I saw this cartoon today and it gave me a chuckle since I use the term ‘spiritual amnesia’ to describe blessedly brief moments of Forgetting that Everything is All Right which is actually an acroynm for the word FEAR. How does that work, I wonder? It seems that I (and maybe you too), get caught up in how I think things should be and how other people oughta act. When they aren’t that way, I have a few choices. I can wonder what’s wrong with this picture or what’s right about it. It’s so easy to find fault, but so much more pleasurable to find contentment and cooperation. When in doubt, go for a win-win. Times when I become spiritually amnesiac also look like worry that that my needs won’t be taken care of. How silly is that? I remind myself that I have survived everything that has ever happened in my life, since I am here to tell about it. That includes loss, death, illness, injury, robbery, accidents, losing a home in Hurricane Andrew, raising a child solo after being widowed, and working in a challenging and sometime dangerous setting. I would bet that if you look at your own life, you will shake your head in amazement at what you have made it through and wonder what got you through it all. For me, it was the 3 f’s of faith, family and friends and I’m grateful for them all.
Messages from Spirit (again, whatever that means for you) come in the form of dreams, animal messengers, literal messages in the form of words that show up in meditation, song lyrics, calls from friends….open to receiving their guidance. I look at many of my life experiences as the Nestea Plunge in which I fall backward, trusting that I will be safely caught and held. When I question, the answer I get is “Have I ever dropped you? Have things ever not turned out even better than you, with your over the top vivid imagination could have conjured?” and I have to laugh and then sigh and then agree. And so it is…
http://youtu.be/fN5l-52LQRc Bhaya Naash Mantra (Sanskrit Mantra For Overcoming Fear -Durga Devi Mantra) sung by Jitender Singh
One of my favorite shows from the 1990’s is Northern Exposure. The town of Cicily, Alaska is inhabited by quirky and delightful characters ranging from a New York City born and bred, Columbia University educated doctor who received his schooling via a scholarship from the state of Alaska and his agreement was that he go there to serve as a physician to pay off the debt, to a female pilot who dropped in from Michigan who has outrageously bad luck with boyfriends who die under weird circumstances, with whom he has a love/hate relationship, from a radio D.J. philosopher to a grandiose retired astronaut who owns most of the town. The two Cicilians I am shining the spotlight on in the Bliss Blog today are Ed Chigliak and Ruthanne Miller. Ed is a 20-something year old young man abandoned at birth and raised by the native tribe in the region. An aspiring filmaker and Shaman in training, he is simultaneously naive and wise; always searching for his roots and wings. Ruthanne is the older woman who runs the town’s general store. A transplant from somewhere in the ‘lower forty eight’, she had made Cicily her home for the past 30 years or more. Feisty, with a vibrance that belies her age, she is determined to remain fiercly independent. Ruthanne has just turned 75 and to Ed’s dismay, he comes to the conclusion that his friend is really old and knocking on death’s door. He attempts to protect her from herself and ends up realizing that she has a full, rich life left.
He is puzzled about a birthday present for her and finally comes up with a ‘gift that keeps on giving.’ At her birthday party, he hands her a jar of soil and tells her that it is only a part of her gift. He then takes her to a majestic spot high in the mountains, overlooking a spectacular vista. “This is it.”, he informs her. “What, Ed,” Ruthanne replies. “Well, not all of it. Just from here to here,” he points out a plot approximately six foot by six foot. He hesitantly continues, “It’s a place for your gravesite. Do you like it?” After considering several responses, Ruthanne answers “Well, yes Ed, it’s a lovely spot to spend eternity. Now what shall we do?” Ed looks confused and then answers her, “What do you want to do?” A twinkle forms in her eyes and she says with playfulness., “Dance on my grave. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, wouldn’t you say?.” Together they dance with abandon.
Everyday we are called on to step out of our comfort zones and expand our horizons. How often do we answer the call? We may fret about our limitations as Ed did. We may celebrate our experience and age as Ruthanne did. When in doubt…..dance~
http://youtu.be/LEU2gCSQ7jY Northern Exposure
A few years ago, I awoke from a rather strange and quite graphic dream in which I was still attending The New Seminary in NYC, studying to be an interfaith minister. In the waking world, I had already graduated years earlier. The setting was unfamiliar; not the sun drenched, tall windowed classroom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan I was accustomed to. The class was given an assignment, to create a special project that would symbolize who we were and wanted to show to the world once we were ordained. I was delighted with my creation and eagerly carried it to the dean, Reverend Diane Berke. In my outstretched hands, I held a heart shaped box. She opened it and inside beheld a pink silken heart. How it dazzled and shone, reflecting the emmanations of love. She reached in to lift it from the box and her hands dropped as if holding a great weight. With a dismayed look on her face, she handed it back to me and said, “Although this heart is certainly beautiful and reflective of who you are, it is very heavy. Please go back and work on it some more. When it’s lighter, bring it back to me.” I placed the hefty heart back in its box and turned to walk away. At that point, I awoke, with a sense of what the dream was wanting to communicate. Diane, playing the role of my inner wisdom, was attempting to inform me that regardless of what image I intend to put forth, what will truly shine through is the lightness or heaviness of my heart. I know that my own grief process with the passing of my husband in 1998 (which is what led me to become ordained in 1999) and the subsequent deaths of my parents (dad in 2008 and mom in 2010) may take awhile to move through and I need to be patient with myself, rather than doing what I have been inclined to do throughout the process, which is to rush through in the illusory service of keepin’ on keepin’ on and getting things done, lest the world stop spinning.
Today I was having lunch with a dear friend who I have known for a little more than 8 years. He has seen me through some emotional roller coaster rides and has even taken some of them with me; sometimes with seat belt fastened, sometimes with arms in the air, screaming both in joy and ‘holy shit terror’. I was sharing with him that since my mother’s death, I have felt a bit shut down emotionally. I used the phrase that I often do when describing my ongoing relationship with my parents, that “They raised me to be able to live without them.” He offered a somewhat sad and supportive smile and responded with something like it takes awhile to settle into the awareness of the loss or to integrate it. I told him that I have been cleaning out the room in my house for the past few days that holds their belongings and mine that I haven’t seen for a few years. Taking a trip down memory lane has been both fun and painful. Personal inquiry time as I look at photos of the 30-40 something year old woman who lived so many years as a (internally) raving co-dependent; not allowing the anger to surface often for fear of disapproval. Heavy heart ingredient for sure. Lately I have been having difficulty sleeping, with even more intense and vividly distressing dreams, being tossed and turned by gremlin-y thoughts, unresolved anger-it’s-not-fair-itis. Letting go over and over, of past gunk and junk that I have allowed to hold me back. I could literally feel the blood pulsing in my head with each distressing thought. Used reiki to soothe it back down and stabilize my heart rhythm. Our hearts are more than muscle, vein and blood. We have come to recognize them as a piece of our souls. I know that with each tear shed and each memory I allow to spring forth from the room marked OFF LIMITS, my heart lightens.
http://youtu.be/m0TfR9mgOiU Heartlight by Neil Diamond
Yesterday I spent many hours cleaning, clearing, purging, shredding, stacking, sorting, filing, excercising (by hauling away junk) and exorcising gremlins from the past. There is a room in my house that has become a repository for memory; some treasured, others I have avoided as fastidiously as I have steered clear of moving through all of that stuff. Although a few piles and boxes of items belonged to my parents, both of whom passed in the last few years, most of it was connected with a magazine that my husband Michael and I published from 1988-1998, called Visions. Based in the Philadelphia area initially and then moved down to South Florida when we did in 1990, it focused on wellness, spirituality, transformation, environmental concerns and peace and social justice. Over the years, a host of wonderful writers offered their talents and dedicated advertisers promoted their businesses with us. We could not have sustained the magazine without such a team.
Alan Cohen, Andrew Weil, Bella Abzug, Ben & Jerry, Bernie Siegel, Cris Williamson, Dean Ornish, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Grover Washington, Jr., Holly Near, Jack Canfield, Joan Borysenko, Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, Olympia Dukakis, Ram Dass, Richard Bach, SARK, Shirley MacLaine, Wayne Dyer and Wally (Famous) Amos were among the transformational teachers/musicians/artists/entrepreneurs and politicians who graced the covers over the years. It was my joy to speak with these notables and yet there were times when I didn’t recognize my own talents in the process; it hadn’t occurred to me at the time what a win-win it was for all of us, since the interviews helped to spread the word about their important work. As I turned page after page of the publication, taking a magical mystery tour of the 80’s and 90’s, I was able to, at times, step back and dis-connect myself from the fact that these were my words in the interviews and the publisher’s message, and think “This woman knows how to write. She’s going places.” In retrospect, I can see how the seeds were planted for my current writing, including this blog; so similar was the style even then. Would that I had been able to see myself that way all those years ago, since this creation was also a breeding ground for many of the insecurities I faced then. I saw that the magazine was the best and worst thing that happened in my marriage, since although it provided us with a creative outlet and an income for a decade, it was also a source of conflict, since Michael was the left brain, linear-logical business minded partner and I was the right brain, somewhat airy fairy cosmic foo foo partner. Our ideas for the ways in which the business ought to be managed, were sometimes at odds. I felt wimpy at times, wavering when it would have benefitted us for me to stand firm, looking for creative solutions, rather than being paralyzed by problems.
As I look at this photo, which was in honor of the 10th anniversary of the publication, we didn’t know at the time that it would also be our last hurrah. Six years earlier (1992), we were living in South Florida and Michael was diagnosed with Hep C; the same year I survived an ectopic pregnancy and we lost our home to Hurricane Andrew in Homestead. Fast forward to 1998 and I needed to take charge and eventually we needed to make the decision to sell the publication to a friend who ran it for 7 years and then he sold it. It is now called New Visions and although I am not involved in it, I see it as my ‘great grandchild’ out there in the world and am proud that we planted the seeds that have blossomed beautifully.
As I gaze lovingly at this photo, I remember the day it was taken. We wanted something Annie Liebovitz-esque; ala’ her image of Whoopie Goldberg in a bathtub of milk. We opted for a tub filled with magazines; although what you don’t see are the pillows and towels beneath them, since that many layers of magazines would have been too heavy. I still remember our photographer friend, perched on a ladder, taking aeriel shots. What is also not evident was that this was a challenging day, since Michael was in a great deal of pain behind that smile. Six months later, Michael himself was aeriel, as he passed on December 21, 1998. As I come up on the 14th anniversary, I am letting go, letting go, letting go of all that kept me tethered to the past in unhealthy ways and am dancing forth into my new life.
I can now have compassion for the hair down to her waist waif who so feared rocking the boat, making waves, disturbing the peace and who would go along to get along, and see that in many ways, she was the ancestor to the assertive, confident (most of the time) and creative conscious entrepreneur who is now writing this missive. I am making peace with my past, forgiving what I have steadfastly clung to, remembering the 3 F’s (faith, family and friends) that got me through these experiences and I can now claim the title of visionary.