The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Blowing Some Love

                                                                   

 

I received an invitation to connect with someone on facebook the other day that tickled me. This was a man who had a poetic way of expressing himself as he requested ‘friending’ me. At the end of it, he said he was “blowing me some love.” Immediately the image of a massive bubble wand dipped in a huge bottle of soap and waved across the sky crossed my mind. As the circular structure wafted through the air, it rode the current from Africa to America and landed right on my heart.

Such a powerful symbol for the energy that we are capable of sharing. It is so easy to do and sadly, so often missing in the lives of many. In one of my incarnations, I serve people with all manner of mental health concerns (I prefer that description to the term ‘mental illness’, since it sometimes pathologizes the person, rather than the symptoms). I am convinced that loneliness and isolation are every bit as insidious as the depression, anxiety or psychosis with which they present.  I ask them often about family and friend support and connection and in way too many cases, the response is that they have few people (and unhealthy folks at that) and sometimes no one they can count on to be at their side. Sometimes they have burned their bridges because of choices they have made and continue to make and often they fear the emotional and sometimes physical pain that has arisen when they dare to reach out. I remind them that their history is not their destiny and they can make new choices in each moment. Sometimes they look at me as if I am speaking a different language and perhaps I am. I express in the universal language of love. What if we all spoke with inclusive words, rather than those that separate? How would it be if we viewed the person before us as worthy of our time and attention? My friend Charley Thweatt wrote a song called You Will Die Someday.  My favorite line is “take your time when you’re being with people. What’s another minute to you?” As someone who has often zoomed through life, multi-tasking as I go, I need that reminder. AND I also need to remember that the woman in the mirror needs my own attention as well, since she is no less worthy.

Last night, I found myself sitting next to the hospital bed of a friend who is facing the diagnosis of cancer as well as cardiac conditions. Hands on her legs, offering Reiki, while another friend had his hands on her head, feeling energy coursing through all three of us, I smiled as she related that she was ‘at peace’ with whatever happened. This 50 something mother of 5 who works as a professional in the healing field, lay back amidst hand drawn cards from her youngest, flowers from friends and family, books, chocolate:), with soothing music and beach scenes on a special tv channel, her room a healing haven, soaking in the love. In the room with us were people I have known for many years; one since the mid-80′s and the other two only slightly less time. What we had in common on this day in particular, was love and admiration for this woman who has offered so much of herself to others and now was in a position to breathe it in, drink it in herself.  I was warmed by the exquisite joy juice in the room as we laughed rather than cried in the face of the cancer. Yes, the words on paper look devastating, but can also be viewed as wake up call to revisit our beliefs about what life is and who travels with us on our journey. Fragile and strong we are, resilient and shaky at times. Needing each other (challenging for this independent soul writing these words, since sometimes I don’t wanna depend on no one no how) for our wellbeing, since no woman or man is an island.

As I was writing this entry, the song by Alexi Murdoch called Orange Sky was playing. Sharing it with you…

http://youtu.be/bgNDWKq0alE

Blowing Love atcha~

 

Got To vs. Get To

                                                 

My friend Cindy is a dynamo who wears many hats…interfaith minister, massage therapist, artist, writer, teacher, photographer and all around accomplished Renaissance woman. She is known among her many friends as a loving, giving, you can-count-on-go-to-person. This past weekend, she spent time in the presence of 6 dogs and 4 birds…critter sitting, I would guess. She posted on fb that she “did nothing of value” throughout the day, except finish a 647 page novel, take a nap and enjoy take-out Chinese food, as if somehow she was becoming a slacker-couch spud who would grow moss under her feet if she wasn’t more active. 

Does that ever sound familiar?! I had discovered after years of buzzy-busy-ness for fear that if I stood still, I would never get through the lengthy list of my responsibilities, that I accomplish more if I do take time to refresh my energetic stores. My wise mother used to say ”The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” In childhood, it didn’t make sense; paradoxical as it was. Now in my 5th decade, it is one of the most logical statements imaginable. I notice that when I do things in a rushed, unconscious way, I often need to re-do whatever it is that I was zooming to get done in the first place. On any given weekday, my schedule looks like this:  awaken by 6:30 (sometimes as early as the birdies start chirping since menopause kicked in and I would love to kick it back…shocking for this pacifist ‘nice girl’ who can’t imagine kicking anything):  do some writing and fb posting (my son calls me an addict, but I remind him that while some is socializing, most is social media/networking), get ready for my full time job as a social worker in a psych hospital, drive the 30 some minutes to work, put in my day there, sometimes teaching classes afterward, coming home, having a light dinner, going to the gym for my ‘play-out’, back to the keyboard for more writing/PR work….and yes, there is time for hanging out with friends/loved ones. That doesn’t include ‘normal people’ stuff like cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, yard work and paying bills. I saw a poster years ago with the names of famous people written across it. Inventors, performers, authors…and it said something like ‘these people had the same 24 hours a day as you do.’ Hmmm… no excuses there. It seems to be about using the time wisely. Now that doesn’t mean that goofing off is out of the question.

That brings me to the point of this entry…we are not human doings, we are human BE-ings; so why do so many of us spin our wheels, getting stuff done rather than resting when it is called for and then feeling guilty if we do?  I wish I had the ultimate answer to that question. My friend Brian asks me periodically if I am taking time to stop and smell the roses, echoing the reminder that my mother would give me as well when she heard about my outrageous schedule. Lately (since my Mom died, it seems) I have been immersing in ‘me time’ sans guilt. I make a list of ‘get to’s’ rather than ‘got to’s’.  This  4th of July weekend was mostly about the first category. I went to a kirtan on Friday night at a yoga studio with friends, went to a dance party/gathering at another friend’s wooded property on Saturday.   When I was at Nancy’s place, I contented myself several times by perching on an under-spreading-trees swing, lazily moving back and forth as I observed my friends talking, laughing, hugging, eating and dancing.  In the past I would have felt a compelling need to be in the midst of the action, for fear that I would miss something (kind of like a little kid who doesn’t want to take a nap) and now I glean pleasure from being the witness to it all, just soaking it in. I had some pampering time with gym, haircut and pedicure on Sunday; my bright red toes feel celebratory when I gaze down at them and want to dance. At the moment, they are resting after mowing the lawn, weeding, hauling and spreading mulch. Although you might think that activity would go on the ‘got to’ list, the satisfaction that comes from my beautified yard makes it a ‘get to’.

A year ago, I would have asked “Who is this pod person?” and now I embrace that mellower aspect of myself who reaps even more benefit by merging with music, as I am doing now as I type this…a cover of Seals and Croft’s Summer Breeze and feeling no urgency to do anything at the moment but as my friend Ram Dass says “Be here now.”

What are your ‘get to’s'?  How often do you gift yourself with time just doin’ nuthin’….?

What are your ‘got to’s'?  Do you procrastinate doing them?  If so, how might you benefit from viewing them as ‘get to’s’ too?

Here is Jason Mraz’ cover of Summer Breeze http://youtu.be/OJdXXT1ptTs

The Face of God

Got your back

                                                                     

 

I have known my friend Janet Berkowitz since the early 1980′s when she laughed and hugged her way into my life via our mutual friend Alan Cohen. Back then, she held a secret that I didn’t know about until many years later. This artist, poet, mime…altogether creative soul had been experiencing the darkest depths of depression and carried on her shoulders a symbolic knapsack filled with boulders with the label suicide stamped on them. Over the years, she has been hospitalized several times, has been on psychotropic medications and has come close to ending her own life.  Those of us who know and love Janet, have ‘circled the wagons’ each time she has entered the swamp of despair and she has pulled through. I am inspired by her resilient spirit and her declarative statement SUICIDE DENIED!   I offer that as an affirmation to the patients I serve in my role as a psychiatric social worker. She and her husband are family of choice for me and for my son and I am eternally grateful that they are still here, since Phil has faced his fears as well. Please read her story and poem below and if you feel so inspired, please contact Janet and also pass this message on to people you know who may be contemplating suicide, and to their families and friends. Her message is that healing is possible.  This photo of the two of us was taken at a friend’s party this past 4th of July weekend and it is a brilliant testament to the ‘got your back’ concept. There have been many times when she was a solid support for me in the midst of crises, even as she has had her moments of feeling helpless and like she had nothing to offer.  I don’t remember the song we were dancing to, but I do remember feeling lighthearted.

This is Janet’s story called THE POWER OF PRAYER

The power of prayer! They call it that for a reason. It works…like a wonderful and mysterious charm. It certainly did for me.

From 2007 to early 2011, I had been dangerously depressed on and off, mostly on. All day and night long I would hear the endless, racing droning of the word ‘suicide’ in my head. This had occurred quite a number of times before, starting at age 8, when I was brutally teased. But it hadn’t ever lasted for more than a year. I never really wanted to actually do it. I had come to love life as an adult. I just wanted to stop the pain. Besides, I was terrified of what lay on the “other side” of death. Since 1984, when I found A Course in Miracles, which teaches that only love is real, I came to believe that death isn’t real. I feared being only a sickened mind floating around, possibly facing reincarnation as a fly.

This last bout of depression was the worst. I came closer to attempting suicide than ever before. When therapists asked why, there was no obvious answer. They chalked it up to Bipolar Disorder, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and Borderline Personality Disorder. They dug into my past and my relationship with my parents. They tweaked my medications repeatedly (since 1980 I’ve been on about 75% of the psyche drugs available). I voluntarily hospitalized myself many times (three times in a fourteen month period in 2008-09) and received 25 shock treatments over a six month period (2008-09). This didn’t help much, or did help only temporarily. I had tried multiple forms of natural and spiritual healing like acupuncture, reiki, and affirmations. I turned to fortune tellers, astrologers, and modalities whose names I can’t even recall. I had done the daily lessons in A Course in Miracles at least twice and even lived in community dedicated to its teachings. It’s not easy being suicidal when you view the body as an illusion (a primary message of ‘the Course’).

I was living in such constant terror that my doctor wanted to commit me to a state hospital. I feared spending the rest of my life in straight jacket, locked in a padded cell. I lied to get out of that situation. I never felt so alone, even with many loving people around me.

Then, in 2010, I started hearing another voice in my head that kept saying, “Don’t be a victim. Do something to address the issue of suicide. Use your talents to heal the problem”. I am an artist, mime and drama teacher and I knew that I could bring all of that to the mental health field, which desperately needs some lighteninging up. I called all over the country, but could not find anything for those who were suicidal, only groups for those who lost someone to suicide. I tried starting my own group online, but to no avail.

Finally, I discovered Suicide Anonymous, founded by a psychiatrist, who’d attempted suicide 7 times, before he began to pray to a Higher Power (the term for God used in Alcoholics Anonymous). As he applied the 12 Steps of A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) to his life, he healed. I was very familiar with the 12 Steps myself, having gotten clean and sober in 1987 with the help of A.A. and other 12 Step groups.

 So I started a Suicide Anonymous meeting in Philadelphia. Then I started one in Westampton, New Jersey with my husband, who’d made a suicide attempt once himself. Now, we are about to start another Suicide Anonymous meeting in Westmont, NJ. This has been such a safe haven in which to share my deepest darkest thoughts and feelings. He and I also created a workshop called, Creative Crisis Care: Taking Suicide Out of The Closet, which uses the arts and interactive exercises to approach the topic.

All of this was helping my mental health but I kept falling back into periods of extreme fear. Then one night I rolled out of bed and called out to God, “Please help me”. The next morning I felt the slightest bit better. I kept experimenting with this practice of prayer, which was relatively new in my life. One morning I awoke feeling so happy to be alive. For several months now, I’ve been really working on the first three steps of the 12 Steps, which are about establishing a constant contact with my understanding of a Higher Power.

There are infinite ways to reach a Higher Power and infinite concepts of what a Higher Power is. Sometimes for fun, I imagine myself sitting in an old diner, talking to this imaginary chef. He’s this big guy with a scraggly beard, whom I named GUS (God in Us) and he gives me spiritual advice.

For now a simple daily diet of prayer is what keeps me afloat. I recently recalled a visit to a mental hospital in 1987 for suicidal depression. I awoke every morning at 3:20 am on the dot, but was not allowed to leave the room or turn on the lights. The only thing I could think of doing was to get on my knees and pray. I’d ask God to heal me so I could help others with similar issues. Here I am, 25 years later, answering my own prayers. Now that’s the power of prayer!

If you’re interested in more information about Suicide Anonymous or her workshops and performances (she does mime pieces about mental health issues among other relevant topics, some of which appear on her Facebook page) call 856-266-0709. To find out more about Janet’s work, please visit her website at:

http://www.creativecommunicationbuilders.com and her Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Creative-Communication-Builders/190663990966459

 This is a poem that Janet wrote to express ‘the God of her understanding’ :

Face of God

By Janet Berkowitz

 

You are the face of God and you don’t even know it,

Or maybe you do but choose not to show it.

 You are as holy as the sun is bright.

You give the world your magnificent light.

 Even if it’s under a bushel,

It still shines ‘cause it’s so crucial.

 And your part in this incredible whole,

Is just as needed to heal the world’s soul.

 If you could just get it that one plus one is one,

I guarantee you’d have more fun.

 Be like the ocean, ever moving.

Keep your heart big and grooving.

 Know that I am always here,

Ready to soak up every joy and tear.

 Leap to the sky with all your might.

Feel my love holding you ever so tight.

 Love, God

 

 

Sonic Steam Bath

                                                                      Mridanga

First night of 4th of July weekend, in vacay mode, I headed down Broad Street into Center City Philly with my friend Ondreah to attend what I just knew would be an amazing evening. Combine the ingredients of kirtan, kindred spirits, drumming, dancing, Indian vegetarian cuisine all held in a yoga studio and how could it be anything other?  After a long and hectic day at work, I found myself taking deep breaths behind the wheel, as holiday weekend traffic and alternately catching and missing lights had me mildly frustrated. I reminded myself that all was in perfect flow and that we would find the ideal parking spot (rare at 15th and Sansom, for those who know the area); in my family, referred to as ‘an Uncle Jimmy spot’, since my mother’s brother Jim ALWAYS found the best spaces.  I have snagged spots where I found money next to the car…as much as $20 one time, a space in Manhattan at rush hour right in front of the door of the building I was to enter and on this night, a block away from  Center Siddhi Yoga which focuses on Bikram Yoga; created by Bikram Choudhury, founder of Yoga College of India. One of the hallmarks of this form of hatha yoga is that the room in which it is practiced in studios is heated to 105 degrees to maximize the benefits of the practice, according to those who teach it.

A few years ago, I had taken one  Bikram class and found the intensity level and temperature to be excessive. This time, I climbed the three flights of stairs, ascending to a room that already had at least 50 people sitting on the floor, on cushions and chairs and standing, attempting to be comfortable in conditions that may only have been slightly less torrid, as they immersed themselves in the music of a group of artists called The Mayapuris. I have long loved rhythm and chanting, the rocking back and forth heart beat of it all and these folks did not disappoint:) Enthusiastic performers, they offered forth their praise to the Divine  Masculine and Feminine in the form of call and response chants. Ironically, the more I danced, the cooler I felt, with sweat dripping down my body. I literally felt as if I was in a sonic steam bath. Their talents and backgrounds are multi-faceted; from hardcore punk to classic Indian flute and drumming as well as a complicated song style called konnakol or vocal percussion. I think of it as ‘drum scatting’. It sounds like jazz impov, but is quite deliberate and methodical in its tonings.

I was fascinated with the playing of the mridanga and tabla drums; wanting to learn both. They were irrepressable siren calls to this get-up-off my-butt-and-move improvisational, free form dancer. For several hours, I joined what turned out to be 60-some metaphysical movers and shakers. Some were young ‘uns in their single digits and many were in the 5th and 6th decades of life; all with one thing in common…a love of life expressed musically. Many of them I have known for years from the yoga community, some with faces for which I couldn’t attach names.

After the kirtan, which lasted beyond the set ending time, since the audience and the group were carried away by the ecstatic energy, we were invited to nourish ourselves physically with food lovingly served by Govinda’s which is a legendary Indian restaurant on South Street. Hearing the sounds of enthusiastic revelers, breathing in the aroma of the rice, veggies, tofu and seitan enhanced by sweet and spicy sauces, savoring the tastes were part and parcel of this full sensory experience.

Listening to the Mayapuris’ new CD called Mridanga, which features the same melodic magic and percussive pleasures as did their concert AND the bonus of guest artists Jai Uttal and Benjy Wertheimer,  on the way home, I re-lived the experience; having a hard time keeping my feet still while driving, so I settled for steering wheel tapping and shoulder swaying instead. Listening to their music now as I am typing this, I have the luxury of moving my feet and my happy heart. 

www.mayapuris.com

www.bikramphiladelphia.com

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