Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Going 'round and 'round in circles

Today I walked my first labyrinth. I wasn't sure what - if anything - to expect from the experience. I'd read of people claiming transcendent, even out-of-body experiences while walking labyrinths. (I had no such exalted expectations!)

Labyrinths date back thousands of years and can be found in cultures around the world. They are tied to Pagan, Christian and other faiths and are often used for meditation or prayer. To help dispel some ongoing confusion, a labyrinth is not a maze - although the two do share some characteristics and historical significance. In some ways they serve opposite purposes - a labyrinth helps you to find your way, a maze is a place to lose yourself.

The labyrinth I walked is outdoors, located in a hilltop clearing surrounded by trees. I wasn't sure if I might be caught in rain because the sky was quite grey and there was a cool gusty breeze blowing. In the end, I decided I didn't really care if I got rained on - maybe it would even add to the experience!

As I began to walk the path, my mind was busy - fluttering about, consciously thinking about what I was doing. But as I continued to trace the path in and out of the labyrinth's circular shape, slowly getting closer and closer to its centre I found my thoughts becoming less cluttered. I listened to the birds in nearby trees. I looked at the tiny meadow flowers and clover below my feet.

With each circuit, I realized I was walking more and more slowly, simply enjoying the quiet solitude of the place and the process. It was somewhat akin to watching flames dance in a bonfire or listening to waves wash up on a beach - quite mesmerizing and calming. The circular path forces you to slow down your mental process, to filter out the 'noise' of daily life, to take a brief moment to simply walk and breathe and feel... perchance to dream. The point is to enjoy the journey, not simply get to the destination as quickly as possible.

If you're interested in seeing/walking a labyrinth near you, check out The International Labyrinth Society's labyrinth locator or the Ontario Labyrinth Directory.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Young in the head

If you're feeling older than your years (or maybe just a year older like I am this week); if you're complaining about your aches and pains and how tired you are; if you think you're too old to [insert here whatever it is you're feeling too old to do]; then get off yer sorry arse and go see a movie called Young@Heart. Trust me, you'll enjoy yourself.

It's funny as hell - I'll warn you, there are also moments that are sad as hell too - but what you'll really remember is how full of life this bunch of 'old fogies' are. This is way more than an "aww shucks feel-good story". I dare you not to have fun watching this film - you will not be able to sit still!

The Young at Heart Chorus is composed of a group of seniors (average age 81) whose performances include an eclectic assortment of toe-tappin' tunes ranging from Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth to Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees. Check out this brilliantly tongue-in- cheek rendition of The Ramones' punk classic I Want to be Sedated:

Growing old is all in your head (and maybe your hip and your back and your hearing) - make the best of it and go enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm grieving as fast as I can

I have been through the wringer this past week or so, mentally speaking that is.

I’ve been out with friends, laughing and enjoying life in all its wonderful weirdness. I’ve lain despondent on the sofa staring at the ceiling feeling very sad and lonely. I’ve been boiling furious – screaming in anguish to peel the paint off the walls one night at about 3am (leaving me worried when no one did call the cops!). I’ve been excited about new ventures and adventures to come. I’ve been sharply disappointed at judgments made in my absence.

Maybe it’s just the heat and humidity…

Grief is a lonely journey – whether we travel with family and friends or not. Everyone who lives through the death of a significant person in their lives goes through a different experience. The variables are truly endless and can differ wildly even within one family or close knit group.

Each person’s relationship with the one who has died will colour the way they experience that loss as well as how they work through their grief. Their own life histories and personalities and beliefs will equally affect that experience. One person will experience each death that occurs during their lifetime in a different way as the layers of their life deepen and intertwine. Their past and their memories will become part of their future and their dreams.

Grief doesn’t come with a standard manual or a recipe. Grief has no universal timeline or predetermined expiration date. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint or DNA.

Some days it's enough to get out of bed and eat breakfast, other days are for taking on the world. Only I can decide which is which and when is enough.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How to live forever

Last night I was going through some papers and found a faded newspaper clipping that I had squirreled away many years ago. It's a poem that spoke to me about the greater meaning of life at a time when I had yet to experience the pain of losses that were to come.

It rings even more true now...


To Remember Me
By Robert Noel Test (1926-1994)

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying.

At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my deathbed. Let it be called the Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has pain.

Give my blood to the teen-ager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain.

Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday, a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.

If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.