Friday, April 30, 2010

The Secret O' Life

A good friend reminded me this morning of James Taylor's song: The Secret O' Life."  (After reading the post I wrote the other day, about Eckhart Tolle's "acceptance of what is.")

I remember when I was younger, living in Los Angles in my twenties and feeling very alone, this was one of the songs I listened to often, to find comfort.  I think I put James' version on the blog before, but this one is by India Arie and it is lovely.  Thank, David. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hurt People Hurt People

I recently saw Noah Baumbach's film "Greenberg" with Ben Stiller.  It was an unusual film and I'm glad I saw it.  This one particular line from the film:" "hurt people hurt people" keeps resonating with me.  

I love when either a character or a scene or even a simple line keeps coming back to me and has relevance in my life. And I think it's true, at least from my experience, particularly recent experience. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Making peace with the present moment

I think that during this crazy time after a separation - at least two years according to my research - going up and down daily, hourly, weekly, is all perfect.  Yesterday, until at least six p.m. I struggled with depression and sadness that felt unbearable at times.  I let myself sit with it.  I went to Friends In Deed at noon for a meeting and I heard really good advice about staying with the feelings and living in the moment.  And I still came home and felt completely shitty and sad. 

Then last night, I went to an event for an organization called "Not In Our Town" (they are based in Oakland, California) which has been in existence for fifteen years and supports and makes documentaries about communities that come together to stand up to hate crimes.  I listened to the founder, Patrice O'Neill, who was so articulate and passionate about her work.  I remembered that for most of my life telling people's stories (including my own) has been so important to me and that my goal for the rest of my life is really to find meaningful work in this area.  This event was at the most beautiful townhouse in Manhattan I have ever seen and the people who were there were clearly passionate about the organization and its work.  Patrice was so inspiring and I'm grateful to my friend Barbara for inviting me.  

I miss my mother and being a mother on a day to day basis -- and there is also a sense of freedom that allows me to search for my mission.  I love that I was able to sit with the pain yesterday and that by the evening, the pain had lifted and I was watching inspirational films and talking to fascinating people and also stuffing my face at the buffet that was filled with miniature everything, one inch bagels and falafels, shrimp, chicken sate and tandoori chicken, the best dip for potato chips I ever tasted, sushi...everything delicious.  (Although I did have to come home and eat more, miniature food is not quite satisfying.)

Late last night, right before I fell asleep I read this passage from Eckhart Tolle's book "The New Earth"...

"How to be at peace now?  By making peace with the present moment.  The present moment is the field on which the game of life happens.  It cannot happen anywhere else.  Once you have made peace with the present moment, see what happens, what you can do or choose to do, or rather what life does through you.  There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life.  Being one with life is being one with Now.  You then realize that you don't live your life, but life lives you.  Life is the dancer, and you are the dance."

I know that it isn't always easy to make peace with the present moment, especially when it really stinks. But being at war with those moments doesn't help either, so maybe just breathe and let go and ride the roller coaster, or surf the waves, whatever metaphor works for you.  

And eat a miniature bagel, if you can.  They're very cute.   

Monday, April 26, 2010


Today, again, a feeling of sadness has come over me.  I went to Friends In Deed at noon and that was, as always, incredibly helpful. 

Mother's Day is next weekend and my mother is gone, and the anniversary of the horrific month we spent basically watching her die is coming, and all of the feelings that go along with a divorce - all of it is difficult and understandably sad.  

I went back to Melody Beattie's book, "The Language of Letting Go" since I find so much comfort in it, as I do Pema Chodron's writings, and I looked up "Sadness" in the index.

Under May 20th was a posting about "Sadness:"

"Ultimately, to grieve our losses means to surrender to our feelings.

So many of us have lost so much, have said so many good-byes, have been through so many changes.  We may want to hold back the tides of change, not because the change isn't good, but because we have had so much change, so much loss.

Sometimes when we are in the midst of pain and grief, we become shortsighted, like members of a tribe described in the movie Out of Africa. 

"If you put them in prison," one character said, describing this tribe, "they die."

"Why?" asked another character.

"Because they can't grasp the idea that they'll be let out one day.  They think it's permanent, so they die."

Many of us have so much grief to get through.  Sometimes we believe grief, or pain, is a permanent condition.  

The pain will stop.  Once felt and released, our feelings will bring us to a better place then where we started.  Feeling our feelings, instead of denying or minimizing them, is how we heal from our past and move forward into a better future.  Feelings our feelings is how we let go.

It may hurt for a moment, but peace and acceptance are on the other side. So is a new beginning.

God, help me to fully embrace and finish my endings, so I may be ready for my new beginnings."

I love that reading.  It is so in line with what I have learned at Friends In Deed.  We learn that the only way through the grief is by feeling it.  When I was dealing with my mother's illnesses and hospitalizations and other difficult challenges over a period of many years, I didn't have time to worry about my feelings, I just got on with making decisions, feeling angry about having to do so much of it alone, and being emotionally drained.  But afterward, there is usually a flood of feelings that you can't escape.  I have learned one really important life lesson through all of this: empathy. Until you've been there, you really can't understand what it feels like to cope with so much loss at once.  My hope for my future is that I can use everything I've learned and come to understand in a way that will be of service to others.  

I don't know how that will happen, but I don't have to know today.  I just have to feel these feelings and hopefully release them, so that someday they will be a faint memory, like giving birth.  Who remembers labor pains?  Yes, it hurt, but so what?  

Friday, April 23, 2010


I was thinking the other day how difficult it is to be in a holding pattern.  Every morning I read a few daily readers and I found this passage in Melody Beattie's book, "The Language of Letting Go," which changed my attitude:

“Wait.  If the time is not right, the way is not clear, the answer or decision not consistent, wait.
We may feel a sense of urgency.  We may want to resolve the issue by doing something – anything now, but that action is not in our best interest.
Living with confusion or unsolved problems is difficult.  It is easier to resolve things.  But making a decision too soon, doing something before it’s time, means we may have to go back and redo it.
If the time is not right, wait.  If the way is not clear, do not plunge forward.  If the answer or decision feels muddy, wait. 
In this new way of life, there is a Guiding Force.  We do not ever have to move too soon or move out of harmony.  Waiting is an action – a positive, forceful action.
Often, waiting is a God-guided action, one with as much power as a decision, and more power than an urgent, ill-timed decision. 
We do not have to pressure ourselves by insisting that we do or know something before it’s time.  When it’s time, we will know.  We will move into that time naturally and harmoniously.  We will have peace and consistency.  We will feel empowered in a way we do not feel today.
Deal with the panic, the urgency, the fear; do not let them control or dictate decisions.
Waiting isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun.  But waiting is often necessary to get what we want.  It is not deadtime; it is not downtime.  The answer will come.  The power will come.  The time will come.  And it will be right.

Today, I will wait, if waiting is the action I need in order to take care of myself.  I will know that I am taking a positive, forceful action by waiting until the time is right.  God, help me let go of my fear, urgency, and panic.  Help me learn the art of waiting until the time is right.  Help me learn timing.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Renewed, rejuvenated, Regena-ed

I just spent the entire weekend working as support staff for a Mama Gena Mastery and all I can say is I am so grateful to be part of this community of women who come from all over the world (except Europe, sadly, this weekend, all the European women couldn't make it because of the volcano in Iceland) and I know how disappointed they must have been.  And those that did come from Europe (who managed came before the volcano erupted) but can't get home, will be housed by their "sister goddesses," as members of the community are called.  

I wish that I could really describe the power of being in a room full of women whose ages range from 18-80 something, all races, many straight, many lesbians, who have all kinds of jobs, are single, married, divorced, in the process of getting divorced or married, or dating, or not dating.  Women who came to this Mastery generally because someone told them about it (Regena doesn't advertise), who are in search of themselves, in search of finding and reclaiming their lives, so that they can go back to their families, jobs, lives with renewed passion and pleasure and loving themselves and everyone else.  

I know that's vague and I think that Regena's newest book will be the best representation of her work because it keeps evolving.  I don't know exactly when that book will be published, but I will write about it when it is.  It was an honor to serve the women in the community, as I was served when I took the course a year and a half ago.  And I feel very juicy and happy tonight, thinking about all that happened this weekend.  Mostly, like Friends In Deed, it's about feeling your feelings...all of them.  And when I first went to this Mastery, I wasn't feeling much of anything - I was shut down.  And now I'm awake and alive.  

This morning, when I arrived at nine a.m., Beth, who runs the entire weekend said, "Our opening fell apart and we need a couple of people to perform" and my hand shot up.  When sessions begin, there's always some kind of fun opening that involves music and sometimes a motorcycle driven by a hot guy, or pretty much anything. I had been feeling a bit blue on Saturday night (during the sessions on Saturday we did some work on sadness) but I love to perform and I ended up on stage with two other women, dancing to the Abba song "Money, Money, Money" - (because the brilliant Barbara Stanny was speaking this morning about women and money.)  Mama Gena joined us onstage, Barbara Stanny loved it and all the women got up and danced it set the tone for the day - for everyone - especially me.  I "conjured" that experience and was lifted up by doing something that gives me pleasure and being of service to the room.

And that's pretty much what it's about: a giant community of women, coming together to learn how to love themselves and each other, and their families and friends, and to feel their feelings, and do really great things in the world and for the world. I wish we could do it every weekend. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Post script to the previous post

Life is mysterious...I dragged myself to the gym and ran faster than I have in a long time, 3 miles in 36 minutes.  It made me feel so much better.  Then I went to Friends In Deed, to a big group, where I was reminded yet again - that when we live in the moment everything is pretty much fine.  And the mantra can be:  "Come on back" when we feel like we're going back to the past and re-hashing stuff or going to the future and worrying about it.  And the AND word - I can feel sadness AND feel happy at the same time.  I can miss my mother AND also feel grateful that she is no longer suffering.  I can miss my marriage and the family unit we had AND feel excited about my life now.  

After the big group they fed us lunch which always makes me happy and I spoke to my friends who were there, then I came home and dealt with the thing that was really bothering me - my taxes.  I can't really file them because everything is up in the air about the settlement and I wasn't sure how to file for an extension.  So I called up the I.R.S. and spoke to a very lovely man who told me exactly what I needed to do and it was so easy, it was ridiculous. Life has lessons every day.  Sometimes they are painful and sometimes we make them painful when they are really quite simple. 

The Crazy Time, part II

Last night I read a chapter in a book about divorce called "Crazy Time - Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life" by Abigail Trafford.  The chapter was about the first two years after the separation and how insane people get.  I read it and part of me felt "Oh, yes!  That's exactly it!" 

Here is an excerpt:  "This is Crazy Time.  It starts when you separate and usually lasts about two years.  It's a time when your emotions take on a life of their own and you swing back and forth between wild euphoria and violent anger, ambivalence and deep depression, extreme timidity and rash actions.  You are not yourself.  Who are you?  At times you don't want to know.  You think about going on a sex binge and fucking everything that moves.  Or you lie very still in bed, your muscles tense, your breathing shallow, your imaginings as dark and lonely and the night.

There seems to be no end to this wild swinging back and forth.  You can't believe how bad your life is, how terrible you feel, how overwhelming daily tasks become, how frightened you are about money, your health, your sanity.  You can't believe that life is worse now than when you broke up.  You thought you were at the end of your rope then."

I read the chapter and part of me felt relieved that this craziness I've been feeling is completely appropriate and another part of me can't stand that I, who have had so much support and help, is no better than anyone else going through this. 

So after letting myself feel all the horrible feelings last night and this morning, when I could barely get out of bed to walk the dogs, I took out Pema Chodron this morning and I read about maitri, from "The Places that Scare You"...

"Why Meditate"

Why do we meditate?  This is a question we'd be wise to ask.  Why would we even bother to spend time alone with ourselves? 

First of all, it is helpful to understand that meditation is not just about feeling good.  To think that is why we meditate is to set ourselves up for failure.  We'll assume we are doing it wrong almost every time we sit down: even the most settled meditator experiences psychological and physical pain.  Meditation takes us just as we are, with our confusion and our sanity.  This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called maitri, or unconditional friendliness, a simple direct relationship with the way we are."

I met a lovely man at Friends In Deed who has become a good friend.  He walks the dogs with me late at night and we hang out together. He went through his own painful losses this past year, so we share a language of grief and compassion.  If there is maitri between people, we have it. 

Someday I will look back at this time with great appreciation for the lessons I've learned.  Right now, it's just hard. 

And - I'm not in Haiti or the Congo.  I've got a roof over my head and money in the bank.  I'm not starving or afraid that someone is going to kill me. So I have to practice maitri and have compassion for myself and for the situation I am in today. 

"I accept, I accept."   

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back to basics - the path of the warrior

This week had some challenges for me and I felt myself slipping back into anxiety about the future, rather than living in the moment and feeling acceptance and gratitude for my life.

I could make a long list of all the blessings and miracles that have occurred for me this past year, but I'll save that for another time.  Yesterday, I realized that what I needed to do was go back to the beginning of my journey and read Pema Chodron.  I know that there are many spiritual guides (in fact, I have to continue reading "A New Earth" since last night, someone pulled it out of his briefcase and said, "I am learning so much from this, it's blowing me away. Especially the section on the pain-body" - so that's my next reading.) 

But yesterday, I read this from Pema Chodron's "The Places that Scare You" and it really helped.  I love the idea of being a warrior, not a victim:

"The Path of the bodhisattva-warrior

Wherever we are, we can train as a warrior. The practices of meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity are our tools.  With the help of these practices, we can uncover the soft spot of bodhisattva, the tenderness of the awakened heart.  We will find that tenderness in sorrow and gratitude.  We will find it behind the hardness of rage and in the shakiness of fear.  It is available in loneliness as well as in kindness.

Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same time we want to be healed.  But bodhichitta training doesn't work that way.  A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next.  We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe.  But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty.  This not knowing is part of the adventure and it's also what makes us afraid.  

Bodhichitta training offers no promise of happy endings.  Rather this "I" who wants to find security - who wants something to hold on to - can finally learn to grow up.  The central question of a warrior's training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort.  How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day?"

For me, it's also putting out my desires and living with the consequences of taking risks.  It's seems so easy to play it safe, but it is also deadening.  When I take a risk and have to live with the uncertainty, it's painful, but it also feels exciting too, like getting on the trapeze and letting go of one swing and reaching for the next. (Or would it be one set of hands and reaching for the next?)  Actually, even just getting on a trapeze is terrifying.  

I remember when my daughter went to New Zealand and told us she went sky diving.  I couldn't believe she had the nerve to do it - it certainly hadn't been her style before that -  and I was so thrilled for her.  (And pray she never does it again.)  I think that life needs to be an adventure - not necessarily sky diving and trapezes, but taking chances with relationships, and work that really matters to us, and trying things that we are a little bit afraid to try, and anything that gives us pleasure. 

Imagine a time lapse of your life, a few minutes of seeing your entire life played before your eyes - how quickly it would all be over?  Shouldn't we make the most of every moment, even the quiet ones of meditation and silence. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A year at a time

I'm nearing the one year anniversary of the decision to separate, that big moment that came in our marriage counseling session.  Is it better?  Yes.  It is still difficult?  Sometimes.  Am I through the worst of it?  Hopefully, but maybe not.  I'm still mourning my mother and that also takes time. 

Yesterday I sat with a woman whose husband left her just a few months ago and she found out that he'd been involved with another woman for several years.  A few days ago I heard about a book called "Perfection" - about a woman who discovers, after her beloved husband's death, that he had been having affairs with nearly every woman in their small town.  

I guess I'm lucky that I'm not dealing with that kind of betrayal and that is often the reason many marriages end, people fall in love with someone else, or discover that their spouse has been cheating.  

I'm not sure it really matters in the end what the causes are; the results are the same, sadness, loss, a sense of failure, mourning and fear.  All of those feelings are less intense for me now, but they are still there and they come and go.  The woman I sat with yesterday was in so much pain, I wished there was something I could do or say that would help her, but time really is the healer. One year from now I will be in a completely different place emotionally - I am certain of that. 

And the saying really is "one day at a time" - and that's about all any of us need to deal with. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tsunamis, Lola and Bradley Cooper

Last night I had a nightmare about running from a tsunami.  This has been a recurrent nightmare over the years, but when I woke up I felt like I literally was underwater and filled with dread.  
I did my meditation, sitting with the feelings, trying just to breathe and not thinking about ways to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings.  It didn't feel good at all and my mind kept wandering to yesterday, when I did feel very good, or to my time with Zoe, and my friend Mona, who visited this past week from Los Angeles.  Thursday we went to opening night of a show called "Red" with Alfred Molina, which was excellent and it's always thrilling to go to an opening night.  We also walked all over the city earlier in the day, including the High Line and Central Park. The weather is gorgeous now (unlike when Zoe was here and it rained every day.)  
I thought about making my coffee stronger and putting on some dance music, but I didn't, I just sat with the feelings.  And then I tried to think about some spiritual message I could find, quickly, and I remember The Daily Word, which I heard about through Maya Angelou, who sent it to Oprah, and they both read it every morning.  It's a small magazine published by Unity and it's also on-line.  It's read by hundreds of millions of people all over the world every day.  Here is today's message:

New Creation
The power of God transforms my life.
I may associate darkness with fear or sadness. Yet darkness may also mark a new beginning, a time of transformation. Out of what was, something new emerges. The chick emerges from the egg; the butterfly emerges from the cocoon. Time in the darkness is an important and essential part of the process of life.
Jesus knew that the darkness of the tomb held the promise of eternal life. In faith I move through times of challenge, even of sorrow, expecting good to be revealed through the activity of Spirit. In the midst of what may appear to be darkness, I open myself to new wisdom. With each experience, I emerge a new creation of Spirit.
Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.--John 16:20
Now I am Jewish, but I've come to think of Jesus as a teacher and I love when a message seems to speak directly to me on a particular day.  I finally got out of bed and took the dogs out for a walk.  It's another absolutely gorgeous spring day and I'm going to take a walk with  a new man I met on a dating site.  He is a novelist and had a career in theater.  He's coming in from upstate, which was lovely of him to do on such a gorgeous day when he could be puttering around in his garden.  We are meeting later this afternoon at the arch at Washington Square Park. 
There's a movie crew setting up on my block and when I walked Lola by them, everyone smiled and pointed -  her "prance" seems to delight every person who sees her.  People are in conversations and stop and look or take out their Iphones and film her.  They stop eating when they notice her out the window of a restaurant, or stop us and ask me about her.  She is mostly blind and has arthritis and probably had some kind of brain injury, a stroke or something - the doctor says there is nothing we can do to fix her, she's happy, she eats, she can get around quite easily on the sidewalk, less easily on hardwood floors, but in any case, she is truly one of the sweetest dogs I've ever known and I'm crazy about her.  

At the end of the walk, I asked one of the crew about the show and he said that Bradley Cooper was in it and that also cheered me up.  

When I came home I went back to read one of my posts from a few days ago: "Suffering is Optional" and read one of the quotes Pema Chodron said about trying to make life smooth and easy and how that equates with death.  
So at least I know I'm very much alive!  There may be tsunamis and darkness, but there are also beautiful spring mornings. 

One final thought: I just went to check my email and found my daily message from Mama Gena:

"Don't be impatient. Allow yourself some space to change."

Impatience should also be on my subject title.