how to spend today?

What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply pay attention and wait?

How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to follow this impulse, to just let go and dance?

"And enjoy this last piece of wisdom from Oriah
I’ve done enough interviews you’d think I would have some snappy, articulate answer prepared, a concise and profound or witty comment ready for the moment. But no matter how many times it comes, I never seem prepared. Maybe it's because I don't think of myself as having "A Message." As Wavy Gravy said, I'm just another bozo on the bus, albeit one that likes to reflect on and write about the journey.

So lately, at the end of interviews, with only moments remaining, this is the response that arises from the request to offer one last essential thing:

Life is messy. Accept this. It's okay to have a plan, just don’t focus on it. Things aren't likely to go according to plan. Focus on what you need to do next, right now. Pay attention to what has real value for you at the level of your body-heart-self- the people, places, activities and practices that help you feel truly alive, that support your ability to be present and kind. If there’s something calling to you, turn toward it and start walking. It may not lead where you think it will, but make a place in all of the wonderful chaos of life to listen deeply to the voice at the center of your being and pay attention to what it tells you. Life is short and messy. Don’t postpone living until life gets neater or easier or less frantic or more enlightened. There’s a “catch” to the popular admonishment to “live in the Now.” It’s that the only way to be in the Now is to be Here, in the life and the body you have, and in the world we share, right now (not with the body or the world we hope to someday have or imagine we used to have.) This is it. And it will change. Choose life in all the small ways you can, every day."