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January Newsletter: "Cradle to the Grave"

"May you have the passion to heal what has hurt you,
And allow it to come closer and become one with you."
- John O'Donohue

When I last wrote, autumn was showing us her frilly undergarments and winter was still a holiday away. Now the champagne bottles have been recycled, the holiday decorations have been packed in boxes and our faces turn to the future to breathe in deeply the air of possibility. What will this new year bring? We all wonder.

I have recently come back from spending Christmas and New Year in Australia with my family. The last time I spent the holidays with my family was in 2000. The last time I was back in Australia was in 2004 for my older brother's wedding. Since then, a lot has happened: He and his lovely wife have become parents. Twice. My little brother lost his job and got a new one. My other (step) brother separated from his wife. My father was in and out of hospital (he's ok), and most recently my grandmother, now well into her eighties, was put into a home for the elderly.

Andrea celebrating Xmas
celebrating Christmas

It is weird when every time you see family and friends years have passed. Change is dramatic and it hits you as soon as you set eyes on them. Your brain quickly tries to consolidate how you left them with who they've become. And some of them, in all their loveliness, have managed to remain remarkably unchanged.

To say that meeting Alice, my niece, for the first time was a bit of a highlight would be an understatement. From the first moment I saw her (in photos), I was madly in love. Now, already three, seeing her for the first time in person, it was all I could do to act normally. I wanted to simultaneously watch her from a distance and at the same time hold her close and never let her go.

My first glimpse of her was not pretty. She was bawling in her room, face planted into her bed which was mostly taken up with a stuffed horse bigger than she was, with her butt perched high in air.
I watched her wail for a bit and then said quietly, "Wow! I like your horse." She immediately stopped crying, unplanted her face from the sheets and rotated her face to look at me through her hair. In a surprisingly clear little voice with not a hint of a tear, she asked, "Are you Andrea?" "Webcam Andrea?"
"I am." I said. "I like your horse." I repeated.
"That's Ariel." She said sitting up and wiping her hair from her wet face and pointing at the horse.
Going over to the bed, I asked her, "Are you ok?"
"My poo hurts." She told me matter-of-factly.

Outside, when the tears were well and truly dry, and the poo, I assume, less painful, Alice climbed to the top of the play gym. Face to face, standing close, she cupped her little hands around my face and studied me. She then took her hand away to stroke my hair. "I like your hair," She tells me, "It's pretty."
"Your hair is pretty too." I say my heart turning to liquid in my chest.

Andrea with Alice Rose (3)
with Alice

My grandmother was another person I was eager to see. As time makes all the difference when you are small, so too when you are old. The last time I had seen my grandmother was at my brother’s wedding where she was admittedly frailer and slower than when I saw her in 2000 but all her mental faculties had been intact. Since then, over the past few years, my grandma has suffered from memory loss, hallucinations, and disorientation. She had been placed into a permanent home only the week before. My mum prepared me for the visit by telling me that grandma might not know who I am. I sent her Reiki, and hoped that on the day she would know me.

My mother walked into the room first. I trailed behind suddenly feeling like I was 10. As a child, my grandmother had been nice but not kind, friendly but not loving. Sometimes when I visited, she would give me her costume jewellery to play with but she never played with me herself. But she was all I knew and I loved her. The room was quite large with only a small table, a narrow bed typical of nursing homes, a bedside table, a cheap armoir that was empty except for the tv and little china Pekingese that looked weirdly familiar, and the chair in which my grandmother sat.
Grandma greeted me by asking my mother, "Who is this young lady?"
My heart jumped into my throat.
"She's very tall, isn't she?" She continued as if I wasn't in the room.
"This is Andrea, mum." My mum gently nudged.
I smiled which I hoped would coax her mind into remembering me.
It seemed to.
"Oh of course it is!" She seemed embarrassed that she had forgotten, and leaning forward in her chair clasping the book she'd been reading, “It’s just been a long time, hasn’t it?”
"It has..." I offered. "Almost four years...a long time."
"She is tall isn't she?"

The rest of the visit went on in a Looking Glass kind of way. We'd finish one topic only to find grandma returning to it with great enthusiasm moments later as if it was a brand new surprising thing -the morning yoga class and the sassy men who called out to her across the courtyard seemed to be the most fun stories to tell because we heard them no less than three times a piece.

"Well, that went pretty well." I remarked to my mother as we walked to the car referring to the fact she didn't forget who I was the whole time.
"Yes, she was much better than I expected."
Thank you, Reiki angels!

That evening, we somehow found ourselves with nothing to do so we decided to go to the movies. The movie we all agreed to see was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. If you somehow haven't seen it or the shorts (trailer), it's about a boy who is born old (as in elderly) and proceeds through life getting younger until at around 80 or so he becomes a true infant. It occurred to me, as it has no doubt already occurred to many of you, that those two phases of our lives -infancy and old-age are strikingly similar: We are dependent on others for our safe keeping, we are delighted by simple pleasures, time moves slower, we repeat our stories, and we soil ourselves. It seems we repeat the same experiences. Why would we need to do this? Wouldn't it be far more efficient if we just left when our time was up?

In her book, Hands of Life, medical intuitive and energy healer, Julie Motz proposes we create experiences in our lives to heal from past traumas. She theorizes specifically that illnesses or ailments requiring a surgical procedure provide an opportunity for the patient to re-experience the birth experience, i.e.;

In surgery a patient is anesthetized which mimics the in-utero experience of being unconscious but still being able to hear and sense her surroundings without being able to see
An outside source breathes for the patient
The patient is helpless and dependent on others
The patient has no recollection of the whole traumatic experience

Awakening after the surgery, a new period has begun through which healing can occur provided the proper love, care, nurturing and support are available to cushion and encourage the process. The emotional support of the surgical staff, post-operative care team, and friends and family are crucial to the healing process of a patient. In her book, Motz cites the study of an English surgeon who had successfully completed seven very difficult and complicated surgeries in a row and then had a 100% fatality rate on the next seven. He considered each of the 'failed' surgeries in detail and found that the only variable was the dynamic of the team. His study therefore focused on the effects of the emotional relationship between staff during surgery and the outcome of the surgery. From Motz' own experience in the OR she describes many different instances where the attitude of the surgical team affected the emotional and physiological state of the patient therefore impacting recovery.

I wondered whether this could be true for the infirmed elderly, or those in nursing homes. Could this returning to a child-like state be a quest for nuturing, love, compassion and healing? Or is dementia simply a symptom of our society where old age is inconvenient and the elderly become a hindrance more than help? If a whole society renders something useless, it ceases to have a use does it not? So the elderly lose their minds from uselessness and acute boredom. What if we, as a culture revered instead of feared old age as in other cultures like that of the Native American Indians? It is my narrow understanding that dementia didn't exist because the elders maintained powerful decision-making positions. Moreover, traditionally, they were also spiritually connected so they would know when it was time to go, and would simply lay down and pass on. Passing would be a celebration of a liberation, not an occasion of sorrow and loss.

In her book, Hands of Light, Barbara Brennan describes the process in energetic terms. When a baby is first born and when a person approaches the end of their physical life through old age, there is a stronger connection to the higher energy bodies. This is why babies and the elderly sleep so much. For babies, earthly energies are being added, while for the elderly the earthly energies decrease and are replaced by a higher vibration. This white light that pervades their being manifests itself in the physical as bright white hair!

If it is true that we lose our connection with higher energy to be born but we gain it as we prepare to pass, I am reminded again of Benjamin Button where things were topsy turvy. It might pay us to change the way we view death: that we experience a death of sorts when we are born -a lost connection with our higher spiritual energies, but which are reunited with us at death, thereby suggesting a rebirth of sorts.

So what is life. Here. Now?

Our universal purpose here is to consolidate being individual with becoming one with the whole. It is an opportunity for us to draw more of the light (higher energies) into this life experience. We do this by seeking to break down the wall between physical reality and spiritual reality. As we break down this wall, we begin to remember who we are. Everytime you greet challenging situations with truth, love and integrity, know that more of the wall falls down.

So! Here we are at the place where I give you fun things to do...

What the new year will bring! In Japan, tradition tells that the way you spend the first day of the new year is indicative of how you will spend the rest of the year. How did you spend January 1? If you spent it doing the things you love, yippee! If there is room for improvement, make a list of things that give you pleasure. Pleasure is important. Mark the time for pleasure in your calendar. If hanging out with your friends is important to you, set up a time: Monday 7:30pm. Fun with friend(s). Make it a priority. Make it happen!

Life is short! What are some of the things you have been meaning to do but just haven't gotten around to it? There might be things from last year you thought to yourself, "Oh, I'll do that next year." Well, next year is here! So, whether it's a new job, a 10-day cruise, or cleaning out your attic, start taking the steps. Ask yourself, what would I need to do make that happen? A new job? What training do I need to become a make-up artist? Check out the schools. Call and ask about programs and payment plans.
If you have a longing, you must deal with it. Otherwise, you could be getting in your own way of achieving what you came here to do!

Meditate. Five minutes. That's all it takes. Find a quiet place (at your desk if you need to). As you breathe in think, "I am..."
As you breathe out think, "...at peace."
Five minutes. Twice a day. You can do it. Choose to, and you will.

This is it for our first newsletter of the year! Let me offer you this thought before I go:

"Embrace life in all its glorious stages."



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