In Memory of…
Life has a way of stacking itself heavily sometimes on one end. I’ve had a lot of big ‘Life’ -with a capital L- things to consider and sift through lately. There never is a better reminder of why I practice. Without expecting it, it shows up in subtle and sometimes big ways to catch me. There is a true steadiness in it. It is the seat of clarity and calm.
It’s good to know that this shit works! you know? Sometimes even I forget. And I teach it. Or sometimes it feels so far removed from our modern lives that we can’t even relate to it. Yet, I find, more and more that this stuff is so ancient, that threads of it are always showing up. Old wisdom traditions hold such a wealth of knowledge. We are so lucky to benefit from their studies. Some Native American traditions recognize five genders, for example. How cool is that? And Tibetan traditions have studied everything they can think of about death. We are so lucky to have access to everything that we haven’t managed to destroy.
Back in December my dad was in hospital for three weeks. He was in very bad shape. Very bad. He was having problems with his sinuses which were making his condition worse and creating some pretty bad blockages preventing the flow of oxygen. I’m not a doctor, and don’t know much about anything, really, but I had mentioned a neti pot to my mom, one day, thinking it might be a gentle way to clear out his nose. He’s a bit brittle when it comes to suggestions, and he’s already on so many drugs that I knew he would just think it was me being woo woo, so I didn’t mention it to him. Six months later he still suffers from this chronic problem. He calls me up the other day and we were chatting about it. I asked him what the doctor was giving him to deal with it and he said, “the doctor recommended this Indian thing, have you heard of it? A neti pot.” It gave me a chuckle.
Even in small, relatively innocuous ways, we are reminded that we can’t reinvent the wheel. As much as we’ve tried, we have not yet been able to obliterate common sense. In Colombia, in an attempt to order to curb crazy driving and traffic, they decided to start putting up signs that said “Use Your Common Sense.” My mom thought they were ridiculous (explaining to me a thing I knew to be true) which is that Latin people don’t read signs, that’s an American thing and saying that obviously not everyone’s common sense good. She has a point but… still, things that make sense make sense. If your cell phone says it’s raining but you look out the window and it isn’t, well… common sense.
Hearing is the last sense to leaves us when we die. So says the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Sound and it’s taking shape into words and thoughts seem to be the very seeds of consciousness. So it does seem correct that they would be the very last thing to leave, hand in hand with the spirit. Maybe that’s why prayer feels so peaceful. Because when we are at our quietest and stillest, we can hear deep inside ourselves even if it is unspoken.
Last night one of my favorite teachers left his body. His name was Michael Stone. I only had the chance to study with him once. And I am completely in shock that he is gone, he was just a few years older than me. He was brilliant. A true luminary. An unstoppable forward thinker and innovator. His body of work- gigantic and so rich. Offering an original, digested perspective. Life is uncertain. We just never know. He left his home in the morning and never came back. His family received a call saying he was in a coma at hospital with no brain activity. What happened in between is uncertain. He was on life support for a few days so his people could say goodbye. And last night they set him free.
We didn’t really know each other. I only met him once. He was a model of what I wanted to be and who I wanted to become as a teacher. He was out there truly changing the world one person and one sit at a time. His work changed me: his writing, podcasts… I didn’t prioritize going to study with him because I assumed we had more time. Ugh.
“The end of an exhale is a profound letting go. In that space of release we begin to see that everything we thought was solid or permanent passes away and becomes something else. All of these words and theories and forms are empty. So are you.” from his book Awake in the World. We are very lucky that so many of his teachings are still available to us and easily accessible on the internet. Really. He was a gift. Check him out, you’ll see. You’ll miss him too. http://www.michaelstoneteaching.com
Death has been lingering at my family’s door for a while. So I’ve been thinking a lot about her. Her company has gotten to feel oddly normal. There is a strangeness to life, when you feel her walking with you at all times as she holds someone’s hand. Maybe that’s how it should always feel so we can remember to love with abandon. Sometimes the fear of what I am about to loose takes over. Then I have to remind myself that it isn’t lost yet and that I can never lose it because it is now in me. The fear wants to cripple me, but really it is the best teacher and the best reminder to move more fully into the love space.
“When we lose people, friendships, health, or we’re dispossessed from a place we loved, we may think it’s a temporary process of mourning we are in. But maybe loss shows us some basic truth about who we are: we are tied to others and to place. Those bonds form us. It’s not like there is an “I” that exists over here and a “you” over there somewhere. When I lose you, I lose me too. Grief challenges the very notion that we are separate selves. we do not always succeed at being whole. The faces of others, the touch and smell of them, our memories of places we have lived and loved- all of this undoes us. It should. Falling down is necessary for waking up to our shared humanity.” -Michael Stone
I had a different blogpost in mind this month, even though I was running late on it. But as you know, I think it an important practice to thank our teachers. So. Thank you Michael, for once again being the great teacher you are. We are the worst for the wear from your loss. You were really one of the greats of the new guard. I hope one day to grow up to be like you. May you travel safely home.
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