Category Archives: loss & death

Your Losses and Endings

death losses endings quote

“How do you want to approach death? With curiosity? With a sense of adventure? With gratitude? With presence? Practice meeting all your losses and endings in life with these attitudes. Practice in every moment. What is found then is found now, and you will meet death with the values and attitudes you inhabit every day.”

Quote by Sallie Tisdale

“The future is an infinite succession of presents. Make your desired attitudes a mastered reaction to life.”

Quote by Howard Zinn

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Filed under great quotes, loss & death

Autumn : Loved to Death

autumn colors

black mountain nc

The mountains are blotted with saturated & deep autumn colors. There is the faint smell of chimney smoke in the air. Locals are beginning to reveal clothing that has been tucked & stored for months. I’m excited about the change in weather, the change of seasons. It means death, rebirth.

Often people compare winter to death, when all is barren & bleak. For me, death is autumn. I don’t mean that in a dark way. It’s just to say that things are drying out, getting colder, losing their former life.

wet fall leavesIn winter, life is brewing & bubbling underground. New beginnings are preparing for spring. Everything is in an embryo stage, rapidly forming, but not ready to announce itself to the world. For some reason, I’m more interested in the beauty of what is dying. I prefer autumn. It reminds me of seeing the hands of Louise Bourgeois (artist & sculptor, died in 2010). Her hand’s were thick & manly, had knots like gnarly branches, and wrinkles that resembled woodgrain lines. I loved looking at her hands. I admired them. I wanted to be like them.

Being used up can be a beautiful thing. It’s like a well loved seat, that’s butter soft, yielding, and showing signs of being loved …to death. It might not be the seat everyone wants to display proudly, but it’s the seat everyone wants to sit in.

autumn leavesDeath and rebirth go hand & hand. Death is never the opposite of life, but life itself. Rebirth is a reminder of that.

November has been an amazing month so far. I’ve had the great privilege of picking & eating edible mushrooms. As well as collecting wood to burn in the fire place. Both good examples of what it means to end a life, only to continue it in a new form.

The mushrooms I picked were Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea complex). Without a doubt, one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. (That’s almost 40 years of meals to choose from! They were that good.) I made a somewhat elaborate meal out of them at first. I realized that I wasted their unique flavor by pairing them with so many things. So the next day, I picked more and tried again. I made a dish of just Honey Mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil, with a little sea salt & black pepper added. The taste was divine.

dried leavesThe wood I’ve been bringing home was chopped by someone else. It was here when I moved here. It’s an enormous pile, that will soon topple over. Each day I have to bring in enough pieces to create about 8 hours of fire. It’s approximately a 1/4 of a small log per hour. The wood is interesting to handle. Each piece has it’s own color, shape, fungi and bugs that travel on it.

Life is good right now. I have no complaints. Each day is a new day to explore. I’m excited for what the future might bring. But not more excited for what each present moment holds. It’s glorious. There is so much life in us, around us, beyond us. It never ends.

Each death, is only the beginning. Autumn will go, just as fast as it came, until it is reborn to die again. Dry autumn leaves will fall, to nourish the ground, that feeds the tree, that creates fresh green leaves, that will turn golden and drop. Where did the original autumn leaves go? They were always here.

fall leaves

Honey Mushrooms….

Armillaria mellea complex honey mushroom

honey mushrooms

Leaving one life…

honey mushroom Armillaria mellea complex

honey mushrooms recipe

To take on a new one…

honey mushrooms edible wild foods

honey mushrooms recipe

Big wood pile…

wood pile

wood chopped

Just like mushrooms, just like autumn, just like us — the wood pile is going through a transformation. Its ashes will be placed out back, to wash into the soil when it rains, to feed new plant growth & trees. What a beautiful process.



[All photos are of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Mostly from my front yard.]


Filed under loss & death, mushrooms, seasons, wild foods

It’s Never Enough


I’ve witnessed the smartest people make the dumbest decisions, the richest people live completely empty lives, and the most socially active people with the most ‘friends’ feel the loneliest. Why is this?

In my opinion, it’s never enough. People in general have an insatiable need to fill a hole within themselves that isn’t there. I see them do this with career, with children, with money, with hobbies, with shopping, with food, with sex, with sport, with beauty, with drink, with applause, with anything.

After having a child, they see it wasn’t enough. After creating the perfect home, they see that something is still missing. After developing a wonderful career, they see that it too needs to expand or be more. After being in an amazing & loving relationship, they haven’t yet experienced true fulfillment & contentment. No matter what one strives for, thinking that it will be ‘it’, the very thing they achieve or find that creates balance within themselves or within in their lives…. it will never be ‘it.’ That mad crazy dash to understand and fill the deep missing will continue to be a journey to nowhere. To now-here. It’s like the previous post I wrote about us being mules, chasing an imaginary carrot (written in May 2013): “When did money take the front seat and drive the destiny of our lives? Where is our sense of Self worth? Is it the ‘small self’ or ego that is always worried, always chasing the carrot, the one always looking for approval & comfort? If so, that isn’t the real you. The carrot journey never ends. Oh, yes it does — pardon me. It ends at death. When we realize what truly matters.”

The bases of all suffering, and all stupid moves by smart people, is confusion. We are literally confused. Someone wrote me a wise email recently, in the email they wrote: “Sometimes when we step back and look at things in a different perspective, we see and learn things that were there all the time, and we never even acknowledged them.” This was my reply to that email… But before you read it, please know it’s taken out of context. So it might be difficult to piece together, but I think you see where we were getting at in our conversation. “Either way, there will be a struggle and some challenges, and not everything will be perfect or easy. But hopefully, to see that home is where the heart is. And I mean that literally. It’s in him. He has to be content in his own skin, with his own spirit. The restless chasing of things is pulling him away from ‘home’. Everyone has this struggle, and sometimes it takes near death, the death of a loved one, or one’s own death to realize it.”

I often find solace in in quotes by Buckminster Fuller. One of his quotes that comes to mind is: “All of us are born a geniuses, but life itself seems to de-genius us.” And the other quote is: “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.”

In my opinion, life is best lived without meaning. To try to understand it all, or try to make a game out of it, it’s just fooling oneself. To try to think that something might be the answer, or something might makes us whole — sets us up for struggle and disappointment.

Recently I’ve been learning how to train my dogs. The books I’ve been reading are coming from the approach that; instead of training my dogs, I should be learning to understand them. In understanding my dogs better, I see that the real training needs to take place within myself. By training myself (looking at how I might be a source of dysfunctional energy, and making needed corrections), it allows me to successfully communicate with them, rehabilitate them, and live by example. This helps to create better habits for everyone, and it creates a balanced energy for our entire pack/family.

Cesar Millan (also known as The Dog Whisperer) says that animals typically respond in four ways: fight, flight, avoidance, surrender. And that a calm balanced dog is one that peacefully lives from a place of surrender. You want to help pets to move from the stages of fight, flight and avoidance, to get to the stage of surrender. When I read this concept, I immediately thought of humans. We spend our entire lives fighting, fleeing and avoiding. Our entire culture is made up of resisting and fighting with life. Fighting with reality, with each other, and fighting with ourselves. Most people are constantly looking for distractions, always needing to escape the moment. Not being able to be fully present, or still within themselves. Most people see surrender as defeat. They view it as giving up. But in my opinion, this is a misunderstanding of the word. [If you want to read my views and more information on what it means to surrender, you can find them via this link.]

When I picture someone wise, someone truly content, balanced and happy, they are peaceful, relaxed and calm. They watch, they observe and notice. Their level of awareness is high. So is their sense of compassion. Usually, we imagine this person to be old. To have lived through the race that we create out of life, and they have surrendered to it all having no meaning and no permanence. Their death is near, and they have a better sense of what truly matters. This can also be the case for many old animals. They have given up the fight. They enjoy simplicity, and what the current moment has to offer. If we apply this wisdom to our lives, imagine how much easier and more pleasurable our lives would be. And this can be attained. But in order for it to happen, we need to release the need to fight, flee or avoid what is currently happening. We have to have the courage to embrace all that is. Resting in the reality of the moment. Surrendering to the idea that we don’t have control over life, and we never did. But in relaxing into ourselves, and to whatever life brings — it empowers us. It makes us stronger, wiser and more equipped to handle anything that life brings. It makes life more enjoyable, more free.

It’s interesting how letting go; surrendering and fully embracing what one might view as incomplete or inadequate, might be the very action/non-action that makes us whole. And surrendering never means to not create, or to neglect, or disregard things that need assistance and attention. It only means a grater acceptance of the whole. To see that everything is what it is, and in that might be doing whatever work needs to be done. Not to make things perfect, or to ‘fix’ anything, but to surrender to the process. To allow life to live life, in us, through us, and around us. This is a humble approach. One that takes the power out of a story about a ‘me’ and give the power back to the grater whole. That greater whole is the higher Self. Where all of our spirits and mystery are connected and fully intact. Where we are invisible and untouchable. Where nothing could ever be missing or unfulfilled. Where no decisions need to be made and nothing needs to be done. Where the whole Universe is home, and there is no where to go. Where everything is perfect, just as it is.


Filed under enough, finding balance, loss & death

Don’t be silly. Where could I go?

beautiful death

I watched an excellent video yesterday. It was of  Francoise Tibika, the author of  Molecular Consciousness: Why the Universe Is Aware of Our Presence. I’ll post the video below, so you can view it. After I watched the video, I thought of a quote. The exact line I thought of was “Where could I go?” It was something I heard Ram Dass say about Ramana Maharshi. It’s a story he told often during his lectures. This is the quote in context: “Ramana Maharshi, who was a great Indian saint was dying of cancer. His devotees wanted him to receive treatments for his cancer. He said, “No, no, it’s time to drop this body.” Upon hearing this, his devotees started to cry. And they said, “Don’t leave us, don’t leave us!” He looked at them with confusion and said, “Don’t be silly. Where could I go?”

This is the quote from Francoise Tibika that reminded me of Ram Dass’ lecture, as well as verifies what Ramana Maharshi said. In the video Tibika says, “An atom can never die. This is the first law of thermodynamics. You can not lose matter. It never dies. What dies is the coherence. The coherence between your molecules, this is what is lost when you die, the glue. And this glue, which we can call the vital force, has no place in a chemical reaction; vital force does not belong to biological lexicon.” You’ll have to watch the video for yourself to get the entire picture, to have a full view of the conversation. I highly recommend it.

Death is always something our culture & society wants to gloss over, and pretend is not part of life. It is viewed as the dreaded end of life — something we should refuse to acknowledge and embrace. But death is not the end of life, it’s an integral part of it, just as birth is, and change is.

Now that I’ve started to share my thoughts, it brings up another thought: water. There is no such thing as ‘new’ water. You can read more about it here and here. Think of life as water; it’s a constant cycle, sometimes seen, sometimes unseen. And let’s not forget that we are mostly water! It’s all very interesting. Lots to think about. But it’s good we think about it and talk about it. Eventually we will become more fearless. And in fearing death less, we’ll fear life less.

[The beautiful skulls & flowers artwork is by artist Paul Alexander Thornton.]


Filed under awareness, loss & death

Richard Olsen’s Blog & Takashi Kobayashi’s Treehouses in Japan

Takashi Kobayashi

I’m out of town this weekend — leaving in the next hour or so. That means I won’t be here to write a blog post, but I will leave you with something to check out! Visit Richard Olsen’s Handmade Houses Journal. It’s where I found this fabulous & inspiring video about Taka Kobayashi’s architecture:

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Filed under fashion & style, inspiration, loss & death

What will happen next?

what will happen

I find myself in an interesting place (in so many regards: with work, health, home, romance, family, friends, community, the world, etc.). Part of me is caught thinking: I wonder what will happen next? And the other part of me thinks: It really doesn’t matter. Half of me is curious, excited, scared, grateful, hopeful, nervous, optimistic & motivated. The other half is simply watching all of this without a reaction. Not worried, not nervous, not hopeful. Not optimistic nor pessimistic. Neither invested nor uninvested. The other half is simply there. Along for the ride. It doesn’t care which path is chosen. It knows it’s all leading to the same place.

The photo above is me, as a child. So interesting that I have to say that: me as a child. Where is that me? The me of 35 years ago? On one hand, anyone that knows me well can see me not only in the face of that child, but also in the spirit. But life has changed so much since then. Life looks & feels totally different now — I look & feel totally different now. And life will change again. I will change again. Years from now (in 35 years) the face & the life I currently have, will be gone. Everything will change again. But what stays the same? There is something that never changes. I think the other half of me that is along for the ride knows this. It knows it all too well. It doesn’t get surprised. It doesn’t get disappointed. It doesn’t feel a lose or gain. It just is. And this Is-ness is all there is.


Filed under loss & death, spirituality

The Great Liberation

tibetan book of the dead

I stumbled across a film by chance the other day, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation (full movie embedded below). For me the film is more like what it is like to be alive, than dead. The drama; the mystery; the illusions; the concepts; the confusion; the laughter; the tears — the dance of it all. The beauty & ugliness of it all. The sacredness of it all. It’s represented as the experience of death in the film (for the dead & the ones dealing with death), but I see it as life.

Finding the balance between material & metaphysical is imperative. And why would we ever believe otherwise, since we are of the two? One way to realize such balance is by reverence. Deep respect for both aspects of ourselves — both aspects of life. In this reverence, our life is sacred, as all lives are sacred. Everything becomes a gift. Humility becomes the ultimate virtue. Not a false humility, that we sometimes present to each other, but a real humility. A humility that is honest, that knows its place in the universe. That kind of humility is not immobilizing, but liberating. It sets one free of any self-importance based on confusion.

Arrogance can create so much disharmony & unhappiness for people. Considering all of the privilege, intelligence, creativity, & abundance Western culture has, or any modern-day culture (that the west has more than likely influenced),  they haven’t figured out how to be at peace (with life, or with themselves), or how to be content (even thought they have more than enough). It’s easy to see the truth in this quote by Robert Thurman: “In contrast to Western ideas, the Tibetan view is that the mental or spiritual cannot always be reduced to material quanta and manipulated as such —- the spiritual is itself an active energy in nature, subtle but more powerful than the material.”

Modern-day culture, is so focused on the material side of life: be it money (the number one goal for most people’s day), processions (the number two goal for most people’s lives), or physical looks (the obsession people have with the body’s appearance is extreme — to the point where surgery, as well as toxic grooming procedures is the norm). Where is the other side of life? And I don’t mean religion, because to me that doesn’t mean spiritual — it means ritual. When I say spiritual, I mean that which can not be labeled. There would be no words I could use to represent it. No ritual I could do to capture it. As well as no individual that has exclusive rights to it.

I found a great comment on Youtube. It was posted in regards to the film on The Tibetan Book of the Dead: “We are constantly dying, each moment. Where is the You of 3 years old? That is not you. That 3 year old is long gone. Consciousness is constantly morphing into something else but it will never know Non-existence. Non-existence doesn’t exist and cannot be known. The mistake is to identify with the contents of consciousness, rather than consciousness itself. It is your history that makes you believe you are a person. ‘You’ are not the Dreamer. ‘You’ are the Dreamed.”

I loved reading this line: The mistake is to identify with the contents of consciousness, rather than consciousness itself. If you look back on much (or all) of one’s personal suffering, how much of it is based on this false identification? For me I can easily say all of it. It’s clear to me that when I am most happy, or when I truly feel free or content, it is when I am simply awareness. In that moment, the fixation on something or to be something, or to have things go my way, completely disappears. What is left is only the force which moves all things & unites all things. Everything becomes a dance, a play of energy. A moment to moment expression in form. Death & birth are equal, like seasons, they simply give way to the next phase of life. Therefore, death is not the end of life, but life itself. When we can’t embrace death, we aren’t embracing life.

That being said, for most of us, the idea of death, or of change is a scary one. A topic most wish to avoid or coverup. The fear that our physical form (or form in general) is temporary, is an overwhelming thought. It’s overwhelming because it forces us to give up control. To give up any idea that we can take things with us; to give up the idea that we know all about life (including all stages of it, like birth or death); to give up and accept, that the bodies of those we love are only here for a short time; to accept that we can’t stop our decaying process, as we move closer to death with each passing day.

What we can do, is love & appreciate. Take good care of the body we temporarily get to use as we experience the world; gently use the resources that we have available to us & give back to those resources by helping them to flourish & stay beautiful for future generations; have compassion towards all life & this includes all living beings (regardless of species); love as best we can & as much as we can (ideally, loving unconditionally); & finally, laugh with life & enjoy it all. Enjoy every minute as an opportunity to love, to learn & to evolve. Freely & humbly enjoying all that life is — at whatever season or phase it may be passing though.

I posted this quote on my Facebook page this week, & I think it’s a perfect quote to end on: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”

[The last quote is by George Santayana.]

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Filed under loss & death, tv & video

Love, Death & Relationships… It isn’t personal.

I had a revelatory dream a few months ago. I woke up with the words “God is impersonal”. (When I have dreams that are like messages, they usually take the form of written words or simple statements. I don’t have these often, but when I do, I remember.) After I woke up, I immediately got it. I understood it completely. But of course! God loves everyone; God permits everything; God has no preference, goal, or agenda; God is unconditional. [I’m using the word God, but please know that I don’t believe in a religion, or even the concept of a God, or Higher Being, separate from average living beings. God is just a word for “that which can not be named” in this case.]

This dream has become even more relevant & clear lately. I’ve had so many people contact me about deaths that they are dealing with, as well as heavy issues regarding romantic relationships. I spoke/emailed with everyone, telling them my thoughts on the matter. (I loved being able to have such intimate conversations. Being able to share life’s deepest topics is such a gift that we rarely share. Most people aren’t willing to be that vulnerable.)

As I was going through my day yesterday, my head was swirling with all that I’ve heard/read from people lately about relationships & life. I was also stewing in my own struggles (my own resistance to life, my resistance to what is). I was sitting in a very noisy Manhattan cafe, bustling with people & aliveness. It was quite loud & everyone’s day-to-day conversation topics all coalesced into one sound. Similar to that of white noise. An answer came to me in that moment, one that I knew was connected to the God dream I had some time back. The answer was, “It isn’t personal”. I had the same feeling again — I knew the truth in that statement & I knew it profoundly. Just as I did after the dream. I held that statement up to the suffering I felt about my relationship & about life’s deepest questions that remain unanswerable: it isn’t personal.

This idea of a “me” gets us into so much trouble. Something is happening to me; someone is rejecting me; someone is leaving me; someone is no longer in-love with me; someone died on me; something died in me; something is wrong with me; someone is mistreating me; someone is misjudging me… it goes on & on, & there is always another way to say it, but it all boils down to the same thing. We are separate individuals, in control. I want to say it again — we are separate individuals, in control. How confused we are when we think like this. In my opinion & in my experiencing & in my knowing — we have no control over anything, & neither does anyone else.

I’m going to list for you a few examples of how I have no control. (And just to be clear, this is not a debate. I’m just sharing with you my personal thoughts.) Who I fall in-love with; who falls in-love (or out-of-love) with me; who I find attractive; who finds me attractive; if people will be on time; if people will be late; when I wake up (naturally); when I fall asleep (naturally); when I have to urinate; when I have to defecate (naturally); how my heart pumps blood; how my digestion processes food; how much my nails & hair grow; how many sets of teeth I grow; how my voice sounds; the color of my skin (naturally); the color of my hair & eyes (naturally); how my body & face is shaped (naturally); what talents I have (naturally); who likes me; who I like; who likes my work; who’s work I like; how other people behave; what people believe; how other people think; the weather; the seasons; the family I was born into; the country I was born in; the thoughts I have; & the choice of my own birth or existence!

Considering all the things I mentioned, how could we take things personally? That would imply that we have some sort of control, or that others have control. Another thing I noticed in the cafe filled with human beings & white noise, was the humility beneath it all. Under the faces & the talk & the fashion & the music & the food & the work & the intensity of it all…. there was humility. Just simple beings being without even realizing it. Beings that have no control over each other, or themselves. Beings that are no different from the simplest of life that will soon face death. Like leaves turning brown on a tree in autumn. They fall when they fall. They may bang into each other on windy days. They may fall on each other on the way down. Some may decay before others. Some may shine brighter. Some might last longer. It all happens as it needs to happen. The leaves don’t take it personal. And why should they? It’s not about being a leaf (or a separate individual). It’s just life. Life living life. Life being lived. It’s not my life, or your life. It’s just life.

[The video clip posted was from the film Koyaanisqatsi. If you would like to watch the whole film: click here.]


Filed under loss & death, more love