Death is a part of Life

Two-thousand eighteen was already looking to be one of the most memorable years of my life with the upcoming birth of my son in June, and in addition the universe conspired to add tragedy to this year ensuring that 2018 will forever be tattooed onto my heart. On February 7th at 3:49pm EST my father, Bob Kukan, passed away in a Pittsburgh hospital surrounded by his children and siblings. No one saw this coming, and it was only a little more than a month ago that we all got together along with his closest friends to celebrate his 70th birthday.

This is one event in my life that I could never have prepared for. Similarly to becoming a parent (so I hear), the feelings associated with losing a parent are only understood once you experience it, and now that I’ve experienced the latter I’m even more curious to experience the former.

You can listen to other people’s stories and read up on grieving the loss of a parent, but until you’ve gone through it, it’s all a mental exercise. The emotional and physical pains that were present for me were overwhelming at times and still tend to come and go, and from what I hear they will continue to come and go for a long time.

Through this loss however, I see a silver lining. I am reminded of the fragility of this precious human life that we have and the finite quality of it.

The truth is that we are all going to die one day, and we must not turn away from that truth. Many of us fear it and never want to talk or think about it which prevents us from ever truly accepting and embracing it. By doing so we may be holding ourselves back from saying the things we want to say and doing the things we want to do with the expectation that we will live another day and get to do those things sometime in the future. Without exploring and accepting this truth how can we ever truly live our life to its fullest potential?

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Connecting with The Other Side

We are all reminded at this time of year to be thankful since we have Thanksgiving coming up, yet I’m reminded of another day this month that holds a special significance to me, the day my grandmother passed away. I’m not going to try to bring your spirits down in any way by telling you about Grandma Chuma’s death, but rather I’m going to tell you about how it impacted and deepened my relationship to her and “the other side”.

This all happened 5 years ago.

It was 2012, and I had just resigned from my teaching position at the high school and became a Reiki Master. I was diving head first into spiritual living and learning as much as I could about the healing arts, intuitive development, and other topics that were far removed from the linear thinking and rational modeling that mathematics had provided me for more than a decade.

I was regularly listening to a podcast called Psychic Teachers which was hosted by two women that were college professors for their day jobs and psychics on the side. One was a medium and Reiki Master, and the other was a tarot card reader and an intuitive.

Each week they would discuss a topic like mediumship, astrology, and oracle cards, and it was a great way for me to start opening up my own intuitive abilities and pull away from the need to be able to explain things logically and scientifically. The Psychic Teachers often talked about connecting with loved ones who have passed, and the techniques they discussed helped me on the days that followed my grandmother's passing.

After I got the call that she was gone I grabbed my copy of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and read aloud some prayers to help her soul transition from her physical body into the afterlife. When I finished the prayers I sat in meditation and watched an incredible scene unfold in my mind.

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Reflections on 10 Days of Silence

This month's article is a long one, and I'm not really sure how many of you will want to endure it. It's a description of my experience during a 10-day Vipassana Course that I took in August 2014. For those of you that aren't familiar with it, it's a ten-day silent meditation course. It was an incredible experience and quite difficult for me to summarize it without going into the depths and importance of some of the insights that I had during those days.

For those that want the highlights, the themes of the days were as such:
Day 0 Carpool
Day 1 Frustration
Day 2 Anger
Day 3 Distractions
Day 4 Sacral Chakra: Creativity and Sexuality
Day 6 Energy of an 8 year old boy
Day 7 Death
Day 8 Re-birthing Ideas
Day 9 Visitation
Day 10 Scorpio

If you want to take a journey through my experience, I invite you to continue reading the detailed account below.

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21 Day Mindfulness Meditation Challenge

As difficult as it is to believe for me now, there was once a time before I was a meditator. Ten years have passed since I took my first meditation class, and I can honestly say that my life has drastically improved ever since. Through meditation I have learned so much about myself and have become a better person because of it. I have been able to notice tension in my body and consciously release it in order to be more relaxed, and I have been able to recognize when I'm paying attention to the task at hand or daydreaming and not present. I have learned to observe my thoughts as they are without judging myself harshly for the ones that I would rather not appear in my mind, and I have also learned to cultivate more positive thoughts and perceptions on life.

I'm not going to tell you that meditating is easy, and it definitely was no walk in the park for me in the beginning.

I was very frustrated at my inability to remain focused on my breath for more than two or three inhales at a time during those early meditation classes, however after taking a weekly class for several months I made a commitment to myself to meditate every morning as soon as I got out of bed. On some days it was easier for me to focus, and I could see progress being made. On other days my inability to focus seemed to stir up harsh self-criticism which I could have easily used to tell myself that meditation is not for me and that I should quit the practice.

But that's just it. Meditation is a practice. It's not a perfection. You see the results of meditating from doing it consistently.

There’s a quote from Zig Ziglar that I used to have posted in my classroom that said, “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.” I could say the same thing about the effects of meditation. They won’t last unless you do it every day.

Nutritionists will tell you that you can’t really determine the effects of a change in your diet for 2-3 weeks when you follow the plan daily so don’t go into meditating thinking you can get great results by sporadically meditating. Make a commitment to yourself to meditate daily for 21 days and then assess how you are doing.

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