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Several years ago, I attended a Goddess Retreat that honored the Divine Feminine aspects of ourselves. One of the activities was body casting and we could choose the ‘parts’ we wanted to keep around for posterity. I had been at two others and in the previous years, had cast ‘the girls’ with one set more ornately decorated with flowers and hearts and the second one simple gold. On this particular occasion, I chose to do something I was more nervous about; covering my face with plaster and breathing through two little holes for about 20 minutes. As an artist, the woman who wrapped me up knew what she was doing and patiently sat next to me as I began hyperventilating and then more calmly breathing through my anxiety. When the mask had hardened, she peeled it off and we set it aside to dry. A few hours later, I painted it, embellishing it with flowers, a heart over my third eye and throat chakras and  finished it off with starry eyes. At home, I mounted it on my bedroom wall and on it perched a hat I had gotten many years earlier and placed angel wings behind it. Quite cosmic, if you ask me and also a wonderful metaphor for how I have lived most of my life. On the surface, things look pretty and shiny, colorful and fun, a glowing visage. Beneath it lies fear, hesitation, doubt, anger, resentment, insecurity and gulp…..neediness. I have hidden it well, or so I thought. My M.O. has been to be the go-to person when it would serve me to be the get-to person who allows herself some real-ness, some BE-ing rather than busily doing so much of the time, more being cared for rather than only being the caregiver.

In April, I took the Woman Within Training and began to chip away  at the shiny armor that  I thought would keep me safe from the perils and pitfalls to which others fell prey.  After all, I thought, “I’m resilient and can bounce back quickly from anything.”  The thing is, denial can masquerade as high functioning and no one would know what was bubbling under the surface. Last weekend, I experienced a cracking open of the shell that had encased my heart for as long as I can remember, but most recently reinforced by my mother’s death in 2o10. Tears melted the glaciated covering over the anahata (heart chakra) that had served as a sense of protection from the pain of the loss. I had erroneously believed that if I remained in the light, then the darkness of grief couldn’t touch me. The same dynamic is true in relationships. On the surface, it appears that I am close to many people. The reality is, I have a lot of people in my life; I am a magnet for loving souls who show up by overt or subtle invitation and I do treasure them AND YET, it occurred to me today when I was on the way home from an experience that widened the opening, that I rarely let people in deeply. I can name a handful that are permitted access to the inner sanctum and even they don’t get to stay very long. It’s the old belief of not wanting to take up too much time or inconvenience anyone.  It also takes the form of keeping potential relationship partners at bay, since if I don’t let anyone in fully, they can’t leave. Sound reasoning, huh? So I dance for a brief time with whoever shows up and then we step away, leaving a piece of each other in (hopefully) safekeeping.

I spoke with two friends on the phone today who told me the same thing; see I’m not as opaque as I might have thought, since they long ago saw through the façade. Both were glad that I showed up, rather than the mask and that in their presence I was able to peel it back. I have to tell you that it was even more of a relief to do it metaphorically than it was to do it in actuality those few years ago. More tears and revelations occurred and one encouraged me to take baby steps in order to honor myself and my needs and the other was glad that I was really feeling, not going back into hiding as I was tempted to do. This morning, I feel all cried out with a softness that I have rarely permitted.

I have long loved this story that I want to share with you. It could have been written for me.

A young woman was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that she had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired her heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it.

But an old woman appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.”

The crowd and the young woman looked at the old woman’s heart. It was beating strongly but full of scars. It had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in … but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. The young woman looked at the old woman’s heart and  laughed. “You must be joking,” she said. “Compare your heart with mine … mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”

” “Yes,” said the old woman, “Yours is perfect looking … but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love….. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them … and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart but because the pieces aren’t exact, I have some rough edges. “ Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away … and the other person hasn’t returned a piece of his/her heart to me. These are the empty gouges … giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too … and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?”

The young woman stood silently with tears running down her cheeks. She walked up to the old woman, reached into her perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. She offered it to the old woman. The old woman took the offering, placed it in her heart and then took a piece from her old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young woman’s heart. It fit …. but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young woman looked at her heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old woman’s heart flowed into hers.

 

Friend is someone to share the last cookie with

 

Did you know that today is National Friendship Day? Sunday August 4th is set aside this year to honor those who make such a difference in our lives. My friends are my treasures and I hold them close to my heart. I have been blessed to have some who I have known since childhood and those who enter my world each day. They are indispensable and I can’t imagine my life without them. Hard to imagine a time when I didn’t know some of them; it’s like they have always been there and some, I KNOW have been in my life for eons.

 

This holiday came into being in 1935, when Congress dedicated the first Sunday of August to honor friendship. Since then, the idea has spread all over the world, with countries like India also dedicating their August’s first Sunday to friends.

In 1997, the United Nations named Winnie, the Pooh, as the world’s Ambassador of Friendship. I would believe that since he is a cuddly dude, which  is a quality I welcome in those in my inner circle.

In 2011, the United Nations officially designated July 30th as International Friendship Day. Parts of South America and South Asia celebrate the day, but many still stick to the first Sunday of August.

Despite current technology and social media, a study conducted in 2011 by a professor from Cornell  University indicated that most people report that they only have two close friends. Hard to imagine only allowing two people in that close. I remember sitting in the presence of a patient I was working with in the psych hospital where I was a social worker. This person was feeling bereft and shared “Everyone I loved is gone. I have no one in my life.” I reminded him “Everyone you loved was once a stranger. Do you believe that those you had were the only people you will ever know? There is a whole world of people out there just waiting to know you.” So many lonely folks feel the way this man did.

I make friends every day, because I set intention to do so. I have made friends in supermarket check out lines, in bathrooms while washing my hands, in the gym, in a mechanic shop while my car was getting serviced, in yoga class, on the job, and in drumming circles. There are some cyber friends who I may never meet face to face, but certainly have connected heart to heart. Although we play various roles in each other’s lives, those I honor most are the ones with whom I can laugh and cry with equal ease, truly and genuinely peeling off layers to reveal the whole of who I am. I would like to think they feel the same. Some have kept me ‘sane and vertical’ over the years. All see in me what I sometimes can’t see in myself. See why I value them?

In case you wondered how to acknowledge the relationships you treasure in various languages, here is a primer:

Albanian –  mik
Afrikaans – vriend
Chinese – péngyou
Dutch – vriend,  vriendje
Danish – ven
Estonian – sõber
Filipino(Tagalog) – kaibigan
French – ami
German – freund
Georgian –  megobari
Hungarian – barát
Indian – dost
italian – amico
Irish –  cara
Japanese — tomodachi
korean — jingu
Latin  — amicus
Manx — carrey
Old English — freond, wine
Persian — dust
Russian — prijátel
Sanskrit — mitra
Spanish — amigo
Swahili — rafiki
Turkish —  dost, arkadas
 A little chuckle http://youtu.be/n_fZP_AzfAE  Friendship Song  from I Love Lucy

 

“Being on the path of the heart transforms your awareness from aloneness to all-oneness, from separation to unity. In unity we perceive love, feel love, express love and accept that we are Love. How will you feel & be Love today?-Robin Schwoyer

I met Robin Schwoyer last year when she was a speaker at a conference I attended. Passionate for her purpose which is about women’s health and creativity as well as support for those with autism and their families, I was immediately drawn to her. We’ve traveled in the same circles for quite awhile, so it was a treat to finally meet heart to heart to hug.  Like many  of you who are reading this, Robin is a Renaissance woman-minister, yoga teacher, artist, mom, workshop facilitator and healer. Colorful and just plain fun to be around.

When I saw this posting on her Facebook page this morning, it beckoned further exploration. What is the ‘path of the heart’?  That question reminds me of this quote:

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”   ?  Carlos Castaneda

When we are born, we set out on our unique path. While we may be guided by the adults around us, it is still ours to choose. We may decide to succumb to the limitations dictated by others; either out of their own woundings  or their love for us and desire to protect us from wounds. We may detour around roadblocks and literally take ‘the road less traveled.’ We may use a map, compass or GPS or simply trust the guidance of Spirit, that tells us to take certain turns. I can’t enumerate the time when I have done that throughout my life and have been in awe of where I have shown up and who was waiting to greet me when I arrived.

Lately, I have been accompanied by many courageous souls who are blazing their own trails and who may walk with me on a parallel path and then take a divergent route, having left each other better off since our paths crossed. It’s  that whole ‘reason, season, lifetime’ concept that says people come into our lives in all kinds of ways for all manner of purpose. It’s sheer excitement for me to ponder the possibilities of who will come into my life on any given day. See, I don’t have an existence that looks the same for any length of time. I live full out, keeping the door open for adventures of the heart. I still feel, at times, like a little kid who peeks around the corner, giggling, eyes lit up, crooking my finger in invitation to come play. That’s an action that one of the heart path would take. I like the Hafiz quote that relates to this:

The Seed Cracked Open

It used to be

That when I would wake in the morning
I could with confidence say,
“What am ‘I’ going to do?”
That was before the seed
Cracked open.
Now I am certain:
There are two of us housed
In this body,
Doing the shopping together in the market and
Tickling each other
While fixing the evening food.
Now when I awake
All the internal instruments play the same music
“God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do
For the world today?”
~Hafiz
Can you tell, I am meandering today?  I invite you to hold my hand as we swing our arms and wander the path together. Who knows what delight we will find and what love-mischief we will create today?

www.pinkheartswellness.com

 

 

“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.”-Thomas Fuller

In the 5th decade of my life, my mind and heart are repositories for all sorts of life events. There are some I would much prefer to toss like those ‘biology projects’ that develop when cold pizza, Chinese food or rancid milk sit there for too long. Other are like treasures that I am grateful have a long shelf life. Those are the ones into which I delve, like a familiar book that  I re-read, savoring with a satisfied smile. Proof positive that life is good.

I was blessed to have had a childhood filled to overflowing with family, friends, vacations, holidays, as well as day to day activities that are part of the book of my life. I often return to visit those times and carry some of the experiences with me, just as you would take some old soil with you when you transplant flowers. Fortunately, I have relatively few painful memories and those I use as fertilizer for new growth. Deaths of loved ones, loss of friends, endings of romantic relationships, conflicts, an ectopic pregnancy in 1992 that necessitated emergency surgery, destruction of our home in Homestead, Florida in Hurricane Andrew, watching my husband and both parents experience suffering as a result of illness, all are part of my memory banks too. As much as I would not have wished for them, they too are valuable and help me appreciate the ‘good times’ all the more.

I dipped back into the past over the weekend when speaking with my friend Greg about two incidents that occurred around age 6. Both had to do with feeling of loss that to an adult might seem trivial but to a little kid were pivotal. The first was connected to the kindergarten ritual of naptime. Lying on mats in rows, covered with blankets, we were tucked in for a brief bit. My mom had sent me in with a powder blue one that had a silky trim around it that I liked to rub against my cheek. One day, when the time came to gather our ‘blankies’, I couldn’t find mine and I felt a sense of uh oh panic. Then I saw that another classmate, Michael Jacobskind (I still remember his name 48 years later, holy moley!) was clutching a familiar piece of fleece. I approached him and told him that it was mine and he shook his head and claimed it was his. The teacher broke the stalemate by noticing that my name was on it. Whew! What a relief that I had my transitional object back.

The other one took place the following summer when I packed up my gear in anticipation of a week at Camp Kettle Run in Medford Lakes, NJ. It was my first sleep away experience and I felt like a big kid, going off to Girl Scout camp. I still have a Kodachrome moment shot in my mind of standing on our front lawn, with a white sailor hat, brim turned down and a yellow shirt, smiling confidently. The thrill was short lived when I lay down on the cot in the tent with a few other girls and realized that I missed my familiar bed and my family. It was my first experience of homesickness.

As best I could, I engaged in the activities, which included arts and crafts, hiking in the wood, music, learning about nature, storytelling and dancing around campfires. In between, I would write tearful letters home, telling my mom that if they didn’t come get me, I would die):  In exchange, she sent loving letters back, written on notecards, each decorated with dolls from around the world on which she would write that she was glad I was having fun. Such denial of my feelings in an attempt to cajole me to really have a good time. What I didn’t know at the time was that she actually HAD come to the camp and met with the director who told her that it was best to let me stay the week and that she and the staff would look after me and that I really would have fun. She was right and by the last day, I was immersed in activities. The night before the last day, we had a campfire and painted our faces. The next morning, my mom, sister and Russian immigrant, Yiddish speaking Bubbe came to pick me up. I hadn’t fully washed the reddish brown paint off  and she exclaimed “Oy, she broke her nose and they didn’t tell us!” After looking closely, my mother assured her that my nose was indeed intact.

Both of those memories had been lodged back there and minimized and in retrospect, I can see how my perception of them shaped some choices I have made. Glad they are now out and about, acting as tools to build my life, rather than weapons to use against myself for being so ‘sensitive’.

These days, I cherish so many experiences, anchoring them in with love, treasuring the people who helped me to make them.

http://youtu.be/EzErh_s62Wk Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah- Allan Sherman