Day 49: Interconnection

Today is the 49th day since my brother passed. I’ve been wondering how this day would feel as the Buddhists honor this day as the one who has passed makes a choice as to whether to return or move on.

Yesterday I felt my brother on a boat tossing a rope to a dock on which I stood. I woke this morning knowing that’s not it at all.

First, I noticed my breath was/is everywhere. I’m being breathed.

There’s no inhale, pause, exhale, pause. Breath is everywhere, in all the cells, and expanding out. I’m breathing through my whole head, allowing separation between my eyes and throughout my head and heart, and I realize all this with the 49th day isn’t related to him or me. It’s like when I was at the Everest Memorial only in this case rather than feeling impersonal, and grounded in cold, this is a feeling of warmth and knowing. I am the boat, the dock, the water, the earth, the universe. There never was, and is not now any separation between my brother and me, between life and death.

Perhaps that is what people risk at altitude; it’s one reason they keep climbing. They want to touch this knowing, Less air and less oxygen allow one to live knowing an expansiveness that can’t be found at sea level, and then, this morning, it’s here. I’m here. I am.

People are dying wanting to get to the top of Mount Everest. People wonder why. Perhaps I give a taste in my book, Airing Out the Fairy Tale: Trekking through Nepal & Midlife.

In my book, I write about stepping into the circle of stones, the sacred site where those who’ve died on Everest are honored, the Everest Memorial.

“Celeste, Sante, and I separated, each drawn to explore different sections within the circle, each needing to find our own way to honor and grieve. The wind blew icy cold. Something new entered my bones. Not fear or even grief. I stepped out – or was brought out – of humanness, into something more elemental.”

I say more in the book and then come to say: It’s as though those who’ve died “were winging there way through stars, as though the expansiveness of death was impersonal. I could believe we sing the universe into being as we tune into the vibrations between the cells. We are tuning forks.”

We continued to walk outside the circle of stones and continued along and up. and as we did so, I felt my “steps were elemental like candle flames, ignition for prayer”.

In this moment, sitting here in my chair as the day is softly lit I feel my breath elemental and rich. I know all is one and my brother is here.

The word healing is about wholeness, feeling whole. In this moment, I am whole: tree, seed, root, air, water, soil.

Egg and Flower, One

Day 42: Mount Everest

On this 42nd day since my brother’s passing, I’m with the deaths on Mount Everest and the photos of people lined up in a traffic jam to get to the top.

When I was in the area, twenty-five years ago, we bypassed Everest base camp because even then it was a garbage dump.  My sense of my trip there, my four weeks in the mountains of Khumbu, was it was a spiritual journey, a quest to know myself and my direction.   I’m stunned to see what it’s become.

In my book Airing Out the Fairy Tale, I write about Mount Everest.  I say:

On May 6, 2015, Jan Morris published an article in the New Statesman that was reprinted in The New Republic May 16, 2015. Morris, a former male, now female, had welcomed Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay down from the first ascent of its summit on May 29, 1953.

In the article, Morris requested that Mount Everest, Chomolungma to the Sherpas, “Goddess Mother of the World,” be closed to climbing, violation,and greed, and honored as a World Heritage Site and as a “universally recognized Site of Holiness.” She suggested calling Mount Everest The Peak of Kindness.

Like Jan Morris, I knew Everest had something to teach. With distance, I’ve come to understand more of what Mount Everest represented for me. She was elusive, like the deeply complex, receptive feminine. She is sacred, and in her sacredness, brings us to our knees. What frightened or stunned me when I first saw her in person was that although she was part of a mountain range, she appeared to stand alone. She was center stage. I turned away and wanted to hide. I was struggling to claim my own life, my own center stage. She was too much for me, too dominant in her apparent ability to stand alone.

Everest represents strength and majesty. I claim that visibility now, that majestic mountain around which we all circle as we die, that mountain representing the central earth spine. I also claim my full power, male and female, as I balance strength and tenderness, wild and tame.

I suggest, like Jan Morris, that we honor our teacher, Mount Everest, and allow her to be a preserve, a place of respect—not something to conquer. Instead of placing flags representing division on her slopes, let’s leave her alone, untrampled. In allowing her to rest, we do the same for ourselves. We, too, stand, as peaks of kindness, havens, witnessed, witnessing, blessings, blessed.

The prayer flags that wave in Nepal and Tibet, often strung along Himalayan mountain ridges, are arranged in five colors. Blue symbolizes sky and space. White symbolizes air and wind. Red symbolizes fire. Green symbolizes water. Yellow symbolizes earth. Each of us is made of the five elements. To heal is to be made whole. My work now is to harmonize the elements within me as I breathe mindfully in and out, and in that, to live, exhilarate, and celebrate the joy in knowing enough. In my opinion, we don’t need to climb Everest to prove something to ourselves. We need to look within at the nature we are and climb into a deeper knowing of reverence for this earth we share.

I chose to put Ama Dablam on the cover of my book not Everest. Ama Dablam means Mother’s Necklace. Her grace invites me to step with care and look with awe from afar. Her slopes, like the slopes of Everest, are meant to uplift, not be the place of tragedy and death.

Airing Out the Fairy Tale