A Rose is a Rose

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Dear Seamus,

I am not much of a gardener but I seem to have an affinity with roses. It may be because I am their namesake, or it could be because they are sturdy glorious plants that are not easily killed. When we moved into the farmhouse I discovered a few wild rose bushes along the fence line. I donned some gloves and took to the largest rose bush with secateurs. I relied on instinct as I removed some of the tangled branches. I periodically stood back to observe my handy work before trimming a little more from here and there. I was paid handsomely for my work when a number of buds appeared shortly afterwards.

I watered the rose bush and checked on the progress of the buds. One morning, to my great delight, a stunning red rose appeared. I was so excited!

At first the crimson petals were tightly bound together above a long thorn covered stem, as though guarding a wondrous secret. Slowly they began to open over the coming days. Before long it stood fully opened, brandishing magnificence. Tall and elegant as it bathed in the sunshine.

I carefully trimmed it from the bush with a few other buds. You insisted on carrying them to the house in your bucket. I warned you about the thorns but you are a curious kinaesthetic learner. I kissed your pricked fingers better and your briary run-in was quickly forgotten.

I loved looking at those roses sitting on the dining table, resplendent in my favourite vase.

When they began to look a little tired I added sugar to some fresh water. They revived for my viewing pleasure for a few more days. Then, as roses do during their life cycle, they began to shed some petals.

As I stood looking at the petals sitting on the table I recalled an email my friend Juliet sent me.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my Oncologist advised I was to begin chemotherapy immediately to try and contain the disease. After four cycles of chemotherapy I was to have a radical mastectomy.

On the eve of the surgery I sat down with my laptop to check my emails. I was feeling nervous but mostly I was feeling sick from all the chemotherapy. By this time I was sporting only a handful of hairs on my head and my eyebrows and eyelashes were barely hanging in there. I was literally shedding my skin.

Juliet had wanted to make the trip from Sydney to be at the hospital but commitments prevented her. Instead she sent me a beautiful email. She reminded me to experience everything in all its shades and contrasts, knowing that it would not alter who I really was, in my heart. She told me that she would send angels in her place to watch over me and ease the process. Then she told me that a rose is no less a rose just because one of its petals has dropped.

The next morning I allowed myself to feel everything without hindrance. The fear, the anxiety, the strange enveloping calm and the hope for the future. True to her word, Juliet sent some heavenly guardians. As I sat alone and gowned up in pre-op waiting for the surgeon, I found myself surrounded by eight men of differing ages and ethnicities. It was hard to make them out with clarity but I could see they were dressed in white. They stood, four on each side, with their hands on the railing of the hospital bed. The doctor came in and asked if I was alright sitting there by myself. He must have thought it odd to find me with a smile on my face.

“Yes, thank you. I am fine”. I was not alone. I was in the company of love.

Soon afterwards I awoke from surgery and one of my petals was gone. Yet I still emerged a rose.

A modification to my physical form did not take away from the very essence of who I was. Just as the petals lay on our dining room table, the flower they came from was still a rose. Even when all the petals had fallen off it was no less a rose.

There is an incredible reality that is unseen yet lives through us. It is the spirit within that grows the petals. The soul is the marrow that forms the stem and the thorns. Our heart flows through the roots.

Don’t identify purely with your body Seamus, it is not who you are. You are breathing your body, your body is not breathing you.
Long after the petals have fallen you will still be the rose. A magnificent flower in a heavenly garden.

“What was said to the rose that made it open, was said to me here in my heart”Rumi

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The Miracle is Now

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Dear Seamus,

Your birth coincided with a terminal cancer diagnosis for me. Amidst the fear, shock and broken dreams I heard a quiet voice that assured me everything was going to be ok. I chose to believe in those words and I made a decision to reach for a miracle.

I have had a strong focus since that time to be healed. I have read many books that have inspired me, educated me, soothed me and provoked serious questioning. I have dabbled in vegetarianism. I have meditated. I have chosen to eat a lot of chocolate with as much joy as possible. I have written letters to you so that you may know me if I am not here with you as you grow into an adult.

I have prayed and been prayed for. I have tearfully admitted my fears to others and listened with love to theirs. I have enjoyed beautiful lightness with a soaring, joy filled heart. I have crashed into the depths of despair where bed is the only safe place I know.

I have been hospitalised with severe physical side effects of disease with an innocent astonishment. I have panicked and worried about little aches and pains.

I have happily day dreamed about future events of various times in your life in which I am present. I have gone to bed some nights fearing that it will be my last.

All the while I have desired a miracle. Something in me knew it with such certainty that the largest and most ferocious fears could not distinguish its vibrant little flame.

My body is up against a barrage of multiple medications which makes me more susceptible to fatigue. My mind and my drive, however, sometimes rage ahead with a determination that requires a younger fitter physical form. So from time to time I am faced with feeling burned out and exhausted and I find it difficult to do the simplest of tasks. I am reminded of my physical restrictions. Let me tell you darling, I do not like it one bit. Sometimes I can be graceful and accepting and other times I am frustrated and furious.

Two days ago I sat on the edge of the bed in my underwear, too weary to go any further in dressing myself after a shower. Only a week ago I had spent a wonderful weekend in Sydney, attending a workshop and catching up with friends. I had felt invigorated and energetic, happy to enjoy the company of friends I rarely see, along with some new ones. Now here I was, head in my hands, sobbing. You stood in the doorway and watched me intently before disappearing down the hallway. You reappeared with a small container in your hands. As a gift you had been given a large tube of smarties and I had put the last of them into a plastic dish and kept them on the top shelf of the fridge.

Your little hands fumbled with the clasps but you managed to get the lid off. You tilted your head to the side and walked towards me. You leaned on my leg and carefully picked out a chocolate. With big blue eyes gazing up at me you pushed it against my mouth and nodded.

“Choga”? You nodded again. I laughed and accepted the smartie.

So I just sat there with tear stained cheeks as you fed me smarties. You had an incredibly intuitive sense of the situation and proceeded to nurture me. You proved to me that it is indeed a Universal truth that chocolate makes everything better.

Something else became crystal clear to me. I had been seeking and reaching for a miracle of healing, yet in that moment it was so obvious that the miracle was happening now.

A moment of sharing is a miracle. One human being showing love to another is a miracle. That moment of feeling overwhelmed and tired is a miracle. The fact I am able to have the occasional crappy day two years after a terminal diagnosis is the miracle.

I am the miracle, you are the miracle. The miracle is now.

With gratitude I took down my vision boards and gave them to God (and the recycling bin). I have stared at that blank wall several times now, feeling tiny sparks of excitement about what is to come into my life next.

Sometimes we ask for a miracle and become so busy co-creating it and visualising it that we forget to simply put out the welcome mat and turn the kettle on. The miracle will come. It may appear to be late or disguised as something else that you never expected, but it will come.

Seamus, never hesitate to ask for a miracle. Your only job after that is to keep your eyes and heart open, for miracles are everywhere.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle” – Albert Einstein

True Riches

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Dear Seamus,

Sometimes I feel frustration with the way our society has evolved. We are fed so many illusions about freedom when the reality is, it is just another way to shackle us. We get bombarded with messages about how to make our dreams come true. A hand extends to help you afford a holiday, a new car or even a whole house. You will see advertisements with smiling happy people, excited by their new found material successes. When they dangle the sparkly key to material happiness in front of you, it is the key to your own cage. You have nibbled on the proverbial carrot and you have been captured. When you have the weight of debt hanging over you, the freedoms you thought you were signing up for may well turn out to be your shackles. Many people are forced to work jobs that they don’t even like for the privilege of living in a house or driving a car that the bank owns.

Many people sign a legal document that commits them to a financial institution for a long time, sometimes up to thirty years. This is a long time and let me tell you that your life on the day you signed that contract will not be the same life in the coming years. It is the very nature of life to be ever changing, just like the weather. It may well be a sunny day when you sign up but the weather is changeable. At some stage it will become windy, cloudy and even downright stormy. You may lose your job or become ill. Your possessions can become a burden and you may become desperate to keep them, at any cost. This may put strain on your relationships and your family. It can create terrible anxiety and stress. Before long the dream you bought into will turn into a nightmare. So many people are doing it tough and relying on charities because they are in debt. Sometimes, a bank can be nothing more than a giant corporate factory churning out fictional affluence.

This is why your attitude to money is crucial. Money is just energy, like everything. When you exchange money you are exchanging energy. A well coined phrase (pardon the pun) is that money is the root of all evil. The money itself is not the evil as the money is just energy. When you apply meaning and definition and expectation to that energy, you will begin to run into problems.

There are record profits made every year as a direct result of the financial enslavement of people who are encouraged to buy illusions. The energy of money is taken and used to sell you a mirage. When you discover the truth, you cannot get a refund. If you fall behind your chain will be yanked. At the very least you will be reprimanded and at the worst you will be harassed, hounded and intimidated to repay your debt. This may make you feel less than you are, that you are the debt itself. I feel that money is one of the most misinterpreted and manipulated energy’s in our culture. Capitalism and banking are rotten foundations upon which to build a society and I see signs of them starting to crumble. The global financial crisis of 2008 was only the tip of the iceberg. It was a fiscal emergency created by a handful of people which affected millions of people with its aftershocks.

Imagine if that energy was in the form of compassion or kindness or love. If the profits and huge bonuses given to banking executives were dispersed evenly amongst the people who needed it the most. To me that’s the energy coming full circle.

Let me be the first to tell you that when you seek satisfaction and joy outside of yourself, you have already lost because there is actually nothing to gain. Your happiness is within you. It will not be found in a house, a car, a bigger television or in my case, a coffee maker. I bought a coffee maker not in order to make myself happy, I was already happy when I bought the coffee maker! Don’t be dependent on any object to deliver you happiness and gratification because when it fails to do so, you will be greatly disappointed. Make your relationship with money a loving one. Purchase things with gratitude and detachment, knowing that you don’t need it in order to be happy. This material possession that you are buying is just a little enhancement to your life experience. Just like my coffee, I enjoy it but I don’t rely on it for my happiness. Then you’ll find that money will probably flow in and out of your life with relative ease and you will be content to watch it come and go.

Understand that if all your material possessions were to disappear you will never lose your most valuable asset, your true self. Your real fortune is in your freedom. Build your capital in compassion. Be abundant in altruism. Let your generosity be golden.

Your Father deals in the wonderful commodity of service to others. All through the summer I lost count of the times he rushed out the door to fight huge blazes with the Rural Fire Service. He helped save residents and livestock time and time again. At home he devotes himself to his family. Your Father is bountiful in character and his wealth lies in his dedication to help people.

My biggest treasure is you Seamus, and you are priceless. You are a precious gem purely because you were created. Your purpose is not to accumulate ‘stuff’, your purpose is to be yourself and that is how you will be rich.

“He who is contented is rich” – Lao Tzu

Light Minded Spirituality

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Dear Seamus,

As most of us do when we are faced with a huge life-altering challenge, we bargain. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I would lie awake through the night, my body frail with chemotherapy drugs, and beg for my life. I made a lot of promises to God; that I would do this and that in exchange for my survival. When I made it out the other side of cancer treatment and held my arms wide open in gratitude, I did not forget the contract I forged with the almighty in my darkest hours. I just didn’t know what it entailed. So like most things I approach in life, I go the whole hog. If the life giver of all things had spared me, then I owed it to them to spend my remaining days in prayerful meditation, communing with spirit and acknowledging with immense gratitude the fact that I was still here. Or did I ?

What does it mean to be spiritual? Is it a term that conjures up a liberation from all form and human vice? Or is it just another dualistic label? Is it yet another template to subscribe to? I have been pondering for some time how to blend my powerful moments of blissful awareness with the day to day duties of being a human being. If I pick my nose whilst reading The Power of Now, does that diminish my enlightenment? Can I experience the timelessness and weightlessness of a great meditation session in the morning, only to fling my mobile phone down the hallway in exasperation that evening?

For a short time I considered becoming a Sanga as part of the Buddhist religion. I was drawn to the simplicity of a life dedicated to compassion and service to others. I did my research and as much as it appealed to me in some aspects, I just couldn’t justify the complete commitment it required. I also had to question what that meant for my future. I had long anticipated your arrival, Seamus, but with no relationship and infertility hanging over me, it wasn’t looking promising. Yet I couldn’t shake it – and if I became a Sanga that would be a massive road block to your existence.

As I was in the process of shedding all ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, I began to question what my obligations might be. Our human training ground is delivered to us through the filters of the mind. I experience my mind in several ways and one of those ways is as a huge filing cabinet. Every piece of information coming through must be processed, labelled and filed away. When I decided to leaf through the rather large cabinet on Spirituality, there were a number of files absent. I couldn’t seem to find the folder detailing ANGER, DISAPPOINTMENT, OVERWHELMENT or IMPATIENCE. There was no ASSERTIVENESS or OPINION files either. As clear as day I could see MEDITATION, YOGA and HERBAL TEA. I could see the dog eared HAPPINESS, ACCEPTANCE and JOY and right at the front was a label with huge lettering named PIOUSNESS.

The most startling discovery I made was laying my hands on a very thick file called PERFECTION. That was a real moment of realisation. I had put spirituality and perfection together. I’m talking about the pursuit of perfection, like avoiding mistakes and presenting as sparkly white faultlessness. The true perfection, from which we are all fashioned, is a given. We are already perfect; we were born that way. Nothing can ever take that away from you Seamus, my gorgeous boy. What happens is that as we grow we start to attach layers of ideas and experiences and soon, we can’t see our perfection any longer. Things happen to us which we want to label as mistakes, failures or successes when really it is all just experience. Mistakes are experience, failures are experience, and successes are experience. Plain and simple.

So I decided to burn the whole cabinet and start over! I began the process of creating my own definition of spirituality. My home doesn’t smell of Nag Champa incense, it’s more a blend of shortbread and wet dog. I don’t spend my days sitting cross legged meditating but when I’m in bed at night I cuddle your Daddy and think of you asleep in your cot and feel gratitude fill every cell of my body. I haven’t purified my diet from wheat, dairy, sugar and animal products. I drink my coffee and eat chocolate with absolute joy.

This incredible self-acceptance has been a side effect of cancer in my life. My wish for you is that you don’t need an experience like cancer to strip you back and remind you who you are. My wish for you is that you simply will not forget in the first place. You will forge your own relationship with God, the source, the Holy Spirit, pure consciousness or whatever label you want to put on it. In the meantime, you will grow up in a home knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you are loved and that you are love itself. That to me, is what being spiritual is all about.

“The Tao is the treasure-house, the true nature, the secret source of everything” – Tao Te Ching