Mindful Musings: Apr 30th

“Seeds of Karma: A Short Story”

By: Forrest Rivers

two men sitting on road

One day, a very wealthy banking executive by the name of Jeffrey Goodwin was walking down the street in New York City just a few blocks from his office for lunch when a homeless woman grabbed his attention. The young woman, who was around 25 years old, waved him down and said in a polite voice:

“Sir, could you spare some change? I have fallen on difficult times.”

The 55-year-old banker, who was dressed in an expensive Armani suit, stared dismissively at the young woman and said in an arrogant tone:

“I worked hard for my money, why should I help you? “

The banker then proceeded to carry on his way but not before the homeless woman recaptured his attention by calling him out by his childhood name:

“Jeffey, I am very disappointed in you. I did not raise you this way. Don’t you remember when your mother used to bring you to soup kitchens when you were but a teenager to serve meals to those in need just like me?”

Taken aback, Jeffrey Goodwin stopped cold in his tracks and turned to face the woman who was 30 years younger and said:

“How do you know my childhood name? And, who told you that my mother used to bring me to soup kitchens when I was young?”

The homeless woman stared adoringly at the wall street elite standing before her and whispered the words:

“I know these things because I was your mother before I passed away when you were the same age I am now. “

Jeffrey Goodwin suddenly dropped to his knees and began sobbing uncontrollably for the first time since his mother’s death all those years ago. He then stared the young woman right in her eyes and said:

“But how can this be? How is it even possible for you to have died and then to retrun in a new body. I don’t think I understand!”

The young woman, who was in fact his mother from her previous life, hugged the banker and shared what wisdom she had:

“The Universe is a mysterious web of wonder, dear son. About three years ago, I roamed through India for a period of time and met a venerated sage. And he taught me that reincarnation is a fixed and eternal law of the cosmos. Everything is born, then it dies and then it is reborn again. My child, just as the butterfly sheds its cocoon at its moment of transformation from a caterpillar, the soul sheds its body at its moment of transformation from form back into the deathless realm of pure spirit. And, after the soul sheds its body, it then wonders about freely without any hindrance into the mystical planes. But inevitably, the day finally arrives when the soul, pulled by its own karma, chooses to leave the sanctuary of its celestial heavens to take birth once again in a body to continue its journey of truth and enlightenment. “

Astounded at what he had just heard, the wealthy banker then asked the woman in a semi-skeptical tone:

“But how do you know that what your teacher, or whatever you call him, was telling you the truth?”

The young woman smiled and simply said:

“For one a true sage never lies. Most importantly, I experienced the truth of his words directly. One day, while meditating with him and some of his disciples high in the mountains, I had several visions myself from a previous life as your mother. In those visions, I discovered that you, dear one, are my link to the timeless wheel of birth and death!”

For the first time since meeting her, the banker looked upon the homeless woman with great reverence.  Within his own heart he now heard the truth of her words speak. Oblivious to the loud background noise of the city, the reunited mother and son rejoiced in a long and joyous moment of silence together. Finally, the banker broke their awe-filled moment and summoned the courage to ask his mother a question that now arose in his mind:

“If I may ask, why did our paths cross here in this improbable setting of New York City? Afterall, you raised me in the country. How is it that we are meeting here?”

In response, the homeless woman laughed and said:

“All I can say is that it was our seeds of karma to appear, here, in this moment of space and time so you could remember that there exists no power stronger in this universe then love. “

Tears streamed down the face of the wealthy banker as he began to feel great shame for all his greedy and selfish behavior. He thought of all the people like his reincarnated mother whom he had brutally judged and ridiculed for their suffering. And he thought of the lies that he had told countless people to convince them to sign away what little savings they had to fatten his own wallet. In that moment of deep reflection, Jeffrey Goodwin experienced great regret for a life wasted in pursuit of ignoble aims. Right then and there, he resolved to use his immense wealth to create a foundation to serve the homeless and all people suffering in poverty. And he just now happened to know the perfect person to appoint as both his personal spiritual advisor and director of a campaign to serve the poor with the spirit of loving kindness.

Mindful Musings

Transcend Your Fear of Death

By Forrest Rivers

****Originally published on the mindfulword.org

One day, sooner or later, we are all going to die. Like every human being, as the inevitability of our own death dawns, we will be presented with two paths to follow.

We can choose the first and heavily traveled road of clinging to our own egoistic notions, sensory desires and worldly pleasures in the face of Yama, the King of Death. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we can push away the imminence of our body’s expiration and cling to the transient nature of our physical reality.

This choice will only wind up creating more needless suffering, because just as the Buddha taught, everything in our physical realm is impermanent and fleeting.

Fortunately, for our own sense of well-being, we can also choose the second and more lightly traveled road of embracing our physical demise by surrendering to the wondrous passage of form—returning to the Formless, the Void, the One.

Instead of continually running from death’s haunting shadow, we have the power to meet The Spirit of Death at its own doorstep, with our hearts wide open to what IS and will soon become.

Rather than lament the existential fact that we really have no control over the time and manner of our own passing, we can choose to become death’s supreme inquisitor and ask it all the questions that we intuitively already know the answers to.

Imagine the possibilities, upon learning of the Universe’s ability to bring us all to an awareness of the breathtaking unity that exists within one cycle of birth and death. Death does not have to be a painful and frightening process. We can use this ultimate transition for our own inner healing and self-growth.

Adopt a healthy perspective on death and dying


clouds surrounded by light

Over the years, it has become a living truth to me that we are more than our bodies. I have come to strongly believe that when we die, some spiritual essence of who we are transcends the act of death and the decay of the body. Exactly where we go remains one of the greatest existential mysteries.

Similar to both the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs on reincarnation, I intuitively feel that each of us has taken countless births as males and females, as rich and poor, as oppressor and oppressed, and even as moral do-gooders and rapacious sinners. It is possible, as Tibetan Buddhists believe, that we have even taken animal forms in our previous incarnations.

Perhaps, the Universe’s grand intention for reincarnation is for us all to steadily build toward a full consciousness of who we truly are through the many experiences lived and lessons learned from each incarnation. Buddhists might call this awareness ‘nirvana,’ Hindus ‘self-realization’ and Christian mystics ‘Christ consciousness,’ but the same idea is implied. Through each passing incarnation, we move closer and closer to realizing our total union with the Imperishable Tao.

Indeed, adopting such a perspective on our own deaths relieves us of our existential anxieties and brings us infinite comfort that when our bodies die, the truest essence of who we are does not.

Preparing for your own death


man on mountain embracing the sun

There is no better way to overcome your fear of death than by actively preparing for it through formal spiritual practices like working with the dying and meditation.

Stephen Levine, a late and influential meditation teacher, spent countless years working with people who were, as the Hindus say, close to “dropping their bodies”. His experiences led him to write a profound and groundbreaking book titled, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if It Were Your Last.

In drawing on his work with the Living/Dying Project, a non-profit he helped co-found that fosters a loving space for the terminally ill to die consciously, Levine showed how adopting the perspective that each day could be your last reduces anxiety and fills life with more meaning.

Ram Dass, the late pioneer of cosmic consciousness and the author of the seminal book, Be Here Now, was a contemporary of Levine who also spent considerable time working with the Living/Dying Project. In numerous books and recorded lectures, he recounts his many years of devoted care for the dying as the most profound spiritual work that he did on himself.

According to this beloved saint, the more one consciously works with those who are dying, the less they come to fear their own death. He was fond of teaching that if you can learn to “keep your heart open in hell,” through embracing the painful emotions that watching another die engenders, then the opportunity to transcend your own fear of death arises. Once this occurs, one is then able to gain a deeper perspective of the eternal nature of the deathless self.

Finally, in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, monks partake in regular mindfulness meditation exercises on their own deaths (this practice is called Maranasati). The central aim of these contemplative sessions is to cultivate a deeper awareness and acceptance of death.

Eventually, after years of this practice, monks become so comfortable with the absolute and impermanent nature of their physical reality that they are able to transcend this greatest of existential fears altogether, and live the remainder of their lives with greater joy and compassion. In turn, living a more joyous, as well as a more compassionate life are the two most sought-after goals of all spiritual seeking.

Transcend your fear of death and enter the boundless realms of everlasting peace!