Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

A new game is being played on Facebook; one of the few I have jumped right into with enthusiasm, since it helps me get to know friends better and shows the world more about who I am. It goes like this; someone writes some ‘random facts’ about themselves and then when others comment, they then give that person an assignment, to write a certain number….1 through however many they choose, of tidbits about their lives on their own Facebook page.

 

I loved it so much, that I did it twice:

 

This is the first batch:

 

1. When I was 2 years old or so, I sat on Sally Starr’s horse and met ‘Our Gal Sal’ (those in the Philly area will know her). It was captured in a family home movie.

2. I communed with faeries and other spiritual energies as a child and haven’t stopped since.

3. In 6th, 8th and 10th grades I broke one ankle once and the other twice.

4. I went to Sears charm school in my pre-teen years and learned to walk with books balanced on my head.

5. I was an artist’s model in my 20’s. It’s hard work sitting in one position for an hour at a time and it got a little cold.

6. Chocolate is my drug of choice.

7. When I was 13, I was in a hula hoop contest and kept it going for more than 3 hours non-stop.

8. I worked as a greeting card text writer for Kathy Davis Designs for several years and wrote mushy love cards.

9. I interviewed and was hugged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on July 17th, 2008.

 

This is the second batch:

1. I did a firewalk …for my 30th birthday at Appel Farm in Elmer, NJ  led by Charles Balter and now all these years later, I am friends with his former wife Lisa Nicolosi Balter.

2. I did a 10 day Outward Bound Course in January of 1981 via Dartmouth College as encouraged by Albert Borris. I will never be that young and crazy again.

3. I survived a week at Camp Kettle Run in Medford, NJ when I was 6 and in Brownies. I was so homesick and sent notes home that if they didn’t come get me, I would die):  My mother sent back notes (in total denial of my angst:) that she was glad I was having a good time. Unbeknownst to me, she did come and meet with the director who told her “Don’t you dare take her home, we’ll take care of her.”  Apparently they did, since by the last day, I was actually having fun.

4. I was given a huge white plume feather by someone from a Mummers’ Parade String Band when I was clowning around at an event for Gilda’s Club Delaware Valley. It is on my bedroom wall. I really AM a clown…seriously.  Her name is Feather and she is a faerie. For those who don’t know, the Mummers’ Parade is an annual event in Philly on New Years Day.

5. Chocolate is my drug of choice. (yes, I know I wrote this twice….I REALLY mean it)

6. I can pick things up with my toes and cross my pinkie toes over the next ones without touching them with my fingers.

7. I can eat just about anything with chopsticks.

8. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my favorite flavor.

9. I am one of the cuddliest people you will ever meet. My parents raised me to be a Cuddle Party facilitator www.cuddleparty.com

10. I was a born communicator. My mother told me that I began speaking at 6 months and haven’t stopped since.  Makes for a good therapist/speaker/radio host/writer.

11. I have more books than any other type of item in my home.

Care to play along?  Feel free to write yours in the comments section.

 

You may have heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Today I heard an even more succinct translation of that colloquialism. This person who is in recovery from addiction stated, laughing at the irony,  that insanity is knowing what the outcome will be; same as it ever was and making the decision to engage in the self destructive behavior anyway. He wasn’t sure what led him to fall into that  literal and symbolic hole again and again. I wondered as I sat with him about the nature of this learned behavior and what it would take to him make better choices. I often share with my clients this poignant poem written by Portia Nelson:

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.   I fall in.   I am lost… I am hopeless.   It isn’t my fault.   It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.   I pretend I don’t see it.   I fall in again.   I can’t believe I am in this same place.   But it isn’t my fault.   It still takes a long time to get out.

 Chapter III  

I walk down the same street.   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.   I see it there.   I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,   my eyes are open.   I know where I am.   It is my fault.   I get out immediately.

 Chapter IV  

I walk down the same street.   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.   I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

How many times have I walked down the same street, imagining that THIS time, the sidewalk will be nice and smooth, no bumps or pitfalls?  Plenty. I (like all of us) repeat patterns because they are familiar and I think that is the way I am expected to interact with others, or perceive a situation. It is when I reflect on outcome that I am able to honestly assess what is in my best interest. It is that classic ‘fearless and searching moral inventory in 12 step parlance,’ that each of us, regardless of if we are in recovery with which we are called on to engage. I do it every day, asking myself if I have brought the best of who I am into each encounter with a fellow being. Gratefully, mostly I have been able to say a hardy YES! I guess that makes me (relatively) sane.

At our weekly staff meeting at the drug and alcohol outpatient program where I work, one of my co-workers named Glenn who I consider a wise elder in the field of recovery, reads a  dose of inspiration for us from a book published by Hazelden. The topic for 11/12 was called Listening Love.  After he reads, we always share the ways in which the blurb impacts on us. This time, the focus was on the idea of being fully present with our clients, with open ears and open hearts.

It occurred to me how often we (myself included) miss out on truly listening because we are wanting to formulate a response, rather than being with that other person as they are, where they are. The judging mind has a field day, contemplating how it can make the other person wrong for seeing things through a different lens and hearing things through a different filter than the one it would prefer.

Back in 2001, I was introduced to a concept that I believe comes from a Native American tradition that is used when tribes sat in council. There were 4 rules used to guide the conversations:

1. Speak from the heart.

2. Listen with the ears of the heart.

3. Be lean of expression.

4. Be spontaneous.

My take on all of this:

The first asks us to share what is really so, from the depths, not just what we think the other person wants to hear.

The second invites us to be that active-listening, safe container presence, taking them (not just their words, but their body language and what isn’t being said) in as completely as we can.

The third tells us to say what  we need to say and let it go, not belaboring a point and needing to have the last word.

The fourth beckons us not to plan what we are going to say, but instead, go with the flow of the dialog.
Twice in the past few weeks, I have heard the wisdom of author Mark Nepo (who was just Oprah’s guest on Super Soul Sunday) read to me in this form:

“For centuries, African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way. When the one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush, he exclaims, “I See You!” and then the one approaching rejoices, “I Am Here!”

This timeless bearing witness is both simple and profound, and it is telling that much of our modern therapeutic journey is suffered to this end: to have who we are and where we’ve been be seen. For with this simple and direct affirmation it is possible to claim our own presence, to say, I Am Here.”

That, to me is the essence of being listening love. If you were open to seeing and being seen, how would your life be?  How would your relationships, whether personal or professional, change and be richer and more fulfilling? Peek-a-boo….I see and hear you~

www.marknepo.com

www.rehabafterwork.com

www.hazelden.org

 

acupofkindness

 

The first festive notes of  the holiday classic Deck The Halls has a calypso sway as it opens the wreath decorated door into the latest release by multi-instrumentalist Justin Solonynka. A Cup of Kindness re-imagines holiday favorites that warm the heart. Solonynka was born to be a musician, it seems since he has been immersed in melody and harmony most of his life. In collaboration with many talented performers, he has been a staple in the Philadelphia area for years. A Renaissance Man, he is also a math teacher and the father of a toddler.

Baby It’s Cold Outside is a modern re-make of the Frank Loesser invitation to remain cozy in the midst of a wild storm, sung by Justin  and his wife Courtney Gable. What is particularly charming about it, is that it substitutes “maybe just a cup of tea more,” for “maybe just a drink or two more.”  and “maybe just a song or two more,” for “maybe just a cigarette more.”  and has a segment when she tells him that his attempt at seduction is “creepy.”

Pennywhistle led  Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring lofts the listener to spiritual heights.

Christmas Time Is Here would do Charlie Brown and his buddies proud, as I could envision them skating on a frozen pond.

By far, my favorite piece is the cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ode to love as deep as snowdrifts,  Song For A Winter’s Night sung by Courtney, as Justin provides the instrumentation.

Piano driven Good King Wenceslas begins simply and then ripples with evidence of Justin’s virtuosity. Not surprising, since he has been playing, according to his website when he could “barely reach the keys”.

Honoring the holiday of Hanukkah, the melodica is the primary instrument on Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages), with tiny piano sounds highlighting it. Wondered if it belongs to his adorable little daughter Lily who will likely not escape the delicious fate of being a musician like her mommy and daddy.

The aforementioned little angel’s gurgles are the lead in to What Child Is This? which then incorporates various musical styles;  a hallmark of Justin’s creations.

In The Bleak Midwinter had me imagining the blessing of being around a fireplace, bundled in a blanket, sipping chai.

Courtney’s lovely, lively  uptempo voice invites Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.

The First Nowell is a simple piano piece that has a subtle jazzy feel to it, with xylophone highlights that bring to mind twinkling rainbow hued lights.

Bluegrass and New Orleans jazz  tinged Jingle Bells showcases the next generation of family talent as Lily chirps the opening line and calls out enthusiastically to close it out.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful has a keyboard in church sound that had me want to get up and dance, and then completes with drum flourish.

The sweet sounds of Auld Lang Syne from which the title of the CD emerges (“We’ll drink a cup of kindness..”) has a Will Ackerman  (the founder of Windham Hill Records) feel to it as it wisps away the old year and welcomes the new.

A Cup of Kindness is a beautiful beckoning to a holiday toast. The CD is the perfect accompaniment to wrapping gifts, celebrating with friends and family, or  listening to in the car as you go ‘over the river and through the woods’ to whomever you visit.

www.justinsolonynka.com