The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

An Unlived Life

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible; to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”

These are the profound words of Dawna Markova  from “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion” . I was introduced to Dawna’s work more than 20 years ago and her teachings re-entered my life via my friend Peggy Tileston who truly herself, lives by inhabiting her days accessibly.

Dawna is  a Ph.D psychologist and teacher who is one of the creators of the Random Acts of Kindness Series that caused a revolution that lives on~

So, what does it mean to, as another friend Gina Foster so eloquently phrased it:  “live significantly.”? 

For me, it presents an opportunity to offer my heart and ear to those in need, to stand  up for what I believe in, speaking my piece/peace. It means risking falling in the midst of soaring, dripping colorfully and vibrantly with life juices. Singing my soul song; sometimes solo, other times, part of the community choir, gathering with my tribe;  ‘family of choice’ in celebration and sorrow. It is also about surrendering what no longer serves my higher purpose; in particular, worn out beliefs and outdated attitudes.  It is about courageously stepping into a new reality each blessed day.

 

www.dawnamarkova.com

Enchanted Makeovers

Generosity of the heart is free as the wind.  One wise woman and her merry band of volunteers have hearts that overflow with the spirit of givng and love. Terry Grahl is the founder of a remarkable organization called Enchanted Makeovers. Her life was forever changed when in 2007, she walked into a homeless shelter, invited as a volunteer to enhance it with her creative decorative skills. When she walked out, faith carried her the next steps along her journey. Enchanted Makeovers rehabs, renovates and re-decorates homeless shelters, to make them welcoming places for women and children to become thrivers, but even more than that, those who are involved in this work of he(art), help re-create lives.

I was invited to speak at an event which was part of the Beauty and Hope National Tour, held October 16th and 17th at York Street Project in Jersey City, NJ, which  has as its purpose to weave innovative programs that shelter, feed, educate and promote the healing and independence of persons in need, especially women and their children.”

Upon walking into the clean, brightly lit building, I was greeted by the sight of women ranging in age from 17-early 50′s who were garbed in donated sage green t-shirts silkscreened with the outline of a women in yogic warrior one pose, with the line proclaiming “I am a warrior” enscribed in such a way that it can only be easily read by looking at it in a mirror. Each of them was determined to transform her life, in part by graduating from an accredited high school called  Kenmare, thus potentially avoiding the cycle of poverty and abuse.

The floor was a sea of yoga mats; laid upon each were two handstitched quilts bearing words like faith, inspire, spirit, love, strength and empathy. Nestled on the quilts were journals and pens in preparation for an empowering journaling class offered by Jennifer Tuma-Young, a divinely inspired writer and speaker. A yoga class was expertly taught by Carol Driscoll who had the women moving and stretching, not just their bodies, but their minds and spirits as well. 

Post yoga, we were ushered in to a magically transformed room that had been dabbled with paint in which love was certainly an ingredient. The artist collective is called Cre8tive Sisters and they had designed a faerie land mural complete with sheltering trees, a wildly riotous gathering of flowers, birds and butterflies. Appropriately, there was an image of one emerging from a chysalis, to symbolize the metamorphosis the women in the program were experiencing.  We were then serenaded by Jacqueline Astete whose exquisite voice rendered a song she had written for the occasion, called A Moment in Peace. A full, rich day indeed and that was just DAY ONE!

The following afternoon, I meandered into the room; yoga mats replaced by tables bearing all manner of cosmetic embellishment as the women were undergoing physical makeovers.  Volunteers from various cosmetology schools and services were transforming the outer visage of these warriors; many who the day before, appeared weary and worn.  Laughter and animated conversation filled the air, as makeup brushes dabbed on hues and shades, scissors trimmed hair and polish coated manicured finger nails.  Racks of gently worn donated outfits stood in rainbow array as the women perused through, seeking the perfect one.  I watched with glee, as they modeled for each other and themselves, primping and posing for clicking cameras and a videographer who captured these two days of delight.

That night, we enjoyed a palate satisfying four course dinner at a harbor side restaurant.  As if by divine design (perhaps it was:), an acapella group called Choice-Jersey City’s Bad Boys were vocalizing on the deck. Terry approached the men and requested that they offer a song for the women of the York Street project.  Gladly, they complied and they rendered a soul and hip shaking, hand clapping version of The Girl’s Alright With Me, that did the Temptations proud. They interspersed words of encouragement to the group, reminding them how beautiful and powerful they were. 

I was the dinner speaker that night and allowed Spirit to guide my words. What came forth was a reminder that although they felt prettier with makeup, hair and clothing re-done, they were no less beautiful the day prior without it.  Some of them had never before worn cosmetics and at least one had borne the tell-tale marks of abuse that the makeup covered. Once the ‘face paint’ was washed off, their inner beauty would indeed remain.

It was truly a transformational weekend for all; both volunteers and those we served; no us and them, no separation between us. All emerged healed.

 

 

www.enchantedmakeovers.org

www.yorkstreetproject.org

www.myspace.com/choicebadboys  

 

 

 

 

In The Light of Love

Music has the power to move me in ways that go beyond notes on a page or sound that come from instrument or vocal chords.  There is an essence that accompanies it and when it reaches deep into my soul, it grabs hold and won’t let go.

 

I  was introduced to the experience of kirtan (sacred call and response chanting) several years ago and although Sanskrit is not my native language, the rhythm and feeling of it reminded me of the chanting in the synagogue in which our family spent Friday nights throughout my childhood.

Three such musicians whose music touch me in ways and waves that are transcendent, are Deva Premal, Miten and Manose

 

Each of them is talented in his or her own right, but together, they create such an intricate weaving of beauty. As I was telling friends in a late night email after returning home from a concert at which they performed awhile back: “the music was heaven sent and the silence after each chant, allowed for reverberations of peace to wash over us. At most concerts, people are accustomed to applauding. At a kirtan, although it is entertaining, it is also sacred ritual, so clapping after each piece is discouraged. What magic these folks are…Deva is from Germany, raised by parents who were disciples of Rajneesh (also called Osho) Miten is from England and his background is rock and blues. Manose is from Nepal and his specialty is Indian bamboo flute. The feeling of the evening, was, at turns, devotional, sensual, rowdy, still, meditative, playful, bluesy…all together amazing. I laughed, cried, danced, prayed, meditated, chanted, sang, all in a 2 1/2 hour period. I so love this kind of music….it is most certainly a way of feeling connection with all that IS.” Deva and Miten as partners in music making and life, have been together for 19 years and their ‘home’ is wherever they happen to be. As Miten shared with a laugh at the workshop, on the particular day,  it was Philadelphia. As they told me a few years ago when I had the pleasure of interviewing them, the world is their home. Manose joined them on the road 4 years ago and his contribution to the trio is more than just support; it seems an essential component to their signature sound. He is indeed God’s flautist, or perhaps the hollow reed itself.

The next day, a four hour workshop (not nearly long enough) held at The Elkins Estate in Elkins Park, PA, was a multi-modal experience, in a much more intimate gathering. Eighty of us sat on a colorful sea of yoga mats, zafus (meditation cushions) and blankets as we took the chanting to a deeper level. As preparation, we did breathing and movement exercises; tuning the instrument, as it were. For many of those present, chanting is part of our yogic practice; equally as sacred and supportive to our well-being as asanas (postures) on the mat. What I can say, is that it feeds my soul and in this case, this weekend, healed my tired and cold-symptomatic body.

At one point, we moved into a marble floored grand entrance room that had a domed ceiling and sculpted figures; appearing as if they were outstretched in ecstasy, embellishing the railings that hovered above us. We offered Sufi prayers, acknowledging the oneness of all life, offering and receiving compassion and doing Sufi circle dancing; twirling and spinning, holding hands, gazing into each others’ eyes, bowing and stretching in honoring the blessings in our lives, deeply grateful for it all. Love is the message in each syllable. The familiar chant ‘om’; which is considered the sound of the Universe, is also, according to Deva “The cosmic yes!” 

 

One of my favorite pieces of theirs is called In the Light of Love with the Sanskrit line:

 

OM SHRI DHANVANTRE NAMAHA

(OME SHREE DARN-VARN-TRAY NAR-MAR-HAR)

This is the healing mantra, based on an appeal to the celestial healer,Dhanvantari, who figures in the Lakshmi story and who gave the Nectar of Immortality to the gods. It can be used to enhance one’sown healing skills and performance as a practitioner;or for self healing, in which it is said to be able to work in many ways to promote healing on all levels: physical, mental or emotional.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EEFSB0zyE0 

Tickle Your Fancy

Discover ways to make the edges of your mouth curl up. 

1.Take a walk in the forest, breathing in the woodsy autumnal air, feeling a carpet of leaves crunching beneath your feet.

2. Savor a decadent treat (you know, of course, that fat, calories and cholesterol don’t count if you indulge with joy),

3. Listen to a Mozart Symphony or rock out to your favorite disco beat circa 1977

4. Go to the park and soar high into the air on swings, reaching skyward.

5. Receive a relaxing, nurturing massage from someone whose hands are connected to their heart.

6. No longer experience ‘guilty pleasure’…just pleasure.

7. Be in the company of kindred spirits, who inspire and enliven you.

8. Shake off doubt, fear and worry; leaving room for joy,

9. Get physical….run, walk, dance, skip, ride~ 

10.  Let life tickle your fancy…or whatever else you have in mind:)

 

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