Life is Eternal, Love is Immortal

Barb Heagy Maui 174-003

Yesterday my Snack ‘n Chat group that meets weekly had one of our potluck lunches. One of the women has been recently widowed after forty-seven years of marriage and she told us a beautiful story about the loss of her wedding ring in a local store shortly after her husband’s death and its miraculous recovery.

For two weeks after the loss of the ring, she returned to that store over and over again, asking in different departments and areas of the store if it had been found. No one had seen it.

Again this week, she asked a young clerk if the ring happened to be under the cash area on a shelf perhaps. It wasn’t. My friend moved on to do more shopping and the young girl went to talk to one of her friends in the store. The next thing my friend heard was her name being called over the P.A. system. She was to return to the same counter again.

“Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up,” the young girl said. “We have found a wedding ring. It may not be yours. Security is bringing it to us.”

They all watched with anticipation as a uniformed guard approached. He stood before them and pulled out a clear plastic bag from his pocket. Inside was the wedding ring!

My friend was overjoyed and broke out in loud squeals and a mixture of tears and laughter. The clerks and guard all joined her causing a joyful ruckus that could be heard throughout the store.

Where had the ring been all this time? No one was sure but my friend’s persistence and prayers paid off.

We each shared stories that day about miraculous events after the loss of a loved one. One woman felt her deceased husband had visited her in the night leaving a kiss on her lips. Another spoke of a knock at a door, and her deceased father entered the room, fully clothed, in the flesh. She felt he had returned so she could say a final goodbye to him. I shared my story of a medium’s message of eternal love and gratitude from my beloved Tom.

I found it quite amazing that four women had four stories about miraculous events after the loss of a loved one. We tend to not talk of these things in our society. I believe there are more stories out there. It appears that our loved ones do go on and can send us signs and symbols from eternity. Love lives on.

The Still Point of the Turning World

Barb Heagy Dance in the Park 2015 242-002

This week Wendy Roman, of Rhythmwood Dance Studio, asked her Facebook readers what the phrase “Effortless Effort” means to them through dance. Another reader and dancer, Laine Magidsohn, suggested it be called “Dynamic Ease.” I like both phrases. Both phrases speak of finding that balance between active participation and passive release.

I think ‘Effortless Effort’ and ‘Dynamic Ease’, are both phrases of just stepping aside for a moment to connect with life’s energy force. Letting it flow within, embodying it, giving it room to become one with me and then moving forward together. I don’t just step aside and let it take me over. We work together, side-by-side, internally as one. One body, one flow of energy.

When I was getting my MA in Dance at York University, my thesis centered on finding the relationship between creativity and spirituality. I held a day long workshop of movement and dance, journaling and oral sharing. Later in evaluations of the experience, two of the participants spoke of finding ‘stillness’ in the ‘movement’ while they danced. A paradox. After the event, one of the participants gave me a beautiful hand-made calligraphy copy of an excerpt of T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets – Burnt Norton.” For her, his poem spoke of finding “The Still Point of the Turning World” and acted as a metaphor for her experience.

From T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets – Burnt Norton”:

            “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

            Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

            But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

            Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

            Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

            There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

Finding that balance of stillness and movement is a form of active release. It means standing still for a moment, breathing, centering myself, becoming deeply aware of all that is around me so that I can connect with the movement of life and its energy and begin to move as one with it. It’s becoming as T. S. Eliot calls ‘The Still Point’ so that I become the axis around which my world turns. I am integral to its being. I support it, as I become the stillness from which the movement circulates. The world rotates around me, life happens, but I am always centered and strong, actively a part of it, and deeply aware of the bonded process. It’s finding “The Still Point of the Turning World” within myself.

Choose to Live

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At a recent writer’s retreat I attended, I was sharing my published books with another new writer friend. An author has to be able to say what his or her book is about in under 30 seconds, one or two sentences at the most. My keynote for my first book is “10 – A Story of Love, Life, and Loss, is an inspiring cancer story. It may uplift and encourage you to live your best life.” I often say “It’s an inspiring memoir/cancer journey/love story.”

Then, my friend asked me a simple question, one I had never been asked before so succinctly.

“So, how do you continue to live a quality life when you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis with no hope of a cure?”

Her succinct question demanded a succinct answer. She wanted to know in a few sentences how my husband and I did it.

I answered her this way, in list form: change your focus to ‘living’ rather than ‘dying,’ live in the moment, live with gratitude, and focus on your abilities, not your losses.

  1. Focus on ‘living’ every day, rather than ‘dying.’ You try to fill your day with as many life-fulfilling activities and people as you can, and you focus on those positive messages and feelings, rather than negative people, circumstances and thoughts.
  2. Live in the moment, with mindfulness, tapping into all your senses. Taste that juicy apple, smell that scented rose, look up at the sky and the clouds floating by, feel the softness of your child’s cheek, listen to the sounds of nature all around you. Often, the simplest things are the most meaningful.
  3. Live with gratitude. Say thank you. When you awake, be grateful for another day given, and when you go to sleep, say thank you for all you received.
  4. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. In spite of impending losses, you still are capable of many things. Use your time to enjoy doing those things you can still do.

“10 – A Story of Love, Life, and Loss’ is a story of struggle, pain and loss, but at the heart of it, it is a story of love, hope, and strength. It is a story that may help others who have been given a life-debilitating diagnosis, as well as helping their caretakers and loved ones who journey with them.

My book can be purchased at The Bookshelf, Guelph; BookLore, Orangeville; Hannelore Headely Old & Fine Books, St. Catharines and Tamara’s Esthetics & Reflexology, Guelph. It can also be purchased directly from me by messaging me. Buy it online at amazon.ca.

 

A Path to Creativity

Creativity

Back in the mid 90’s I was teaching a Gr. 1 class at a small country school. One of my student’s parents offered to write our Christmas play and so began a new friendship based on our mutual enjoyment of writing. Jane introduced me to a book called The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by the author Julia Cameron.

It was a book on the link between creativity and spirituality and included a 12 week program of basic principles and activities that rekindled one’s latent creativity and helped one to overcome problems such as self-esteem, self-criticism, jealousy, guilt and other factors such as worry over time, money or support, all blocks to our creative energies. Cameron believed that we all are creative beings, that there is not one non-creative person alive. She also believed that the universe is naturally creative and creative expression is the natural direction of life. This resonated so deeply within me as, decades before, in my university years in the early ‘70’s I had studied fine arts, modern dance and drama and experienced a new-found confidence in my own creativity abilities. I, too, believed vehemently that we all are creative beings.

During the ‘80’s, my child bearing years, my life had become very busy with family obligations and yet, during this time, I did manage to work professionally with a dance company in Toronto and returned to university in 1988 to earn a Bachelor of Education. Working full-time, raising a family and working through a difficult marriage didn’t leave much time for dance activities any longer. In the early 90’s my husband and I separated and a new life began. I was longing for a new outlet for my creative energies.

Cameron’s book provided me with that. For 12 weeks, I worked through her book, chapter by chapter, every day writing what she called “morning papers.” Each day I sat down with three blank sheets of paper and in a stream-of-consciousness format, I filled those pages. She said to fill them up from beginning to end, even if all I could write was “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” She said, if you kept writing, pretty soon something of value was going to come out on that page. I wrote a lot of garbage back then but there were also many true gems of wisdom. I found by writing this way, it released my creative energies and I often found my soul revealed on the page, answering problems that I had fretted over for weeks.

She also told you to take an “artist date” once a week. It could be anything: go visit a fabric store, walk along a quiet river, visit a museum or go watch a parade. You were allowed to do anything at all that helped to rejuvenate, replenish or inspire you. It was to be done solo, was to be fun and festive and was to be filled with play. She said that we work so hard at being artists that we need to give back to ourselves and find the play in our creative process once again.

At the end of the 12 weeks of exploration, Cameron challenged you to set a creative focus for yourself that would work in your life. You were to set a basic goal, the steps you would go through to achieve that goal, and the time frame it would take you. You were to find a mentor that would encourage, guide and prod you along and you must meet with your mentor once a week until the goal was achieved. I chose to focus on writing, to have something published, even if it was only in a small way and I met with my friend Jane in her home, once a week. I continued to write morning papers and we had a lot of fun giving each other small prompts for creative, spontaneous writing and sharing these with each other. At the end of my weeks with her I did achieve my goal and an article on creativity was published in a provincial drama educator’s newsletter.

Cameron’s book opened up a new world of writing to me. I had always enjoyed writing but she inspired me to explore my writing further and she gave me a means of goal-setting and finding success with my chosen creative field. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels blocked in their creative field. If you are willing to work through her program from beginning to end, you will achieve success – and have a lot of fun doing it. Get those creative juices brewing. Go play.

Choosing Beauty

In my present research and writing for a book I will be a part of dealing with grief, I have read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In it, he often quotes Nietzsche with “He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW” as he explains that it is not the circumstances of life that give us meaning and purpose, it is our attitude and choices we make that give us meaning and purpose. We cannot stop suffering in our lives, but we can choose not to suffer. We can choose to be responsible for our lives, even in taxing circumstances, and seek out the beauty, the small moments, the sensory gifts, that make the moment not only bearable, but even glorious.

Dr. B. J. Miller, in this Ted Talk video, speaks of dying and death. We can’t stop dying. But we can choose how we spend our last days. We can’t solve for death, but we can design towards it by making the life we have left more wonderful, rather than less horrible, He states, “You can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left. If we love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live well, not in spite of death, but because of it.”

Frankl and Miller speak of the same things. Living and dying well is our responsibility. Rather than becoming a victim to our circumstances, we can direct the quality and beauty of our lives to the very end. Frankl quotes the Jewish scholar Hillel the Elder with:

“If I do not do it – who else will do it.  And if I do not do it now – then when?”

Tragedy and Martyrdom

At the recent wedding of my daughter and her new husband, the room seemed to be immersed in love and positive feelings. It was a room filled with large and close family groupings. One of the extended families consisted of 63 adults, another included five siblings and their parents and partners. All the guests seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely and there was a deep sense of community, family, and love among them. I knew that it was a room filled with people who had experienced pain and deep tragedy in their lives, but they didn’t come across as tragic figures or martyrs.

I watched with pleasure as six adult sisters dressed up in costumes and goofed around at the fun photo booth set up in a corner of the reception hall. I’m sure each one of them had experienced deep tragedy in their lives; they had lost their beloved mother in the past year, one of them I knew had lost a child at a young age, but there they were laughing, embracing and sharing the deep bond they obviously had for each other. At another table, a family member, who is dealing with cancer and is in active chemotherapy treatments, was there laughing uproariously with his large family as they shared stories and love. Most important of all, both families were having fun.

Life should be fun. When bad things happen or things make us unhappy, we can wrap ourselves up in it, cut the tragic figure, “Oh, woe is me!” Sometimes we can even take great pride in our tragedy: “Look at me. Look at how wonderfully I am handling my pain, my loss. Aren’t I wonderful?” We become the great martyr.

The sisters didn’t do that. The father, sick and weak with cancer, didn’t do that. We can’t stop the pain in our lives, but we don’t have to let it become our identity, the suffering martyr, the mourning tragic figure.

To live a life well-lived, let us remember that we are not grief itself. We experience grief. It is not my cancer. It is just the cancer. Don’t make pain your identity. Let it not define who you really are.

Momma’s Wedding Wisdom

My eldest daughter got married this past weekend and, speaking as Mother of the Bride, I gave this following blessing and advice to them at the reception:

Maegan and Andrew, we are so happy to be gathered here to share in your joy and commitment to each other. Not only do the people in this room send you blessings but we know that those who are no longer with us, send them from afar. We all wish for a long and happy marriage for both of you. Life is to be celebrated and shared and how wonderful that so many of our family and friends could be here today to be part of such a special celebration.

My darling daughter. When I think of you I have so many wonderful memories:

I remember on the day you were born, the nurse brought you to me after a cesarean birth and placed you gently upright on my lap where you sat looking at me, eyes wide open, little arms folded in your lap. There you sat looking like a little god, the great I AM, radiating purity and wisdom and a calm energy, fresh from the heavens.

I have always loved your soft pillow cheeks which, by the way, you still haven’t lost.

I picture you giggling as you crawled around the living room chair, being chased by your father as the two of you played peek-a-boo.

I got used to saying goodbye to you as you began to travel the world. It began with your 3 ½ month volunteer work stint in Venezuela, and was followed by trips to Europe, South Korea, and most of east Asia. It continued with Andrew to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Africa.

I admire your great love and generosity, whether that be buying a homeless person on the street a morning coffee and breakfast sandwich, making a friend feel loved with an unexpected gift and a small celebration, or arriving for a weekend at my home to help Mom clean out the garage.

Andrew, I remember the first time I met you. Maegan had returned home from Korea and you made sure you dropped in at Christmas to see her. It was obvious that you were very interested in my daughter and there was definite chemistry.

I admire your incredible talent, your entrepreneurial spirit, and the way you set goals and work with discipline, sweat and persistence to achieve them.

I love your crazy sense of humour and your smile that fills the room as if the clouds had just parted and the sun came streaming in.

And I see my daughter’s incredible love for you and know that she has found a man worthy of spending the rest of her life with.

Together you are a formidable couple.

Together, you have all the adventure of Tarzan and Jane,

The romance of Romeo and Juliet,

The glamour of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,

The power of Antony and Cleopatra,

And the devotion of Krishna and Radha.

I want to end with some motherly advice gained from experience. I know that Poppa Tom sends his love to you both. We had a little game that we used to play. He would say “Do you love me?’ and I would answer “Yes.” Then he would say, “Do you love me in spite of my faults?” and I would answer, “Yes.” Then he would say, “Do you love me because of my faults?” and I would always smile and say, “Yes.” We both knew that our strengths are our weaknesses and our weaknesses are our strengths, and the very things that attract you to your beloved can also be the very things that drive you crazy.

I’m sure you both drive each other crazy at times. But I want you to always remember to RESPECT each other at all times. Barbara de Angelise, a well-known authority in the field of relationships and personal growth says, “The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day – but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.”

Respecting your spouse means watching your mouth. Every thought you have doesn’t have to come out of your lips. There’s a time for silence and a time for loving truth.

Build each other up, and seek ways to support each other in all your doings. Show interest in your loved one’s activities.

Keep love alive, through daily hugs, kisses and regular words of love and romance.

Small gestures can mean so much. A small wild flower picked and placed in a bud vase, one truffle on a pillow, a cool drink brought to you while working on the computer, or a warm blanket placed gently over you when you fall asleep on the couch, all speak the unspoken language of love.

I would like you all to join me now as we raise our glasses to this loving couple. Andrew – Maegan – our love and best wishes to both of you as you begin your life together as a married couple. We celebrate with you today and will always support you in the future. Blessings on your union.