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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The last several days, I've experienced a series of insights...if you will. For background, you need to know that in February 2009 I spent three days in the hospital being treated for a clot in my heart. At that time the doctor....not the most sympathetic, or empathic man, for that matter, I have ever met.... informed me and my children that I had a 50% chance of living one year.

To say that I was shocked is an understatement.

I had always enjoyed remarkably fine health, exercising daily, and generally living a highly active life. Suddenly, all of that changed.


Coming to terms with one's mortality, I can assure you, does not happen in the blink of an eye. When my daughter, a minister at Ananda Spiritual Community in California, suggested I had best take a look at my fourth chakra, the heart chakra, I knew she was absolutely correct. I honestly could not say that I held any anger or intense resentments about any thing or any one, but I promised to reflect on it further. Maybe I would become aware of something I had overlooked, someone I had unfairly judged.

For the past twenty-two months, I have lived with the awareness that death might be lurking around the very next corner, always puzzling what it all means spiritually. And yet, let me hasten to say, my heart has improved significantly. When I was in the hospital, my heart was pumping at 18% of capacity....when it hit 35% of capacity six months later, I was elated...I'd been told it would never get that good again. And just a couple months ago, I learned that my heart now pumps at 65% of capacity....which is considered very fine and quite normal, thank you!

Still, I have an obstruction in the right muscle....or sometimes they say a blockage in the heart....it can be pretty confusing. And I haven't really figured out what's going on with my heart chakra.


Recently, I found a book, Journeying East, Conversations on Aging and Dying (books.google.com/books) by Victoria Jean Dimidjian, published by Parallax Press in 2004. In it, she interviews nine spiritual leaders, mostly Zen practitioners. Rodney Smith, Seattle Insight Meditation Society, concludes his interview “On Living and Dying Without Pretension” with the following: “Thinking in terms of time, living in terms of time is the very blockage of the heart.”

And, serendipitously, it seemed, all at once my world shifted....living with the awareness of death for the past twenty-two months is my spiritual path....everything and every one shares impermanence. And, if I can live in openness, with a sense of the eternal all round, even the obstruction of my heart metaphorically, spiritually, and physically may mend itself.


  1. HI Jo! I love your realizations!! Yes, it IS your path to live with death right now because it showed up! And dare I say, you have an advantage to the rest of us who haven't yet faced death! When you are young, it is easy to forget about it and simply go on living your life, thinking it will go on indefinitely and things will always be just as they are to some degree. Even I find myself ignoring a lot of my health issues (as many people do), because they are not life-threatening (yet...), though I know if I did hit that wall it would sure shape me up quick! My partner Nim and I (you'd love Nim!) talk about this often, how much our society ignores death and devalues its elders. People are stuck working 9-5 jobs (even into their 70s nowadays) and are locked into this survival mentality and act as if they are indispensable! They act as if their work IS the be-all and end-all, that money and paying the bills is more important than their own life. All of this false reality disappears very quickly--if one is lucky--when faced with death (though some people deny it even then and take this false reality to the grave!) Death is an opportunity to see life AS IT REALLY IS! If we can all live from the place you describe in your book ("all my pain, sorrow, struggle, etc, never really existed"), I think the world would be an amazing place, free of attachment and ego-identification. We'd get out of our heads, out of our own identities and "specialness" and come into a place of oneness with nature, with life AS IT IS, happening all the time, going on with us or without us.

    I also am very moved and intrigued by the quote about thinking and living in terms of time being the very blockage of the heart. That idea could be a whole blog article in itself. I have struggled with the concept of time all my life (probably because of my impatient aries moon!). The ego is always putting false demands and timelines on life, thinking that things need to happen in accordance with its will. Instead we need to get out of the ego, out of the thinking mind, and just allow life to happen as it will.

    I would say that this time has been a true gift to you in many ways, and I look forward to hearing more of your realizations from it! I am so happy to know an elder woman who knows her true place in society! I am very grateful and honored to know you.

  2. Deanna, what a lovely comment! I simply don't know where to begin. I think, as you suggest, I will make the quote on time being a blockage of the heart as the subject of one of my next blogs.

    In the next several days, I'll also post a bit more of Knowing Woman, Nurturing the Feminine Soul, the part about the message that telegraphed across my mind after a meditation in Sri Yukteswar's samadhi mandir in Puri, India.

    It reminds me of a song we used to sing at Ananda, "No birth, no death, no caste have I....I am He, I am He, Blessed Spirit, I am He!"

    I really love your comments, thanks so much...