August 5th: When Memories Remember You

Driving across the Indiana border into the country today, the Queen Anne’s lace and yellow coreopsis ran wild in the fields along the road.  The sun beamed into the car and a soft warm breeze blew in the window, opened just a crack to bring some summer air in.  When I wiped my face, I felt warm tears and wondered if the breeze made my eyes water.  With a tap to the automatic control, I closed the car window but the wetness still puddled in the corner of my eye.   Now that I’d noticed it, the tears seemed to slightly increase their pace.  The drive was pleasant and I had no reason to cry.

I’ve had enough mystical experiences to know that when the body overrides the mind, there is something I’ve missed that set off a physical reminder.  And then it hit me.  Of all the days of the year, August 5th is the one that started my journey into Anne on Fire, though I didn’t know it at the time.  On August 5th, 1996, my mother died after a six-month battle with liver cancer.

I glanced at the car clock and it showed 12:30, within an hour of the time my mother died on that August 5th morning, a morning much like today with the sun streaming in to the windows of her bedroom and the flowers blowing softly in the breeze outside.  Can the body really remember what the mind choses not to?

That morning I sat with the hospice worker and held my mother’s hand.  It had grown frail and bony like the rest of her body as the cancer withered her athletic frame.  Her breath rattled and I gave the morphine pump another squeeze to ease her pain.  When the hospice worker told me we were close to the end, she suggested I make a couple of telephone calls to let the family know.  I slipped out of the room and into the kitchen, dialing my aunt Mary — my mother’s only sibling.  I had begun to tell Aunt Mary the news when the hospice worker hurriedly appeared before me and whispered, “It’s time.”  I told Aunt Mary I’d call her back shortly and strided into the bedroom, grasping for my mother’s hand.  One breath.  Then another.  Then silence.  Her grip faded slowly from mine but I grasped even more tightly.

And then the most amazing thing happened  Her spirit seemed to separate from her body.  A transparent mirror image floated upward in excruciating slow motion.  I gasped loud enough to startled myself.  Then I realized my hands were hot, feeling intense heat in each one so much so that they began to tremble.  I watched immobile as the transparent image of my mother floated up out of the room.

She was gone and at the same time I knew she was with me.

Awe-struck I turned to the hospice worker, who quietly told me, “You have been given a gift from your mother.  Treasure it.”

“But what just happened.  Tell me?”

“Death is as precious a gift as life.  Not all of us are allowed to witness it.  Your mother gave you the gift of being with her for her journey.  We all choose when to die and who will be with us,” she said and I knew then this woman had witnessed many deaths and was a very special person to share this with me.

The rest of the day dissolved in a blur of activity.   Aunt Mary arrived as did my brother Jim and sisters, Kathleen and Susie.  Funeral people were called; arrangements began to be made.

Something unique had happened and I watched the activities unfold as if in a trance.  Something had changed in me as well.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but everything was different.  In the days and months and years that followed, I began to receive signs from my mother.  These were the signs that set me on the Anne on Fire journey.

More to come.

Eileen Gertrude Stark Gallagher.   1930-1996.  Rest in peace.

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Moving to the State of No Karma

When I met my yoga teacher Cynthia at the local Starbucks on Sunday, it was ostensibly to help her start her blog on yoga and meditation (www.thespiritedcorner.wordpress.com).  Nagging in the back of mind however was her comment during Saturday’s yoga class a couple of weeks back about reaching a state of ‘no karma’.  Good karma, bad karma — those seem straight-forward but I’d never thought about “no karma” and hadn’t the foggiest idea what it meant.

As she sipped on her shake and me on my non-fat latte, I asked if she had a minute to explain the concept.  Her eyes sparkled as smiled, sighed and said, “How much time do you have?”  We laughed.

“We are all here traveling through time in the dimensional world, having experiences as spiritual beings in a human experience.  We all work on our life lessons due to the karma we brought with us.  The idea is to have no karma so we can evolve away from the physical plane.  When we get to no karma, we have no need to return and we reach the 8th limb of yoga called Samadhi, which is bliss or enlightenment.”

“This seems perfectly understandable but how do we get there?” I asked, feeing that I had a few lifetimes of of good karma and bad karma that needed to balance themselves out. 

“When you finish with life’s lessons, then you are finished with karma.  That, of course, is the difficult part for us,” Cynthia replied, which instead of ending my inquires only made me think of another set of questions.  I was feeling very Socratic with it all.

“Well, then how do we know we have learned any particular lesson?” I asked.  “Like burning my leg.  How do I know that I’ve learned whatever lesson I’m supposed to learn?  Did it mean something I missed?”

“What if it doesn’t mean anything?”  Cynthia socratically replied.  Then she paused.  It added a dramatic effect to the conversation and helped me not to wonder why Starbucks keeps their stores ridiculously cold.  My fingers were starting to feel like ice cubes.

“It can mean everything and nothing.  It can spark something positive or something negative.  It’s all up to you.  What helps us evolve helps us grow,” she continued.

I thought quietly for a minute, rubbing my hands together for warmth.   “I think I”m fine with it, have always been fine with it.  But then I still feel compelled to write the story of it.”

“You think it’s enough but the question is, do you feel it.  To learn any lesson you have to connect the thinking and feeling.  The bridge between the two is the throat, or the 5th chakra, called vishuddhi, which is our communication chakra.  If we are holding back in some way, the gate is closed.  when you open up the energy in some way, it brings the energy from the mind to the heart.”

Vishuddhi Chakra

“The fifth chakra (Vishuddhi) is the chakra of diplomacy, of pure relationships with others, and of playful detachment. It removes all our guilt and remorse when it is opened by the Kundalini, and gives us a kind and compassionate voice. The tendencies to dominate others or to feel dominated by others, the feelings of superiority or inferiority and all jealousies are removed when this chakra is nourished by the Kundalini.”

Subtle system of Ida, Pingla and Sushumna (center) nadis

“So, are you saying that for me, I have to write about the experience to complete the lesson of it?” I asked.

Only you know that but it could be the case.  There are all sorts of ways to process an experience, to get to the heart of the matter so to speak.  I will tell you it’s okay to be stuck on the bridge.  While you are there, be sure to look out and enjoy the view.  You may see and discover something you didn’t expect so don’t be so quick to get off the bridge.  Sometimes we are where we are because that is where we need to be.

When I am experiencing something, I am immersed in it and can’t make sense of things.  That’s when I know I need to be there because I am learning to be there.   When I am aware and awaken to the lesson in it, I am no longer attached to it.  Non-attachment lets the feelings flow and with it, the lesson.  And when we start to see the lesson, we don’t have to have the experience again because we have grown from it.”

I looked up as Cynthia talked, almost forgetting I was sitting in a Starbucks.  She had the ability to package my very situation with a bow on it, even though I had not told her all the details.

“How does meditation and yoga fit in to this all?” I asked, glancing at the clock and knowing I had to leave shortly.

“Through yoga and meditation, we get a glimpse Samadhi, of bliss.  This is where hope lies. When we meditate we find ourselves immersed in feeling and no thought, we are in the no karma zone.  Yoga means union, and when we do yoga we bring the body, mind and spirit together.   Said another way, we get little sparks of what it is like beyond the earth plane,” she said.

It seemed to make sense.  My own experience of moving from mind to heart is indeed stuck in the communications realm — the writing of it all.  If nothing else, our conversation confirmed that I had to continue to trickle along the path of writing and be content to see where all of this goes.