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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Claw Marks

 

Debbie Ford posed this question on Facebook and I felt called to respond: “Why is it that so many of us hold on to experiences from our past, refusing to let them go? Is it because we don’t know how to let go and move on?”

I answered: “Perhaps fear that what awaits won’t be as fullfilling as the best parts of our past or or even more challenging than the worst parts.” By the time one has reached my age (53, about to turn 54 in a few weeks), they have accumulated, not just baggage, but a steamer trunk of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, some that serve us and others that sabotague us. Lately I have been sorting through mine, for so many reasons. With the multitude of changes that have occurred over the past four years, with the passing of my parents, the sale of their home, the publication of my book, leaving a full time job that I had for 11 years, launching my writing and speaking biz, I have come face to face with my fears and have been letting go of my limiting beliefs. I wonder if I have been holding on to them or they have been holding onto me and I haven’t had the courage or willingness to dislodge them. I remember seeing a poster of a kitty cat hanging from a tree branch with the quote “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” that was attributed to the brilliant and emotionally disturbed writer  David Foster Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 after years of treatment. Clearly a man who was holding onto a great deal of pain.

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Back in the 1980’s when I saw the poster, I was taking a training at a drug and alcohol recovery center. I was initially amused by the image, but then the impact hit home that for so long, I too had been carrying self deprecating thoughts, hard judgements about myself and my abilities, fears that I wouldn’t meet the sometimes overwhelming expectations I had for myself. Fast forward all these years later and I am still clinging to that tree branch at times. This past week, I tumbled into a swirling whirlpool of not-enough-ness, the strong current of which threatened to sweep me away. Loving and even stronger friends reached out their hands, for which I grabbed and they pulled me out, wringing wet but more resilient for the experience.

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So this letting go thing….when I gaze over my shoulder at the wonderful experiences to which I want to hold on, I smile and the memories warm me. I know that they are absorbed into the all-that-I-am. When I look back at the painful goings on, and I have, of necessity, been facing them lately, see that they too had their purpose, since, if not for them, I wouldn’t have had the aforementioned strength and resilience to swim ashore.

What is your tree branch?

http://youtu.be/0jsw_r0hILQ I Can See Clearly -Jimmy Cliff

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Whirlwind Workaholic

There are many days when I feel like this meteorological phenomenon, swirling a million miles an hour, knocking about everything in my path, at a dizzying pace. Whew!  Although I have eased back considerably, there are indeed times during which I rev up the engine. When that happens, paradoxically I feel like I’m not going to do enough, be enough, have enough. I was on the phone tonight with my cousin Jody in order to pick her brain about the origin of this obnoxious thought. What she came up with, which  was really no surprise, was reminding me about my workaholic father who held a full time job, did volunteer work, raised two children, kept up with the house, and sequentially took care of elderly mother and mother in-law. It wasn’t something I hadn’t considered, believe me.

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I shared with her that in the past 72 hours, I had officiated at a wedding, co-facilitated a workshop, did a radio interview with  Derek O’Neill, based in Ireland, found that two articles I had written, came out today, got a book in the mail to which I had contributed a chapter, will be co-leading a service on Sunday at a Fall Festival, planning other presentations for the next few months, was asked to collaborate on another book project. Any sane person would say that I am fairly accomplished and yet….there is that relentless voice that says “not enough, not enough, not enough.” I want to muzzle it. I teach this stuff because I need to learn it, naturally.

Later calls to my friends Ondreah and Peggy offered solace as they suggested compassion for the slave driver aspects of myself who keeps the hamster wheel in motion or tornado spinning. She’s there for a purpose, although what it is, I can’t totally fathom. I can easily see that some of it is a joy-filled experience, what with all the creative juices that get flowing when I do this work, so it feeds the adrenalin rush of it all.

I ask for guidance and grace to allow me to move through this time of second guessing and into a sense that I AM enough. Grateful for friends who remind me.

 

 

 

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Rosh Hashanah Revelations

On Sunday night at sundown, Jews all over the world will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah, colloquially known as The Jewish New Year. The words translate to ‘the head of the year’ and is considered the birthday of the world. It is one during which people attend services and join with family and friends around a communal table, sharing food, love and gratitude for another turn around the sun. It is the onset of the High Holy Days that comes to a crescendo on Yom Kippur.  To me it has always been about do-overs, with realigning myself with renewed purpose; turning over a new leaf, as it were. The Hebrew word t’shuvah which is what we are asked to do as a component of the holiday,  is just that…turning. We are all called on to do that each day, regardless of our faith tradition.

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In my childhood synagogue called Congregation Beth Torah in Willingboro, NJ, I would sit next to my father in services, as he wrapped his tallis (fringed prayer shawl) around his shoulders and I would play with the fringes and sometimes sneak underneath it with him. Such sweet memories enwrapped in that experience as well. The singing, praying and chanting would go on for hours. One thing I never understood and to this day,  and still am puzzled about is the concept of  ‘being written in the book of life for another year, or a sweet new year.”, which is what are told the holidays are about. Did that mean that if someone had trauma or tragedy in their lives or died, that it made them bad people or somehow unworthy of another chance?  As an adult, I realize that things happen and people die, regardless of their circumstances or intention.

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Judaism is a religion filled with symbolism. A ram’s horn called a shofar is blown, as a clarion call, a wake up/shake up to the opportunity to practice tikkun olam (repair of the world), to connect with our fellow planetary dwellers, regardless of country or religion of origin, regardless of skin color or ability, regardless of gender or gender identity, regardless of sexual orientation.

A food combo eaten at Rosh Hashanah is apples dipped in honey, to symbolize a sweet year.

Another fond memory is attending services at Temple Beth Or in Kendall, Florida, I would immerse myself in words and sound once more as Rabbi Rami Shapiro offered his insights into the meaning of the holidays. He and other members of the congregation wrote a prayer book that was filled with poems, blessings and prayers that spoke to my heart, even more deeply than those of my childhood synagogue. It introduced me to the music of Rabbi Shefa Gold and the writings of Judy Chicago.

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And then all that has divided us will merge

And then compassion will be wedded to power

And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind

And then both men and women will be gentle

And then both men and women will be strong

And then no person will be subject to another’s will

And then all will be rich and free and varied

And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many

 And then all will equally share in the Earth’s abundance

And then we will all care for the sick and the weak and the old

And then all will nourish the young And then all will cherish life’s creatures

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And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth

And then everywhere will be called Eden once again

Since college, most of my High Holiday times (also referred to as the Days of Awe…one of my favorite words, by the way) are spent in meditation, in nature and with kindred spirits, not confined in the edifice of a synagogue. It is where I feel most tapped in to the God of my understanding and where I can more readily engage in the deep spiritual work that really is my entire life.

I clean up any detritus from the previous year, doing ‘come cleans’ with folks with whom there may be either misunderstanding, residual gunk OR unsaid expressions of love and appreciation. It really does feel like a refreshing waterfall shower.

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Regardless of your religious faith, I encourage you to engage in such a practice. L’shana Tova…for a good year!

www.rabbirami.com

www.rabbishefagold.com

http://youtu.be/lqeLjEBp9hg Sasson V’Simkhah by Rabbi Shefa Gold

 

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Every Little Thing

Have you ever had ‘one of those days’ in which ‘you make plans and God laughs?’  Yup, I have too. Today felt like it could have been one of them. This morning, before I was vertical, my mind was awash with the tasks that needed to be completed. The ‘laundry list’ included:  Bank deposit, drop off mortgage payment, stop at Staples to pick up headset to use for a Skype webinar tonight, a printer cartridge so that I could print out a wedding ceremony for the service that I will be officiating in NYC tomorrow, writing an article for a magazine, putting together a proposal for a series of workshops I will be teaching next year, getting a pair of shoes since my dress shoes have gone the way of all winds and while I was in the shoe store, the phone rang and on the other end was my friend Kalie who reminded me that I was late for a lunch meeting that she and my editor and I were having…YIKES!  Good thing I was only 15 minutes away. From there, I needed to hustle home to prep for the webinar which went smoothly. Headed to the gym and the grocery shopping and now here with you. At every turn, I  ‘checked’ each item off the list, trusting that it would all flow together. And so it did~

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There have been days in which I haven’t felt quite so blessed. “Spiritual flat tires.” is what author and speaker Bernie Siegel calls them. He considers health challenges in that category: “Diseases can be our spiritual flat tires – disruptions in our lives that seem to be disasters at the time but end by redirecting our lives in a meaningful way.”  They also include delays that have us shaking our heads and wondering “What the heck happened here?” Meetings that didn’t go quite as planned, broken objects and broken promises, messes that needed to be cleaned up, detours enroute to appointments.  All are possibilities. When those things happen, I sometimes metaphorically kick and scream and more likely, smile and wonder what the lesson or message might be. What is there to be learned? Usually it is about patience, slowing down and taking time to consider the next step.

What if you knew for certain that the words to Bob Marley’s song called Three Little Birds were true?  Every little thing really is gonna be alright.

http://youtu.be/YrBdCghy76A

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