The Cook Awakening

Archive for the ‘Living Into Death’ Category


The Complex of Mother’s Day

May 12, 2019
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Spiritual Practice

It’s Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who celebrate! I hope you are surrounded by love and appreciation for all you have done as a mother, and/or are celebrating all your mother has done for you.

And, I want to acknowledge that Mother’s Day is not happy for everyone. Your mother may no longer be alive. You may not have a good relationship with your mother. She may even have been overtly abusive. You may be a mother, but you’re estranged from your kid(s). You may be a mother, and your child died. You may be a mother with living and loving kids, but you had one child die, perhaps as a baby, perhaps as a miscarriage or still birth, and you still grieve that loss. You may have always wanted to be a mother, and for some reason are not. You may be a mother, and for your own very good reasons, really never wanted to be. There are so many permutations of why this day might be hard. Relationships with family can be fraught.

Cherry blossoms in the full moon’s light


Any of these situations can leave us with less than joyful feelings when one of these Hallmark holidays comes around. We have these tricky minds that compare our lives to other folks lives. If you’re on social media it can be compounded, there are so many heartfelt wishes and photos of happy connected families. All the shoulds come crashing in, “I should be loved differently” or “I should feel differently” or “my mom should still be alive”, — basically, my life should be different than it is, because other people’s lives look different. At least from the outside.

The hardest part of this, really, is that the comparison actually prevents us from simply feeling what’s true. What’s true gets twisted into an even bigger, more painful story than it already is.
(more…)

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.
(more…)

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.
(more…)

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.
(more…)

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.
(more…)

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.)

FullSizeRender

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.
(more…)