Colors of The Spirit

Embracing Sacred Law

This past weekend, I attended the 37th National Conference of The Compassionate Friends in Chicago, Illinois.I have been attending and presenting workshops for this great organization whose focus is to provide hope and support to families who have experienced the death of a child, since 2008. I always look forward to meeting old friends, making new ones ,and for the opportunity to share  teachings that I have discovered since the last conference. Since my daughter Jeannine’s death at age 18 of cancer, on 3/1/03, I have undergone a metamorphosis from an uncertain, pain wracked soul who couldn’t envision living in a world without his daughter, to a person who has found my peace in spite of the hand of cards that the universe dealt to me. In retrospect, I have found my peace by choosing to play those cards differently, and in the process have learned to embrace sacred law to facilitate transformation after loss.

Airport /Airplane Signs

Honoring sacred law to me , means , in part a willingness to discover the connections in everything, even in events that seem on the surface to be unrelated.  We then endeavor to discover the teachings associated with those connections and utilize them on the path we walk after our children die. To do this requires our commitment to walk in awareness and to view our lives and our loved ones’ death from a different perspective.

I arrived at the airport in Syracuse, New York  last Thursday(7/10) and proceeded to park in the section labeled : “North 12. I immediately focused on the numbers 1 and 2, added them and came up with 3, which is the month of my daughter’s death. On the flight to Chicago, I sat in Seat 10c. C is the third letter of the alphabet, so when I substituted the C with the number 3, I realized that my seat number contained the day and month of Jeannine’s death. These discoveries reinforced to me that Jeannine was not only signaling her presence with me, but would also be my partner in facilitating three workshops during the conference.

Nature Comes To Life

When I fly , I am always pleased to get the seat by the window. The view of  the outside world from up above the clouds is to me, simply majestic and all-encompassing. I also find that I am able to quiet my mind and focus on the moment at hand much more effectively when I commune with nature. During the trip, I saw heart shaped clouds and an image in the ground that looked like a bald eagle. This is what Ted Andrews has to say about eagle ,in his book  Animal Speaks:

Those with eagle as a totem, reflects several needs:

  • 1) There must be an involvement with creativity.
  • 2) A willingness to experience extremes in a controlled condition and thus facilitate the alchemical process within your life. Andrews uses as an example : The fire of the sun and clear water are opposite elements brought into harmony in a manner that elicits change.
  • 3) A willingness to use your passions and use your abilities even if it means being scorched a little.
  • 4) A willingness to seek out the true emotional aspects of oneself and immerse yourself within them,and by doing so rediscover the lost child and awaken a higher sense of purity,passion, creativity,healing and spirituality.

I didn’t discover the teachings of eagle until after I returned from Chicago, but while visiting them realized that I have embraced creativity,honored the yin and yang of my emotions and immersed myself in them to facilitate transformation and to speak my truth about my experience ,with passion and conviction. Eagle reminded me to continue to embrace this path and to reveal  what I continue to discover with others.

Our airplane flew over bodies of water ,the ripples of water were luminescent and had a life of its own. Nature is one of the many colors of the spirit, with a life of its own and a beauty that can not be described in words. I have developed a reverence for nature and am thankful everyday for its presence and the clarity it has allowed me to develop.

Learning to Witness

One of the highlights of my conference experience was having the privilege to present a workshop with my “soul brother” Kris Munsch of  The Birdhouse Project. We addressed a variety of different topics during our workshop, such as empowerment ,self discovery and tools for transformation. It was effortless presenting with Kris, I felt like we had done this together many lifetimes before. Kris and I are different, yet we are united by the passion we bring to the teachings we have discovered and our willingness to witness those perspectives with each other without judgment. All of us who have experienced loss  due to death or other life-altering transitions embrace different paths to transformation. Being a non-judgmental witness to another’s life path, facilitates understanding. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand. When we commit to understanding, we become teachable. As long as I seek to understand and remain teachable, I will be understood and able to teach others with honor and integrity. If all of us can commit to being each others witnesses, we will be able to transcend the outward differences we perceive in each other and create a world that is governed by unconditional acceptance and love, which to me are the true colors of the spirit.

Many colors of the spirit
Many lives below the sun
We are colors of the spirit
We are many, we are one

From the song, Colors of The Spirit by Journey

 

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The Singing Bowl

A Trip to Frankfort…….. New York

This past Sunday( 5/4), my wife Cheri and I went to a psychic fair in Frankfort, New York, which is about a 15 minute drive from our house. It was fun for me to observe all of the different vendors and talk with some about  the circumstances that contributed to them embracing a sacred path and using that knowledge to help others in times of transition. Cheri browsed the tables, bought a few items and  entered  a raffle in an attempt to win one of many health and wellness based items.

And The Winner Is

Later that evening there was a message on our phone.  A caller by the name of Toni, stated that Cheri had won an item at the raffle valued at  sixty dollars and that it would be at her place of business in Ilion, New York( a hop, jump and a skip from Frankfort) until pickup could be arranged. Cheri was going to go by herself on Monday to claim her prize, but could not because Toni’s shop was closed on Mondays. So Cheri and I drove out on Tuesday to  pick up her prize.

Earthly Matters

We met Toni at her place of business, Earthly Matters, where Cheri picked up her prize, a basket of  natural bath and body products. We  also discovered a great collection of crystals, incense, rocks and a variety of other items designed to enhance connectivity to self, others and nature.  In the process of browsing  the shop, I was drawn to this beautiful brass bowl with a wooden mallet inside,mounted on a small pillow ( pictured below)

My Singing Bowl

My Singing Bowl

Toni informed me that the item was called a singing bowl . She told me that the singing bowl is used to clear out any negativity from  a room or other sacred space. I also discovered through some online research, that singing bowls are classified as a standing bell. They sit with the bottom surface resting ;the rim of the singing bowls vibrate to produce  harmonic sounds . They are used for meditation, relaxation, music and personal well being. Cheri encouraged me to buy it and to learn to use it. So after a brief tutorial from Toni, I took my new toy home and began to see what kinds of sounds I could produce .

Joyous Noise

I was instructed to first tap the top of the bowl with my mallet ,and move the mallet around the outside of the bowl. The sounds  are produced by gently applying pressure to the outside of the bowl  . After a few clumsy attempts to produce any harmonic sounds, I began to experience success at producing sustained joyous noise. The harmonic  frequencies I produced energized and relaxed me at the same time. When I have been relaxed and energized in the past, my ability to  walk in awareness is enhanced which allows me to  better develop the clarity I need to negotiate the path that I now walk. The path that has been redefined by the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine, on March 1,2003.

Finding My Music

I have disclosed in previous blog posts and articles the blissful memories  that were created by Jeannine’s and my love of music. Our shared love of music  continues to be a major piece in the ongoing development of  the pure relationship that we enjoy today.  I never played a traditional musical instrument growing up, so any memories that I have of Jeannine and the continued bonds that I have established with her , have been through music we both listened too during her time on earth. It is exciting for me to be able to further strengthen our connection and develop continued clarity and peace through musical sounds that I can produce, while holding her in my thoughts.

The Synchronicity of It All

I would have never discovered the joys and the transformative qualities of the singing bowl had Cheri not entered the raffle last Sunday at the psychic fair, won a prize and picked it up when and where she did. Had Earthly Matters been open on Monday, Cheri would have gone to pick up her prize without me due to the fact that I was teaching most of Monday. If that occurred, I wouldn’t have discovered the joys of  singing bowl. It was the synchronicity in all of these events that contributed to me not only purchasing the singing bowl,  authoring this post in this moment.

All roads ultimately lead to the same place, the present moment 

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers-a true story by Annie Kagan

 

 

The Message is in the Smoke

Feeling Disconnected

Last evening( 12/26/13) I spent some time with my daughter Jeannine. I hadn’t spent quality time with her since August of this year. Since her ninth angelversary date, I make it a point to carve out time to spend with her in ritual and ceremony not only on her birthday or angelversary date but anytime I felt the urge. I always developed a sense of peace and increased clarity after our visits. Since August my schedule was full, between three college classes , helping to plan a candle lighting ceremony with our local Compassionate Friends steering committee,  and facilitating monthly bereavement support group meetings for families who experienced the death of a child. My interactions with my students and families were always fulfilling but as Christmas came and went, I felt increasingly empty and disconnected from myself and out of balance. The imbalance I experienced was due to the fact that I didn’t carve out any time to nourish my soul; and to spend time with someone whom I love passionately and unconditionally. In the process of taking care of others, I neglected to take care of my needs.  I took some definitive steps yesterday at 7:30 pm to address the imbalance.

Smoke and Light

On my desk, I placed a  green sage and citrus candle that we had burned at our Compassionate Friends candle lighting ceremony to the left of me, and incense holder in the center, and an orange candle that came with a wolf medallion, to the right. I lit both candles and incense ,played some quiet meditative music and held Jeannine in my thoughts. I also looked to the smoke of the incense and the light of the candles for further inspiration.

 

The Teachings 

Shortly after our ceremony commenced , I was experiencing thoughts that were coming through me at a faster than normal pace. I got the urge to write these thoughts down so that I wouldn’t forget them. Before I proceeded however, I asked for Jeannine’s permission to do so. I did not want my writing to detract from the time that we were spending together, sacred time. However, I got the clear sense that she wanted me to write, so I did. Here is what came through me and where appropriate, the part of the ceremony that inspired these thoughts :

  • I lit at least two different type of incense sticks and what I noticed with both is that the smoke was divided into two distinct parallel paths that would occasionally intersect. Here is what occurred to me in that moment: Respect the uniqueness of our paths, allow for autonomy, yet know that our paths, though parallel will intersect when spirit deems it to be time. In autonomy then, there is oneness, universality.
  • The flames of the candles also were different. The flame on the citrus and sage candle was dancing with a frenetic energy. The candle was on my left side and the left side represents the feminine. Jeannine, in this lifetime danced with frenetic energy. Further validation of her presence. The flame on the candle located to the right of me burned slow and steady.  Here is the thought that followed: Some flames dance, others illuminate in stillness. Each flame unique, but together provides an energy , a life force that helps us negotiate the darkness that challenges sometimes bring, a darkness that we sometimes allow to consume us. Of course we are human and can’t avoid it. Let us embrace it (the darkness) and find clarity in the flame; the flame of darkness. The flame of darkness now becomes our friend.
  • Others’ journeys will find us as long as we attend to our path and walk it with honor and integrity
  • When we are empowered ,our paths cross by choice, not by force. We share with each other and witness for each other, and our journeys become more enriched. We share our enriched teachings with others who become witness to the transformation and they in turn share with others. Sharing for sharing’s sake, releasing ego and agenda, gives us an earth in balance.

Alright For Now 

After the meditative music was complete, I dialed up the play list that Jeannine and I put together for her ninth angelversary and hit the shuffle button. I also asked her to give me a signal as to when our time should come to an end. If it were up to me, I would not have wanted it to end. The feelings of peace and bliss I experienced  were powerful

Our time together ended with this song by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers called Alright for Now.  This line in the song told me it was time to go…… for now:

Sleep tight baby

Unfurl your brow 

And know I love you

We’re alright for now

 

An Undeniable Thread of Connection: Mother, Daughter, Sting and Thomas Cole

Sadie and Sting

My mother Sadie Roberts died at age 77, on March 11, 1994 of a massive bacterial infection. For  some time after her death, I listened to an album by Sting called The Soul Cages.  He wrote the lyrics and music to grieve the death of his father. Listening to it was a cathartic almost surreal experience. Sting’s music and singing allowed  me to get in touch with the visceral experience that accompanied my mother’s death. Beyond that ,I saw no other connection with anything past or present in my life at that time. However as has been the case for me recently, I have looked at my past  experiences through a lens that has been altered because of my daughter and Sadie’s granddaughter Jeannine’s death in 2003. I felt it was time again to revisit The Soul Cages.

Jeannine and my mother shared a close bond. Jeannine was almost 11 when my mother died and she took it very hard. Little did I know , on 3/1/03 Jeannine would be reunited with my mother for all of eternity.

End of Life Synchronicities

Two priests came round our house tonight

One young,one old,to offer prayers for the dying

To serve the final rite

From the song “All This Time”, by Sting

From the album: The Soul Cages

On the day of my mother’s death, she was administered the prayer of the sick and last rites on two separate occasions by two priests, one young and one old.  A few days before Jeannine died a young priest and older deacon administered the prayers of the sick to her.  I had always ,before today, viewed my mother’s and Jeannine’s end of life journeys as separate ,because they occurred several years apart. However, the similarities of their end of  life rituals indicated there was a teaching or teaching yet to be discovered.

The Voyage of Life

And all this time

the river flowed

endlessly to the sea

From the song “All This Time”, by Sting

I shared my observations with my wife Cheri about the almost identical rituals that were conducted at the end of life with our mother and daughter. She immediately directed my attention to four portraits on our wall, depicting The Voyage of Life by Thomas Cole. The following information has been retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voyage_of_Life

The Voyage of Life, painted by Thomas Cole in 1842, is a series of paintings that represent an allegory of the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.Allegory is a literary device in which characters or events in a literary, visual, or musical art form represent or symbolize ideas and concepts. The paintings follow a voyager who travels in a boat on a river through the mid-19th-century American wilderness. In each painting, accompanied by a guardian angel. The voyager rides the boat on the River of Life. The landscape, corresponding to the seasons of the year, plays a major role in telling the story.  In childhood, the infant glides from a dark cave into a rich, green landscape. As a youth, the boy takes control of the boat and aims for a shining castle in the sky. In manhood, the adult relies on prayer and religious faith to sustain him through rough waters and a threatening landscape. Finally, the man becomes old and the angel guides him to heaven across the waters of eternity. 

The River of Life manifests differently in each of the paintings as  the voyager progresses through the four stages of life: 

To the child,the river is smooth and narrow, symbolizing the sheltered experience of childhood. To the youth, the calm river becomes rough, choppy, and full of rocks. In manhood, the youth has grown into an adult and now faces the trials of life. The river has become a terrible rush of white water with menacing rocks, dangerous whirlpools, and surging currents. The warm sunlight of youth has been clouded over with dark and stormy skies and torrential rains. The trees have become wind-beaten, gnarled, leafless trunks. The fresh grass is gone, replaced by hard and unforgiving rock.The final painting Old Age, is an image of death. The man has grown old; he has survived the trials of life. The waters have calmed; the river flows into the waters of eternity. The withered old voyager has reached the end of earthly time. In the distance, angels are descending from heaven, while the guardian angel hovers close, gesturing toward the others. The man is once again joyous with the knowledge that faith has sustained him through life. 

Awestruck

I am in awe that both young and old were represented in almost identical fashion during both my mother’s and daughter’s end of life journey. There is an undeniable thread of connection between their transitions from life to death. There is also no denying that my mother’s and daughter’s voyages of life contained many moments of joy as well as many significant challenges, which at times made their waters rough .  I also believe that their faith in God or a higher power sustained them until their earthly time ended and their eternal time began. Jeannine’s voyage of life was short in terms of human law, but not on the depth of her experience.

I also discovered insights regarding life and death through Sting’s 20th century music and Thomas Cole’s 19th century art, two different forms of expression in two different eras.  When there is that much clarity between the past and present, the past not only becomes our teacher,but experienced almost simultaneously in the present.

 

“I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.”  

Julian Barnes- The Sense of an Ending

 

Perhaps the insights we develop when revisiting past events in our life is not due to recalled memories but evolved memories. Because of the teachings that I  have continually discovered during my journey following Jeannine’s death, memories of past events have different meanings for me   As more teachings continue to be revealed , my past memories will develop additional or totally changed meanings for me.Recalled memories in its pure form can at times, be painful because of the trauma that is attached to them. Evolved memories come from a greater understanding of the synchronicities in the universe and help an individual develop clarity during his/her life experience, while dealing with the challenges presented by death or other life altering transitions.