How does your fear of death effect the way in which you live? And here's a question... if you could actually embrace your eventual death with at least neutrality or even - can this be possible - joy, how might your life and your choices be different? Better? More vibrant? Richer? There are other cultures which do not seem to shy away from death the way we westerners do, whispering in the shadows, covering children's ears and planning for it only furtively, like a victim unaware of when the final onslaught will come reaping its defenseless harvest.
It was about 5:30 in the afternoon in February many years back. It was of course already dark, as late afternoons are in Maine's darkened version of winter. I had just walked from my kitchen to my living room and sat down on the couch. It was white, the couch. Crazy color for a couch, I know you're thinking that. But it was slip covered, so I could stain treat and wash it. The fabric was a thick slightly off white basket weave. I still have it, in fact. It is as warm and inviting, and stain free as it was when I first purchased it, thanks to the marathon stain-treating I gave it while watching the super bowl.
But this isn't so much about my couch as it is about my death. So to continue... I sat down on the couch. I hadn't had anything to eat for about 3 hours. About two hours earlier I'd taken some stuff for a headache - a nicely rare event and the headache was gone. But my skin started to feel strange; I started to feel strange. Then I looked at my skin and watched as a small section turned red and puffy. I touched the skin beside it, and a new red puffy patch appeared. And then a third, and a forth, and a fifth... I was breaking out in hives and they were appearing anywhere I touched. I had never had an allergic reaction. I had never had hives. Nothing new had been introduced into my system or environment, nothing had changed... at least nothing I could see. But something must have. I was being quickly covered in hives.
"An allergic reaction," I thought to myself. "To what?" I retorted.
"That doesn't matter," my survival instinct said. "What comes next could be a swollen throat and suffocation. This could be Anaphylactic Shock."
My survival instinct called 911. In minutes, our town ambulance - which happens to live up the street - rushed me to the hospital with rising blood pressure, horrible shaking, and anxiety that was getting more severe by the minute. I was very, very frightened. I was shaking uncontrollably and my teeth were chattering by the time I reached the hospital. They asked me if I was cold. I remember thinking that was an odd question. You don't call 911 when you're cold. Obviously the shaking and chattering had something to do with the hives. Right? Regardless, my body began to calm down and eventually normalized. They were unable to determine what had caused my reaction and sent me home, where I felt fine, but baffled.
For days following the emergency trip to the hospital, I continued in bafflement. Not so much by my physical reaction, but by my emotional one. I was so very, very afraid. And the thing I was scared of was death... my death. But I'd always been fine with death. I'd thought - or thought I'd thought - it was an adventure, something which might reintroduce me to realms of spiritual majesty, wisdom and joy. Sounds like a good time at least. And yet when I thought I might actually be going there, I was petrified.
How could I have been so terrified of something I thought I believed might at the very least be interesting? Was I that unknown to myself? Now both death and my lack of self awareness bothered me. It was then I really started to search... inwardly, around me, observing and questioning. How does my fear of death effect the way in which I live? And here's a question... if I could actually embrace my eventual death with at least neutrality or even - can this be possible - joy, how might my life and my choices be different? Better? More vibrant? Richer? There are other cultures which do not seem to shy away from death the way we westerners do, whispering in the shadows, covering children's ears and planning for it only furtively, like a victim unaware of when the final onslaught will come reaping its defenseless harvest.
My quest to understand the abject fear I felt back on the white couch watching hives appear unbidden on my body led me to study death and its role in my life. And I have an idea that perhaps death isn't an event, but a process, and one which starts the moment our hearts first beat in our little chests. It is there that we are introduced to life and in that introduction is perhaps not so much a tacit goodbye, but an understood commencement... a mental, emotional, spiritual and certainly physiological understanding that just as we had our first heartbeat, we will one day also have our last. But like all commencements, it is just the beginning.
About The Author CJ Kenna is a Founding Director at the nonprofit Rock The Path, a Meditation & Retreat Center in Camden, Maine. She co-facilitates meditative retreats, including Looking At Death, where she shares her journey in coming to terms with death, and therefore in the process, her graduation to living life more fully.
LOOK WITHIN TO LIVE IT UP!
Does your conscious awareness "live" in your head, behind your eyes? Is this the perch from which you view the world? It's where most people do, except for folks like Helen Keller who said: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."
This might just be true.
When we were developing the weekend retreat, Living From The Heart, one of the most amazing things we included was a technique for moving one's awareness from the head, behind the eyes, to the heart. Sounds weird, right? Or impossible. Or both. Yet while it may be odd, it's very possible and it changes everything.
Moving your consciousness from your head to your heart isn't imagining that you are doing it (although when you first try it, faking it till you make it is a great first step), it's really and truly moving it.
Once you experience awareness from your heartspace, instead of your head-space, things "look" different, feel different… in fact when perceiving from this place of nonjudgmental acceptance, things actually may be different.
And isn't that amazing? There are so many little - yet pretty profound - things we can do to make our world, and even the world, a better place. And as Buddha said: "The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart."
Stop looking up, and instead look within.
About The Author CJ Kenna is a Founding Director at the nonprofit Rock The Path, a Hemi-Sync Meditation & Retreat Center in Camden, Maine. She co-facilitates meditative retreats, including the popular Living From The Heart.
As a facilitator and director at Rock The Path and as an intuitive medium, I'm often asked questions like... Do I have a spiritual guide? How can I connect? Are angels guides?
Most people I encounter on this topic are curious and interested, wanting to know who their guides are and wondering how best to connect with "higher guidance". But sometimes I encounter folks who don't believe in guides. Yet whether or not you actually believe in a separate entity, energy or spirit with the label "guide" is really irrelevant.
We all have Guides or Inner Voices, or Muses, or Angels, or a Higher Self or a connection to Spirit or God, or to use a Jungian term, access to the collective unconscious. What we label this interaction is no where near as important as participating in it. It's natural and healthy to want to know, and connecting is an endeavor truly worthy of our time and effort - it is also one very likely to be richly rewarded.
In my experience, we need only set our intention and put in a little effort regarding the things we want to accomplish, and our efforts and intentions are matched, multiplied and expanded to give us the requested experience. So, should you wish to "make contact," all you need do is clearly set your intention to do just that.
Guides are there to personally assist you, and so getting to know them is a personal quest. Therefore, get quiet and listen. A regular meditation practice is an excellent way to both initially connect with and then deepen the relationship. Start with a few minutes a day of simply getting quiet - meditation truly doesn't have to be a "big deal" and any way you personally find to "do it" easily and comfortably is the right way. Simply find a quiet space, maybe play a little soothing music and definitely unplug the phone.
When I was initially searching for contact with my guide Elvin, I used the book Opening to Channel: How to Connect with Your Guide - this is an excellent manual for finding, connecting and communicating with your guides. Through insightful discussion and simple exercises, this book takes you successfully step-by-step through the process. And don't be surprised if you meet more than one guide in your meditative travels - your guide is likely part of a group, although s/he is also likely to be your 'primary' at the moment.
Remember to call in love and light and be in a state of gratitude before your meditations, and clearly set your intention before you begin. You can also ask your guide - even if you have yet to consciously "meet" - to direct you to resources (be on the lookout for signs, synchronicity and "coincidences" in your daily life after you ask), which will aid in communicating and deepening your relationship with her/him.
And have fun for Pete's sake! Connecting with your guides is truly an incredible and rewarding journey.
About The Author CJ Kenna holds degrees in psychology and business, is a certified psychic medium, and is a founding director at Rock The Path, a nonprofit Meditation & Retreat Center in Camden, Maine. She meditates a lot and facilitates several self discovery workshops, including Get High, a workshop for consciously connecting to higher guidance.
||| DO YOU YOI?
Is YOUR Christmas shopping complete? Have you on hand plenty of "Yardsticks of Impossibility" (also known as "YOIs") ready for use this holiday season? If you're human, you probably do.
They're really rather useful, and a snap to gift. You can use them to measure yourself (and your performance, your behavior, that thing you said a few minutes ago, what you look like, how much you weigh, etc.) quickly, easily and conveniently in pretty much any situation.
And what's more, once you've consistently applied YOIs to yourself, it's a cinch to effectively apply it to others (like your spouse, children, friends, that guy over there you've never met but you're darn sure he's a bozo).
Contrary to popular belief, and despite its widespread use and almost infinite adaptability, it's not actually beneficial; in fact it can be harmful to both the one being measured, and the one doing the measuring.
And here's why.
No matter what, YOIs will never measure fairly, or even realistically. Cleverly, they deceive by falsely making the "measurer" feel powerful, strong or like they've got it all together, while they destroy by consistently finding those they are applied to ineffective, inadequate, and "less-than." Fortunately, there's a better yardstick - available absolutely everywhere - but perhaps a tad harder to apply, at least at first: Acceptance.
This Christmas (not that getting a Kindle Fire wouldn't be cool), consider a rather radical, one-size-fits-all gift... Acceptance. Just for a day, or as the perfect stocking stuffer, pick someone you wish were different in some way, and get out and apply your "Yardstick of Acceptance" (YOA). With it, you'll be better able to see them clearly - not as you want them to be - but for who they actually are. And, like all really good presents, might just make them feel really good come Christmas morning.
It's an amazing gift, acceptance, and one most of us dearly want. So do make sure to apply it to yourself first, because once you've tried it, you'll be excited to share it. And then you'll know first hand that there are very few gifts (including the aforementioned Kindle), that can rival it.
Need more gift giving ideas? Consider compassion, love, and (all right, fine) the Kindle Fire.
About The Author CJ Kenna holds degrees in psychology and business, thinks Radical Acceptance is a really useful idea, and is a founding director at the nonprofit Rock The Path, a Meditation & Retreat Center in Camden, Maine. She meditates a lot and co-facilitates residential self discovery workshops, including the popular Excursion Retreat.