I Am of Two Minds

I am off to Portland with a heavy heart.  My good friend Jennifer Sass is not doing very well.  Of course, knowing Jennifer she just might be around a lot longer than is currently predicted.  Yet, I knew this visit was better to not put off.  In the past few years I have had hints, little whispers before a storm, that came and took with it a close friend, mentor or loved one.  I have generally been writing words of my loving and awe of these friends after they were gone.

This time I would like to write about Jennifer before she takes that last breath.  I doubt she’ll see, read or even hear about whatever words show up here.  My blog is often more of a path for me to open my heart and let whatever feelings and thoughts need to surface, flow.  I think the decision to visit Jennifer, because I heard the whisper, and my desire to arrive with an open heart, for whatever the next couple days have to offer, are compelling me to write now!

Jennifer, Jennifer you are such a force of nature.  You have been an important part of my life for more than twenty years.  I first met you from a distance.  You and your band of merry friends, laughing and loving life during a month long Haven program.  I was bald and just barely finding my way through my own run with cancer.  You inspired me.  Not much was funny about my life at the time, but whenever I had the chance, I would walk with you guys and laugh.  Of course, this also was a time when you stepped into my shoes in a psychodrama and later shared that you had to go burn your clothes to find a way to rid yourself of some of my nightmare that you stepped into that day.

We have walked together through many things since then.  Now, my cancer is gone and you have been fighting with your own for a few years. Some might think I have fared better, being cancer free for several years.  But anyone who has walked this painful path knows cancer isn’t about who lives beyond cancer, but how one lives with it.  You have lived well my friend!!!  It might be cancer that takes you on to your next adventure, but it will never be cancer that defeats you!!!

Just yesterday, as I was sitting in meditation after some yoga, I believe I had a moment with your spirit, a blazing bright light that simply brought a smile upon my face.  You are already out there taking in what’s next, and I imagine fully realizing that letting go of this physical body won’t take you away from the hearts of those you love but may even bring you closer.

It might take a while longer for those of us you may soon be leaving behind to fully get that you are not gone!!  So you need to let us cry, wail and gather around you.

Your love of family is something that is truly inspirational.  You and Dick are like the poster people for Haven relationships.  Sure you have had some crazy times, and I am guessing a few of us have wondered, “Why are they still together?”.  But you both have stuck with each other through hell, heaven and everything in between.  Then there’s the rest of the family.  Anyone who steps into your home knows that family and friends are what matter to you.  The walls are a walking storytelling experience: the Bements, the Sasses, The Haven family over the years.  I love being in your home.  I see and feel the loving of you wherever I go.

Plus, if it weren’t for you I may never have interviewed my parents and discovered the richness of their lives. I may never have discovered the possible stories beyond my own nightmare versions of my past. You challenged me, both in terms of family history, and in terms of other relationships that shifted or changed in my world over the years.   I sometimes moved on, yet you always reminded me to look back with different eyes and possibly meet these same people in a new way. That is a very special gift I think you have offered so many.

There are many things I haven’t spoken of in this little blog. You are my friend, and right now, I prefer to briefly hold your hand even if you don’t know I am here, than wait to talk about you once you are gone.  I hope that’s okay with you.

If you are indeed ready to go, I support you.  If you want to hang around longer, that’s okay too.  As I said,  I am of two minds – one wanting you to stay so we can chat for hours once again – the other wanting you to let go of the physical limits of this body.  Either way your light will remain bright through the hearts of all of us that love you!!!  Relax and let that loving in!!!  I love you.

I Wonder – What Is Enlightenment?

What does it mean to be enlightened or awakened? I am asking myself this question because soon a yogi master, Shri Mahayogi, will visit our yoga studio at Jodi Petlin’s invitation.  Shri Mahayogi is a man who was enlightened at a young age. He has mastered all forms of yoga and various teachings. In preparation for his visit, I have been reading his book, Satori. This is a series of questions and answers from Shanghas that have taken place over the years.

I am enjoying a great deal of the book, though I still wonder about enlightenment. Personally, the closest person I have known who I consider enlightened is Ben Wong. I say this because he has a presence about him that is profound, and when I sit with him or witness him working with someone, my heart opens in resonance with his ability to locate himself and invite the other to be fully open. There is always a moment of deep connection.

But is that enlightenment? As I read, I am learning that to awaken is to tap into the true essence of who I am. This essence is not related to any physical, emotional or mental state that I may or may not reach, but is rather, a vibrational resonance that is universal to all religions, practices and states of being.

I can not say that I have found that resonance yet through my yoga practice. Although as I focus more on lessons and classes, I am finding that my alignment is improving and my heart is opening, which is quite interesting. I am experiencing an energetic shift in my being. Not always and I would not say regularly—but there is a subtle, steady shift. I find at times I am uncomfortable with the shifting. I feel more vulnerable. This is a good thing but not always a comfortable experience.

Is this enlightment? Or on the path? I do imagine it is a part of awakening. To be vulnerable and live in the world with an open heart sounds inviting and worthy of effort.

Still, is that really the essence of everything? I wonder.

Weeks Later—After meeting with Shri Mahayogi

The opportunity to meet and be with Shri Mahayogi was quite wonderful. He had a sweetness and sincerity about him with a deep resonance in open-hearted moments. Listening to his simple wisdom struck a note deep inside me and though I was not always certain of the meaning, I felt the warmth and possibility that transcends words.

A few bits that really rang true:

There is one truth. Many paths lead there.

It seems like some of us need to try many paths while others follow only one and that is where most of the problems start.  If we could just remember we are all heading to the same place and that all paths are possibilities.

Grace is a moment when immortal essence meets pure faith.

This was my experience, completely, at my first Come Alive when Ben’s music, Jock’s accupuncture needles, Father Jack’s holy oil and everyone’s faith touched my cells. Cancer—gone. Grace!

Find a guru (a bright light) and commit fully.

For me that guru came through my Haven experience. I came to that place and I fully committed. The light is bright and I am still on the path to relational enlightenment.

What to do when in conflict: Speak honestly and let go of the outcome or results.

This last one may be the least profound but the hardest for me to live day-to-day.

In summary: My path is not his. However, as I return to chopping wood and carrying water, Shri Mahayogi’s light is still bright and so is mine as a result!