11-24-17 Update

There’s not much this week as my wife and I start to get into the holiday season. Since the “official” start of the holiday season seems to come earlier every year, I’ve already publicly declared my neutrality and my status as a non-combatant in the annual war on Christmas.

The wife and I attended a birthday parry on Saturday. The celebrant was only two but it occurred to me that these celebrations for small children may be more for the adults than for the children. It gives the grownups a chance to socialize with other adults and have adult conversations.

Of course there was Thanksgiving. For the last six or seven years, we have gathered at my son’s house and this year was no exception. We ate well. I took a moment to think about my direct Pilgrim ancestors who made that perilous voyage in 1620 and the extreme hardships they faced in their first year in the New World. On the whole, the Pilgrims had a good relationship with their Native American neighbors. They were more open-minded and tolerant that the Puritans who followed them

Then there’s Black Friday. an event in which I do not participate, let alone celebrate. I consider it to be the antitheses of the holiday season as it promotes and celebrates the extremes of greed and avarice, capitalizing on the delusional idea that our value as human beings is dependent upon the monetary value of the gifts we give and receive. Black Friday brings out the worst in many as they fight for the best deals on material goods so they can boast about how much money they saved. It’s called Black Friday for an obvious reason.

I saw an interesting article the other day: A 1903 Proposal to Preserve the Dead in Glass Cubes

In 1903 Joseph Karwowski received a patent for a method of preserving the dead by suspending them in glass cubes but it was never put into practice. Early in the 20th century, a casket company in Oklahoma did produce and sell glass caskets.

At the very least, the idea of encasing the body of a deceased loved on in glass seems creepy, even disturbing. The process described in the process ignores the fact that even if the body is hermetically sealed in glass, the process of internal decomposition will continue with rather gruesome results.

In my later years, I’ve given a lot of thought to death and my own mortality. Death is inevitable so I figure that I may was well face it without fear and with a positive attitude. I have trouble understanding why we strive to persevere the dead for eternity. I have yet to attend a viewing or a funeral service where the deceased appeared natural and lifelike in the casket. I generally find they appear a bit disturbing.

When I do finally leave my body, I’d prefer not to have a funeral but if there is to be one, I’d like to it to be as simple as possible. A plain pine box (covered) will be fine. I don’t want my body to be pumped full of chemicals or have botched plastic surgery performed on it. There’s no need to preserve it as I won’t be using it again.

As for how my survivors dispose of my body, I would like it be be in an ecologically responsibly manner that benefits the world in some small way. Use my remains to nourish a tree or use my cadaver for medical research or transplant some of my organs into someone who has a need for them. I’d even be fine with leaving my corpse in the desert so the buzzards can pick my bones. Even that’s more beneficial than a perfectly preserved cadaver.

Quote I’m pondering this week:
“One must find the source within one’s own Self, one must possess it. Everything else was seeking—a detour, an error.” ~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

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After-Mom

I’ve recently taken an interest in lucid dreaming, especially its potential as a tool in exploring consciousness, investigating the psyche, and gaining psychological insights. In beginning this practice it’s useful to know the landscape of one’s dreams so I’ve begun keeping a dream journal to record my dreams. Additionally, I’ve been going through my personal journal in which I’ve recorded remembered dreams over the years and transcribed them in dream journals. In the process I came across a dream about my mother I had a couple of years ago and it brought to mind a couple of other experiences I’ve had since her passing.

Since she left her body on 21 May 2008, I’ve had several moments when she has touched me in in a significant way. These moments don’t confirm any particular belief in life after death, an afterlife, rebirth or reincarnation, but they touched me deeply, nonetheless. I don’t subscribe to any religious persuasion nor do I consider myself particularly spiritual. However, I am open to such possibilities and I strongly suspect that there is something that lies beyond our range of perception and our concepts of conventional waking reality.

The first two events are extracted from my Padawan Yogi blog (no longer online) and the third is from a dream I had and is extracted with notes from my dream journal.

Chants for Ma Kirtan
Sun, 08 May 2011

Michael and Melissa led a wonderful Chants for Ma Mothers’ Day Kirtan this morning. I’ve enjoyed the energy of the kirtans I’ve attended but this simple kirtan really moved me in a profound way. The first chant, Jai Ma, opened something inside me and a lot of feelings and emotions came to the surface. I had tears on my cheeks and my voice was breaking. It’s hard to describe but it was powerful and intense. At the time I wasn’t able to identify the feelings, it was just raw emotion. Looking back I can only guess the predominant feelings were love and loss. Even several hours after the kirtan, the intensity had ebbed but the feelings still weighed heavily on my heart.

My mother passed on three years ago this month and on Mothers’ Day she was going through the process of dying so I guess I’m always going to have that association with the day. The kirtan obviously triggered something inside me and brought it to the surface. Maybe I’d been holding them in for the past three years and they needed to come out.

03-17-2013 Meditation & Yoga
Sun, 17 Mar 2013

My practice since injuring my shoulder in October has been sporadic and it shows. My pranayama, asana and meditation practices have all shown obvious signs of neglect. Now with spring coming and my shoulder almost fully recovered , along with a couple of good sessions, I’m feeling motivated to get my sadhana back on track. My good friend and teacher, Melissa, will be leading a week-long spring detox next month and the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that I should do it. Hopefully, I’ll have more success than I had with the fall detox. If I can at least become semi-competent at making kitcheri, I should do alright.

I had a good home practice yesterday. Parts of it were challenging but I worked my edge and it felt good. For the first time in nearly five months, I was able to do Savasana in relative comfort without placing a blanket or something under my head. It seems strange that a pose like Savasana would give me such difficulty. I’m happy that my shoulder is finally almost healed. It’s not 100 percent yet but it’s getting close.

This morning I made the effort to make it to Melissa’s guided meditation class and her hatha yoga class at Day Yoga Studio. They were my first Sunday classes with her since she stopped holding them at S.W.O.R.D. back in September. I found that, while I enjoy classes by other teachers, I really missed Melissa’s classes. Her Sunday mediation and yoga classes will be a priority.

This morning’s meditation was a heart meditation using visualization, drawing in what you wanted to bring into your life and releasing that which you wanted to let go of. I have a little trouble imagining the process she describes but often, into the meditation, a vision will form. I saw white, fluffy clouds and in one cloud there was a hole through which I could see bright blue sky. Occasionally, I could see a refracted ray of sunshine on the edge of the hole. I don’t know if this has any significance or how it relates to the meditation, but that’s what appeared to me.

In the time between the meditation and the asana class, I rested in Supta Baddha Konasana, resting my shoulder blades and the back of my head on blocks. I find it quite relaxing along with being a nice hip opener, back bend, and heart opener. It turned out that she would have us start the class reclined either on a bolster or on blocks.

The class itself was challenging, keeping me at my edge. No particular pose or sequence stands out; it was all good. Again, Savasana was quite comfortable and without props.

Toward the end of Savasana, thoughts about death popped up. They were mostly about deaths in my family, particularly my mother and my paternal grandmother. One thought that came up was that my mother’s atman had either been reborn or was about to be and the body she occupied was (or would be) nearby. There was another recent death that appeared in my thoughts. It wasn’t anyone I knew personally but her unfortunate and random death in Afghanistan had touched my heart. I acknowledged the thoughts and let them go.

It was nice to talk to Melissa for a few moments after each class about my shoulder injury and my practice. She has always been one of my favorite teachers and I’ve learned so much from her.

30 June 2015 Dream
I see my mother and give her a hug. While hugging her I feel a sensation of unconditional love, untainted by any feelings of sadness, grief, or loss. I felt that I had transcended to a higher level of consciousness.

Notes: The dream resonated with me for several days afterward. I found it interesting that in the dream and when reflecting upon it later I felt no sadness or grief. If anything, I felt a sense of relief and it may have signaled an official end to my grieving.

See also: Ninth year remembrance

Ninth year remembrance

It was nine years ago today that my beloved mother left her body. She left it reluctantly, fighting the transition to the end. From what my sister has told me, she may have finally accepted the inevitable and found peace in her final moments. I like to believe that she did.

In the couple of weeks I was there before her passing, I witnessed her incredible strength and determination to stay with us. Family was extremely important to her and in the years since her passing I have come to a greater appreciation of the depth of her contributions and sacrifices to raise her family and to support all of us long after we left the nest. Although she’s not with us physically, she lives in our memories and in our hearts. I can only relate my own experiences but I sometimes feel her spiritual presence.

For several years I was troubled that I was not with her at the time of her passing. I had always felt a very deep bond with my mother and it seemed like I still had some unfinished business with her. I also felt there was a lack of closure. About three years later, there began a series of events spread over several more years through which she led me through my grieving, assuaged my feelings of guilt, and affirmed her unconditional love.

I never say that she’s in Heaven or anywhere else. Personally, I don’t accept the Christian concepts of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. I find them spiritually limiting and based upon an abstract system of rewards and punishment. I’m more attracted to Eastern ideas of karma and rebirth which, to me, seem more logical and more rational. The idea that she may have taken on a new birth is comforting. Her spirit, which is not bound by the limitations of the physical universe, has spoken to me at times when my mind has been quiet enough to hear her.

None of above reflects a belief in anything, only ideas and possibilities. I can only relate my own experiences or what I think I’ve experienced. Just the same, I’ve pondered ideas and concepts regarding the spiritual realm. I borrow from many disciplines which include Eastern philosophies and quantum mechanics.

Death and Marriage

Death

Why Can’t Americans Choose to Die on Their Own Terms? That’s a question that’s been troubling me for many years. It’s been my experience and my observation that the wishes of the dead and the dying are usually given lip service at best or they are completely ignored. The funeral industry blatantly rips off grieving families when they are the most vulnerable. Funerals are for the living;  the dead have little use for them. Once they are dead, they have little if any say in the matter.

I believe that the dying should be allowed to die with as much dignity as possible and that their wishes should not be subjected to the religious views others. Dying should not viewed as a failure to live but as a transition to something else. What that something else is needs to be interpreted individually, preferably by the person making the transition.

Marriage

Whenever I hear or read someone saying that we need to adhere to the Biblical definition of marriage, I feel inclined to ask which one of the many definitions to be found in the Bible are they referring? Polygamy? Sex slaves? Captive virgins? Rape victims? A brother’s widow? There may be a Biblical reference defining marriage as being a holy union between one man and one woman but I haven’t found it nor have I read about it.

Other Thoughts

So many Christians declare that the Bible is the infallible word of God but I wonder how many of them have actually read God’s infallible word which, by the way, is filled with irreconcilable inconsistencies and contradictions. Have they read the rules laid out in Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Do they realize that technically, theologically, and doctrinally, they still apply?

In Matthew 5:17-28, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law [the Old Testament] until everything is accomplished.” Basically Jesus said that those rules apply forever. So, do you believe in all of God’s infallible word or just some of it?

Christians believe in eternal life, a life after death either in Heaven or Hell for eternity. Yet in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, the very first words are, “In the beginning…” If there is a beginning it follows that there must also be an end, thus no eternity. If one believes that the soul, the atman, the Self, is eternal, then there was no beginning and no end. But everything that is manifest in the physical world has a beginning and an end. Something to think about, eh?

Did Jesus fake his death and resurrection?

This is an idea, Just one possible scenario, that I’ve toyed with for a number of years. I’m sure that most Christians would find it blasphemous or heretical, if not downright offensive since it goes against one of the most fundamental beliefs of Christianity, his Resurrection and ascent into Heaven.

  • At an early age (the age of 12), Jesus showed exceptional understanding and knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures (Luke 3:40-52). We can deduce that he had an inquisitive mind and sought spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
  • The Canonical Gospels do not say any thing more about his life after this point. All the Canonical Gospels take up the story again with John the Baptist and Jesus being baptized. Many biblical scholars believe that Jesus would have been about 30 then.
  • We can only speculate about the intervening years but it’s quite probable that Jesus would have encountered merchants and travelers from the East and he would have discussed spiritual matters with them and learned of their religions.
  • There are stories and legends of Jesus, as well as Jewish communities, in India so there is a possibility that he may have traveled there and stayed for a number of years. He could have conceivably spent time in Buddhist monasteries or in ashrams, learning about Buddhist and Vedic teachings as well as yoga practices.
  • Many of his teachings in the Canonical and Gnostic gospels appear to have Eastern influences, suggesting more than casual exposure to Eastern spiritual ideas.
  • He may have carefully chosen his disciples and taught them individually based upon their temperament, aptitude, and readiness to accept the teachings.
  • It’s possible that, at some point in his ministry, he began to formulate a plan to bring about the Old Testament prophecies and fulfill the messiah prophesy.
  • He was quite knowledgeable about the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of a messiah and the Gospels tell us that he manipulated events to fulfill them. (Mark 11, Luke 19:20-44, John 12:12-19)
  • As part of his plan, he quite likely set up Judas to “betray” him.
  • Crucifixion as practiced by the Romans was a slow and agonizing death by asphyxiation and exposure to the elements, and often took as long as three days before the victims died. The Canonical Gospels tell us that he died in just six hours then was removed from the cross and taken to the tomb before the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday.
    • If he had spent a considerable amount of time at an ashram in India, he could have learned yoga practices that would have enabled him to transcend the pain, and slow his breathing and heartbeat to a point where it would have been imperceptible to the average person.
    • His body was quickly wrapped in a shroud and taken to a nearby tomb which had been procured by Joseph of Arimathea. It’s probable that Josesph of Arimathea could have secreted food, clothing, and other necessities in the tomb for him.
    • Since it was highly unlikely that the tomb would be disturbed before the end of the Sabbath, Jesus would have had time to clean himself up, attend to his wounds, and begin to recuperate.
  • On Sunday morning, he appeared before Mary Magdalene and the other women who came to anoint his body. When they saw him “risen” they were convinced that the prophecies had been fulfilled. Mary told the disciples what she saw and he appeared to them as well, further confirming the prophecies.
  • Having established himself in the minds of his followers that he was the Messiah and had risen from the dead as prophesied, he made his way out of the Roman Empire to India where he lived out the rest of his days.

buddha-jesus.gifjesus-the-yogi

Most Responsible Burial on Earth

“Western societies have developed a whole system around condensing and compartmentalizing death. You’re not supposed to see the body in a natural state. Someone takes it away, prepares it to mock life, and then it goes through different rituals before it’s either burned or buried. There’s an illusion present there that death is somehow cleaner that way.”Wow: the Most Responsible Burial on Earth

I found it interesting and, because it’s not part of my culture, a bit disturbing. On the other hand, it does make a lot of sense. After death the body is no longer a vessel of the soul, it’s just decomposing meat. It only seems natural that in death we should contribute to the cycle of life. Becoming part of the food chain is more logical that trying to preserve our dead bodies, pumped full of preservatives and sealed inside a steel and concrete vault for all all eternity. What purpose does that serve? After we have died, we will never be needing those bodies again.

Our society never wants to see our bodies in their natural state, either alive or dead. The appearance of the dead in their coffins has always made me feel uncomfortable. It’s not because they were dead or because I was grieving but because they never looked natural or as they did in life. Why would I want to have chemicals pumped through my corpse to keep it from decomposing or have my carcass subjected to what amounts to badly executed plastic surgery to make it look “natural”?

When I do finally leave my body, I’d prefer not to have a viewing or a traditional funeral. I’m not my body either in life or in death. Of course, those I leave behind will do what they want. Funerals are for the living. The dead have little to say about it nor do they receive any benefit.

I’m not convinced that funerals really provide the mourners with closure. There is a sense of finality to seeing the coffin closed and being lowered into the ground but finality is not closure. For many, the funeral is the point where the reality of death hits home and the grieving process begins to kick into high gear. Closure may not come until several years later, if at all.

Hooze Cat, 1994-2011

Hooze_20040730

I had my cat put to sleep yesterday. She was about 16½ years old (about 82 in human years) and suffering. A recent X-ray showed that she had a tumor in her left kidney and was uremic. She wouldn’t eat or drink. I gave her fluids intravenously for a few days but that didn’t seem to help. She was growing weaker by the day and was unable to stand on her own.

The decision to euthanize her was not difficult and I’d made it a day or two prior to taking her back to the vet. After renal failure the toxins in the body build up and death eventually comes from drowning in one’s own fluids. It is not a pleasant way to die. To me the choice was obvious. To let nature take its course would have only prolonged her suffering. The vet simply gave her an overdose of an anesthetic. The end came quickly, quietly and, hopefully, painlessly. I was with her until the end. She was finally at peace.

Isn’t it strange that euthanizing an animal is considered a humane and compassionate act while providing the same option to a human is murder? People faced with a terminal condition with absolutely no hope of recovery are forced to endure their pain and anguish to the bitter end with only powerful drugs like methadone to provide them any relief from their suffering. Meanwhile, their loved ones must suffer along with them for days or weeks until the end finally comes. Our societies and religions can’t seem to embrace the idea that taking a human life can sometimes be an act of kindness and compassion.

I appreciate the words of sympathy I’ve been getting from people. My home and my life will seem a bit more empty. She will be missed and there will be an empty place in my heart. I’m sure Hooze’s life had a purpose. Maybe her purpose was to teach me patience and compassion.