Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hallowe'en: Should it be about Fun and Fear? A Mayan Perspective...

MiguelAngel Vergara speaks about the Mayan culture in Guatemala

[Nyerges is the author of numerous books, including “How To Survive Anywhere,” "Til Death Do Us Part," "Self-Sufficient Home," etc.   He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]

I have often wondered how the commemoration of All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe’en, has devolved into a day of choosing to face our fears in a fun way, and to eat a lot of candy.  It is what I did as a child, dressing up in a costume, screaming, pretending to be frightened, and collecting lots of candy.  Yes, it was fun, but it was also somewhat unfulfilling. As I grew older, I wanted to know what it was all about, and why we all went through the motions of the day, year after year.

When this time of year was commemorated by past cultures, it was believed to be a time when the dead are very close, and perhaps could be contacted.  It was a day to confront our fears and conquer them, and a time to acknowledge our dearly beloveds who have passed away.

When we speak of conquering our fears, it is worthy to note that the root of the word “conquer” is “with” and “query,” meaning that “to conquer” is not so much about vanquishing an enemy, as it is about seeking knowledge, with others, about those things which trouble us, of which we know little.

In that sense, part of conquering our fears means that we should not pretend we have no fears, and avoid the subject, but we should face them directly, and seek the root of the fear.

When I was in Guatemala a few years ago, one of our teachers was a man who operated a jade store and Mayan museum.  He talked to us about the creation myth from the Popul Vuh, and then began to speak about the Long Count of the Mayan calendar.

“But it seems like a lot of people really want the world to end!” he said, as we all laughed.  He went on to explain – as my group heard over and over – that there are no predictions from the Mayans about the “end of the world” or doom and gloom, referring to the infamous 2012 date that so many were frightened about.  Some poor journalists must have thought they heard “end of the world” when it was only “the end of one calendar cycle.”

“Yes, anything could happen,” he continues, “but it’s good to stick to facts.  The Maya don’t say anything about the end of the world. In fact, they have dates listed for several thousand years from now.  If they thought the world was coming to an end, why did they use those dates?”

Our main teacher, my mentor, Miguel Angel Vergara, spoke after the laughter died down. 

Vergara asked us to list our fears – in general, and about the 2012 date – as we wrote them on the board.  It was a very predictable list.

Vergara then addressed these “fears” one by one. 

Yes, the unknown is a mystery, he told us.  He paused, and then emphasized to us that the past is the past, and is over.  The future is the unknown.  It is only the present that is our real gift.  There fore, we need to simply focus on the present, and not let our minds run away in the past or the future.

Death. Yes, we will all die.  We will.  And so?  Accept it, and then live your life fully.

Suffering and pain.  Again, Vergara said, yes, life is full of suffering and pain. That’s life. It has nothing to do with 2012. 

Concern for our families.  Vergara smiled and said, “They will survive without us.”  He acknowledged that everyone is concerned about their families and this is natural.  But we need not have an imbalanced worry about whether or not someone else might or might not survive a situation.  Just carry on with living your life.

Lastly, he addressed the notion of  losing things.  We will lose things, he said.  That’s life. Whether in catastrophe or in ordinary life, we lose things.  And when we die, we don’t take physical things with us!

Vergara paused and said loudly, “Think!  You all of us have ALL that you need. (He was speaking to an audience of mostly Americans and Canadians).  You have cars, money, homes, and you still suffer.  What are you fearing?  You are all like millionaires [sometimes he would say billionaires] compared to most of the people in the rest of the world.

“We buy what we need at the supermarket,” Vergara told us.  “We have lost our inner warrior.  We are weak and we are comfortable.  We don’t want to fight.  So what should we do, asked Vergara. What is the best formula to recover this part of ourselves?

He offered many solutions.  He described ceremonies that we could perform to reconnect with the earth, and our divinity.  He said Love, Real Love, is a part of our solution. Vergara added that “Ninety-nine percent of the time we fail to solve our problems because we don’t knock on the door of divinity.  We think that our ego will solve our problems.  We know all the things of the outside world, but we don’t know our Self.  Are first task is to Know Thy Self.”

Vergara emphasized the need to avoid fear, and go forward with our purpose in life.  He explained that most people in the poorer and lesser-developed parts of the world are not worried about “the end of the world” predictions.  Why?  They are working hard, every day, for basic survival.  “Always keep in mind that the main purpose of life is Self-Realization.”

During my studies with Vergara, and other Mayan teachers, I found that they never shied away from talking about death, or fears in general. They taught us to look forward with open eyes, and to embrace others who are on the same seeking-path.  As Eric Fromme stated in his classic “Art of Loving” book, Love is the solution to the problem of human existence.

Commemoration of Day of the Dead: Remembering my Mother's Death

An excerpt from Christopher’s “Til Death Do Us Part?” book, available on Kindle or the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.

There was the stomach cancer diagnosis of 1997.  I was devastated.  I could not believe that it was possible that my own mother could have cancer, and both Dolores and I spent time with Marie talking about the possible results of the surgery her doctors were recommending.  I recall some nights at home feeling lost, hopeless, realizing Marie could die from the surgery alone.  After all, she was nearly 80 years old.  I’m sure Marie was fretful, feeling a sort of terror, frightened, hopeful though that something could be done. Frank, my dad, her husband, was quiet, perhaps uncertain of what to do, and probably somewhat unable….

She eventually had the surgery.  Marie told me one day after she had the surgery – actually, it was more of a question -- something to the effect that she thought I knew a lot about herbs, and she was suggesting that I should know “the cure” or “the answer” to her cancer.  It made me sad.  What could I say?  I wanted to see her healthy and vibrant, and still do, but even taking herbs is akin to taking pills if you are only removing a symptom.  So I had no answers.  No “miracle cures” anyway, and I suppose I wish I did.  I would have given it to her. 

August 1, 1998

Marie was now in hospice, at a rest home. She had gone into a coma state.  When I arrived, I put my hand on Marie’s head.  She was hooked up to oxygen, and her eyes were fixed ahead.  She was alive, but not responsive, though I felt she could hear me, and I talked to her.  My eyes closed, I began to see pictures, which I assumed were her pictures.  Childhood -- seeing the front of her farm house in Chardon, Ohio.  I could sense that Marie was “waiting” -- maybe confused, waiting for us, her children, to come around and to say goodbye.  I asked her how she was, and she “responded” “What now?”  I tried to look at the pictures with her, tried to mentally look at her pictures with her, whatever it was that she wanted to see. 

I saw my childhood, the Cub Scout activities at home that Marie organized, counting pennies and dimes, having tantrums on the kitchen floor, her work, her fears, her doubts, and the many interests and activities that she tried to pursue with me, such as learning Spanish, practicing karate, wild foods.  I saw her focus on Virgin Mary and the League of Mary activities at the church, the desire to save the world by alerting people to change their lives. 

I called a priest at St. Andrews, and a Father Gonzalez showed up within 15 or 20 minutes, and gave the Last Rites.  Brother Richard was there by now, and Frank cried when the priest said his prayers.   

I asked to myself: Is that all there is?  I knew the answer, but I had to ask.  Life is not the mundanity of everyday things, but it is the value -- our Conscious Light -- that we put into what we do, who we are. 

Marie is waiting now.  I close my eyes, my hands on her.  I am breathing deeply, somewhat akin to the Drain I would do at the Survival Training class, and I felt my breath as a circuit through one hand, through Marie’s body, and out the other hand.

I could “see” a pulsating opening, the so-called tunnel that we have often heard about.  It was right there, and she was ready.  Marie was right  at the tunnel, waiting, ready to go on, only waiting for us, to allow us to say goodbyes.  So she is done with the world.  There is only the body, which is now a distant pain, a body that no longer works.  She is free   She is very close to those of us who are here.  She is accepting. 

Frank is sad.  I know this took him hard, that it will be hard on him.  They were together so long -- married 56 years.  Frank came in each day to sit with Marie.  He mentioned to me that sometimes he mixes up days, not sure if it is Thursday or Tuesday, the days blend together, each day a repeat of visiting Marie.  Now it is almost over.  I know this has been tough on my father.

I told Marie, I’ll never forget you.  You will be with me always.  We are conversing now, silently,  and I told her we could talk by sending pictures to one other’s mind.  She asks me, Will you continue my work?  She is referring to her Virgin Mary work and League of Mary church work.  I am silent for awhile.  I tell her that I cannot continue her work, but that I will continue my work.  She is silent, and I can tell she is thinking about it.  She is considering the ultimate goal of her work, and the ultimate goal of my work.  She then smiled, and she said -- That is OK, that is good.  It is noon.

In my mental communication, Marie is smiling.  She said “please don’t worry for me.  Why worry for me, she smiles. I am ready to go on. I am done.”  She tells me though that she is concerned for Frank, and that we should watch over him.             

After a while, I take Frank back home, and I come back to the rest home.  The condition of Marie’s body seems the same. I put my hand on her hand, and the other hand on her forehead.  I tell her that she need not worry about dying on Dolores’ and my Anniversary, that it really is OK.  Yes, it was August 1, the same day Dolores and I married many years earlier….

I  tell Marie, this time whispering to her, that I loved her dearly, and that I wished I could have done so much more, but that I was so glad to have at least done what I did with her, especially since the surgery…

I told her that I would like to see her again.  I felt that I would.  I tried to explain some of the after-death states, whispering that she would experience peace and heaven, and that she would also get to review her entire life, and that there would be judgement.  I told her I would be with her, mentally, psychically, as much as possible, and I told her that she could come to me if she needed.  She said that I could talk to her whenever I wanted, and that I shouldn’t be unhappy or sad, that she would always listen. 

Her close friends Jean Marie and Mary Sue Takeuchi came when I was just sitting there, breathing with her, holding her hands, and I talked with them.  At about 3:45 or so, Marie stopped breathing.   It was over.  I embraced mother  and told her again I loved her, that I was glad the pain was over, that I would miss her always. 

Jean Marie and Mary Sue were obviously very close to Marie -- they had come quite regularly to the rest home, and I could see they were now filled with personal loss but there was also a sort of joy that Marie’s pain is over, that the final hours were filled with closeness with Marie’s loved ones. 

A man from Cabot’s mortuary came, and I helped David wrap Marie and put her on the gurney, and I gave her a final hug and goodbye, and then she was gone.

I drove away feeling very empty but also fulfilled in the sense that I could be there for those final moments.  It made the seeming pointlessness of life very meaningful in this final moment, and it made me feel now that part of Marie lives on in my work, and in whomever embraced Marie’s dream of sacrifice and prayer and long-suffering so the world could be a better place.

So I went home, and I took the bulk of the next 85 hours to be there with Marie for the first phase of her after-death processes.  This is a Returning Science procedure which I had been taught years earlier, and had worked with others when their spouses had died.  Now it was my turn to do it with Marie. [The full details of this procedure are in the book].

Monday, October 02, 2017

Dolores' First Birthday Run


An excerpt from "Til Death Do Us Part?" available from Kindle, or the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com

            Dolores came into my world around 1979 when she began to participate in the non-profit organization (WTI) I’d been working with.  At the time, Dolores was starting a business selling food storage systems for emergencies, and she contacted the president of our non-profit because of their interest in all aspects of survival.  We had many points of common interest, and she became more involved in the classes and activities of our non-profit.
By September 1980, as her birthday was approaching, she decided that she’d try doing the “birthday run,” an activity devised by the founder of the non-profit.
            Briefly, the birthday run involves going to a local track on your birthday, and running one lap for each year of your life. Friends join in the run at the year when they met you.  The runner mentally reviews each year of their life as they run each corresponding lap. A circular track is ideal because you can mentally divide the track into month or seasonal divisions to help you remember what happened month by month as you run.  One would also write brief notes during the run to record significant memories.  It is not about running, per se, but about remembering and reviewing your life. Afterwards, it is traditional to take a hot “memory bath” and to then share one’s insights and goals for the year with gathered friends.
            I was asked a day earlier if I’d be willing to go with Dolores and run with her. Since I met Dolores only a year or so earlier, I had not planned to run with her until she’d already run her first 33 laps, and then I planned to run only her 34th lap with her.
            Late in the afternoon on October 2, I went to the Eagle Rock High School track where Dolores planned to run.  It was around 4 p.m., and it was dark and overcast, and seemed much later than it was.  When I arrived, I expected to see a group from our non-profit there, but only Dolores was there. 
            “Where is everyone?” I asked her.
            “I don’t know,” said Dolores.  “I don’t know if anyone else was planning to run,” she said as both a statement and question.
            “Oh,” I said dumbly.
            “Look,” continued Dolores. “I don’t really know if I can even do this.  I haven’t been running much and I don’t feel in shape.”
            I encouraged Dolores to try the run anyway.
            “Why not just do at least a few laps – review a few years of your life, and just see how it goes,” I said encouragingly.
            Dolores was quiet, obviously thinking about it.  Then she said, “OK.”
            We waited a few more minutes, and after no one else arrived, we went into the school yard. 
            I explained to Dolores that she should pick a starting point that would correspond to October, and then she should try to divide the lap into 12 monthly sections, so she would know where she was in each year of her life as she ran. 
            “At the very least,” I explained, “divide the lap into the four seasons, so you can try to remember what you were doing in the fall, winter, spring, and autumn of each year.”
            “OK,” responded Dolores.  She decided that the southern end of the track where we’d entered would be January, the beginning of each year.   We then walked to a point that Dolores called October, and she put her water bottle on the benches by the edge of the track. 
            “Why don’t you run with me?” asked Dolores.  “I don’t really expect to finish, so you might as well run and I can ask you questions if I have any.”  That wasn’t the normal protocol, but I figured it would be OK if she was asking me.  Plus, it would be cold just sitting on the benches for her first 33 laps.
            “OK,” I said, and Dolores began her slow running around the Eagle Rock High School track.  I ran to her right and slightly behind, and didn’t say much.
            By the second lap – age two – Dolores began to relate incidents in her life.  Where she grew up, what her mother was doing, getting lost as a child and having a policeman on a motorcycle take her home,  growing up in Altadena, things about her sister.
            She ran steadily and talked in a low voice as if narrating the scenes of some inner vision.  She asked me one question about how to run, and I told her that this was not about running technique, only about getting fully into the details of reliving her life. 
            There was a slight pause about age 20 or so, as Dolores drank a longer drink of her water, and jotted a few notes with a small flashlight.  It was fully dark by this time, and the track was completely empty.
            Dolores continued to run, and related her various world travels – going to Germany to live with her husband, her daughter Barbara, getting divorced, traveling to Hawaii, to Virginia Beach, to Colorado, and her various spiritual pursuits.  I was hearing a lot of these details for the first time, so it was all new to me.  I listened, thinking to myself, what a fantastic life this woman has had! 
            We were getting to the end and she spoke of how the est  training changed her life, and how she wanted to start her own “survival food” business and travel around the country marketing it to communes and ordinary folks. She got to the point where she met the folks at our non-profit, and before you knew it, her run was over.
            “Wow,” said Dolores when she was done.  “I didn’t believe I could have done it without you.”  “What?” I thought to myself.  I only ran along with her, and didn’t realize that my being there gave her the needed support to do her own running.
            Dolores jotted down some more notes in her notebook, and we both departed. 
            I presume Dolores went to her home and did a hot “memory bath” by herself.  There was no gathering for Dolores that night – it was a weekday and someone else determined that the weekend would be a better time for a gathering.
On the weekend, I went to the birthday gathering for Dolores where she shared some of her life review, and some goals.  It was quite interesting to hear many of her life’s details again, though she shared only the highlights of those things that impressed her the most. 
            “I didn’t think I could do the run, but it helped to have Christopher run with me,” she said in her shy way of thanking me.  It made me feel good to know that what I thought was merely my passive presence had a significant positive influence on someone.  On Dolores.  It was the beginning of my feeling close to Dolores, and the beginning of our life paths co-mingling.
            Though I had already done the birthday run for a few years, it was only that night that I learned the birthday run was one of the methods designed to assist in reviewing one’s life.  In our non-profit organization, there was much focus on reviewing what had just occurred, whether it was a critique of an event we’d just done, or the review of what just went wrong on a desert field trip, or our annual New Year’s Eve “year review.”  Participants in our weekly spiritual studies classes were also advised to carefully review their day each night before sleep, and determine what was done right, and what needed rectification. 
            These methods of review, including the birthday run, were designed to assist us in living a better and more fulfilling life, with great cogency.  But this also helped us to deal with, and to prepare for, death.  I had not been aware of this facet of the birthday run until that night’s discussion after Dolores’ birthday. 
Though “preparing for death” and “thinking about death” may seem dark and negative to some folks, we never saw it that way.  Such discussions invariably led us to constantly ponder the consequences of each action, day by day.  Far from a dark and gloomy topic, our constant concern with The Law of Thought and the consequences of our actions led us to – in most cases – make better choices for a fuller and more fulfilling life.  Since death was, and is, inevitable, we choice to not ignore it, but to make our awareness of it a constant fixture in our daily life.