When People Die, We Ask WHY, Instead of Opening a Conscious Eye

Life and Death
Tragedy blusters our entire being. It halts us in our tracks and shoots an expansive ache throughout our body. When the world hears of a tragic death, we all feel it as a whole. We feel it as a body of people. For a few moments in time, the masses share a common pain, but rather than meditate on this sorrow, or acknowledging the sudden mass awareness, we begin to chatter.

I’ve read all sorts of posts about the “suicide” of our beloved Robin Williams. Some of them are generous and loving. Others offer information about depression as education to those who do not understand the darkness of a mental illness, and I’ve read a lot of judgmental posts too. “Suicide is never the right thing to do.” “Suicide is wrong, PERIOD.” “Suicide is the devil getting his way…” Another post I read said that the only thing that Robin Williams needed was Jesus. REALLY? Because I had Jesus my whole life, since I was four. I knew Jesus, prayed to Jesus and loved Jesus. Knowing Jesus never stopped me from drinking myself into oblivion, and loving Jesus didn’t stop me from wanting to kill myself several times when I’d lost all hope in my addiction. In fact, I’d woken up so many times after drinking myself to death, furious that I was still alive. I had Jesus. What I didn’t have was self-love or self-respect. 

A lot of fear and condemnation surrounds the act of suicide, but here’s something to think about – there is not one scripture in the Bible that mentions suicide, nor does Jesus ever bring the topic up. “Thou shall not kill” was one of the commandments, but if I recall correctly, Jesus pretty much blasted through those laws and told his disciples that most important of all the commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself and to love God with all your heart, your mind and your soul.” Let me stop right here (for those of you who are not exactly Christ followers). Again we circle back to self-love.

Suicide is a demonstration of the act of free-will, which we have all graciously been given. Nobody knows for certain where a soul goes after death. Let’s just get this straight. We have beliefs. We do not KNOW anything. If people are ignorant enough to debate heaven and hell, obviously they have no idea that people like Robin Williams (and me) were already in hell. He was desperate to find a way out of hell and that’s why he decided to take his own life. He was (like me) probably tired of being a burden to his family. He was literally a genie wanting out of the bottle. As a whole, we are focused on his act, instead of understanding the bigger picture here.

A few years ago one of my recovery peers lost her best friend to a sudden heart attack. She spoke to someone wise who told her, “There is always a bigger picture playing out.” This angered my friend because at the time, my friend was focused on the tragedy, but as time has gone on, so many beautiful things have occurred as a result of that death. My friend has bonded with his son more than she would have if he were still alive. My friend has always wanted a child of her own, and hasn’t had the opportunity. Because of her friend’s death, and his son needing extra care, she is getting the chance to know what it’s like to love a child unconditionally. There are several other good things that have risen from the ashes of that tragic death. Death may be the end of one person, but with awareness, it can be the birth of many possibilities.

Likewise, there is a bigger picture playing out with the suicide of Robin Williams. Suicide is “never the answer.” So many people say this, but how do they KNOW this for certain?Obviously for him it was. More often than not we only think of ourselves, and when people die, they are dead. The ones who suffer are the ones who are left behind, and none of us like pain, so we say these things because we don’t ever want to feel the kind of pain that suicide leaves behind. I have news for anyone who says this – THAT PERSON WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE, WAS IN THE WORST KIND OF PAIN.  MORE THAN YOU CAN COMPREHEND. What you feel after someone takes their own life is NOTHING compared to the pain and torture that person was in.

After someone dies, GRIEVE. That’s what death brings us no matter how the death is caused. Grief is part of the human experience. Life and death is part of the human experience. “This could have been prevented.” When things could have been prevented, we tend to focus on that, and then we get lost in the tape of our mind playing the “what-if” song. Well, it wasn’t prevented, so now what? Feel the grief. That’s really all we can do in situations like this, but when it is all said and done, we should be open to receiving whatever comes after that death. Death leaves so much room for open-mindedness. It is a lesson about life. It is a time for reflection. There is so much beyond grief that is very beautiful and fulfilling. There is a generous amount of joy that comes up for us when people we admire pass away. I feel it now when I think of Robin Williams, who has been one of my favorite actors since I can remember.

Love. Love comes up when we think of Robin Williams. Adoration, laughter, chills, joy, saddness. All of these things come up for me when I reflect on his life. He was in pain – in so much pain – yet he brought so many people JOY. How is this even possible? As a unevolved human species, we label everything and point fingers and we tend to look at one aspect of situations, rather than have a human experience when things occur. I would ask you today to really begin to FEEL what comes up for you if you are feeling anything at all over this celebrity death. Feel all of it as it arises in your body. Notice all the emotions and be present with them. Let your thoughts, your judgments and your ideas about suicide go. Just be present with yourself and experience all the emotions that enter into your experience. Reflect on what you’re feeling and take time to meditate on the emotions. Now stay with it as it rolls through you. THIS is the bigger picture. This is what we should be doing no matter what occurs in life. It’s called self-awareness, and when we have it, we receive a lot of clarity. When we have it, we are getting to know ourselves a lot better. When we are aware of ourselves, we are learning to love ourselves, and if we learn to love ourselves, we will stop self-destructing.  Self-love naturally extends out into the world.  You cannot love your neighbor as yourself, if you do not love yourself.

We are not taught to experience life this way (from the inside out), which is why so many of us drown out our emotions, or distract ourselves from how we feel to the point of tragedy. When someone dies, we tend to talk rather than feel. Since I’ve began feeling, my life has begun to blossom. It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling – from embarrassment to happiness, each emotion is a like a flower expanding in my body, brilliantly. Feelings do not last eternally. They are ever-changing. I’m learning that life is an internal journey and that the world outside of me gives me opportunities to feel myself from the inside out. Bad things happen in life. They just do. But when we learn to feel, rather than to try to figure out why, we will evolve.

In the East they teach that we all come here in this human form as an actor with several roles to play while we are alive. We are all here reflecting different things to one another. What one person is to me, is someone else to another person. Robin Williams mastered so many roles in his lifetime, except the one where he played himself.  The question is, what did he reflect for you when you watched him do his thing?  What’s coming up for you now?

People are going to come and go throughout our lives, and sometimes when they go it will come as a shock. Experience the shock. Go through the grief. Experience yourself through the roles of others. You are the only one that you are going to be with for the remainder of your life. You only have YOU. So why not spend your life getting acquainted with you? Why not FEEL your way through life, rather than talk about what’s occurring outside of you? I’m doing it now, and it took me from being an unconscious observer, to being a conscious participant while I’m here. I overcame depression because I learned how to live my life from the inside out. I learned how to feel and how to love what I’m feeling rather than drowning it out. I learned that my emotions are more relevant than the situations occurring. People bring stuff up for us emotionally. Rather than point fingers at them, we should honor our emotion and thank them for pointing us back to ourselves.  If you are judging, you are closing yourself off from feeling and that, my friend, is a tragedy.

Thank you, Robin Williams for being a reflection of joy, of love, of adoration, of brilliance. Because of you I’ve gotten to FEEL a lot this week, which reminds me that I’m very much ALIVE. I’m not here to judge your life experience. I’m merely here to experience mine.

Why I Am I Even Here?

I am nothing

You wanted to know me

so I showed up

in the form of you

but you constantly reject yourself

You yearned to be an expression of love

so you chose the human vessel

and you were graciously offered gifts and talents

which you have gravely neglected

You desired to grow in spirit

so you were born with challenges to overcome

and here you are cursing me

for your life being too difficult

You longed for deeper wisdom

the earth provides this to you, in all its mystery

yet you spend your time being distracted by useless things

rather than exploring everything this gracious world has to offer you

You required depth for understanding

this is the reason for your broad spectrum of emotions

yet you drown out your deepest feelings

and hate the appointed ones who draw out emotional experiences for you

You asked to experience joy beyond measure

but joy is hidden beyond fear

Instead of walk through your fear

you have made a quaint little home there

You required to know the truth

so we set up a galactic scavenger hunt

to keep you on the path throughout your life

but you have completely disregarded this path of your soul

and you have focused on the physical

instead of the abstract

you are an artist

yet you’ve chosen to be a beggar

You believe the universe is outside of you

that everything you desire is out of reach

yet you fail to see

that you are the universe

so I cannot help you

until you look in the mirror

and finally see me

this is all up to you

Leading you to water here,
The Big HP

– J. L. Forbes

Learning Not to Judge Others

Karma
When you put yourself out there to practice certain principles, the first thing that occurs is that you get several opportunities to practice these principles. It’s a given. While I was learning to practice compassion for myself a few years ago, I kept making mistakes that I probably wouldn’t have made prior to deciding that I wanted to offer myself compassion. Embarrassment and self-disgust came up for me several times until I understood that I was human and that I should learn to give myself a break rather than beat myself up. Over the years, I have learned to move through my mistakes a lot less clumsily without the self-hatred, but in the arrangement of mine to give myself compassion, I’ve had to deal with people who judge me harshly. People judge. It’s what we naturally do. Some people will follow another person and bite at their heels all the way to justice being served, while others hold grudges for years. Some people gossip until they exhaust their own soul, and others are hateful and awful toward the person that “did them wrong.” Life is not that black and white. There is always a backstory to every situation. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and makes the decision to screw someone over. Most of the time people neglect themselves before neglecting another human being. I think the key here is that when someone does you wrong, or won’t listen to your side of the story, you’ve got to set yourself free by simply accepting that more than anything, that other person is human. Take it as an opportunity to practice love and compassion rather than becoming self-righteous.

It’s really interesting to me now to turn this all around and to give other people the same compassion as I give myself. With my children (whom I practice on the most), offering immediate forgiveness and compassion comes pretty naturally, because they are an extension of me, but what about the people in the real world who seem to be separate from me? How do I manage to offer my compassion to total assholes? There are so many of those riding in the middle of the street on their bikes without looking back while I’m in a CAR trying to get to work… (Satire here – I don’t truly think they are assholes). There are grumpy people, petty people, fussy people, people in a hurry, and people who I don’t have the opportunity to offer compassion toward because we pass each other through life so swiftly. I find myself impatient while I’m driving. I always tell my children, “I am a very spiritual person, but none of that applies in the car.” While on our vacation last week, we experienced two bad accidents coming home and two hours of bumper to bumper traffic through San Francisco. As I sat there tired and ready to relax in the comfort of my home, I decided to not get uptight about the whole thing. It was a good opportunity to practice patience and to just be in the moment. I did complain about a few things, like how bad the roads are in California when there are millions of taxpayers here, but overall, I kept my cool for once. Children observe everything, and if I’m not being cool, calm and collected in the car, that’s what they are going to bring up when I try to act like I’m a saint overall.

Regarding judgment of others – lately I’ve made several connections with so many new people and all of them are so dynamic in their own way. Every person I meet has experienced something in life that I haven’t experienced. I used to go into conversations excited to talk about myself, but now I’m finding myself extremely interested in what other people have to say. I love people. I love experiencing energy when I walk into a room full of people who are all there for the same purpose. I’m noticing the more I am accepting of people, the more they are accepting of me. It is true. The world reflects whatever you put out. I used to think of myself as a lone soldier who people didn’t “get.” Instead of thinking this way, I’m putting myself out there to see what I can learn from others, and everything has turned around for me. It feels like there is a lot of love out there for me. I’m not talking romantic love – I’m speaking about acceptance. Now that I am embracing the world and the people in it, the world and the people in it are embracing me.

No one is perfect and it is so easy to judge. What isn’t easy, is to offer love and compassion to everyone you encounter. This is a challenge. I heard it in a movie this week, “You’ve got to see through all the obvious, down into a person’s heart,” bottom line. People put up walls, and act like jerks, but underneath most human beings is a vulnerable soul. We have all been hurt and done wrong and been abused in some way, shape or form. Many of us are grieving for someone we’ve lost. Each one of us has experienced a bad day. I was treated poorly this week by a cashier, but I looked beyond that and saw that there was some frustration behind it. Obviously that guy was having a rough day. We’ve all had those. Instead of making his day worse by telling his boss, or by complaining directly to him, I offered a broad smile and told him I really appreciated him bringing the box of paper to my car. Why waste my energy getting angry when it takes a lot less time to be kind? I could have dwelled on that all day, but instead, I let it go. Let it go. There’s a concept.

Instead of noticing what a person is lacking, I’ve been practicing a new way of thinking. What is their gift in life and what do they know that I don’t know? Probably A LOT. We attract everything that comes our way, so instead of rejecting people by judging them, I’ve decided to be open to them. It’s all part of the flow that I so often talk about. Don’t stop the flow of your life. People come into our experiences in all shapes, forms, sizes and with different belief systems. What are you going to be for them? I no longer put a guard up. I simply open myself up to whatever experience comes my way with each person I encounter. I don’t have to pretend to like them. I simply have to accept who they are. When you accept people for who they are, they automatically open themselves up to you. It’s incredible. People notice when they are accepted. They are drawn to acceptance. I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing this that people are very drawn to me. And I’m not getting a bunch of riff-raff – I’m getting to experience people with their guards down too. People want to be loved. They want friendship. They want acceptance because the world offers a lot of judgment as it is. Everyone has something to teach us about ourselves and about how to be.

Let it go. Let people make mistakes. Allow them to be angry, to be short with you, to be in whatever state of mind they are in at the moment. It takes much less energy to smile than it does to argue. I’m still learning this (especially in the car), but it is liberating. Life is too short to remain angry. Life is too precious to keep a guard up. Life is too generous to be self-righteous and judgmental. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten more second chances than I deserved, so I’ve decided to offer that same generousness to others. If you want acceptance, you’ve got to learn to give it first. That’s the golden rule we learned about in Sunday school. It’s karma. It’s not a bitch. It’s kind of beautiful actually.

Good Ole Socrates Knew What He Was Talking About

Know Thyself
Some of us come to this earth out of the womb knowing exactly what we want to be when we grow up. My mom probably has hieroglyphic script scarred into her inner abdomen from my earliest writings. An artist knows her path without much outside influence. And then there are those who are born without direction who may feel like they came here without a purpose. Perhaps a purpose for being here doesn’t even occur to them. I don’t honestly know. I’ve always been a poet, a storyteller, a philosopher of sorts. I knew my purpose early on. I don’t know what it feels like to not have a craft, or if it even matters to those who don’t, but even if you are some artistic prodigy right out of the womb – until you know yourself, your craft may feel a bit unbridled and frivolous.

For those of you who don’t know your purpose in life (and if you even care) – we all have been given one unique thing in life. That one unique thing is yourself. If you spend your whole life trying to figure out who you are through the likes of other people, or by searching outside of yourself for answers, there will always be a sensation of feeling lost. If you feel lost, it is because you have not yet discovered yourself. Trust me, I know. I spent a good majority of my life feeling completely lost although I knew very well that I was a writer. Writing is just a tool that I use to channel my voice, but if I don’t know who I am, then how do I even know what I want to say? More often than not, I wrote from the point of view of other people, and a lot of times I plagiarized (in a sense) because I would read books and try to imitate those author’s writings and voices. My writing did not become organic until I took an interest in myself. When I decided to put down the bottle of booze and began learning to treat myself with respect and love, I discovered that my inner child (my soul) was the one thing I’d been searching for all along. I wasn’t lost simply because I was an alcoholic. I was lost because I detached from my essence when I was twelve. That innocent part of me simply wasn’t “cool” when I was trying to fit in with my peers, so I left her behind and molded myself into what I thought would be acceptable to others. I was a fish out of water trying to breathe in air. It never worked for me, but I spent over twenty years trying to develop lungs in place of the gills. This became incredibly gruesome in my thirties. People began catching on that I was a charade, so through the gift of recovery, I made my way back into my natural environment. Here I am now without a doubt of who I am and what I am doing while I am alive. I got to know myself, you see, which is an ongoing process. Each human being is an entire universe. Explore that universe. Discover your essence. Be a physicist and get to the bottom of yourself where you will discover that you are everything. This is the purpose of your life. This is what we should all be doing.

To “know thyself” is a powerful statement of action. It sounds a bit self-centered, doesn’t it? But truthfully when you come to love yourself in a genuine manner, you learn to practice compassion for your faults. You learn to not take yourself so seriously, and you chuckle instead of condemn yourself for being human. This self-love is a gift to others because once we know who we are, we understand who each human being is and we are able to love our neighbors with the same kind of compassion as we have for ourselves. Jesus knew what he was talking about too, when he gave that one commandment to “Love God with all your mind, your heart and your soul, and love thy neighbor as yourself.” To honor yourself is to honor your Creator, and to love yourself, is to love God. To love yourself is to love others. This statement Jesus made was symbiotic. Love is circular – global actually. The universe was created in love, and everything in the universe is cyclical. On a smaller scale, this love we learn to have for ourselves has a cyclical effect on those around us. It is the ripple effect we so often hear about (one act of kindness extends out unto the world).

What does it mean to “know thyself?” Yes. Continue asking this question and allow it to lead you to the answer. The only thing we all should be doing, is being ourselves. This is the soul purpose of each human being. We come to earth in this body. We leave the body behind when we die. In the meantime, we should know that our body is a temple – the dwelling place of our essence (our soul). The human body should always be searching for its beautiful soul while it is alive. Remember in ‘Finding Nemo’ how Dori forgot who she was, and Marlin was there to remind her. This relationship between Marlin and Dori was a beautiful analogy of the dance between the body and the soul. Keep re-connecting to yourself and discovering who you are. Align with that essence and unify with that inner light. We all have it. That light will lead the way (just like Dori intuitively lead the way for Marlin), and you will never feel lost again. Remember when Dori told Marlin that he just “felt like home?” Yeah, Pixar is pretty deep. Going home has nothing to do with entering heaven upon death. It has everything to do with the soul uniting with the body right now. This is the truth in the words of Socrates, “Know Thyself.” And the message of Christ, “Love Thyself.” More than anything – BE Thyself.

Wildflower

wildflower
In the vast field of life
I’ve chosen to be a wildflower
Not a blade of grass
nor an unwanted dandelion
I’ll not be confined in a yard
prided over by man
fertilized, groomed and watered
then heedlessly mowed down
by the same keeper
I bloom freely and upright
Beautiful and bright
I sway in the gentleness of the wind
and keep my face toward the sun

by J. L. Forbes

The Seagull’s Song – “Rythm Over the Blue”

Seagulls
This week my children and I spent several days along the coast discovering new beaches and revisiting our favorites along the way. Three days into our trip, one sprawling beach caught our attention, so we made a day there, frolicking in the sand under an overcast, humid sky. We played along the shoreline in shallow, choppy and inconsistent waves. We chose a less populated spot to picnic, and as I sat there watching my children playing in the water, I understood why not very many people were in this particular area. Behind me was a freshwater pool where gulls flocked in multitudes. Every so often (quite often) the birds would squawk in sync and then fly out to the ocean all together. Above my two children they would flap their white wings and navigate along the ocean in troves, and then about a quarter mile out, they circled back to the beach pond and landed into the shallow water. There were a couple hundred seagulls, at least. I thought of moving away from the noisy birds several times, but something about this strange bird phenomenon intrigued me. What were they doing, exactly? They definitely were not hunting for fish. This was clear. I continued watching the gulls and noted that there was a rhythm. It seemed as if they did this random quarter mile flight about every five minutes, but they did not have a timer, so how did they know when it was time to launch?

At some point I made peace with the squawking, flying birds and decided to stay in the area. Perhaps I could figure out what they were doing. When I felt warm enough, I made my way into the ocean and spent an hour body boarding with my children, assisting my daughter in moving with the body of water after she had been dragged through the sand by a wave. It made her quite nervous, but she quickly moved through her fear. This was a good time to get out while she was feeling confident enough to swim around without me alongside of her. I got back on steady ground, laid upon my beach towel and opened a book I’ve been reading about the poet and sage, Robert Lax who moved to the Greek Isles from America in his early forties and ended up staying there for the remainder of his life. Interestingly, the chapter I was on was about rhythm. Every so often, I found myself looking up from my book to check on my children and to watch the gulls do their flight routine above the water. It was a curious event and I doubted that I would ever figure out the point of their travel pattern. My human mind created scenarios of them being in some sort of bird boot camp. I actually wondered if they were training for something, but most likely they were just there reflecting what I was about to learn. Their purpose for this rhythmic flight may have been nothing more than a demonstration of the rhythm of life.

As I read about Robert Lax’s understanding that our bodies require rhythm in order to flow with life (instead of against it), it occurred to me that I’ve been second guessing myself all along, although I’ve pretty much made a personal art of just going with the flow. Once in a while, I’ve gathered that my movement with the flow of my life is frustrating to the people around me who want things to be a certain way, and are quite fixed in their thinking. People get stuck in their ideas of what should happen next, rather than allowing life to unfold as it may. I used to be this way too. It’s common, but I’ve let go of that need to have things be a certain way. There’s been too many times when things didn’t go my way, and at that moment when I believed things were “off,” a synchronistic event occurred that brought it all together in a way that I could have never predicted. Frustration is a result of expectation. I don’t enjoy being frustrated, you see. I suppose my goal all along has been to find a way to live in a constant state of peace. In my attempts to go with my own flow, I’ve been called “moody,” although my “moods” are a result of needing to reflect inward some days, while other days I’m more extroverted. I’m ok with this way of being. I no longer resist myself, nor do I judge myself for not always being outgoing. Some days I am the life of the party and some days I’m alone in a corner just being quiet. I don’t try to be anything any longer. I’m like a reed in a river just bending with the wakes and wind. The inner calm is constant and whatever is occurring on the outside is mirroring my state of being. Everything is connected, and I’m a part of the whole. Human beings are part of nature, so I have learned to pay attention to how nature lives in harmony, so that I can do the same. Over the course of the year, I’ve thought of myself as random and choppy like the waves, because of someone close to me basically telling me that I’m “off.” According to what other people observe, maybe I seem that way, but I know from being in my own body and mind, that most of the time I’m just trying to find my balance. Nothing more and nothing less. Harmony is extremely important to me, so when I feel “off” I tend to go inward where I can interpret what is going on for me. I’m simply going with my own inner ebb and flow, and when I do things with a sense of well-being and love, my decisions end up having a ripple effect for all people involved. Everything always works out in the end. There really is rhyme and reason behind everything I do, although it isn’t easy to explain to those who are comfortable with a more linear existence.

It took me about two hours to understand that the seagulls had a natural timer driving them to and from the ocean. It was very interesting to say the least. I observed that each time the surf was heavy and thundering, capped with a white funnel, the gulls would squawk loudly and then they would simultaneously fly out above the water, and then turn back around. The surf determined their flow, and a high folding of the waves meant that it was time to go out and do their dance. There was rhyme, but I have yet to understand the reason. I suppose it doesn’t really matter why the birds followed this pattern. It just is. That’s all. And because I was reading about rhythm in that very moment in time, it all came to a full circle of understanding within me.

Like many people, I have always been drawn to the seashore. I am not much of a sailor because I do get sick from the motion, but swimming in the ocean and being near the vast body of water just feels like home to me. While I was out body boarding that afternoon, I felt the rhythm of the sea and it was relaxing. Rather than resisting it, I became part of it. I showed my nervous daughter how to flow with it instead of fear it. She caught on quickly and decided that she absolutely loved the ocean. Such as life. We can either resist what is happening for us, or we can be in a constant state of surrender so that we flow freely through the currents, even when they are unpredictable. When we are aware of the surrounding environment, we learn to dance with it, rather than dread the incoming tides. I’ve spent most of my life resisting, and my life was perilous during that time, but I’ve learned the art of surrender and now I wake up excited about another day. The seagulls taught me something about rhythm last week. They reminded me that it’s a very natural thing to move with life, to take cues from the elements and to not need an explanation. They taught me about poetry in motion and reminded me that I can trust my inner ebb and flow. We all have this natural ability to move in sync with life and it doesn’t matter what the observer sees. I have no idea what those birds were doing out there, but they certainly didn’t make any fuss about me. Harmony doesn’t need a reason. It simply is.