Undones, Do You Have Them?

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Having faced death several times myself and recently experiencing the deaths of two very special people, I find myself preoccupied with loss.

Adoptees tend to do that of course. Our beginnings in utero had already started the prewiring necessary for our survival which was begun with loss of our mother.

Of course, I’d like to be thinking of sunshine and rainbows, but the reality for all of us is that death is inevitable. It could be tonight even.. It will come whether you’re ready or not. That is a certainty and we don’t have many of those in this life.

My life has been filled with loss as most adoptees are. The loss of our mother, our family, our heritage, our genetic markers, our family dynamics. Each future loss such as the recent losses I’ve mentioned open that old wound.

Then of course you add in the numerous losses one tends to accumulate over the years and suddenly life appears to hold nothing but darkness, silence, the sound of tears dropping, emptiness, loss of health. Living with an illness that could at any moment take my life brings it all to the frontline.

Being a practicing Buddhist I’m well prepared for the inevitable. I don’t fear death at all and in fact, at times would welcome it. Most people living with Mast Cell Disease can attest to that when you’ve spent days in excruciating pain, vomiting into a pail, fighting the anaphylaxis demons with epinephrine.

That in no way means I want to die. It means I believe one has to prepare for their own death in order to live. A close encounter with death can bring a real awakening, a transformation in our whole approach to life.

The Nature of everything is illusory and ephemeral,

Those with dualistic perception regard suffering as happiness, Like they who lick the honey from a razor’s edge. How pitiful they who cling strongly to concrete reality:

Turn your attention within, my heart friends.

The above is a verse of a poem by contemporary master, Nyoshul Khenpo. It clearly outlines the need to reflect deeply on impermanence. It’s very difficult to turn our attention within and so easy to allow our old habits, our set patterns to rule us! To reflect on this, slowly brings us wisdom. Watch how you repeatedly fall into the same old habits that always bring you suffering. Again, and again, and again. With observance and practice we can slowly emerge and change.

Your Undones…

Your undones are that persistent, niggling, feeling that is sent to you from The Universe, Your Higher Self, how ever you think of what is “out there”. It’s telling you that you have unfinished business. Business that will pester you, stress you and take your energy until you complete it. Mental nags are undones. They remind you that you have broken agreements with yourself and time and time again you’ll notice they rob you of your self respect. Creativity…gone. True joy…gone. Internal peace…gone. You are able to get back all of those things if you complete your undones.

Right now in your mind I’m sure you can identify several. I know I can. They could be unresolved conflicts, withheld forgiveness, appreciation not mentioned, love not given, goals not met, promises not kept. Your life is probably full of many more not mentioned. They come in every size, shape, and in each and every area of your life. Check your basement. It’s probably full of undones.

Let this sink in…You won’t find peace until these undones are completed. Just remember, life is short and very unpredictable.

THE WAY OUT….IS THROUGH

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.”

ORIAH

I was talking to a friend last night about our daily struggles, our adoption trauma that never ends, my little blind dachshund that is declining in health, my own declining health. Facing my own mortality, loss of what used to be a different life, loss of a mother, loss of a family. Loss of my friends in Nepal and so many other lives.

So many losses, so much pain. From the past, the present and the soon to be.

IMG_1034Instinctively, we try to avoid pain. It’s ugly and messy. In fact, these experiences come to teach us that joy and sorrow are two sides of one coin and you can’t have one without the other. Give yourself a shake, open your eyes to your dark nights of the soul. What is the lesson? What wisdom do they bring? What healing do they offer?

THE WAY OUT IS THROUGH

Actually, it’s the only way if you want to grow and move forward. I was thinking about my books this morning and realized I never talk about the rapes, the near death experiences, the violence, abuse and the effect it has had on my life. It is the way of psychiatry to dig deep, unearth those wounds and heal them…walk through the pain. I’ve gone that route but there is also another to see trauma.

In the Buddhist way it’s simply called The Realistic View.  How easy is that? Did you know that Buddha himself began his journey spiritually after losing his mother at a young age and experiencing great trauma? His prescription for the end of suffering is outlined in The Four Noble Truths. Realistic View held an important place. It became a critical component of what became to be known as The Noble Eightfold Path.

The reason I mention this is that The Realistic View means/says that trauma, in any of its forms is not a failure or mistake. It’s not something to be ashamed of, not as sign of weakness, and not a reflection of inner failing.

Its simply a fact of life.

This is the kind of post that can go on forever and I will continue taking about the path that takes you through to the other side to a place of peace in many posts.

Buddha’s prescription was one of self investigation and mental discipline.

Mindfulness and clear comprehension

You don’t have to be a buddhist to get to the other side with this method. It’s for everyone who wants to grow and move forward from trauma. This is the simplest explanation of what the Four Noble Truths are.

1.Life has inevitable suffering

2.There is a cause to our suffering

3.There is an end to suffering

4.The end to suffering is contained in the eight fold path

So often, I hear people saying things like: I just can’t take any more. I can’t continue to live like this. I don’t have a life. I’m in so much pain.

Adoption, reunion, rapes, abuse, mast cell disease, so many things to experience and live with at once. I’ve said all of the above myself.  It’s a fine line between everyday life and trauma. I can only speak for my own journey when I say Trauma is the way into the self, and the way out

To be free, to come to terms with our lives, we have to have a direct experience of ourselves as we really are, dark side, warts and all. The freedom the Buddha envisioned does not come repression, holding onto thoughts and feelings or from abandoning our suffering self; it comes from learning how to hold it all differently, holding space for ourselves and others and not getting attached to the many stories/traumas we carry.

MINDFULNESS AND CLEAR COMPREHENSION

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Where did you go?

“I seem to myself, as in a dream,

An accidental guest in this dreadful body.”

Anna Akhmatova

The reality of asking that question is you didn’t go anywhere, I  wasn’t here.  I’ve missed you. I’ve missed being able to sit up and write.  I’ve missed being able to see clearly the words I want to write.  I miss sitting on my meditation cushion as I write..yes, I really do that!  I’ve missed knowing you are still connected and care.

My absence has been controlled by my misbehaving mast cells wrecking havoc within my already depleted encasing.  In the last 10 days I have been in the hospital, pumped full of drugs and released, feeling worse than I went in.  Wednesday I began a drug trial of injections that may, yes may, in 6 months or more help control my mast cells.  May…If I can tolerate the side effects.  It left me in a cold sweat, unable to move without retching, with horrid pain, electrical currents striking in various areas.  My bottle of water tastes like metal.  My toast like cardboard.  Well that might be the bread actually.  My throat is sore, head pounding, face swollen, everything from a normal mast cell day quadrupled.  Still, I may consider another next month.

Dr.Afrin’s Paper:

http://http://www.wjgnet.com/2218-6204/pdf/v3/i1/1.pdf

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The only way I can get thru this is to fall back on the beliefs that even this, is not permanent. This is just my life, nothing more. There is nothing wrong with it even tho’ I feel  sick in this moment.

 It will pass.

Are You Starving?

Feeding The Soul

How many of you are surrounded by “things”?  Your space choked by the latest technology, the latest appliances, toys….. surrounding you, reaching out, trying to entice you to spend your days wandering around without specific purpose.

I know myself, as I sit with my morning coffee, catching up on the latest news feed, fb pictures, important posts, I look up and at least two hours has  vanished and my coffee is cold.

It’s November: Adoption Awareness Month, with all the awareness that this brings.  The gift that keeps on giving but never fills the empty spaces, the hunger and longing, the starving for connection and love.

It’s November:  Stores already have their Christmas displays out.  The latest toys flashing on the tv screens winning over children with the “I wants”.  The people already rushing about, pushing, shoving hoping to fill the hole where the hunger causes growling and rumbling pains.

It’s November:  The month that I receive with love and eagerness my first GrandOne.  I remember well, when I first looked into my daughters eyes at birth and saw for the first time a genetic connection, a love so profound I still have no words.  For the first time in my life, I felt full.

Each of these November events bring different types of hunger, values, desires.  Our insistent soul demands these agendas: transcendence, transformation, connection.

What I find interesting is that If, and only If….we find ourselves living in a mythological system where the energy of the images of our tribe, our family or culture in fact changes us, lifts us, connects us, then something abstract, contrived, and trivial like money loses its charm.

We are not hungry…..

But….while money is necessary, money for the sake of money, things for the sake of things, while seemingly so urgently relevant, leaves me wondering if it’s because millions of us are not able to experience effective spiritual lives.

Soul

The literal translation of the word soul is a Greek word psyche.

 It’s a word, a metaphor to describe what we consider to be our essence.  It is the energy that blows through us, that enters us at birth, animates our journey and then departs, at our passing.

When life is lived in accord with psyche’s intent, we experience inner harmony, supportive energy, connection and our lives become meaningful.

If the external things in fact fed our soul, we would not be so hungry all the time.  If they linked us to other realms, connected us in compelling ways to our tribe we would not have hunger pains.

We are affluent, yet starving….

A few years ago, before I became so ill, I spent time with the Hill Tribes in Northern Lao.  People who lived as it was, centuries ago.  Straw Houses on stilts, coffins built when a babe was born because life span was 35yrs.  The children had no toys, no clothes, no healthcare.  Babies were having babies,  Food was what you had around you.

And yet, I have never met such full, connected, loving beings in all my travels.  Lao, being a Buddhist Country was built on a foundation of inner, soul, heartfelt spirituality.

 To us, it appeared they had nothing.  In reality, they had everything.

Soul, Hunger, Loss, Love, Belonging, Tribe, Adoption, Pain

I think of these things a great deal.  As an adoptee I have a broken place in my heart that leaves me with hunger pains beyond description.

My saving grace is that I am filled with spirit, my soul is full, my heart open.

November

A good time to review what’s really important in our daily diet.  A time to reflect on what makes you hungry and what feeds your soul.

Loss…..When Your Heart Is Breaking

IMG_1488“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

Rumi

I believe that.  I’ve been witness to the magic of allowing yourself to believe.  Many times over.  In fact, those feathers and many more in my collection are just one sign that someone I loved dearly is close by.  How precious is that?  To know you never lose the ones you love.

Many of us, myself included have experienced Loss and Grief recently.  It comes along when you least expect it and grabs your heart and twists it wringing out the tears leaving you raw and open.

As a former RN I believe in the Kubler Ross grief cycle.  Not only for the loss of a loved one but for any loss.  For those of us with Mast Cell Disease, Cancer, EDS, any type of debilitating illness or injury.  Your life changes and with that..you experience loss of many kinds.

We all experience grief in our own way.  It may come in waves and toss us around like tiny birds on an angry ocean.  Or perhaps it sits there, hidden until something triggers it and then it grabs our mind and heart squeezing until the tears are forced out.

According to Keubler Ross the five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally acceptance.  Not in any particular order, perhaps jumping back and forth for however long it takes to get to acceptance and peace.

As a Buddhist I believe in Death and Impermanence of Life.  It’s part of the natural part of life, however, death is not the end of life.  It’s merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life.  Our spirit remains and seeks out new life.

When we come to the last moment of this lifetime,and we look back across it, the only thing that’s going to matter is,

“What was the quality of our Love?”

Richard Bach

As adoptees we arrive in this world already burdened with the unbearable loss of our mother.  We spend our lives in a place of darkness and sorrow, sometimes not even recognizing the depth of pain we carry.

It doesn’t matter that you understood that your mother was unable to raise you or she thought she was doing what was best for you, or perhaps too young and under pressure.

 IT DOES NOT MATTER.

She let go.  The whole family let go. They all let go.

“They” will never understand.  “They” were never let go.

It becomes a family of pain.  My Mother shut down.  She carried “the secret” inside her tortured heart for years.  My heart goes out to her.  The pain must have been unbearable.  I felt it the moment I gave birth to my daughter 36yrs ago.  I looked in her eyes and immediately felt my Mothers pain.

Adoptees never completely heal.  Neither do their Mothers.  After search and reunion even if it goes badly we at least have the potential for growth.  We have a chance to move from the traumatized self to the revitalized and transformed self.

Tomorrow is my Mother’s birthday, five days before mine.  She died a short 9 months after I moved across Canada to get to know her.  I found my Mother and Lost her all in the same breath.  I was so filled with grief and pain from the first loss and the loss at her death my Mast Cells took over my body and sent me into the mast cell abyss from Hell.

Her family will grieve for her.  They will reminisce with each other of the memories that holds them together as a family.  I will grieve for the loss of what could have been.  For the loss of heritage, genetic markers, memories that bind, love that stays, family that never was.  It never goes away, this grief.

To all of us in the past weeks that have experienced loss,

I dedicate this blog to you and those we have lost.

Look around you…notice the small things..the wind blowing softly past your ear.  The butterfly sitting on a flower.  The soft rain hitting window panes.  The brilliant red leaf as it flutters slowly from the tree.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

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Who am I now?

All things found in the world and beyond

Are illusions created by one’s own concepts.

Grasping at them but further distorts perception.

Give up grasping and see things as they are.

  H.H. Dalai Lama

My two memoirs are written.  My story is finally going to be “out there” and yet,  last night as I lay in bed, I thought about the person I used to be.  I thought about the previous lives I’ve lived within this lifetime and there have been many.  

From the time I was adopted I was forced to play many roles within that family.   I was a maid, housekeeper, performer, model, pianist, choir girl, girl guide.  I could go on and on.  We all know, as adoptee’s, how we twist and turn trying to fit into the place given to us after we are given away.  We never fit no matter how hard we play the roles and how we try to mould into a space that was never meant for us in the first place.

Over a lifetime of trying to fit in to the many subcultures of the 60’s and 70’s still didn’t work..  You know, deep down that you don’t fit and yet from experience and desire to belong we still try.

I go over these lives, the people that were part of the journey.  I wonder where they are and what they are doing, knowing in my heart most of them are dead.  Yet here I am, alive and telling my story.

This morning when I got up I reached for my stethoscope  that hangs on the hall stand as a reminder of one of those lives.  I was going to listen to my little Jangos chest, just as I did for many years with patients.  Image

Where did she go?  The very well respected, confident R.N. who thrived on stress and yet always remained so cool and calm.  I remember how she felt each day she went to work excited for the challenge and unpredictability of the ward.  I wonder where those I cared for are, how they are doing knowing, some are not with us, yet I think about them.

As real as those years were and the memories still are, it’s like a dream today.  It reminds me of Buddha’s own words. “See this floating world as like a dream, like a mirage, like a fantasy.”  I also remember, I think it was Yeats saying we are all actors in a play, on the stage of life and we can do, be anything we want.

I remember falling in love for the first time. I remember the overwhelming sadness when it didn’t last.  I remember thinking I would never live anywhere but Toronto and that if I lived beyond 30 it would be a miracle.  I remember people I loved dying and leaving me alone in the jungle of city streets soothing my pain with my drug of choice.

Several times I came home to an empty house, all of my belongs gone.  Mostly I worried about my writing, my songs and my guitar.  I still look when I see someone playing on the streets.  It was the most beautiful Gibson 12 string and that pretty much was the total of my belongings, yet to start over so many times was just part of life back then.

Why is it so hard to let go?  Let go of who we used to be.  Let go of the reminders of what once was.  I got rid of a box of pictures years ago because I was afraid when I died, my daughter would see who I really was and here I am writing it out for the world to see.

I remember, when I got off of the “streets” and my first living space was a purple and black hall closet.  How safe and cozy I felt, confined in that tiny place because it was mine.  I remember the body that was a speed swimmer and the feeling of gliding thru the sparkling water muscles working in unison and without pain.

I have an old shirt I wore when i was in India.  Since then I’ve gained a huge amount of weight from illness and medications.  I remember where I wore it and the smells and sounds I experienced and if I hold it to my face, i can still smell the Indian spices and Buddhist monastery incense.  If I get rid of it, will I loose touch with those memories?  Will I throw out and important part of who I am?  Who will I be if I rid myself of everything?

As an adoptee that has been fragmented by reunion I know what it’s like to not know who you are, either before or after reunion. We have walked around for years in the roles we thought were such a big part of us.   We adoptee’s know the emotional collapse of our psyche that occurs at some point in reunion.  Other’s of course, have no idea.  Why would they when they were standing on their own roots, grounded in the knowing of who they are.

We are all connected to people, places, things, traditions, beliefs, habits, ideas.  Are we defined by these connections?  I believe so, perhaps that is why adoptees struggle so much with identity.  Without roots you have no ground to stand on, no stability in who you are, just the roles you play.

In Buddhism we are constantly reminded that these “things” represent our attachments, thus attaching us to the world.  As in the previous post I wrote that our attachments are what cause us suffering.  Because we are so focused on our attachments we don’t pay attention to the truth of our present moment, we fail to follow our deeper values.

Attachment is all about wanting and not wanting.  Its about desire and dislike.  What do you want most in life?  What do you want least?  I write about this because as a “post fragmented “adoptee who has spent the last years putting myself back together in a different order I can now reflect and see where my attachments were and how much suffering I set myself up for by clinging to things.  It took me 3 yrs to stop paying my nursing licence even tho’ I knew I was too ill to ever go back and had also moved across the country.  If I took that away at the time of physical and emotional crash during reunion what would happen.  Who would I be?  

I keep repeating this subject because I need to hear it over and over again.  Writing makes it real for me.  When I recall all of the attachments that have been let go I feel lighter and ready to take on the next chapter.  Having strong internal boundaries as well as external control over your own behaviours has helped focus and refine my energy.  My spiritual practice is deeper and more intense on a personal level.  The sense of inner peace is growing and the inner attachments have lessened.  Still a long way to go but the less you carry, the easier the climb.

By letting go of the inner attachments, the roles, the beliefs you open up a space in your heart.  Growing virtues such as compassion and loving kindness packed in care emerge.  Detachment doesn’t mean you become indifferent by any means.  What it does mean is you are less vested in the outcomes.  The real possibility of seeing everyone as equal and belonging to the same tribe becomes evident.  Even personal loss may be better handled when detachment and understanding is attained.

So, who am I now?  I feel lighter, more whole, more spiritual, more grateful, more grounded, less encumbered by the wanting of what could have been and never will be.  Its easier to return to that place of peace than ever before.  Always a work in progress.  I am…

I am not my story and yet it is part of me but not the total of me.  That is freedom.  I am happy to just “be”.  I am.