The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Shiny New Year


After 8 hours of intense dream laden sleep, I am feeling refreshed, energized and relaxed all at once. Two NYE parties hosted by friends, filled with pot luck food, music, dancing, drumming, hugging, catching up, laughing and toasting to a new year and new era had me home in bed around 2 a.m. Today I welcome the opportunity to be with my flight attend Florida friend Jewelee who is here with her beautiful daughters Sabrina and Vanessa, in her old stomping grounds in the Philly area visiting family. Going to my friend Joel’s informal gathering later today, lounging and loafing (uncharacteristic for this recovering Type A workaholic) and musing about what we will all create in the next 12 months.


As a lover of ritual, in the past few days, I have written my list of what I wished to release from 2012 and then burned it with sage on the full moon,  what I am grateful for in my life and what I am calling in in 2013. I have envisioned a door through which I walked, crossing the threshold into this next 365 and had a revealing look back,  between my one year older self and the one who turned 54 on 10/13/12. Here’s how it went:

It is now 12/31/13 and you made it through this year with grace and style and so many sweet surprises.  On NYE, you celebrated with friends, danced your buns off, appreciated time with these sweet souls who so enrich your life. You leapt even further into the life of your dreams and desires, traveling and teaching about love, healing, transformation, re-creation and  recovery. Your classes and workshops are all filled with people who are on board with taking those leaps themselves. You are now writing for whatever venues you choose, reaching even more with the words that come through you and not always from you. This right livelihood work supports you in ways that are abundant and grander than you imagined.  You are speaking at conferences and retreat centers worldwide. You are now with your loving Partner with whom you share the dance of life. This is the person for whom you have been preparing who has been preparing for you as well. You came together in such a serendipitous way that has you both shaking your heads and laughing with delight when you tell the story.  Speaking of stories, your second book is now successfully published by a major publisher and in the hands of people who excitedly share it with those they know. The Bliss Mistress book continues to spread its contagious joy world-wide as well.  You experienced your dream trip to Ireland, kissing the Blarney stone, immersing in the music and culture that feels so much like home to you. You interviewed Oprah and Ellen in person. Adam is now living independently, enjoying his job,  his relationship, and his new life. You have established a mutually respectful and responsible adult relationship when once upon a time you wondered if it was even possible since you became his sole parent 15 years ago. You are healthy and fit, flexible; filled with vim, vigor and vitality. The fears and limiting beliefs that you once allowed to hold you captive, have lost their power over you. Your creativity flows effortlessly and enlivens your life and those of folks who cross your path. For the first time in your life, you are truly living YOUR bliss.  And so it is~


What would your conversation with your one year older self sound like?  Feel free to share it with the world. Celtic New Year- Van Morrison



Redemptive Love

Les Misérables Poster


On Friday night, I joined likely millions of people world wide, watching musical-made-into-movie Les Miserable’ on the big screen. Having seen the Broadway version, I was eager to get a sense of how it would match up. Hearing raves and a few downer reviews about Russell Crowe’s less than stellar vocal range, I walked into the theater with my friend Barb with whom I had seen the show, and an open mind, but alas, no tisssues. I told her as we applauded at the end and wiped our eyes, that it would be a great idea for them to be available at the box office. Les Misérables is now the world’s longest-running musical, seen by over 60 million people in 42 countries. Add to it the numbers who have streamed into the theaters and the legend continues. I can imagine more than a few little statues coming home with the stars and film-makers of this epic portrayal of love, uprising, slavery, grace and forgiveness.


For those who may not know the story line, Victor Hugo’s classic and in some people’s opinion, one of the most important novels in human history, centers around the hero Jean Valjean who at the start of the movie, exhibits super human strength physically and mentally after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephew. His nemesis is Javert who even after he is paroled, persues him doggedly. Once he leaves the galley of the ship on which he was forced to serve, he travels on foot, begging for food, shelter and honest work. He finds little of those things and after being taken in by a cleric, he steals silver which he plans to sell to survive. Caught by police, he is brought back to the house at which the Monseignor pretends that he had given the precious items to Valjean and gives him two candlesticks as well, saying he had forgotten to take them in his haste to leave. Awed by the grace exhibited by this man, he dedicates himself to God and to becoming a force for good. He dis-associates himself from his criminal past, going so far as to tear up his ID papers; thus breaking parole and taking on a new persona, that of  Monsieur Madeleine, mayor of  Montreuil sur Mer and a wealthy factory owner.  As he is walking through town, he sees that a man is pinned beneath a wagon and goes over to assist. He lifts the wagon off the man and is observed by Javert, the newly appointed constable who has seen only one other person in his life exhibit that degree of strength, so he has his suspicions of who this man  really is.


On an auspicous day, one of his workers named Fantine who is the single mother of a young girl named Cossette is outsted from her job and forced to live on the streets, sell her hair, two teeth and her body. Her daughter is in the dubious care of two unscrupulous innkeepers who extort her for money. One night,  Valjean/Madeleine witnesses her being harrassed by a potential customer, as she lashes back  and scratches the man’s face. About to be hauled off to jail by Javert; he intervenes and takes her to a hospital. There, as she lay dying, she tells him about her daughter who he then vows to care for since he had not spoken up when she was unjustly dismissed from his factory, because she would not acede to the lustful desires of a foreman. He goes to collect the girl who fantasizes about a different life than the one of abuse and deprivation at the hands of the innkeepers. There is another child in the house as well, named Eponine who is their daughter; treated like a princess.  When Valjean arrives, he gives the couple more money than they deserve but enough to whisk Cossette to a semblance of safety. Because of his past, he is still hyper-vigilant and wary of staying out of Javert’s sight. As karma would have it, they were taken in by the man Valjean had rescued from under the wagon years earlier.


On a broader scale, the country is now in revolution since poverty has become the norm and one of the revolutionaries is a young man named Marius who falls in love with the now young woman Cossette. Eponine, who is also grown sees Marius as an unrequited love interest. Cossette is now wealthy and Eponine is forced to beg on the streets. She too joins the revolution and although her heart is breaking, becomes the go-between for the two lovers.  Tensions are heating up and the students erect a barricade that also becomes their place of death.

More of the plot involves an opportunity for Valjean to show mercy to Javert, for Marius and Cossette to marry and for forgiveness to take place. What has moved me about the story is its emphasis on the idea that love in and of itself is a redemptive force that overcomes fear, anger, revenge and even the word of law. While Javert viewed his role as keeper of the peace and enforcer of the the law, it was the ‘petty’ criminal Valjean who lived the more exemplary life in terms of his ability to care for those who could at the moment, not be seen as doing him any particular good. His unveiling of his ‘wrong-doings’ to Cossette and Marius are overshadowed by the fact that he saved several lives, including that of Marius who was the only one who survived the barricades.


I love symbolism. From the candlesticks given to Valjean that to me, represented illumination in the darkness, to the eye  painted on the wall, watching over the barricade, to the structure itself which seems to be a partition between this world and the next, this movie was fraught with it.

The line that moves me beyond any other in this play is “To love another person, is to see the face of God.”  Would that we see God in the face of the homeless begger, the one who sacrifices her well being for her child, the one who steals to feed his family and yes, even the by-the-book-seeker-after-pseudo justice. Finale Les Miserable’




Livin’ In A World

Ron Chelsvig | Livin' In A World

Living in two seemingly disparate worlds, Philly local musician Ron Chelsvig is both a physical therapist and singer songwriter. Each provide benefit to the people he  serves.  His musical gifts are evident in the 2005 release Livin’ In A World. The Universe had a sense of humor, since the man who originally hails from Story City, Iowa indeed tells stories with his music. They are about love, loss and loneliness, hope and redemption and take the listener on a journey through various genres and stylings.

The title song  with an alt-country feel which opens the recording, at first bemoans the trials and tribulations of this human existence and then celebrates the beauty inherent in it. ‘Livin’ in a world where too many people sit alone and cry. Living in a world where peace and love are in small supply.” transmutes to “Livin’ in a world where beautiful souls are everywhere. Livin’ in a world where so many people seem to care.”


Would You Look My Way has a  harder rocking Who infusion, embellished by the electric violin of another talented regional performer, Caryn Lin. In it, Chelsvig dares to bare his soul.

What’s Going On has Chelsvig channeling Bob Dylan as he walks away from a relationship that is no longer a good fit. “Three years runnin’ and I gotta go. I go fishin! You go crazy, dont’cha babe?”

Dreaming carries a  lazy  drifty Caribbean feel, so much so that it is easy to imagine lying in a seaside hammock as you listen effortlessly.

Rocket Man has the most complicated story line and I wondered if this was about someone who had his own ‘dark side of the moon’ experience. Written by Tom Rapp, it offers the sad lyrics “My father was a rocket man. He loved the world beyond the world. The sky beyond the sky. And on my mother’s face. As lonely as the world in space.  I could read the silent cry.” The wailing of Chelsvig’s trumpet echo those tears.


“With the wave of hand, Dada. I created all of this.” brings the listener into a chant  called Dada that winds its way and reassures “I’m a part of everything. And you’re a part of me.”

One More Day gives hope to this who feel, “I am alone now. All alone. I hate this feeling deep inside. I want to run away. I want to hide. But I’ll try one more day.”

Two Lonely People feels like an ideal follow-up as it has the characters offering their hearts, their love and their bodies to each other, if only for one night.

This Time invites throwing caution to the wind with the lyrics “This time. This time. Run away with me.” as Chelsvig’s voice mellows and caresses the listener’s ear.

A  reggae reprise of Livin’ In A World closes this potpourri of peace and presence.


Creative Conscience: An Interview With Ilanna Sharon Mandel



Artist, writer and creative soul Ilanna Sharon Mandel finds in each day an opportunity to use her gifts and talents for the betterment of the planet. Whether it is photographing  nature,  writing about the concept of tikkun olam (the repair of the world), or the pain of  her father’s passing,  her work draws the observer or reader in and offers them a view into scenes that may otherwise have ‘gone unseen’. She lives by the quote from Rabbi Hillel “If I am not for me then who will be for me, But if I am only for myself then who am I; and if not now, when? “


How do you live your Bliss?

The way I live my Bliss is by connecting with others – people I care about and new people I love to meet and by following my creative heart.  When I’m being creative I’m in bliss. And when I connect with people I truly care about I’m in bliss.


Although it may be difficult to label, how do you define your artistry?

Writing, photography, singing and using it to raise awareness around issues of social justice.

Had you been creative as a child, or did this come to you later in life?

As a child I was very involved with music and theatre.

As a photographer, how do you see beyond the physical image to the essence behind it and then translate it to the viewer?


When I’m taking a photograph I’m generally very involved with the subject and not thinking about translating it to the viewer.  That comes later when I look at the photographs, and then I try to see what others might see or experience in the photograph.

What in particular about nature draws you to it?

I can only say this – it feels like home.

How did you develop your social conscience?

I owe a lot of that to my late father’s influence and my early work in the disability rights field.  In that field I met many wonderful people with whom I still call friends today.  They have taught me much about social justice, equality and human rights.

Although anyone who looks at your work will have their own perception, is there something you would like them to feel?


My hope is that they find something in each photograph that touches them in their own way.

Every artist I know has a dream about what their work can do out in the world. What is yours?

I dream big!  I would like to have my novels and poetry published.  I would like to exhibit my photography around the world.  For me, my writing and my photographs speak volumes and I truly hope people around the world will want to listen.  But, I should be honest.  I dream of being interviewed on television and radio and that these interviews do me and my work justice.  I hope that my work can one day make a positive influence in the world.  I also dream of working in the documentary genre one day.

Photo: more beauty



Fathers with Cancer

I stood by as you lied to the doctor about your true weight

Hoping it might mean something other than a death sentence

I shook as you sat with me

You knew this was the end

Still you took my hand

Quietly begged me to never give up on love

Telling me through silver tears that I was the best daughter I could be

Asking me if I would sit by you if your humanity began to slip away

Would I be with you if you chose to end your life

Would I help you take your last breath

Would I stay as you drifted away


Your corporeal body soon to be a shroud for the Kingdom of Heaven

Or would I beg you to stay no matter the consequences

Just to have my father here with me – if only for a few more minutes

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