Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The School of Life Is In Session ... and Nobody Gets Summers Off!

Although there may have been more, I particularly recall only two episodes of serious doubt and despondency in my now lengthy life.

One happened decades ago and set me on a spiritual journey that continues today.  The current one is heping me come to grips with my own mortality and to continue trusting in the process of life.

The first episode came a few years after the end of my first marriage.  It seemed that in my fledgling attempt to trust a new love relationship and go on with life, I chose too quickly and unwisely.  After only a month, I was unceremoniously dumped by a man who wasn't "comfortable dating someone with older kids."

I sat alone on the sofa in my little apartment and my mind was flooded with negative thoughts about lacking all the good things I wanted in life: I thought I would never have a healthy love relationship, or know how to help my children and myself through the trauma of divorce, or afford a home for me and my kids, and realize inner peace.

Disheartened and ready to give up, I closed my eyes and said to the universe, with what I thought at the time was a clear heart, mind and motive, "If it's someone else's turn to die and they have a better reason to live, take me, I'm ready."

Every few minutes I would open my eyes and check my feet and legs to see if my body was beginning to dissolve just like on Star Trek when Scotty "beamed them up."  Seriously!  After about 10 minutes, I checked again and realized this convenient escape wasn't going to happen for me.  So, with what I would now call a shift in consciousness, I stood up and said firmly and loudly, "You poor little schnook, you're not getting out that easy.  You will have to wade through the muck and mire and learn your lessons just like everyone else."

At that exact moment, something powerful rose up within me and I knew that I was through with allowing negative thinking and lack to define my life.  I was ready to face the future with renewed energy, motivation and resolve.

Obviously I needed a new way of looking at how life is meant to work.  I was soon led to Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life," as well as a spiritual philosophy, Science of Mind, which embraced a core concept that by changing your thoughts, you can change your life.  I grasped this idea like a drowning man seeks air, and within a few years was begining to create the life that my heart and soul desired, with the incredible manifestation of real love, world travel, a writing career and discovering my life's purpose.

The gift in finding my life purpose was incredible enough in itself.  Instead of just "going" through life I would now "grow" through it, and write about the insights I gained from the lessons I learned to help others.  I was so grateful and happy to be alive, and I was experiencing a level of inner happiness, peace and contentment unknown to me before.

Fast forward to more recently, and my other memorable realization.  A year ago I broke my foot, and then developed shingles, followed by the very painful post herpetic neuralgia (PHN).  When the constant PHN symptoms reached the one-year mark, I realized the following facts:  My body wasn't healing, there were obviously still more lessons to learn, and there were new signs of aging that brought me face to face with my own mortality.

As I began trying to come to peace with this universal life lesson, I realized that I had intellectually accepted the reality of death as a young girl, but never once thought of death having anything to do with me personally. No doubt this youthful realization set in motion my lifelong interest in helping others throught their death processes.

As a respite volunteer for Hospice, I sat with dying patients and was fascinated by their varying experiences.  I also assisted my sister and brother, parents, brother-in-law and beloved husband in their final life journeys.  Evidently as part of this life experience, I was also destined to meet the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the world renowned expert on death and dying.  She became a close friend, as well as one of my mentors, and this essay is the essence of one of her primary teachings: There are no accidents or mistakes.  Everything in life happens for a reason.

It took several sad and stressful weeks of wrestling with what I considered the downside of dying to emotionally coming to grips with the thought of leaving my loved ones, and possibly dying before I fulfilled my heart and soul desires.  I finally realized that I Love Life and want to cherish it, be grateful and live every moment in joy and appreciation.  I was tired of negative thinking, which is always counterproductive.  I also realized that in the past when I allowed my mind to get in a knot over being unable to gain the desired insight into a lesson, what I really needed was a break.

So, I accepted an open invitation to visit my daughter and her family in the northern part of our state where the summer temperatures are in the 70s instead of triple digits.  I came home renewed, revitalized and ready and willing to do what I normally do, and had avoided doing until now.  I went within and asked for the truth of this current situation to be revealed to me.

The answer I received was that it's all about acceptance:  Accepting that while the soul is eternal and immortal, the body is finite, and that we are born into life on Earth and reborn (die) into life in another form and dimension.  Intellectually I've always accepted this way of unemotionally looking at birth and dying, and this was never a source of concern for me.

What I am learning now is that when challenges-problems pop up and seem to block our way, we have the option of realizing they are Our Way, and accepting the opportunity to deal with them realistically.  For example, when the aging process knocked me for a loop, I finally settled into accepting what is - right here, right now.  This also meant adjusting my views from what I used to be able to do -- and bemoaning that no more -- to what is more appropriate for me at this stage.  When we can do that, we're back on the right path, and instead of feeling anxiety and fear we can experience gratitude, happiness and peace.

With my mind finally relaxed and receptive to new information, I also began to recall statements by scientists professing awe at how perfectly the universe works.  Somehow I knew deep within that inherent in that perfection, both life and death are undoubtedly meant to be blessed gifts, as well as sacred transformational experiences.

I resonated with this truth.  I choose to accept and expect that the plan is for us to view and use life and death as opportunities to fully express the rich potential in each experience.  In this way, we learn to trust in the process of life and enter into a higher level of awareness, which benefits us and humanity.  Life is an evolutionary process.  Earth is our campus, challenges are our lessons--and school is always in session.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-Fiction; "You Can Live a Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World," and "The Heart Knows the Way -- How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within," are available at and other booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Practiced Ear Hears the Song of God in Nature

I sense a deep primordial kinship with the fall season.  As the Earth's energy slows down following the boisterous display of summer, I instinctively know it is time to draw within and spend quiet time in contemplation.  The need is strong, and the sometimes cloudy, cooler days complement this desire.

Lately, I find myself reflecting on the creativity of nature and the similarity of thoughts and seeds.  Whenever I plant a sunflower seed in my small patio garden, I can rest assured that the germinated seed will produce a sunflower.  So too will the thoughts I focus on produce their own likeness, and whether they are deemed desirable or undesirable depends on the quality of my thoughts.  It is important to choose my thoughts carefully so that what springs forth in my life is as dependable and desirable as what flourishes in my garden.

In joyous anticipation of partnering with nature, I pick up my pruning shears and trowel and head for my small back patio garden to view the results of the Southwest desert's harsh triple-digit temperatures. Despite appropriate care, some potted plants have not survived, much like some of my misplaced thoughts and desires. I bless them and with a sigh, scoop them up and recycle them into the earth.

I am heartened though that while some umbrella plants are brown half-way to the base of their sword-like leaves, they are still alive and worthy of continuing attention and care.  I know that with judicial pruning, some plant food and lower temperatures they will have a rebirth and soon settle in -- healthy and strong for the milder winter months.

It is with great pleasure that I notice the gentle breeze that cools my brow and plays a melody on the chimes.  I survey the healthy green of the large jasmine bush and the heavenly bamboo that long ago sent down their roots deep into the earth.  They can easily withstand the summer heat and the cold of winter.

I realize that many of us also seek to anchor our trust and faith into something greater than we are that will sustain us and enable us to not only survive but to thrive despite the traumas, trials and tribulations of life.

For sentimental reasons, I usually plant red Emperor tulip bulbs in pots and place them in a box of sawdust in the garage to prepare them for an early blooming period in a process known as "forcing."

Each time the brilliant red tulips reach full bloom in the still-cold days of winter, I honor the many flowering plants that have "nursed" me through trying times in my life.  They serve as gentle reminders to my yearning heart that spring will eventually burst forth once again in all of its full frolicking, rollicking and riotous splendor.

While surveying the ravages of summer on some of the plants, I realized I finally understood my late husband's seemingly blase' approach to flower and vegetable gardening.  As a master gardener as well as a practical  person, he would give the seeds and sprouts all the tender loving care necessary for optimal growth and then say, "Shape up or ship out."

He gave them every chance to survive, but when it became obvious that they weren't going to make it -- into the compost pile they went.  I now find this not only a well-reasoned approach to the mysterious vagaries of plant survival, but to the choices we make in life.  If our thoughts-decisions bring good results, excellent.  If not, we uproot them and choose new ones.

I was initiated into the joys of gardening in childhood by my grandmothers and my favorite uncle, and my lifelong interest was matched by that of my late husband.  They taught me that nature is the true language of our being, and that we can learn from it whatever we need to know about life.

The invitation is always there for us to draw near the bosom of nature.  If we lean close and listen, we can hear the serenade of God, and know that we are part of Creation and one with all life ... dissolving all fears.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch
The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," which won the 2010 Silver Award for non-fiction; "You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World," and "The Heart Knows the Way - How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within," are available at Amazon. com, other online booksellers and bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.