Kiana

IMG_5339I recently returned from Halifax, Nova Scotia, visiting my son at university. We had a wonderful time together and I was pleased, and proud, to see him thriving in this new environment away from home. I also stayed with friends that I have not spent time with in many years.

There are a few moments in life where you can feel something shift, that cause you to see things differently. What follows was one of those moments for me.

One couple I stayed with, Tina and Sean, have a five-year old son, Hunter, and three-year old daughter, Kiana. This kid, in her short little life so far, has been through hundreds of medical procedures and surgeries to try to correct a serious intestinal disease she was born with. She recently underwent an ileostomy, a procedure that allows intestinal waste to be collected in an external pouch stuck to the skin. She is deaf in one ear. She also at high risk of brain tumours.

Most of us would feel sorry for little Kiana, and think how unfair all this is. How from the get go she has had the deck stacked against her. Some would say she is strong. Others might say she is brave. And I guess she is all of that. But Kiana knows no other way, and she is definitely not sorry for herself.

She has almost died several times. She has spent most of her life in the hospital, her parents worried sick each time she goes in that she may not come home. I simply cannot imagine the toll this must take, and how they somehow manage to cope. She has been through more adversity in the last three years than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. Or in several lifetimes.

And yet the light that emanates from her is almost blinding.

I wonder how this is possible. How can a kid so young, who has been through so much pain and hardship, be so joyful? But it’s as though she doesn’t even realize the seriousness of her situation, and how tough she has it, compared to many of us.

Inspired only begins to scratch the surface of how little Kiana and her parents made me feel. And now when I think of them, it changes my perspective on my own life. Something shifted.

They say that there is always a silver lining, a gift hidden beneath the pain, struggle, and suffering. I find this really tough to accept, especially in someone so young. But still it makes me wonder if it is precisely the intensity of her journey that fuels her powerful flame, that makes her shine as brightly as she does?IMG_5337

To me, Kiana’s gift is that she is fully, truly alive. Through her life-threatening illness she has somehow gained the freedom to live.

And through this freedom, she offers her gift to the world.

And her gift to us is light.

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Birthday “Presence”

Aside

This “in the moment” theme has come up a lot lately. Like someone out there is really trying to tell me something. I have written a lot about it in theory, but the practice part certainly needs work. That’s why events of this past weekend were meaningful. There was a shift.

This weekend was my wife Deborah and sister in law Lori’s birthday. So I decided to just go with it. Actually I didn’t really decide. I just did it. And that’s the curious part…it just happened.

Deborah wanted to do a few things, and then go on to her sister’s neighbourhood BBQ. Normally I’d be trying to influence the course of events. Some might call it control. But not on this day.

First stop was the leather store for my wife to get supplies for her purse making. I just sat in the car and did nothing. Normally I’d be climbing the walls.

Second stop was the pharmacy where they were having some sort of make-up event. Not only did I take here there, I went in with her and actually participated. Well not the make-up part, but I had a few snacks, got a henna tattoo, and watched the event unfold. Not another guy in sight! I somehow resisted the urge that there was somewhere else I had to be.

Third stop was the BBQ. Mostly people I had never met. Normally this would be anxiety inducing for me. But this time I didn’t feel I had to talk to anyone. I didn’t feel I had to introduce myself or make an impression. I didn’t feel I really had to do anything. My mind wasn’t racing with thoughts of the past. Nor was it pre-occupied with figuring out next steps. So I just watched, and listened. And kept my mind blank. I was happy just to be.

What the hell is going on here?

Deborah is really good at going with the flow…perhaps some of that is rubbing off. And perhaps all the theory is somehow starting to translate into practice. I hope it’s here to stay. I do feel at some level that there is so much for me to learn and enjoy from being present. That must be why I keep getting these universal reminders–sort of like sticky notes for my soul.

Then I came across this piece by Richard Rohr. Another message. And definitely a sign that I should keep it up:

“The word “Buddha”  means “I am awake.” To be awake is to be fully conscious. The Buddhists sometimes call it “object-less consciousness”; I might  just call it “undefended knowing.” It is a consciousness where we are not conscious of anything in particular but everything in general. It is a panoramic receptive awareness—whereby you take in all that the moment offers  without eliminating anything or attaching to anything. You just watch it pass.

This does not come naturally to us, surely not in our  culture. We have to work at it. All forms of meditation and contemplation teach  some form of compartmentalizing or limiting the control of the mental ego—or  what some call the “monkey mind,” which just keeps jumping from observation to observation, distraction to distraction, feeling to feeling, commentary to commentary. Most of this mental action means very little and is actually the opposite of consciousness. In fact, it is unconsciousness. It is even foolish to call it “thinking” at all, although educated people tend to think their self-referential commentaries are  high-level thinking.”