Life Sentence

I stood in the moonlight and the breeze brings the fragrance of citrus blossoms through my being. It is a night full of gratitude and blessings. Calm and caressing breeze moves to a new direction bringing the scent of jasmine. Fragrances move and swirl, my life is blessed.

20101223062250It brings to mind and old memory.

I was talking to someone and they said, “When you learned you are HIV positive it must have felt like a death sentence.” I remember saying and believing what I feel in the blessed moment under the stars. I took a breath and smile then and now. “Actually my HIV status was a LIFE sentence.”

When I learned I was HIV-positive, I knew it was time to enjoy the moment. Too many friends had died and it may have been considered a death sentence twenty-plus years ago.

But as a Cabot Yerxa once wrote, “When you are in the basement, the only place to go is up.”

I also realize that with time and distance from the initial moment like “HIV diagnosis”,  I can lose sight of the gift of the moment. I become caught up in the moment of should and could and might.

With the breath I can come back to now and be. Be with the gift of who is with me. With the gift of who I am and the perfection of the moment.

Perfection is always present. Every car crash is perfect. Every bee sting.

It is not the “what” is happening, but “how” we decide to deal with it. Are we going to let our choice be misery or blessings?

I choose a “life sentence.” Death will find me when it does. At the perfect time and place. For now, the citrus is blooming. The dogs are curled on the floor. Life is good.

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A Perspective on Life Balance

This month we are discussing Ho’omaka, New Beginnings; the ability to find your own perspective of balance and aloha in any situation.

An example of perspective is one of two people who see the same movie.

One person sees the movie and they see a beautiful story of two people falling in love. The story she sees is about a girl who lives in a land where she is a princess and all she wants is to have someone love her for her, not for her title. She happens to fall for a boy who is a prince but she doesn’t know it. Both characters give up their public identities and transforming in to their true self for the other. Their story ends up with the two of them together and happy with a few songs thrown in for good fun. They get married and live happily in their palace.

Her friend, who goes with her, sees the movie in another way. She sees a classic story of misogyny, where women only want a man who will take care of them. The main character has to “give up her voice”, which is the most beautiful in the land. That means she is seen and not heard. Then she gives up her “tail” and gets legs (because she has to change for men to love HER) and now she can spread them and have babies. Without her voice the “prince” can objectify and project his ideals on to her and make her “his”. All so he can marry her and have someone clean his palace.

Who has the accurate perspective? Both. The example is that they assign meaning to the story without asking the author what they meant. They are projecting their history and experience on to the actions and words of the author and characters. And so the movie shows them their truth about the world.

The challenge of life is that we do this in our daily life; projecting our truth and experience on to the world. What is your projector? Is it your heart? Or is t the stories of the past which the current world may not even know. Can we change the lens and have Ho’omaka, a new perspective?

Can you choose to see the same event and hold back judgment? When you see someone make a face or “do” something that annoys you, can you sit in compassion and observe your own reaction. Now, instead of judging, can a question begin with something like, “I wonder: what does that means for them?”

In finding the question we can learn about them, if we want. If it is someone who is passing, perhaps in traffic, then we can let them go and surrender to the next moment. And in the surrender is balance; a point of not-knowing allowing your center to be and all else to flow around.

Find your balance. Allow the flow to happen and observe. Ask questions. Surrender your past.

And in case you were wondering, the movie is “The Little Mermaid”.

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Lift Your Light

As a Kahu (Minister), I am asked to perform funeral services. I was performing a funeral service on Saturday for an amazing family. When I got home, the country was mourning a loss of a greater magnitude. The timing this week, of my work and with the events in Arizona, is very powerful for me.

This month our Ha’awina group is talking about Ho’omaka, New Beginnings. When events of great magnitude happen, it can create a shift in a new direction. We can recognize the impact when they are at a global/national level like the Twin Towers. We feel the grief. We feel confusion at the behavior. There is a sense of uncertainty.

Personal events on a daily basis can also create waves of uncertainly. A sense of imbalance from loss of a loved one, like at the funeral I officiated, or perhaps from a loss or change in finances, people leaving the place you work (by choice or lay-off), and many other shifts and changes create the waves of life.

How we manage the wave and how as individuals discover our way through uncertainty is the journey of life. Seeing the “tragedy” of life as a stopping point is one perspective. As seen through another, it is the place where something stopped, but also, where something new begins.

At the funeral I officiated, for example, we grieved the person who was gone. But we know that that is because we want to share the memories we are creating in the future with them. So we connect to this moment with the grandchildren and children and we bring the memory to life today. “If PaPa was here he would have loved this.”

In Hawaii, the energy of the person is never gone, just transitioned. You will hear people say, “My auntie dropped by last night.” By the way, she has been dead for 15 years. And believe me, Hawaiians can grieve like no bodies business. In ancient Hawaii, they used to pull out their hair and use a rock to knock out their teeth. Emotionally, that may still be kind of true today.

But we also look at their own place in the flow of life. There is a personal responsibility to take care of the kids or go to work or look for a job or just take care of them. There is recognition of the individual’s part in the flow of life.

In the peace of knowing that we continue, we make a conscious choice. We choose to continue. We gather our light and shine it in to the world. We shine the light in our work, in our home, in our community. We choose to life the light of awareness and compassion.

For the gunman, I have compassion. I can never understand the confusion and pain that could ever take you to that action. I pray for you. For the families of those he took or injured, my compassion flows to you. The anger, pain and grief is unknowable. I send my prays and love to you.

And for myself and the many others who are confused or angry by these events, I raise my light. I send light and hope that this will create a shift of calm to the political dialog. I offer light instead of fear. Light instead of anger. Light instead of confusion.

We have the choice as self-aware beings to act and be responsible for the action. I can sleep at night with choosing love.

In Hawaii, we always eat together; potlucks, “family style”. Sharing food together is part of recognizing that the earth feeds us all. “Aina” can be the land or food. We nurture each other with the food we share. We talk about the things we are experiencing and gain understanding. The daily opportunity to see the interconnectedness of life is one of the most important aspects of the culture for me.

As you look across the table, are your eyes looking with aloha (love, compassion) or anger? Try the new perspective. Look with the light in your eyes. Ho’omaka can be the fresh perspective of changing the feeling you have when you look, not just sitting at a different seat around the table.

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Hello and Joyous New Year

This time of year is that perfect time to looking back on 2010 and forward to 2011. As I look back what I celebrate are the gifts of difficulty that I met and passed through. There were financial challenges, health challenges with family and friends including a thrombosis and cancer. I have friends who lost jobs, lost family members who passed away, lost relationships with break ups and divorce. I know many people around have passed through their own challenges or are in the midst of them.

There were also the gifts of the year. There was a wedding, a hula concert, travel, new friends, re-connecting with old friends, new work, new businesses growing, ideas being created, birthdays and lots of cooking with family and friends. I heard friends say they loved being where they are. I know some found their passion. Others turned their passion up to a new level. For some of these events I was present. Others I witnessed or heard about from afar and sent my intention towards. I felt included either way.

The common gift I received was to see how powerful each person was as they faced those challenges and accepted or experienced the gifts. There was humor, strength, power, joy, tears, grief, triumph and awareness and much more through these times.

The center of it all is realizing that we acknowledged and shared the journey. The badges of our journey may be in photos. But the most important place is in the awareness of our heart. Each one of us realized that we are perfect for the things done and undone; for the success and tragedy; accident and gift. When I see people in their heart, working from love, they find the gift in the moment of living.

As we have been working in the Ha’awina class, one of the topics is working from joy in the moment. How you get there is by centering in your heart and loving yourself for all you do. Loving yourself for the cumulative self that you are who has survived every difficulty along the way. As we move through the Solstice and the shift from darkness to light begins and the New Year is at our fingertips, it is time to rejoice in the moment. To rejoice in the gift of time we each have with ourselves.

The person you spend the most time with is you. May you love every minute you spend with you. May you love yourself and be gentle when you don’t. May your love be returned and grow tenfold from your heart to those around you. That is all we have to choose. Choose to love you and life balance is yours. Start with Aloha and the joy flows in the moment and like a tide, it rises and lifts you up.

May the New Year allow each of us to embrace our whole self; every broken dream, every joyful passage, every minute with a dear departed, every hour with those who are here. May we begin first with our heart and ourselves so that as we act with ourselves, we act with others. May the atonement of the hour become the at-one-ment with ourselves in our hearts and love is where we begin.

Begin in love and love is yours. Amama ua noa. It is given it is free.

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Hope in the space in between

We each learn about finding life-balance with the tools we have. It is the allowing of an circumstance to be new and different even when it is tradition or “a part of life.” In one part of life, the illness of a parent, there can be many new parts as things unfold in different ways and as insurance/doctors/policies shape the care.

My friend, Chris, has been caretaking his father who has been in the hospital many months now since a fall. He has been sharing the experience via a website called caringbridge.com. Recently, I was truly inspired by a part of his perspective on the experience which reads like this:

“Interesting that when things hang in limbo like this, it almost makes certain things easier…prioritization, gratitude, seizing opportunity, ignoring pests, and being present.  And concepts like “hope” can take on meanings that are less about anticipation or wishfulness and more about peacefulness, fulfillment, and freedom.”  Thursday, December 16, 2010 5:48 PM, CST – Chris F

It reminded me of a story that took place in ancient Hawaii. The story is about a bet. The price of the bet was a man’s bones, which he was still using since he was alive. He was very sure he could win the bet and he had nothing else to bet so he bet his bones.

Why I think this came up for me is the idea that he was so passionate about what he was doing he bet his life. Waiting to face mortality to ask the question and find the hope to move forward may not happen until you are 50 or 60 or never.

When you find the peace of hope and the passion of the moment, your vision and connection to the future are clear. Things are prioritized and you feel your heart come alive in the things you do.

Having that one thing that you are so passionate about that you can “bet your bones” on it will also prioritize things. It will also flow in to the areas of your life where perhaps you would not bet.

In a more reality based practice, I bet my life on Pu’uwai, ancient Hawaiian wisdom of The Heart’s Path. These core wisdom and values are here for me. Most importantly, they are here when I fall down. When my life depends on it, the wisdom and practice guide me and heal me and, hopefully, those connected to me.

Pu’uwai makes my daily life balanced. I have a more full and complete life because of the tools and practices. I would say that the wisdom helps me fall down less; however, life has pot holes. What I truly appreciate is that the values and wisdom are my road side assistance when I hit a pot hole. I have all the help I need because I have practiced with them during the week or months or years between “pot holes”. Pu’uwai helps me find hope in the moment of difficulty.

In Hawaiian, the concept of hope is said in the word, mana’olanawhich might be translated in to “floating thought”. Chris used the word “limbo”. I would say it is the place in us that is calm, still and in integrity. There is no expectation or outcome attached. Imagine floating on the calm sea. Hope knows that the stormy sea of today will be the calm sea of tomorrow. The cloud will pass. There is calm in knowing that is the integrity of the moment will resolve and come in to balance.

The gift is giving ourselves the permission to be ok with “limbo”. Permission to revel and flow with the floating time. Permission to say “I don’t know why this is happening but let me be open and see where it takes me.” Perhaps then the floating hope will become the buoyant joy of the ride.

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There’s a Light in the Darkness of Everybody’s Life

“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.” Elizabeth Edwards

Just when you think life’s little waves and curves might be spinning your day a little, there is a way to see things from a new perspective.

Last week it was the “C WORD”. I think it could be spelled CNCR because it’s a freakin’ four letter word. It has impacted my life with many friends and family including my grandmother, my husband and my father-in-law.

So last week my friend and inspiration, Kara (We both love Battlestar Galactica & Glee) let me know she has received her THIRD cancer diagnosis. She began 2010 with a diagnosis of uterine cancer and ends 2010 with a melanoma last week (her first melanoma diagnosis was in 1999). It has been quite a journey for her to find out about everything from hysterectomy to egg harvesting to surrogate mother selection. f cancer

What I LOVE about her is her outlook on the experience and the choices she makes. One choice was to be in the moment. She also chooses to have a TON of humor and hope in her outlook. Another choice was to take that energy and go to www.cafepress.com to create a t-shirt about her feelings. You can get her “F*ck Cancer” t-shirt to raise money for her on-going expenses ($20,000 and rising) for treatment.

frak cncrHer “F*ck Cancer” tee inspired me to think about how I can make a difference, too. Since I see it as a four-letter word, I made “FRAK CNCR!” in honor of our shared love of BSG (Battlestar Galactica). The money it raises will go to help Kara or the charity of her choice. When I shared it with her, she replied “Ohmygosh…I am overwhelmed by your superawesomeness!”. My current idea is to have an annual “FRAK CNCR!” shirt during April, which is National Cancer Control Month. We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks to Kara for being an inspiration. And thanks to you all, whoever you are, who make a difference, all the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and siblings, sons and daughters, doctors, nurses, researchers, fundraisers and the whole group who live with or work on solving the challenge that is cancer. You all inspire me every day. Let’s live so we can kick cancer’s okole. The revolution is in progress. Let’s live with hope!

Please support us by either buying a shirt or by passing along this story to others who may wish to. Thank you and a joyous holiday season to you and yours.

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When did life balance happen?

I was asked a question, “When did you know you had balance in your life?” I replied, “Are you asking, when did I know I had the tools to find my balance?”

Lokahi (Balance in Hawaiian) is found through taking action; living your life. Like a spinning top that must spin to stay upright, or the tight rope walker who is constantly adjusting for each breeze, taking action and practice keep you in the place of centeredness.

There is a joy when you feel at ease in a situation. Living in centeredness creates joy with the uncertainty of life. Being balanced means you are living your life to the fullest; every joy and every tear. Balance, for me, is allowing every moment is temporary; the darkest dark is a cloud that will pass. The greatest joy is a gift that will fade like a flower. Either can become something that blocks me from right now and being present to what is in front of me.

When I find my balance I let the past and the future melt away. That action is to focus on my heart and my center. “Am I present to this moment?” is the question I ask myself. I could be in my head doing the laundry or making a shopping list or thinking about returning a phone call. That is all future. Write down those things so they are out of your head. Get back to now.

I could be in my head wondering about a great friend I want to call or a moment many years ago with my step-father (who has since passed away) or the person who cut me off on the road. Those are all the past. They are not here with me now, so let them go out of my mind and come back to this moment. Appreciate the past, but stay in this moment.

Hawaiians use a practice called ho’oponopono to forgive and clear the past so they could be present to this moment. It was a family and community tool to clear away any disruption to the smoothness of the community. It is also a personal practice for an individual. If I am in the critical frame of mind then I need to do a personal ho’oponopono to get back to my center and be present to all that is happening.

Right now: it is a beautiful day. Right now: I see the light filtered through the trees and feel the mild breeze. Right now: one of my dogs is asleep next to my chair. Right now: I am writing.

If it were a different situation, I still come back to this moment. For example, if right now I was getting a speeding ticket. I might say, Right now: is perfect in allowing me to slow down so that I am safe. Right now: the officer is nice and kind in the process. Right now: I have my car insurance and everything in order so that I can easily move on my journey. There is always a way.

When I am in this moment, I am in my heart. My head is out of the picture. Your heart is 60-65% neural cells. According to Heart Math Institute study, “These cells are identical to the neural cells in the brain with the same connecting links and same kinds of neurotransmitters found in the brain.” You can “think” with your heart, just like the old saying tells you.

When you think with your heart, you can back to now and allow the distractions of the mind to disappear. That is when you have balance in this moment. Life keeps you on your toes like the top, the motion is always happening, however; you know that it is from here that you begin in this moment.

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