A Time of Renewal and Redemption

The Shofar Sounds

As the sun soundlessly slipped away from the pastel washed sky on September 28th the High Holidays of my religion began with the primal blast of a shofar.  For over forty years, I sat alongside my family as well as other congregants of the Jewish faith to begin a period of self-evaluation.  Thousands and thousands of Jews were praying at that very moment to the same G_d as had been done in the past by a hundred generations.

There, in the sanctity and womb-like security of the temple, I actually laid down my ever present, self effacing club and reverently sat in judgment of myself, encouraging the reality of my daily life to meet and dance with the sharp scrutiny of my ideals.

Ten days into the High Holidays, riding on the playful warmth of the Santa Ana winds, it is Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and atoning for our sins.  I love this most Holy Day, because once again we come together at shul, transgressors whose vows, commitments and obligations of the past year were made yet not all kept, to sit and confront ourselves in the courtroom of our souls.

During this long day of fasting, prayer, chanting and meditation I do not ask for absolution, but whole-heartedly seek understanding and the right to start again!  With ease and grace, I put down the armor of blame and accept responsibility for my Self.

On this Holy Day, known as the Day of Atonement, I want to be so much more than I am.  I long to be wiser, kinder, and even more idealistic and confident in living.  I ache to feel a stronger commitment, direction and faith in life.  I feel a tremendous need to awaken within me the truth of what I am so that I can realize the unimaginable greatness of what I can be.

Witness to the shadows of a setting sun advancing slowly, silently, stealthfully, there is no moment in all the calendar of Judaism that is more poignant than this one.  I have confessed my thoughtlessness, misdeeds, and wrongdoings, yet I am light hearted because the very act of confronting my failings has enabled me to come face to face with my virtue.  Like a point of starlight in the night sky, I am more aware of my unfathomable inner worth as I realize that no matter what I do, I Am a child of G_d, a precious and irreplaceable jewel in the crown that is G_d’s universe.

Amid the reality of a world shrouded in darkness, my hope is steadfast and my faith in humanity unwavering.  I pray for all of us –

A good year.  A year of peace.  A year where joy and happiness increases with each and every day.

Shanah Tovah…Happy New Year

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I Am Profoundly…Enough

If we were not so single-minded

About keeping our lives moving,

And for once could do nothing,

Perhaps a huge silence

Might interrupt this sadness

Of never understanding ourselves

And of threatening ourselves with death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

And you keep quiet and I will go.

“Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda

Stop for a moment, will you? Just wait a moment and listen.  Can’t do it, can you?  Me neither.  It’s akin to ‘mission impossible’.  Unless I’m stricken by an illness, struck by lightening, stuck in traffic or waiting in line at Disneyland for another ride on the Matterhorn, I’m on the move.  In all honesty, I think I’ve become addicted to being busy.  I’ve come down with some viral bug that’s taken over my body and made me chronically OTG (on the go).  I’ve become a speed freak of sorts; main lining speed, productivity and busyness as if my life depended upon it daily and habitually.

In my continual pursuit of authenticity I am going to own up and share with you an insight of sorts that has rocked my world.  One moment, please, as we pause, that’s right, we are doing nothing but waiting for the brass band to trumpet my ‘a ha’ moment…

The busy pursuit of “being” has become my primary vocation, and it sucks.  I quit!

I quit trying to justify my worth to myself and to others.  I am no longer interested in seeking the ‘always on the move,’ ever elusive approval from my mother, my family – be they blood or adopted — my friends, my neighbors and any and all strangers.  I’m officially letting go of the fear that I Am not good enough, nor that I have not accomplished enough so that I could be deemed acceptable.

Here’s the deal.  I accept me for who I Am right now in this moment of time.  I Am all there is, nothing more and nothing less.  I’m smart enough, skinny enough, worthy enough, kind enough, funny enough, happy enough and loving enough.  I Am simply, profoundly enough.  Sufficient, Adequate and Ample.  That’s me.

“Be still,” says the psalmist, “and know that I am God.”

So, take a moment and look for me.  I’m the woman sitting very, very still listening to the voice of my heart, teaching me what is true, what is necessary, what is healing, and what is loving.

Sticks and Stones…

"Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so he is." Publillus Syrus

The other day I almost drowned in a ravage sea of verbal abuse.  It’s not important to review the specifics of the assault, but believe me, I felt attacked — punched so hard that it literally took my breath away. In those ensuing three minutes of verbal violence, those horribly negative, angry, filth infested words thrown at me had a life of their own.  Honestly, they were like some virulent organism, capable of growing, expanding, transforming, impacting my thoughts and feelings, effecting my entire day.  It felt as if their seething energy crossed the barrier of my skin, gained entry into my cells, and advanced straight towards my ego with rapid precision.  Before I knew it, those loathsome words began to sing harmony with antiquated hurtful rhetoric, carbon dated verbal assaults and innuendoes spoken by elementary school teachers, classmates, my mother, ex lovers, strangers, co-workers, and last but definitely not least, my very own self negating speak.

For several moments I actually took in the vicious words as if they were true and then I had an epiphany of sorts and realized I was no longer that wounded child of long ago who had to listen to negative speak hurled my way believing it was true, taking it in, owning it, and apologizing so that I would be loved once again.  Nope!  In that moment, I remembered that I was an adult woman learning to accept myself just as I Am, without judgment or violence.  At an early age, I experienced the sting of emotional pain, and internalized a lot of that judgment and cruelty in my heart.  But as an adult, I am dedicated to a practice of non-violence to others and myself.  I realize now that I, and most everyone I meet, share a tender need for self-mercy and care.  (And that includes the maniac screaming obscenities at me earlier!)

Every person and every situation that I encounter in my life holds some teaching for me and is always a huge opening to grow and awaken spiritually. Let me be honest here.  It took me several days to shake off this experience.  It took an entire session with my spiritual teacher, hours and hours of Kundalini yoga, much ‘processing’ with my husband and several friends before I understood the ‘illumination’ of that attack, and here it is:

Any and all violence we commit against ourselves simply feeds the violence all around us and perpetuates the very suffering we experienced as children.  When we are hurtful to ourselves or to others, the sticky remains of that violence stays in our bodies and our hearts like some shape-shifting virus, cutting us off from our healing, and separating us from our divinity.

The Sufis say that real truth is always spoken with love, and that every single word we utter must pass through three gates:

At the first gate we ask ourselves, “Are these words TRUE?”  If so, we let them pass on.  At the second gate we ask, “Are they NECESSARY?”   And finally, at the last gate, we ask ourselves, “Are they KIND?”

If they are not, kindly remain silent!

Menopause – Cloudy with a Chance of Enlightenment

Who am I?  Now there’s a question I’ve been trying to answer since I made my way out of the birth canal and into my mother’s exhausted arms.  Five minutes into a workshop last weekend, the leader asked all of the participants the following three questions:  where did you come from originally, where do you reside now, and, drum roll, please…who are you?

“Honey,” I thought, “if I had that figured out, I’d sprout angel wings, prepare for take off, and head home to the astral realms where love reigns supreme, egos are strictly forbidden, and our souls are “free at last, free at last, thank G_d almighty, free at last.”

Who am I?  The answer to that question seems to change with Yankee punctuality each and every day.  At this very moment, I’m a middle-aged woman, shrouded in fog, with a chance of showers; in other words, I’m menopausal.  I’m not peri, nor post, I am in the throes of, which literally means “in the middle of doing or dealing with something very difficult or painful.”  (Think, Maria Shriver…oy!)

I used to be rather ingenious, and my multi and tri syllabled words were peppered with wit, and wisdom.  I possessed a razor-sharp memory, which was constantly honed, as a child growing up with a mother whose drug addiction seemed to twist and bend reality.  I was always an emotional little girl; I still haven’t seen Bambi or Dumbo in its entirety, and in high school when “Old Yeller” was required reading, well, I got the cliff notes.  But, with the onset of Ms. Men-oh-pause, I find myself crying at the slightest provocation.  I’m constantly upset by the life choices Lindsay Lohan is making, I cry oceans of tears when anyone is voted off Dancing With the Stars, and when Donald Trump announced that he would not run for the office of President of the United States, I had to schedule an emergency session with my therapist!   It’s all so painful, really.

Thanks to the majesty of menopause, I find myself at a loss for words.  My husband and son are ecstatic with that turn of events, but when you’re trying to ask the young man at Starbucks for “a tall drip,” and all you can say is that you’d like a cup of, cup of ‘em, and three people behind you shout, “coffee,” well, it’s unsettling, to say the least.  Unlike Little Bo Peep, my words ain’t coming home, waggin’ their meanings behind them.

Here is a list of other things that the magician of menopause has artfully vanished into thin air:  my keys, my glasses, my cell phone, any and all interest in sex, sleep, dreams, short term memory, synaptic ability to send messages to my brain regarding body temperature, my ‘B’ cup breasts (now you see ’em now you don’t).

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know that I see the world with “the glass is a little more than half full” consciousness, so I want you to know that my menopausal life isn’t all about loss. There are some gains:  abdominal fat, irritability, vaginal dryness, increase in allergies and mood swings, to name a few.

So, who am I?  I am a woman who is learning how to open up to the abundance of love that exists inside of me.  I am a woman who is melting the armor of fear that imprisons my heart.  I am a woman who believes that every moment of life, menopausal or not, teaches us about love, forgiveness, and the balance of being both human and spirit.

Embrace the miracles of being a woman.

Concentrated Stillness — A Path to Healing

"Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness." Meister Eckhart

I woke up a few mornings ago with the whirlies.  Technically, it’s called, Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear disorder that affects balance and/or hearing.  Here’s how this dis-ease manifests itself in me; I feel as I’ve been living on a small boat adrift at sea for months on end. Even though I’ve been given permission to come ashore, my sea legs carry me like a drunken sailor and the horizon becomes one big teeter totter, moving up and down, to and fro.  My stomach goes on the fritz, the wiring in my brain gets tangled, and I become terribly, terribly tired.  My ‘To Do’ list is replaced with a ‘Can’t  Do’ List.   I can’t: read, write, cook, practice my healing arts, do yoga, ride my horse, drive, care for my family or friends, tend to my animals, take a walk in nature — can’t really participate much in the doingness of my life.  With no fuel in the tank, no wind in the sails, unmoored, and shipwrecked on an isolated island called, the Duxiana, I sip peppermint tea and water, peck at Basmati rice, and rest.

Concentrated stillness. I read those words in a book by Sue Monk Kidd.  She writes that stillness can be the prayer that transforms us. Maybe the whirlies show up to get me to stop spinning like a top, and become motionless; to stop doing and start being.  With nowhere to go, with no place to be – where can I go but within? Inside myself I come face to face with my anxiety, I greet my restlessness and I give sadness a hug.  I reacquaint myself with judgment whose vitriolic voice chides me for taking time ‘off.’  I let these feelings flow through me, and work diligently on NOT beating myself up; I see that medieval club I’ve used for most of my life, sitting there, calling me, but I ignore it’s song.  Okay, maybe I do pick it up, but thank God for the whirlies, (did I just say that?)  I don’t have the strength it takes to lift that weighty stick and start pummeling myself. I resolve to remain in concentrated stillness; to just wait in the moment and do nothing.  Zilch, zip, nada, this is my morning mantra.

Three days later, I awake with great care and open my eyes.  My dog Eli, lifts his head and stares at me.  The room is still, I smile at him, he wags his smile back with his tail.  I get up and I walk a straight path to the bathroom.  I Am back on terra firma and it feels wonderful!

Mid day I meditate on my beloved porch and ponder the teachings bestowed upon me as I navigated the turbulent sea of the whirlies.  This is what has been brought to my awareness:  Perhaps our greatest healing manifests itself in stillness.  Perhaps in stillness we can truly touch our heart and spirit with a hushed reverence.  Perhaps there we can hear the voice of intuition whispering to us that which is true, necessary and healing.  Perhaps in stillness we reawaken to our Divine strength and wisdom.  Perhaps.

So, it is back to life I go.  Back to the doing of life, but even in this world where achievement rules supreme, where drive thru experiences take too long and instant manifestation is a spiritual practice, I will rest.  And do you know why?   Because “In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day rested and was refreshed.”  And if it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me.

Life is just a bowl of…Choices

Easy Choices…

Paper or plastic?

Is it for here, or to go?

Rare, medium or well done?

Tall, grande, venti?

Tap water, bottled water, fuzzy water?

Margarine or butter?

Soup or salad?

Dressing on the side, or tossed in?

Dessert or just the check?

Manicure, pedicure, or both?

Credit or debit?

Relatively Easy Choices…

Gas-guzzler, diesel sucker or hybrid?

Mommy van, or family wagon?

Breast feed or bottle?

Public schools, or private?

Organic or not?

Spend the night, or go home?

Plastic surgery, or au naturel?

Western medicine or Eastern?

Wait for it to go on sale, or buy it now?

Make love, or not.

Fight or flight.

Say I’m sorry, or stand my ground.

Marry or not.

Place the blame, or take ownership.

To see the glass half empty, or half full.

Difficult Choices…

To believe there is strength in weakness, or to ‘be strong.’

To judge ourselves for whom we should be, or accept ourselves for who we are.

To be a Human Being, or a Human Doing.

To believe that God exists outside of us, or to believe that God exists within.

To strive to hold on, or to let go into stillness.

To believe that what we do is who we are, or to believe that who we are is simply who we are.

Just let life unfold, or strive to make it happen?

To meet ourselves with mercy and love, or meet ourselves with judgment.

To resist the inevitability of change, or to embrace the inevitability of change.

To see the face of God in all, or not see God at all.  (Yogi Bhajan)

Empty Nest — Souls Unfolding

Ever have those moments in life when you wish that you were someone or something else?  I’m reminded of the movie I watched as a child, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.  “I wish I wish, I wish I was a fish, ‘cuz fishes have a better life than people,” says Don Knotts who subsequently falls into the ocean and miraculously becomes a fish.  I’m not saying that I want to become a fish.  No way. I want to become a mother hummingbird and here’s why:  baby hummingbirds, merely three weeks old, start stretching and pumping their new wings readying themselves for their departure in the ensuing days.  Even when they’ve started their new, autonomous life, the mother hummingbird still feeds her babies for two to three days after they have left the nest.  With great care, she ushers them to the best places to catch insects and to gather nectar. Then, she chases them off to live on their own.  Evidently, she’s absolutely fine with the fact that they’ll never come home again for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or birthdays; they’ll never call her on Mother’s Day; they’ll never, ever need her again in the span of their lifetime!  Think of it, she suffers no identity crisis, no depression, she has no need for extensive therapy, or weight gain due to copious amounts of food trying to fill the void.  Her empty nest is merely…empty.

Being the only daughter, and youngest member of my ‘flock,’ I was never allowed to wander too far from the family nest.  My middle brother, the proverbial black sheep of the family, moved to New York with his wife and infant son in tow.  My family was aghast, and my parents literally sat Shiva.  My remaining brothers and I stayed close to home.

The night my son was born and I witnessed the miracle of his tiny mouth suckling my breast at long last, I was reminded of the prose from Khalil Gibran:  “Your children, are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself.  They come through you, but not from you.  And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

In that quiet and gentle life affirming moment, I inhaled joy, and exhaled a profound sense of sadness.  I promised my son, Jacob, that his wings would not be clipped as mine had been, and that he would be encouraged to explore his own thoughts and dreams wherever that would take him.  And then I kissed his fuzzy brown head, and cried.  No longer holding him within my body, sharing, nurturing, growing, containing him, I realized he was his very own soul, complete unto himself, with his very own journey.  It felt like a small part of my heart calved like an iceberg off a mighty Alaskan glacier – a new Self was being born.

A few weeks shy of his first birthday, my video camera had become an appendage in my right hand.  It was more than apparent that Jacob wanted to walk, and I could literally hear Neil Armstrong’s voice, “One small step for baby, one giant leap for Jacob.”  And then one night, he let go of our round, pine coffee table and walked.  Camera in hand, you could hear me crying and laughing, as I got a great shot of our brown carpet – technical, I’m not.  I missed the first few steps, but once I gained my composure, I got the next few tippy toe strides.  Another piece of my heart calved; a new Self was being born.

It happened again on his first day of kindergarten.  I walked him to school, and brought him into his new classroom; a kiss, a hug, and off he went.  I waited outside with the other moms just in case he needed me.  I caught a glimpse of him playing blocks with a little girl.  After a while, he got up, walked to the classroom door and told me to go home.  I looked at the woman next to me whose terrified daughter clung to her leg like mussels on a pier piling.  “You should be proud of yourself, you did a great job.”  My eyes welled; another calving.

And so it goes with each changing cycle of my son’s life.  Graduating elementary school, middle school, high school, piano recitals, sleep-aways, Bar Mitzvah, school trips to Europe, proms, getting his driver’s license, buying his first car, going away (far away) to college, falling in love, having his heart broken…more pieces of my heart, suddenly falling and breaking away.  A new Self was being born.

The concept of an empty nest was painfully introduced to me on the first Christmas my ex husband took our son away to Denver.  Empty nest defined as: “The stage in a family’s cycle when the children have grown up and left home to begin their own adult lives.  Note:  For parents, the empty nest sometimes results in midlife anxiety.”

Jacob was five.  The divorce had been amicable up until the moment Jacob’s father announced it was time for his son to participate in a traditional Colorado Christmas — without me. Anxiety doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when Jacob left for a week.  I haunted the house like a soul trapped between here and the afterlife.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I sat in his room, held his favorite stuffed animal close to me, and felt as if some huge shift had occurred, and that life would never be the same again.  Surrounded by Jacob’s childhood cherishables, I realized that NOTHING stays the same.  Every life experience carries the seed of change.  Right then and there I knew that in the blink of an eye Jacob would be pack up his adolescent life, and take off, leaving behind his beloved toys, his books, his loving dog, Bamsa, and me, soaring out of reach, out of sight to places unknown.  In that moment, with that undeniable, unquestionable truth, my resolve to hold my child with open hands, and a resilient heart, allowing for his inevitable flight, encouraging it, assisting it, insisting upon it…became my mission; like a kindred soul with the mother hummingbird.  And for both Jacob and me, a new Self is being born.