The Cook Awakening

A Rapidly Changing World

February 1, 2017
Posted in: Events, Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation

It can feel challenging to know what to do these days. Where should I put my attention? What causes should I give my energy to?

Cold comfort for St Francis

I have read some great advice that I will share briefly – choose a couple of causes to give the majority of your time and money to, and trust that the other very important causes will have their champions. It’s the collective that moves change forward – no individual can be active on all fronts. And, make your phone calls about as many issues as you are able.

Continue to do your personal work. The more you understand about how your psyche works, the more you learn to sit with and manage your grief, the deeper your spiritual understanding is – the more resourced you will be to respond to the world in a grounded and effective way.
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Dying to Live

December 20, 2016
Posted in: Events, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Meditation

With all the urgency and polarized emotions in the world now, how can we contemplate doing “personal work”? Isn’t spending time coming to terms with our eventual death some kind of navel gazing? Wouldn’t that be a distraction from what’s really important right now? We have to DO something!

I’ll be honest, after the election I just couldn’t think much about my business, about getting the word out about the Your Year to Live group starting in January, and my counseling practice. It somehow felt trivial compared to the needs of the larger world. I felt paralyzed.

There is beauty in the obstacles

There is beauty in the obstacles

As I wrestled with a mounting anxiety in my body, I turned more and more to the spiritual practices that have been core to my life for 25 years. The practices I teach in Your Year to Live. Meditation. Radical honesty. Saying YES to whatever is, even when it feels intolerable.

I realized that finding the courage to contemplate death is actually vital in these times. Not because I think the changing state of the world is going to hasten death (although it may for some, let’s be honest), but because the fear of death can grip us, subtly or obviously, and prevent us from acting with integrity. And, because not knowing how to work with fear and anger skillfully can lead to action in the world that may not get the results you are hoping for.
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Your Year to Live Again!

December 12, 2016
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Meditation, Seasonal Change

For the last 10 months I’ve been leading and participating in a group called Your Year to Live. We’re walking through a year together as though it is our last.

I’m starting a new cycle this January, 2017. I do hope you will join us.

Ice Storm

Ice Storm

Stephen Levine wrote the book A Year to Live nearly 20 years ago. I remember hearing about it, and wondering… why would anyone want to do that?

I wasn’t ready.

As many of you know, I midwifed my mother’s death 4 years ago. I’m grateful that she trusted me to do that. It was a painful, profound, rich experience. And, it brought me into a willingness to contemplate my own, inevitable death.
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Coming Home

April 6, 2016
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Meditation

Today is my mother’s birthday. 4 years ago today, minus one day, she stepped off the plane in Portland with her faithful cat Izzy, and began her last months in a strange city and state.

I’m convinced the main draw for her moving here was the fact that Oregon has a right to die law in place. She did not want to live a long life. Her poor pride was decimated. She never meant to be so dependent, broke, sick, fat, and basically alone. (Please, don’t judge my use of these words. I am voicing what I’m sure was her inner critic’s attitude.)


Backyard nettles

In choosing to treat this year as my last to live (I’m facilitating a group based loosely on Stephen Levine’s book A Year to Live), I am encouraging myself to look at the lessons of those who have gone before me in death. I am examining my judgments. I have many. I would dearly love to lay those judgments down, to allow them to compost the way my body will, one day. The way all the ideas anyone who has died before me might have had about what SHOULD have happened. Who they SHOULD have been before death caught up with them. What they SHOULD have accomplished in their lives.
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Love and Gratitude

January 18, 2016
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges

It’s taken me forever to start this letter. 40 years since we first met, since you wound yourself around this heart and showed me what freedom could look like – one hundred at least of its many faces. 40 years since I followed the sultry vocal strains and outlandish images into a world of infinite possibility, the wry self-referencing smile and shockingly beautiful direct gaze stealing away my breath into a welcome delirium. Pot, cocaine, sex, endless nights of talking and dancing and mornings of shaking the neighborhood – your voice shrieking while I readied myself to float through a day of high school, wishing my life looked more like some image that would make you nod, grin, give your acerbic stamp of approval.

I had to walk over roads of self-concern to get anywhere near that. But in hidden places, away from prying parental eyes, I knew I was free. I dressed it up pretty and acceptable while they controlled the four squares and a roof, and I flew high high high under the radar, the wild life of a teenage girl in the 70s, after free birth control and before AIDS. Marin County was a party time petri dish, yes, there really was too much money and just enough drugs and hot tubs.
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I Have a Dream

December 9, 2015
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Seasonal Change

A dream that everyone has the ability to experience freedom. Right now, whatever your circumstances. It’s your birthright.

We think certain conditions have to be present to experience freedom. We have to be healthy, we have to have a good job, be free of debt. We certainly aren’t free if we’re in the grip of illness and pain, if we have a serious diagnosis. We aren’t free if we have to change our lifestyle or else stay sick. We aren’t free if someone we love is ill. We can’t be free if we grew up in difficulty, if our family of origin life was less than ideal, or outright abusive in some way.

How can we be free and happy even in the midst of physical and/or emotional pain?

With this second light of Advent we give thanks for the plants...

With this second light of Advent we give thanks for the plants…

These are dark times. Anyone reading the news can see it in the world at large. As I’ve written about before, it’s also a dark time of year, these weeks leading up to Winter Solstice. We’re waiting for the light to return. It can feel like a loooong wait.

Happiness is a practice. It takes intention. You need a true and deep desire to be free and whole. It takes a commitment to showing up for your life, and a willingness to take a radical stand for YOURSELF and your happiness.

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