Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

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On any given day, life can feel like a chore and challenge, filled with chaos or confusion, or it may come to us bearing bountiful blessings, or as I like to say, ‘blissings’. We have no control over the circumstances but are all always given the choice of the means to face them. In this swirling maelstrom of the current socio-political climate, it may seem hard to keep our footing. It most definitely is for me. I find myself (or lose myself) at times, swamped by fear, anxiety, judgment of self and others and a sense of helplessness. Never, in the 59 years of this incarnation, have I witnessed such horrific happenings as well as the complacent acceptance that some put forth of what I consider unacceptable.

The ideal antidote to that was a visit with my friend Ramananda John Welshons who is a spiritual teacher that I think of as a grounded mystic. Nothing cosmic foo-foo about his work. He spoke at Pebble Hill Church, which is an interfaith community of which I have been a part since 1984. His straight from the heart style was a balm for my sometimes confused sensibilities. He spoke on the topic of Love and Compassion in Challenging Times. That they are. When violence is raging out of control, climate change induced storms take lives and livelihoods, hateful rhetoric and fake news become the norm, we need the message that in spite of the pain, there is an element of perfection. A hard pill to swallow at times. John shared the importance of activating the ‘just don’t know’ mind that Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron refers to as ‘living with uncertainty’.  That is one of the hardest things for this gotta know the answers woman to accept. I sometimes read the last page of a book to see how the story ends. I have no clue how the last page of my own life-book will read, any more than I am sure of the steps and choices I will take leading up to it.

One thing I do know is that we all feed the collective soup pot with our feelings, thoughts, and actions. With a full range of human emotions to choose from, we may move from anger to joy in the snap of a finger and back again in a heartbeat. I prefer to keep my emotions steady, but sometimes even the Bliss Mistress gets the blues and this conflict avoidant person lets fly a few choice words that are not in my spiritual vocabulary. Sometimes I need to clamp my hand over my mouth in case the filters are faulty.

John shared a story about meeting with a woman who wanted to bring him on board at her center as a meditation teacher. She invited him to go to Starbucks with her. As he was parking, another driver backed out of her spot and misjudged the distance and he anticipated a crunch. He jumped out of his vehicle and yelled for her to stop. She did so, but not before she could do minimal damage. His passenger looked at him incredulously once he got back in the car and said she was astonished that he could get angry since he was a meditation teacher. He informed her that had he not done it, both cars could have sustained greater damage.  There are times when anger is called for. My take is that it is cool, if not used as a weapon, but a tool. He then went on to speak about His Holiness the Dalai Lama who is a model of compassion and calm but is fully human. When I met and interviewed him, he did admit to sometimes feeling angry. He has learned to modulate it. I don’t think John told us whether he was ever hired to teach meditation at this particular center.

I also consider the judgments I hold around the values people embrace that are different from my own. We all have shadow and light within us. When I demonize someone, no matter how abhorrent their beliefs are, I become them. I can show up, stand up and speak out when I see injustice done without feeding the situation with toxicity. I know that I am no Mother Teresa which is okay by me because I am certain that there were days when Mother Teresa was no Mother Teresa.

Regardless of circumstance, we do indeed have a choice about dancing with uncertainty as if it was a partner with whom we elect to move through life as gracefully as possible.

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I woke up in the wee hours this morning; 4:44 to be exact, with the words ‘absolutely empath’ whispered in my ear. When that happens, as it does more frequently, I take heed. I gave myself a few more hours for it to marinate and when I arose about an hour ago, the words came through channeled from the Source. Feeling butterflies in my stomach and question if they are related to my own emotions or being picked up on from someone else’s projection. There are times when I feel like I am swinging a butterfly net and collecting them and placing them in my body.

From the time I was a child, I had a sense that there was something unusual about me. I was what I call a ‘quirky kid’ and an ‘alien baby left on my parents’ doorstep.’ Highly intuitive, I ‘knew stuff,’ having a sense that something was about to happen and then it did. I knew when people were about to die or when they had just crossed over. I didn’t always verbalize it since I didn’t want to freak anyone out. I could feel the emotions of others and sometimes even their physical pain. As an adult professional in the counseling field since 1979, it has served me well. As a family member, friend and partner, not always. Some of my co-dependent tendencies are linked to being an empath. I differentiate between being empathetic which indicates a deep caring for others and being an empath which sometimes feels like I am an oversaturated sponge that soaks up both joys and sorrows of others.

Dr. Judith Orloff, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People created a quiz to assist folks in determining if they fall into that category. As I perused it, I found myself checking off each item. Although I am indeed a social butterfly/people person, I have noticed in the past few years, that I do need some alone time to push the reset button. I can be in crowds and get juiced by the positive energy and then need to retreat a bit; not isolate, but rather, regenerate. Naps help greatly.

A humorous take on the topic is highlighted in this piece. It had me smiling since it glorified the value of my ‘drug of choice’- chocolate. It is both an antidote and balm for times when the world is too much with me.

I liken myself to the character of  Deanna Troi on Star Trek, The Next Generation. She was the ship’s counselor, guiding Captain Picard to make good decisions based on her well-honed intuition. A combination of nature and nurture since her culture from the planet Betazed had the ability to read people, as do I. There are times when sitting with clients in a session that impressions come through. Over the years, I have felt bolder in expressing them, when in the past, I hesitated, second-guessing their validity. Wanting to be more confident with the messages that tap on the doorway of my consciousness. Even as I was writing this piece and listening to the radio and had just typed the word, ‘butterfly,’ the announcer said the same word, in reference to a song title.

Another delineation for those of us in this category is HSP-Highly Sensitive Person. It has its perils and pitfalls, as well as peak experience thrills when my impressions are validated and others benefit from the intuitive hits that come through.

Given the current state of affairs in this highly charged socio-spiritual-political climate, this empath has her hands, heart, and head full. There are moments when I want nothing more than to huddle under the covers and remain there until people play nicely in the sandbox. When I realize that could take awhile, I muster the fortitude to get up and out, engaging in exercise, time in nature, listening to music, laughing and spending time with kindred spirits. All of these re-charge my batteries.

 

 

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I woke up this morning another year older and hopefully another year wiser. If I consider the experiences I have had and the people who surround me, I am certainly far richer. It has nothing to do with the digits in my bank account and more to do with the wealth that I glean from the relationships in my life. I think often about the ways in which they enhance my life, perhaps without even knowing that they do. The little things, like a well-timed phone call or email that bring happy tears to my eyes. Angelic encounters like one I had in a grocery store last week with an older woman who reminded me of my mother who died nearly seven years ago and her niece who it turns out is friends with a friend of mine who I had also run into at the same store a few moments earlier, remind me that serendipity and synchronicity are real. The fact that I awoke in a clean, safe, dry, intact home when so many all over the world are struggling to recover from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires is something to appreciate. There are times when I feel disgruntled that my life is not always on track and sometimes my thoughts get de-railed.  That’s when this list will come in handy. I wrote it last night before going to bed.

 

Tomorrow is my 59th birthday. It not only doesn’t freak me out to be getting closer to 60, but it delights me to consider all the blessings that have come along with nearly six decades on the planet (this time around, at least) and maybe a wee bit of wisdom. I made a list of 59 things I am grateful for.

Fifty- Nine Glorious Gratitudes
1. Family
2. Friends
3. Health
4. A beautiful cozy home
5. The Muse who inspires me
6. My Jeep that gets me where I need to go
7. Work that I love
8. Cuddle Party
9. Free Hugs
10. Laughter Yoga
11. Love
12. Sex
13. Yoga
14. Meditation
15. Drumming
16. Dancing
17. Music
18. Books
19. Writing
20. Nature
21. The gym
22. Animals
23. That I am becoming more outspoken
24. Travel
25. Abundance in all forms
26. Social media that keeps me connected to the world
27. Chocolate
28. My memories
29. That I learn from my history without making it my destiny
30. Being able to channel ideas in written and spoken form
31. Persistence
32. That I face each day with grace
33. Forgiveness
34. Compassion
35. That I am a powerful manna-fester, sometimes at the speed of thought
36. I am learning to ask for what I want and am willing to receive it
37. Adventures
38. My increased willingness to be vulnerable
39. My playful nature
40. My resilience
41. My ability to uplift myself when I am down in the dumps
42. Ancestors
43. That I am a love spreader and life lifter
44. My spiritual connection
45. The overlapping soul circles in my life
46. My left of center tree-hugging hippie sensibilities
47. The generosity of people in my life
48. My ability to connect with kindred spirits every day
49. My computer
50. The love of my life who is on his way
51. Friends who call me on my shit when they need to
52.Those who encourage me
53. Pedicures
54. Time at the gym
55. Messages from the Other Side
56. The venues and publications that invite me to write for them
57. WXPN (my favorite radio station)
58. Serendipity and wonderful surprises
59. Every day miracles

Oh, and that meme with the elephant, bird, and quote was another of those miracles. After a friend created it for me a few years back, it went on a worldwide whirlwind tour and on my birthday three years ago, it landed on Julian Lennon’s Facebook page. How cool is that?

I was reminded this morning that I share a birthday with Paul Simon. Both he and I are Still Crazy After All These Years.

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When I contemplated what to write for the Bliss Blog, I realized that there are so many things going on in the larger world, that my personal activities pale in comparison. Blazes devastating California, the remnants and residue from horrific hurricanes, the threat of war, predictably unpredictable chaos issuing forth from the administration, sexual harassment and assault charges against one whose last name is spelled the same way as mine, but blessedly, we are not related. It’s enough to make my head spin. Although I don’t want to take a news or social media fast, since it won’t change anything for the better by being uninformed, there are times when I numb out and choose not to take any more in. I do what I can to be a peacemaker, love sharer and joy-bringer. I look for opportunities to connect and not separate. Not always easy.

In my day to day life, I go to work, see clients as a therapist and coach, write articles, edit books and publications, teach classes, marry couples, do promotion, plan and promote events, spend time with friends and family, work out at the gym, clean my house, mow my lawn, maintain my car and pay my bills. I experience loss like everyone and appreciate miracles when they show up. Today, I had the opportunity to do both.

A few days ago, a dear cousin died after a bout with cancer. I had the blessing of time with him a few days earlier and the chance to say goodbye. We are the grandchildren of two of the 13 Bernstein kids who grew up in Philadelphia, PA. I didn’t meet all of my aunts and uncles since some died before I was born. My grandmother and his grandfather were sister and brother. Our generation has rekindled the tradition our parents started by having regular gatherings that didn’t need to center around pivotal events such as wedding, funerals, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. The most recent time was back in the Spring when a newly discovered cousin who found he was related to our family, located us via a DNA test. On that day we laughed and goofed around; a multi-generational reunion with the youngest being my great niece who was 4 at the time and the oldest another cousin in his 70’s with a full range in between. Arnie was light-hearted even as he needed to use a cane to get around in anticipation of hip surgery. Never in a million years did he or we anticipate that he would not live to see the end of the year.

When I was on my way to his funeral this morning, a huge deer ran across the road, with vines and leaves on his antlers. Although I swerved to miss him, I could feel a thud against the passenger door as he hurled himself at my Jeep, which is solidly built. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to be injured as he dashed across Rte 476 which is a three-lane highway and scrambled over the median. I pulled over to compose myself and through the rearview mirror, I saw a female deer. She was running behind me. I hightailed it out of there, not wanting to tempt fate since she was likely a combination of scared, angry and grieving. I cried for a few miles. Thinking there was some Divine intervention. Perhaps Arnie (who was in the auto repair industry) had taken on the role of road angel.

His service was in a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Philadelphia conducted by an old friend of his, which made it that much more personal. He regaled us with stories about Arnie’s love for his family, friends, food, and fun. It warmed my heart even more than the unseasonably steamy early Fall temperatures as the sun baked us. During the ritual, a white butterfly swooped over the gravesite. Not a surprise for this one who believes strongly in metaphysical messengers.  Some have wings and some have hoofs and antlers and some are connected by ancestry and love.