The Cook Awakening

Archive for the ‘Living with Health Challenges’ Category

Falling Apart

May 8, 2018
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

Healing is the natural impulse of sentient beings, given proper support. When trauma surfaces, it’s because our human souls want to work it through, so that we can heal. Our egos usually have an argument with the process. That needs to be honored very gently, not overridden forcefully. As a teacher of mine says, “The ego gets carried along with love.” This way, it’s possible to actually unwind the trauma, rather than get caught in loops of re-traumatizing the nervous system or getting lost in spiritual bypass, neither of which will resolve the trauma.

As mentioned in an earlier article, our first born did not have an easy birth. He came 10 weeks early. Our wonderful, rural hippie vision of a home birth scattered in the wind of the helicopter blades when I was airlifted to UCSF at 27 weeks of pregnancy with early rupture of membranes. I managed to keep him in my womb for 3 more weeks in the hospital on strict bed rest, but at 30 weeks gestation I showed signs of infection, so labor was induced. The umbilical cord was coming out ahead of him, so I was quickly prepped for an emergency c-section, he was intubated for 24 hours, my belly was stapled closed, I was on morphine, he was placed in an incubator for 4 weeks, he couldn’t nurse, I was transferred across town from him and had to bus in to the hospital, he was poked with needles multiple times a day, I could only hold him for 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours….

Yes. That was a bad run on sentence. Our lives were a bad run on sentence for those weeks, an endless litany of fear and isolation and effort and sorrow and hyper vigilance.

Distorted full moon and street light

We all experience trauma in one form or another. It’s a part of my personal mission in life, to help people find the courage and tenderness to hold themselves in a way that supports trauma unwinding, to learn trust in the process of life living itself.

Honoring the Little Deaths

February 28, 2018
Posted in: Events, Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

We often live our lives on the surface. Until something happens, a major upheaval. And, even then we might be so caught up in handling the emergency that we don’t slow down enough to actually feel our feelings.

What lies beneath the surface?

I encourage you to engage in rituals designed to bring your internal process to the surface. That could be public ceremony such as the Nest event the Owl Salon offered last month, but it could also be something small and personal, such as creating a sacred space in your home dedicated to a particular event or process you know is percolating, or simply that you’re wondering about. A death. A relationship that went sideways. Your own “empty nest”. A career change. A diagnosis. Noticing that your body has changed with age, even if it’s only subtly. Your first (or fortieth) grey hair. This dedicated space, whether you feel comfortable calling it an altar or not, is a container for your process, a focal point.

One of the central Buddhist teachings is centered on impermanence as an inescapable truth. Everything changes. And, generally, our egos don’t relate to that well. We either want our uncomfortable states or situations to change faster than they are naturally changing, or we want to hold onto our happy states and life circumstances. There’s a counter intuitive result of that grasping — you may have heard the quote from Carl Jung “what you resist, persists.” The same is true of the other side of the coin — the lovely, easy feelings or situations we enjoy are often changed into a less pleasant version when we hold tightly. People we’re in relationship with don’t always respond well when we grasp onto them.

When the Rubber Hits the Road

September 15, 2017
Posted in: Health and Nutrition, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

Having babies in my early 40s was exciting. I had given up on the idea of having a family of my own— a committed partner, raising kids together. After years of mostly single life, interspersed with intense but short-term relationships, and long-term spiritual practice, I was honestly to the point of considering taking monastic vows. I was already basically living the life of a mendicant— cooking for and managing meditation retreats for half the year, and the other half of the year living in India, studying with spiritual teachers and burning in the transformational fires that only India knows how to create.

Aging lotus plants

I was happy. Not always in a pleasant way, but in a deeply congruent way that was the gift of that long-term spiritual practice. I knew that life was a journey, and I was less attached to goals. More presence, less future and past.

That fateful meeting with my now husband is a story in itself, and not what I want to focus on here.

Having babies in my early 40s was exciting… and exhausting. The relentless requirement to satisfy other beings’ needs (particularly the first, who was born 10 weeks prematurely), the constant daze of interrupted sleep, never having time alone, always being touched (particularly challenging for this introvert), was utterly depleting.

The Fruit of Practice

September 12, 2017
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

A powerful, ongoing process was taken to a deeper level when I went on my annual retreat last September with my teacher, Adyashanti. This has been important for my personal and professional development, which is why I haven’t been posting very often. These inner movements need to be honored.

Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, statue by Janet Lee Seaforth, photo by Michael Floyd

Spiritual practice is not always easy. There’s often a honeymoon period that you experience when you begin to truly attend to your spiritual life – whether that’s by taking on a committed meditation or prayer practice, or listening to or reading about particular teachings, drinking them in with strong intention to learn and grow.

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.

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.