Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grandmother’s Eulogy

Death is a mysterious gift.  It brings loved ones together, by separating them from the ones they love.  We’ve all been brought together today because of our love for my Grandmother, and all those whose lives she’s touched.  Her passing is a gift.  Just as her life was a gift.  No one wants to think about their own mortality, but we all know we’re not getting out of this thing alive.  A death in the family is just another wake up call, reminding us that we only have a short while on this Earth.  The amount of time we have here can never be known, and death is nature’s way of reminding us not to squander the time that we have.

My Grandmother was fortunate.  She spent 94 years here, most of which were spent in good health.  My wife and I had a daughter, Stella Grace, who was not so fortunate.  She was born on my Grandmother’s 92nd birthday, and only lived for an hour and 47 minutes.  It’s amazing how many lives were touched by our little girl, despite her short life.  One can only wonder how many lives my Grandmother touched in her 94 years.  And I can assure you that both will continue to touch lives long after they’re gone.  I know that every December 23rd our family will be celebrating the lives of two very special women.

So, if you’re sad, be sad.  But don’t forget to be grateful.  Be grateful for this gift of Life we’ve all been given.  It’s so precious.  I owe my life, at least in part, to my Grandmother.  Had it not been for the birth of my Grandmother, my Mother would not be here today.  Had it not been for my Mother, I would not be here today.  And if I were not here today, my wife would not be carrying, what promises to be the most precious child to ever walk this Earth.  Though I may be a bit biased.

Had it not been for the birth of my Grandmother’s parents, Ben and Susan Cunningham, many of you would not be here today either.  And had it not been for my Grandmother’s death, none of us would be gathered here today.  We have been presented with an opportunity to celebrate not only her Life, but Life itself.  It’s a miracle to be here at all, and death is the most powerful reminder we have of how precious Life is.

So let us rejoice in this gift of Life we’ve been given, for it truly is a miracle.  Let’s not live each day as if it’s our last.  Let’s live each day as if it’s our first.  Let life begin anew every moment of everyday, with a sense of gratitude for your mere existence.

I want you all to close your eyes for a moment.  Take a deep breath, and slowly let it out.  Now see what it feels like to be alive.  Do you feel your heart beating?  Do you feel your lungs breathing in and out?  Do you feel your arms, legs, abdomen, head, face?  What does it feel like to inhabit your body?  Now take another deep breath and smile in gratitude as you exhale.  That’s the feeling of Life that is ever present in all of us.  The secret to opening the gift of Life is simply to see what it feels like to be alive.  Feel Life as often as you can.  It’s always feeling you.

In peace,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Smile for Awhile

Did you know the muscles in the face are the strongest muscles in the entire body?  I just made that up.  But it sounds good doesn’t it?  You may not be able to pick up a heavy object with your cheeks, but you sure can pick up a heavy spirit that way (which is often times much heavier).  It’s pretty amazing really.  The muscles in your face responsible for lifting the corners of your mouth to form a smile :-) actually have a psychological affect on you and the people around you.

There is a direct correlation between our body and our minds, and it works both ways.  For example, look what happens when you think about an embarrassing event in your past, or something coming up that you are really dreading.  If you sit with that scenario in mind for a moment, then check in with your body, you will probably find tension in certain muscles.  You may have to pay close attention in order to pick up on that, but our bodies can’t tell the difference between what’s real and our thoughts about what’s real.  It’s much more noticeable when you check in with your body while watching a suspenseful movie, but I digress.

I invite you to see what it’s like to manipulate the mind-body connection going in reverse (so to speak).  Close your eyes and check in with your body.  Just notice if there is any tension anywhere, and just allow it to be there.  Tension is okay. Now, with your eyes still closed, smile gently to yourself :-) Notice your breathing as you smile. See how your body feels when you smile.  Does it feel lighter? More relaxed? Take another deep breath while you smile and just feel what it’s like to have a smile on your face. It may make you smile more when you realize you are smiling for no reason.  The sense of silliness of this exercise may feed on itself and make your smile even broader.

When ever it occurs to me, which is often times when I’m driving or feeling a bit tense, I smile to myself.  I also find it helpful to smile at the little voice in the head when I notice it going round and round like a top that won’t stop spinning.  We take our thoughts so seriously, which is the root of all tension.  As Byron Katie likes to say, “Reality is always kinder than our story about it.” For example, can you be stressed out about something without thinking about it?  Is there ever a problem before we think one into existence? Our life situation is only as serious as we think it is, and it’s always less serious than we think. The simple act of smiling takes the seriousness out of our story and replaces it with a sense of ease. 

Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book, The Power of Now, that we not take our thoughts too seriously as part of learning to disidentify with the voice in the head. When we smile at the voice in the head, we take away its power over how we feel, which leaves room for us to relax.  Relaxation makes us smile, and smiling helps us to relax.  In the words of the famous Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Say cheese :-)