Monthly Archives: January 2015

Blue butterflies and synchronicity

blue butterfly

 

This moment will never come again.

Thomas Merton

 

The following summer after my dad had died, my husband, sister and I rented a cottage on the beautiful Lake Huron. We had rented this cottage in the past and it always felt like returning home. Have you noticed how often that happens in life – you walk into a room or a space and it just feels like home. For me, if there is water close by or if I can hear birds chirping, I know that I am home.

Our morning routine is as follows: Rise early before the sun does, open all the windows, put the coffee on, set up the chairs on the front verandah – and wait…for the sun to rise and for the little community to awaken.  It’s magical.

After coffee and our green smoothies, my sister and I take a long walk. One sunny morning as we walked, we both spied a blue Monarch butterfly, or at least we thought it was a Monarch. We were thrilled, but puzzled. Aren’t Monarchs orange and black? This one was blue and black.

Later my husband joked that the fact that we even noticed the butterfly was the true miracle, since we tend to talk as we walk. And talk. And talk.

The butterfly, an iridescent blue, glimmered in the sunlight and it stopped us in our tracks. When we stopped, so did the butterfly.

So, we began to walk, and the butterfly moved also. In fact, strangely, the butterfly followed our movements. When we sat on the gravel road, the butterfly landed and became still.

We played this game for about twenty minutes…and all the while when we moved, our butterfly moved; when we became still, our butterfly became still.

Eventually, we returned to the cottage. (The butterfly did not.)

Later we researched our butterfly and although I would like to tell you that it was the Blue Morpho from the rain forests of South America, alas! – it was not.  But it was not listed in  the book of butterflies in the cottage, and so we can only surmise that it might have been a Limenitis Arthemis Astyanax. But, I’m guessing.

As you can imagine, the blue butterfly has become a special sign for my sister and I – one that we cherish to this day. We honestly feel that it was my father’s spirit following us that hot August day.  (And later I learned that blue butterflies symbolize change and joy. And didn’t I write in my last blog that my word for that year was change!)

The story doesn’t end there, though. Since then I have witnessed many strange encounters with my blue butterfly and often out of the blue I will sight one. The very day that we returned home from the cottage, we stopped at our local tourism office to pick up maps. As I entered the lobby of the office, there were display cases and I went over to view them. Lo, and behold, inside the display case were blue butterfly specimens from all over the world, and my butterfly was one of them!  Iridescent blue, edged in black!

Since that butterfly sighting, I have experienced synchronicity many times: One day I went shopping for a journal (a gift for my sister) and I was rooting through a pile of books on a table when suddenly one dropped to the floor and landed at my feet – a book with a blue butterfly on the cover. (Yes, I bought it!)

Another time I was browsing for a library book and a book (literally) fell off the shelf in front of me. I picked it up to replace it and yes!…it was a book about the Blue Morpho (blue butterflies in South America).

On another occasion we were at the hospital in a room during an assessment on my mother’s state of mind, when I looked up and could see a bulletin board at the far side of the room and at closer scrutiny, I recognized that blue fabric butterflies were stapled to the bulletin board. I knew immediately that the assessment would go well.

I believe in synchronicity:  when it seems that the Universe is trying to tell me something, and so events begin to happen, over and over.

Do I know what that means? Not really. But I have enough trust in the Universe to assume that it means something; that it matters.

And it gives me joy. And that is enough.

 

 

 

Intentions, not resolutions

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions and haven’t been for many years, but I have adapted a way of making changes in my life, without labelling them resolutions.

Instead, I just choose one word (or two or three) and incorporate that one word into my everyday living. In the last few years I have found that my choice of words have profoundly influenced my every thought and deed.

Some would call these words, intentions, and I actually don’t choose the words; instead, they choose me.

After my father (who had Alzheimer’s) died and my sister and I realized that my mother was exhibiting signs of dementia also, we both decided that we would do it better. Our journey of caregiving up to that point was a fraught one and we did not have the will or spirit to do it again. So we embraced the intention: change.

That intention transformed our lives from one of fatigue, anxiousness, stress and sadness to one of love, compassion, kindness and acceptance. Change doesn’t happen just because one announces it – it happens from the awareness of it. We changed our energy for one thing…which led to awareness of other people’s energy…which led to awareness of the management of the behaviours of people who have Alzheimer’s (their energy)…which led to compassion…which led to love and acceptance. Whew! It sounds like a long year – it was. But it was a year of loving our mother, enjoying the moments that we shared with her, and influencing other people’s energy when they were with us. And it all began with one word: change.

Last year my words or intentions were: pay attention; savour; and trust.

Once again, I am happy to write that those intentions opened my eyes to new insights, creativity, new ideas, finding beauty (in everything!), joy, and self-care. I am happy to report that once we begin to pay attention, our creativity explodes…I had no idea that my daily observation of birds would open me to drawing birds. I am not an artist. Who knew? But what joy to realize that I had a penchant for drawing birds. Am I talented? In complete honesty, the answer is no. But since I am enjoying those moments of solitude in nature, and exploring my inner artist, I do not care about my talent or lack, thereof.

Because I trust. Yes, trust that I am growing. I am open. I am content.

Three small words – nothing extraordinary. Simple, but oh, so full of potential.

Try it. Choose a word. Contemplate or meditate on the word. Better yet, allow your inner self to choose what the word might be because you already know what you need to know. That word or intention will reflect what you need. Trust that you know what you need.  In my opinion, the mind chooses resolutions and hence, they fail. Words/intentions succeed because our heart chooses them.

This year I sat in early January and thought about choosing a new word for the year and I felt nothing – Nada. So, I thought about how much my intentions of the previous year (pay attention, savour, trust) had transformed me – how meditation and mindfulness (in paying attention to the moment) had de-stressed my body and mind; how savour had opened me to joy and delight; and how trust reminded me every day that I was okay just as I am. I decided to let go and just trust that the Universe would tell me what I needed for the upcoming year. A few days flew by and still nothing.

And yesterday it happened. Someone on a television show just turned to another actor and said, “Let’s explore.” And I instantly recognized my word for 2015: explore. And as quickly as that word popped into my consciousness, so did creativity and expansiveness. I wasn’t looking for another three intentions again; I was quite happy with the one word explore. But trust me…that’s how this process works.

Synchronicity is a constant in our lives, but we have to be open and recognize it. I am…because a few years ago, synchronicity popped into my head and was my intention in 2010.

So, forget about resolving to be thinner, richer, or wiser. Instead, why not intend “honour (my health),” or “abundance,” or “acceptance”? Those simple intentions will lead you to wiser decisions about fitness, nutrition, spirit, self-care, family, work, love, non-judgment…and so on, and so on. Trust me on this. In fact, in a short time, you will begin to trust yourself on this.

I haven’t got a clue why this works. Is it similar to when we buy a red car, suddenly we notice all the red cars on the road? Is it all about focus or awareness? I can only assume that the scientist would inform us that the word has been imprinted on our subconsciousness and so it’s working…behind the scenes.  I don’t know. And I don’t care.

I know it works.

And, isn’t that what we all want…to fully recognize that we are okay just as we are; that we can fully trust in the Universe; that we can fully trust in ourselves. And that when we need a little self-improvement, we will intuitively know what we need.

So I suggest that you allow your inner, knowing self to choose a word or two for you: play, joy, travel, colours, trees, relax, simplify…or open a dictionary and just point to a word.

It doesn’t really matter the choice of your words/intentions  because for some strange reason, all the words are interconnected anyways. Since I have been practising this for the last few years, every day I discover that when I pay attention or trust, that creativity bubbles up or that I feel that I have changed or grown or expanded my mind or spirit – interconnections. So I have no doubt that in exploring, my creativity will expand and so on and so on.

All gifts.

In mindfulness, we practise great love

snowdrops always return in the early days of spring

snowdrops always return in the early days of spring

 

Mother Theresa once said,

God does not command that we do great things. Only little things with great love.

It has been just over a month since my mother died and I am still processing it. Many friends and acquaintances have asked about my feelings: “How are you?” or “I can’t imagine how Christmas was?” Most times I felt their love and concern and responded accordingly, “I am well, thanks. I had a lovely Christmas.”

It’s the second sentence that usually stops them in their tracks, or at least raises an eyebrow. As a society we make a lot of presumptions about death and dying – we judge and scrutinize how others act and react to circumstances and events. But especially about death.

We presume that people will grieve through the holidays after a death in the family and that the family celebrations will be subdued and low-keyed.

I have learned from caring for both parents who had Alzheimer’s disease that grief comes in many forms and stages, and I have written about it in previous blogs and in my free ebook The Gifts That We Share – Caring For My Parents With Alzheimer’s, and one thing that I do know is that when we care for someone who has Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease  grief accompanies us from the day of the diagnosis to the end of that person’s life. The experts call it anticipatory grief. 

I have grieved for many years on the loss of my mother as I knew her (and for my father as I knew him when he began to exhibit signs of dementia so many years ago) long before the day that she died in our arms.

So when I shed tears today my tears are for my loss, not hers.  It was her time to leave and I know this because of one true and real thing – she died. It was her time because it was the time.

For some time now I have learned that impermanence is the only constant in life…there is nothing of permanence in life, except for Universal Love. Everything, and I mean things, people, our surroundings, nature, and the moments…the days that we enjoy…everything, every little thing is impermanent.

When we acknowledge this, we begin to really live…to live in joy and gratitude for what we do have – at this very moment.

So I did enjoy Christmas. My family gathered in our home and we played our usual secret Santa gift exchange (we have not exchanged gifts for three or four years now; instead we each give to a charity of our own choice); we enjoyed the traditional turkey dinner with vegetable lasagna and lots of roasted vegetables (my daughter-in-law is a vegetarian); and we had lots of twinkle lights and red berry garlands strung throughout the dining room so that the room glowed. After dinner we all played games, games that we have played since my parents introduced them to us when we were children – Charades and Horse Races, just to name two.  (Don’t ask.) Simple, yes! Subdued, no!

Mostly we were mindful of the moments gathered together as family. We were grateful for the wonderful times that we were blessed to experience in the past, but we were aware of the future, also. My son and his wife moved into their first new home the week after my mother died and my husband and I spent days helping them transition into their new home. As parents, we basked in their joy and excitement of the new house – and we were so grateful for that.

So when I am asked how am I doing, I answer with gratitude: “I am well.”

Mindfulness leads to gratitude. We cannot practise being in the Now without it leading us to peace, contentment, acceptance…and gratitude.

Mother Theresa once said,

God does not ask that we do great things. Only that we do all things with great love.

When we practise mindfulness, we practise great love. The daily practice leads to acceptance of the moment that we are in. There is no place for competition in the moment. The moment is just as it unfolds; there is no better moment or my moment is better than your moment. Mindfulness unites us; it does not separate us.

In mindfulness, we learn to slow down, be still and pay attention. Once we begin to pay attention, we begin to savour the moment. Everything around us becomes extraordinary when we give it awareness or attention. The ordinary bare tree branch becomes a work of art once we recognize the icy crystals that have formed on a wintry day; the ordinary house sparrow becomes amusing when we observe closely its twitches and herky-jerk movements. We notice that the humble bird is never still.

It is mindfulness that teaches the artist how to see and take the mundane to beauty.

Walt Whitman said that “to me, every cubic inch of space is a miracle” and I ditto that, Mr. Whitman!

When we appreciate and see the miracles that surround us, we begin to see that our lives are full of things, people, nature, and moments that are...gifts.

So, although I am still processing in my head (and in my writing…that’s how I process stuff) the fact that my mother is no longer here on Earth (to support me, inspire me, and to love me) I am still aware of all of the gifts that I shared with her and with the gifts that surround me. It is in those gifts that I find her.

I’m still open; I’m still curious. I will settle into my new normal and I wait to see what that will ensue. How will my life unfold, after Gwen (mom)? I have faith that I am safe (for that alone, I am grateful) and that as Louise Hay often writes, “I am well.”

What is the intent of my blog now that my mother is gone? My intent is the same as it was when I began this journey of blogging on Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia-related diseases, and caring for parents with Alzheimer’s. My intent was, and will continue to be, to help those who are struggling with the challenges of care giving or Alzheimer’s and support them on their journey – to support them in their acceptance of the disease and encourage them to honour their own bodies, minds, and spirits. And to remind them to just love.

As I volunteer in the long-term care facility where my mother resided and I interact with those who reside there, I hope to blog on my thoughts and reflections of life in their world – one not so different from our world on the outside. Because this I have learned – we are all the same. We all want meaning in our lives, and we want to know that we matter.

I am also hoping to blog on a new project that I want to initiate in the long-term care facility – one that is close to my heart: a writing project that involves recording the stories of the residents (with some help from their families). Once the stories are recorded, I hope to write them down because I believe that these stories of their lives will inspire all of us.

Because just as ordinary moments become extraordinary when we pay attention, so too, ordinary people with ordinary stories become extraordinary when we pay attention to them. Under a spotlight, I think we will see them shine!

Our awareness transforms every little thing – including people’s energy. This awareness is how we do all things with great love.

Great love…another gift that we share.