The (Re) Cycle of Life

A couple times a week I leave my home and drive eight miles down the mountain to do my food shopping and errands. The first couple of times I did it, I will admit, I was terrified. I’m not used to driving windy country roads and I also have problems with vertigo. Going down anything, especially a mountain is not my favorite thing to do. The way I got through it (and still do), is to say mantras and keep my eyes on the road.

This morning I felt more relaxed and actually could look at the scenery while I drove; that’s how I noticed several huge birds flying around. I thought, They look like turkey vultures. Turkey Vulture in flight

A minute later I saw why they were flying overhead. A dead deer laid by the side of the road and three turkey vultures were feasting. I’m guessing the others were flying, waiting for their turn or were scared away by the passing cars. I only looked for a couple seconds. My heart felt sad for the poor deer.

As I continued down the mountain, I thought about the impermanence of life and yet at the same time, how all sentient beings really never die. Well, that’s what Thich Nhat Hanh said in one of his dharma talks and it makes sense to me. Yes, the deer was killed but it soon became food for the birds and whatever other critters might have shown up. The essence of the deer became part of the birds, who ate it’s flesh… and someday those same birds will become food for something else. Maybe not for another creature but their bodies will decompose and become part of the earth, which will help grow flowers or grass or trees.

Even though I understand about impermanence, I still felt sorry for the deer.

Namaste,

ingebird

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Farm Living is the Life for Me!

OK, we’re not exactly living on a farm, but we are one step closer to having our animal sanctuary, a long time dream of ours.

Last Christmas I announced to hubby we were moving March 1st, although I had no idea where to or how. I did know it would be to a rural area. At the time, hubby thought I was crazy because we didn’t have a lot of money saved. Nevertheless, I “knew” it was going to happen. I will admit, I freaked myself out a bit as well.

Hubby mentioned my premonition to his sister who lives in Amador County in early February, and a week later she called him about a job opening, in a veterinarian office, two blocks from her house. Hubby has worked with animals over ten years, so he set up an interview. He started working there March 4th. I stayed in Southern California waiting for him to find us a place to live; a house outside the city limits became available a week after he started his new job.

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We moved in March 28.

I won’t lie, I was nervous about leaving the city, even though it was too hectic for us to stay. What will it be like living in a small rural community? Will I fit in? I don’t dress like a typical 60 something female, living in a rural town, but then, how do I know what women my age dress like? I hadn’t lived there yet. Maybe I won’t look so different or I’ll start a fashion trend! I already checked online to find Buddhist meditation groups in the area. There were none. To be honest, I rarely sat Zazen or meditated with a group when I lived in southern California, so that shouldn’t be a big deal. I’m an introvert and I need lots of alone time. In my new home I can meditate in nature which is only a few steps from my front door.

To help calm my nerves, I meditated several times a day and read essays from Buddhist authors about impermanence, while I waited to move up north. Other spiritual writings and quotes popped up in my social media sites, about “trusting the Universe.” There were also too many synchronicities that couldn’t be dismissed as coincidences. In my heart I knew we were on the right path, but my ego continued to have doubts.

It’s been a week now and we are finally settling in to our new home. I haven’t ventured out much because we have one car (and I’m an introvert). As I’m writing this post, I look out my living room window and see pine trees. Our house is surrounded by them. We do have neighbors but they are about 100 yards away.

Today I think about how this move taught me several lessons about life.

1. Sometimes I have to let go of the need to control an outcome and go with the flow. (None of us are really in control of what goes on around us anyway.) We just think we are.

2. I have no control over the behavior of others, only how I react to them, interacting with me and that includes the property manager and the owners of this rental house.

3. I have too much “stuff.” The description of the size of our moving van (15 feet) was not accurate. The contents of our one bedroom condominium did not fit into a moving van that claimed to hold a two bedroom apartment. Several pieces of our furniture and a few boxes of garden stuff were left behind in the dumpster. Our new home looks very Bohemian, which is great, until I have to get up from the futon mattress that sits on the floor. (We had to leave the futon frame behind.) My knees are not limber anymore and the “fake” hardwood floors, have zero traction. Buying a throw rug is on my shopping list.

4. This next one goes along the same theme as having too much stuff. While unpacking, I divided things in two categories; things I love and am keeping and things to give away for someone else to enjoy. The local thrift store is in for a big surprise!

5. Always trust my intuition. It knows what’s best for me.

6. Have faith that things will work out.

There are probably more lessons, but that’s all I came up with for now.

I know we are supposed to be here, so I’ll continue to watch for signs from my spirit guides as to what to do next.

Namaste,
ingebird

 

A New Beginning

There are big changes coming in my life. On the one hand I’m excited and on the other, I’m freaking out! Hubby got a new job 400 miles away. We don’t have a place to live yet and he starts work tomorrow. He is staying with family who live a mile from the job. I’m staying back home until we find a new place.

I meditate. I visualize. I say affirmations to calm my nerves, but that darned ego keeps popping it’s annoying head into my thoughts. I know better than to listen to it but I’m still a work in progress. If I think about it, change is happening all the time. People come and go. Nothing is permanent. But we humans seem to fight against it. We like routines, even when we know they might not be good for us.

peace

I know my happiness is an inside job. There will always be bumps along the road of life and I have to learn to accept and deal with them. I can’t allow myself to be happy only if events are going my way, or at least what I perceive are going my way. Sometimes things not working out is really what’s best for my higher self (my life path). Not everything I want is good for me and sometimes hindsight makes that clearer. I know that intellectually, but the emotional part of me needs to catch up.

The good thing about studying Buddhism and spirituality is, I am now aware of my crazy, negative thoughts. I know that 99% of what I waste time worrying about never come true. I just end up wasting precious time. I could spend my time be grateful.

Our new life is a good thing. It’s something we have talked about for years and since neither of us are getting younger, now is the time to go for it.

Everyday I wake up and have my day planned but there’s always something unexpected that comes up and my plans change. The future is the same way. We move forward through the unknown and “Trust” that all will be good.

unknown

Namaste,
ingebird

 

 

“The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” A Story About the Cycle of Life

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There’s a tree in the complex where I live that has heart-shaped leaves. In the spring and summer they are dark green and by fall they turn a brownish-yellow. I walk by this tree several times a day when I take my dogs for a walk and yesterday I noticed it had one leaf left. Looking at that leaf reminded me of the book,  The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, by Leo Buscaglia Ph.D.

If you never heard of Leo, I suggest looking for his books in your library. Back in the 70s and 80s he wrote wonderful, inspiring books and was called “Dr. Love” by his students at the University of Southern California. He taught a non-credit class called “Love 1-A” that always had a long waiting list to get in.

I was watching a television program in my son’s room at Stanford Hospital. It was Leo lecturing about love on a PBS channel.

James was nine years old and had some unknown health issue that affected his knees and ability to walk. I was scared to death and watching Leo helped take my mind off my son’s illness. We never found out what was wrong and he got well on his own. Needless to say I was relieved.

I never forgot Leo’s PBS lecture though. It was about being human and (of course) love and how we should all, chill out, stop fighting and just love each other. I bought his book, Living, Loving and Learning, a few weeks after James got out of the hospital.

leo

When my dad died the following year, I didn’t know how to explain his death to my son who never knew anyone who died before. My dad had been living with us six months before his death. He had cardiomyopathy and towards the end, he needed help with daily living, so he moved in with us.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is about the natural cycle of life using a leaf as a metaphor. Leo explained how Freddie eventually fell from the tree but didn’t die, he was reborn as part of the earth. It’s interesting looking back because Leo was describing impermanence. He was writing about Buddhist beliefs, although I don’t know if he even realized it. I think he was Catholic.

I didn’t know anything about Buddhism either back then, but I did know there was a Buddhist leader named The Dalai Lama. I was living in San Francisco in the 90s when he came to the city for a visit. One morning a Catholic priest from, Saints Peter and Paul Church, came in for breakfast at a diner I worked at. I was his waitress and the priest was all worked up about “some Buddhist monks wanting to take a tour of his church.” He went on to say “monks and Buddhists are the devil’s children.” Since I wasn’t interested in organized religion, I didn’t say anything because I just wanted to get his food order. There were other hungry customers waiting to be served, but I bet Leo would have told that priest a thing or two.

I haven’t thought about Leo in years until yesterday when I saw that last leaf hanging on to the tree. It’s funny how certain things or songs can take you back to a memory in an instant. I named the leaf Freddie. I went back later that night. The tree was bare and there were too many leaves on the ground to figure out which one he was. I was happy Freddie was reunited with his friends, waiting to become part of the earth that would someday welcome the spring.

There’s more to the story of The Fall of Freddie the Leaf  but I don’t want to give it away.You can read the book or listen to a reading on You Tube.

Namaste,

ingebird

The Earthworm

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Four times a day, I take my doggies out for a walk around the condo complex where we live. Sometimes there are snails crossing the sidewalks or other small creatures. I make sure to go around them so they won’t get stepped on. They are sentient creatures who want to live as much as me, so I make sure to watch out for their safety. This morning we ran into a neighbor, Joe who walked with us. He was chatting away and I listened, all the while looking for creatures that might be in our path. About a foot ahead of us was an earthworm and I knew Joe and the worm was on a collision course.

In an instant I pictured myself pushing Joe into the grass to save the worm from sudden death. But what if Joe fell and broke his arm? Would that be considered assault? Would the judge take into account, I was only trying to save a sentient being and then have to go on to explain that worms do fall under that umbrella? Hasn’t he seen the move Seven Years in Tibet?

Inside my head, I completely panicked. I knew what was coming and had no way to stop it. Everything happened so fast. Joe never looked down to see what I was looking at. I don’t think the worm looked up. It never knew what hit him– or was it a she? I couldn’t look at the poor worm. I know it was no match for Joe’s size 11 dress shoes.

I am sorry I wasn’t able to save it. My only hope is that the worm comes back someday with a body that at least has a hard shell.

Namaste,

ingebird

 

Jinx Died

jinx dinner time

Yesterday, Jinx my 17-year-old kitty crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Luckily I was home when it happened. Two years ago a mass in his chest was discovered. We never knew exactly what it was, but our vet suspected it was cancer. After hearing that news, we knew he was using up his remaining nine lives.

I was upset when I realized he was taking his last breaths, yelling his name several times as I held him in my arms. I don’t know why I did that, except that I didn’t want to let him go. Hubby wasn’t home at the time, so I sat with Jinx in my arms and we waited. I cuddled him and told him how much I loved him. About a half hour later hubby arrived. We took Jinx to our vet have his body cremated. In about a week he will come home and join our other fur babies on the family alter.

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Our home feels different now that he is gone. The energy isn’t the same. It’s too quiet. When we rescued Jinx off the streets of San Francisco, he was two years old. He was always quiet and the sweetest cat I ever lived with — and I’ve lived with a lot. We still have four others living with us now. The last couple of years Jinx became more vocal. The vet said he probably had some dementia because he always wanted food. There was nothing wrong with him (except for the mass), he simply forgot he just ate something. Jinx meowed a lot, wanting to get my attention. I think it’s his meowing that I miss too, even though at the time, I admit, he drove me a bit crazy with his demands.

The Buddhist teachings about impermanence helped prepare me for his death. It helped me understand and accept that every thing dies one way or another eventually. The key is to enjoy and appreciate my life and my family while we are here. Getting caught up in the busyness of life, its easy to lose sight of that. I am working on it. I want all my family members to know they are loved. My pets are included in my family.

A few years ago I was separated from my family for several months, looking for work and new place to live. When I got home, I vowed to never leave them again. I missed them so much.

Impermanence reminds me that our time here is limited. I want to live in the present moment and enjoy every minute of it. Jinx is gone physically but I am left with wonderful memories of our life together. I wish I had remembered to chant Om Mani Padme Hum while Jinx was crossing over, but at the time I panicked. So tonight I will chant it and think of him as I meditate.

I found this poem on the online magazine, Elephant:

Life and Death are but an illusion.

Happy and Sad are just a state of mind.

Love and Compassion alleviates the suffering

Of All sentient Beings — those who have been

our Mothers and our Fathers.

To recognize the interconnectedness of all beings

Is to know peace! ~ a Buddhist Homage.

 

This poem is from the Rainbow Bridge website:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Author Unknown

Om Mani Padme Hum Jinx

ingebird