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

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Just Decide Already

It all leads to the same place.

If you never had to make a tough decision again, would it lessen the quality of your life? If you could turn back the hands of time and re-choose your choices, would it serve you in the long run? Does the famed and extremely comforting idea of “keeping our options open” actually provide us with any solace?

The ideas behind these questions were spurred from an article a friend shared on Facebook.  It focuses on the idea that reversible decisions are less conducive to happiness than decisions we stand behind. The article touches on psychosomatic concepts describing how the mind can adapt to any given situation, making the present situation the best possible outcome. On the other hand, keeping your options open creates an endless query of uncertainty. This unknowable outcome produces stress, distraction, and ultimately unhappiness.

Deciding to not to decide is one of the worst decisions to make. I know this from experience.

My life circa summer 2009.

The mother lode of life-altering choices came to me just after graduating college in Southern California. I had been in a ridiculously long-distance relationship with a woman from halfway across the world. For most of my entire senior year, I was hell bent on leaving everything I ever knew behind and transforming myself into an Argentine. As the months drew closer and summer approached, I crossed paths with an old fling that never really took off. Well, needless to say, it began to take off.

I was stuck in the middle of two roads and time was running out. On top of this, I felt horrible. I tried to deny the problem and enjoy the moment, but behind every action, was a thousand pounds of guilt. I will never understand how men can be proud of cheating. Anyways that is another story.

I had a decision to make. I could clearly see down each path and they were as opposite as day and night. To make matters worse, I decided to keep both doors open as long as I could. I would have been better off trying to eat soup with a fork. Not only was I unsuccessful, but I had changed my mind about 100 times a day. The stress was building and I could no longer decipher what I actually wanted. I felt responsible for the lives of three people, and I was blowing it on every account.

Not exactly effective.

It finally began to be too much, to the point of breaking down. I didn’t remember who I was. I felt like I had a growing lump of coal burning a whole through my stomach. I knew I was afraid to leave my family and the life I had known for years, so I decided to stay in California.

As soon as I made this decision, the weight lifted. I became a new born soul, ready to live up to my choice. I had not an ounce of proof that the choice I made was correct, but I had all the time in the world to prove it. Within the first two weeks, I had already chosen to see how beautiful my life was going to be and how unfitting it would have been had I chosen the other direction. My mind was adapting to my new reality.

The choices in life do not matter as much as we lead our selves to believe. Surely, there are some decisions where a definite yes or no is understood, but in the more ambiguous choices, the most important factor is commitment. Once committed, we can begin to fulfill our decisions.

The part that we most often do not understand is that the illusion of choice—the idea that one path will lead us to something different than the other—holds us back from moving forward. In any given decision, the outcome will equate to the same result. This may be difficult to understand, especially in the example I have given between Argentina and California, but when you decide to change the focus from the decision at hand to the person deciding, a different story unfolds.

Oh the choices!

Although the choices may look different, the one deciding them is the same. Any decision made will reflect the state of the person deciding. So whether I choose to move to Argentina or stay in California, I will attract exactly what I am already attracting. This is not to say that once I have lived in either place I will not have different experiences, but in the moment of choice, either decision will bring forth the same exact result. The choice at hand is a product of who I was in the past. In this light, the decision has already been made.

It is not choosing the correct path that is required, but choosing a path. All paths are correct. This is the same concept behind spirituality. Every spiritual practice is valid. There are infinite ways to reach Enlightenment/God/Satori/etc. It is not the path you choose, but the fervor for which you traverse it.

So choose. And stay committed. Don’t look back and steady on. The path you are on is correct because you are on it. There is no judgement, only progression or stagnation. Move forward and you will reach your goal.

The key to happiness is commitment.

Unlock the door.

New Mexico and Enlightenment?

Food and love.  Two intensely simple words I discovered within myself during an intense meditation at a yoga retreat in Espanola, New Mexico.  After intention, practice, and a lot of listening, I understood what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Food and love.  This epiphany wasn’t accompanied by bright lights or sounding trumpets, but rather a very familiar and strong voice: my inner voice.  This is the voice that resides inside all of us.  The voice that is usually in an endless chatter, constantly making absolutely useless contributions to any sort of progress.

I was astonished.  Astonished not because I received an answer, but rather that I had accepted the answer I had already known.  I realized at that moment – and even now as I am typing this entry – that the answers to our lives’ largest questions have already been given, already been recorded. In many cases we are already achieving the answers without even the slightest inkling of their comprehension.  It had been I who was blocking myself from understanding what I wanted to do with my life.

This experience in New Mexico taught me that I already know everything there is to know.  I have access to every question I want answered.  Call it the collective consciousness, the unified field, heaven, bliss, enlightenment, the soul, Jesus, Mary, or Joseph.  Call it whatever you like.  Millions of names and references all address the same thing.  This thing resides inside everyone human being and everyone can access it.  It is not whether one knows something, but rather what one can realize.

If I have access to everything there is to know, why don’t I know everything?  My answer to this has come through meditations.  Repeated meditations that is.  The more I meditate, the more my mind can perceive.  I become more intuitive, more in sync with my surroundings.  I am calm and flowing.  Think of if this way, the balance in my life is always existent whether I am balanced or not, meditation just allows me to rediscover how to find it.  There are many other positive benefits from repeated spiritual practice (Understand that meditation is but one of the endless ways to attain increased awareness and consciousness), but all stem from increasing my capacity to access the inner pool of knowledge.  As I meditate more, I physically and mentally lose blocks that impede my relationship with the field of pure consciousness.  In other words, the more dedication and practice, the more I allow myself to receive information and the more knowledge I realize.

The information is there.  It always has been and always will be.  No new information can be created, it can only be discovered.