Post #3065: A weekend of practice

Let me start off by telling you that things last week were a bit crappy. I have a lot of work stress right now and that was compounded by 3 days of union-related meetings which made me feel frantic and behind at every step. On top of that, I was disrespectful to someone in a meeting because I had lost my patience with them – which is not how I want to be as a meeting chair – and so that resulted in an apology to everyone at the meeting. (I always figure it’s better to apologize right away and meaningfully rather than dig in.)

So yeah, I’ve been pretty stressed lately about work – and last week didn’t help – and then I was even more stressed because I had to leave my little paradise of an island to go to the city for a weekend meditation retreat. Can you imagine this? Stressed and then getting more stressed about meditation!

Glad to say that my misgivings about the trip were relieved the moment I walked in the door to receive a big, smiling hug from one of my teachers! It’s been three years since I started sitting with Mountain Rain and if nothing else, I can always count on feeling right at home when I show up. That was what I needed, a feeling of being where I belonged without a lot expected of me. (A lot of my stress right now is due to overwork which is all about what I let people expect of me – I need to lessen those expectations because I’m not getting rewarded for doing *everything all the time*)

So, I sat for the weekend with my fellow meditators and it was good. I had meetings with my teachers, I did some tonglen practice focused on equanimity, I felt each step in walking meditation as a grounding and an ease of being supported by the earth – and in addition to the time sitting, I rose early both days for a long walk, and brought simple healthy food to keep me going without having to dip into restaurants or shops at all. I ate mindfully, without distractions, kept phone and internet use at a minimum, and didn’t even read any books! In this way it was the most intensive effort I have ever made at a non-residential retreat – though I can’t say it was any effort because it was what my body and mind were deeply craving – some time to be quiet and alone.

By the end of the weekend the bad feeling in my gut and the tension in my neck had abated, and though I’m not fooled into thinking that the stress is all gone – I feel like I’ve got some new strategies to work with the internal resistance I have been feeling around some projects. I am feeling a bit low and quiet today – processing everything after a long evening of travel that involved traffic jams and late ferries – but also filled with the deep gratitude for my zen community, those people who show up and sit so that we may all experience our full human condition together. Without them, I would just be sitting alone; in a retreat or meditation hall I am part of a large and supportive body and after weeks of feeling under appreciated at work and in my union – I really did need that positive contact.

When I rose this morning I didn’t meditate as normal for I was a bit behind my schedule – and instead I took time to sit outside and eat my simple breakfast while watching the birds flit around the yard. It’s still grey here, but not too cold – and eating outside always feels like a picnic doesn’t it? I had forgotten that until the weekend when I ate my breakfast outside on a different bench both days (one day on the beach, one day on the UBC campus). I think this will be my practice for the next little while – as much as the weather and my schedule allows it – to eat outside in the mornings without distractions other than birds and the occasional insect.

Suzuki Roshi says that to find still mind in stillness is the easy part – it’s finding still mind in choppy waters that’s the real mastery of zen practice. This work is long and subtle – but each time I encounter a rough patch I become aware that whatever I am doing, it is working. I am more aware of my mind states, I am calmer in the face of difficulty – but at the same time, I also recognize how very far I have to go before I can navigate without tipping the kayak every once and awhile.

 

 

Post # 3064: Continuity

A few months ago, a struggling friend asked his facebook contacts for general advice on how to get through a difficult time. One of my friends responded to him thusly:

Build another thing. Think about who will use it when you are gone.

This line has come back to me almost weekly since – a piece of spontaneous poetry that speaks the human condition so plainly. The drive to create, to make new, to build – and the fact that we have so little time in which to do it before we turn it into the hands of those who follow. As someone who is a builder of things (textile things), I understand entirely, the continuity that making engenders – the connection to the past and the future which is made in the moment of throwing the shuttle or placing the stitch. And of course, I am highly aware that there may be no one to pass these things along to because we do not live in a world where we think too hard about who is coming next and what will be their inheritance. So many of the made “things” of this world do not even last a single lifetime, plastics becoming the stomach lining of birds and whales instead, houses even – built only for the use of a single family one time before they are plowed under for the next incarnation. This is the breaking of the line between then, now and the future – the refuse that piles up and doesn’t break down into anything reusable.

The chair above this post is about 150 years old. I purchased it on Craigslist for $75 and spent a ridiculous sum of money having it reupholstered because I loved its shape and the hand carved wood. When we peeled back the upholstery at the refinishing place, it was clear that it had been redone at least twice since the original fabric when onto it – making this the fourth recovering in its lifetime. I expect it won’t need to be done for another 40 or 50 years given the wear that a chair like this gets – which means the next time it gets a new coat I will likely have passed on. The chair is really sturdy, though perhaps it will need to be glued at some point to keep its joints together – but still, someone is using it long after the maker’s death, and will be using it beyond my own temporary hold. Though I am not the builder, I am a caretaker of this thing that will be used by another when I am gone.

If we could hold this perspective on our world with each purchase, with each thing we build – how different this all would be. What is this thing I am making? Will it last? Does it have use beyond this moment? Who will use it and how? When we are done with its use, can it be returned to the ground with little impact?

And so, this little poem to help us remember:

build
another thing.
Think about

who

will use it when
you are gone.

 

Post #3060: Every day sitting

Brian cleaned up the shrubs in front of the zendo yesterday and now I have to decide what to plant – I had been thinking of a Katsura tree, but a friend online told me that they aren’t drought tolerant and now I have to decide whether to risk it or not. Our spot on the island is a wet one, but in high summer it can get pretty dried out.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my sitting practice has gotten more regular again, for the first time since last June when we moved. While I have sat lots since moving (3-5 times per week plus retreats) – it has not been a daily practice. In the last 33 days (yes, I keep track), I have managed to re-establish daily practice even with travel to the cities and a hectic schedule – which just goes to show that daily practice isn’t about how busy I am, but how dedicated I am to doing it.

If you don’t meditate, you might wonder – is there really a difference between sitting five times per week and every day? While to a seasoned practitioner of meditation (twenty years or more), perhaps there is no difference – in my nascent state (of only three years), I deeply feel the difference.

And I suppose that makes sense – zen isn’t something that we just practice when we feel like it, it’s something we try to embody in all our dealings every day – and as the core of the practice is zazen (sitting meditation) – it makes sense that sitting every day helps us to work with zen principles in every day life too. That means accepting and letting go of anxieties, being with impermanence and change rather than resisting, cultivating equanimity – and so on.

In one of Brad Warner’s books on zen he tells the reader at the outset “if you don’t have a daily practice, don’t bother reading any more of this book as it’s a waste of your time” – that’s my paraphrase because I can’t find the quote right now – but it pretty much sums up the feeling that you can’t really do zen without practice.

Another way of saying that is we can’t intellectualize our way to enlightenment.

For me, this is not dogmatic or about what I “should” do – but based in the fact that every day that I sit, my grounding points are strenghtened for that day. Morning practice in particular helps me step into a the day with awareness about my starting block. Am I more tired than normal? Grumpy? Giddy? Anticipating a heavy work day?

When I come to myself in silence for even a brief period – it brings the day into focus, my reactivity, what I am bringing to my work and my life off the cushion.

Which is not to say that I have some kind of horrible time when I don’t meditate for a day, but I’m just not as well integrated on the inside, and it’s noticeable. If several days in a row go by without practice, that’s when I notice a lot more difficulty – my old anxiety flares right back up, and I am quicker to anger and criticsm.

There are many reasons that I told myself my daily practice dropped off, but mainly it’s because I allowed it to happen in the flurry of uprooting and resettling. I take this return of solid zazen as a sign that I have actually landed back in my life and am settling on Gabriola for real. And now that I have regrouped in one place again, I see how free I am to leave it and take my daily exercise of silence with me, wherever I go – even if it means practicing on a crowded city bus on the way to work (as I had to early last week).

We are ten months here and I am just finding my seat again – and what a lovely little zendo to explore this in!

Post #3059: Introducing the tiny zendo

I was away from home for two weeks doing all the things (friends, jukai, work, training) in both nearby cities (Victoria then Vancouver). It was a wonderful break after being alone for much of the time this winter (not lonely though) – and I think in the two weeks of travel I saw pretty much all of my closest friends and was more than grateful for the many nice meals and visits (and all of that time spent with Brian as we travelled and stayed together in Van).   Though I returned home last Wednesday, it’s taken me a few days to come back to ground and reintegrate into my home life. Being “on the road” and at the city condo is fun and all – but for a homebody like me, it’s also a little unsettling. I am a person who creates a bit of a fortress wherever I live – from the days when I only rented a room in a house, up until now with our half acre and home – I tend to surround myself with the things of my life and then spend a lot of time in that space. It’s not the comfort of material things that I seek in doing that, but a sense of personal space and the arrangement of it that’s most important.

One of the things that happened while we were away, was some work on the outdoors of our property – including work on a little outbuilding that was here when we moved in. This 9×9 “shed” was dank and full of detritus when we moved into the house – it smelled so foul (from some rotting carpet in the loft) that the dog wouldn’t even go into it. But even so, we quickly realized that it was way too overbuilt to be a simple shed – with power (four outlets, two overhead lights), insulation, two windows, and a poured concrete foundation – it had all the makings of a usable studio building or guest cabin. Last summer Brian and I cleaned it out and he threw a coat of white paint over everything to freshen it up in time for friends to stay in it during our summer party – but otherwise it needed some finishing work.

Because we already have studio space (and lots of it for both of us), we decided that this would be our tiny zendo, or meditation hall – and also double as guest space when needed. While away in March, we hired someone to come in and put up some shiplap to finish the walls and the loft, and on our return this past weekend we whitewashed those walls and bought flooring and a new light fixture. Yesterday, Brian installed the fixture and finished putting in the flooring and I nailed in the finishing strips along the edges (minus one, I ran out of material) – and voila! It’s a tiny zendo!

There are a last few additions still to come, including a shelf, and a wall heater, and some loft finishing including a piece of carpet and a ladder that hooks on for stability. Plus, I plan to landscape the outside a bit more and bang together a rack for shoes by the front door – but I’ve got a sitting space that feels light and airy, and a pleasure to be in. It’s *such* a great space that even Brian might be tempted to meditate there with me – he’s feeling mighty happy with how it turned out also.

I haven’t had a chance to sit in it yet, though I plan to do so tonight after returning home from work. I have returned to a rock solid daily practice for the first time since moving, and am reminded of the unmatchable benefits of sitting every day. So if you come visit me, and would like a sit while you are over – I will always affirm that desire – for sitting together strengthens all of our intentions. More cushions will soon be on order to accommodate guests.

Post #3054: Life at low tide

I was a having a perfect little romantic walk along the beach at low tide yesterday afternoon, when we passed a neighbour with her reactive dog barely under control. Not a minute later, and that dog shot up the beach and jumped on our beautiful old dog, biting her and then running off again. We scurried up the beach together to get away because I was afraid the attacking dog would come back at us, so riled up it was, but we managed to get up to the road and home without further event. That’s when I realized that Charlotte was bleeding – only a little – but still, it made everything seem much worse. Fortunately I have many supporters on the Internet and even some on my little island – and with friendly online hand-holding and some firm instructions about cleaning the wound from my neighbour – I got everything cleaned up and still managed to get in the studio for a couple of hours last night.

Two realizations I had as a result of this:

  • At another time in my life, this incident would have sent me into paroxysms of anxiety and trauma. I would have felt isolated and scared (with Brian away), and sat inside those feelings quite willfully (not intentionally, but refusal to let go of a feeling is a powerful addiction). Yesterday, I got home with fairly little anxiety – some worry, but of a normal level – asked people in my community for help, got it, and then went on with things. I think that change comes from a variety of places, including aging, but I would pinpoint my daily meditation practice as the thing which has most helped me get less reactive over the last few years. One of my teachers told me early on that it wasn’t that meditating would change your immediate emotional reactions, but it definitely impacted how long you held onto the feelings afterwards – this came back to me last night when I realized that I quite effortlessly dropped the negative feelings once the attack had ended.
  • Like any abrupt or traumatic event, I am reminded that no matter what moment we are currently having, it can change in a nanosecond, and without warning. Which is why we can never get too smug about where we are, or how things are for us. It’s just luck that something hasn’t occurred to take it away yet (or luck that we were born into it in the first place) – nothing to be proud of, nothing to take for granted.

The dog and I are both fine this morning, she’s a bit more tired than normal but pretty much seems to be herself. I expect she’s sore from being jumped on, but the site where she bled doesn’t seem to be causing her any real pain, even when I run my hand over it. I’ll just keep it clean today with alcohol and watch for infection at this point.

My plan for today was to get back to blogging with a Dillardesque reflection on low tides and what they bring (birds! seaweeds! interesting rock formations normally under water!) but instead, it’s something else. It’s the real thing – the fact that life everywhere is changing at each moment, and if you don’t pay attention you miss so much of the unfolding, each second that is about to change the course of your life entirely.

#3051: A miniature rant

I have unfollowed an awful lot of people on FB lately. And not because they are right wing, you know? But because they are ludicrously angry about every single thing. I can’t take it anymore – I really can’t. I want to engage politically but I am beyond done with the non-stop infighting, macho posturing and angry lecturing. So I’m disengaging with that – using social media to be social – and taking my politics back to the world at large as I prepare to run for president of my union local next month and work on local community projects. My time is not well spent being talked down to or shouted at.

Fact is, each one of us has only so much energy and so much influence. It’s important to direct that wisely.

Post #3050: Meditating the morning of….

I’m not going to say what it’s the morning of, because we all know, and many of us are unhappy about it, and the world seems inching closer to the edge as a result of what will happen later today.

And yet.

And yet when I rose this morning I got on my knees to meditate in the dark dawn of 6 am. I took refuge there in the stillness, the cushion supporting me, the trees of my island breathing in and out alongside me.

Towards the end of my sitting this quote bounced up into my mind:

Acceptance does not mean fatalism. It does not mean capitulation to some slaughtering predestination. Those who follow Tao do not believe in being helpless. They believe in acting within the framework of circumstance…. Acceptance is a dynamic act. It should not signal inertness, stagnation, or inactivity. One should simply ascertain what the situation requires and then implement what one thinks is best. As long as one’s deeds are in accord with the time and one leaves no sloppy traces, then the action is correct. Deng-Ming Dao

I take refuge for exactly this reason – so I can get up and face the world as it is, while still holding faith in the capacity for compassion, renewal, sanity. This is the only practice that stops me from becoming paralyzed by the grief held inward like a breath that can’t be properly expelled, decaying and stale.

I will not watch the news today – acceptance does not also mean that one must stare at the train wreck. I will knit a silly pink hat and plan to join in the collective of women around the globe tomorrow. Knitting, meditating, chanting, and changing. This is my world. The one I accept. The I take refuge in and from. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Post 3045: Opening the windows

In my meditation retreat a couple of weeks ago, one of my teachers said, “sometimes we figure out what our retreat is about after a few days of it, but often we don’t know what a retreat is about for us was about until afterwards”. After five residential retreats (not many, but enough for a sample), I know that this process of discovery happens in layers – a bit of understanding in the retreat, quite a lot more in the week that follows, and then more later, perhaps on the next retreat when something comes round full circle again.

I cried a lot during my sesshin at Loon Lake this year. I wasn’t expecting that at all, but I discovered in my first two days of sitting that all of my body was noise and it wouldn’t simply dial down. Noise about the US election, climate change, the turn towards hatred, the outrage and rawness and exhaustion I was feeling from all the months of yelling yelling yelling. It was all in there, and when I started to get silent, it came up and danced in front of me. And so I went to my meetings with teachers and cried, I cried on my cushion during the Dharma talks, I cried in my bed when a particularly crushing childhood memory came back to me in a jolt. It was in no way continual, but it was the punctuation to each day of the retreat. It was confusing, because I am not a crier, but I became curious about what would make me cry next.

On the last day of sitting, I heard someone across the room sniffle. At first I thought “damn, someone’s got a cold” because if one person has a cold at retreat then it means there’s a good chance other people will get it and take it home with them. It’s not the most compassionate response, but I have become an ardent hand washer at communal gatherings because I *always* get sick otherwise. Anyhow – my ears were perked up to just such a sign in the zendo….. At first one sniffle, then two…. and after a few more seconds I realized that I was listening to someone cry, not have a cold…. and even more, in that room of 70 people, I could identify who it was. The moment I made that identification, it was like a channel opened up, and I began to cry also, but not for any specific reason of my own but because I could feel the clear suffering of my fellow sitter pouring right inside of me as though it were my very own.

After leaving retreat, I went to visit my family and then drove home to Gabriola. Over the week following (much of which I was separate from Brian due to differing work commitments – and so had lots of self reflection time) I noted that I was feeling a lot of my interactions with people holistically, through my whole body and touching my deeply in the way they normally don’t. I’ve been writing more since that time, I’ve been reading more zen, I’ve been more open generally with my time, and feeling more honest and generous overall, even as the implications of being open are also to feel more pain – to feel the injury of others continuously. This opening was authentic, not the result of thinking I should do one thing or behave some way, just a natural transition from the cushion to everyday life. It’s been remarkable to note it, even as I also feel that flow begin to ebb.

I have had such experiences before – following retreats or periods of intensive daily meditation. I have had great washes of universal love, or radical truth-telling, or changes of my relationship to time – as a result of this practice. Thus far these have been momentary, a few hours, a day at most. This time was a bit different – an opening in full form for at least a week, and still somewhat with me as I write this entry. But I know it won’t last – this state, like all things, is impermanent.

When we meditate, we watch our feelings rise and fall, pass before us and slip out the door. We learn that our emotional states are literally seconds or nano-seconds long, that even if we are having a really deep meditation in one moment, the monkey mind can start throwing bananas in the next, and that the breath is a tenuous anchor at the best of times. In our work towards living in the world more fully, there is no linear path, and no constancy in our responses to the stimulus around us. But what keeps us, or at least me, coming back to sit over and over no matter how tedious it seems at times – is these glimpses of equanimity, these cracks in which the shining self waiting to be revealed leaks through.

I do not have a cosmic relationship with the notion of awakening or enlightenment. As I’ve written before, I believe these are purely psychological states that come with deepening our relationship and understanding – and so I ascribe nothing mystical to these openings of feeling or awareness that come following a retreat. I do believe, however, that they are the guideposts to where we seek to go in the fullness of ourselves, and in the right time.

I will note that after a week and a half of this window open to compassion and connection, I have spent the last 24 hours in an outrageously angry state. I had a political argument today on Facebook (about Castro, of all things), I yelled at Brian last night because he wasn’t *as* pissed off at the government as I am about electoral reform. Basically, I am picking fights for no reason.

I believe this anger is intrisically connected to the channel that was opened in me following retreat. And so I continue to discover what fruit that period of silent meditation will bring to bear.

I came across this quote yesterday and it resonates – so rather than coming up with a pithy ending to this post, I will leave it here for your consideration. It’s a deep commitment required of each of us.

Many of us have set out on the path of enlightenment. We long for a release of selfhood in some kind of mystical union with all things. But that moment of epiphany–when we finally see the whole pattern and sense our place in the cosmic web–can be a crushing experience from which we never fully recover.

Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. You can not turn away. Your destiny is bound to the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.

To seek enlightenment is to seek annihilation, rebirth, and the taking up of burdens. You must come prepared to touch and be touched by each and every thing in heaven and hell.
Andrew Boyd

Post 3044: Light time, night time

I don’t feel like working today. So much so, that  I briefly considered calling in sick, even though I work from my home studio on Mondays and arriving here is as simple as getting out of bed and crossing the driveway. I’m not really sick at the moment though, I’m just fuzzy and I would like more sleep, so I kicked myself out from under the covers and here I sit, watching the light rise around me. From my desk at home I have a clear view to the ocean, enough so that I can tell whether it’s a calm day out there or a choppy one, enough so that I can see the colour of the sunrise as it spreads across the sea.

Over the weekend it became apparent that with the summer foliage gone, we can glimpse the ocean from pretty much every room in our house during the wintertime. We can stand on our deck in the night and see the ferries sail by, lights blazing – and the cold air of winter carries the dark water in it.

When I moved here, a friend (who was about to get a divorce but didn’t know it yet), told me that the worst thing about living on Gabriola was the darkness of winter here. There are no street lights, and houses are set back from the road and surrounded by trees. The power goes off on the regular (it went out last night for two hours) due to windstorms and aging hydro infrastructure, and the coast is always cloudy in the wintertime. She moved off the island a month after I moved onto it, and I wondered then how much the darkness would affect me. Even in Gibsons, there was quite a bit of ambient light both from the town and from the city of Vancouver – which is not the case on our side of the island – it gets really dark here.

Thus far, all I can report is that I sleep more deeply, that a wool blanket has never been more welcome in my life, and that stocking the wood for the stove during daylight is essential if you don’t want to be scared by a raccoon in the woodshed at night. Granted, this is our first winter here, perhaps I will grow to dislike all these things immensely. Maybe the awareness of light or its absence will prove to be too much, and I’ll long for the city again. I’m  counting on that not being the case, but it could be.

Yesterday I went to a place called the Net Loft for a meditation gathering that happens every Sunday. An incredible spot, with windows to the ocean in a perfect and protected bay – I entered, bowed before the altar before sitting, and for an hour my knees touched the floor in the silence of becoming. It is true that the nights here are very dark, but the light from the water is always buoyant.

Post #3025: When the dead come calling

This past weekend, we held our housewarming party on Gabriola – and a fine time was had by all (more on that in a future post), but there was one incident that occurred on Saturday morning that has stayed with me and that I want to relay here before any of the details elude me (as memories fade almost as quickly as we make them).

Our housewarming party started on Friday afternoon and went straight through the weekend until Monday morning – with many old friends from my Victoria crew coming together and staying together the entire time. Of course this involved late nights and some staying up drinking. On the very first night, one of my guests left our downstairs cordless phone outside which drained its battery while we slept.

In the morning I saw the phone and brought it into the house, putting it on the kitchen counter with the intention of returning it to its cradle. I left it for a moment while I went upstairs to use the washroom, and a group of friends were standing around  the kitchen chatting. When I came back down, one of my friends said “your phone rang while you were upstairs” – something I hadn’t heard, because the upstairs phone hadn’t run (which in any normal circumstance it would have). Curious about who it was, I took the phone off the counter to see who had called. The first thing I noticed (before I saw the name) was that the phone looked as though it had been answered and the speaker setting was switched on (as indicated by the light). Odd, but dying batteries do weird things…… But even stranger was the fact that the call display showed a name only, no phone number, and it clearly read “Bronwyn Charman” –  the name of our friend who died just over two months ago in Berlin.

You might imagine, I was agog with the discovery, barely able to speak and so I turned the phone display towards three of my friends and said “Look at this – do you see what I see?” Two of them (Mel and Marika) immediately confirmed that they saw the same name on the call display (the other didn’t have his glasses) – but we noted afterwards that I did not prime any of them by telling them what I saw first – I asked them to verify the name cold, without prompting (not out of any design either, I couldn’t speak what I was seeing).

At this point the phone was still active and I was totally confused, so I ran upstairs to the other cordless phone which was sitting in its cradle. On that phone’s display was indicated “Line in Use” as though the line was activated. I sat on the edge of the bed then and said “Hello” into the phone a few times, but the line sounded dead. I picked up the other phone from its cradle and engaged it, and said hello again. After a few tries (I could hear my voice coming through the phone to the dead phone), both phones clicked off.

I immediately scrolled back through the caller display to verify what had happened. The dead phone wouldn’t bring up call display at all (the low battery symbol was flashing) and the other phone that was charged showed no record of the call coming in at all. (Later after I had charged the first phone (that the call came into), I could find no record of the call on that phone either. It was as though no call had come in all morning.)

At this point I was confused, and a bit upset. A few of us started working through possible explanations, wondering how it could have happened in a scientific-rational world but none of the answers we came up with made any sense (see below for more detail on that). It was at that point that a couple of our friends came in from outside where a group of them had been sitting around the patio table (the door between them and us was closed, so they hadn’t heard the commotion inside). We told them what had happened, and Masha asked – how long ago was this? I said – 10-15 minutes….. To which she answered, “Well that makes sense. We were just outside having a conversation about all the people we’ve lost over the last couple of years and how we could invite them all to the party even though they had passed over. We even named them – Bronwyn, Brian, Jesse….. and invited them to join us.”

Yup. That’s right. My friends were outside invoking the dead when our phone rang with the name of our dead friend on call display.

Let’s review a few other facts about this so that it’s clear there is no simple explanation:

  • First off – the phone was pretty much dead and in that state wouldn’t have rung at all. The phone upstairs did not ring even though it was fully charged.
  • The phone had clearly turned itself on, and the speaker was engaged, even though no one had touched it when it rang.
  • Bronwyn died in Berlin just over two months ago, before Brian and I moved, and she never had our phone number on Gabriola Island so it wouldn’t have been programmed into a phone or her computer.
  • I have never received a call from Bronwyn where her name came up on call display – she often phoned from payphones or pay as you go cels, and her number would be all that would come up. Also, she mostly called my cel phone, not our old landline. All this is to say that the phone wouldn’t have had the “memory” of her name from some previous phone call.
  • Her name came up with no phone number. All other calls that have come into that phone in the last few months have come up name first (or Unknown) and then phone number. There was no number attached to this call.
  • The one person I thought might have had a cel phone that came out of her storage locker was on her way to our party also and swore that she didn’t have an old phone from our friend, nor had she called from it.
  • I do not believe that any of friends would pull a prank of this nature, and everyone present was deeply affected by what happened.

Once the initial shock wore off, Kyla said “we better make an offering then,” and she and I put offering items together on the mantle in our living room, and said Buddhist words of loving kindness after a couple minutes of silence during which we focused on her release. Throughout the next day and night, other items were added to the offering, but I don’t believe that she left then or later. I had another moment in the night when I was singing a song that she had sung when we were in our early twenties – and I thought I felt something pass through me, had a bodily experience of what might have been her presence. That – I know – can be chalked up to any number of psychological factors. But the phone call, can not. As much as I would like it to be explained away, I cannot find an answer to this riddle, and I have witnesses to its occurrence.

Phone calls from the dead are a bit of a cliche but there you go – we do not choose the forms that visitations take. If anyone out there has an explanation for how this could have happened (beyond the fact that my group of friends are witches and we carry powerful energies when together) – please suggest away. Otherwise I’m going to have to accept that the friend we are all still grieving has not found her way out of this world just quite yet.