Today I was at the one year anniversary celebration of my friend Kathy Tooley’s yoga studio called Anahata Yoga and Wellness Center. The word means ‘heart chakra’ in Sanskrit and truly it is a place where glad hearts rejoice, sad hearts find comfort and broken hearts are healed. People from the community gathered to hug, play, learn about wellness techniques, experience various modalities, eat healthy munchies and listen to inpsiring speakers. I was honored to be one of them. First up was Heidi Garis who offers EFT (Tapping) and calls herself a Money Mojo specialist. This woman is all about a-bun-dance and we were all movin’ and shakin’ it to stir up our receive-ability. Next in line was my dear friend Sandy Levenson who I call my favorite chiro with hands and heart of gold who spoke about The Wellness Make CENTS concept that had us laughing knowingly:
Chiropractic: Gentle, compassionate care since 1983
Exercise: Targeted programs designed for you.
Nutrition: Recommendations to create interest and balance
Thoughts: Promoting “Create Your Reality”
Sleep: Recommendations for restful, peaceful nights
and then I shared my thoughts about Living An Amazingly Ridiculous Life, with concepts and techniques that allow us to experience our joy full out. One such person who exemplifies that idea is Septugenarian Mary Dunphy who teaches yoga at Anahata. I met her a few months ago and was dazzled by her contagious enthusiam for the practice. She shared a story with me that I would love to pass on to you, with her permission. When she was a little girl, she was expected to ‘be a lady’; admonished by her mother if she attempted to be anything other; who was not allowed to splash in puddles (and likely not get dirty either): She felt constrained by those expectations which is hard to imagine when looking at the woman she has become. A few years ago, she walked into a local department store and saw what she described as beautiful, candy striped rubber boots in size 6 that were on sale; which only added to her delight and she knew she just HAD to bring them home with her. She donned them during the next rain storm and splashed about; looking heavenward and said “This is for you, Mom.” I wish she had them with her today, but instead was wearing her yellow Keen sandal sneakers. I would love to get together with her for a puddle party, even though I don’t have way cool boots like hers. Guess I’ll have to do it barefoot.
http://youtu.be/D1ZYhVpdXbQ Singing in the Rain-Gene Kelly
What do you do when you place a call to the Universe and it answers? Do you short circuit the cosmic connection or do you listen and take dictation? Good thing for the world that Renaissance Woman, Carol Woodliff did the latter. This trained hypnotherapist, shaman (she studied with The Four Winds Society, founded by Alberto Villoldo) , teacher, author and healer allowed herself to be the hollow reed through which the music of Spirit played. Her book, entitled From Scared To Sacred is an open door through which she walked and invites the reader to do the same. First she needed to de-sensationalize the idea that she was receiving messages that she was instructed to document. “You want me to do what?” was her initial response. Her comfort level throughout this process varied and she came to trust what she called The Voice. Not once did it guide her to do anything that wasn’t loving and helpful for herself and those with whom she shared the wisdom it was espousing. Coming from a mainstream background of working in a law firm, this stretched her comfort zones all the more.
Humor is generously sprinkled throughout. I particularly giggled at her reference to ‘the inner marshmallow’; “the soft, sweet, tender place inside” and mis-hearing the words to The Lord’s Prayer (as do many children) and visualizing A God Named Art (“Our Father Who is Art in Heaven.”).
She explores topics such as fear, lying, triggers to emotional upheaval, seeing the world and people in it through the eyes of love, as well as coping with her mother’s illness and subsequent death. This was the experience that touched me the most deeply, since I took the hospice journey with my mother in 2010 and the ways in which Woodliff described the interactions mirrored some of my own toward the end of my mom’s earthly incarnation. Tears and goosebumps were my visceral response as my memories came rushing to the surface.
There is eloquence woven within each chapter and she invites the reader to engage in inner dialogue with inquiry questions completing each one. She admits that she doesn’t “live consciously in the sacred 100% of the time.” and assures the reader that she is fully human as well; dancing with the divine on a moment to moment basis. This book plays the music of her soul and perhaps yours as well.
I received a thought provoking email a few days ago from someone I don’t know personally. First is her comment, followed by my response: ” Dear Rev. Weinstein: It sounds as if you are of Jewish ancestry. If so, I feel it is sad that you possibly felt the need to give up on your own rich religious tradition where you might have found what you are looking for if you tried harder. Another BuJew?”
My answer: “No, I haven’t given anything up. I was raised Jewish with parents who encouraged learning about other traditions. I went to Hebrew school until I was 16, became a Bat Mitzvah at 13, studied various faiths in college. I was ordained as an interfaith minister via The New Seminary in NYC in 1999, which was founded by a ‘modern Hassidic rabbi’ named Joseph Gelberman, as well as a minister, a priest and imam. The motto of the school is “Never instead of, always in addition to.” When I told my parents I was enrolling, my mother said “I have one question for you. Are you converting?” I told her “No, I’m expanding.” She said “Ok.” and she and my father flew up from Florida for my ordination. When my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, I officiated at a vow renewal ceremony for them and when they each died, I officiated at their funerals, with their full consent. My mother would jokingly call me her “Reverend Daughter”. I say that Love is my religion and God is too big to put in a box.” Hopefully that answers your thoughts. Judaism is a rich culture and so are the others in which I immerse myself. I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe spritually.”
I posted this interchange on my facebook page and was overwhelmed by how many people responded-52 at this point and it generated some amazing conversation about the nature of people’s spiritual beliefs. I have never received so many thumbs up ‘likes’ on anything else I have posted-nearly 100 at last count. What that tells me is that this aspect of existence looms large in the lives of so many. We may go about our day to day, not really thinking about our Divine nature and connection to our Source, whatever we might believe it to be. If you are like me, it is nearly all you ponder. Having said that, please know that I’m not walking around with my head in the clouds all day. Like one of my favorite transformational teachers, Ram Dass was quoted as saying “You still have to remember your zip code.”…and I do, along with a gazillion other life details.
Some of the answers explained their own religious beliefs and others were of a protective nature of my belief system. Here is a random sampling:
“I look at religious-based spirituality as a room with glass walls. Some feel they benefit from focusing on a specific tradition, while others may not. But it doesn’t have to mean you think yours is the only way, or that you can’t expand your boundaries with knowledge of other paths. I’ve found equal spiritual awareness in folks in and out of the traditions — also equal bigotry towards those making other choices.”
“Labels are so dividing. I wonder if she is willing to see that the very hatred that has caused so much suffering for the Jewish people came from exactly the same thinking? I feel the same way about being an “American”. I prefer to identify as an Earthling.”
“Good for you responding to an ignorant person with love.”
“All Humans would benefit from this “expanded” view and would stop killing each other over whose “view” is “better” or “correct”. I know God, The Creator, Higher Power, Buddha, etc, does not say “kill all others that do not believe I am the only way” – this is a human construct. And this EGO CENTERED HUMAN CONSTRUCT is killing off a large number of us in the name of RELIGION. How about acceptance and tolerance, y’all!!”
“I especially appreciate the idea of expanding rather than converting. Even though I was raised Episcopalian, I never had anything against the church. When I started studying/creating my own nature-focused spirituality I felt like I was expanding more than I felt like I was converting. I never denounced God or Jesus, and have no desire to. Maybe that’s why it was so easy to stand as my nephew’s godmother in the Catholic church even as a “pagan”
“People ask me the same thing as a Unitarian..I also tell them I did not give up being Jewish but added to my religious identity..I am a JewUU.”
“I refer to myself as “spiritually eclectic”.
“Beautiful answer, Edie and I admire your willingness to address what many of us today, may be questioned about. One of the joys of being with like-minded members of a univeral humanity is the ability to accept and embrace the value of all cultures and religions.”
“Love your response. As I rabbi, I feel that religion continues to divide us. How can we ever have world peace when we have the “mine’s better than yours” mentality. In the spiritual world, where we recognize that we are all ONE, all created with the breath of God, all co-creators with the Divine – then we can gather in global peace. I was ordained by Joseph Gelberman who truly taught inclusion — Never Instead of, Always in Addition To. I love my Jewishness but I practice now as an interfaith Trauma Chaplain where we all connect with One God, One World, One Community.”
I thank this woman who I may never meet face to face, but if I do, I will ask to hug her in gratitude for starting this Divine dialogue.
One of my favorite songs by Michael Franti has this lovely line “God’s too big for just one religion.”
http://youtu.be/xb-VN88MHL8 East To The West-Michael Franti
Lately the line has been ringing off the hook with calls from the Universe that send tingles down my spine, buzzing in my ears, rattling in my bones (in a good way), hair standing on end, and goosebumps on my arms which I refer to as my ‘truth barometer’. I laugh when I wonder why I should be surprised since I asked for the calls to come in. When we issue an invitation to the Universe, why would we not expect a response? They arrive at all hours of the day and night which is why sleep has been sketchy and sporadic and dreams have been vivid and profound. Once upon a time, these cosmic coincidences would have been accompanied by the theme song from The Twilight Zone and now they are just an ‘of course’.
The spirit calls have come in the form of invitations to travel and teach about life, the universe and everything, lessons in loving and letting go, in surrendering expectation for outcome, and being comfortable in my own skin, no matter what skin I’m in. These days I am making choices, not by default, but with conviction of the heart that all is well. Today I was filling my role as a therapist facilitating a group for folks who are in recovery from addiction. The concensus was that in order to maintain sobriety, they needed to KNOW that they are totally supported by the God of their understanding and that they have survived every challenge, trauma, issue and dark night of the soul through which they have trudged. Some thrive on chaos, some require fastidious order. In 12 step program, we speak of GOD as Good Orderly Direction that guides us through the muck and mire.
How will you respond to the Cosmic Call? Will you answer or tell it ‘no one’s home’?
http://youtu.be/9qdKZBXMX5E My Sweet Lord by George Harrison