Yesterday, a life changing event occurred. My 51 year old sister called to tell me that she had, in her words “a mild heart attack”, which, as it turned out, was indeed, as she corrected as “a big boy”, that could have taken her out of her corporeal existence, had she not had guardian angels looking out for her. Perhaps my parents who are on the Other Side, had a hand in keeping her around as well. I was shocked, but not surprised, as bizaarre as that sounds. The possibility had been there and building for years and as much as I believe in the power of thought and intention, her circumstances may have felt like they were closing in on her, just as the artery that needed propping up with a stent was constricted. Her husband has had ever worsening health problems and as is the learned way in our family, she kept on keepin’ on, running back and forth to the various hospitals in which he was getting care, maintaining a full time job in retail sales, and doing the daily household chores with the support of my teenaged nephew and (when she is home from college) young adult niece. This morning, after the procedure, she is in the ICU and is recovering, surrounded with the love and prayers of those who know her and those who know of her via the marvels of modern technology and the phenom of Facebook. I posted a call for healing energy in whatever form people had to offer and the response came pouring in. People love to pray for others and feel as if they can make a difference, so all who are reading this are invited to join us.
It occurred to me that this is a wake up call in so many ways, beyond the obvious need for her to slow down. Our mother’s death certificate diagnosis was CHF (congestive heart failure) two and half years after our father passed, but I think she really died of a broken heart. The heart is a resilient muscle in the biological sense but also in the emotional sense. Jan is adept at opening her heart to others, but when it comes to self compassion and love, not so much. Our parents modeled taking care of others, sometimes to the neglect of their own wellbeing and she and I learned all too brilliantly from their example. It is so insidious and sneaky that I sometimes am not even aware that I am doing it and I wonder if it is the same for her. It doesn’t feel intentional most of the time, yet there are moments during which I think, “Oh, I’ll just get by with a little less sleep or rush through dinner, so I can get this other task done.” There is a certain degree of hypocrisy in that, since I teach people about good self care that I don’t always exhibit.
I saw my sister today and when I walked into the ICU room of a suburban South Jersey hospital, she was garbed in fancy hospital finery, being a lady of leisure in a lounge chair with all kinds of tubes connected to various body parts. Monitors did their jobs keeping track of her vital functions. She regaled me with tales of the adventure that lead her to this point. I wagged my finger at her; the first of several times in the three hours we spent together, since she had waited more than 4 hours from the onset of the symptoms until she called 911. When I was leaving, I reminded her that I was still the big sister, even though smaller in stature than she is, and I could kick her butt if she didn’t take care of herself and stopping running herself ragged. She winked and said, “You could now.”
Ironically, I am teaching a class tomorrow for social workers on co-dependence and boundary setting. So much of the ‘savior behavior’ that co-dependents exhibit, grows out of the denial of self care. What if we took as much time and energy to nurture the woman or man in the mirror as we do our loved ones? Nothing selfish about it and if caring for others is a priority, it will enable you to show up even that much more fully for those in your life. As I like to remind folks ‘you can’t give whatcha don’t got’.
Please don’t wait for your own kind of wake up call to pay attention to what your heart wants you to know.
Prayer is a moment to moment practice for me, since I have come to sense that it is related to thought. What if prayer wasn’t something that only or primarily occurs in a structure such as a church, synagogue, temple or mosque? When I was a student at The New Seminary in NYC, I wrote a paper called Prayer Is Portable and the focus was on the idea that it is as everpresent as the air we breathe. Many people consider prayer intercessionary; asking for something that on some level, they are unsure will happen, uncertain that they even deserve. What if we could turn it into something for which we could be grateful even before it arrives on our ‘doorstep’? In this moment, I am waiting for my car to be serviced and I am grateful that it will be happy, healthy and road worthy for the price I was quoted. This afternoon, my HVAC professional is coming to my ‘chilly in Philly/brrr in Bucks County’ house to get the heater back on track for a reasonable fee and that I will be cozy tonight as the snow will be wafting down. For that, I give thanks in advance, seeing it, hearing it, knowing it. I set intention for easy flowing writing this afternoon, smooth sailing with putting the finishing touches on a class I am teaching on Monday, organizing my house to accomodate the various facets of my work/play.
I am a consistent seedplanter in my personal and professional lives. Many’s the time, I have requested certain outcomes and have been both delighted and disappointed, wondering why people haven’t made the choices I would want them to since, after all, I in my infinite wisdom know what is best for everyone. Then I remember spiritual powerhouse Michael Beckwith’s voice ringing through the majestic, high ceilinged Tindley Temple in Philadelphia back in 2009 when he and his divinely diva-listically talented wife Rickie Byars Beckwith came in via Common Ground Fellowship. He encouraged us to accept that “God’s delays are not God’s denials.” This, while it is comforting, is still frustrating for this gotta get it done, overachiever. I contemplate the myriad miracles that have come my way, when I trust in Divine Timing. Sure, I want what I want when I want it and sometimes the gift comes with the reassurrance that the Highest Good will prevail, despite appearances at the time. In the last few months of her life, my mother would express what I called her Que Sera Sera attitude as she would say “What will be, will be, babycakes.” I think she found comfort in the acceptance of what is, rather than having to do anything. I am learning that as well, despite my best efforts to cling to tried and true, if not always soul satisfying behaviors and attitudes.
I have found that prayers are always answered, perhaps not always as I would have had them be at the moment, but have yielded treasure beyond measure.
http://youtu.be/xMVkf5xu8as We Let It Be by Rickie Byars Beckwith
There isn’t a person on the planet who has escaped loss, challenge and change, since it is the nature of human existence. Nothing stays the same, impermanence is the name of the game. The question is “how do we face it?” Is it with grace and grit or whining and worrying? If we are conditioned with a particular mindset, then it is up to us to decide if we want to maintain it if it is serving us, or shift it if isn’t. There are three perspectives from which to view the world and its occurrences:
Victim- Feeling as if we are being ‘done to’; at the mercy of someone elses’ choices and behaviors. Blame and shame is the name of that particular game. While it is so, that there are some circumstances in which someone in power causes harm to those who are weaker and more vulnerable (such as child abuse), it is when a person recognizes that they have the power to change their circumstances and their beliefs, that they are able to transcend their victimhood.
Survivor: Characterized by a willingness to take that step away from limiting perspective; changing the story that may have had someone succumbing to their fears of how life ‘has to be the way it’s always been’ because that’s all they’ve known. Accompanying it is a sense that they are triumphing and moving forward. Taking responsibility for their feelings and perceptions. Often, I equate survivors with the flexibility of a willow tree that bends in the wind, rather than simply standing solid like an oak tree. I have physically witnessed a 50-60 foot tall oak tree topple in the midst of gusts, while surrounding willows remained when the tempest subsided.
Thriver: A winner’s perspective is a hallmark of this stage of evolution. Exhiliration that is contagious; since it is noticeable in the demeanor of this resilient one. They are able to gaze back and see how far they have come. Reaching out to others who may need encouragement and guiding them along feeds the collective soup pot of existence. Bill W. and Dr. Bob who established AA and Alex Scott (Alex’s Lemonade) are examples of such powerhouses who took misfortune and transmuted it into magic. Think about the numbers of people positively impacted by their decisions to step beyond victimhood.
I saw this term ‘rebel thriver’ on Facebook this morning and it so resonated with my intention to rebel against anything that holds my heart and soul hostage, including my old worn out beliefs that I can’t have what I want in my life. Although I am generally an opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility, there are times when the black out curtains come down and I am sitting in a dark room that has me stumbling around, feeling my way through the shadows. I wonder what it is that has me facing these gremlins that sometimes howl their ‘not good enough’ litany. It is in coming up smack dab against them that has me stretching my resiliency muscles and exhibiting gracefully flowing willow-ways.
http://www.rebelthriver.wordpress.com Rebel Thriver
http://youtu.be/1Y38fOQ1Byc Resilience by Thomas Newman
“Let people live in your heart. When people really listen, they live in your heart forever.”-Toshiro Kanamori
What difference can one man make in the lives of so many? This morning, while watching a portion of a video of a remarkable elementary school teacher in Japan, I was reminded of a vibrant truth; that with love and compassion, full presence and guidance, empathy can be cultivated among children. Toshiro Kanamori is the 4th grade instructor who tells them that the purpose of this year’s work is “how to live a happy life, how to care for other people.” In the opening scene, the children are cheering, clapping and hugging him. This documentary called Children Full of Life explains a class assignment in which each day, three of the children share the feelings expressed in their daily notebook writings. One day, a classmate returns following the death of his grandmother. He reads his story of her passing and cremation. As he does so, his friends are moved to tears by his vulnerability and invite them to share their own tales of loss and pain, including that of a girl whose father died when she was three. She has, according to the narrator, been “holding down her memories for more than half her life. She had been afraid to talk about her father. She didn’t want to seem different. She paid a price.” My. Kanamori created an environment in which she was able to free herself. While comforting her, he also praised the young man who read from his journal since it gave her the courage to express her repressed emotions. Remarkably, he held space for the entire class to feel. He also seemed to know how to ‘close them back up’ in what might have felt like emotional surgery. I have seen a precious few workshop facilitators who teach adults these concepts exhibit the ability to do so.
I appreciated the emphasis on learning from life events, such as the death of loved ones as well as the importance of expression of a full range of human experience in the written and spoken form. What touched me most of all,were the ways in which the children bonded over their mutual joys and sorrows. Imagine the ripple effect that this will have in their lives and that of those with whom they relate. This film was released in 2003 and these students are now 19 or 20 years old; young men and women out in the working world or in college. In the interceding decade, they will have faced challenges and triumphs. I am certain that with the influence of their beloved teacher, they will more than likely have blossomed into remarkable adults.