Sunday, May 30, 2010

Talk Softly

I'm in the middle of reading Cynthia O'Neal, the founder of Friends In Deed's new book, "Talk Softly."  She has this one paragraph that I really loved and wanted to share.  (I'd share the whole book if I could, it's great.)

Many years ago, her husband, the late Patrick O'Neal, went to take the est training with Werner Erhard and Cy was pretty skeptical about his enthusiastic response to it.  But then she went to the training and wrote this about it:

"In hindsight it seems to me that est was simply saying exactly what we have heard from every wise teacher and thinker through the ages.  William James said, 'The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.'  In the Talmud it says, 'We do not see things as they are.  We see things as we are.' Proust said, 'The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.'  Sophocles said, "The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.'  Agnes Repplier said, 'It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.'  Voltaire said, ' Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.' Hazrat Inayat Khan said, 'Life is what it is, you cannot change it, but you can change yourself.' Shakespeare said, 'There is nothing either bad nor good, but thinking makes it so.' In short, the whole thing is an inside job."

I find that paragraph sums up so much of what I've been learning these past few years in my Buddhist readings, in Alanon, in therapy, at Friends In Deed - all of it - and I think that it's such a simple concept that most of us struggle with throughout our lives.  And when we give up the struggle and just accept it, it makes life so much easier.  It's hard not to slide back once in awhile, especially when life is handing you some serious challenges, but it really does work when you remember that it is all ultimately: "an inside job." There's no one to blame, there's only the work of accepting "what is" and looking at the lessons that you can learn from it. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I just came from a good day of rehearsing for a flash mob which is going to take place at the end of June at a secret location in NYC and then seeing "Sex and the City 2."  I thought it was not as great as I'd hoped, and it was too long, and I still loved it.  I just love those relationships between the women and being in a audience made up of mostly women.  

After the movie let out, I heard a guy really complaining about it afterward to his date and the woman said almost nothing.  He said, "I hate those women.  I don't think they're at all likable.  They're not smart.... They're so annoying."  He just kept talking and his date remained silent and I really wanted to say, "Shut up, we don't care what you think.  We just like them, they're imperfect, they make mistakes, they're shallow in some ways, and they are fun."  I thought there were some great moments and subjects discussed like motherhood, menopause and marriage, the three M's.  Not to mention men. I guess in the next movie, someone will have to get divorced and I could write a movie about that.  

This morning, I did my daily readings and I came across another really great reading in "The Language of Letting Go" by Melody Beattie, which I wanted to share.

"Powerlessness and Unmanageability

Willpower is not the key to the way of life we are seeking.  Surrender is.  

'I have spent much of my life trying to make people be, do, or feel something they aren't, don't want to do, and choose not to feel.  I have made them, and myself, crazy in that process,' said one recovering woman.  

'I spent my childhood trying to make an alcoholic father who didn't love himself be a normal person who loved me.  I then married an alcoholic and spent a decade trying to make him stop drinking.'

'I have spent years trying to make emotionally unavailable people be emotionally present for me.

'I have spent even more years trying to make family members, who are content feeling miserable, happy.  What I'm saying is this: I've spent much of my life desperately and vainly trying to do the impossible and feeling like a failure when I couldn't.  It's been like planting corn and trying to make the seeds grow peas.  Won't work!

'By surrendering to powerlessness, I gain the presence of mind to stop wasting my time and energy trying to change and control that which I cannot change and control.  It gives me permission to stop trying to do the impossible and focus on what is possible: being who I am, loving myself, feeling what I feel, and doing what I want to do with my life.'

In recovery, we learn to stop fighting lions, simply because we cannot win.  We also learn that the more we are focused on controlling and changing others, the more unmanageable our life becomes.  The more we focus on living our own life, the more we have a life to live, and the more manageable our live will become.

Today, I will accept powerlessness where I have no power to change things, and I'll allow my life to become manageable."


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life in Hell by Matt Groenig

In the 1990's, Matt Groenig had a comic strip with rabbits as its main characters called "Life is Hell."  I read one of the strips today and I had write it down, it was so funny.

Two rabbits are talking to each other, we'll call them A and B.  In each frame they are in profile, facing each other.

A:  My therapist says that maintaining a relationship is hard work.
B:  My therapist says that everything is your fault.

A:  My therapist says we shouldn't dump our frustrations on each other.
B:  My therapist says I can do better than hanging out with a loser like you.

A:  My therapist says we need to value each other's needs and desires as highly as we value our own.
B:  My therapist says if it weren't for you everything would be fine.

A:  My therapist says we need to learn to have empathy for each other.
B:  My therapist says you need to keep your big mouth shut.

A:  My therapist says we need to manage our anger more effectively.
B:  My therapist says I'm fully justified in smashing your face in.

A:  My therapist says we have to learn conflict resolution.
B:  My therapist says you are a sick and twisted individual.

A:  My therapist says we need to learn to communicate our needs and vulnerabilities.
B:  My therapist says you sound like a real jerk.

A:  I think I need to get a better therapist.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mama Gena, the weekend, FUN!

I worked hard this weekend at the Mama Gena mastery, except it doesn't feel like work, it feels amazing to be in the presence of so many women from all over the world who are getting turned on to life and to themselves.  It's emotional, it's wild, it's sisterhood in action, it's everything I never really experienced in my life before.  I hated sororities, I always felt either threatened or competitive with women, I now appreciate and enjoy their company and their talents and beauty.  And no, I'm not dating any women, but I do love them and I appreciate myself in a way that I never have before. 

For years I was in therapy and I did my time on anti-depressants - and anyone who's read this blog knows this past year has been quite a challenge.  I wouldn't change a moment of it and I wish that all the women I know and love could have the opportunity to experience this mastery.  Or at least read her books and get the message that when we are turned on by life, and giving ourselves some pleasure for even just a few minutes every day (it could be sitting with a cup of tea and looking at a tree, or listening to music, or taking a dance break, or walking through a park, or taking a bath, whatever turns you on) - if you figure out how to do the work you love and nurture yourself, your life gets better and so does everyone around you. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

The ocean

Last night I had a really fun date with "the kisser" as he is known to my friends.  We've moved beyond that and it feels so good to have human contact again.

This morning though, I woke up feeling very blue and I thought I was getting sick.  I think it's just my allergies acting up.  I did my usual morning readings and meditation and still, I couldn't shake the anxiety and feeling of dread.  It's not quite gone, but as always, I found a reading that really helped me.

This is from "The Wisdom of a Broken Heart" by Susan Piver.  

"A lot of people believe by thinking positively and expecting good things to happen, you can make good things happen.  Recently, I spoke to my friend Stephen Mitchell, an internationally respected translator of the world's great wisdom texts, including the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, and the book of Job, about this subject.  I asked if in his lifelong study of the core teachings of all religions, he'd ever come across that idea.  I wrote down what he said because it was so excellent. Here it is:

'The teaching of every one of the great sacred texts is that control is an illusion.  When you understand that ultimately you are not the doer, you can step back from yourself.  That is the only path to serenity.  In other words, letting go of the illusion of control, and realizing that you never had control in the first place, allows you to live in the most dazzlingly intelligent, beautiful and kind reality that you could have ever imagined -- and beyond what you could have imagined.'
When I can relax enough, I see that, just like me, everyone -- regular people, great superstars, and profound sages -- probably all started out worrying that the world was going to eat them alive or that they simply weren't lovable enough.  We are all just looking for some kind of happiness.  Sometimes things work out for us, and sometimes they don't.  It really doesn't matter.  Eventually, all our hopes and fears are going to dissolve, and at the end of our lives, according to all the deathbed reports we've ever received, the only thing that will matter is how loving and brave we've been.

All those dying people can't be wrong when they say that all the things you want and all the things you dread are just like waves in the ocean.  Eventually they just become reabsorbed into the vast play of the sea.  And you know what?  The ocean doesn't care.  It never gives up.  It can accommodate it all, gentle waves that lap the shore and those that roil up ferociously, tiny tidal pools and great, freezing depths.  The real secret, the great ones say, is that we are much more like the ocean than the waves.  Underneath all our hopes and fears is profound stillness and the memory of how to return to it."

When I read that, it didn't eliminate my allergies or make me feel ecstatic, but I was reminded that my work here on this earth is to be loving and brave and I have to give myself high marks for that. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

The long dark night

Someday I am going to look back at this period of my life and remember it fondly, for it is a time of intense emotional growth and feeling very alive.  But right now, living it is not so exciting.  

Today I'm going with my loftmate Abigail for the weekend to see her son graduate from Colgate and to visit with a dear old friend in Ithaca.  Right now I'm having a hard time getting out of bed.  I picked up "The Wisdom of a Broken Heart" by Susan Piver and the chapter I'm on is: "It is a Dark Night."  

"Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wandered off from the straight path.
How hard it is to tell what it was like,
this wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn
(the thought of it brings back all my old fears),
a bitter place!  Death, could scarce be bitterer.
But if I would show the good that came of it
I must talk about things other than the good."

- Dante, Inferno, Canto 1 (Translation: Mark Musa)

I'm grateful to Esther, who I met at Friends In Deed, who suggested that I read this book.
So many friends along this journey have pointed me in the direction I needed to go.
How do I thank them all?  

My daughter is the one I need to thank most of all, for her love.  I hope she knows how proud of her I am.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back from Miami

I don't know what to say about where I am other than back from a weekend in Miami, working at a Mama Gena mastery, which was amazing, as always.  I swam in the ocean and danced and had a wonderful, although challenging, weekend with over a hundred women on an incredible journey of self-discovery, sisterhood and empowerment.  When I returned, I started reading "The Wisdom of a Broken Heart."  

It's cold and rainy in New York today and I am struggling to get out of bed and start my day.  Last night I ran into a neighbor who went through a divorce five years ago.  He said the first couple of years were horrible and now he's doing really quite well.  "The Wisdom of a Broken Heart" talks about the difference between sadness and depression.  I'm sad that ending this marriage is so painful and I wish it could be resolved more easily without the drama and the sadness.

The book quotes another Buddhist writer, Chogyam Trungpa, who wrote:

"This experience of sadness and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness.  Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that if someone hits you, you will hit him back....(But) real fearlessness is the product of tenderness.  It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart.  You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.....If a person does not feel alone and sad, he cannot be a (spiritual) warrior at all..."

I like this book.  I'm grateful for the feelings.  This year has been the hardest year of my life and also the best.  I'm not afraid to feel.  I accept where I am, even when I have trouble getting out of bed.  I wouldn't say I am fearless, but I am getting more at home with all the feelings that I have.  This past Mother's Day was the first one in my life without my mother.  It was good to be in Miami, with my women friends, swimming in the ocean. My mother would have approved.  

Well, actually she might not have, but that's one of the perks of her no longer being alive.  I can do whatever I want on Mother's Day or any other day.  

One of the highlights of Miami was having the chance to break a wooden board with my fist.  I was afraid I couldn't do it, but I faced my fears and broke it into three parts.  It was fantastic! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I had an interesting weekend, working in the "back row" of the Mastery at Friends In Deed.  It was more of a learning experience this time, as I took more notes, but it was also a privilege to be in the room with such courage, as people really exposed themselves, their pain, their stories.  And I had a few moments of some emotional melting down, all in the service of feeling the feelings, rather than blocking them.  

This morning, I was reading Pema Chodron and wanted to include this very introductory section from "The Wisdom of No Escape" which was one of her earliest works.  I think it's worth re-reading often.

“When people start to meditate, or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they are going to improve, which is sort of a subtle aggression against who they really are.  It’s like saying, ‘If I jog, I’ll be a much better person.’ ‘If I could only get a nicer house, I’d be a better person.’ ‘If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.’  Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, ‘If it weren’t for my husband, I’d have a perfect marriage.’  ‘If it weren’t for the fact that my boss and I can’t get along, my job would be just great.’  And ‘If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.’
But loving-kindness, or maĆ®tri, toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything.  Maitri says we can still be crazy all these years. We can still be angry after all these years.  We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness.  The point is not to try to change ourselves.  Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better.  It’s about befriending who we are already.  The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.  That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.”