Monday, November 8, 2010

I miss my mother

The Soul never dies, it’s only the body that leaves, is what I hear and read. We are spiritual beings having a human experience is what we are told. I understand all this intellectually and even talk about it and discuss it and try and help people in their pain when a loved one leaves the physical body and merges with source.

So why today on the 11th anniversary of mothers passing away, my tears cannot stop. Why am I hurting so much despite knowing that it’s only the physical, the tangible that is gone? My mother’s spirit or soul still exists. I am in constant communion with the soul, I am told.

But I want more than that, I want to see her, touch her, scream at her, love her, go for movies with her, share a meal with her, have her read stories to Inara. I want the physical, the tangible, the touchable, the huggable but I can never have that back. I have to convince myself that her spirit is watching over me, loving me and looking after me.

All I can do is light a candle in her memory and shed tears, wondering when the pain will lessen or hopefully cease completely. It somehow does not. Thoughts of my father who left his physical body over 3 decades ago still hound me and the memories of my 8 years shared with him come flooding back. So how can I expect the pain of my mum passing over to lessen in 11 years? I guess it will always be a part of me and I just have to learn to live with it.

What I am finding ironic is that when people come to me sharing their pain of bereavement and betrayal, I can offer such great words of advice that sometimes I wonder where they are coming from. I have been told that somehow speaking with me calms them down and they can cope better. Why then am I not able to calm myself down? Why are the tears continuing to flow? Where are all the words that I speak to others? Why am I not able to calm myself down and have faith and belief that my mother is in a better place and that she is happier?

My intellect knows this to be the case, but my feelings and my mind are unwilling to accept the loss of the physical form. I am going to allow myself the luxury of pain and allow the tears to flow and I know that my mum is watching and will wipe those tears away.

I love you mom and I wish you were here, but I am going to let you go and not be like a spoilt child who keeps calling the parents when they are on a vacation. I will let you enjoy your new home and wish you all the best and hope that I will be able to see you again and tell you how much I love you.

Your Loving daughter who never really did tell you how much she loved you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions | Video on

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions | Video on

Top 10 Things Religious Leaders Say about Happiness by Mary J. Loftus

One of the things that most irritated me about Sunday school -- and there were many, including the fact that I had to wear tights, keep quiet and not ask why God wasn't a girl -- is that we were told, however covertly, that happiness was selfish.

Religion, I came to believe, was all about self-sacrifice. How could we be happy when babies in Angola were starving (or being sent to purgatory by the Pope)? How could we be happy when already we bent so readily toward sin? How could we be happy when we had to constantly be on guard against greed, pride, sloth, lust and gluttony (i.e., cool stuff, bragging, hanging around, casual sex and cookies)?

Can I really ditch the guilt and go for the gusto?

According to spiritual leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist traditions, the answer is yes -- with a few conditions.

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, the star of the show, has said that the very purpose of life is to be happy, so long as "one person or group does not seek happiness or glory at the expense of others." He didn't disappoint at the summit, sticking up for happiness as well as world peace at every opportunity, and laughing or chuckling fairly consistently throughout the event.

The Dalai Lama was joined on the panel by Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and Islamic scholar Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University.

They agreed wholeheartedly that faithfulness and happiness were not mutually exclusive.

Here are the top 10 things I learned about true spiritual happiness:

1. Happiness is radically subjective.

"How wrong Tolstoy was when he wrote in the beginning of Anna Karenina that all happy families are alike ... happiness isn't like that. It comes in many forms," Sacks said. "We are enriched by the sheer multiplicity of ways in which human beings have flourished."

2. Happiness, contrary to conventional wisdom, can't be purchased.

"The consumer society is constantly tempting us all the time to spend money we don't have to buy things we don't need for the sake of a happiness that won't last," Sacks said.

3. Happiness involves the mind and the body.

"It is important to us that God took physical form," said Jefferts Schori. "We are made in the image of God and reflect the divine. Our bodies are a blessing."

"This body is something precious," said the Dalai Lama. "It needs shelter, food and sleep. When the body is fit, mental function is more effective. But mental pain cannot be subdued by physical comfort."

4. Happiness is generated internally, not by fame or fortune.

"It is a happy human being who creates a happy ambience, a happy ambience does not necessarily create a happy human being," said Nasr.

"Real happiness must come from within," said the Dalai Lama. "When I say happiness, it is mainly in the sense of deep satisfaction."

5. Happiness can be found here on earth.

"God's presence and blessings can be found in the form of this-worldly 'goods.' Those goods include food, drink, shelter, clothing, liberty, peace, family, meaningful work, community and a general state of well-being," said Jefferts Schori.

6. Happiness occurs in communal celebration.

"To sit together, drink together, share one another's songs and stories, that is beautiful," said Sacks.

7. Happiness is not all about us.

"Jesus' ministry, his public work, is most essentially focused on feeding, healing and teaching people -- in that order," said Jefferts Schori. "Using the blessings of this world for the benefit of all."

"Once it was asked of a great Sufi master, 'What do you want?' and he said, 'I want not to want,'" said Nasr. "We must transcend the stifling prison of the ego."

8. Happiness can be developed through practice and repetition, prayer or meditation.

"The five daily prayers pull us out of time to a place that is sacred," said Nasr. "Punctuation in a life that goes faster and faster. During Ramadan, even the tempo of big cities slows down."

9. Happiness comes through perspective.

"When we face a sad thing, if you look very closely, it looks unbearable, but if you look from a distance, it is not that unbearable," said the Dalai Lama.

"Like Jacob wrestling with the angel," said Sacks, "I will not let go of the bad thing until I find the blessing."

10. Happiness can be found in beauty.

"There is a remarkable predominance of beauty in nature," said Nasr. "To be virtuous is to be beautiful. Our souls were created in beauty, we are drawn to beauty."

I'll admit that, deep in my soul, I knew that true happiness didn't come from selfish pursuits (see: the Grinch, Bernie Madoff). I will say, however, that I still distrust anyone who says happiness is a bad thing, and am reassured that even highly evolved and informed spiritual leaders believe that a bit of it can be found sipping Bordeaux at the beach with friends while watching the sun set -- awe and gratitude intact.

Mary J. Loftus is associate editor of Emory Magazine