Tenderness

195678.mints

This last Sunday, I performed for a church service. 

This isn’t the first time I have done so, and I’m certain it won’t be my last…I’ve been performing since I was two years old. However, this time, I wasn’t prepared. 

Lately, I’ve been writing my own music…or arranging my own music. Either way, it’s not just a simple task when someone asks me to play…which is fine, because I really enjoy writing music. I usually go into a few days of meditation until inspiration strikes and then I begin writing. Depending on the piece, one arrangement can take anywhere from four hours to a week to write. I had a month…plenty of time. And, I was excited because this particular Sunday’s pieces were to celebrate Love. I quickly found the pieces I wanted to perform and set to arranging them.

Then I was blessed with several other opportunities to play during Christmas week, and suddenly I was swamped with writing music, traveling to rehearsals, rehearsing, and then performing. The pieces for Love Sunday had taken a back burner, and I quickly realized that I now only had a week to finish them and rehearse them with my accompanist. After a few rehearsals, it was clear they weren’t going to go well, but it was too late to pick other pieces. By the time Sunday morning arrived, I was exhausted…and ill tempered due to my lack of preparedness. 

As I sat in the church amongst the other musicians performing for the carols and hymns, I felt anxiety rise within me. I turned to the musician to my right…a dear friend from music school, and an amazing musician.

“Do you want to do the solo numbers?” I asked.

“What?” he asked, surprised.

“Please?!” I pleaded.

“Why?” he asked.

“I’m just not prepared. I haven’t practiced enough, and the pieces are filled with flubbed passages.”

He thought for a moment, then offered, “How about I do a drone and dance a jig to distract them?”

“That would be great!” I replied, and couldn’t help but giggle.

Just then, one of the musicians passed a bag of spearmint candy. I absent-mindedly passed it on to my friend on my right. He took it, looked closely at me, and asked me if I wanted one. I politely declined. It was time for the prayer.

I closed my eyes, grateful for an excuse to meditate. I began yoga breathing: four counts in, hold one, four counts out, hold one, four counts in, hold one, four counts out, hold one… As I started to calm down, and began to think more clearly, I remembered some energetic protocols and did some energy work on myself. It took a bit of time, and I expressed gratitude for such a long prayer. By the time the prayer ended, I had come to a place of acceptance of my flawed performance that lay in front of me.

When I opened my eyes, I looked at my music stand in front of me. Tucked into the right edge of the music ledge was a little green spearmint candy. I looked over at my friend, his trumpet already up, ready to play, his eyes avoiding mine. 

“Thanks,” I whispered.

“I didn’t do it,” he feigned, then grinned shyly. 

Then I realized that in my pursuit of perfection I’d forgotten that it didn’t matter if I performed flawlessly…all that mattered is that I played with heart and tenderness.

Thank you friend for your tenderness.

Thank you for reminding me.

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Gratitude Journal Entry #16

 

Tonight, I’m grateful for the life of my Aunt Betty. I’m grateful for her strength as a woman in a family of overbearing men. I’m grateful for her presence in my life as a child, modeling that strength, and understanding and supporting me in ways no one else could.

I’m grateful for her never-ending support of me through my parent’s divorce and my father’s illness. I’m grateful that she understood what my true responsibilities were even when I didn’t…and that she encouraged me to go live my life without guilt or responsibility for them or their actions.

I’m grateful for her honesty and wisdom.

I’m grateful for her earthy sense of humor and common sense.

I’m grateful for her consistency and her devotion to those she loves…even when it was painful.

I will greatly miss not having her as a resource and guide in human form, and I’m grateful that I’m developing the ability to hear her soul even if it no longer resides in a human body.

Thank you Aunt Betty for your life…I’m grateful to have been a small part of it.

Backlash

As the reconstruction continues, a curious thing happens…there’s a backlash.

Some people call this karma, some call it ego resisting change, others call it a test for the lessons just learned…I call it backlash…a law of physics. Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion to be more specific: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (simplified).

As the foundations of my self complete, I now start to build, orient, and reference myself from this new foundation…this new me with updated ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. At this point, the change or shift isn’t really optional…it’s happening no matter what. And, to be honest, I’m greatly relieved, for I’m tired of that old way and am ready for something new.

But.

The people around me may not be.

Hence, the backlash.

I can’t really say that I blame them for being angry…or confused…or upset…or sad…or frustrated. After all, the person they thought they knew isn’t really there any longer. My interests are different…my conversations are different…my reactions are different…how I stand…how I hold space is different…what is acceptable to me…my boundaries are different. I know what is happening and why this is happening, but they don’t. Often, they’re not even consciously aware of what has changed…just that something is different…and they don’t like it.

So, they use the most effective and efficient tools they have to try to get me to revert to the me they knew…the me that is familiar to them…the me that feels safe to them…the predictable me. They use these tools in order to achieve a level of peace they’re used to. These tools, however, are usually some form of anger…passive or direct. I’m grateful that, many years ago, I read the book The Dance of Anger, providing me with understanding as to what’s happening. But…the emerging me is struggling to find the new, effective, and appropriate ways to respond…not only to their anger, but my anger as well…my anger that is triggered from theirs.

After several months of wrestling with this backlash, all while in the midst of my transformation, I’m gifted with a beautiful group meditation involving six other wise, spiritual women. We begin by sharing our revelations from the past week. I share that I’m grateful for the peace that I experience when I turn off my brain. They’re curious about this practice. I struggle to explain it to them. So, we go into meditation to experience it energetically. As I communicate with them, I simultaneously receive and share this message:

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you turn down all the stories

all the beliefs…

all the ego that seeks to run your life.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

the emotional programming cannot activate.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you are no longer able to

engage with the thought that would trigger the feeling,

which would then lead to the story and a resultant emotion or loop.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

a vacuum is created.

The laws of physics don’t allow a vacuum to exist,

so something new fills it.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

the heart activates,

filling the vacuum,

connecting you to your soul and your wisdom.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you cannot be triggered…

instead,

you experience life from a place of

Unconditional Love,

Clarity,

Non-reactivity.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you become the teacher…no longer the student.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you receive the gift of backlash…

Peace.

Gratitude Journal Entry #15

To the most amazing senior class I’ve ever had the pleasure to know: Thank you.

Thank you for your unwavering dedication and commitment to excellence every single day of your high school career.

Thank you for your default setting of kindness, thoughtful communication, and humble leadership.

Thank you for setting examples…not in never making mistakes, but in how you handled the consequences.

Thank you for your hearts…for sharing your genuine spirits that resulted in others following your example.

Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives for four years and for exploding my heart into a million pieces in order to feel all the emotions I felt today.

Thank you for the tear-producing laughter, the thought-provoking conversations, the exquisite writing and life-changing research.

Thank you for being the kind of people who, simply by being who you are, will change the world.

Congratulations Class of 2012…I’m grateful for you.

Gratitude Journal Entry #11

ranuncula

Tonight, I’m grateful for the warm, cheerful sun that kept me company in my office for most of the morning. I’m grateful that it nurtures my office plants so that they keep growing and blooming. I’m grateful for the zen-like process of mending books…allowing my mind to shut off and just let me Be.

I’m grateful for the fun, newly painted garden pots that inspired me to rearrange my balcony garden. I’m grateful for the feel of dirt, and the amazement for the nurturing food it provides for the plants. I’m grateful for the generosity of friends in sharing clippings from their gardens. I’m grateful for all the pretty flowering plants that are now filling my pots and hanging around my balcony…beginning to feel like a space I want to experience regularly.

I’m grateful for the increasing urge to throw things away and get rid of a gob of physical things I no longer need.

I’m grateful for a rejuvenating time with soul sisters.

I’m grateful for those who share out of their abundance, timed perfectly to the moment when I need what they have to share.

I’m grateful for increased physical energy.

I’m grateful for sassiness.

I‘m grateful for laughter.

I’m grateful for non-reactivity.

I’m grateful for compassion.

I’m grateful for love.

Welcome Back!

What a complicated greeting that is! 

That statement conjures up a myriad of emotions within me.

To welcome someone back implies that the welcomed person has been away or separated from the welcomer. It also implies that the orientation of “from” is shared by both people in order for the “back” to be accomplished. But…what if it isn’t?

The first, and strongest image that comes to mind with this phrase is that of me, as a child, returning home. That sounds slightly odd I know, until I tell you that I didn’t know where home was…because I’m a fourth-generation missionary kid. As a child, I knew my parents considered the United States to be their home…but I didn’t. My home was where I lived…where my friends were…where my life was…which wasn’t the United States. They were excited whenever furlough time came…I was not. They were happy to leave for the United States…I was happy to leave the United States. So, when we were greeted by blood relations (who were strangers to me), invariably the greeting was some form of “Welcome Home!” Not wanting to betray my parents’ loyalties, I smiled and responded appropriately…all the while wishing I were in my real home. 

We returned to the United States, permanently, during war-time conditions for our host country. All of us had been traumatized by the war and I felt like a refugee…banished from my home. This time, when we arrived in the United States, no one welcomed us back or home. It was assumed that we were happy to be in the United States…that to want to be anywhere else was not simply ridiculous…it wasn’t even a consideration.

So for me, the phrases “Welcome Home!” or “Welcome Back!” carry a connotation of selfishness from the perspective of the welcomer…that the welcomer is implying that this is the only place or space to return to after leaving…that the separation hasn’t changed anyone or anything…that everything can now return to the way it used to be.

The second image I see is that of someone in the hospital…someone who has been in a coma or through a surgery, and he or she is waking up. The person waking up is disoriented, might feel a significant amount of discomfort or pain, and may be easily overwhelmed by the bombardment of sounds, lights, and people. Coming back to a conscious state may not be such a fabulous experience for the welcomed individual…even if it is for the welcomer.

Finally, I see soldiers returning home from active duty. These people have seen and experienced things that they may not even be able to verbalize. There’s a good chance they don’t even know how they feel about their experience because they haven’t had a chance or allowed themselves to feel or process much of it in order to survive. Coming “home” or “back” only means that now the real hell begins…facing the inner emotions and memories that will now forever color the way they see the world and their place in it.

“Welcome back!” is not a welcoming statement…except for the person stating it. For the welcomed, it’s a lonely statement…isolating…it includes grief and pain and separation…it means that life as we know it will never be the same again. And, for me, the person receiving that statement, it’s trite and insincere.

Until today. 

Today I met a lovely, and deeply soulful Jewish woman, one of the facilitators at the NVC conference. We sat on a bench in the sun and connected, initially through the class’s content, then through our spirituality, and finally, through our Jewishness. Then she discovers that I converted to Judaism and I expect the inevitable question about why I converted to Judaism and I prepare my standard answer. Instead, she surprises me by asking, “How and when did you know you were Jewish?” I’m stunned to realized that my standard answer has found the appropriate question: When I was four years old, I asked my mother if we were Jewish. When she said no, I burst into tears.

This isn’t a new story for me…crying at the age of four years old…nor is the reaction of other Jews to my story dissimilar from this woman’s. But she does something fundamentally different…she sees me. As in the Avatar form of seeing me. With tears in her eyes, she reaches out with both her arms, gently grasps my arms with her hands and looks at me…her heart opening toward me with gratitude and unconditional love. She looks at me…wordlessly…letting the tears run down her face. “You are a Holocaust Jew!” she whispers with great emotion. My breath hiccups, tears instantly flow from my eyes, my body slumps and surrenders to the safety of being seen and acknowledged for who I am…as she sees my soul and holds me in great love. I nod…incapable of speaking. And then she says the most beautiful two words I have ever heard…words that offer connection…words that offer community…words that offer recognition of where I’ve been and acceptance for where I am now.

Welcome back!

Sky Angels

Today, I was reminded of an interesting phenomenon: as people age, the instinct to look up lessens. The article I read (for an Educational Psychology class, I think) described how when children play hiding games, their searching strategy included looking up more frequently than looking down. Consequently, when hiding, the strategy is to hide under things rather than on top of things. And, as we age, this process reverses.

Since then, I’ve often wondered if this simple change, the frequency of looking up vs. down, plays a role in losing the child-like wonder of the world as one ages.  I haven’t tested this idea except on myself…and I can tell you that whenever I take time to look up, I always feel uplifted, lighter, happier and more relaxed. So, I’ve also made it a practice to look up as often as I can while I go about my life. This, then, is the primary reason I look into the sky while walking from my car to my office each morning.

One recent morning, however, the sky captivated me from the moment I stepped out of the house. As one who struggles to accomplish anything other than routine practices before the hour of 10 am (including waking up enough to get to work on time), I feel quite accomplished even remembering to look up while walking to work each morning; to notice the sky before that moment means something spectacular is taking place. And indeed it was.

Wispy bits of flowing clouds, arranged in all different shapes and directions, filled the sky. I stared at it a while, quite distracted as I drove. And then I saw it…a cloud angel. Then there was another one…and another…and another. They were everywhere…and they all looked different. Some faced me, some were side profiles, some showed only their backs. Some had big wings and others had small wings. Some had streaming hair and others only had a head silhouette. 

By the time I could get out of the car and locate an image capturer (only my low-quality phone camera was available), this huge one was the only angel remaining in the sky. She held on to her shape until I snapped her photo and then I watched her dissipate. As she did, I felt her surround me with love and hugs and her presence stayed with me all day. 

Thank you angel messengers for reminding me to experience the endless amount of Divine Unconditional Love that always surrounds me.

I wish the same for you.

 

 

Death

What Dreams May Come (film)

What Dreams May Come (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has been a lot of death in my life since New Year’s Day…the day it really began with conviction.

I’d been invited to several parties in order to ring in the new year, but as the sun set, my heart became increasingly heavy. By 6:00 that evening, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. All I could handle was sitting on my couch, watching “What Dreams May Come” and sobbing. I thought it would pass. It didn’t.

The next day, New Year’s Day, I went to the beach. I took with me a bag filled with items for a ceremony. Even though it was a hot, sunny day, and lots of people were at the beach, The Universe conspired to protect my favorite hidey-spot so I could be in private. I lit candles, arranged my crystals, and invited beings of love and light to assist me in writing my intentions for the year.

I first wrote all the things I wanted to transform…all my beliefs, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, patterns, and relationships. I burned this paper and allowed the wind to carry the ashes into the ocean. Then, I wrote all the things I wanted to attract to me…new beliefs, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, patterns, and relationships. I also burned this paper, but then I buried it where plants were growing so that my intentions could also grow. I then sat and sobbed some more…feeling more relief and freedom within than I ever remember feeling.

A month later, a grandfather figure passed away unexpectedly. As I talked to my brother while walking the beach, I realized what I was experiencing…and had been experiencing since New Year’s Day…death within me. I wasn’t overcome with grief for my “grandfather”…I’ve faced physical death several times and don’t fear it for myself or others. I also grew up in a culture that honored death as a natural and necessary part of life…without death, life cannot persist. But, to have the self die…the internal parts of me…the very foundations on which I have built everything I know…on which I exist…in which my very thoughts and beliefs are anchored…this was unprecedented…and quite disorienting. Everything I knew and trusted…even if I didn’t like it or want it any longer…was falling away…and I had no idea how to be.

At first, I tried to understand it…to participate in it…to analyze it…to make sense of it and explain it. That only made it worse. It was only when I chose to breathe and sit with it and watch my essence shift with every breath that any flow or release began.

So.

I sat.

And breathed.

And allowed myself to exist…even though I had no idea my identity.

I AM.

It’s enough.

Gratitude Journal Entry #1

 

I’m home sick today. Some days, being sick really gets in the way of life and all my plans, and I greatly resent the illness and my body. I also am not the kind of person who easily stops, so when I have to stop because of illness, usually the illness is rather severe. And then, I whine…just like Bear in this, my new favorite picture book. My favorite part is when Bear, in dramatic irritation and resignation, admonishes Mouse by saying, “I fear you don’t fully appreciate the severity of the situation.” Some sick days are like that.

Today, however, I’m deeply grateful to be sick. I’ve needed a break from my daily routine so that I could care for myself and have some down time…releasing the old and recalibrating myself to the new. My dreams have been wonky and I’m refusing to analyze them or meditate on them at all because I’m ready to just let it all go…whatever it is that I no longer need. So, rather than fight this and grumble and moan, here is my gratitude list for today:

I’m grateful that I now have a job that provides accumulated paid sick leave. I’m grateful that I’ve almost maxed out the number of hours one can accumulate for paid sick leave and that I have to use it. I’m grateful that I have a job that is flexible enough to allow me to use my paid sick leave. I’m grateful that my boss is supportive of me taking care of myself and encourages me to take off whatever time I need in order to feel better. I’m grateful that while society doesn’t yet recognize the value of using sick time for mental health days, my body has accommodated this need for time off by providing just the exact symptoms I need in order to have to stay home. I’m grateful that today is pay-day. I’m grateful for the beautiful roses in my bedroom. I’m grateful for the wee bit of rain that helps me relax and sleep. I’m grateful for cozy fleece blankets under which to snuggle. I’m grateful for my kitty snuggling with me on the cozy fleece blanket. I’m grateful for tissues for my nose that are gentler than the tissues I experienced in Africa as a child. I’m grateful for a warm bed in which I can rest and heal. I’m deeply grateful for the beautiful quilt my aunt made for my bed, under which I rest and heal. I’m grateful for healing food in the form of tea and brown rice that my mom brought to me this morning. I’m grateful for my essential oils, herbs, neti pot and foot bath. I’m grateful for sleep. I’m grateful for abundance. I’m grateful for love.

Let’s Meet & Be Merry!

On Thursday of this week, toward the end of my work day, a high-school senior approached me. 

Starbucks is having a buy-one-get-one deal!” he exclaims. “Would you like one?”

“Yes!” I eagerly respond. “What’s the occasion?”

“Let’s do some research!” he replies. 

A part of my heart melts at the word “research,” for it’s definitely a magical word. Research always opens a million doors of questions and leads me on incredible adventures into unknown realms from which I never return unscathed or unchanged. Already, at such a young age, The Research Bug has bitten this one, and I beam with pride.

“Oh!” I exclaim, “They’re promoting their holiday flavors! Which one do you like?”

We eventually settle on the Gingerbread Latte and he leaves.

Thirty minutes later, he returns with a carrier filled with four drinks…he’d bought two orders.

“How much do I owe you?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he replies, “It’s my treat. Plus, I bought another order to share. The next two people to walk through that door are the lucky winners.” He laughs in anticipation.

I look at the teenager, at a loss for words. How do I tell him to hold on to such a pure heart…that such kindness is hard to find in a world that focuses on domination, control, greed and war? How do I tell him that such generosity might be construed by cynics as naiveté or manipulation or foolishness but to pay them no mind? How do I tell him that his kindness, after a particularly challenging day working with an extremely difficult and demeaning man, heals the day plus much more?

Just then, two of his guy friends come running past him, both of them saying excitedly, “I gave mine to so-and-so…and an old lady who looked cold…and that cool homeless guy and…”

I keep my thoughts to myself and instead, reach out, squeeze his arm, beaming from every pore in my body, my heart expanding to 10 times its normal size.

Thank you” I say. And I hear in my head, All is well with the world.

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