On Friday night, I joined a group of 50-something women that refer to ourselves Yoga Chicks, at the sweet little haven of a studio called Anahata Yoga in Harleysville, PA. The sanskrit word anahata is the name for the heart chakra; that place within us that resonates with love and compassion. We gathered for an evening (and some stayed over) of laughter and play, silliness and snacks…hummus and veggies, decadent brownies and organic greens, tea and multi-grain crackers, dark chocolate truffles and olives…what a combination, just like us…sweet and salty. Married, widowed, divorced, some moms, all with mothering instincts, with accumulated wisdom and life experience that we willingly share with the world. Creative types all, exhibiting audaciousness that has had us thrive in the face of some pretty major challenges. We value our connections with women and for months had been planning a time removed temporarily from daily responsibility and remembering what it was like to be giggly teenagers. The daughter of one of the women asked if we were going to stay up, ‘talking about boys’. She answered that we probably would and we did. The subject matter, as we sprawled on the hardwood floor scattered with colorful bolsters and yoga mats and blankets, ranged from relationships and sex, to children and careers, body image and self esteem, yoga, passions and pursuits, what we would do if we won the mega millions lottery, doing angel card readings with a Doreen Virtue deck, and a game that most of us had played at slumber parties in our youth. Nope, not ‘truth or dare’, since it would have been way too easy with this group in which there is likely not to be TMI (too much information). We played Light As A Feather, in which someone lays down in the middle of the group with the others around her, with two fingers each underneath the person at different points. Attempting to lift her, very little movement takes place. One by one, each woman said that words “She looks light as a feather.” and then “She feels light as a feather.”, followed by “She is light as a feather.” and finally “Let us lift her.” Each time, with the barest of a touch, the woman in the middle was raised up to 6 inches or so off the mat. That was so, regardless of body size.
It felt heavenly, to be levitated through the merging into group consciousness and a sense of lightness that permeated my body. To what do I attribute this phenom? Our thoughts are so powerful and we can be open to suggestion. It is much like an experience I had when at 30 years of age, I did a firewalk. Logic would dictate that walking across hot coals, would leave scorches on the soles of my feet. Not so, as I walked twice with nary an ouch.
How many times a day do I forget how tapped in I am to experiences and people around me? Only a gazillion times, do I immerse myself in emotional distress; but fortunately only shortly until I shift gears and lift my thoughts and feelings to higher place. What areas of your life call out for lightening up?
Wishing you light as a feather life experiences as you celebrate your relationships with your cherished friends.
http://youtu.be/h4tNFPXjNB0 Women Honoring Song by Deva Troy
When Godspell debuted in the 1970’s, the theme was ancient, but the production was of its time….with a colorful cast of hippie-esque singers and dancers in celebration around Jesus. Quite ‘Woodstock era’ in costume and make-up with the central character opening hearts through parable and by example of love and light with (if memory serves) a heart embellishing his face. Based on the Gospel According to Matthew, the play which was made into a movie in 1973, winds its way through the last days of Jesus. The songs were written by the amazing then 23 year old Stephen Schwartz who would later go on to pen music for Wicked. Clearly he was ‘defying gravity’ with both musicals.
This past weekend, I travelled to New York to see the latest Broadway version at the Circle in the Square theater with my friend Barb. The last time I saw a performance in the round was at the long gone Valley Forge Music Theater, so this was a treat. The stage was bare, except for a ladder and an open panel from which water was gently bubbling. Anticipation mounted. I had, with delight, watched the movie version of the play whose name is connected with the word ‘gospel’ which translates to ‘good word’. To frame this experience for you….I was raised in a Jewish home, attending Hebrew School until age 16 and the Jesus who is portrayed here was not part of my paradigm. I was curious and my parents encouraged my exploration, allowing me to go to church with friends, but was reminded that our family’s beliefs and practice were different. As I watched the movie and also productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, throughout my life, I was (and still am) puzzled by the concept of blaming humans for the crucifiction of Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemene, he is in dialogue with God and agrees, if reluctantly, to die. In Godspell, Jesus speaks of the prophecy of the ending of his corporeal existence. The historical Jesus was a practicing Jew and called Rabbi by his disciples, so again, it is at odds with anti-semitism in the name of One who came to teach peace and love. When I began studying A Course in Miracles in the 1980’s, I had persistant headaches, because it felt like it flew in the face of my upbringing. It wasn’t until I recognized the compatability of the loving words of Jesus that encouraged open hearted acceptance, trust in the God of my understanding; the perception of which has undergone major metamorphosis over the years, that the headaches dissipated. When I became an interfaith minister in 1999; ordained through The New Seminary in New York, I embraced the teachings without the ‘hellfire and brimstone’ attitude that sadly accompanies some beliefs held by people who claim to be followers of the teachings. Nothing I have read and nothing I witnessed in Godspell, reflect hatred of any kind. Even when Jesus is speaking about the need for some behavioral change, he is not spewing venom on anyone. The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Hebrew word ‘het’ which means to miss the mark, like in archery.
Returning to the play…. it is updated for modern times, with cultural references that would have had us scratching our heads and saying “Huh?” 40 years ago. In the opening scene, the characters bustle about on stage, carrying iphones; talking and texting, with labels on their clothing or backpacks or briefcases with names of philosophers with various opinions on Life, The Universe and Everything. I smiled with recognition at the additions of L. Ron Hubbard and Marianne Williamson. Later on, political references are made that reflect the current presidential campaign. In two of the dance pieces, the Macarena and Chicken Dance were added to the choreography, What fun!
When one of Jesus’ followers offers him wardrobe options, he turns down the stereotypical white robe, a vivid purple one, and a Superman shirt (an homage to the original costume in the 1970’s version). His choice is an unbottoned light blue baseball shirt with the #1 on the back and the word ‘co-pilots’ on the front. Now THAT is a Jesus with whom I can resonate! He offers his disciples a red carnation that they pin on to their own costumes which include a lime green bowling shirt, a purple short cropped military style jacket, a silvery tutu that floated above a pair of glittery high tops, an orange and white numbered jersey and pair of short pantaloons and bandana over pig tails, a t-shirt under suspenders that reads ‘We’re here’, a leopard print set of tights and sleeveless vest that exposed a set of biceps that I endeavor to have, and one costume that I totally lusted over, which was a rainbow colored corset and filmy skirt over kickin’ cowgirl boots. It seems that the flower represented the love that Jesus was scattering and would be a recognizable symbol of their connection to him. At the end of the play, they give them to each other and to him, perhaps as a ritual of affirmation of their shared sense of community as family of choice. I was moved by the way Jesus held space for his disciples to truly shine, reflecting the quote “Greater things than these you shall do.”
The youthful cast which includes recognizable actors such as Hunter Parrish as Jesus (from Weeds), Telly Leung (from GLEE), Anna Maria Perez De Tagle (from Hannah Montana), Wallace Smith (from The Lion King) who played the dual roles of John The Baptist and Judas, as well as Uzo Aduba who, I had never seen before, and reminded me in voice and appearance of one of my favorite musicians…Tracy Chapman, join together with a score of other talent who seem tireless as they dance, sing, splash water, bounce and leap on mini trampolines embedded in the stage, scatter confetti, and run up and down the aisles encouraging audience participation. The musicians who were seated about the theater, add their voices to the production pieces as well. I found myself wishing for an opportunity to get up on stage and dance with them. Barb and I were sitting in the ‘catbird seats’ since we got last minute tickets an hour or so before the show, so there was no way to do that even if we could…..until…as they were announcing intermission, a voice invited us all to come up on stage to join the cast, so my intention came to be. I was able to stand next to Lyndsey Mendez, the actress wearing the desired costume and the ooohhhh and ahhh factor was even better up close. The musicians continued to play and I joyously ‘sweat my prayers’ in the midst of others who were engaged in similar worship. An unihhibited towheaded little boy was moving to his own beat and doing a wonderful job of it right next to me.
Throughout the rest of the play, I found myself moving through laughter, tears, and heart swelling contemplation of my spiritual practice and the ways in which I could embody the messages in this ‘good word’ that expressed with holy humor that indeed we are each The Light of The World.
http://youtu.be/NL4aFn1DxGE Montage from the musical Godspell
Tonight I saw a message from a friend who spoke about a mini-disappointment and commented “This is so not my night.” I jokingly responded “So, I want to know whose night it is and who has YOUR night?”
As I am writing this, I am listening to my favorite Sunday night radio show on WXPN (Gene Shay) and am being serendipitously serenaded by John Prine.
That’s The Way That The World Goes Round
I know a guy that’s got a lot to lose he’s a pretty nice fellow but he’s kind of confused
he’s got muscles in his head that ain’t never been used
thinks he own half of this town
starts drinking heavy gets a big red nose beats his old lady with a rubber hose
then he takes her out to dinner and buys her new clothes
that’s the way that the world goes ’round.
That’s the way that the world goes ’round you’re up one day and the next you’re down
it’s half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown that’s the way that the world goes ’round.
I was sitting in the bathtub counting my toes when the radiator broke water all froze
I got stuck in the ice without my clothes naked as the eyes of a clown
I was crying ice cubes hoping I’d croak
when the sun come through the window the ice all broke
I stood up and laughed thought it was a joke
that’s the way that the world goes ’round.
The reality is that sometimes things go according to my ‘plan’ and sometimes even better than I imagine at the time. Even when they don’t exactly play out by my whims, I have been able to reframe the circumstances and make lemon meringue pie out of the lemons. My friend Harmony would say “Don’t judge your life by how you feel in this moment.” Feelings are fleeting…heck, life is fleeting. I never know from one moment to the next what will happen or who will show up in response to my shout out to the Universe.
Today, I offered a workshop called Spring Awakening at an interfaith community called Sacred Pathways. I had no clue how many people would be there, and true to occasional chattering monkey mind form, I was doing a number on myself prior…”What if no one shows up? What if only a few show up?” It reflects a longstanding issue I have had and have no clue where it came from, since I always felt supported by my parents and extended family and evidence has usually borne out that those thoughts are pretty silly. Like most speakers, I have felt disappointed when things have been cancelled or postponed for low registration. Fortunately it hasn’t happened often. It has me questioning what has me believing anything other than that the Universe has got my back (and front and sides, top and bottom) and I am infinitely held and carried along on a most of the time, gentle tide. To my delight, a dozen fun, curious, creative souls showed up to play and learn together. Laughter, a few tears, ideas for growing ourselves, stretching some comfort zones, sprinkling love about, seed planting, symbolic gardening puncutated our afternoon. Because we teach what we need to learn, my lesson about fearing a lack of support had me laughing in its fake fierce face. I would like to think that I am so done with those snarky simian sneers, but I imagine that spiritual amnesia may kick in and The Divine will ‘smile’ patiently and indulgently remind me that it is ALWAYS my day. And so it is <3
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.
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.
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?
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?
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