“To sleep: perchance to dream”…

Of course this is Shakespeare:

HAMLET:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub

Yeah, there’s the rub, that’s for sure.

I used to love to sleep. Sleep came so easily for me. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I could count backwards 5-4-3-2-1 and be asleep. Just like that, *snapping my fingers*. I could fall asleep anywhere. I took blissful, restful sleep for granted.

Back then, my dreams were mostly of my beloved dogs and cats that had crossed the Rainbow Bridge, sometimes bringing happy messages back to me. Or every so often, I’d have a prophetic dream about my son but never really a nightmare.

Last night was a big deal for me.

April 1, 2019 marks the first night I slept an entire night without waking up once in dread, in a cold sweat, without my heart beating a million beats per second ready to jump out of my chest, without the gasp of that split second between sleep/awake and remembering that my daytime reality IS the nightmare, that there really IS hell on earth, and I am living proof.

When I first woke up this morning, it took a moment for me to perceive that it wasn’t 3am, that the earliest of early morning birds had started to sing and there was a faint hint of dawn lightening the sky.

There was no swirling of dreams that made waking up a death unto itself. A shard of glass to slice at my heart and torment me, poking at me with each inhale and exhale for the rest of the day.

There was peace. OMG, so much peace.

I had to help my brain process this miracle of healing, a painfully slow process of realization that FOR THE FIRST TIME, I had slept unfettered by the bondage of painful memories that morphed into night terrors so incredibly lucid that they haunted me during the day.  Sleep was walking into a dark tunnel with not the slightest glimmer of light at the end of it. Depressing, huh?

I couldn’t endure another dream of a gigantic mottled black plague-infected rat with oozing sores climbing in my bed to curl up next to me, no more continuation of the abject panic that permeated my waking life.

No more dreams that weren’t even really dreams, simply the continuing of the day’s macabre horrors.

For more than three years, thirty-six months, 1,095 days, 26,280 hours, and 1,576,800 minutes, I couldn’t sleep, and I’d cry out to no one into the silence of the night to please wake me up from this nightmare, please take me out of my misery; only to realize that there was no respite for me.

“No sleep for you!” said the sleep Nazi (an homage to Seinfeld’s soup Nazi.)

The nightmare WAS the reality.

The dark soul of the night became the abject despair of the day.

There is the saying “follow your dreams” but if I had followed those dreams, I would have ended up in a vortex of Sartre’s No Exit. 

I was in a neverending episode of the Twilight Zone, caught in a purgatory that I could never have prepared myself to endure. Drowning.

I tried everything: meditation, EFT, mantras, deep breathing exercises to control my out of control hyperventilation /tachypnea, conscious mindfulness, and lessons in neural plascticity to nurse my wounded brain. One of the best pain relievers was and is listening to raw binaural beats with headphones. Some nights, that was the only way I could even attempt sleep.

I dreaded going to sleep, the actual sleep, and the waking up from an unhappy sleep.

The simple tortuous action of closing my eyes created a canvas where I’d be subjected to an endless loop of conversations, images, mirages spanning more than twenty years.

I wished for a lobotomy, to be in a coma, to erase all that was etched in my conscious and subconscious.

Through pain and fear and sadness, I discovered that the only cure is radical acceptance. I couldn’t run away from it. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Wherever you go, there you are.

I had to stand my ground and surrender to the pain.
To love it, honor it, respect it, and learn from it.

Now. Right now. I hear a hawk, I hear a scrub jay, I hear the angry chattering of a nesting Bell’s Vireo. Off in the distance, I hear a train. I hear an airplane. I hear a symphony of wind chimes. I see blue sky, I see lush green grass that’s been lovingly tended, I feel a gentle breeze lifting a swarm of Painted Lady butterflies from the yellow marguerite daisy bushes to settle for a moment on the Pride of Madeira. All the rain we had this season birthed an incredible floral display.

Everything around me seems to be conspiring to show me that there’s still beauty after a storm, that there’s happiness to be discovered if you look and listen.

IMG_7039Oh and I see a bunny. Always a bunny.

My heart is wounded and scarred; I’ve been through a war zone,

I had no weapons to fight the enemy that raped and pillaged my life and my innocence. And my heart.

I’m collateral damage,

I’m eternally sad.

But I’m alive, and that’s something to be grateful for.

And…for the very first time in a long time, I slept an entire night and woke up in serenity and peace.

(But that peace wouldn’t last, as I soon learned…)

 

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Best Mantra for 2019: Om So Hum

so humHappy 2019!

I’ve been meditating on a fairly regular basis for a while.

While I love the effects of silently repeating Om Mani Padme Om, the Dalai Lama’s favorite mantra, I find that So Hum or Om So Hum is the mantra that works best for me in the morning, which is my favorite time to start the day with positive intentions.

Regular meditation helps to relieve stress and improve the quality of sleep. The goal of less stress is to achieve a happier and healthier life. It’s believed that meditation improves the immune system and thereby helps in controlling blood pressure and lowering blood cholesterol.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

So Hum

I am.

(Or, I am that.)

From Sanskrit, it means identifying oneself with the universe or ultimate reality.

As we meditate on this, we come to realize that we are all one–we have all come from one Infinite Source, and a part of that infinite source is present in all of us.

We are all connected.

Powerful. Peaceful. Grateful.

OM is the sound of universe.

Chanting Om So Hum daily for ten to fifteen minutes can relax the breathing and balance our inner energy flow.

  • Close your eyes and settle in by taking a few deep, cleansing breaths. Note how you feel in your mind and body.
  • Start to repeat the mantra So Hum or Om So Hum to yourself silently, slowly synching the rhythm of your breath to the mantra.
  • As you inhale, silently repeat the word “Om“
  • As you exhale, silently repeat the words “So Hum
  • Continue breathing slowly and aligning your mantra to your breath, being careful not to rush your breath if you notice your mantra speeding up.
  • Each time you notice your mind start to wander, gently draw your attention back to your silent mantra.

This is really cool…

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see

Right this minute, there’s nothing to see here except for a fence and a pine tree.

Not a bad view as far as views go, but it’s what happened seconds BEFORE I snapped this pic that makes it memorable.

For me; sadly, not for you.

So it’s a memory stored somewhere in my hippocampus and now hold on a sec, I need to save this draft and swiftly do some research to make sure I’m right.

OK, I’m back and here’s what Google taught me…

Deep inside the medial temporal lobe is the region of the brain known as the limbic system, which includes the hippocampus, the amygdala, the cingulate gyrus, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the epithalamus, the mammillary body and other organs, many of which are of particular relevance to the processing of memory.

I’m right; memories are stored in the hippocampus.

Use your imagination because I’ll try to explain what you didn’t get to experience:

In the photo, if you pretend you can see what you can’t see, the bottom of the fence that you can only see about half of, there’s a potting table.

I was standing there planting lavender that I had propagated myself. I’ve been doing that for years with a decent amount of success, and it was time to birth another lavender baby.

I wasn’t making a lot of noise, but I wasn’t quiet, either…I was fully immersed in the whole procedure, enjoying the blueblue sky and eighty-five degree weather.

There was a cooling mug of ginger tea next to me and next to that was my phone.

I looked up as two doves flew out of that pine tree.

At almost precisely that same exact time. a HUGE redtailed hawk (who must have been stalking the doves) perched himself on the the fence.

He was LITERALLY INCHES AWAY FROM ME.

I mean, if I had longer arms, I could have reached out and touched his beautiful feathers.

REALLY REALLY.

His golden eyes looked right at me and they widened, as if he was surprised-like WTF human–but he wasn’t nearly as astonished as I was. I froze. We stayed that way, eye to eye, gazing at each other for an eternity of probably less than five seconds before he launched himself off the fence and flew away. There was no fear, simply the connection between the hawk and myself.

It was a MOMENT.

I am not at all kidding; to look into the mystical magical gaze of a hawk and see the recognition that he was trying to make sense of the encounter as much as I was–is HUGE.

Moment-ous. Important.

Regretfully, no pics to share. But I’ll never ever forget the way he looked at me. Eye to eye.

I read that November 11, 2018 is a memorable time in this Universe. If you believe in things like this, it’s SIGNIFICANT.

And I believe that my hawk experience was significant, too. And if not, it was so so beautiful and made me happy and joyful and grateful. All good stuff.

Happy Sunday, y’all!

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Gratitude + Joy

I don’t often post pictures of Angel Boy 2.0 because we are all protective of his image but every single time I look at this photo, it sets my world right again, so I thought I’d share it with my friends.

With hurricanes and floods and fires and murders and other toxic disasters that seem to engulf our consciousness lately, there’s the opposite and equally powerful tug of LOVE at our hearts and minds and souls and spirits.

He’s the reason why my sun rises every single day.

Pure in his magnificence, my heart softens and melts. And heals.

Just a boy and his Peppa the Pig plate full of a lentil burger, broccoli, hummus, and tomatoes.

Pure love. We all need a big dose it right about now.

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Meeting the Dalai Lama. Thaumaturgic.

This is going to be the first in a series of posts about my thaumaturgical, magical, and enchanting encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet. He was born July 6, 1935. The Dalai Lamas are considered the manifestations of the Bodhisattva (Buddha) of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people.

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What does thaumaturgic mean?
…Of, or relating to, the working of magic or performance of miracles.

Lastly, powerfullest of all, least recognized of all, a Noblesse of Literature; without steel on their thigh, without gold in their purse, but with the “grand thaumaturgic faculty of Thought” in their head.
–Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, a History

So yes, an otherworldly experience for sure. Because as Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

I really am NOBODY. That’s correct. But somehow, the Universe was aligned at this moment in time to bring me to the front row of a press conference with the Dalai Lama at UCSD.

Fourteen years ago, almost to the exact day, I was at Rimac Field in this same intense heat screaming myself hoarse (and annoying everyone around me #sorrynotsorry) as I watched Angel Boy 1.0 graduate with honors. I’m not sure it compares to the day he received his PhD from Yale, but at that point in time, I couldn’t have foreseen the future. Actually I DID, but more on that later.

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I heard that the Dalai Lama was planning to speak at UCSD for two consecutive days; the first public gathering was to be preceded by a press conference and on the following day, he was the commencement speaker for 2017 graduates.

After the year I had endured, one in which I was broken into a million pieces and each of those pieces exploded into a million pieces; this little princess who had her rose colored glasses cruelly ripped off her face and shattered-the shards of glass slicing and ripping apart every tendon and muscle, deeply cutting to the bones, her bones that were now stripped of all flesh– and oh especially her heart, her innocent innocent vulnerable heart…that she could have and DID muster up the wherewithal to apply for media credentials for the press conference is really nothing short of a miracle.

But she did. I did. She persevered. I persevered. She triumphed. I triumphed. She rose from the whirlpool of a sinking boat and she took one breath. And then another. And another.

Apparently, I still live an enchanted life. In spite of everything.

With nothing to lose, you lose nothing by trying. You only have everything to gain.
That’s one of my new mantras.

It’s the ultimate despair to have nothing left. TRUST ME.

Yet another story for another day.

It’s not like I felt unworthy of being in the presence of His Holiness. It was more akin to feeling that this was purely pure serendipity.

And what was my very first thought? It was of fashion, of course. What’s the appropriate fashion statement for an event of a lifetime? I chose a simple Calvin Klein slim line dress and accessorized with a triple strand of pearls. My heels were a respectable height, don’t you think?

We had to submit questions in advance with no assurance that our particular question would be chosen, but I was prepared for anything. After all, when you expect nothing, there are no expectations, right?

True to form, I was one of the first in attendance, and the first to snag the best seat in the house, in the front row, literally six feet or so from the Dalai Lama.

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The energy in the room was palpable. With about one hundred jaded journalists and photographers who’ve seen it all, there was a certain excitement and anticipation; talk of feeling a sense of positive and uplifting spirituality.

When he walked in, His Holiness didn’t immediately climb the riser to sit on the small stage. Instead he stopped to chat with and bless many of us lucky enough to sit in that first row. He said “hello” while looking directly in my eyes, took my hand, and blessed me. His hand was warm and I felt touched on a cellular level.

HE TOUCHED ME.

After Ann Curry formally introduced him (she looked GORGEOUS, by the way), His Holiness spoke for about fifteen minutes (I captured it all on my phone) about compassion and kindness and education and the state of the world, and then opened it to questions. There was a bit of confusion because he didn’t want to be read questions that were previously submitted; instead he wanted to connect to us in the present moment.

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Most people weren’t prepared for that, but I was.

He answered a couple questions about politics and a macro vision of the world (sorry, didn’t pay much attention haha) and then I raised my hand and he pointed at me. Now let me ask you guys, how would you have felt at that moment? Would you be nervous? Scared? Shy?  I felt no anxiety. I asked the question I had previously submitted. He didn’t hear me the first time and I had to repeat myself:

“If you have suffered deep personal and emotional pain, how do you turn that pain and anger into love and compassion and forgive the one who hurt you?”

For the next fifteen minutes, his eyes locked on mine as he spoke directly to me. As if we were the only ones in the room. You could hear a pin drop. There were things he said to me that were conveyed only by thought, I know, because I started tearing up, wiping away tears unashamed to be so emotional and so raw in public. Ann Curry nodded to me, as if she too understood,  and he kept talking, leaning forward to heal my pain cell by cell, deeply and lovingly.

It was the most transformative experience of my life, right up there with the births of Angel Boy 1.0 and 2.0, a moment in time that I’m still processing.

Stay tuned for Part Two and I’ll have video, too.

Namaste, y’all. And #gratitude.

(PS These are all my images, copyright Enchanted Seashells.)