Phoenix Rising

On the day of my first radiation treatment for breast cancer, I had a sudden thought during my morning meditation: “This is the fire that will burn away the imprints of all that came before.” Meaning, what we each carry around with us from our past, whether pain, suffering, loss, or uncried tears. Every human being faces challenges in life that because of their intensity imprint us deep inside and thus affect how we live day to day, with hesitancy or fear perhaps. When the imprints come to the surface and are released, freedom and peace arise. Mostly my life has been filled with love and happiness, but I have also had difficult experiences, including breast cancer and a lifelong fear of death/eternity. Ironically, this current cancer path has opened up a deeply soothing and expansive soul connection. Now I am at the last fiery gate. The phoenix stands before me.

The legend of the phoenix, also associated with the sun, is one of rebirth and renewal, of letting go of the past and rising anew in the present. In various cultures, including Greek and Egyptian, the bird was said to live several hundred years and then die in flames, its successor arising from the ashes. The idea of resurrection and immortality is often connected with it. It is a universal human theme—life beyond death, reincarnation, and “fresh starts.” How we live these possibilities in our own lives is part of our individual design as a human soul. Personally, I have always found the phoenix legend fascinating. I read a children’s book about it when I was 9 or 10, and it has always stayed with me. Is this my time to personally live it, symbolically, so many decades later?

At the end of my first week of radiation, beloved Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh died at the age of 95. His teachings had had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. I knew there was some significance for me in the timing of his transition because the day before, I had prayed for further help in fully accepting infinity/death. Over the years, I had come to a deeper peace about it, primarily because of my work with Panache Desai, but I could feel a kernel of fear remaining.  That morning, a friend posted a link to one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s talks, “Overcoming the Fear of Death,” and in his daily online meditation, Panache spoke of releasing the past and living completely as your soul. On my morning walk, a vividly colorful rainbow stretched across the sky during a sudden shower. I felt my prayer being answered.

Insight and deepened awareness come to us in many ways—through wise teachers, through magical moments in Nature, and through inner epiphany. All of these touched my heart that day. In his talk, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of “no-birth” and “no-death”—the continuity of all being in the cosmos, or “interbeing” as he called it. “It is possible for a wave to live its life as a wave, and to live its life as water at the same time.” We are waves that have arisen into form from infinite consciousness at birth, and we will return to formless “water” at death. Nothing is born or dies, in Thich Nhat Hanh’s view; there is only eternal Presence always. Panache too continually speaks of the infinite divine Presence beyond form.

This is the wisdom I have been repeatedly guided to on this breast cancer path. As I gradually released attachment to my body’s appearance and my past identity with it (form), I found myself becoming more and more fluid (formless) in my day-to-day life. Surrendering to that fluidity brought deeper trust and acceptance of all of life/death/eternity. I was experiencing the flow of interbeing in which there is no birth or death, just awareness. Loving awareness. It is something that can’t be explained through the mind but only experienced through the heart and soul. This is our life’s journey, every one of us. Each path unique, yet all connected in infinite consciousness. The waves and the water as One.

So in the ashes of what appears to be a life or an experience ending is only the phoenix rising continuously. And fear falls away in that rising and that continuity. Peace. Radiation begins and ends, and the grace of a rainbow appears suddenly in a gray sky. That multicolored light is always present. Our true nature is timeless, formless, eternal. We are the multiverse expressing magnificence in the world.
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Note: My last radiation treatment (surgery and chemo also complete) was on 1 Tijax in the Maya calendar. Tijax stands for healing and miracles. Who could ask for a more perfectly aligned synchronicity?

Precious Moments

Whatever your current age or state of health, you have probably experienced moments when life feels exceedingly ephemeral, as if it could disappear in a split second. This is raw truth. We are here on Earth as human beings for a tiny moment in eternity, yet time itself is always relative—sometimes racing and sometimes “stopped.” As our lives move forward and evolve, we experience the various aspects of life and living and come to know both impermanence and loss. In doing so, our hearts may break, yet we grow wiser. And we begin to see beyond time to eternity itself.

When my mother and father were first married and living in Chicago, they went to see a show called Knickerbocker Holiday. In it, one piece of music, “September Song,” particularly touched them, and they carried it through their lives as their “favorite.” Every time someone sang it on TV or radio, they would pause, listen, and look across the room at each other meaningfully. The main lyric was “It’s a long, long while from May to December. But the days grow short when you reach September…. These precious days I’ll spend with you.” I have such a clear memory of this, which I’ve carried with me all my life. The songwriter, and my parents, had tapped into both the sweetness and the poignancy of life.

My parents were married 57 years when my mother passed away; my father died nine years later. I think I came to know why that song held such significance for them as I lived through their aging years and eventual deaths. Now, many years later, as I myself am aging, as well as facing breast cancer, it all takes on new meaning. In my heart, I feel strongly that I will survive this health challenge, yet you can’t live through such an unexpected and intense experience without being changed, without taking a hard look at your own mortality. Of course, my entire life I have been focused on the mystery of eternity and death, feeling both fear and fascination. (Maybe it runs in my family genes!) None of it coincidence, I suppose. This is my soul journey. Before birth, I chose the parents I had for exactly these reasons.

Over the years, my spiritual path has gradually led me to a “peace that passeth understanding” about it all. Particularly in the last few months, I have come to see an extraordinary beauty in eternity and the nature of the universe. Cancer can be both frightening and soulfully expansive. In recent weeks, I have experienced moments of timeless immersion in infinity, primarily in Nature, which defy description. The heart and soul cannot translate what transpires at those times. But you are transformed; the inner “enlightenment” you were born with rises to the surfaces and shines through your being. Fear no longer defines your days and nights; light does. And trust in something greater than the mind’s limited view. Your inner vision expands to encompass a magnificence and grace that spans all time and space.

Does every human soul eventually experience this as an incarnated being on planet Earth? I don’t know for certain. I can only express what I myself am living through. Still, the trust I carry within me whispers that this is the destiny of all human beings: to see the true nature of life and what appears to be mortality. In the calendar of life, the days we are given at first seem long, then short, then eventually become infinite, timeless—and “precious” beyond life, death, and meaning itself.

“You are infinity dancing in impermanence.”—Panache Desai

Infinity Vision

“On a clear day, you can see forever.”—Burton Lane

Several years ago, after a somewhat worrisome eye diagnosis, I had the extraordinary experience of looking out my window and seeing the external world moving in perfect synchronicity to the Andrea Bocelli music I was listening to. Every detail—people walking, cars passing, tree leaves in the wind—was part of a divinely choreographed dance of deeply connected oneness. And I too was part of it. There was nothing in the universe that sat alone on the sidelines within God’s creation. And I could see this so clearly that the power and beauty of it moved me to tears. Infinity vision, beyond an eye diagnosis.

Last week something similar occurred. I was taking a late-afternoon walk through our neighborhood when I heard a voice inside me: “Don’t just walk. Look. See!” I stopped in my tracks and looked up at the sky. The brilliant blue was streaked with white clouds like an impressionistic painting. The quality of the sun’s light made everything iridescent, heavenly. When I turned my gaze to the street before me, I saw a man with his dog, a car driving past, and autumn leaves falling from trees all moving together as one. I continued to walk, and everything I saw joined the dance of beingness. A cosmic tapestry so intricately interwoven that each thread was perfectly aligned with every other, and the motion of its living presence filled the universe, and me, with vibration and light. Infinity vision once again.

These are gifts from God, available to us all. Often it is a life crisis or a health diagnosis (like my recent breast cancer) that shatters everything and allows us to see the true nature of the multiverse we inhabit. I have sometimes heard from those who are experiencing it that cancer brings with it both challenge and expanded awareness. I understand that now. I believed I was deeply spiritually connected, aware, but cancer showed me an expansiveness and complexity beyond anything I had previously experienced. It cracked me open and let the full light of infinite awareness in. When disease or illness pries away your attachment to your physical form, magic is revealed. On my walk, I stood speechless before the wonder of everything I saw. Tears of love and gratitude streamed down my face.

If you have been reading my writing over the years, you may have noticed that I have had similar experiences before. Nature is always my profound connector to Spirit and the doorway to something greater. Yet now it is somehow different. The connection is even deeper and more expansive. That is the nature of infinity. You never reach the end of its ever-increasing power and beauty. Birth and death seem like finite experiences, but they are both contained within infinity. There is no end to beingness, ever. And this is the eternal truth that sits quietly at the center of our lives. Each of us is destined to discover it at the perfect time.

Whenever it appears, by whatever vehicle, celebrate its arrival as the greatest gift you will ever receive. The cracks in your life—illness, loss, pain, fear—can be the gateways to seeing with infinity vision. Only then will you understand the true nature of your “one precious life” and all life. Each and every one of us is part of a celestial symphony. The music of the spheres accompanies us everywhere. When you are able to see beyond what your eyes habitually perceive, your vision expands, and you begin to walk on air, immersed in the beauty of infinity, loving everyone and everything around you.

Life Review: A Preview

When you reach the end of your life, you won’t look back and wish you had made more money, owned a condo in Aspen, or won a Pulitzer prize. None of that will matter. What you will see is all the people you interacted with in your lifetime and how you affected them. In a split second of life review, you will experience yourself as others experienced you and how they felt in being with you. You will know firsthand the love, caring, hurt, or thoughtlessness you energetically transmitted through your words, thoughts, and actions. Your lifetime effect on everyone and everything (including animals, plants, etc.) will be God’s gift to you at the moment of your transition out of the Earth dimension. Instant karma.

How do I know this? Well, of course, nothing is completely “knowable,” but I feel the truth of it in my soul. Those who have had near-death experiences describe life review, as do great wisdom-keepers in many traditions. As the years go by, I am also starting to experience moments of this kind of intense feedback about the effect I have in my life. I often feel inside me the reaction of another to my words or actions. My energetic presence bounces back to me in every moment. I can either deflect and ignore it, or I can receive it as a divine GPS system which guides me to greater kindness and compassion.

This is what life is all about. We have a vast number of experiences, individually and interpersonally, which help us to evolve into deeper alignment with who we are at the soul level: pure loving awareness. We—meaning our souls and God—designed our lives for this purpose. The evolution of humanity and a planet, foretold for millennia. And the end-of-life-review is part of that evolution. A life review that is now edging backward into our lives before the moment of death to show us that the wisdom and perspective that come at death can also inform our lives now, if we are open to it and fully allow it.

It’s like climbing to the top of a mountain or flying in a plane at 35,000 feet. The Earth is spread out below you and you see that you are only a tiny part of something so huge it is beyond imagination. Infinity presents itself to your consciousness. Indeed, your consciousness is infinite. When you open the door to that expansive awareness, you begin to see with the eyes of the soul, as God sees. At the center of everything, including you, is pure love. When you can see that clearly and live as that, you have fulfilled your human purpose. Every one of us here on the planet now is on that journey of remembering and fully embodying who we are. Our hearts are guiding us.

As each day passes, I feel a greater sense of the impeccable timing of our Earth journey and our human evolution. We are awakening more and more, and as we awaken, “life review” becomes not solely a final look at a life before dying but also a moment-to-moment feedback loop that shows each of us how closely we are aligned with the love within us. The things that don’t matter fall away, and we live life knowing that what you feel, I feel, and vice versa. At the deepest level, there is no separation. There is only oneness. And as far as you can see, a rainbow of light.

Internal Weather

What if the weather outside your window is actually a reflection of the weather conditions inside you? What if your perceptional framework for viewing life shapes everything, including how you see physical conditions such as rain, snow, clouds, and sunshine that appear to be outside you? What if nothing is quite as it seems to be to the mind? What if the world is as you are?

Ever since I was a small child, I have carried within me an at-times-overwhelming grief about the nature of life, death, and eternity. The “human condition” terrified me; infinity terrified me. Late at night, I described my fear to my mother as “the world goes on forever and ever.” She comforted me and tried to help me learn to distract myself with happier thoughts. But the core unease never really disappeared. In college, I found infinity hiding inside my astronomy and philosophy textbooks. Fear of death and whatever came after was always hovering in the back of my consciousness. In my 30s, I turned to a spiritual quest to try to resolve it. That was the beginning of a shift in my perception.

Over the years, I came to a much broader view of life and of God’s presence in the universe. I have experienced a vast inner peace arising from my soul. At times, when I am completely immersed in it, the peace is as infinite and all-consuming as the fear once was. I “know” with every fiber of my being that infinity is actually divine love, which permeates every aspect of life. There is nothing but infinite consciousness expressing, always, everywhere in the cosmos. It is inside me and outside me, and actually there is no inside and outside. There is a seamless Oneness to all Being. This is what I experience, and within that is peace.

Yet there are still moments, usually late at night, when the fear arises, and a tremendous grief accompanies it. Some people are comforted by the idea of eternity; I am terrified by it. Now, however, I have come to see it as a catalyst for my soul’s evolution in this lifetime. It propels me ever deeper within and connects me to divine Presence, which lives as peace in my soul. My human grief also lives inside me. Depending on my state of mind, I can see that grief as separate from and larger than the peace or as only a small part of it. I realize that my humanity is actually how my divinity experiences itself on Earth. My human life pushes me further and deeper on my soul journey, until I completely merge with God consciousness.

Meanwhile, there are times on this path, this journey, that the catalyst of fear awakens me to a new level of awareness about the nature of reality and my life in it. I begin to understand that my perceptual framework (which interprets the world around me, and how and what I see) is dependent on whether I am in human fear or divine peace. And the seeming separation and polarity is actually for my own expansion and growth. Eventually, I will abide in peace without the interruption of fear or grief. The wisdom deep in my soul tells me this, and I trust it as the expanses of peace in my daily life become more and more seamless. When the old grief or fear arises, it is clear to me now how they can shape my perceptions. Rain and snow are just experiences; life and death are just experiences—all of them part of the soul’s journey in this world. If I see them as miracles, that is what they are in my experience. And grief gradually dissolves within Presence.