I just completed a really interesting class on "Death and Dying: Encountering The Bardos" at Kootenay Shambhala Centre. For our last class we shared stories of our experiences on Death and Grief. I have a very big story on that topic because I was orphaned at a young age.
When I was nine years old my father died. He was flying a glider as a hobby for many years. This is a plane with a very long wing span and no propeller. A propeller plane is connected to the glider with a very long cable and tows the glider up into the air. When the glider is high enough to sore the pilot releases the cable and enjoys doing circles soaring through the air like a bird. I used to go with my father on these soaring adventures and it was very dreamy.
However, on this Friday afternoon a malfunction happened. While he was getting towed the cable released too early. He was not high enough to soar and not low enough to make an adequate landing. He flew through two houses narrowly missing them but impacted on the edge of a curb. The sudden impact caused his death.
I felt my father die. I remember very clearly writing a math test and intently looking down at my work. All of sudden the wind was knocked out of me. I took a big breath and looked up at the clock. It was 3:55 the same time my dad died.
Life was very difficult for my mother afterwards. With three kids and a host of other problems she died 2 years later of a heart attack. Oddly, she died on my borther's 9th birthday. I was 11 years old.
I didn't feel my mother die but I had a premonition that she would die of a heart of attack. In this dream, my father was there, as well as the priest who led his funeral. I saw my mother go up into a large catacomb sort of building. She was having a medical procedure done on her hear and unfortunately the procedure went wrong.
This is a tragic story. It was a very sad time for me and I am still recovering from abandonment issues. But children are very resilient and live in the present. Life carried on. The dog still needed to be walked, I still went to school and saw my friends. There were many good things to look forward to in the day.
This is my point in sharing this story. There were gifts that came from this tragedy. For one, I learned my own resilience and built a very strong character. Secondly, I met Stefano (my husband) when we moved to Vancouver in 1986. Although we lost touch for 20 years after, we created a childhood bond that is still with us today. Thirdly, I am very in touch with the spirit world, which greatly informs my work as an animal communicator.
Although there are many adversities in life there are also many gifts. The harder we fall the taller we stand back up again. I really believe there is always a silver lining around the dark cloud.
I am taking a very interesting class "Death and Dying, Encountering the Bardos" at the Kootenay Shambhala Centre. We are learning about dealing with pain and loss and watching the NFB documentary "The Tibetan Book of the Dead." It is very fascinating to learn the Buddhist perspective on the afterlife.
I was reintroduced to the practice of Tong Len. This is where you breath in the suffering of others. It can range from a close friend to a world wide problem. Then you breath out the resolution you would like for the suffering. For example, I am very troubled by the cruelty imposed on factory farm animals. So I imagine pigs crammed in small cages and breath it in. Then I image the cages opening and the pigs running free in a grassy meadow while breathing out. By connecting yourself to the pain of others you are also healing your own suffering. The well respected Pema Chodron gives a detailed description on how to do this practice. I think it will be very helpful for those with animals that are at end of life and who have passed.
How to Practice Tonglenby Pema Chödrön| November 9, 2017
Pema Chödrön teaches us “sending and taking,” an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each out-breath, we send them relief.Illustration by Carole Henaff.
Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age- old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others.
Tonglen awakens our compassion and introduces us to a far bigger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness of shunyata (emptiness). By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being.
Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have died, or those who are in pain of any kind. It can be done as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. If we are out walking and we see someone in pain, we can breathe in that person’s pain and send out relief to them.
Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine.Usually, we look away when we see someone suffering. Their pain brings up our fear or anger; it brings up our resistance and confusion. So we can also do tonglen for all the people just like ourselves—all those who wish to be compassionate but instead are afraid, who wish to be brave but instead are cowardly. Rather than beating ourselves up, we can use our personal stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.
When you do tonglen as a formal meditation practice, it has four stages:
1. Flash on Bodhichitta. Rest your mind for a second or two in a state of openness or stillness. This stage is traditionally called flashing on absolute bodhichitta, awakened heart-mind, or opening to basic spaciousness and clarity.
2. Begin the Visualization. Work with texture. Breathe in feelings of heat, darkness, and heaviness—a sense of claustrophobia—and breathe out feelings of coolness, brightness, and light—a sense of freshness. Breathe in completely, taking in negative energy through all the pores of your body. When you breathe out, radiate positive energy completely, through all the pores of your body. Do this until your visualization is synchronized with your in- and out-breaths.
3. Focus on a Personal Situation. Focus on any painful situation that’s real to you. Traditionally you begin by doing tonglen for someone you care about and wish to help. However, if you are stuck, you can do the practice for the pain you are feeling yourself, and simultaneously for all those who feel the same kind of suffering. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, breathe that in for yourself and all the others in the same boat and send out confidence, adequacy, and relief in any form you wish.
4. Expand Your Compassion. Finally, make the taking in and sending out bigger. If you are doing tonglen for someone you love, extend it out to all those who are in the same situation. If you are doing tonglen for someone you see on television or on the street, do it for all the others in the same boat. Make it bigger than just that one person. You can do tonglen for people you consider to be your enemies—those who hurt you or hurt others. Do tonglen for them, thinking of them as having the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe in their pain and send them relief.
Tonglen can extend infinitely. As you do the practice, your compassion naturally expands over time, and so does your realization that things are not as solid as you thought, which is a glimpse of emptiness. As you do this practice, gradually at your own pace, you will be surprised to find yourself more and more able to be there for others, even in what used to seem like impossible situations.
About Pema ChödrönWith her powerful teachings, bestselling books, and retreats attended by thousands, Pema Chödrön is today’s most popular American-born teacher of Buddhism. In The Wisdom of No Escape, The Places that Scare You, and other important books, she has helped us discover how difficulty and uncertainty can be opportunities for awakening. She serves as resident teacher at Gampo Abbey Monastery in Nova Scotia and is a student of Dzigar Kongtrul, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and the late Chögyam Trungpa. For more, visit pemachodronfoundation.org.
I recently learned the technique of Ho'oponopono. It is a very simple spiritual technique that can be used to clear away bad energy. It's like creating a clean slate. It is so easy to do and I have been enjoying doing it. It involves saying 4 sentences: "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you." If you are experiencing difficulty with a person in your life, try visualizing them and saying the phrase. I think you'll notice the energy shift for the better. I am now recommending my clients use Ho'oponopono with their animals such as behavioral challenges, lost animals and deceased animals. Let me know what you observe... For more information: https://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/practice-hooponopono-four-simple-steps/
I am excited to report that I took the Vow of Refuge yesterday. This means I am officially Buddhist. I even got a Refuge name: Patient Dharma Joy. I think that sums me up pretty well. This vow would be open to anyone who has come to the conclusion that the Buddhist path is the way forward for them. In this vow, first, one takes “refuge” in the Buddha, who embodies wakefulness. One then takes refuge in the dharma, the teachings as they have been passed down, and then the sangha, one’s fellow travelers on the path. Trungpa Rinpoche commented that the term “refuge” here is more in the sense of becoming a “refugee” as opposed to finding a refuge in security. He described a refugee as someone who leaves behind the certainties of solidified existence. In doing this, they embark on a journey without fixed reference points, just working with their experience as it unfolds.
I had the opportunity to work with Acharya Susan Chapman again. She offered the Rigden week-end in Edmonton that I participated in about 5 months ago. She is truly an enlightened being. She has come to our Shambhala Centre in Nelson for about 10 days this month. So, I was the coordinator for the Rigden week-end last week. It was quite the whirlwind to have only been a participant a few months ago to being the organizer. But it was an honour to serve the Acharya and my community members. Ironically, we discovered that we had the same horse back riding coach in Vancouver with a 20 year gap! She had her last lesson in 1966 and I rode with this instructor from 1986-87 when I was about 11 years old. I notice that these syncronities happen offen when I meditate. I think it is the universe telling me I am on the right path.
I recently visited one of the many spiritual stores in my hippie new age artsy town of Nelson. I came home with a packet of color therapy for the bath. I picked green for my hyperactive son for supporting calmness and compassion.
I also brought home the book "The Afterlife of Billy Fingers." It is about a women whose brother dies tragically at the age of 62 and then starts communicating with her from the other side. I won't go into too many details in case you want to read the book. This book totally confirms the work I do as an Animal Communicator. He reports his experience and the transformation of his soul as he progresses from "Billy" to becoming the Universe. It is truly an inspiring book and it will get you excited about life and death.
Towards the end of the book he describes to his living sister the background music he hears in "heaven" as his soul goes through a ceremony of detaching from his earthly memories. Billy describes the closest thing on earth to this joyous sound is Mahler's 8th Symphony. I definitely felt moved to the core while listening. So here it is for your convenience. Enjoy!
I enjoyed a very relaxing, therapeutic and enjoyable visit to the Halcyon Hotsprings over the week-end. It did wonders for my knee! The range of motion has increased radically and the muscle strength is slowly coming back too.
I have been lunging Toby with side rides since I am not able to actively ride him yet. It is disappointing not to be riding but still very heart warming to be working with him. He was so calm and docile today that I tried going for a brief ride. Unfortunately, sitting in the saddle with my foot in the stirrup create tension in my knee so I got off right away. People tell me that my recovery has been going very quickly. So I am grateful for the 10 second ride I had. Maybe tomorrow it will be 20 seconds...
I look back at this footage from mid-January with awe and sadness. I haven't ridden in nearly two weeks. What happened? Well, I was skiing in some heavy powder on a steep mogul run. I went to turn left but my ski was buried in the snow so didn't move. Pop! The meniscus in my right knee tore. It was very painful and I could not weight bear for several days. Now I am hobbling around the house and I hope to be driving soon. I don't know when my knee will be strong enough to ride...
In this lesson we worked on controlling the canter speed in between jumps with a intermittent half halts. Not too hard so that Toby would transition to trot but just enough to package the canter in time for the next jump. We worked on simple changes to get the correct lead after a jump. Toby is still green so he often picks the wrong lead on the landing. I am still green too, so I need to work on putting my weight on the outside stirrup to help him. We also worked on steering. You will see we make a tight left hand turn to go over the last jump. I would use the outside rein and relax, outside rein and relax. This helped achieve accuracy in the turn. All this would not be possible without my amazing coach.
Three jumps in a row with one stride in-between them is called a bounce. It is very good for riders to work on their body position. With three jumps in a row it is very important to have proper form. For me I have to think about keeping my shoulders away from the horse's neck, heels down, legs by the girth and giving with my elbows on the landing. The horse has to be very snappy with his feet. So he has to be quick about jumping and landing. It is demanding physical exercise so it helps build strength.
I had a super fun jump lesson with Teddy today. We have been working on his canter and making him more responsive to aids over the last few weeks. As he is a big, wide horse who is a little lazy, it can be a lot of work to ride him. We are teaching him the basic game of stop and go. As he is heavy on the forehand it is challenging for him to have a naturally balanced canter. He is learning really quickly as we are noticing how is easier for him to jump into the canter and sustain it. Overall, he feels much lighter. Here is a video clip of us taking a tight turn in the canter, which has to be balanced in order to make the turn, then going over a skinny fence and an oxer jump. I have my brilliant coach to thank for all the progress we have made so far.
In mid-November I flew to the Edmonton Shambhala Centre to participate in the Rigden Week-end. This is the sixth week-end of intensive meditation combined with the Shambhala teachings. We had an amazing teacher, Acharya Susan Chapman. What I really loved about completing this level is that we learned to manifest our vision for the world. I am fortunate to be doing this already as an Animal Communicator. But there is still work to be done. I am deeply troubled by the massive crimes committed daily to other sentient beings and the environment. If I had unlimited resources I would abolish the Industrialized Agriculture System and replace it with small hobby farms. I know this is a lofty dream as there are billions of people on the planet to feed. One promising trend is the rise of veganism and the products that are being developed to mimic meat although completely plant based (ie. Tofurky)
A very helpful meditation technique we learned is Raising Windhorse. It is a quick and abrupt practice. One is to be present, then touch in with one's heart and be genuine, and then radiate what is in your heart. I love this concept of radiating as it a tool to help bring positive change to those surrounding us. I feel like I am making the world a better place, even though it is on a small scale, which is deeply moving and rewarding.
I am pictured here with the Acharya receiving my name: Brilliant Moon of Goodness.
I have been a Professional Animal Communicator since January 2016. I have been an animal lover and admirer for a very, very long time.