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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Workin’ It

                                                                                                   
I met Renaissance Woman Nan Cardella more than 10 years ago through mutual friends and was impressed by her eclectic blend of the mainstream and spiritual; they ways she moved through life, seemingly knowing that the Highest Good would prevail. I enjoyed hanging out with friends she gathered around her, making music, splashing in her pool. I have observed her deep inner journey from the outside and have been delighted to see her blossoming as she has studied The Work of Byron Katie and now offers classes that bring it to our community.
According to the website: “The Work of Byron Katie is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the fear, violence, depression, frustration, and suffering in the world. Experience the happiness of undoing those thoughts through The Work, and allow your mind to return to its true, awakened, peaceful, creative nature.”
How do you live your bliss?

I’ve found that simple things are increasing in pleasure for me. I’ve spent many years “doing”. What this looked like for me was a lot of travel, study, achieving this and that certification. Today I’ve found the peace of mind to be still. To stroll my beautiful gardens. To connect with my husband in a way I was not able to in the past. It also looks like a clear distinction between what is and is not my responsibility in this world. For me this opens the door for being really comfortable in my own skin no matter what is happening outside of me. And if I am troubled with things outside I have the tools to bring it back to self, reflect, learn, and move on lighter and happier than when I began.

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You are an eclectic blend of left brain, linear logical engineer and right brain, creative healer and spiritual teacher. How do you balance those seemingly disparate worlds?

My spiritual pursuits have made me a better engineer and my engineering mind has helped keep me grounded and highly functioning. The balance actually comes naturally. It’s simply how I’m wired. I joke about being a “recovering engineer” having spent the last 10 years cultivating non-linear abilities. I have had fears come up that as I progress in The Work  I’ll lose some of my analytical abilities. The opposite has happened. What I notice is that I operate more intuitively in all areas of my life, judge myself less, and in general am more productive and have more fun.

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How did The Work of Byron Katie find you?

A friend mentioned the book “Loving What Is” and I resonated with the title and knew I needed to get the book. I quickly began applying the process, taking pen to paper and asking myself the 4 questions. After a year or so I was searching for a retreat on relationships and I found Byron Katie was teaching in Washington DC. I’ll never forget the sense of excitement I had before she arrived on stage. I think a part of me knew this was going to be big.  I attended my first school for The Work shortly after (spring 2007), and spent the next 4 years sitting with Katie as much as I possibly could.

In simple terms, how would you describe it?

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The work is a simple process of identifying and questioning your stressful beliefs. All that is required is an open mind.

Why is the inquiry so powerful?

In my experience it corrects my misperceptions and allows me to see a kinder world. It opens the door to inform me of something other than what I though was there. There is a quote from A Course in Miracles that says: “Forgiveness is realizing what you thought happened didn’t”. I never understood this until practicing The Work for a time. Now I know it to be true.

What do you think has us resisting ‘what is’?

Our tightly held beliefs and unwillingness to open to other truths.

What life changes have you witnessed for yourself and others?

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In a word: Peace. It’s then end of war within myself and as a result the end of war in my world.

www.thework.com The Work of Byron Katie

To learn about upcoming events for The Work of Byron Katie in the Philadelphia area at the Temenos Retreat Center: http://www.temenosretreat.org/programs.html

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The Outer Reflects The Inner

 

I found this quote by author and speaker Debbie Ford and it sparked a conversation in my head, into which I would like to invite you: “Look to the outer tasks that you want to accomplish this year and ask yourself, “What kind of person could easily accomplish this? What qualities would they possess?”

My response to Debbie’s query: “One with imagination, creativity, stick-to-it-ive-ness, courage to take leaps of faith each day, a certainty that she is on the right path, a willingness to ask for, receive and offer mutual support and encouragement and gratitude for her life.”

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I am a cosummate list maker…gotta be, since there are so many tasks to accomplish in my busy-buzzy day with the various hats I wear.  In any given 24 hour period, I serve in a psychiatric hospital as a social worker; I am a journalist with deadlines to meet, a motivational speaker with gigs to schedule and promote, an author, with a book to support, a minister with weddings to write and officiate, a mother with an adult son  who still needs ‘momming’ at times, a health conscious 53 year old who makes getting to the gym for my regular playouts a priority,  a sister and aunt  who is now the ‘family matriarch’ since my mom passed in 2010,  a householder with rooms to clean, laundry and dishes to wash, grocery shopping to do, bills to pay, a friend with kindred spirits with whom I connect….a lover of life in all fullness. I have many irons in the fire, cakes in the oven, books in my mind, creative projects blooming that I sometimes wonder how I keep my head attached to my shoulders and remember my own name and address and where I parked the Jeep(:  Although I prefer to refrain from programming the effects of aging, in the past few years, words have escaped my grasp from time to time and things I would have instantly recalled, such as names, song lyrics and where I met someone, have dwindled into the recesses of my full to overflowing mental hard drive.

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Having these priorities keeps me on track and yes, there are times when things slip through the cracks. As I look at Debbie’s quote again…the word ‘easily’ leaps out at me. For so long, I had the erroneous belief that things had to be challenging and so I unconsciouly set them up that way. As a Type A, co-dependent, over-achiever, I had thought that putting ‘effort’ into activities somehow made them more fulfilling once accomplished. These days, I go into most endeavors with a get it done mentality, tinged with magic and sparkled with faerie dust so as to make them funner and flowing with grace. I love checking off items from my ever growing list of wonders. When I approach anything with a joyful heart, all manner of serendipity shows up to respond to my invitation to the Universe.

Take a good look at the man or woman in the mirror and smile at the miracle you are.

http://youtu.be/-A9j48ZPKMA Man in The Mirror written and sung by Siedah Garrett and the Agape Choir

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Walking Each Other Home

“We’re all just walking each other home.”-Ram Dass

On March 27, 1924 a child was born to Henrietta and Edward Hirsch. Her name was Selma Rose and in the midst of a large extended family, which included an adoring older brother Jim, as well as 12 aunts and uncles on her mother’s side alone, she thrived. She used to tell me that she was shy around new people because as a child, her playmates were mostly my uncle and her many cousins. They all lived within a a few block radius in Philadelphia and would spend many summers at the Jersey shore in a rented house where marathon Monopoly games would ensue. My mother was a devoted daughter who, after her own father died when she was 18, lived together with my grandmother until her death right after my 4th birthday. When my parents married in 1956, my dad moved into the house in which my mother had been raised. In 1961, a  year and a half after I was born in 1958, the four of us moved to the New Jersey suburb of Willingboro. My father used to say “I didn’t move in with them, she didn’t move in with us, we all lived together.” They had an atypical in-law relationship. She was involved, but but not invasive, offering mother love, but not smother love.  When she passed, she left a space, but not a gaping hole. My parents held her in memory and would invoke her name and example, as if this ‘third parent’ was still a presence in many ways. As my mother aged, I saw more of my grandmother in her and would marvel at some of the stories she shared about my “Giggie” (since I couldn’t pronounce grandma, or anything sounding remotely like it and the name stuck:).  Even the neighborhood kids referred to her that way. The first time I visited my mother in the hospital less than a year before she died, I saw her as a vision of  my grandmother lying in the bed, with oxygen and all the healing accoutrement surrounding her.

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I have precious memories of my second day of kindergarten, when my mother walked me almost all of the way there. It was only four blocks from 123 Pheasant Lane to the Pennypacker Park Elementary School and on the first day, she accompanied me door to door. On day two, she walked me to the end of the street, or so I thought. Later, she told me that she stayed far enough behind, so that I didn’t see that she really followed me to the school, so I would feel like a ‘big kid’ and she could still be sure that I arrived safely. On day three, I was flying solo!  And so it was throughout my life. She remained close enough for support if need be and yet, unobtrusive and non-interfering. Yes, she kvelled (Yiddish for bursting with pride) at the successes of my sister Jan and me and yet, didn’t take credit for them. She and my dad encouraged excellence in all we did, but didn’t push. We were both competitive swimmers and she always told us that once it stopped being fun, we weren’t going to do it anymore. It never stopped being fun and I was on a team from ages  11-18 and then coached for three summers that followed.

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She encouraged me to follow my dreams, and in many ways, helped to shape the creative aspirations of the woman whose words you are now reading. She fed us books as if they were just as vital a form of nourishment as food, affection, praise and guidance. We were surrounded by word-wisdom and the library felt like a toy store to me, a magical place where a library card was a key to a treasure trove. She would take us there each week for story hour and to bring home stacks of books that I zipped through, hungry for more. She would read to us and we to her.

In the last few months of her life, I once again resumed that ritual, except I was the one entertaining her by reading cards and letters friends and family sent to her, as well as chapters from my then-book-in-process. She did alot of kvelling then and reminded me that she would have enjoyed them even if she wasn’t my mother. That was high praise for sure.  She loved to sing and her favorite which became mine was Nature Boy, sung by Nat King Cole. In the last few years of her earthly incarnation, we would often sing it to each other.

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Tomorrow, as I celebrate her 88th birthday…not sure exactly how I will honor her memory, I am beyond grateful to have been born to her and my father (pictured on their dream trip to Israel). Recently my son Adam and I watched family videos from my childhood and I marveled at how young and beautiful she had been and in more recent images, how she had aged well and was lovely still. Adam had shot a mini-video of her wheeling her way on her walker through the hallway in her Ft. Lauderdale condo the summer before her passing. It is the only recording I have of her voice and as he saw what I was typing, he encouraged me to watch it again. It took less than a minute, but it was just enough to bring on a tearful trickle and wistful smile. Although I was not with her when she passed, on November 26, 2010,  I felt that, just as she had walked me to school, I was indeed walking her Home,  watching from a few steps behind.

Happy Birthday, Mama-cakes!

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

http://youtu.be/-_m0etqUNg0 Nature Boy

 

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Sharon Katz and The Peace Train

                                                                                                                        
I have known Sharon Katz, for likely the last decade and am re-energized whenever I am in her presence. She of the fire-y red hair and the passionate persona, for music that speaks from the heart and to the heart of peace and social justice. An aural activist, Sharon lives in both in South Africa and Philadelphia. Her group called Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, entertains, educates and joins hearts and hands world-wide.
How do you live your bliss?
My bliss is about being thankful for what I have.  I remind myself each time I wake up that I’m alive and to be present in the moment.  Then there is the knowledge of my mission to make a difference in people’s lives through the music that I play.  And playing the music itself.  What could be more blissful?
Please speak about the journey you took from your homeland of South Africa to being a world citizen.
As a teenager I traveled illegally to Black townships near my home town of Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay!) to visit my actor friends who were working with Athol Fugard.  I first left South Africa in 1978 to go and live in Lesotho where I lived and worked in remote village for a year and I gathered so many wonderful songs, singing with children daily.  I later traveled to the United States in 1981 to study music therapy in Philadelphia returning to South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.  It was then that I started The Peace Train musical production and mounted a 500 voice multicultural childrens choir to herald in the new non racial Democratic South Africa.  Then in 1993 we traveled around the country with the children and the band for two weeks and that was the original legendary Peace Train Tour.  After that tour I traveled South Africa, West Africa, the Middle East and United States for many years with The Peace Train and around 2000 formed a band here in the USA.  It’s been a journey ever since with tours, performances and workshops around the world and back to South Africa constantly.  It’s nice to think about myself as a world citizen because I feel that my message of peace and reconciliation is one that is very important for the world to hear. But my journey from my homeland always takes me back to my homeland and that is my joy.  I’m a truly proud South African and counting down the days for when I will be home again soon!
How does music feed your soul?
My soul IS music and music IS my soul.  The one cannot exist without the other.  Music is my life force.  It is the act of self expression that ignites a spark within me and through that spark I can light a fire in another soul.  Whether it’s a classroom of young people or thousands of people in a stadium or a hundred people at a house concert.  Also listening to music and watching others that I admire in performance – that is a wonderful treat and can inspire me for weeks and months.
What power does it have to transcend language and politics?
Transcending language is easy because music is a language.  I’m amazed that when I sing in Zulu or any other South African language, people “get it” through the rhythm and the harmonies and you’ll see people jumping up to dance and participate.  Music is a spiritual force and energy and thus it transcends everything including politics.  However in my opinion music has the power to unite people and as we saw in South Africa my home, music was the force that gave us hope and enabled the masses of oppressed people in my country to have the strength to resist the evil regime and survive.  In that sense music transcends politics because it is above and beyond politics and has the power to reach into the human spirit to keep that spirit alive.
I love your interactive concerts during which you can’t help but sing and dance along. What is like for you to be on stage and watch your audience perform as well?
Now you make me smile Edie!  Because this is the most fantastic thing I can ever experience.  When you see that you are creating joy you can feel nothing but elation.  I always feel that I was given a gift and that I’m very blessed and honored to be using that gift to make people happy.
How can people ‘jump aboard’ the Peace Train?
Jumping aboard means coming to a concert to feel the spirit and hear the music.  People who have gone to Peace Train concerts say that our concerts are an experience and an encounter.  When you are there in person you can understand what we are singing about which is really about unity and togetherness as members of the human race.  We use South Africa and Nelson Mandela as examples of human beings abilities to put aside what happened in the past and move forward with forgiveness and joy into the future.  Jumping aboard can also mean coming with us to visit South Africa which we do annually with a group of about 20 friends and fans.  In fact we have a tour going to South Africa from the US departing on August 7th and there are still a few slots open!  People should contact me at SharonKatz2000@aol.com if they want to come on the trip.  OR better still come and see us at World Cafe Live on April 29th and meet us in person!
I would love for you to let our readers know about the amazing fundraiser project in which you are engaged that will be happening in Philadelphia on April 29th.
Oh YES!  We have a fantastic fundraising event taking place at World Cafe Live on Sunday April 29th. Its a noon concert, dance party, HOT LUNCH, with The Peace Train incredible new all female band, and special musical guests including childrens choirs! It’s a fundraiser for children who have so little in South Africa and many of whom have lost their parents to HIV and AIDS and some of whom live in child headed households.  We completed building a school in one of the poorest areas of South Africa with the help of audience members who came to our concerts. Now we need to buy books and beds for some of the neediest children.  So please do come out and party with The Peace Train for a wonderful cause.  We’ll also show some slides so you can see what our work is all about.
Tickets are $50 which can either be purchased by sending a tax deductible check to Friends of The Peace Train, 7207 Bryan Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119 or by buying tickets directly from World Cafe Live at worldcafelive.com
Band Photo:
Left to Right:
Lee-Sa Dawn Robinson (drums); Lynn Riley (saxophone) Wendy Quick (vocals, dance) Sharon Katz (vocals, guitar) Monnette Sudler (bass)
http://youtu.be/9sAfjDlh2B0  Jikele Maweni Siyahamba by Joe Mogotsi performed by Sharon Katz and The Peace Train
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