January 8th – again

By Anna O’Connor Morin—

Jan 8, 2015 1:28pm

She had a bleed last night that was very scary and required surgery in the ICU room. Doc said she’s the sickest person In the hospital right now…Then had a quiet restful night just what she needs. All her vitals are good and they are pleased with the way her blood thickness is this am so they are able to add some anti coagulants to prevent clots forming. We hope and pray the day continues to be restful for her. Right ventricle will be tested again in 48 hours. Patiently- impatiently waiting. My dad is driving over and more aunties are flying/driving in. Still praying.

January 8, 2015

Susan and Glorious Sunflowers
Susan and Glorious Sunflowers

 — Jan 8, 2015 11:31am

By Kathryn Fiske

Our dear Susan is resting quietly in the ICU at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC. Yesterday she underwent open-heart surgery for Mitral Valve Repair, and although the repair went very well, she has had some complications that were entirely unexpected. The short version, without getting all medical on all of you is that her right ventricle is not working properly and the surgeons placed an assistive device in her heart until her RV can “wake up” and work smoothly with the rest of her heart. The left side of her heart is functioning well and her vital signs are good. Last night she had a bleed due to a mechanical failure of the assistive device, so it was surgically taken care of in the ICU. The rest of her night was restful and uneventful, exactly what she needs for her heart to heal. She is being kept sedated in the ICU to allow her heart to rest and recover.As time goes by, and when Susan is expecting to return home, we will be posting requests for assistance from you, her loving community. There will be a way in which you can be in service and that fulfills your path. For the moment, the “what you can do” is to be mindful and prayerful for Susan’s wellness and healing, and for the benefit of all beings.Blessings to you, and to the entire community of love and light surrounding our dear sister, Susan.

From the Past continuing forward …

compassionI wrote this poem following the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in December of 2012. Although it is very specific to that event, it can be extrapolated to apply to the difficult times that arise day to day in our own time-frame … in our own lives. I may re-work the wording to update the thoughts … or leave it as is …

Finding equilibrium : On Sandy Hook

On Sandy Hook

( written 12/16/12)

Oh, beloveds,

where is the container for my grief?

I have no beautiful earthenware jar

in which to delicately place the fragile achings of my heart.

I have no shelf at the ready for storing such tragedy.

No door to close secreting away my tears and wailings.

Oh, beloveds,

        I am left to tend these woundings with my soul’s dear care.

Peaceful equilibrium begins to wrap gentle arms around me

         Saying, “All is complete, love knows no boundaries.

        Hatred will bind you; anger will destroy your will.

        Compassion for all, not just for some, is your freedom now.”

Oh, beloveds,

        would you think me a mad-woman

        knowing my first thoughts are to love the madman,

                to feel deep compassion for the depth of his pain,

his anguish, his terror?

Who exists in the cold hell of his own creations;

Absent of love, or joy, or contentment.    

Would you think me lost in my own delusions

                Knowing my heart aches most deeply for his family

                Who will be shunned, and rejected, and accused.

                Who will be as hated as he; subjected to the trial

                        of public opinion.

There will be no respite for his beloveds.

        No loving outreach.

My grief is deep for such as this.

Oh, beloveds,

        Would you think me unkind?

Knowing I turn my heart to the children and their beloveds

                only after I have given my prayers for the madman and his family?

        The children, their families, are held in the gentle care

of a world distraught by those losses.

A loving world that holds in their hearts a sacred space for healing,

a community of souls that eases the path of transition

         from “before” to the “eternal now”. 

Oh, beloveds,

        My compassion is not “more” or “less”, only fully encompassing.

        For within the act of the madman

                Am I not torn apart to release my compassionate depth?

                Am I not drawn to love, for no reason, those I do not know?

                Am I not humbled to my knees in deep gratitude

 for the fragile gift of this one precious life I am given?     

Is this not the time, the only time I have among thousands,

to fully open my heart to the abundant All of humanity?

        I seek a quiet peace in the midst of the chaos and horror

                 by residing in the absolute emptiness of pure Love.

It is only in opening to compassion for both the madman and the children

                that I may find my own peace in living,

to not be crushed by the weight of it all.

Oh, my beloveds,

        such is the container for my grief.


Kathryn Fiske


If Not Now, When?

don't wait, do it now

To address today’s current “TOPIC OF THE DAY” on Facebook: SUPREME COURT DECISION allowing Hobby Lobby and three other plaintiffs to deny certain birth control coverage to their employees. To be clear, it is not ALL birth control that is being denied, but abortifacients and abortion related services. The “birth control pill” is not included.

I don’t agree with Hobby Lobby’s point of view, AND “they” are not the problem. Like it or not, they have the “right”, as do you and I and any other entity, to bring our grievances into the legal system. Just because the outcome doesn’t “go our way” doesn’t mean the system has failed us.

It worked exactly as WE HAVE DESIGNED IT TO BE**[see below]. It was our Supreme Court that made the decision. What we must continue to do is to express our willingness to include all beings in our sphere of acceptance, even those with whom we do not agree, and then take action to generate a different, more meaningful, and compassionate outcome. Otherwise, we are simply on the other side of the same proverbial coin. Just another voice talking into the wind.

This does not mean that we don’t express our outrage at what seems inappropriate, unjust, and inhumane. What we seek is effective communication about what is and is not working, and employ actions that might actually create an altered outcome to the benefit of all involved. Blowing off steam, using the language of hate, posting angry expletives only increases the distance within our culture. It’s an “us vs. them” mentality, and that has NEVER created lasting change that works for the good of all.

Boycotting Hobby Lobby won’t change the political leanings of the Supreme Court – and could bring undue harm to their employees. We should not choose to be part of that possible chain of events, if we are who we say we are. The women, and wives of the men, that work for Hobby Lobby have just been denied full access to health care–as will the employees of any other similarly structured corporation (I just want to note that this is NOT the fault of the ACA, aka “Obamacare”, as ALL insurance companies within the available health exchanges MUST cover birth control). Effective boycotting, truly effective boycotting, would cost the company money that could lead to a loss of jobs, denial of pay raises, and other benefits now provided to the employees. Are we willing, in our self-righteousness, to be a lynchpin for those possible ramifications? Would that be compassionate action for all concerned?

And, as important, it wouldn’t change a thing. It’s not up to Hobby Lobby to make the change, nor would it be in their interests. That lies solely within the purview of the Court, and that is where, if you really want to make a difference, you may have some power. Take action! Real action! Support causes that want to bring the decision up for appeal. It may take years to get the decision reviewed, but major decisions like this get reviewed all the time. Find the places on the Internet where this is happening, and get busy and spread the word! That is where Facebook (and other social media sites) can be a real tool for change The ruling leaves open the option for the Federal Government to pay for birth control if a woman’s health insurance will not. When that comes up for a vote, and it will, get involved. Be the change you wish to see (Gandhi). If you truly are invested in a different outcome, it will take a different course of action. Simply posting “I don’t like it” posting on Facebook is not likely to do any more than make you feel like they “did something” when actually nothing got handled. What’s your stake in this game, and what are you willing to do to make it different? Does it REALLY matter to you? Or, are you just pissed at the thought of the Court’s decision, you’ve voiced your annoyance on Facebook or Twitter, and now life goes on as usual?

Your call.

**One could argue this point in that the way the higher court is currently structured is far off center from the intentions of our Constitution’s designers. Originally the Supreme Court was to be free from political/partisan interpretations, and be a neutral “middle of the road” place where decisions were made according to the Constitution’s included clauses, amendments, and dictates. It was not intended to be “open to interpretation” by political influence. However, we are a nation of sentient human beings, and as such we are not exempt from our leanings and beliefs about how it “should be”, and the members of the Supreme Court have been selected accordingly. When someone is chosen to serve that reflects our particular political proclivities, we cheer. When s/he is from an opposing perspective, we jeer. Hence, the heavily divisive and partisan Court we now have. The question remains, “Is it working for us?”

Whole Food, Whole Body, Whole Health

I am reflecting on the article, Always Hungry? Here’s Why, posted Friday on the NYT Opinion page, by Robert Ludwig and Mark Friedman. It would be helpful to read the article to follow my post, but not absolutely necessary.
I’m glad to see this information finally finding it’s way into the broader media. Sarah, my daughter and a Naturopathic Doctor, (and her contemporaries) have been teaching this for years – in fact, it was the theory they were taught at NCNM in the last decade.

So, it AIN’T diet and exercise, folks. Not in the way we’ve BEEN TRAINED to think about it. A calorie is NOT a calorie is NOT a calorie. Please read the above article for your health’s sake … we ALL need to be aware of this. Not that all of us are overweight (but most of us are, sadly) yet it’s a good bit of information to have for a lifetime of good health.

This information puts into perspective why it’s such a “battle” to lose weight and to keep it off. It really is a question of “what we eat” as well as the calories we consume. Proof of the point: a year ago in October I went on a very specific diet to deal with IBS/Colitis (the result of an antibiotic I was given three years earlier, and never regained a normal gut flora balance). I was not thinking of losing any weight, even though I was about 40# overweight at the time. I was much more concerned with not having to live always knowing where the nearest bathroom was!
This is not a “diet” that is found in most of your conventional medical literature, nor “prescribed” by conventional practitioners. In fact, my gastroenterologist recommended exactly the opposite diet – give up all vegetables and fruits (he said to take a multivitamin) and eat nothing but refined carbohydrates and animal proteins! I actually thought he was kidding – and  said so leading to a very uncomfortable moment in his office. I took his information, went home and began my research. (Needless to say, this guy is not my doc any more.) What I found was something called the SCD – The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and its variants, The Paleo DietPrimal Diet, and others.
Among other things, it eliminates all refined carbohydrates (and in my case ALL grains of any kind), ALL sugars (except honey, which we metabolize somewhat more slowly than other forms of sugar), and a litany of other foods. It does not limit calories, since many people with long-term bowel issues have a tendency to be underweight (not my case, unfortunately). The “litany of other foods” is not relevant to this discussion, since they are specific to my personal digestive issues. It is important to note that unlike several popular diet fads, it does not eliminate all carbohydrates. We need carbs for good health. Just not in their refined forms. Pretty much anything white is out (cauliflower excepted) as is anything sold in a box, package, jar, or can! The sugars and additives are in damn nearly everything! The mantra is “Whole food, whole body, whole health.”
The good news: In addition to feeling VERY MUCH better in a very short time (two weeks, with continued improvement in the coming months and the cessation of all symptoms), over the first six months of adhering to this way of eating I lost a total of 30#. That was a completely unexpected outcome, since I hadn’t drastically cut my calorie content (just changed the source) and I did not increase my exercise routine (such as it is or isn’t). Another surprise was that I felt “better” in a multitude of other ways. I had far less inflammation in my joints (early arthritis at my 67 years young), the slight edema (swelling) in my hands and ankles at the end of the day was completely eliminated, and my mood (which I thought was pretty good) stabilized even more and I felt GREAT!
The bad news: When we went to Mexico last November, I ignored my dietary guidelines, and ate what was there, including plenty of refined carbohydrates/sugars – and Key Lime Pie, a food group in and of itself. We ate out a lot! I was “hooked” again, since sugar and refined carbohydrates have an addictive attraction (they light up the same pleasure areas of the brain as cocaine! Oreos more addictive than Cocaine and Heroine).
When we returned, I didn’t get back on my routine. Bread (whole grain, but bread, nonetheless), sugary snacks, lots of carbs. I wasn’t even eating a lot of “junk” food … but lots of the wrong stuff for me!  Of course my digestion was a mess; but the other outcome was that ALL of the weight I had lost came right back – and FAST. MUCH faster than I lost it. In less than 2 months! And the other benefits I was experiencing went down the drain as well. A bit moodier, edema, headaches, and joints that ache to beat the band! And needing to know where a bathroom was. Holy crap, Batman (literally)! Time for reform.
Why it took me until two weeks ago to return to eating the way I need to eat for my health I’m sure I don’t fully understand. It has a lot to do with the addictive quality of the refined foods. It takes a decision, a willingness to set an intention to BE HEALTHY NOW. So, I am feeling better, losing weight – already, and sleep better at night. I have evidence, from my year of good eating, to know I can create good health through good eating.
The way I eat is not “difficult” nor challenging. However, it does mean cleaning out the panty of all the junk food in your cupboards, not eating out as much, certainly not at fast food restaurants, and preparing mostly home-cooked meals. I know this is a quandary for those of you who have full time working households, or live alone where cooking meals “just isn’t very interesting”. It’s not about willpower … we know that. It’s about setting an intention of wanting to live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives, and feel good along the way. Most of our bodies will put up with the abuse we hand them for a long time, but NOT indefinitely. Ultimately things break down, joints become worn with all the extra weight we ask them to carry or the inflammation caused by triggering foods,, hearts get weak, our endocrine system becomes trashed, cancers take hold, autoimmune diseases set in.
Will some of these things happen even if we ate a “perfect” diet, walked 5 miles a day, meditated for 30 minutes every morning, and made peace with our past? Of course. We WILL age, we will die. That is a process and it is a certainty. But we have a lot of choice about what it looks like, and how we will fee. Yes, we live longer these days. The question is will we be just be OLD longer (managing our symptoms pharmaceutically but not really living in true health), or will be vibrant, happy, and have a sense of well-being on into our last days? I don’t know what my ultimate choice will be. I choose in and I choose out. It’s a bit of a roller coaster. But, for today, I am choosing in.
To you good health,

Preparing for Retreat


I’m going on a retreat soon, lead a wonderful and very animated Buddhist teacher, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel (her book is The Power of an Open Question). This is not a silent retreat (many that I attend are in full silence), and it is not residential. I will go home every evening, and return in the morning. It’s an interesting process to go in and out, in and out. And it affords the opportunity to observe how I shift in awareness throughout the process; awakening to a larger possibility of focused intention regardless of where I am.

I have read David Whyte’s poetry for many years now. His words never cease to inspire me, to encourage me dig more deeply into my soul and discover what is “real” for me as opposed to what I’ve simply “invented” about my life. This particular quote was featured in a blog I came across, and, one more time, it catches my breath and quiets the busy-ness inside. It is the perfect reflection upon which to enter retreat.

The text of his full poem, Sweet Darkness is below:

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

 — David Whyte
from The House of Belonging 
©1996 Many Rivers Press

False Cypress

I used to write poetry. Or so I thought. Mostly I wrote whatever poured out of my brain onto paper when I was miserable, distraught, depressed. I suppose you could say I wrote “blue poetry”. (I made that up, by the way.) I didn’t show it to many people. Too depressing, I said. Too brutal, I thought. Really it was just too vulnerable to share with anyone. Most of it I haven’t even reread for myself.

False Cypress
False Cypress

I would work, and work, and work a poem. Drive it into my paper, into my notebooks … and out of my head. I think it was cathartic for me. I helped me to heal. It gave me an outlet for thought-trains that otherwise scared me to death. Getting those narrow-tumble-down-wildly spiraling thoughts onto paper was a way to finally, finally stop the spiraling. To quiet my mind. And, ultimately, to embrace the moment of “what is” rather than wallowing in the many moments of “what isn’t”.

I’m not depressed anymore. Not anxious. The PTSD has quieted and no longer raises its fearsome head in the middle of my sleep with night terrors. It was a journey out of darkness. I had help. Sometimes I had no help. Wonderful help, terrible help, knock-in-the-head with a 2×4 help, gentle, caring, compassionate help. I looked everywhere for the way out; mostly hitting brick walls. Until I made a decision. To not be depressed anymore. That’s all. I’ll write about that one day.

So, what to write about? The melodrama of my life has become mostly “mellow-drama” (thanks to Ram Dass for the phrase). There is a lot of “no big deal” going on with me. I’ve “retired” (more on that, too), which is really to say I’m redefining. Redefining what’s important, what needs to be “on top” for me. It matters that how I live my life is a benefit to others in some way. It occurs to me that has always mattered for me but I don’t think I knew it viscerally the way I know it now.

So, we’ll just see. There will be reflection; presencing the moment; commentary; poetry; themed and themeless writings. Mostly I just write about what I think. After all, what else is there to do?

Oh, the title “False Cypress”? That’s the name given to a shrub that looks like a cypress but for whatever botanical reasons is NOT a cypress plant. It’s a beautiful shrub. Sometimes we give a name to something in our lives as though it were real. That gives it beauty, value, and worth. But isn’t everything actually a “false cypress”?