A.K. Reader: I woke up, suddenly, at two years and eight months of age, to the radio broadcast of Hiroshima

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 2.36.02 PM.pngThis is the third of a series of chapters from the unpublished manuscript MY SECRET LIFE: Ten (obvious, unusual) Tools for Continuous Transformation of the Self, composed in 1996. I plan to unearth them all on this blog, one by one, after hearing from readers about the first post I put up, “Questioning Assumptions,” which then led to the second one, “Introduction,” and now, in order, will follow the rest of them. So, to begin again, with Chapter One!:

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Pre-Hiroshima, 1943

Chapter One

DEATH I: and the Maiden

War Baby

I was born December 19, 1942, at 8:02 AM Central War Time, in Fort Sam Houston hospital, San Antonio, Texas. Three weeks earlier, under the grandstand of a sports stadium in Chicago, scientists had conducted the first successful fission experiment on the atom.

When I was two years and eight months old, our country dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How did I know this? I have no idea. Did I overhear adult conversations? Did I listen to the radio myself? In my mind’s eye I see myself sitting there on the floor, my head at knee level to the adults seated in chairs, absorbing their tension, shock, bewilderment, and ultimately exultation as they listened to the radio’s stunning announcement. The war was over! My father could now come home.

You’d think I would have picked up on the excitement of my mother and her sisters and parents. I did not. Instead, I absorbed our country’s nuclear shadow, and there I remained, paralyzed with fear, inside the mushroom cloud.

Forever afterwards my father, who had served as a flight surgeon in the Phillipines, said that were it not for the Atomic Bomb, he probably would have died in the war. And forever afterwards I felt guilty. Guilty that I did not feel the way he did (which meant that I wished him dead?), but more important, guilty that our country had done such a terrible thing. I must have imagined myself as a victim of this horrific global nightmare, because forever afterwards, I would freeze with fear anytime I heard the drone of a large airplane.

Fear of the Bomb

Always, fear, lurking in the background, or present, palpable, drowning out everything else. Silently, I would peer into adults’ eyes, trying to see what lay within. Do they know? Could I tell if they do? Can I talk to them? But no, no. In no one’s eyes did I see even a glimmer of what I was burdened with. Of this awful knowing. I was the only one who thought about the whole world, and what was going to happen to it. Everyone else was preoccupied with their own small corner.

At night, lying in bed, my head would fill with visions of fire, engulfing the whole world. Of a Blackened Planet. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that unless I personally did something, the world would end in my lifetime. That Life on Earth would be snuffed out. But of course I was but a child, I could do nothing.

I still know this. Know that we are living in the last days. That the apocalypse is near at hand. That either we change, or we die. The difference between now and then — and it makes all the difference in the world! — is this: I am not alone. I and others like me are charged with transfoming the way we use our human capacity for creation and destruction.

As a child I would look out the big picture window in the living room, wondering at all the children outside, playing. How could they act as if they had not a care in the world? And of course I couldn’t talk to them, they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. Just like the adults, they would think I was crazy. Dejected, in an attempt to shrug off the depression that shrouded my soul, I would put on the mask of a child, open the door, walk down the steps, and pretend to join their game of jacks, their crack-the-whip, their cowboys-and-indians. I longed to be like them, longed to be able to lose myself in play so that I could, for a few precious moments, for one long luxurious afternoon, forget.

Forget that the sky was about to fall in. Forget that the world was about to blink out. I was so afraid of going to sleep and never waking up that my nightly prayers to God were one long obsessive ritual: crying silently into the darkness— “Please God, let there be peace!” — I would whisper a Hail Mary and turn from stomach to side; whisper another Hail Mary and turn from side to back . . . . I know all this now because I did tell my mother about my prayer ritual, and she asked me to write it down. Both sides of that old yellowed piece of paper torn from a school notebook tablet are filled with those awkwardly printed prayers.

I am not surprised now to remember how, as a child, I was amazed and grateful that the sky was blue. Blue! When it could have been green, or red, or yellow! I hungered for blue, was obsessed with the color blue. As an adult I learned that the quality of blue is peaceful, and I realized that gazing into the blue sky helped calm my constant nagging anxiety.

Whereas other children were immersed in daily life, I was haunted by the vision of earth as a whole — exploding. This nightmare illumined everything with its eerie light and trivialized all mundane events. I was facing reality, others were seduced by appearances. I was deep, others were superficial. I was burdened with universal world-wide catastrophe, others were engaged in their personal day-to-day worlds. So it seemed to me. While other children were wondering what they were going to be when they grew up, I figured the world wouldn’t be here when I grew up, so what was the point of making plans?

Death was the first tool my soul used to see through the veil, what Eastern religions call maya, the illusion that the ebb and flow of ordinary events are of ultimate value. However, this insight led initially not to transcendance, but to fear. Fear of Death. Fear of the explosion itself. I was slave to Death’s allure, the life force rising within my young body clamped down by terror.

Even as a five-year-old, my secret obsession propelled me to the front porch every morning to grab the newspaper, scan the headlines for news. No news was good news. I could play the little girl again. I could go outside and pretend to play again, for one more precious day.

I vividly remember walking home from school one day in 1950. The Korean War had just been announced on the radio. I was seven years old, and the sense of doom that I usually kept bottled up inside me was suffocating. This was it. The promised nightmare was about to come true.

A few years later, fear of death spawned fascination. A part of me already wanted to learn how to face fear, though I was a long way from embracing it.

Fascination with Death

As ten-year-olds, my friend Mitzi and I would ride our horses out to the slaughter house. There we would stand, facing the open shed where they slaughtered horses for fish food, staring, transfixed, our hands taut on the reins of our quivering horses, their bodies ready to bolt, their ears flicking from flies and fear.

As a high school student, I begged my doctor father to let me watch an autopsy. He refused. So I convinced a friend of mine, whose father was an undertaker, to sneak me into the morgue one night. Staring, at death, at grey naked human bodies on slabs.

My friend Mary lived in the country. Every year her family raised a steer for meat. At my request, Mary’s mom let me know when they planned to slaughter the steer, so I could be there to watch.

My high school boyfriend was the first person with whom I could discuss the coming apocalypse. Dick and I would pore over a map of the U.S.A. that showed the spread of fallout from nuclear war. Everything east of the Mississippi was black; the west was spotted with black or grey. The safest place seemed to be the southeast corner of Oregon; we fantasized moving there. Our fears were contagious, leading our parents to build the first two bomb shelters in Idaho. Ours was state-of-the-art; my father retrofitted a large room in our basement and filled it with supplies. His father dug a hole in their back yard.

Death was my companion. Death walked by my side, separating me from others, isolating me from normal life. Much later, I would read where the shaman Don Juan, in one of Carlos Castaneda’s then-popular books, talked about Death, saying that Death walks by our left side, that only as we become intimate with Death do we learn how to live.

As I child, I was intimate with Death, but I was too young to learn how to live. My preoccupation with Death was morbid. I saw Death everywhere, and went around the world like a zombie. During my teenage years, when the body’s burgeoning life threatened to overcome the strict controls of conscience, I moved like a robot. Inside my body was the Bomb, set to go off when the time was ripe.

That time came in 1969. I was 26 years old.


September, 1969: a large commercial kitchen in an old beach hotel that houses a summer commune. My friend Sylvia suggested that we leave our chidlren with their fathers and drive down here one last time, to close up the hotel for the winter. We are sitting at one end of one of the long wooden kitchen tables, eating dinner, as ghosts of summer’s psychedelic tribal chaos flit through the room.

Our meal is finished. With a twinkle in her eye, round-faced, medusa-haired Sylvia reaches into her left breast pocket and pulls out a small, tinfoil-wrapped package, opens it. Two tiny white pills. “Mescaline,” she grins.

It’s time. Time for me to take the leap. I couldn’t do it before. Now I must.

The sun is setting. Sylvia drops her tab and heads for the beach. I swallow mine and walk into the vast deserted living room, turn on the huge sound system to the music of The Doors, and begin to dance. Moving around the perimeter of the room, tentatively, then more and more forcefully, I accelerate to a frenzy, suddenly shifting into a twirl. I am spinning, like a dervish. Time stands still. I am a volcano, roaring into space.

Sylvia appears in the doorway, breaking the spell. The sun is rising. I have danced, in a trance state, all night long.

That afternoon, back home with the children, my stomach begins to ache. Flu? Food poisoning? Lie down and rest. It will pass.

The next day my stomach is no better. It seems a bit swollen. Slight fever.

All day I remain in bed, caring for the children from my bedside.

The next afternoon I have to admit that my stomach, now extremely tender, has swollen into what looks like a six-month pregnancy. Fever slightly higher. I am unable to move my bowels.

I call my husband, then an MIT student, and ask him to come get me and take me to the student health services. He comes to pick me up, complaining that I’m interrupting his day.

On the table, my feet in stirrups, the doctor does a vaginal exam while palpating my stomach. The pain is excruciating. I scream. He stops, tears off his gloves and announces that I must go to the hospital at once. Diagnosis: “general abdominal peritonitis.”

In the admitting room of Massachusetts General Hospital, I am questioned as to my religious preference. Up until now I have been a good Catholic girl. Now I bark, “ALL OR NOTHING!” in a voice not my own. My husband is embarrassed. For once I don’t care.

I am wheeled into a ward with three elderly patients. My husband looks impatient. I tell him to go ahead and take the children to Vermont as planned, that I will be okay by myself. He does. I am relieved. Nor do I call Sylvia, or my parents. This will be my journey. This finally, is my time.

I am hooked up to IVs, for antibiotics and for pain. Gratefully, I become the “patient,” settling into clean white sheets, giving up my life to Demoral dreams in the care of white-suited anonymous others.

Seven days pass. I am still hooked up to IVs. Not much has changed. I am still feverish and my stomach still swollen. So far, they have gone through 30 antibiotics, my doctor says, and the next one, he warns is the final one: “I don’t know what else to do.”

Suddenly, in that voice not my own: “Am I going to die?”

I don’t know,” he mutters. He looks sheepish, embarrassed. Hurries out of the room.

I have reached the crossroads. I can no longer stay asleep without consequence. Suddenly, for the very first time, my soul reaches down into my body and commands in a loud booming voice: “Live or die. It’s your choice.”

Gripped by a surge of energy, I thrust my right arm, full of needles, to the heavens, and give the finger to God. Furious, I yell internally: “Not only is there no God to pray to, there is no God to give the finger to!” My Big Daddy God in the sky is dead.

Therefore, I’m free.

Therefore, I’m responsible.

Twenty-four hours later my fever is gone and my stomach flat. The doctors are perplexed. I tell them nothing. That morning I get up to take a shower and notice in the mirror that I have lost 15 pounds, and that the planes of my face have been rearranged.

My sudden shift in the hospital, in response to the soul’s infusion, its loud internal challenge, Live or Die, it is your choice, put me into shock. I had, apparently, decided to live, but what did that mean? What were the implications of this new freedom, of taking responsibility for my life? For three months this new awareness simmered below the surface, while I coped clumsily with daily demands.

The first hint of what would happen next came in December, when I marched into the office of one of my professors (I was a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at Boston University), and flopped, heavily, into the armchair in front of his desk. He looked up in surprise. A year prior to this he had stunned me by yelling, as I stood shyly, tentatively, in the doorway to his office for the umpteenth time: “Get in or get out. Don’t stand in the doorway!”

Now I leaned forward, whispering: “Will you help me?”

He got up, walked around to my side of the desk, pulled the other armchair close to mine, and sat down. Carefully taking off his glasses and tucking them in his breast pocket, he leaned forward and asked, intimate: “Do you want to be like me?”

Oh yes!” I cried, adoring.

WRONG!” he thundered. “YOU MUST GO BEYOND ME.”

Four months later, I demanded that my husband move out.

Peritonitis, again, and again

Death spoke to me twice more with peritonitis. While the first time was the most dramatic, the second and third bouts spurred further course corrections.

In July, 1971, I was in the midst of writing my doctoral dissertation. The first half of it had been written automatically, in one long sustained flow, two typed pages per day. In order to write the second half I needed to make a subtle shift in consciousness. But I seemed to be stuck. Peritonitis flared up again, and slapped me into the hospital again, where, during a course of oral antibiotics my unconscious made the shift and the body followed. Seven days later, I was back at my desk, writing, automatically again, with no effort and no sense of what word would come next, the second half of the manuscript.

The third peritonitis “attack,” in 1973, was in response to being fired from an experimental college in California (see Introduction, p. ____), for being “too experimental.” One year earlier I had left my children with their father in Massachusetts in order to take this job. Always before, the antibiotics had stopped the “attack.” This time, after I had completed the recommended dose of oral antibiotics, the infection flared up again.

For many years I had advocated natural methods of healing, even though the peritonitis had caught me up in western medicine. Now I called my doctor father on the phone, and told him the antibiotics had not worked, and asked him what to do next. He told me that the only thing to do now was to have a hysterectomy (the infection had begun in the left ovary, thanks to a punctured IUD). As he was saying this, a female housemate handed me a slip of paper with a phone number on it. “Call this number,” she said. “A healer.”

Another crossroads. This time the choice was obvious. To my recital of the history of my disease process, and what was happening now, the old woman who answered my call said merely, “Peel one clove of garlic. Boil water. Put the clove in a cup and pour the water to the top. Wait until it cools. Drink the water. Do this with a new clove of garlic every four hours. Call me in the morning.”

What?” I sputtered. “But what about my symptoms? She responded, “And drink camomile tea. Just do what I say, and call me,” she repeated.

Something in the tone of her voice was undeniable. Now I know that camomile relaxes, and that garlic is a natural antibiotic. Then I did what I was told, preparing the garlic in the manner she instructed, every four hours. By morning my swollen stomach had receded and the fever and pain were gone.

I called her again. She said to come see her that afternoon at 2 o’clock.

As I drove up to her tiny house in Alameda, I was afraid. I felt foolish. Who is this little old lady, anyway? And yet I was amazed by the quick turnaround in my symptoms produced by the garlic.

Tiny, sparrow-like Mildred Jackson, 74 years old, had just recovered from a three-week bout of pneumonia, for which she had treated herself. Leading me into an antique-filled room dominated by a huge oak examining table, she sat down and told me to undress. I was embarrassed. Why didn’t she wait outside? Then she told me to climb on the table and lie on my back. Standing next to the table, she placed the fingertips of both hands next to each other on my right hip and started to walk slowly around the table, lightly pressing with her fingertips the entire perimeter of my naked body.

Meanwhile, she asked three questions: “What do you fear?” What do you hate?” and “What do you feel guilty about?”

Something about her manner opened me to my sorrow and guilt over my chidlren. I told her that I had left them in Massachusetts with with their father. She helped me to realize the connection between these feelings and the origin of the infection in my left ovary, “caused” originally by the perforated IUD.

That was the final time I was faced with Death through peritonitis. The first time woke me up to my own life, the second time shifted me into the second half of my dissertation, and the third time introduced me to unfinished business with my children and my creativity as well as initiated me into comprehending the links between the soul, the emotions, and the body.

That was in 1974. Since that time, I have addressed the spiritual causes of disease patterns within myself, and I work with healers rather than physicians whenever I sense an internal imbalance. I also realize full well the value of emergency care through western medicine: had I not gone to the hospital that first time, I would have died.

Canoeing the Snake River

January, 1978. I have just separated from my second husband, who had been my high school boyfriend, and whom I married in my early 30s. Dick was my true love. And yet my soul had called again, presenting an impossible choice: my work, or my love. I could not do my work and remain married to him. “What is your work?” Dick had asked. “I have no idea,” I had to admit. All I knew was, whatever it was, I couldn’t do it with him. So, after nine months of agonizing, once we got through Christmas he helped move me into a tiny apartment of my own, with our $3000 savings, to start.

Now I’m feeling scared, stuck. I’ve let go of the marriage. But I can’t seem to move forward.

One day in February I ingest magic mushrooms with two men and we decide to go down the Snake River in a borrowed canoe. It is late afternoon. The sun has already sunk behind the canyon walls. We will be going about 14 miles down, and have left a car at the other end.

Dressed in heavy boots and down jackets, I look at the older man and say, “Are you sure we should be doing this at this time of day, this time of year?” He looks at me scornfully, laughs off my concern. Despite the sinking feeling in my solar plexus, I step into the back seat of the canoe. With the three of us in it, the water comes to within a few inches of the rim. Any fool could see it is overloaded.

We push off, begin to paddle. It is a brilliant day. Frozen waterfalls cling to dark lava canyon walls. An enormous flock of ducks heads our way, lands on the river in front of us, and then rises with a whoosh of hundreds of beating wings each time we draw near.

Halfway to the takeout point I begin to realx, thinking maybe we are going to make it, that my solar plexus is “off.” Just then, on the fringes of awareness, I hear a low hiss. The white noise expands as we turn a bend in the river to see a rapid, just ahead. “Oh no!” — my solar plexus clutches into a fist. Instantly, I shift, centering myself, telling myself that grace and balance are all I need . . . .

Whew! We made it through the rapid! All three of us are soaring now, excited by our success in negotiating a tricky little riffle on the river. “Only a few miles now to takeout,” I think to myself, figuring the rapid was the challenge, and we are home free. Just in the nick of time, I think, as the sun is about to set.

Suddenly, one of the men spies a pool of water near the bank above the river which has a waterfall leading down from it to the river. “Hey, let’s go over there!” he says, and the other one chimes in, “Yeah, let’s climb up the rapid!” Remember, we are all on magic mushrooms, and the men, obviously, are pumped up by our recent victory. As soon as they say that, my heart sinks. I watch helplessly as they paddle to the right side of the river, aim the canoe at the current created by the waterfall. As we cut into its current, the canoe’s balance tips, and it overturns.

Dunking into the icy river with my heavy clothes and boots on, the situation so expected and yet so shocking — this cannot be happening! I struggle to rise and grasp the canoe in the swift current and I desperately imagine Big Daddy God reaching down from the sky to pluck us out.

The three of us reach the overturned canoe at the same time. One man at the head, me in the middle, the other man at the end. We look at each other, straight on, soul to soul. The mushroom high is over. This is real.

Since we are in a borrowed canoe, our first concern is to save it. We spend the next few minutes attempting to turn the canoe over, to no avail. The two men argue about how to do it, one of them remembering the old boy scout way, which fails to work. Meanwhile, I am hanging on with my hands, my mind and spirit in another zone. I ask myself, “Is there anything I regret about my life?” The answer is “No.” This realization floods me with joy. I feel detached from life and death, serene. I am in limbo, hanging in the balance. I can live, or I can die. Either way is okay.

The man at the head of the canoe, in his early 20s, breaks the spell. “Forget the canoe,” he says. “Let’s get out of here.” The other man notices my passivity and says, “Take off your boots.” When I respond sluggishly, the cold slowing my body and mind, he barks at me, “Take them off. NOW!” As he cheerfully and relentlessly urges me on, I finally manage the task, and all three of us swim to shore.

That night we feel exhilarated to have been so close to death and survived. I find it interesting that it was the younger man who finally realized that we should forget the canoe. He says that for him, his only thought was, “I’m not going to die here. I refuse to die.” He gave priority to his life over someone’s possession. The older man, who was a pathologist, knew exactly how long we had before death from hypothermia, eight to ten minutes. And when he looked at me, he knew I was starting to fail. His cheerfulness masked his own feeling, he told us, that we would not get out of our predicament in time. He discarded his own fatalistic and even cynical personality in order to help us all. My own discovery, that it truly didn’t matter whether I lived or died, was what I needed to break the lock of my own stuck place, and move into the future.

I tell this story to show how differently the immediate perceived possibility of Death affects us. Who we are, our temperaments, our age, what we need to discover about ourselves at that time in our lives, all create their own contexts that Death serves to crystalize.

Near car-accident

January, 1987. I am driving back to Jackson Wyoming through the Snake River Canyon in my brand new (pre-owned) little red Subaru. First time steering a front wheel drive vehicle in a snow storm on slick roads. I’ve been on the road for five hours, hours of uninterrupted thinking. Now I’m beginning to relax, to let go of all the projects I’ve been planning, mile by mile, for this new year. Only 30 miles to go, almost all of them on this narrow, twisting mountain road paralleling the ice clogged river 50 feet below.

A large chartered bus rounds the corner ahead. I clutch with fear — thank God we will pass each other on the straightaway! At this precise moment I notice my right front wheel plowing through soft snow on the shoulder of the road. Not familiar with how front wheel drive works in this kind of emergency, I do what I would do in my old car, jerk the wheel to the left, which points me directly in the path of the oncoming bus — and sliding, out of control.

At this point the bus takes evasive action. Too late. There is little either of us can do to avoid collision. Unthinkingly, I jerk the wheel to the right.

And that is the last rational thing I can say about my encounter with the bus. What remains are impressions. Of being enveloped in blinding white light. Of my soul’s sudden presence, piercing the veil of ordinary life. Of entering a state of unearthly calm, a peacefulness unclogged by emotion — where there is no fear, there is nothing. I am suspended, outside time. I surrender to the flow. Meanwhile, questions, questions — and they are in the background, like noise, static: “Is this it?” and “When do I fall through the air into the river?”

The sensation of being enveloped in blinding white light was not just poetic. When the car finally stopped and the air cleared it was in a snow bank off the side of the road, just three feet from the cliff’s edge — and facing the opposite direction from which I had been traveling. I presume the snow cushioned my spin, slowing it down, and enveloping the entire car for a few seconds in suddenly disturbed white fluff.

The car was undamaged. I had not a scratch on me. I still don’t know how close I came to the bus, but sense it was within a fraction of an inch. I assume, by the laws of physics, that the actual movements of these two bodies relative to each other, given their speeds and the forces acting upon them, were perhaps not only improbable, but impossible. That I was not only lucky, I was saved. As is the case with miracles, I sense that a more inclusive set of laws intervened to decide how the physical laws would operate. This was not my time to die.

For a couple of days afterwards I was in shock. Going about my daily life in a daze, my mind continually circling back around those few moments, I replayed them over and over, trying to make sense of them, to feel their reality, to integrate this particular incident within the rest of my life. No use. The memory seemed flat, remote, it had no charge. As if I were going back over a certain scene in a movie, somebody else’s movie, not mine.

Over and over again I described the incident to others, looking for reflections. Each time I concluded by saying that this event was a major turning point in my life. Indeed, I would add, it cut my life in two. There are now two lives, the one before the event, and this new life, innocent, untried. I knew this way of understanding what happened to me was true, but I didn’t feel it. I still needed to know: Why did this happen to me now? What does it mean?

In the past, whenever I have attracted such an event, it has always been to wake me up from undue preoccupations with the affairs of daily life. This time was different. I wasn’t asleep, not really. Or was I?

Finally, one evening I impulsively called up my gentle friend Laury. Laury understands this quest for meaning, and she and I had spent many long evenings investigating the significance of important events in our lives.

Agreeing to stop what she was doing, Laury drove the 15 wintry miles from Jackson out to Kelly.

As I relate the story to Laury, I find myself telling it in a new way, and the event begins to take on color, weight, significance. Two important themes bloom into focus: 1) I brought the trouble on myself — through my fear at the sight of the bus; and 2) at a crucial moment the matter slipped out of my control. I jerked the wheel to the right, and at that point slipped into an open space, a blinding white light, where anything goes. Not that I thought about it that way. Indeed, while it was happening I didn’t think at all.

Whether I lived or died was truly the question . . . and yet the question didn’t matter! I was beyond life and death. I was other than either of them. Life and death were two endpoints of a polarity I set up in the old life. In this new life, I feel them as merely different motions within the same current. And “I”? Why “I” am the pulse, the wave that travels through the current.

I was catapulted into this other, more inclusive dimension. I forgot myself, released the need for control, and entered, for those few endless microseconds, the paradise of peace.

Laury and I look at one another. We have just spent the better part of an evening intensely probing the meaning of a single incident, my encounter with the bus. We grow silent, still sitting there in my little cabin flickering in candlelight. Laury’s face glows luminous, translucent. “Ann,” she murmurs, leaning forward, summing up the evening in one remark, “It was saying, Trust me, Trust me.”

In this encounter with Death I entered much the same open peaceful space as when I found myself in the freezing river, ten years earlier. This time I was able to draw conclusions from it, which had eluded me before.

When the canoe tipped us into the river, I had found myself looking at my entire life, and asking if there was anything which I regretted and the answer was no. As a result, I was suspended, between life and death, and either way was fine.

In the second incident, as the little car with me in it twirled in a circle through the air above the river, I felt cradled in the arms of the universe, safe. Now death and life were one current, and I was the wave traveling through.

It was as if my experiences during the ten years between these two dramatic incidents had been a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The moral of that story was for me to learn that the universe is benevolent, that I am her child. Yet it took this encounter with Death for me to wake up to that realization.

There is no finer tool than Death to transform Life. Death sets up an ultimate contrast, throwing Life into high relief. Death is the one tool that instantly, and automatically, creates or shifts perspective. As my encounter with Death in the hospital had shifted me into my own life as a young adult, so these two midlife encounters with Death opened the door to a new step in my own development. From henceforth on, after my encounter with the bus, the bottom line for me in all my decisions would be, not fear, but trust. As I was loved, so would I become love.

I turn now to another tool which is much more mundane and which, on the other hand, I consider to be the primary foundational tool which I utilize to strengthen body, mind, and spirit.

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