“Choose Only Love”

My friend Evelyn’s journey is nearly over. She was transferred from the hospital to hospice on Friday night. And although today is only a week since I found out about her condition and three weeks and a day since we were sipping tea on my patio, it feels much longer than that.

After two days on my own, trying to put the pieces together, I finally called her sister and asked for some of the missing information. This is what I learned. A week and a day after our last afternoon together, the bone cancer reached a tipping point. Evelyn was wracked by pain, so much so that she had her brother take her to the hospital. X-rays revealed two large tumors, one on her mid-spine, the other wrapped around her pelvic girdle. The pain they induced was nauseating. Evelyn could not eat or drink, could not move, could not tolerate light or sound.

Her sister told me that Evelyn insisted that the room be darkened and that there be very little activity. She needed all her strength and focus to manage her pain. At some point, Evelyn relayed to her family that she had been given a vision and a mantra which she began to repeat nearly unceasingly, and wanted to make sure her friends could share it, too. “Choose Only Love” was what she wanted us to remember. “Choose Only Love.”

Anyone familiar with The Way of Mastery will recognize the voice of Jeshua in that mantra. I gifted her the book for her birthday in 2012. She told me that she frequently recommended it to clients, and that she had just recently finished it – again.

As Jeshua so kindly reminds us:

“When your life is given to being only the presence of Love for no other reason than that you want it to be, you will know – because you will be – the Truth that sets all things free…”

This is how my friend has lived her life, and shared her life with others. She met resistance, fear, confusion, heartbreak – all challenges – with Love. She never had to make anyone else wrong or bad or see them as anything other than what they truly are; adored children of our Loving Creator, just as we, ourselves, are.

Through her heartfelt actions, in the face of unbearable pain, I find inspiration to look at the world lovingly, in spite of, and because of, what appears to be chaos occurring on our small blue sphere of a planet.

“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” Jeshua’s words from A Course in Miracles remind us that we are so much more than what we perceive ourselves to be – connected, eternal, the distilled essence of the love that created us.

This is how I will remember Evelyn – that beacon of Love who happened to sit on my patio and sipped tea with me, shortly before she expanded into the energy of the cosmos. I will see her in the stars, and remember: “Choose Only Love.”

“Tonglen” in Practice

I learned today that one of my closest friends is in the hospital, sedated, dying from bone cancer. It’s an odd juxtaposition in my mind since she and I shared tea and cookies on my patio just two weeks ago yesterday.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly two years ago, and underwent surgery, but declined any other treatments. The surgery and recovery were pretty tough. Recovery was complicated by an infection, and took much longer than anticipated.

But I felt her triumph. She continued to lead her friends and clients into the Light. When we talked two weeks ago, she shared with me that, if indeed her back and hip pain were cancer re-surfacing, that part of her was very excited to see what was beyond this world.

She has been a light in my life for nearly twenty years. We were roommates on our trip to Peru to study with the shaman. She gently steered me toward more self-discovery and acceptance in our everyday conversations. She facilitated the Mindful Self-Compassion classes that I took at the beginning of this year. I know in my heart that she is ready to see what’s next.

But, already I feel the loss of her company, her wisdom, her encouragement, her humor. She will stay sedated until the end, because bone cancer is one hell of a painful experience. And yet it is the perfect vehicle for her departure. She was sitting in the sun with me just two weeks ago, and now she will be unaware of the events leading to her death. It will be swift, but thankfully, due to modern medicine, not as painful as it could be.

Although I hope that I get to spend even a little time with her before she transitions, I know in my heart that, eventually, she will be just a little removed from me. I don’t think she’ll check in a la “Billy Fingers” but I do hold out hope that I will recognize her spirit when it lingers with me, wherever I am.

I wrote earlier today about the Buddhist meditation of “tonglen,” which is a practice that takes someone else’s pain away when you inhale and sends peace, ease, love, anything of relief when you exhale. It is a very powerful visualization. I ask that, if you can, please breathe an easing breath for my remarkable friend, Evelyn, and help her with her passing. Thank you.

Breathing Compassion

I ran into a great article yesterday in The Sun magazine. It was a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the summer 2010 issue of Buddhadharma, written by well-known Buddhist monk, Pema Chödrön. The title is “Transforming The Heart Of Suffering” and she writes that “In order to have compassion for others, we must have compassion for ourselves.” She goes on to describe the Buddhist meditation practice called “tonglen.”

I first heard about this practice when I read the book by Ken and Treya Killam Wilber entitled Grace and Grit, which followed these two from their engagement through their wedding and Treya’s ultimate surrender to cancer five years later. Both were practicing Buddhists, and tonglen was a favorite meditation of Treya’s.

As Chödrön describes, “We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and whom we wish to help.” The core of the practice is: “breathing in others’ pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness.”

What often happens, however, is that we come face to face with our own fear, resistance, anger – whatever our personal “stuckness” is at that moment. She says that you can change the focus at this point, so that you may focus on your own pain, and the fact that you share that with millions of other people. Inhale your own pain, exhale relief in whatever form you can imagine it.

The final paragraph gives me hope. She says, “Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a steppingstone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us, and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.” For me, that translates to this: Inhale the woes of the world; exhale peace, serenity, love.

As Jeshua reminds us, true understanding begins with the Love of Self, that piece of the Creator that resides in me. I like the tonglen exercise because it reminds me that I am truly connected to everything, and that by simply breathing I can help bring more compassion to this world.

Birthing the Christ Mind

Our Way of Mastery study group met recently to continue our exploration of Lesson 7, “Birthing the Mind of Christ.” We picked up our discussion on page 89, in the fourth paragraph under the heading “Birthing the Christ Mind.”

One participant, a school teacher, commented on the last sentence in the fourth paragraph where Jeshua says, “And for God’s sake, please refrain from all attempts to get anyone to believe that you love them!” She shared that she is always telling her first-graders how much she loves them, but also noted how exhausted she feels at the end of each day. She wondered if the lesson was telling her to stop “loving” the children.

I am generally in awe of the density and depth of this material. Initially, I think we all agreed that what she was doing was a good thing for the kids. But as we read further, it was clear what Jeshua’s message was. We don’t need to say that we love something all the time. We simply need to be that love. As he says:

“Put the whole of your attention on giving up the patterns of belief from which you have attempted to crucify the Self that God made and placed within you as your very awareness of your existence. Learn to love that Self beyond all created things. Learn to nurture that Self. Learn to cultivate within that Self only that which speaks of joy and truth. So that your words and your actions and your very presence always uplift another. So that when another walks into the room in which you are sitting or standing or moving, they feel like a breath of fresh air just hit them, even if you have not lifted a finger.

As long as there is a trace of energy within you in which you are striving to get from any perceived thing or object around you what you are sure you lack inside yourself, you cannot know the love of Self. And you cannot experience freedom. Happiness is an inside job.”

What struck me when I completed reading those two paragraphs was that “All is perfect – AS IT IS.” It was a very “here and now” moment for me. All internal strife evaporated for an instant. All was serene. All was peaceful. And although it was short-lived, it was true. And so I find myself coming back to those two paragraphs nearly daily to find that relief, that inner harmony that is so clear when Jeshua describes it.

He lovingly offers to show me the way “home.” “I know the way home because I have completed the journey, and I will show you the way. With every word that I utter, my one intent is to reveal to you the place within you that is the presence of Love that you seek.”

How could I resist that offer? I can’t. And that’s why I am gratefully swimming through this material, diving deep and coming up for air, soothed, comforted, swaddled in the Love he so generously offers.

Thank you, Jeshua, my brother and my friend, for walking this path with me, pointing out the beauties, the truths, the path to Peace. I am humbled and uplifted by the great Love you have for us all.