What Matters?

Dear readers,

What matters to you? The people you’re connected to, the books you read, the work you do, the legacy you’ll leave behind?

And when you come to the end of your life, what matters then? Have you considered such matters as burial or cremation?

Mark Harris considered them, and he wrote a potent book about them, called Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial.

I had read many books on death and dying already, but this book was different. It was tough to read, maybe because Harris made me love the people whose death stories he tells. I felt grief and a sinking sick feeling as if people close to me had died. Still, I think that Grave Matters is a very important read for those who can handle it.

During this quaran-time, if you are suddenly feeling like you need to “put your affairs in order,” this book may be helpful to you.

In any case, may you be blessed to feel in alignment with what matters most to you.

With grit and grace,
StarFire Teja

 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash.

 

Deep Realizations and States Inspired by a Virus Pandemic

Dear readers,

Greetings from my tree-house temple, where I am sipping hot black coffee in my happy orange mug, whilst listening to birds of many kinds singing quite cheerfully to the Sun. Those feathered love-beings have no awareness of social distancing and quarantines! Ahhh, ignorance looks like bliss!

And speaking of bliss, during this time of virus-induced staycations, are you doing any daily practices to help yourself be calm? Do you sit in meditation or go for meditative walks?

One day last week I went out for a walk and in the first block I saw a dead squirrel in the street… A little bit later, I saw a live squirrel and I said out loud, in my Dad’s voice, “Be careful there buddy… and don’t take any wooden nickels!” (If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that my Dad died in January… Well, “Don’t take any wooden nickels” one of my Dad’s classic sayings!)

After that spontaneous connection with my Inner Dad, I remembered what my psychologist had reminded me recently, when I was expressing fear of more loved ones dying: “You have yourself.” As I walked on, I realized that I really need to cultivate inner strength… And then my sense of humor came back, and I found myself laughing at my thoughts…

That evening when I sat in meditation, I was focusing on the Atman (my Spirit) in union with the Brahman (the Great Spirit), which I wrote about in my post “It’s All One Air,” and then I started contemplating my attachment to the ideas I have for my own burial, and I realized that they were uncannily similar to the ideas I had for childbirth the first time…

In 1997, when I was pregnant for the first time, we took a childbirth preparation class, which was all about visualizations and artsy, spiritual notions of giving birth. Totally naïve to what the physical pain would be like, I prepared for childbirth as if we were throwing a dinner party: I bought colorful flowers, candles, fresh fruits, inspiring music, and beautiful jewelry!

Well, when the labor actually got going and I experienced the searing, excruciating pain of the contractions, I did not care one bit about flowers and fruit! I was completely incapable of doing any spiritual practices like imagining my “special place.”

During my second pregnancy in 2000, we took a very different class with our midwife. She was quite real and basically said, “It’s going to hurt like hell, and how are you going to cope?”

Anyway, during my meditation last week, I realized that the attachment I have about being buried (in a green burial) in a pine box, wearing a red shroud and orange shawl, with sunflowers, red roses, orange marigolds, cedar, sage, pinecones, and amethyst crystals around my body, is pretty similar to the attachment I had to giving birth with glowing candles and gorgeous fruits.

But when death actually comes, I probably won’t care about what kind of flowers are buried with me. My mind still holds those preferences dear, but the Spirit probably doesn’t have such desires… And, if I die during this virus pandemic, there probably wouldn’t even be a proper funeral and burial for me. (If my Mom died before me, that is.) Who knows, I might even be thrown into a mass grave!

And, the most important part of that meditation – and of my whole life, really – was/is the deep peace I felt/feel when tuning in to Atman-Brahman, and experiencing how the air in the jar is one with the air everywhere

… I could really feel the Oneness of all energies, inside me and all throughout everything. I felt like I was in Brahman-Sukha, the Supreme Happiness while being absorbed in the Supreme Being… I felt/feel like I am closer than ever to experiencing the deep state that I have been reading about for so many years!

Can you relate to my experiences? Is this virus pandemic bringing you to any deep realizations or deep states?

My dear ones, it brings me such joy to create this online StarFire Temple of Happiness! I hope my posts help you to Happy Up your life.

With depth, strength, and even a little bliss,
StarFire Teja

 

Photo by Bru-nO on Pixabay.

 

Divine Associations on Every Inch of Earth

“Every inch of ground on Earth… has a divine association. Mother Earth has been there since the beginning of creation, being one of the five primeval elements. She has seen countless pairs of feet running about on thousands of aims and pursuits, both evil and good… Even after the participants have vanished, every inch of Earth still retains the impress of all that has gone before. We attain a full understanding only when we are aware of the divine and other associations of every piece of ground we tread on.”
~ R. K. Narayan, in his book The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic.

Dear readers, in the photo with this post you can see a divine association: On that spot of Earth, in a gathering of pine trees, a little baby girl (me, at 18 months) and her Daddy shared a moment of deep love… I wonder if that piece of ground in Glacier National Park (Montana) is still a forest, or if a building stands there now? In any case, that piece of ground still vibrates with that exchange of father-daughter love…

My Mom wrote in my baby book that “pinecone” was one of my first words! And my Dad and I shared a deep love of the forests and mountains out West… I lived in Ashland, Oregon for 23 years, and he really loved visiting there…

It has been almost two months since my Dad died, and I am feeling so grateful that we got to have a proper funeral and green burial with family gathered around. I feel so incredibly sad for all the families now who cannot hold funerals and cannot bury their dead, due to the virus pandemic.

Sitting here in quarantine, sipping my black coffee and watching the birds flying about in the trees, I’m feeling rather sad and depressed this morning… In the northern hemisphere it is officially the first day of Spring, and my Dad isn’t here to see the flowers bloom…

My dear ones, this time is so uncertain. None of us know who will lose family members, or even lose our own lives… Now is the time to really cherish our loved ones in each moment… And to appreciate the beauty of this sacred Earth…

May you feel how divine every inch of Earth is…

With gratitude, love, and sadness,
StarFire Teja

 

Edward Abbey: Benedicto

“Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”  ~ Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey was born January 29th, 1927 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and died March 14th, 1989 in his Tucson, Arizona home.

Dear reader… this Benedicto is one of my favorite poems ever!
I feel so much passion and love when I read it aloud. Perhaps you will enjoy reading it out loud also.

Are you familiar with Edward Abbey? He was an American writer and environmental activist who (fittingly) arranged for his own green burial before he died. He did not want to be embalmed or placed in a coffin. Rather, he requested that his friends place him in the rocky earth inside his old sleeping bag. His instructions read, “I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree.” So, Edward Abbey’s friends buried him (illegally) somewhere in southwestern Arizona.

To learn more about legal green burials, you can visit the website of the Green Burial Council to find green cemeteries in the USA. If you are in the UK, here is a site about green burials: The Natural Death Centre, which maintains a list of natural burial grounds. If you live in another country and know of a website for green burials there, please share in the comments below. Also, in one of my previous posts, (“Will You Choose Burial or Cremation?”) I mentioned a book on this topic, which I will review here soon.

The trails of our lives are winding and mysterious…
And, as Edward Abbey wrote, hopefully they are leading to the most amazing views!

May this post uplift your mind and touch your heart.

With great love,
Teja

 

Grand Canyon photo* taken by Teja in Arizona in May, 2015.

* If you are viewing this post in an email, simply click on the title of the article and you will be taken to the StarFire Teja Blog where you can see the red rock photo!

 

 

Will You Choose Burial or Cremation?

I am just beginning to read a fascinating book called Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris.

I am excited to learn about green burials. Have you heard of natural burial?

I always thought that I would be buried, but then recently I was beginning to wonder about the cremation option. However, after only reading the preface of this book I’ve decided to stick with being buried. I will share more about this topic in a future post… after I finish reading this book!

What about you, will you choose burial or cremation?