My Dying Grandmother

By Dark Grey

In Tagalog—one of three native Filipino languages—the word for grandmother is Lola. It is pronounced quickly, with a gentle flip of the tongue. The sound rolls of out of the mouth and is delicate to the ears. It is a beautiful word that conveys love and kinship.

As a child learning to speak, this word was difficult for me to pronounce. I couldn’t curve my tongue enough to pronounce the first “L”. My “Lola” was in fact an “Ola”. And since I was the first of nine grandchildren, Ola was her anointed title. It was incorrect, bad Tagalog and lovingly adorned. She took the name that was given and made it her own. She loved it in all its imperfection. She loved it in its complete perfection.

24 years later with death stalking from around the corner, my lola is still as positive as ever, finding ways of turning life’s mistakes into her cherished answers.

A few weeks ago, it was brought to my attention that my lola’s health had taken a turn for the worse. She had left the doctor’s with an expiration; an estimated date to see her through. It had been nearly two years since my last visit and with this news I came to see her.

The day after I arrived, I sat with her over breakfast. She was vibrant, quick and alive. Although her body had slowed down, her mind was racing. She answered questions, spoke philosophically, and laughed wholeheartedly.  Her smile was that same beaming grin I grew accustomed to as a baby. Her soul was as present as it had ever been. Her mental strength left me pondering if there was indeed anything wrong. Had this been an incredibly tasteless joke?

That evening, my questions were answered.

Between bouts of excruciating pain and a state of near comatose, it was clear that my lola was approaching the end of her life. She spent most of her time sleeping or fending off discomfort. She could barely stand, let alone walk, and she had a slew of medications that took up sizable counter space. Her life was certainly not what it was two years ago.

It was a disconcerting experience watching her body decline, yet my sadness and fear never had the chance to take over. I was too busy feeling inspired.

Despite her physical malady and inevitable future, her spirits were valiantly high. She used each moment to connect with those who to listened. She breathed each breath to invoke a sense of calm and compassion for those around her.  And when she was too exhausted to speak, her eyes told her fearless story. More than anyone, she knows what is happening to her, yet she persists to enjoy the moments she has left.

The idiom that comes to mind is taking lemons and making lemonade. In her case, she was using the last moments of her life to enrich the few she had left. She received what she was given and made the best of it. This lesson has been preached by so many great minds in so many different ways, each one translating a timeless message: happiness comes from within.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

My lola may be dying, she may be surrounded by an emotionally distressed family, she may even be scared, but the one thing that she isn’t is looking for more. She is content with her situation simply because it is hers. And because it is hers, she chooses to love it. Just as she loved her name.

Seeing my grandmother embody such grace and commitment to look beyond the surface, has invoked a loss of judgment in my life. Who are we to think we know how life works? We experience just a fragment of reality and impose our opinions. I see now that it is better to enjoy what is, rather than fight for what isn’t.

Her ability to see beyond the imperfections, to accept what is as the divine and to make the best with what’s given is a gift I will always carry with me.

I will remember her for this. She’s my Ola with one L.

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun, like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ~ Mister Rogers

Summer, I love you.

A season is by no means a significant amount of time. Three months, four if you’re lucky (and it’s summer). Give or take a hundred days, not even a third of a year. And at this point in my life, years are beginning to lose their luster for grandiose blocks of time, as they fly off the calendar as fast as months did in middle school. Yet, a season was plenty of time to change my entire life.

This summer was one for the books—and by this I mean quite literally one full of books. It was also a summer of airports, as I flew across country, across countries and into interstellar dimensions. This summer was also one for community, where I was welcomed into the arms of different tribes across the world. This summer was about leaving improvement behind and accepting perfection as it is. This summer was the beginning of my life.

And so was yesterday. And this morning. And probably tomorrow.

If the summer was one thing, it was a realization of lightness. This lightness was not something I carried pre-May.

Before heading into summer my life was one dictated by restriction, practice, guilt and imperfection. Routine and rhythm were things that held me together. I was bound to my practice as much as I was to the surface of the Earth.  I withheld pleasure for piety, in hopes of one day reaching an ultimate goal. I even caught myself feeling guilty shades of superiority over others adopting less “conscious” lives. The one measure of the perceived success of my pre-2012-summer lifestyle was that I felt like I was in control.

Boy was I wrong. This summer started out like the twisted ending of one of those psychological horror movies that somehow convince you (the viewer) that you’re the one killing all the people in the film. Everything I thought I had under control was flipped upside-down. It was shocking at first, but much less difficult than it had been in its previous incarnations (for these realizations have occurred before in lesser degrees of intensity). The main objective was to reset my spiritual ego.

What is a spiritual ego? Well if I had ended my blog post with “This summer was the beginning of my life,” you would have got an extreme does of Yogi Ego. Basically, for me, my egoistic self is searching for one thing: control. It wants to be in charge. Whenever I think I have figured out life, that is when I’ve let my ego take control. This summer was a gentle slap in the face that told me life was much less than I was making it out to be—this being an extremely positive, relieving, and loving thing.

Life is for experience! This summer’s oeuvre was a reassuring mantra that everything is equally as important as everything else. This means that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing and so is everybody else. This liberating realization was the posture that broke this yogi’s head open. And I surrendered my thoughts, preoccupations and fears to the universe willingly.

We spend so much time trying to be something else that we forget to honor who it is we are. In the complicated maze of desire, we lose sight of achievement. We focus on a future that never comes, preparing, practicing and pondering what might be. We never get there because it is an illusion. There is no where to go.

And for some the illusion is perfect. This article is not to say that one way of life is any better than the other. It is only the recount my own realization. At this point in time my current state of consciousness is perfect as was my state in May, last October and when I was five. All stages, outlooks and understandings are perfect. It is not the shape, context, or content of the state that matters, but the progression through them. Change exacts experience, which adds to the richness of life.

As I find time in between my coursework, I will gladly share with you the specifics of my summer. But until then revel in the awesomely emancipating idea that you are already there. In fact, there is no where else you could possibly be.

Much love.

1 + 1 = 3

Sometimes the most exceptional lessons in life are heard between the most unexceptional moments.

Just the other day I was speaking with a wise friend of mine about some very ordinary things. We came about relationships and our respective states within them. We began to mumble about this and analyze that. After a few fleeting moments of rather darb commentary, a sagacious spark shot across the room. We immediately looked at each other. I repeated the phrase: one plus one equals three.

No more than five words. Simple and—quite literally—uneducated. Yet the words were extremely potent. The conversation was about relationships. This was not just about lovers. The small proverb-like sentence was referring to the essence of all authentic and prosperous relationships. It was the secret behind all bonds.

A real relationship is one that brings forth a sum greater than its parts. It is an illogical, unexplained phenomena bordering the line of a magician’s trick. The end result of a relationship is more than what could have possibly been created had one calculated the pieces separately. This marvel of relationships is why we are attracted to having them with others.

Looks like chem lab paid off.

An energy, a chemistry, a connection or a vibration. I have heard all of these terms used when describing a meaningful connection with another. It is something literally magical.

I first understood this concept in probably the most blue collar, laymen’s terms that existed. A couple teaching yoga taught a tantric class on relationships. The male was a former carpenter and electrician. He described relationships in the form of voltage.

Any one person is capable of emitting 110 Volts—the power expelled from a regular US electrical socket. 110 volts is a decent amount of power, but to really get things flowing, 220-volts might be needed. Now, if two 110-volts try to fuse together improperly, they will be unable to obtain 220 volts. Instead, they must use a transformer. This will reach the desired output.

Git r done!

The metaphor of the transformer is that two people can create a larger output if their relationship is properly established. Properly established is he key concept. In today’s world, many people carry out relationships without transcending past the surface levels of formalities and physicality. By venturing past these barriers to authentic relationships, deeper levels of trust, intuition, connectivity and love await.

The first and only step is trust. Faith in the art of giving is the foundation of all great relationships. A pertinent example is my relationship with the wise friend who inspired this post.

Trust, its what’s for dinner.

I will never know what our friendship will bring. There are no guarantees, no promised rewards and no IOU’s. All there is, is what I choose to give. When I give unconditionally, I know that my friend will receive that which he needs from our relationship. In this process, I learn to surrender to any sort of control or unknowingness while at the same time enjoying the gift of giving. Our relationship grows because we both believe in this concept. Because of this, our relationship can defy simple arithmetic.

When a relationship is about the sum and not the parts, it becomes a greater entity, capable of achieving unimaginable heights.

The Art of Giving

Originally posted at theamorist.com

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you” ~ John Bunyan

Whether it is a handful of change or a lifetime of devotion, the act of selfless giving is the most important action one can take. At its core, giving is the ultimate form of spiritual practice.

For ages, religions and spiritual groups have honored the art of giving. In India, the word seva, or selfless service, is expanded by the phrase, “Manav seva Prabhu seva,” meaning service to mankind is service to God. By carrying out seva, one is giving his or herself to the universe by offering time, money or prayer. In Christianity and Judaism, the concept of tithing, or an offering of 10 percent of one’s time or money represents spiritual giving. And in non-spiritual circles the common concept of donation represents the art of giving. In each case, the idea behind selfless service is that one will be covered (be it spiritually, financially, or consciously) by giving up something important.

Giving doesn’t have to look like this.

It is sometimes difficult to see that true wealth and prosperity—be it fiscal or spiritual—begins with the relinquishment of such objects. The other day I was speaking to a friend about his financial problems and I suggested he donate some of his money to a cause he felt strongly about. He retorted, “How can I become rich if I give all of my money away?”

This question is the boundary that separates those who are prosperous from those who are not.

First, a prosperous person is not determined by how much money he or she has, but rather their state of mind. In the case of my friend, he believed he was too poor to give. His financial insecurity stopped him from creating a prosperous mindset. People who attune themselves with the vibration of prosperity receive money and success after they have aligned themselves with that specific frequency. Only for a select few does it work the other way.

Second, giving is ultimately a question of faith, for there is no tangible promise or guaranteed return from giving a gift. There is no proof of gain other than the conviction that you are doing the right thing. This challenge is often daunting to those with empty pockets. Yet the saying holds true: “You only get what you give”.

It can look like this.

Of course, there are some clauses. Obviously, selfless giving is an act that requires no desire for reciprocity. To truly give is to surrender to the relationship of commerce and instead initiate one of complete compassion. Intention plays an important role in this process, as one who gives just to receive is not truly giving. It is only through selflessness that the act of giving will create true prosperity.

On Saturdays I teach a donation-based yoga class. In this class I begin with a story about why we offer these classes. I end the story with, “I ask that you donate what you can, but I recognize that the greatest donation you can make is simply being here.” Most students find this welcoming, but I see it as the true donation.

Each individual has given and hour and a half of their (prime Saturday afternoon) time to spend working on themselves, elevating their consciousness. As they leave the class calmer, happier, and relaxed, they raise the consciousness of all they come into contact with. By coming to class, they have donated themselves to selfless service. In that action, they uplift their own consciousness.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” ~ James Heller

We often think of donation and giving as something that has to be measured by numbers and fiscal value. Many times the most important gifts are not those carrying a hefty price tag, but rather the ones that come from within: the homemade meal, a hand-sketched picture, a daily spiritual practice or a few kind words. The opportunity to give is never dependent on income.

We all have something to worth giving.