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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Puppy Song

I recently attended an all day workshop with Dr. Brian Weiss, an eminent Yale psychiatrist who was totally skeptical of anything “otherworldly” until a patient went back farther than he intended her to during a hypnotic regression. She shot straight out of this lifetime and landed smack dab into another.  She also started accessing her consciousness between lifetimes, when her wise Oversoul was not identified with any ego, body or persona.  This Oversoul provided specific, personal information to Dr. Weiss that no one in the world besides he and his wife knew.  Given increasing quantities of verifiable evidence offered during sessions with this gal, his worldview began to shift until he is now the Daddy-O of past-life regression.  Two thousand people attended his event in New York City with me.  His books, including Many Lives, Many Masters, are international bestsellers. The reincarnation movement is growing.

My last piece was about death.  Game over, phooey, you’re kaput. This piece is about what happens after crossing over, the continuity of life via changing form: birth, death, regeneration, renewal and reincarnation.  A case in point.  After losing all three of my pets over the last few years, I recently replenished my full supply.  Ya’ll know about my two new kittens if you’ve been following my story.  When I picked up my kittens the shelter gave me a pet knapsack (talk about embarrassing, at least for me it was, right up there with the doggie stroller). The knapsack had two dog treats tucked inside, undoubtedly donated to the shelter by someone whose dog died.  Well, this got me to thinking, I got cats again (against my better judgment) and I could do the same with another dog (against my better judgment).  It felt foolhardy and wrong, but no one was stopping me (except me).  This was a liberating if scary thought.  But the prospect of more life, more bills, more responsibility, and yes, eventually, more death, made my stomach churn.

Before the new clan I was pet free for the first time in decades.  I was miserable.  Bereft.  Beside myself.  Depressed.  I didn’t leave my house for days at a stretch.  But I didn’t want new pets.  I missed the ones I’d lost.  I’d already made the decision that I should spring for a husband next time, not a dog; that it was time for a human tribe, not an animal one. I worked at home without cease, like someone on an endless march.  I was the walking dead.

Well, eight months of extreme, excruciating grief netted nothing but an incredible body of work recording audio books and a thyroid condition.  Stress and grief are not great for the health.

The “dog/husband” debate continued.  Knowing full well I was tiptoeing into a danger zone, I joined an online dachshund adoption list.  I cringed when the emails came in.  I knew I shouldn’t look.  It was Puppy Porn.  And I was relieved when they were ugly or unappealing.  Phew.  Saved. 

I’d gone through the same doubting rigamarole before and after adopting the kittens.  But after working through my fears, tears, and the kittens’ initial health issues (there were those bills I worried about!) the three of us settled down, and I started to fall in love with them.  It didn’t happen immediately, and it doesn’t usually, no matter how cute a guy, girl, or kitten is.  You have to get to know someone to love them truly.  The more time, the more love.

But every so often one of the dachshund pups would be so gosh darn cute I’d become obsessed.  My heart would flutter.  When they looked like that I didn’t have a choice, which is what happened with Cedric. I filled in the application, knowing I was insane, but damn the torpedoes.   I wrote an email to the shelter and followed up with another message through the adoption site.  No response.  I was crushed.  And relieved.  No, I was crushed, and anxious, but I still wanted Cedric.  Silence.

More ugly pup photos poured in.  Really, no different from Internet dating.  “Is he cute? Could he be 'the one'?”  Nope.  More deletions.  Then I became obsessed with another cutie pie, Peanut.  He had three hairs sticking up on the top of his head and reminded me of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  I reached out again to the same shelter, half-heartedly now, despite his cuteness.  “I’m interested.”  Why get my hopes up when they didn’t even bother to respond the first time?  At least tell me the dog’s no longer available.  More resounding silence.  Rude, but I couldn’t afford to alienate them by telling them what I thought.  They still seemed to hold the rusty key to my facacta puppy pipe dream.

My fears escalated along with my hopes.  “What are you doing?  Don’t do it!  Don’t mess with things!  Your life is good! Don’t ruin it!  You got cats, it’s enough.  What's next, a zebra?”  There were no mature adults around to talk sense into me. As if sense has anything to do with things like falling in love or getting a puppy. 

Another heartbreaker invaded my inbox.  Zane.  My friends cooed adoringly.  “He looks like a muppet!” opined one pal.  Of course I had to get him, right?  He was too cute not to. I filled in another application. An old lady friend of mine who was crazy about my last pup Mimi, took one look at his photo and said, “Oh, Valerie, he’s adorable. You have to call the shelter”.   I didn’t want to interfere too much since I was still totally on the fence about the puppy prospect.  “It’s in God’s hands.” I said.  “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” 

I went home and called the shelter.

A day later, the shelter proprietor, Barbara, called me back.  “You’re interested in Zane?  I’m holding him for you.  See you Saturday.”  Gulp. What had I done?  And how did I get through to her this time? Now I was in for it.  I felt like a prank caller who’d been caught by his parents, or like Berger at the end of Hair, the movie.  The guy played an innocent little prank to help out a friend and he gets shipped off to Vietnam. 

A dog. Oh god, a dog.  On top of that, Barbara’ shelter was out in Jersey.  I don’t have a car.   My head spinning, and not feeling at all sure of myself, I set the wheels in motion to try and procure travel arrangements for this unsettling adventure.  

My default transport team, a friend who lives in Jersey, and a dog lover in the city with a car, were both unavailable that day.  Was this my reprieve?  Well, I’d tried.  I even looked into public transportation, which turned out not to be an option.  I said a prayer that “the perfect person at the perfect time and in the perfect way make him or herself available to me” if this dog was meant to be. 

A friend’s name popped into my head right before I went to bed that night.  Kristen.  A midwife.  She lives in Brooklyn.  I’ve never asked her to drive me anywhere in our many years of friendship.  I asked.  She was free. 

My nerves still frayed, I requested guidance and signs from Spirit to let me know I was doing the right thing. Several synchronistic things happened in the days leading up to my pilgrimage to potential puppy land.  I found a brand new stuffed panda bear toy on the ground.  Mimi, my dead mini dachshund, would have loved it.  In fact, her favorite stuffed animal was a black and white cow, which mirrored her own colors.  This panda looked an awful lot like Mimi’s cow.

Next, while trolling the pet section of T.J. Maxx (an old pastime with Mimi, who amassed a massive toy collection from their aisles) I came upon a Snoopy water bowl.  Now, I was a Snoopy freak as a child, and I remain a fan today.  Mimi even reminded me of Snoopy, and while I was walking her on a very depressing day, I found a Snoopy toy on the sidewalk.  It wasn’t any old Snoopy toy.  It was Snoopy at the typewriter (“It was a dark and stormy night…”). This was delightful and much needed encouragement from Spirit to cheer me on with my writing before I was published.

I’ve never seen anything Snoopy at T.J. Maxx, so I heeded the sign, grabbed the $3.99 water bowl and went on my way.  It was a clear portent regarding the new dog from my old dog.   Messages continued to pour in on the Psychic Ticker Tape. Harry Nilsson (John Lennon's favorite singer/songwriter)’s sweet and heartfelt “The Puppy Song” popped up on my iPod shuffle. The morning of my trek to Jersey I found a tarot card laying on the floor from one of the four decks I pull cards from daily.  How did it get there?  My cats knocked it down. Fine. But out of roughly 200 cards, one card lay face up on the ground, “You are on the Right Path”.  I actually started to relax a little.  As I ate breakfast, another beloved Harry Nilsson song, “Me and My Arrow” (about a boy and his dog from Nilsson’s score for the animated children’s film The Point, narrated by Ringo Starr) came on my iPod shuffle. The steady stream of signs was unmistakable.  All systems were go.

Then there was that dream I had.  I’d dreamt about Mimi a couple of times, and it was always amazing, hyper real and so rapturous to see, feel and interact with my bosom buddy again.  Now, dreams can mean lots of things.  They can be a subconscious digesting of your day’s activities.  They can be precognitive.  They can be “lucid” in that you have some incredible insight into your own life, consciousness, or spiritual development.  You can have real interactions with loved ones in Spirit, or the spirits of those still in the flesh.  For those who have had this powerful, visceral contact, you know it’s not “just a dream”.   Every time I dreamt of Mimi it had that hyper real, palpable sense of a joyous reunion. 

One night, months ago, I had a very strange dream about her.  I stopped, dumbfounded, when I saw her in suspended animation, frozen in mid air, facing me, her posterior hovering over my window sill which is filled with potted plants.  The bulk of her torso was levitating in a trotting position.  She was neither dead nor alive, simply frozen in time.  Astonished, I spoke her name.  Thrilled to see her, albeit under such strange circumstances, I reached out slowly to touch her.  As my hand approached her body she began to unfreeze and come back to life, much like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White after the Prince’s kiss. 

This dream stuck powerfully with me, and I can still remember it like it was ten minutes ago. One of my friends said “You had contact with her.”  Yeah, I got that part, but not the unique aspect that was compelling me to analyze the dream’s significance.  The circumstances were too specific and macabre not to be more meaningful than just that.

I have a green thumb.  So did my mom.  I have brought many a plant back from the brink of death, near lifeless plants my neighbors have thrown out in the trash room.  I embrace and nourish them, and lo and behold, in a short time, the “goners” return and flourish.  I’m that good.  My window sill is a healing zone.

“I bring things back from the dead.”  I thought. “I have the power of regeneration.”  Mimi was suspended on my shelf of sunlight and greenery, the recovery room for resurrected plants, when I touched her.  My touch is magic; I have the power to summon forth life.

That’s what it meant.

I believe this is a latent power within all of us, to create, to renew, refresh, resurrect and refurbish, starting with ourselves.  “All this and more ye can do,” said Jesus.  That’s what he was talking about.  This may perhaps sound a bit grandiose to you but I can only reply that you haven’t seen my plants. 

When I considered that little Zane might be my puppy come back to me, I got seriously choked up.  I had asked her to come back, begged her when she was dying not to die, but if she did, I compelled her to return.  I kept all her personal effects, her toys, her doggie bones, her beds and her sweaters.  It was December 20th, five days before the holiday.  Could she be coming home for Christmas?  It was a most magnificent prospect.

On a cold, damp and gray December morning I made the trek via bus and subway to Brooklyn.  Every connection pulled in just as I arrived, a seamlessly choreographed commute.  We picked up Kris’s car from the shop, then drove through the Isle of Staten to Nouveau Jersé. 

We entered the adoption site and I spotted Zane immediately.  Like many other prospective men on the Internet, little Zane had misrepresented himself.  Far from the tiny picture perfect photo that made him look like a star from Sesame Street, the real Zane had escaped from the set of 21 Jump Street.  He was a large, obstreperous teenage offender who barked incessantly the full time Kristen and I were there.  He was all grown up, on his hind legs, demanding attention.

It became obvious that “Zane” was short for “ZANY”, a clear euphemism for crazy.  He was not alone in his demented demeanor.  There was another dog that stopped spinning in endless circles only long enough to poop then bolt it down lickety split.  It felt a bit like a doggie insane asylum.  I’ve never backed out on a blind Internet date (though someone once did it to me, thanks guy!) but I whispered to Kristen “Don’t let her know it’s us!”  I mean, the lady couldn’t make me adopt him, but she had put him on hold for me, after not responding to my applications for other pups.  Now I knew why.  She couldn’t wait to unload him. 

Kristen was very chill about the whole thing, and while not pressuring me, she pointed out another dachshund since we were there.  Sweet but skittish, she wasn’t really “my type”, and she was spoken for anyway. Her “intendeds” came to adopt her, good. 

We glanced at another of the three or four puppy play-pens set up and Kris observed, “You don’t need to look there.”  Kris comes from a family of Big Dog Lovers, a legacy of Old English Sheepdogs, Bassett Hounds, and currently an English bulldog.  The rag tag gang here was small, scruffy and mangy looking.  The yappy dog type.  Though no one was yapping.

I sighed and resolved to leave this unappealing situation, silently relieved.  I told the ring leader that I was sorry, but Zane was just too big and loud for my apartment, so I couldn’t adopt him.  She took it all in stride.  She’d allowed me to play with the spoken for doxie, with the caveat that she was likely going to be adopted.  She even called the potential adopters to see if they were still coming.  But the point was, she was trying to work with me and I appreciated that.

“Can I just show you one dog before you go?” she offered.  “Sure” I replied.  I’d humor her, convinced it would be another no-go.  She walked us over to the scruffy-mangy set.  “There’s this little guy, Brando.  He didn’t look like much when he came in, but he’s got personality.”  He didn’t look like much now, a tiny, scrappy, black and white feller.  He was surrendered by his original owner, a lady truck driver.  This I liked; the incongruity of a tough broad with this miniscule critter, and the absurdity of giving him such a macho name.  What about this diminutive dog said “muscle shirt” and “I coulda been a contender.”?  He was barely three pounds and I could just see the two of them in the front seat of her truck while she smoked, cursed, and drank diet soda on the Jersey Turnpike.  But the front seat of a truck is no place to raise a baby.  At least she saw the error of her ways and surrendered him.

His hair was a mess and his eyes were both covered with gunk.  I couldn’t tell if he had cataracts or not, and wondered if he was, in fact, a tiny old man.  Barbara assured me that he was a baby and directed me to look at his teeth. He was a plebe.

Barbara encouraged us to take him down aisle 4 (the adoption event was held in a big pet shop) and play.  Kris and I sat on the ground and tried to bond with him.  I didn’t.  She did.  She held him in her arms like a baby.  I tried it.  Nothing happened.  We tried to engage him with a toy (Barbara came prepared with accouterments to entice).  He wasn’t interested.  Neither was I.  His hair was a mess.  He didn’t seem like much to me, or to like me much.  He was just a dog. 

“I don’t need a dog”.  I said aloud, stating the obvious.  I didn’t have to take any old dog.  I didn’t want a dog.  I wanted my dog.  I was crazy even to be here.  I had had a very special dog, and no one here was special. 

Kris picked him back up.  “This is your dog.”  I looked at her.  “Why is he my dog?”  “Well, look how calm he is.  He’s not struggling to get out of my arms.  Clearly he wants to be where the action is with the other dogs, but he’s not whining.”  When we put him down he pattered off to be with the canine crowd, until we wrangled all three pounds of him back to aisle 4. 

“I don’t need a dog,” I repeated like a mantra.  I was not convinced. 

“Let’s go get lunch. Think about it,” Kris suggested.

What a great idea.  What a great friend.  She was the perfect person to go with, just as I had prayed for.  I was in no position to make this decision, and frankly, I wasn’t inclined toward adopting.  We explained our departure to Barbara and told her we’d be back in an hour. 

Kris had just become vegetarian, and I like healthy food.  We drove around a bit, looking for the Thai restaurant Barbara mentioned but couldn’t find it.  We were surrounded by strip mall pizza parlors, delis and bad Chinese.  Neither of us wanted this crap.  With the pressure off, and the shift of scenery to relieve my stress, my mind cleared.   

I was going to get the dog.  It seemed capricious, probably crazy, but I just went for it.  Acted from my gut, if not from my heart, because my heart was not in it yet.  How could it be?  I didn’t know the little tyke yet.  

We drove back and I adopted him.  As I held the three pound pup in the front seat of the car I told Kristen, “You didn’t deliver my baby, but you delivered me to my baby.  Thank you.”

This dog is not only perfect for me in every way, shape and form, he is my dog.  I mean really, he is my dog.  He’s my little Mimi come back to me.  I believe in reincarnation, and he is proof positive of the phenomenon (not that anyone believes but me, but who cares?  It’s my belief, my books, my life, and my dog).  I’ve named him Milo after the little boy in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, one of my favorite “kids” books with enough profundity to enlighten the most jaded of adults.  Mimi has morphed into Milo. 

I went to Jersey to get Zane, a brown and black dachshund and came back with a black and white fluff ball.  Mimi was black and white. Milo’s black markings are exactly where Mimi’s were.  Are the personalities identical?  Of course not.  They’re not supposed to be.  What’s the point of coming back and doing it exactly the same way?  That’s not how reincarnation works.  We switch from male to female, rich to poor, warrior to monk, black to brown to white, red and yellow.  We’re here to experience.  To learn from the past and improve upon it, take what we know and build on it.   

We bring back markers, often scars (if you’re human), as subconscious reminders of where we’ve been (a broken neck in a past life can manifest as neck pain in this life, a spear through the chest can result in a birthmark on the site of that mortal wound).  Milo has recreated a little hop, an Irish jig in the right rear that Mimi had.  He sits in Mimi’s exact same spots in my home.  He’s silent like Mimi was, though he does growl at people in my hallway, which I sometimes enjoy (my "defender" is a dancing cotton ball).  He is calm and easygoing in public.  No one knows he’s with me if he’s in a bag. Just like Mimi. 

Everything that was wrong with Mimi is right with Milo.  She was deformed and heavy.  He’s perfect, and light as a feather.  He’s Mimi 2.0, the latest OS with improved hardware.  He races down the hall like Mimi did, but now with no crippling consequences.  The engineering issues have been resolved.

Interestingly, Mimi humped more than Milo does.  Her cow was a favorite objet d’amour, and she tried to hump me once or twice, but I’m not gay and didn’t go for it.  Actually, Milo doesn’t hump at all.

Mimi, while only five years old, had a compromised body and wanted out.  How could I stop her?  In fact, when the time came, I offered an assist (via my vet). Just like Lily Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles, who murmered,  “Excuse me while I slip into something more…comfortable,”  Mimi exited the scene and did a quick costume change.  Her Ford Model T was weighing her down. She needed to streamline.  Now she’s an aerodynamic Ultra Light aircraft.  Bones that were heavy and deformed are now light as balsa wood.  The earthbound Dodo has become a sparrow.  It’s almost hard to keep him grounded, he’s like a balloon bouncing up and down the road in the wind.

I don’t think any of my friends see it as I do, they probably think I’m crazy again (what’s new) but I’ve got the inside scoop.  Keeping track of my psychic, spiritual, mental and emotional data is my domain.  Don’t let anyone think they know more about you than you do.  

Milo is not a hound, as Mimi was, which means his smelling is not as acute, nor is he OBSESSED with food the way Mimi was.  She was a virtual gourmand from day one, even pulling the flesh off of her very first artichoke leaf without my having to explain to her how to do it, and she shared mid-night nibbles of grapefruit with me. She was a food genius.  She was also a little overweight, which didn’t help her arthritis or deformities any.  But how could I deprive her of one of her greatest joys in life, when it was also one of mine?  She lived hard and ate fast. 

When she was a pup she performed a magic trick while I was out.  She got hold of a sealed plastic canister of freeze dried chicken liver cat treats.  She worked her puppy teeth around the edge of the lid like a can opener.  It was precision cut, as if done by machine.  She ate the entire jar (perhaps 12 ounces, but the equivalent of 5 pounds of chicken livers before they were freeze dried).  She was fine, but even more baffling was the fact that her gums were not bloodied or cut.  She was born to eat well.  And often. 

At 15 pounds this made it difficult to carry her.  And since she was deformed and arthritic, I had to carry her a lot as she was in pain.  She would just look up at me and I’d know it was time to hoist her in my arms or put her in her bag.  While I’m used to carrying heavy loads since youth (tons of schoolbooks) and my purse probably weighs 15 pounds anyway, it was frustrating to have that extra load when I wished I could just be out lightheartedly walking my dog.  I wished she could exercise more, and so did she. She ran like the wind and loved to play, but it always took a toll on her.  It was not only her weight.  It was her compromised skeletal structure which manifested deformities and severe limping shortly after I got her at 8 weeks.  Mimi’s joie de vivre (and mine) was cut off at the knees.

I’m quite thrown by the fact that she’s a boy now.  The landscape has changed. All I want to do is give her a belly rub, and I have to be careful not to deliver a hand job. But there it is. A boy she is. When I catch him out of the corner of my eye, or even see him in photos, the impression is that of Mimi.  Tiny, white, black, and in all the right spots.  The relationship between us is identical as well.  Not the details, per se, but the energy of it.  The pure adoration and joy we take in each other.  It’s just like the song “Me And My Arrow”, about a boy and his dog, except I’m a girl and the dog's a boy.   We’re right back where we started, but with a new lease on life.  Mimi’s finally got a healthy body.  And I’m in a better place in every way than when I got Mimi.  Everything old is new again.  But the light in his eyes is the same.  The spirit, the bond, and the joy we take in each other is identical. 

“Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Put it on backwards when forward fails
Don't throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”

(“Everything Old Is New Again” by Peter Allen)

After all the extreme grieving I did after Mimi died (it was bad), I blinked my eyes, and 15 (miserable) months later, on a cold, dark day in December, my little girl came back to me.  I am in gratitude and glory every day.   

As well, my dead tabby cat Wilbur has most assuredly returned as new silver tabby Celeste, and Mimi and Wilbur have simply picked up where they left off as best buddies, now masquerading as Milo and Celeste, running around the house and incessantly chewing on each other’s ears, tails and feet.  I don’t know what to call any of them, frankly, and frequently default to “hey, you” after trying all the wrong (dead) names.  I’m giddily flummoxed.

Wilbur and Mimi used to nap together, giant Wilbur would spoon from behind, his arm protectively around her.  When Wilbur died, Mimi howled over his body.  She was devastated.  She couldn’t have cared less about my other cat, Angela, alive or dead. 

For those who don’t believe in reincarnation, I’m not trying to convince you.  For those who know it to be true, the evidence is astounding.  After the deepest of depressions (I’ve had lots over the decades) I am now in seventh heaven. It is Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July in my home every day.

It is because I’ve come out of such deep despair that my joy is so great.  That too, is clear to me.  Life knows how to pack a punch. After not leaving my apartment for days at a stretch when my last two pets died, I am now back in full force on the streets.  

I saw Jose recently, a favorite neighborhood doorman of mine.  He’s been quoted in my books before.  “How are you, honey?”  He knew my last dog, Mimi, had passed.  “I got a new pup!  I believe in reincarnation, and I really think it’s Mimi again.  Except she’s got a dick now.”  Never at a loss with a comeback, Jose jumped right in, “Chicks with dicks?  Sure.  I’ve seen ‘em before.”

This is how it works.  We come, we go, then we come again.  Rinse, repeat.

I worked long and hard on myself while utterly alone at home.  I dredged myself out of a swamp. I, not Mimi, returned from the Underworld.  She just came back from the body shop.

“Dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream you wish to come true

If only I could have a puppy
I'd call myself so very lucky
Just to have some company
To share a cup of tea with me
I'd take my puppy everywhere
La la la la I wouldn't care
Then we would stay away from crowds
With signs that said "No Dogs Allowed"
Oh we... I know he'd never bite me
We... I know he'd never bite me..oh no.

If only I could have a friend
Who’d stick with me until the end
And walk along beside the sea
To share a bit of moon with me
I'd take my friend most everywhere
La la la la I wouldn't care
And we would stay away from crowds
With signs that said "No Friends Allowed"
Oh we...we'd be so happy to be...
We...we'd be so happy to be together

But dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream you wish to come true
Dreams are nothing more than wishes.
You wish to come true.

Your wish will come true.
Your wish will come true.
Your wish will come true.”

“The Puppy Song” by Harry Nilsson:

Short, remarkable videos presenting strong evidence of reincarnation:




The life cycle (and recycle!) beautifully illustrated in 4 minutes.

Valerie Gilbert ©2015 All rights reserved.

I will be at NAMASTE HEALING CENTER in NYC on Thursday, April 23, 7-9pm, for a talk, reading, hour-long workshop (guided meditation, psychic and spiritual development) and book signing.  $20.  Come join us! 

RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion and SWAMI SOUP are available in print, e-book, and audio book, narrated by me!  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I’m going to tackle everybody’s favorite topic today, death and dying!  What could be more fun than that?  The fact is, I consider myself rather a death expert.  As painful as it is to lose loved ones (I’ve got a PhD in the field) I have never shied away from the understanding that death is inevitable, not something to be fought at all costs (obviously, this has to be decided by individuals on a case by case basis).

For in fact, we all get to die someday!  Not our consciousness, which goes on forever (energy can neither be created nor destroyed), as it existed before you were born, and will continue after you release your mortal coil.  But all bodies do.  They transmute. Transform.  Transcend.  Ascend. Depending on your style.

The body morphs daily.  From the day you’re born the clock starts ticking.  We consider the first 40 years or so of aging to be acceptable and cute (you’re coming into your own, growing to maturity, coming into your power) and the last 40 (or 60) years of evolving to be “not so cute” despite the accretion of wisdom and experience. We are no different from flowers that bloom then wither.  What's so bad about that?  Consider that while no one likes the idea of dying, that death itself may really not be so bad.  

I recently referred to one of my gym teachers as middle-aged, “You know, she’s 50 or 60.”

My friend’s husband said, “60 is not middle aged.”

“Well, people die at 70, right?  So, middle aged is what, 35?” You wanna be middle aged at 50 and a senior at 60, go ahead!  Not me, sucker.  I’m just me.  The numbers change.  I don’t.  Though I do get cuter, wiser, more playful and fun.  Time has served me well.  Are you allowing it to serve you?  That’s what it’s here for.  Time and space are psychological constructs, and the aging body is a reminder that we are not here forever.  A body comes with built in planned obsolescence.  Human existence is a limited time offer.  So make hay (or wine) while the sun shines.

By me, middle-age is a vague, useless and insulting term.  It’s neither here nor there, neither up nor down.  There are only two kinds of ages as far as I’m concerned.  You’re younger or older, alive or dead, how’s that?  And from what I hear, you’re more alive in many ways when you’re dead than when you’re in a physical body.  I read that dying is like taking off a tight pair of shoes or sinking into a hot bath.  It’s relief.  Think of how heavy you feel after you come out of the water.  You’re leaden.  That’s physical life.  Leaving your body makes you leaven, so you can go to heaven!  (sue me). 

Read The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan for an uplifting and totally unique view of the after life.  It’s surreal and psychedelic.  And for those who are intrigued with this field, try Saved by the Light by Dannion Brinkley.  Having physically died and come back (in a hospital where it was medically verified) he’s now a huge Advocate of the After World in hospices.  He works as a cheerleader of sorts, a Lobbyist for Life Everlasting, reassuring those that are close to transitioning that a wild and wonderful ride awaits them.  

The constantly transforming body is an invitation to remember that you are not the body.  You are having an experience of life through the body, like a tourist on a cruise boat, from which you disembark when you’re done with the ride.  It’s that simple. Just bounce off the boat. You’re still you.  You never were the boat, but it allowed you to have unique experiences by offering new vistas through its portholes.  The body cycles through seasons just like everything else does on this planet.  Spring, summer, fall and winter.  But out of death and winter life springs again.  That’s how we roll here on Planet Earth.  And Easter is just around the corner.  Jesus is the God of Resurrection, and so are we. 

We die a little every day.  We leave bits of our bodies behind when we go to the bathroom, releasing undigested food, toxins, and dead cells so we can renew, rebuild and refresh in the now.  The subtle bodily changes that happen daily are a continuous process we pay no attention to.  They are little deaths. Little births.  We are constantly regenerating, revitalizing and rebooting.

We don’t make monuments to our offal.   So why do we do so with our ultimate “b.m.” the “body movement” of releasing spirit from matter, and allow the body to go to the recycling plant, like we do with old cars?  Why don’t we “flush”? Because we over identify with the body, the ego and personality, but these are merely aspects of our physical life, not our True Self. People get attached to their cars and homes too, but if you want the new (or even if you don’t) you have to release the old eventually.  Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.  Allow yourself to be upcycled.

I watched the one-hour documentary A Will For The Woods about the green burial movement. The film made me a bit maudlin (my mother died of cancer when I was 22, and I was intimately involved in her day-to-day care until the end, working with a hospice.  I also shopped around for her cremation while she was dying, a bitter task if ever there was one) and nauseous (I’m not big on corpses).  But when I shared my movie recommendation with friends, it struck a real chord with many. There’s something grievously wrong with our current funeral practices. 

This is an important issue for people to ponder. Our funeral industry is incredibly toxic to the environment. The concept of "preserving the remains" is something people really have to think about, too. The soul has left. The body disintegrates and becomes new life, if we let it do so naturally. "Preserves" are for fruit, not people. A Will for the Woods shows how we can nourish the land with green burial practices, instead of filling it with casket parking lots.  In the course of the film a forest is saved from being clear-cut when someone opens a green burial ground.

A Family Undertaking is also a fine documentary about families performing natural home rituals for their dead the way many do with home births.  There are even certified death “midwives”.

Funerals, like weddings, are big business.  And they are not unrelated.  There’s often something to prove in both cases, keeping up with the Joneses, trying to impress, trying to prove how much you loved your dead (maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, but you can certainly put on a good show).  And show it is.  My uncle was laid out with a rosary, and while he could hardly be called a regular churchgoer, don’t you think the funeral home could have at least gotten the religion of the dead guy right?  He was Greek Orthodox, not Catholic (though my cousin said the rosary was appropriate, I don’t understand why).  No disrespect to my uncle, but there are other symbols more representative of his life than a rosary, like a remote control.  We need to invest in life, not death, and in marriage, not weddings.  (I like a nice party, but you know what I mean).

I’m particularly perplexed by the way Christians clutch at the corpse.  Seems rather hypocritical since they believe the soul is eternal.  Why do they cling to the cast off shell?  It’s false idolatry.  Worshipping the corpse is illogical.  And yes, I get it, more than logic is involved here, but the “dead look” alone should clue them in to the fact that the person they loved is no longer there.  The house they knew is barely standing, it’s propped up by stilts, and no one is home.  Anyone who’s ever seen the corpse of their loved one knows the vacated body is a poor facsimile of the live version.  No better than a statue in a wax museum.

The time to throw money at the dead is when they’re ALIVE.  You think their spirit is really gonna care about all the cash you throw at their corpse?  How about indulging and embracing your loved ones soundly while they’re still ambulatory? 

The time to respect the body is when it is alive. The body is merely a means of transportation. Is your car squeaky clean or a hot mess?  A car says a lot about its owner, and so does a body.  Do you feed yours well?  Give it exercise?  Do you nourish it emotionally, love it, give it rest, care, offer it peace and well-being, or do you run it off the road in an attempt to reach “perfection” or to escape life altogether?  I’m talking about those who can’t sit still, who can’t “be” in their bodies, who must “do, do, do” all the time.  They are trying to get out of their bodies, running endlessly, exercising forever, punishing, pushing, denying and depriving.  There is tremendous discomfort in this world, and much of it originates with our uneasiness with the human vehicle, our home while we’re physically alive. 

We either worship or abhor the flesh.  The Church declared the world dirty and sinful (and women in particular since we generate life here, which, in fact, makes us God), and we’ve been punishing our physical selves ever since.  Since it’s been already condemned, we relegate it to its sinful purposes, sex, degeneracy, and death.  Hence our obsession with pornography, fetishes, pedophilia, bestiality, violence, terror, blood, cruelty, and more blood.  If we’re in a sinful world, we might as well dance with the devil, right?  What the hell is going on?  Fear and contempt of the physical is what, and the Church is responsible for this disgraceful trend.  The ecclesiastical premise is absurd, for God created this world, and if it’s bad then blame the manufacturer.  Those who understand that Spirit is Everything understand the world’s Divine, if ephemeral, nature.  The world is illusory.  Transitory.  Magical.  Mysterious.  And magnificent. 

Though the Church may have started this ugly trend of bodily and worldly hatred, we’ve been keeping it alive by not questioning it.  As a result, we have poisoned the physical world by showing it no respect whatsoever.

We don’t like decay, do we?  We want everything squeaky clean, germ free and brand spanking new in our culture, including corpses and our women, who are pressured to douche, diet, pluck, weave, braid, extend, sanitize, bleach, reduce, enhance, remove, wax, deodorize, dye and paint their natural born selves.  Most of these chemical cosmetic processes, we are now learning, are quite carcinogenic. 

While I’m opposed to worshipping the flesh and embalming it while its alive (Botox, Restylane, tanning, fake tanning, surgery, fad diets), am I against honoring its beauty via athletics, dance and yoga?  Of course not.  It’s all a matter of balance.  It’s also a matter of intentionality.  Are you running toward something?  (health, excellence, beauty, experience, adventure, creation) or are you running away from something (I don’t want to be fat, old, ugly, yada yada).  Therein lies the difference.  That, and moderation.  You can’t run full marathons three days in a row.  You must know how to modulate your levels, when to push your car into fifth gear, when to coast, and when to park it in the garage. 

As testament to what the human soul can do with an “imperfect” body, watch this incredible short story of a remarkable young man.

And a remarkable older one.

I was shocked to learn that the “women” I admired on the cover of Vogue and other magazines when I was growing up were not, in fact, women at all.  They were girls.  Children.  Brooke Shields is a perfect example of this pedophilic idolatry.  To dress our daughters up like sexually active women is unfair to them (let them be children!) and to women (already considered too old at 25 when the gold standard is 12).  But that is what we do.  We worship at the altar of youth.  It’s why pedophilia is rampant and companies like American Apparel have such appalling ad campaigns. We reject the full, mature female body.  We want skinny, pubescent and firm.  Women’s bodies are watery, and, as such, they ripple and flow.  We are ruled by the moon and connected to the stars.

This burden applies increasingly now to young men who must feel grossly inadequate if they don’t look like Hollister or Abercrombie models.  This is what the American Dream has become, not to be educated, free, happy, creative, unencumbered, inventive, productive and bold, but to have abs, asses and boobs.  We have allowed ourselves to be dumbed down by Madison Ave.  And who rules it?  The Media.  And who rules that?  The Corporations who run our Corporatocracy.  Who are the men behind the curtain?  We may never find out, but we have to connect the dots and use our noggins.  It is Time to Wake Up.

We have been led away from our true power as human beings, and reduced to our body parts, no better than inventory at an auto body shop.  Silicone lips, boob jobs, liposuction, butt implants.  Is this our legacy when we die?  Vain attempts to keep the car looking brand new, even though it’s got 100,000 miles on it?  I like Georgia O’ Keefe in part because she painted bones and artistically embraced her womanly self as she aged. If you haven’t seen the flick Death Becomes Her (a very black comedy with Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep) do yourself a favor and rent it.

I watched a belly dancing documentary recently.  As with most women and girls, I’ve struggled life long with body image.  To watch these gals celebrate their curves and love handles is a wonder to me.  One of the best troupes in this video was called “Fat Chance Belly Dance”.  Some of the women were smaller, but two at least were larger, what we might term “fat” in our culture.  They were terrific dancers and animated their bodies, jiggle and all, with gusto.

“This is the wrong century to be a woman. The best time to have been a woman was when Rubens was a painter, The Fat Century.  In that period, if you weighed 300 pounds you could be a model. Christie Brinkley would’ve been a hatcheck girl. Roseanne - Miss Milan, 1537. In that century you could really have an attitude: ‘What d’ya mean, no dessert?  I’ve got a sitting with Caravaggio. If that man doesn’t see some cellulite, I’m history.  Now hand me that cannoli!”  Joy Behar.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled burial program.  Frankly, the thought of rotting in the ground gives me the heebie jeebies.  Even though I know that my body won’t be me when I’ve left it, it will still sort of look like I did, but in a really, really bad way.  It’s your Zombie clone, unless you’ve been embalmed and gussied up by some undertaker.  I cannot comprehend that creepy business at all, or doctors who perform autopsies.  Frankly, I can’t fathom fishing around in the body medically while someone’s alive.  Yes, I am somewhat squeamish.  I have my own discomforts with the body.  Magnificent?  Yes.  Squishy and weird?  Yes. 

Who are we kidding with the face paint?  That corpse ain’t blushing and you and I both know it.  That rosy glow is anything but natural or “healthy” (how can you be both healthy and dead?).  I’m all for disposing of the deceased in a nice timely fashion when they’re gone.  I was raised a Theosophist with the understanding that it takes a full 24 hours for all the various energy systems of the soul and consciousness to depart the body, so it’s best not to disturb it before then (this would include embalming and cremation). So, let your corpse rest for a day, take a little nap if you will (death is a breeze, but dying can be exhausting!) then take care of business.  Out with the trash.  Better yet, compost!  A green burial allows the natural cycles of life and death to create new life out of the old.  People are getting inventive with their burial ideas.  Although planting a tree on top of a corpse would work just as well as this:

I do have my limits, however, with the green thing. The folk in these natural burial films want to hang out with their dead for a couple of days, and they’re on their own there.  I did it once or twice with a cat, I sat (okay, slept) comfortably with their bodies in my home for one night, but that’s because they looked nice and peaceful, like they were sleeping.  In the morning blood had started oozing out of one cat’s nose (where, from her brain?!) and I was like, “That’s it! You’re in the bag!”  I laid her to rest in the woods, as I did with my dog and other cat.  They become part of the natural process of decay and reabsorption into new life forms.  A little cat composting.

The corpses in the home burial films looked lousy, frankly.  Yellow, bloated, and well, um, dead.  You think I want people seeing me like that?  I barely want folk to see me while I’m alive.  Bloated, cold, jaundiced, and well, DEAD, is not how I want to be remembered.  No, sirree.  Fire me up.

Now A Will For the Woods asserted that cremation in the U.S. is also environmentally unsound, as it involves heavy fuel usage to produce high heat over long periods of time.  Well, can’t we improve on that?  What do they do in India?  They roll their dead in flour and a little cheesecloth, pour on some sesame oil and toss a lit clove cigarette on the pile.  With just a little kindling, lighter fluid, and a “Duraflame For The Dead”, the perfect bonfire can be yours.  That’s the ultimate “release party”, isn’t it?

Costco may even come up with a cremation starter kit.  Hell, they already sell caskets by the checkout area. “Did you want a casket with those fries?” 

Green people get very granola with this stuff, as with natural childbirth (I’m not a placenta eater, myself) and that’s their prerogative. I am not hanging out with a corpse, embalmed or not.  I like the idea of a nice blaze.   Fire is purifying.  Surely we can legitimize a greener way of burning our dead.  Didn’t Salem, Massachusetts specialize in this for a while?

The closest I’ve come to a home cremation was the time I roasted marshmallow Peeps over my stovetop burner because they’re so flavorless otherwise.  It felt a little murderous blackening the sugary bodies of tiny yellow chicks and pink bunnies.  But they did taste better.   

All that being said, I rather love cemeteries, particularly old ones.  There is a great peace there, and a sense that the “game” is over, but that life itself is not.  No more rushing around, worrying or competing.  As Lily Tomlin said in her brilliant book and Broadway show, The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe,  “The thing about the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Slash and burn is an agricultural method to clear forest for farming.  Mother Nature uses this technique too.  From death comes life.  From fire, fertility.  Obliteration of the old makes way for the new.  Don’t be clingy and constipated.  Be willing to let go of who you are to become who you could be.  Let go.  Fly.

Valerie Gilbert ©2015 All Rights Reserved

I will be at NAMASTE HEALING CENTER in NYC on Thursday, April 237-9pm, for a talk, reading, hour-long workshop (guided meditation, psychic and spiritual development) and book signing.  $20.  Come join us! 

RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion and SWAMI SOUP are available in print, e-book, and audio book,  narrated by me!