Inspiration in the Face of Death: My Blackstar Revelation

David Bowie by David Mack

David Bowie by David Mack

It’s been a couple of weeks since David Bowie returned to live among the stars, and the trending tags have stopped popping up every time his name appears on a post. A few folks here and there who were very dedicated lifelong fans are still in active mourning and lovingly sharing clips of his performances and other mentions of the impact his passing has had on them and others (my favorite of which is a letter from a palliative care doctor sharing, “I had a discussion with a hospital patient, facing the end of her life. We discussed your death and your music, and it got us talking about numerous weighty subjects, that are not always straightforward to discuss with someone facing their own demise. In fact, your story became a way for us to communicate very openly about death, something many doctors and nurses struggle to introduce as a topic of conversation.”).

But I am just now ready to share my experience with David Bowie’s death. I do not fall in the camp of devoted, long-time fans - to be clear, I absolutely adore his music, his artistic expression, and have always blown away by his ability to craft moving, interesting, provocative music. I just didn’t have the personal relationship many did in which his work defined certain eras of my life. I have always appreciated his work and recognized his massive creativity and musical genius, but largely it was not his music that made up the soundtrack to my life. I don’t feel like it would be fair to call myself a hardcore fan. Until now.

David Bowie crafted his Backstar album very much as his artistic finale. He wrote and performed it, created the haunting videos that accompany it, in full knowledge that he was dying. He wrote it and seems to have timed it to be released as close to his last day as possible to bid the world farewell in a masterful, dramatic, perfectly crafted performance art piece, the final act in a lifelong drama that impacted the lives of millions


As moved as I have been by the heartfelt outpouring of grief and honor I have been witnessing for Sir Stardust, what has been growing in me over the last couple weeks as I have absorbed this information is that I am TOTALLY. AMAZINGLY. INSPIRED.

This brave and triumphant act of staring death in the face and using it as a catalyst to create an Earth shattering work of art is, to me, the pinnacle of what it means to live free, to live true to yourself, to be ever willing to face pain to bring one's revolutionary vision to light. This is the utter height of human success. This has changed everything for me.

The bar has been raised. I have set a new goal for myself inspired by what David Bowie shared with the world last week. My new goal is to live as artfully, as fully authentically, as profoundly and in the fullest flow with and acceptance of the uncontrollable tides of life and death as I can muster with every living spark of personal energy I can harness up until the very day I die, and if possible, beyond even that day.

I don't aspire to be an international superstar (though, I think I would dig it). The point of my goal is not to impact millions and millions of people (though, that would be cool). The point for me is to strive for the standard of living up to the greatest possible expression of who I can be personally, for me, and perhaps for the handful of people closest to me. Should living so authentically inspire or positively impact or powerfully move others, then that is all the better. 

My life has irrevocably changed as this inspiration moves through me. In every scope of my life, in my relationships, my work, my own artistic expression, how I think about myself, I find myself wondering what more I can do to be in my fullest expression of truth, my most creative, most embracing of possibility and fully susceptible to my muses. I have been feeling more present with death and my own mortality. To be clear, I hope to live a very long life. I love life, big time. I want to experience as much brilliance and beauty and wonder as I can live for. But now I feel more acutely the inevitability of my demise, and in a way far different than before I understand death’s ripeness as the ultimate vehicle of personal transformation.

Today I listened to Bowie’s music, started with Blackstar, then reset at the beginning of his discography and worked my way chronologically forward so I could hear the nuances of his artistic progression. I was actually surprised by how much of his music I already knew and delighted to find songs that I did not know previously that are now gleaming rubies, which hid without gaze in a jewel box at my bedside my entire life but are now in my grasp, dazzling, and offering brand new meaning. Another gift of the Blackstar performance is that for a previously casual fan such as myself I have been offered David Bowie’s entire life work to experience as his stunning death knell. 

My heart is not broken by David Bowie’s death. I am not seeking to make it my personal tragedy, rather the opposite. I am bolstered, built up, and inspired by this artist’s gift, and I seek to laud him with my appreciation of such fine work. His death was a medium he worked in, for the first and last time, for his final performance, and he played it incomparably, exquisitely. I sing hallelujah. 

What We Give Meaning Becomes Important

What kind of tradition might this planting ritual be part of? It looks lovely to me!

What kind of tradition might this planting ritual be part of? It looks lovely to me!

What personal rituals are part of your life? A ritual is something, however small, that we consistently engage in for the value it provides. These rituals can be anything from saying a prayer before you go on a journey to eating certain foods on holidays to the special spot where you place your keys when you get home to brushing your teeth every night to planting your garden by the moon signs. 

We all have LOTS of personal rituals. Some benefit us; others do not. Rituals become such an ingrained part of our personal ways of being that it is easy to overlook their impact on us unless we occasionally evaluate them. It’s of great importance to examine our rituals as we infuse them with so much meaning that every part of us believes the meaning we give them. 

Here’s an example from my life… I have a friend who is a staunch non-believer in astrology. I, on the other hand, grew up with my grandmother, a practicing astrologer who was forever letting our family members know how the movement of the planets might impact our lives, and it become a normal, integrated part of my family story to consider the impact of planetary alignments and birthdates on how life would unfold. My friend challenged me that if astrology is not a valid science (he argues adamantly that it is not) that I am allowing my presupposed notions based on astrological thinking to influence my behavior and my relationship with others. Whether astrology is “real” or not, he was right! 

This led me to evaluate the effect astrological thinking was having on me. Was I pre-judging others based on their Zodiac signs? Was I predicting dire outcomes during hot-button astrological events? (Come on, you Mercury retrograde, folks - you know what I am talking about!) Upon deeper consideration I realized that I probably was. So, I worked on it. I cannot say that I totally ignore astrological ideology now. But I have really shifted the level of importance I give those sorts of assumptions and predictions, and, more importantly to me, I have shifted my use of astrological thinking so that I consider ideas from that realm as tools to stimulate my thinking more deeply about personal practices and to lead me to seek value in the symbolic meaning of a planetary movement, rather than allowing myself to slip into judgment or predictions. 

Now that we have explored this a little, I ask again, what personal rituals are part of your life? And perhaps, more importantly, how are those rituals impacting you? 

If your ritual is to take a walk every morning, chances are good this is very beneficial to you. However, what happens if you miss your walk? Do you feel doomed to poor health and trick yourself into having an awful day? If so, then re-evaluate that ritual, change the meaning behind it, and work toward including this ritual in your life so that it ALWAYS serves you, even when you do not engage in it.

Another way to think about these rituals in our lives is that we can purposefully shape them to support us. The more attention and consideration we give something, the more it impacts us, and again, this is true whether it is positive or negative. 

A great example is the coming new year. Many people give it great emphasis as a time to resolve to new practices in life. We’ll hear people, and perhaps even ourselves, say things like, “This is the year that my life is finally going to change!” For other people, they are not as focused on the new calendar year. They may feel the surge of the “new” year in the springtime, on their birthday, when the moon is new, or some other culturally relevant transition. So for each of us the calendar transition to January 1st may or may not feel like a potent time to turn that new leaf into healthier ways, more success, or significant change of any kind. This is the beauty of it— we can CHOOSE to make this an important time in which we will ritually engage in new habits, or we can CHOOSE not to, and not give ourselves a hard time about it! 

Personally, I enjoy any opportunity to prompt me to work toward my goals, to inspire me to go even more boldly into the direction I desire! This is partly why I created my Make Successful Life Changes workshop. While I firmly believe we can each pick and choose the rituals and moments in our lives that we give great meaning, I also believe that the collective energy of a group is a POWERFUL energy to harvest! So during this time of year during which there is a huge cultural emphasis on renewal, change, goal setting, and achieving your desires, I get super excited about jumping into that wave and flowing with it. 

How do you want your new year's celebration to go this year? Are you ready to let go of expectations that don’t sit well with you and relax into a new tradition of no tradition and really own your need to not set any resolutions? Or are you feeling like you really want to use this time to reflect on the past year, consider the change you want to make, and go boldly into it like never before? Make a decision and stick to it! You only need to be true to yourself. After all, this is about what you give meaning to being important, not what others say must be important to you!

If you do feel connected to making change as the page of the calendar year turns, then I want to help you do it well. Let’s spend the month of January being inspired together, learning about what creates obstacles to change and how to overcome them, getting laser clear on our goals, and having a really good time growing into our best selves! And for those of you sitting out new year’s resolutions, blessings toward releasing what does not serve you and you have my support to develop the tradition that you can give meaning that becomes important to you. 

And for us all, may we give more meaning to the value of a world of peace and plenty so that 2016 can bring greater peace and solutions into the lives of every living being. Happy new year!


Sometimes Gratitude Isn't Enough

From the  Za'atari project

Sometimes gratitude isn't enough.

I had this idea to post notes of gratitude all week to share with the world. I thought it would be a sweet way to enter a season that invokes warmth, family, love, delicious food, and celebration. I am a huge fan of gratitude. I live an incredibly blessed life and my appreciation for that resounds in my heart constantly. I have also seen the ways that experiencing and remembering to be grateful for our blessings, even if we have to stretch to remember what those blessings are, is indeed a way of pulling ourselves from the trenches and getting into the light of life's grace.

Lately I have been very focused, thinking and praying about a lot of people in the world right now, regular folks like you and me with kids they love 'til their hearts bust, and jobs they invest themselves in, and passions that make them soar, and faults that make them human. I've been thinking about those who have recently been forced to leave their homes and become refugees. There are many horrors in the world; this particular flight of an entire nation propelled by climate change-fueled warfare while being turned away by the rest of the world has loudly captured my heart's attention.

As I consider what it would be like to be in such unfathomable loss and fear with no end, no promise of safety, comfort, and stability in sight, of course I am catapulted into remarkable thankfulness for my own safety, I pull my little one closer, and thank every lucky star in an endless universe for landing us in the right place at the right time to have avoided such horrors. But that ritual of feeling grateful for the sacred safety and comforts that we all hold dear has not led me to the settled contentment it normally does. Now it feels too shocking, too stark to be reminded that so many, many, many deserving, loving, thinking, feeling, vulnerable human beings are in constant trauma and danger while so many of us sit in extreme comfort and privilege day after day. I have been spending my days trying to figure out how to do more to serve the world's most disadvantaged people, because my gratitude for my blessings simply isn't enough.

Our gratitude and our personal work do remain important. The more functional, effective, and successful we are as individuals ripples out exponentially in the world by fostering our ability to give more - of our time, our resources, our energy, our brilliance and ability to create solutions and solve problems - and so that does help others. But in this season, I want to do more, I want to inspire others to do more, and I want to explore that together. What can we be doing in our own homes and communities and nations to make the world a safer, more loving, more fair, equitable, peaceful, livable, cooperative place? What can we be doing RIGHT NOW to serve those who are in the most desperate need at this time? I welcome all thoughts and feedback. I want to start a dialogue. Tell me - how would you solve the most dire of our problems?

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and being willing to open to exploration with me.

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