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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Angelic Artist

 

I learned about Texas based artist Anthony Rivera after I saw a posting on facebook about this remarkable young man with a unique perspective on the world. I was blown away by the imagery that comes, not merely from paint splashed on canvas, but from miracle consciousness.  He paints to different kinds of music that is more than just a backdrop for his talent. I get the sense that Anthony hears music that most of us aren’t tuned into, just as he likely sees through different lenses and experiences life through transcendent filters. Diagnosed with autism, Anthony is art incarnate. I am certain that he will become famous, beyond the Lonestar State.

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This interview was a collaborative effort since Anthony is not able to type the answers to the questions I asked. His loving and devoted mother Diana Rivera posed them and his profoundly simple responses touched me deeply. Before she sent the answers, she offered background on how she and Anthony bonded and how he became the extraordinary young man that he is.

“I have to give you some background about Anthony so you can understand him better. He was almost not born because I have RH negative blood, my blood was like poison to him. In order to keep from losing him , I had to get weekly injections of antibodies so he could survive. The doctors wanted me to have an abortion because they said that IF he survived to full term, he would surely be deformed or brain damaged. I got pregnant in Germany, (my husband was in the Army), fortunately abortions were illegal at that time and by the time they were able to ship me back to the states I was way past my first trimester. He was born a month early, they could not get him to breathe. I saw them take away a blue baby. They managed to revive him and had to remove all his blood and transfuse him with new blood. The only physical deformity he was born with were two of his little toes were webbed. At six months, he got double pneumonia and 105 degree fever that lasted a week. I was told that his brain had literally been cooked and that he would be a vegetable and he would never walk or talk. A month later, his father came home from the Viet Nam war. He was on drugs or something when he came home late one night, Anthony wouldn’t stop crying because he had a fever again. His father grabbed him from my arms and threw him, he landed on the couch, had he landed on the floor he would have killed him. He kept trying to get to him but I would not let him. I managed somehow to put Anthony in a laundry basket and hid him in a closet. I pushed a dresser drawer in front of the door so his father could not get to him. He beat me for the rest of the night until he got tired and fell asleep. I was able to get to the phone to call the police right before he woke up. He broke my nose, several ribs, there was not a single inch of my body that was not bruised but I saved my baby’s life. We were taken to the hospital where I was told that my baby would not survive the night, I dropped to my knees and asked God to spare him and promised Him I would spend the rest of my life taking care of him. During the night his doctor came to me with some papers for me to sign. The doctor said I was too young(18) poor and uneducated with no marketable skills and that the best thing for ME was to give my son to the state. I refused. Anthony survived that and many other obstacles to get to where he is today. Together, we went on to get my GED, get a college diploma and a law degree. So you see, he is truly a walking, sort of talking miracle! He says he sees and talks to angels and that he can fly. I do not doubt that he can. He is pure love and joy.”

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 I had asked how he lives his bliss:

“He doesn’t understand conceptually what bliss is, he just stared at me with his puppy dog eyes. He is in a constant state bliss.
 

I asked about his remarkable artistic abilities:

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“I always like to paint, my momma took me to STC 3 years ago. I love to paint.”

What brings you joy?

“My music and my angels.”

What is your favorite music?

“All kinds (we are listening to Willie Nelson as I write this) ACDC, Willie Nelson, Elvis, Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Mclachlan the Beatles, the Eagles, Chicago, all Oldies, Frank Sinatra, BB King. He has over a thousand CDs, most are as old as when they started making CDs.”

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Anything else you want to share?

“I love fishing and shopping and Red Lobster and my momma.”

Watch this amazing video of Anthony’s beauty and wonder

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http://youtu.be/AdtIGIk-QaY

He welcomes connection on facebook as well under: Antony Rivera artist and his mother is Diana Rivera.  Please friend both of them if his work interests you. To see more of Anthony’s creations, go to:  www.anthonyriveragallery.com 

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Savor This Experience

                                                                       

Today’s Bliss Blog entry was inspired by a piece written by Cynthia Greenfield of Asheville, North Carolina. It jumped out at me from the pages of her husband Blaine’s newsletter called Blaine’s World. Full of all kinds of newsy pieces collected from his world wide community of friends, as well as sundry and assorted jokes, reviews of movies and shows they have seen, it is a welcome addition to my mail box when it lands.

This is what Cynthia observed: 

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“My friend came home from work and found her 30-year-old son dead from a heart attack. And I thought not did she say I love you before he died. Nor if she performed actions that showed him that she loved him.

I thought: Did she feel him? Did she taste him . . . his essence? And be ever so grateful for the opportunity to birth this imperfect human being?

Did he swell her heart? Was she filled with overflowing gratitude for having the opportunity to have a child (something not all of us have the opportunity to do)?

Maybe even did she feel/experience all of it . . . even the dis-satisfactions, sadness and disappointments that are a part of it all? Just feel them. Get comfort for them.

I am looking for that . . .

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The taste of life. The taste of ice-cream–the sweetness, the cold, the feeling in my mouth, different parts of my mouth, the feeling going down my throat. The thrill of it, the comfort of  it, the experience of it, the nourishment of it.

All of it.

All of life.

Let us all feel, savor, taste our food. Our life. Let’s experience it all.

As we do, we will be at our perfect weight and more importantly, we will really enjoy the journey. It is an amazing journey, don’t you think?”

 Reprinted with the gracious permission of Cynthia from a piece she wrote for participants in her “Thin Within” class

As I read this, I was amazed at the synchronicities of my own life. I am grateful that my own son is very much alive, even as he and I have butted heads at times and our world views are not always in synch. I do live full out, holding nothing back, savoring life itself. It is part of my mindfulness practice as I do my best to experience life in the moment.

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Yesterday,  I was sighing with contentment, as  I was leaning back in a chair on the deck of my friends Barb and Glenn. We were celebrating the high school graduation of their oldest; Alex. He will be off to Ohio State in the Fall, studying engineering. Having enjoyed the yummy food selections, savoring each bite and not rushing through it, I found myself gazing skyward at the feather-cloud dabbled cerulean canvas hovering about swaying in the breeze trees that had their own song to sing.  I sighed and realized how little time I take to be in that moment to moment consiousness. Busy-buzzy with life and the details that it takes to accomplish the tasks of each day. More mindful than ever, paradoxically, as I slow my pace to appreciate each precious moment and the people, animals, plant and mineral beings that enter my awareness, I get more done. As my mother used to say :”The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

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This morning as I was on the elliptical at the gym, I felt present instant awareness of the muscle movement, the sweat pouring down, the heart-beat-drum-beat, the blood flowing, the rapid paced breathing, the stretching of tendons, the glow of heat rushing through me, the sense of satisfaction that I have developed the discipline to ‘sweat my prayers’  4-6 times a week.

Later today, I had an additional blessing of being invited to celebrate the opening of my friend Kayla Finlay’s center called Spirit River Retreat in Washington Crossing, PA.   Kayla is a healer who differentiates between healing and curing and knows that the life force energy that flows through us can make a huge difference between living a mundane life and embracing the fullness of each day. She lives immersed in that savored moment to moment energy. So too, I sense, did the others who gathered in her living room, kitchen and yard. I enjoyed sprawling on the deck with 3 year old Faith and blowing bubbles and drawing chalk art images. I relished singing and dancing along with New York based jazz guitarist Adam Rafferty whose selections ranged from Michael Jackson to Stevie Wonder, from  and Bonnie Raitt. Nothing like a living room concert. I gazed around the space in the presence of people I have known for 20 some years and others I  encountered for the first time today and felt delight spill over as I sighed. Another instant to savor and snapshot for posterity.

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My songbird friend Deva Troy graced us with her original pieces including one called Raging Hormones that those of us who are in peri or full blown menopause can understand first hand as we laughed in recognition. Her final song was one that encouraged us to take those leaps of faith that we are called to, despite fear and hesitation. She is in the process of creating her debut CD which those of us who know and love her have encouraged her to record for ever so long.

On the way home, I pointed out the exquisite sunset to my friend Ondreah and we appreciated the magnificent feather combed strands dipped in scarlet and white and varying shades of blue. I breathed in the fresh air that entered the open Jeep windows. A full, rich weekend well lived and savored for a long time to come, just like a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone slowly enjoyed with a bit dripping down my chin.

Here is one of Adam’s pieces; a cover of Michael Jackson’s Man In the Mirror http://youtu.be/1pRrZCWNIiE

www.adamrafferty.com

www.kaylafinlay.com

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Helium Hand

 

                                                                          

I read an article in the most recent issue of  O (Oprah) Magazine that I found myself both laughing and crying over, in recognition of familiar patterns in my life. It is called The Helping Tic written by Diana Spechler. In it, she comes clean on a habit in her own life. She laughingly refers to it as CHT. No, not some mental health diagnosis, although she indicates that it could very well be and I have yet to see it in the DSM IV …Chronic Helping Tic. It happens when someone makes mention of a need they have and immediately she comes up with an answer for them, although they may never have actually asked for a solution.  This is offered to strangers and loved ones alike.

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It is an occupational hazard for me as a social worker. I (half) joke that I have a rolodex brain and if someone wonders about a resource for something, I mentally flip through it, until I rest on the correct card. I call myself a cosmic concierge since I seem to know where to get almost anything or connect with nearly anyone you might want. You know the six degrees of separation ( or Kevin Bacon, depending on your frame of reference:)  concept?  In my life, it is more like zero degrees of separation, since I generally know someone who knows someone.  So back to helping… If I am within earshot, often I will experience what I call ‘helium hand’ in which I notice my hand rising into the air like a helium balloon. “Put that hand down.”, I sometimes hiss at myself when I am tempted to reflexively volunteer my time or energy without thinking it through. Assisting out of obligation or a desire to look like a good guy…Saint Edie I’m not, but I have to admit, it does feel rewarding to be seen as the ‘go-to’ person. Yes, a bit of an ego dance and sometimes I trip over myself and my feet in an attempt to offer support. When I have done that in the past, there was more of a sense of what my friend Natalie calls ‘wanting to be essential’. Who doesn’t want to be that in the lives of those they love?  Now I help more out of choice and if asked, than in order to provide insurance/assurance that I will be loved and valued. 

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It is in the danger zone for me as someone recovering through co-dependence. Who am I if I am not helping? Sometimes I have practiced what I refer to as ‘savior behavior’, in which I am attempting to fix/save/heal other people. A co-worker said the other day that a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) could easily stand for “Master of Saving The World”. True dat, sadly): I am deluded enough at times to buy into it. The truth is that no one is broken and so there is ultimately no need to ‘fix’ anyone. Certainly we all have our wounded places and for me, the idea is to acknowledge them, nurture and cradle them and then expose them to the sunshine; literally and symbolically. Sometimes the most loving thing I can do is be a supportive presence as the person moves through their own process. Helping ‘too much’ can be crippling or disempowering.

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A poignant reminder is the person who saw a butterfly struggling to break out of the chrysalis. No matter  how he tried, the little critter remained trapped in his temporary home. The person took pity and broke open the shell. The butterfly emerged, but not with wings spread. What he didn’t know is that the butterfly body is filled with fluid and in order for the fluid to disperse into the wings, they need the pressure of the chrysalis to squeeze life into them. Instead of gloriously expanding wings and taking off into the wild blue yonder, it limped away and soon died. How often do we, however kindly and with compassion, ‘help’ when it is  not asked for or needed? My hand is raised at that question. 

So, are you willing to out down your helium hand and trust that the person/people will find their way without your marvelous intervention?

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It’s Who You Know

                                                                          

I find inspiration at all times of day or night and in all circumstances. Lately, it has arrived, special delivery while I am striding on the elliptical at Planet Fitness (a.k.a. The Judgment Free Zone) . Would that I dwell in that lofty place in my life outside the purple, black and yellow decor.  I am always seed planting for the next good idea for my blossoming creative crafts of writing and speaking and considering ways to spread the word about what I do, as well as what others do that I want to share with the world. I pondered what it is that connects people one to the other and what has folks wanting to do business with and be in personal relationship (friendship or romantic) with each other.  And then it came to me…we want to be around people who help us to feel good about ourselves; who we are and what we do. We want to use the services of people we trust and who we believe have our best interest at heart and who want to see us grow and move on; not dependent on them, but who offer whatever it is that they do and then encourage us to spread our wings and soar.

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Not that someone else ultimately has the power to give us self esteem or take it away from us…that is an inside job. Certainly there are circumstances in which we hear something over and over again and begin to absorb it and believe it and then take it on as if it were true. In my work with abuse survivors, I see it all the time. I remind them that the only power someone or some thought has over them, is that which they grant and then we work together on ways to reclaim that power, that truly belongs to them. I have been awestruck when I witness people moving from victim to surivor to thriver mode in their lives. I define a thriver as someone who has overcome their pain and challenges, while acknowledging that the original incident(s) occurred, learned and grown from them and now reaches out to support others on their healing journey, paying it forward.

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I know that I much prefer to be in the presence of people with whom I can be the best me possible; those who support my stretching and shining. I choose to be that for others as well, partly because I know it feels so good to bask in the love, that I want to shower it and scatter it too. There was a time in my life when I allowed for toxic interactions with people simply because I had the erroneous belief that I had to let everyone in who knocked at my heart. It took awhile, but then I recognized that I can say no if someone’s expectations don’t match with my willingness to fulfill them. We all have that right and it takes practice to exercise it.  My barometer is that when being in someone’s energy brings out the worst in me; angry, fearful, hiding my light so as not to ‘make them uncomfortable’, taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings’…..ad nauseum, the whole co-dependent dance that I did habitually, I look at what it is I need to change; thank them (even if silently) for stirring it up and then choose not to repeat the interaction and walk away from the relationship if need be. If being with someone brings out the best in me; loving, clear, productive, compassionate, free to create, then I choose to spend more time with them, co-creating wonder. As I do both, I find that I attract even more amazing people into my life. I marvel when I consider that there were some people who weren’t even on my radar a year ago and now they so enchant me.

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Tuesday night found me in the presence of women who matched the  second scenario. Sherryl Frauenglass and Dr. Julie Krull came to my home as the  “Official Tour Correspondents” for the Awesome Women Hub tour. They call their great adventure “Let it Shine” With Sherryl and Dr. Julie and have affectionately nicknamed their Road Trip, the “Let It Shine Road Trip”.  We had become facebook friends over the past few months and when I heard about the road trip, I asked if they were going to be in the Philly area. Turns out they were and in less than a week, we had gathered together 15 women ranging from their 20’s-50’s…some of us old enough to be mothers to each other. I gazed around my living room in awe as the ‘conversation’, as Julie and Sherryl continued to refer to it, flowed. One by one, we shared our stories of love and loss, of empowerment and triumph and ideas for healing what is not working so well on the planet. These were all women who walk the talk, not just wax wistfully philosophical.  We spoke about the paradigm shift that is taking place between women and between men and women. For far too long, women have felt mistrustful and competitive with each other, believing in a scarcity model. I would sadly hear women say that they didn’t trust other women and to that I would suggest that perhaps it was because they didn’t truly trust themselves. I am delighted to be part of overlapping circles of women who support each other in success, knowing that a rising tide lifts all boats. I also find myself saying “I’ll have what she’s having.” when I notice someone doing what I would love to do.  Men are supporting women in being at our resilient best as well, as we are encouraging them to live fully human, not limiting themselves in emotional expression because they have been taught to stifle their gentler side. ‘Real’  men feel and heal.  ‘Real’ men cry and acknowlege vulnerability. ‘Real’ women lead.  Awesome men like Jeff Brown, Gay Hendricks and Arjuna Ardagh are at the forefront of upliftment of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.

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It reminds me of a few lines in a poem by Judy Chicago:

And then all that has divided us will merge

“And then compassion will be wedded to power

And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind

And then both men and women will be gentle

And then both women and men will be strong”

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Some of us have known each other awhile, while others were ‘strangers’ when they walked through my front door, becoming family of choice a few hours later, laughing, smiling and hugging our farewells. Julie and Sherryl are putting together a project called  Documenting Women On The Leading Edge of Change and I am so eager to see the outcome. I will keep you updated.

I love the concept that we are the average of the ten people with whom we spend our time. Think about the folks with whom you hang out. Are they positive, happy, successful people (not just monetarily)? Are they cranky, grumpy, critical, pessimistic? When you leave their presence, are you glowing or d0 you feel like taking a shower because you’ve just been slimed? The next step is to decide whether you want to continue in that pattern or if you want to step outside of it and make a change. Releasing old relationships isn’t always easy and sometimes brings pain, but consider how long you choose (and yes, it is a choice) to subject yourself to that which no longer serves. Are you willing to be inspired and uplifted or are you reconciling yourself to feeling limited and stuck? I am blessed to be surrounded by inspiring women and men who help me to shine my light out into the world. It didn’t happen overnight and it did come at the cost of my limiting beliefs and fears falling away and it did mean letting go of relationships that were more hurtful than healing. Cutting away dead vines and weeds from a plant helps it to grow. So too, is it with people.  It doesn’t serve you or them to keep on the hamster wheel of the same day after day negative interaction out of obligation or habit.

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I  have a long time friend who would begin our phone conversations with telling me about all of the challenges he was facing. This went on for months and I would listen and be as supportive as I could, all the while, feeling frustrated for him and it would bring out my co-dependent caregiver instincts. Finally, I said to him:  “The next time we talk, I would like the first words you say to be about one good thing that is happening in your life. Then, if you want to tell me other stuff; go for it.” Of course, once he acknowledged one good thing, more followed.  His life did a 180 in a short period of time. Yes, he (like all of us) still faces challenge and change. The difference is that it happens less often and he has more of what he wants in his life; asks for it and receives it. How cool is that?

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I invite you to bring to mind the names and faces of those ten people with whom you spend most of your time; family, friends and colleagues. Consider if being around them helps you to be at your best. If not, can those relationships be adapted in any way?  Not that you have the power to change them; simply the power and responsibility to change your interactions with them.

Remember, it’s not just what you know, but who you know…

www.awesomewomenhub.com
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