Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
I love Day of the Dead. Not just because I love so many fabulous dead people and enjoy celebrating their lives, but because it is the only holiday that joyfully embraces the thing that gives any sense of meaning or urgency to this life. We are not around (in this form) forever so it makes sense to prioritize the people, places, thoughts, ideas, and activities we pay attention to, and find a way to liberate the rest.
Death is inevitable and important. Grief is devastating and necessary. And funerals are a fantastic ritual to expedite the process of release. That’s why for each of the past two years the Day of the Dead has marked the launch of Cemetery Mary’s funeral planning festivities where, with a group of talented actor/singers, we hijacked the ideas of holding a open casket funeral for the dead people, and used it as an event for the living to toss out the dead dreams, dashed hopes and disappointments that may mess with the ability to enjoy our days.
Funeral sing-alongs that offer people jazzy music plus a nice mahogany casket to symbolically release pain, woe, bitterness, suffering, anger, failure, and a full spectrum of nasty personal habits, can be very popular events. Many funeral guests said they got a glimpse at what it feels like to take life’s suffering a little less seriously, which then extended outside the service.
Personally, Cemetery Mary was enthusiastically hurling excess baggage into the casket. And, of course, what happens when we dump the junk? Lots of extra space opens in our lives makes room for lovely, miraculous new growth.
But we don’t need musical funeral events to take stock of what needs to be released each year. I’ve already started a collection of crap I don’t plan to drag into the New Year. I get a little cranky about aging, middle age anarchy of the uterous (ladies, I’m talking perimenopause), and the plummeting value of my real estate and retirement fund. But then I remember that those thoughts, ideas, and distractions get in the way of my good mood so I write them down, torch them (safely), and recite my favorite mantra:
We are always growing and molting simultaneously. Such is life (and death).
Best to let it all go.
If you want help to expedite this process, check out the essay questions below. Then take your written answers to a nice cemetery, bless your answers, set the paper on fire and do a happy dance.
If you are anything like the crowd at our funerals, this is how it will make you feel:
Rest in peace, love, and laughter whenever possible.
Or if reading is too cumbersome, as it is in this ADHD world of high tech multitasking — stay tuned for the release of the documentary about Carla, Leave Them Laughing.
By Shawn McAndrew
© BlueOpal Publishing, January 1, 2010
Recently I was talking with a colleague and the phrase “I am my own worst enemy” popped into my head. Wait a second, I thought. What if I am my own best God?
I mentioned this to my colleague, and he directed me to write a 250-word essay and send it to him by Christmas. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing the essay by his deadline, and for some reasons I am glad. One reason had to do with death.
Recently I was a part of a production called Nothing Holding Me Back, staged by Cemetery Mary, the Reverend Up, and the Fairy of Forgiveness. The whole idea was to have a funeral for dead dreams, fallen hopes, unresolved resolutions. Put all these “deaths” into a casket and let them go. Free ourselves of our thinking debts, where we chastise and berate ourselves for not living up to expectations (our own, usually), or fail to reach goals we set for ourselves at some point in our lives. Why hold on to these ideologies when all they do is make us plod along our weary paths?
The purpose of Nothing Holding Me Back –to get rid of what’s not working and make space for new, positive thinking/doing to come in–got me into the mind space of, what if I am my own best God? It seems, then, that I choose my destiny, take responsibility for my actions, stay aware of what I’m doing each moment of my day, and reap the consequences of it all.
On the eve of the production of Nothing Holding Me Back, Cemetery Mary informed me that her uncle, James Kavanaugh, had died the day before. I did not personally know him, but I recognized his name. He was an author, a former priest who blew away the secret veil surrounding the priesthood. And so after attending the program, I spent New Years Eve at my computer, researching who James Kavanaugh was. I was blown away by the writings I found on the Internet, just from a cursory Google search of his name. What I came to find was the answer to, What if I am my own best God? Because it seems that Dr. Kavanaugh had pondered a similar question throughout his storied life; while he was a priest, when he wrote the expose, A Modern Priest Looks At His Outdated Church, and when he continued his life after leaving the priesthood, got married and had a family. Reading his poetry opened a window to his soul for me, a window to humanity’s soul.
And so it seems that Mr. Kavanaugh was ahead of me in time by answering my question about being my own best God, as evidenced in his poem, You Are Your Own Answer, from a collection of his poetry, Quiet Water.
You are your own answer,
Beyond books and seers, psychics or doctors
Beyond the strength that comes
from what you have accomplished.
Your weakness is as valuable as your strength,
Your helplessness as lovable as your charm.
You are God’s Child and each step on the way,
He gives you bread and not a stone,
food and not a serpent.
All is part of the plan, as you look within
and listen to the quiet, persistent voice
that tells you who you are…
So, yes, I am my own best God. Not a reflection of anothers God, but my God, the God who serves me best, if only I listen to that spiritual voice that directs me, tells me to have faith, to follow my destiny, take responsibility for my actions, and stay aware of what I do and say. To distill all the passages about sowing and reaping, we do reap what we sow, listen to the quiet, persistent voice that tells you who you are.
Guest posts such as this one are welcomed and encouraged. Contact Cemetery Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org for tales of transformation.]]>
Watch the highlights here and buy your tickets early next year!
And for background about the concept, see what Rachel Swan has to say here.]]>
Set limits. Decide how much time you can realistically spend with your beloved bloodline without resorting to alcohol, prescription meds, or violenceâ€”then stick to that length of time. If you have family relations that are difficult or painful, it may be better to keep the visit brief, ie: cocktails & cruditÃ©s versus sharing a cabin in Tahoe for the week.
Practice self-discipline. Consciously resist emotional reactions to inflammatory or thoughtless remarks from family members. Instead, lock yourself in the bathroom. This gives you time to come up with the searing retort, and the perspective to choose not to use it. Powder your nose, flush, wash hands, and then return with a more mature reaction, such as:. â€œIt may not have been youâ€™re intention, but I found what you said hurtful. Iâ€™d like us to enjoy our time together, so letâ€™s focus on conversation that isnâ€™t sensitive to either of us.â€
Set your heart dial on LOVE. Recalibrate often. Decide to be the place of love in your family. No matter what. As you start to feel judgmental, angry, or feel an urge to dunk your uncleâ€™s head in the punch bowl, ask yourself, â€œWhat kind of inner experience do I want to have? Heartburn? Or intoxication (spiritually speaking). Choosing to stay loving, no matter what, can make the difference between having a pleasant family holiday, or one that gives you hives. And sometimes the most loving thing you can do is removing yourself from the situation. This can also be accomplished without leaving the scene, by relocating to the kids table.
Donâ€™t agitate. Although itâ€™s sometimes tempting to our love of drama to stir the pot a bit, holidays are usually not the best time to launch a group therapy improv session. Keep things light and cordial, shallow even, and press the hold button on diving into meatier topics that require real relationship work. Especially if there is a lot of booze and card carrying NRA members in the picture.
No Shoulda, Coulda, Wouldaâ€™s. Informing family members what they â€œshouldâ€ or â€œshouldnâ€™tâ€ do can provoke colorful, possibly inflamatory reactions. Donâ€™t assume you know whatâ€™s best for the other person (even though you do). Even if your insight can be helpful, â€œshouldingâ€ on people usually creates resentment and resistance, which in turn causes indigestion.
Manage Your Expectations. Better yet, donâ€™t have any. Author and spiritual leader Eckharte Tolle said, â€œAccept the present moment as if you had choosen it.â€ May we all take that pithy little line to every family outing, and apply it no matter what is going on. Another term for this is Radical Acceptance.
Leave the country. If any of my family is reading this, YES, I’m in Argentina right now, but it’s not to flee you, just all the commercialism. I’m just saying, for others, travel to foreign lands during holidays may be useful.
Consult an Expert. If none of these fabulous ideas can allow you to tolerate those who claim to love you, and those you claim to love, then get thee to the forgiveness expert. Here’s the one I love, because within her message is the one thing I know to be true: Forgiveness First. Everything Else Follows.
Suggestions from blog readersâ€¦
Good wine and a lot of patience. Oh, and of course the “two deep breaths before replying” rule is in full affect.
Spend the week prior to that stressful event taking care of yourself first. Don’t go anywhere tired or spend 48 hours preparing for visitors and tire yourself out. Get plenty of rest.
Individual medication, good. Medication in mashed potatoes, better. (That way the vegetarians eat it too.)
Hereâ€™s a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill I’ve picked up along the way called: “Radical Acceptance.” If you ever find yourself differing in opinion with someone, you basically accept the difference in the moment, with no resistance or argument, no need to be right. Although it sounds impossible, once you get the hang of it, it works.
And she said “but my family doesn’t accept me for who I am”… and he said “perhaps, but are you accepting them as they are?”Â Change roles. Decide itâ€™s everyone else who needs love and acceptance, and give it to them.
The 21 day complaint free challenge…google the website or the book Complaint Free World. I did it the first time 2 years ago…I learned alot and recommend it, even though it’s self help and I find that annoying. Oops. Yes, I’m starting the diet over again.
You could ditch your own family and you spend the time with your girlfriend & her family. Not that I would ever do that… oh but wait…thatâ€™s exactly what Iâ€™m doing.
Adopt the triple â€œFâ€ attitude. FFF=Forced Family Fun. Like it. Like them. Whether you like it or them or not.
Act as though you are watching a movie…you don’t get mad at the movie for how it makes you feel, you enjoy the emotion and then you go home, right? We are all the star players in own story. Enjoy the scene, whether it’s well written or not. Eventually, change your lines and your responses, and youâ€™ll change the script (try musical comedy, they are the most fun).
WHAT OTHER EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT FORGIVENESS…
This from Mayo Clinic:
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change.
–Katherine Piderman, Ph.D., staff chaplain at Mayo Clinic
50 Ways to Kick a Habit
Sung to tune of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
Stolen without the permission of Paul Simon
(Get the tune via karaoke or lyrics.com)
The problem is all inside your head
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle
To be free
There must be fifty ways
To kick a habit
She said bad habits are a pattern
But there are some tricks to lose them
With a cheerful attitude
And I’ll repeat myself
At the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways
To kick a habit
Fifty ways to kick a habit
Stop blaming your mom, Tom
Don’t need to hate dad, Tad
Just have to accept, Shep
And get yourself free
You don’t have to cheat, Pete
Just turn off the cell, Nell
Start telling the truth, Ruth
Just get yourself free
Stop looking for fault, Walt
Don’t pass the buck, Chuck
Stop living in fear, Dear
And you can be free
She said it grieves me so
To see you in such pain
But there is something you could do
That would make you smile again
I said I appreciate that
And would you please explain
About the fifty ways to kick a habit
She said just find a place
To dump out all your junk
Bad habits, grudges, grievances
That get you in a funk
And then she chanted them
Like a sly old Buddhist monk
Yes there’s fifty ways
To kick a habit
Fifty ways to kick a habit
Get to the gym, Kim
Toss out the smokes, Bloke
Start eating more kale, Dale
Just get yourself free
No more chasing skirt, Burt
Stop blaming the man, Dan
Quit blowing your stack, Mac
And get yourself free
Give up the old pain, Jane
Open your heart, Bart
Just learn to forgive, Liz
And you can be free]]>