The most unlikely advisor…

Several years ago, a mentor suggested I read Carlos Castaneda’s “Journey to Ixtlan.” Few books have had such an impact on me, primarily because of the shift in perspective it provided me with on a couple key topics. Namely…death. Since my mum passed away during my childhood, death was a paralyzing thought to me. I not so much feared dying myself, as I did losing those closest to me. Specifically my dad. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my dad. As I grew into a young woman,  my fear exacerbated. I knew it was coming…my brothers, my dad, my husband, my friends…I was going to lose all of them, eventually. Pretty morbid. The thoughts didn’t consume me, but they were always there. I was constantly and quietly holding my breath for it, and consequently found myself clinging. To people. To relationships. To concepts. To what I knew. Not healthy. It’s funny how things happen…as much as I love to write…I hadn’t read a good book in years. I felt like everything I was reading was giving me cliche versions of life and death, a blend of religions and philosophies that no longer resonated with me. “Everything happens for a reason” and my childhood version of heaven weren’t cutting it anymore. And then Carlos’ book was suggested to me, by someone who has become a great teacher in my life. In the well of lessons that can be drawn from his book, the one that has shifted my life and perspective most deeply are his thoughts on using Death as an Advisor. Sounds heavy, I know. It’s the opposite. Throughout the book, he uses a metaphor of death always being on/over your left shoulder. Not morbid. Not a physical figure, but a presence. Neither good nor bad. It was just ALWAYS there. And contrary to how I had been utilizing death…as a torturer, he spoke about using it as a wise advisor. On one hand, I could constantly look at it…paranoid and anxious and paralyzed. Wondering when and how and who. OR…I could use it as my advisor. A presence unlike no other that has the potential, if kept in mind appropriately, to liberate. It didn’t sink in overnight, but eventually, my view on death began to transform. I began using it to my advantage. How? Hell…how many things in life are we certain of? Nothing. Except death. What’s permanent? Nothing. Impermanence is in fact, the only certain thing. So EMBRACING those things, instead of being controlled by them, has changed everything. It allowed me to exhale. It has allowed me to live more fully. It has allowed me to be present. It has allowed me to look at everything and everyone differently. I have accepted it now. I know that one day, everything will be gone. I HAVE known it. The difference is, now I wrap my arms around it and say “thank you.” Thank you for the awareness. For the guidance. It has become one of the greatest gifts of my life. The tragedy happens when we don’t realize it…when we think we have all the time in the world, when we take it-everything- for granted. People, experiences, places, moments…life. That acknowledgement has opened my heart and my life in ways I will never be able to fully express. I appreciate things more deeply. I have developed an incredible filtering system, and indestructible intolerance for bullshit 😊 LIBERATING. I pay more attention now. I unabashedly cry, quite often, at ordinary things that are extraordinary to me. Like saying goodbye to my father, not because I am scared I will lose him, but because I’m just so damn grateful to still have him here. I cry at the sight of my husband and son sitting together on the couch, and kissing each other. I cry when I’m out on my surfboard waiting between sets, and I look over my left shoulder and think…what an incredible gift- this life, this able body, this spot on the map, this awakened state. What my mum would give to be feeling this saltwater on her face and sunshine on her shoulders. And I believe she does, in a different way. Her presence to me now is actually even more visceral, especially out on the ocean, surrounded in that gorgeous energy.  There is not a day that goes by now, when I don’t think…this could be it. For me. For someone I love. I CONSCIOUSLY think of it now. I don’t obsess on it. I meditate on it. A nice little check-in each day to truly open my eyes and live. And over my left shoulder is my buddy, my advisor…quietly reminding me that he’s there, and to enjoy this moment, because one day we are going to head elsewhere. And when we do, I know I will have lived more fully. Thanks to you, my friend 🙏

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