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The Bliss Blog

In the midst of a very late night conversation with my son, this thought kept running through my mind. It’s nothing new and yet, as much as I talk about, teach about, counsel about and write about love, there are moments when spiritual amnesia kicks and my experience of love feels as if it is in ‘another galaxy far, far away’. (I’m a bit of a Star Wars geek:)

What brought this to the surface is that he points out that more than 14 years after the death of my husband (his father), there are still messy, threadbare edges to clean up; places where I have held on to resentments and regrets, anger and ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’, ‘what-if-and-if-only’ dynamics. He would like to see me forgive what I could not change.  He would be right about that and yet, even with all of my years of experience as a therapist, I feel at a loss as to how to heal the wounds that I have been carrying, ways of putting down the boulder of unforgiving thoughts. Every relationship is comprised of two perfectly imperfect beings; the sum total of their genetic and experientially gathered makeup and the choices they have made based on those factors. When they come together, they attempt to merge, for the purpose of creating a greater sense of wholeness, companionship, children, an alignment with the Divine, great sex, whatever…. there is also bumping up against each other’s rough edges, either polishing them or tearing them. In my own nearly 12 year marriage that turned to widowhood when my husband Michael died at 48 of Hepatitis C, while awaiting a liver transplant, there were elements of both dichotomies. I’m grateful for what we shared, knowing that love is never wasted. If not for this relationship, I would not be writing this column, since my journalistic career began in 1988 when we co-founded Visions Magazine. I would not have become an interfaith minister, since Michael was in seminary when he died and I enrolled and took his place in the class and became ordained.

Now, nearly a decade and a half later, I still ponder the mysteries of relationship. Having remained single with short term relationships and wonderful lovers since then, I know that it is easier and safer to be a ‘relationship expert’ with the information to impart, than to actually be in a relationship. Far less messy, far less emotional upheaval, surface intimacy, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. Since 1999, I have, as an interfaith minister, married hundreds of couples at all stages of their lives; some as young as 21 and others in their 70’s. Each relationship had a different flavor, since each couple was unique and I have been privileged to be an outside observer, blessing their unions, while beaming beatifically. Then I go home to my own life, that is full and rich in many ways, but ultimately solitary. I come and go as I please, have a wealth of friends and juicy experiences….and yet, there is a wistfulness; a wondering about my ability after all these years, to engage in full union with another. I have also witnessed the messy, conflicted, dramatic and traumatic relationships of clients over the years and shudder at the thought that I could find myself in that situation again.

At a wedding I officiated  last weekend, these words were shared. I borrowed them from the ceremony of my friends Patti and Michael and I use them as a reality check for how I would like to be in my next relationship. It is part of a hand-fasting ritual in which we used a long piece of lace, wrapped around their joined hands in an infinity symbol.

 

I bid you look into each other’s eyes.

Will you cause her pain?

I May

Is that your intent?

No

Will you cause him pain?

I may

Is that your intent?

No

*To Both*

Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?

Yes

And so the binding is made. Join your hands

Will you share his laughter?

Yes

Will you share her laughter?

Yes

*To Both*

Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive

in each other?

Yes

Will you burden him?

I may

Is that your intent?

No

Will you burden her?

I may

Is that your intent?

No

*To Both*

Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?

Yes

Will you share his dreams?

Yes

Will you share her dreams?

Yes

*To Both*

Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?

Yes

 Will you cause her anger?

I may

Is that your intent?

No

Will you cause him anger?

I may

Is that your intent?

No

*To Both*

Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?

We will.

And so the binding is made.

Will you honor him?

I will

Will you honor her?

I will

*To Both*

Will you seek to never give cause to break that honor?

We shall never do so.

The knots of this binding are not formed by these cords but instead by your vows. Either of you may drop the cords, for as always, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union.

 

I ask that my heart remain open and available to a love that spans the abyss of anger and regret and takes me safely home.

http://youtu.be/u37z8W5w8Do Love Is The Answer-Todd Rundgren

 

 

 

holyrascaledie

A few months ago, I was invited to be part of a growing movement, as it were. It meant claiming a part of my identity that I had kept under wraps for far too long and honoring aspects of myself that felt grandiose, over the top…too much.  Holy Rascal is what it is named and by definition it is “One who does justly, acts kindly and walks humbly with their God” I was introduced to the concept by my long time friend Rabbi Rami Shapiro. I had met Rami in the early 1990’s when I was living in South Florida. It was one of those serendipitous experiences, or perhaps ‘beshert’ which is Yiddish for ‘meant to be’. I had been in a local book store, perusing the psychology and self help section, when a book literally jumped off the shelf into my waiting hands. I looked at it and saw that it was a 12 step recovery book geared to those of the Jewish faith…something like This Too Is The Path; since often the languaging of the sobriety community has a Christian feel to it. I turned it over and saw that the author was a rabbi whose congregation was nearby. Beth Or was located in Kendall, Florida which is a suburb of Miami. That Friday, we attended a Shabbos service and I was mesmerized by the stories he told and one of my first impressions was that he missed his calling as a stand-up comedian. For the next two years, most of my Friday nights were spent in that sanctuary and I felt a sense of homecoming, since I had become disillusioned with the aspects of Judaism as presented by the most recent rabbi in the synagogue of my childhood, that had felt archaic and not only sexist, but misogynistic.  At Temple Beth Or, I felt like an equal member, valued as the unique individual that I was, regardless of my ‘plumbing’.

Fast forward and I left South Florida following the whirlwind that was Hurricane Andrew (we lived in Homestead) in 1992. I kept up with Rami’s activities via his writings and was delighted with the ways that his work took on a more interfaith flavor, while maintaining the soup stock that was Judaism. The same is true for this nice Jewish girl who became an interfaith minister, via The New Seminary in 1999. Rami proudly claims the title of Holy Rascal and the site has featured notables such as Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi (who is Rami’s mentor), Joan Borysenko, Matthew Fox, Sister Jose Hobday, Andrew Harvey and John Cleese. I am honored to be in such esteemed company.

One of the attributes of Holy Rascality is humor. I find it easy to laugh at the absurdities of life and see it as a healing balm. On June 18th, I will be presenting a webinar and will be speaking on the topic How To Have A Ridiculously Amazing Life. Tune in and join us and if you feel so moved, discover what it would mean to you to claim the not so super secret identity as your own.

www.holyrascals.com

jerrytroyer

 

Have you been huddling in a closet of denial about who you are?  The walls may be paper thin or constructed from cinder block or steel. One thing it does is prevent you from fully living your life. Author, minister of Joyful Living Church in San Diego, California and speaker Rev. Jerry Troyer’s closet was built from beliefs about himself, partly as a result of the deaths of  older twin brothers that was not explained to him in a way that a young child could comprehend, and partly by virtue of recognizing his attraction to men, in a prevalent culture that not only doesn’t embrace it, but abhors it. Blessedly, he has opened the door and ventured out into the world, as has his book Coming Out To Ourselves : Admitting, Accepting and EMBRACING Who We Truly Are.

This short, easy to read (I breezed through it in a few hours) 78-pager addresses not only sexual orientation, but in addition, spirituality, addiction, relationships, self love, career and one of my favorite states of being -JOY! As a consummate communicator, Troyer expresses from his own direct experience of overeating, and being in life partnership with a man who is now in recovery from drug addiction. He brings in the concept of shame and how soul damaging and even deadly it can be. Shaking off the shackles of shame is not easy, but essential to insure freedom.

Troyer touches on what he refers to as The Other F-Bombforgiveness and compares it to a rock that we carry into a lake and refuse to surrender because it is ‘ours’ and we cling to it, even though we are drowning. What I have learned is that forgiveness is not a once and done thing, but rather a peeling off the layers to see what is beneath them. What I hold on to holds on to me. Troyer agrees that it is “a process and not an event.” His church does a burning bowl ritual each year in which members write what it is they want to release and then they communally ignite the papers.

He tells one of my favorite stories about The Golden Buddha that was covered with cement to protect it from a marauding army and then over generations remained encased until a monk noticed that a piece of its covering fell off and he beheld the glowing surface hidden beneath. Troyer contends that we too are those illumined beings forgetting who we are.

Four steps for making change are outlined:

Pay Attention

Expect The Best

Go For It

Take The First Step

This is true whether it is in anticipation for doing a fire-walk (which is what sparked these instructions), or changing a career, entering into a new relationship, changing lifestyle habits or coming out of your closet, whatever it is made of.

Troyer offers encouragement to the LGBT community that change from self loathing to self love is possible.

The book, which was published in 2012, was endorsed by the inspirational author and speaker Debbie Ford (who passed in February of  2013) and wrote “You will be surprised by how easy it is to find yourself on the pages of this hopeful and engaging book. A compelling read.”

www.revjerry.com

Jerry will be coming to Philadelphia on September 11th…..details to follow.

 

 

As a gracefully aging, seasoned woman, I have long believed that memory loss is a myth. Having had a sharp as a tack mind that could have anything I wanted stick to it, I am sadly noticing some things falling off the cork board. Another analogy that makes sense to me involves a techno concept. If I think of my mind as a computer hard drive, I have no problem with storage; but retrieval is another matter. I used to have at my disposal the title, lyrics and performer of any song I liked and even some I didn’t. Remembering names of those I met in personal and professional capacities was a piece of cake and now it feels like itsy bitsy crumbs left on the plate sometimes. Walking into a room to get something or do something was a no brainer, literally and now there are times when I need to return to the scene of the thought to recall what it is I needed. Thank heavens for GPS and Smart phone when I am feeling in need of guidance and not particularly smart myself.

Enter the world of Lumosity. I  heard about this brain training website via Pandora (the DIY of personalized radio stations) and reminded myself to look into it and then forgot about it. Last night, while I was interviewing Mariel Hemingway and Bobby Williams for my Vivid Life Radio show called It’s All About Relationships, we were speaking about the idea of aging as a self imposed limitation and that we three agreed that we feel more vibrant, vital and youthful than we did a decade or so ago. I chimed in that my memory has been fading a bit and he recommended Lumosity. I didn’t need to hear about it a third time and tonight I climbed aboard the Brain Train, lest I experience more brain drain, and set up a few skills tests. I had no problem with identifying shapes after seeing them flash in front of me. Then came spatial relations…uh oh….I was able to match 5 tiles as they showed up and then disappeared, asking me to replace them where they were. Six was a wee bit of a stretch and then came 7. I could feel my heart racing and a some anxiety present itself, as if there was  a live human being observing me mess up, rather than a computer who didn’t know me at all. And then I cut myself some slack, reminding myself that it was the end of a long day that started about 5 something, had me driving nearly and hour to take a training for work that focused on Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases; lovely topics all. Heading back to the office to do some paperwork, followed by a drive in torrential rains and flooded roads, I am feeling whooped. Writing this column feels like no work at all, since most of the time when I create, I am in The Zone and don’t need to think. The words just flow. It is when I effort or believe that I need to know the answer to something or be ON that my train of thought gets derailed.

www.lumosity.com

www.vividlife.me

www.pandora.com