Friday, August 10, 2012


    I have never had much interest in professional gurus. I prefer to receive my wisdom from unexpected sources, often delivered to me when I most need it, usually without the necessity of a credit card transaction.   I remember asking a wise old friend of mine, a long time yoga teacher and philosopher if she had ever had a transcendental moment.  “Oh yes,” she said in that accent unchanged no matter how many years she lived away from New York, “I was in a parking garage in Bethesda.” 
    It’s one of my favorite parts of living, and like many experiences that turn out to be wonderful, it doesn’t always start out that way.  Usually, Grace comes for me when I have reached the end of my rope.  I might be feeling  helpless, in shock, hopeless, frustrated beyond measure, frozen, exhausted, or sick with grief – my personal seven dwarfs of powerlessness. Yours might be slightly different, but are you feeling me here? I am saying that it’s only when I have exhausted every other option that it occurs to me to ask for help.
    So finally, that’s what I do. A heartfelt “I am feeling overwhelmed.  I need help.” A couple of deep breaths, and then I start paying attention.  And Grace shows up. She always does, and she’s usually pretty quick about it.  I never know exactly how or when she will arrive.  She can appear in many forms, and she usually slips in quietly.  First I notice a softening in me, an easing of the heart.  Then I notice a feeling of connection, an awareness of the connectedness of all things. And then, always, gratitude.
     I learn from those moments.  I find my perspective expands.  I realize things I may never have known before.  Possibilities appear. Stuckness moves. Even after the moment passes, the wonder can linger all day.  This for me is the heart of living.  I wish you Grace.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Quality of Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
        -from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

    In the face of loss and upheaval, a natural response is to pull in, close down, and wait for our  wounds to heal.  We feel so numb that it seems awkward or strange to give or receive a hug. We may avoid interactions, even supportive ones, because it can feel like too much work to connect.  There is a hardening that occurs when times are tough, making it increasingly difficult to take in emotional nourishment even when it’s offered, much less being able to offer it to others.  We may judge ourselves particularly harshly, mentally berating ourselves for every mistake.  Perhaps we direct the judgement outward, second guessing and criticizing the people around us. And the harshness begets more of the same. Add to all of this some rather lean economic times, and suddenly we’ve got some rather mean times on our hands. Stressed out, anxious, sad, judgmental . . .
    We show ourselves mercy when we strive for a balanced life rather than trying to force perfection. We show ourselves mercy when we turn away from words like “idiot” or “loser” and choose instead “beginner” or “work in progress.”  We show ourselves mercy when we accept help or compassion from a friend, even if it feels strange at first. We show ourselves mercy when we balance what the world demands of us with what we need for ourselves.  We show ourselves mercy when we fire ourselves from the role of judge and jury and forgive ourselves and others for the things we cannot change and mistakes made in the past.
    Mercy is essential for personal growth and healing. In difficult times, the ability to show ourselves some mercy can soften us, like water on dry ground.  We can allow the nourishment of compassion and connection to reach us. We begin to experiment with ways of being, perhaps try growing in a new direction, knowing that if we do fall, the ground won’t be quite so hard beneath us.  As I write this on a rainy afternoon in early April, I can look out the window and see the verdant results of a few drops from heaven received by the ground beneath. Life returns and new growth is everywhere.  We know that not every single new shoot will become an oak tree, but as I look out my window, clearly the soft green of new growth is winning out over the dried up vegetation from another season.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Could Be Wrong

    I have never quite gotten the New Years Eve celebration.  When I was younger, I thought the holiday was about glamorous outings with terrific Prince Charmings I would meet before midnight – never quite found out how to get me some of those.  When I was a bit older, we would get dressed up and go out to clubs, and I would watch the glamorous hilarity folks tried to generate.  Friends with dates ranged from mildly amused to bored, and friends without dates seemed either desperate or lonely and sad. And of course, drunk. Everyone looked nice, and the food was good, but again, I never quite got it. What exactly am I supposed to do on this holiday?  What is it about?
    I will share that the jig was close to up for me the year I heard Dick Clark going on about the incredible excitement building in the crowd over the turning of a new decade. 1990. Wahoo!
    Like I said, the jig was pretty much up for me on the whole New Years thing by then.
    In more recent years, my older, more cantankerous self (yes, I used to be chirpy), has viewed this holiday with a Grinch-like demeanor. I like champagne, but why the boozorama?  It strikes me now that  New Years is nothing more than the Winter Solstice celebration with a liquor license.  
    Winter Solstice? Wait a minute. I know that one.  Soul searching, leaving behind outdated dreams, a re-commitment to the light – being part of the light – dreaming of what can be in our lives, believing in our lives.  All powerful, meaningful stuff. Maybe scary stuff?  Sometimes.  Could it be that the enforced hilarity and ball gowns are all about making sure we are anesthetized enough to not feel that scary or sad stuff?  Maybe we don’t dare ask ourselves what we value most, lest we face the fear of not living up to it.
    I think there is great beauty in the turning of our lives.  I think the act of deciding what we value and committing to it, trying that out, succeeding or not, trying again, junking what doesn’t work, and doing it all again is the sacred walk of life.  Sometimes scary yes, but we do it in the company of friends and belovedes, and in the presence of great Grace.
    And it can be a kick.
    I will offer you this activity to try for the New Year. I believe it is meant to be done around midnight, but I am fairly sure I will be in bed by then, so I will be doing it around 10 tonight. (btw, my life as the mother of a small child has taught me that the sky will not fall if you do this or any other self development exercise at a time that your family life supports so don’t feel wedded to the timing of it all.)  The activity was inspired in me by the writings of Jan Lundy.  She calls it naming your journey and surprise, I added to it.  Here it is:

    Allow your mind to wander back over your year.
    Wait. Listen.
    Allow a word to bubble up from inside you, a word that describes your journey through 2011. Then, when you are ready, NAME your journey.
    Allow yourself to reflect on the word that arose in you and how it defines the passing year.  What memories and experiences come to mind?  Allow yourself to be with this for a few moments, maybe journal a bit, and then release the thoughts.
    Again, sit.
    Ask yourself, “What do I value most?”
    Breathe easy.
    Wait. Listen.
    Allow a word to bubble up from inside you. When you are ready, NAME it.
    Allow your mind to float with the word.
    Write down images or thoughts that might arise. And write down the word.

    Only 365 days until this one comes around again.  See what happens.
    Blessed be.    

Thursday, December 22, 2011

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

    I have always loved Winter Solstice.  Most years, I have found it difficult to slow down and take in the stillness, even as I yearned for it.  This year, my gift (?) has been having quite a bit less energy than in previous years, so slowing down has not been difficult. I won’t lie and say that I like being so tired, but I will say that I am enjoying this season. 
    I am not booking so much outside of our house. We go to bed early.  We look at Christmas lights.  We read stories together. We baked monkey bread for Solstice.  There seems to be time for the small stuff this year.  It turns out there is a great deal that nourishes me in the small stuff.
    I love the notion of the Winter Solstice.  Everything lies dormant within the womb of the Earth.  We swim in the dark waters of the unknown, waiting for Spring to return.  In the quiet, we contemplate what’s been left behind and seek glimpses of what will be.  No question we can encounter our fears in the dark (of the dark).  Winter Solstice for me is the time of the big questions.  Who am I?  What is my life for?  Will I prosper? Will Spring ever return?
    I think the reason this time of year is celebrated as a family time is that we draw strength from our heart connections.  I have been noticing small warm moments with my family this year.  Again, I would use the word nourishing –  heartening.  It has been said that Winter is a time to feel our connections to our ancestors.  There are lessons for us to learn if we allow them.
    Of course, yin leads to yang at some point.  I have also had moments where I pine for a bigger life.  When I feel sad, I wonder if my life will ever again get “bigger.” Yesterday, as I looked up at the gray, gray, I had a visceral longing to leave the small behind and soar through the sky. I have had moments in my life that have felt like that.  Glorious.  For me, nothing surpasses. Will I be able to go there again?
    I find myself asking these questions this Winter -- speaking into the unknown and trying to discern the answers. Yesterday, not long after I looked up, I was able to listen inward in meditation, and this time, I clearly heard the wisdom of my ancestors. 
    Remember who you are.
    And I felt that in my body.  A strengthening, a return, an alignment – like sap rising. In that moment, I felt exactly like my self, and it was good to be home.
    When the sun rose today, the sky was clearing.  I heard a bird chirping in the trees, and I felt held by the gentleness of the morning.  The hot monkey bread tasted great!
    Happy Solstice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Gifts We Give Each Other

    I wrote the other day about being inspired to believe in our miraculous power in this life again.  I feel moved to say that I was called to that inspiration by the experience of someone I love.  Not because of anything she said or did on my behalf, but simply because she reported to me a couple of months ago her intention to sell her home and move to a better place by the end of 2011.  There were plenty of obstacles – selling a home in a depressed neighborhood, plenty of repairs to be made, lack of resources, physical limitations, availability of housing where she wanted to live.  She told me that she had absolutely no idea how this would all work out, but that she was acting on faith that it would happen as she felt it was supposed to. 
    I thought she was brave to be so bold in her intentions.
    I spoke to her on Thursday, and it had all happened just as she intended.  She has sold her home and moved out and will move into her new home in a few short weeks. When I heard this news, I felt chills.  I do not believe when she told me of her wish that she was intending to teach me something, although she is a teacher of mine.  Nevertheless, when I heard her story, I felt a thrill of hope such as the song describes.  It called me to a better part of myself and what I know to be true but often forget.  Of course, one might say that selling a house and moving is not exactly a miracle, but I really believe it was something of a long shot in her situation.  More importantly, the miracle of the story is how it landed on me, and the upsurge of hope it created.  She believed it would happen and it did, just like she thought it would.  Hearing that moved me.  That is what we do for each other in this life.
    We really can live our dreams.  What a gift for me that she lives her life according to her inner guidance and saw fit to tell me about it.  I have said before that we change the world simply by living our own lives according to our own best beliefs.  Sitting here right now, I am changed.
     Blessed be.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If Wishing Made It So

    Sometimes I hear things that I want to believe in but struggle with.  I love (and probably fear) the idea that we create our own reality.  To a point, I’m on board with this notion.  I get that when I take a position of gratitude, I notice more blessings in my life.  I have noticed that surrounding myself, in general, with positive people makes my life feel more positive. The same thing feels true about wading through lots of negativity; I feel more negative.  Fine, fine.
    Where the rubber hits the road for me is when folks begin talking about visualizing something concrete that they want in their lives, and then they get it.  That’s when I become that doubting 7 or 8 year old kid:
    Really?? But how could that possibly be true? There’s no such thing as . . .
    I realize even as I write this, that I have had that experience.  In my life, I have experienced seeing my fondest desire manifest.  I could introduce you to her, but she’s busy making puff ball snowmen at her art table right now . . .
    If wishing made it so . . .
    In truth, I did wish. I also hoped. I prayed. I cried. I subjected my body to what I can only describe now as weird science or Vegas style gambling, depending on how you look at it.  I consulted mystics. I wrote in my journal. I threw up my hands in frustration.  In short, I embarked on a path of self discovery and surrender that brought me face to face with a lot of my own assumptions and beliefs about myself and everything else.  I had to throw out what didn’t work.  I had to consider new ideas.  In short, I had to grow into the gift that I was about to be given.  Did it work?
    You betcha! (Only Sarah Palin quote you are likely to see here, ever, but I digress.)
    For me, believing was far from a passive exercise.  I did absolutely everything I could to make my dream a reality, and that still wasn’t enough.  I also had to surrender to the fact that in the end, it wasn’t really in my control.  But the belief was mine. And it worked.
    Why then, do I have to remind myself again and again of the power of intention and correct action to shape my own life? I guess I can be grateful that the reminders are there, and that when they come, they can be powerful.  
    And so here and now, it gives me great pleasure to declare, in what I now better understand to be the spirit of the season,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to the Super Committee

    I am not sure how anyone who is paying attention cannot be feeling a constant background hum of tension given the state of the world’s politics.  I started to write the word economy, but as I did, I realized it’s not about the money at the core.  It’s about power, and those who have it.  As one of the 99% who do not have power, I feel anxious and tired whenever I think about the world economy. And completely helpless, did I mention completely helpless?  I may have just given you a Thanksgiving recipe for anxiety – take lots of worry about the economy, add a heavy dose of helplessness and a dash of a tree fell on my office. (Wait, that last one is optional.)  Carry it all around with you for a while and you have . . .
    I don’t think about this all of the time.  I have a long list of other things I do think about.  Thank goodness.  This little topic is simmering on the back burner on very low heat.  I try not to focus on it because there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s the point.  The problem is that 100% denial is impossible.  As many of us know, it takes more and more effort to keep that ugly old thang locked away, off the front burner, not consciously felt, but it’s there . . . always there . . .
    I heard that they didn’t even meet together in the same room.
    No one thought they would succeed.  Many are now saying that they shouldn’t have succeeded. They never meant to succeed. “Their not succeeding is important,” I heard on the radio last night.
    Breathing . . . breathing . . .
    I understand why the occupy Wall Street folks beat drums.  It’s frustrating.  It’s maddening.  Dancing, moving – there is a need to bring some life to this problem.  I believe in gratitude.  I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for where I live.
    And the Super Committee . . .  and our beloved Congress . . . I think that this year, I will count my blessings while walking outside.  Taking deep breaths and focusing on the space between the stars.  This one, I gotta walk off.
    Blessed be.