message from Neil

As I begin day 1 of my own “ice bucket challenge” (details to follow in a future post when it’s not shabbat)

I completed my morning rituals and was brewing spiced coffee, my brain already on the way into writing time,
when a very clear voice popped into my head without so much as knocking or announcing his presence with a polite clearing of the throat- stopping me mid-motion with his impertinence, his tone unmistakable, nagging me, or perhaps cheering me on in his own way- I tell you, his words popped straight into my head from seven years ago, clear and crisply annoying as the day I read them.

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silly 60-second illustration of my Ghost this morning. altered (fixed) with iPhone app to make it look a bit more interesting -

neil gaiman wrote to me once. I was working on a novel at the time.  I buried the novel so quickly and so deeply after receiving this message, I completely forgot its existence until this morning.  I was working on the novel in semi-public fashion, on “live journal.” He stumbled across  it and wrote to me. I didn’t know these things could happen.

I guess people’s favorite, morris-dancing-on-a-once-gilded-and-now-blackened-sooty-pedestal, ridiculously hero-worshipped writers
read things on the internet too. I would have thought him above such time-wasting behavior in which we lowly humans indulge. In my head, he was off brooding on ragged coastlines in solitude, fermenting new and rib-breaking, lung-squeezing, heart-shredding genius in that maddeningly beautiful brain of his.

the message triggered me into anger, and i buried it along with the novel, almost made a resolution to stop reading his books (that didn’t happen. i am not that stupid even in my most volatile, abandon-y, teenager moments) and actually completely forgot about it until today.

today, seven years later, his voice popped into my head (his deep voice that has a hint of nasal kazoo-ness about it, which is oddly beautiful and also oddly professor Snape-like,)

saying:

“I shouldn’t worry about it.”
at the time, the response in my head was, Of course YOU wouldn’t worry about it, Neil – you are Neil Gaiman, damn you.”
I will not quote any more of the message but that is the important bit-
the part that comes back to my head and resonates differently.
Like all his writing the entire message is so very simple and cuts right to the bone.

I shouldn’t worry about it.

Of course. Of course.

(duh.)

Courage

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Soapbox Alert: let me drag out this old, worn box and climb up on it for a minute (or two).

People who are slinging around the words “cowardly” and “selfish” when it comes to suicide…those people lack courage in my eyes. They lack the courage of heart that is also called compassion. Deep compassion can be painful; to face that we don’t understand but can still allow – to say “I don’t know,” and really understand that we do NOT know what someone else’s experience is, and therefore cannot label it and make ourselves more comfortable. Because, let’s face it, we want to KNOW. We write stories about others – we project – because we want the illusion of understanding and control. When really, we have no control in this life. Everything is impermanent, we are going to suffer, we are going to experience loss and sometimes things are not going to be tidy or make sense – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this beautiful, painful, messy world.
What do we have control over? Only ourselves. Our actions, our thoughts, our choices, our speech. These things add up to: our learning; the evolution of our own soul during our own journey here in this place, together and alone.

So what is Courage?

Compassion is courage , in my eyes.
Forgiving someone else, truly forgiving (and having the strength to either wipe the slate clean if called for, or maintain any boundaries necessary to protect and honor ourselves) – that is Courage.
Saying “no” with loving energy when we need to honor ourselves and honor another with honesty- that is Courage.
Choosing to live our truth – Courage
Choosing to be honest in word and action, and that means even speaking when we’ve done something hurtful and could avoid conflict by being silent – Courage.
Sticking with a relationship and learning from it, or leaving when it’s truly time to leave – Courage
Remaining sensitive in a world that batters the heart – fighting to keep that sensitive heart open – that’s courage too.

Staying loving and open … the deepest courage there is.

Therefore: whether he lost the battle with despair & bipolar disorder or whether he didn’t and we are jumping to conclusions (because we can’t really know what happened)
Robin Williams was an example of courage, in my eyes. We tend to deify a celebrity when they die – we also tend to vilify them. Why don’t we let a person be a person, and honor their journey & struggle? He was a person who gave other people a lot of himself. Let’s leave it at that. I hope kids and adults alike will learn from how he lived. I hope we will all learn from our own responses, here. While we are still alive, we can learn; it is never too late to make a different choice. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong and choosing to learn – that’s what we are here for.

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Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish

“Believe in the possible . . . with this brilliantly quirky, thought-provoking novel from New   York Times bestseller, three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.

Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?” 

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The Fourteenth Goldfish is a delightful and thought-provoking middle-grade novel, but not just for kids – the book brought me to tears. It’s well crafted; it moves fast, and keeps the reader intrigued with well-drawn and lovable characters and a plot that has the reader evolving right along with the protagonist. She’s never a step behind us; as her eyes open to a new truth, so do ours … and the growth of her relationship with her grandfather is heartwarming.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read, very sweet and enjoyable – for kids and adults alike. Also contains some wonderful intriguing science lessons presented very entertainingly, like wonderful little tidbits along the way — beautifully done in a way guaranteed to whet kids’ appetite and curiosity for several different subjects in science! Not an easy feat – the author manages it impressively.

I’m grateful for books like this out there, that will give kids an idea of the excitement and wonder of learning, when they allow their minds to roam beyond the dry textbooks. Well done!

 

note: I received an advance copy of this novel for review.

Book Review: The Glassblower’s Daughter

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     I’m not sure how to categorize this- historical fiction? suspense? Mystery? all of the above.

This book reads like a single sentence, in that it is so seamlessly, exquisitely woven, it flows like a completely natural and unstoppable expression of a life from the moment the reader begins it. It is like picking up a life- between its covers, the events of this life are occurring, and when one picks up the book one simply hops on the train and is completely involved. It left me breathless; I stayed up until almost 3 am finishing it, feeling like I hadn’t blinked from the moment I picked it up.
It unfurls before the reader in sumptuous language, in exquisite detail, in breathtakingly, impeccably, REAL imagery.

There are moments of poetic, Virginia Woolf-esque language which capture the essence of the main character’s experience so completely, one can feel, see, hear along with her. There are moments of down-to-earth, commonsense rationality which serve as a beautiful counterpoint, thus ensuring that the novel never falls into maudlin dramatics (which, given the subject matter, it very well could have.)

The author handles the subject matter with genius. It would have been easy to distance from it by focusing on the emotions evoked, thus creating a more predictable piece of work…this never happens.

Oh, the emotions are there, and they are real, but that’s just it- they are real. They are shown, not told. We, the reader, get to figure things out…

If I had been told what this book was about, I would never have picked it up. I would have wanted to spare myself the pain. I am SO GLAD to be, in this case, utterly proven wrong in my assumption that authors can’t deal with tricky subject matter in a way that leaves a reader intrigued, warmed, fascinated, and healed, rather than stressed or drained.

This book is utterly beautiful. It’s not a light, easy, vacation read, in that it is an absolute work of art; but it is not stressful- it is simply true and honest, witty, warm, and the reader becomes an active participant and will grow right along with the protagonist.

I highly, highly, most highly recommend this book….It is one I will read again, no hesitation.

The characters are beautifully developed, faceted, none of them perfect and all of them utterly human and interesting. The setting is meticulously researched, with not a jarring note to be found.

The writing is exquisite. I am extremely picky on that score and I found not one thing (a couple of typos here and there, but nothing to quibble at) to distract me from this book.

Who will enjoy this: fans of John Irving, Virginia Woolf, Ruth Rendell, D.L. Smith, Barbara Vine… yes, this is an eclectic group of authors, because this author’s voice is entirely their own. I very much look forward to reading more of the author’s work.

On “Fatness” (and the Words We are Feeding Ourselves)

A little backstory: I was an actress, long, longlong ago. I constantly battled with bad body image – I got to the point where I would allow myself a little milk in my breakfast of coffee, because that was the protein for the day…
I never ever got thin; this is not a story of anorexia…it’s a story of wasting time and energy with self-hatred and REALLY bad self-talk.

I got in a car accident. I stopped acting. I was in a toxic relationship. With these factors at play, I gained 30lbs. for the first time in my life, I was not muscular or fit…and for the first time since I was 10 years old, I felt really good in my body.

…what? Yeah. I know. crazy. As soon as the toxic partner left my life, I began to cook simple meals of salmon, kale, rice. I began to make smoothies. I bought a juicer and learned about juicing. I began to simply nourish myself as a way to heal the broken emotions. I was still 30lbs heavier than my usual weight, but I felt absolutely incredible. I felt beautiful, sensual, accepting of myself.

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I began to box, which made me stronger and healed me emotionally and physically. I lost 30lbs (or some weeks, 25.) my former “thin” clothes are baggy. I am strong, which feels good.

I was asked to act again, and this time I agreed without even thinking twice about it – for sentimental reasons. It’s a show which is not a big deal in the world of performing, but it’s an awesome project and it was a big deal to me, because I’d been talking to the producer for about seven years, and it’s a return to something I said I would never do again. It turned out to be an extremely beautiful experience. Acting. I had forgotten why I loved it so much all those years. I felt very much in my power and whole, doing something that makes me come alive, and working with incredible people.

And here’s the thing…with the acting, the body-hating has come rushing back, like an old, familiar, dysfunctional relative that I just can’t shake.

I am the same measurements as Jennifer Lawrence, whom I read is “obese” by Hollywood standards. This has made me spin out quite a bit. “Obese.”

I notice the softness of my belly when I sit up in bed, and I think, “that’s going to go.” I see photos of myself from the shoot, and I think “wow, I look fat. If I’m going to continue, I need to lose 15-20lbs.” I notice my arms when they aren’t boxing, and I think “Body, we are going to be eradicating this excess gunk.” I look at myself in the mirror at boxing class, and I think, “I am the biggest girl in here.”

These thoughts are as bad for me as a huge serving of McDonald’s.

My self-talk has become militant, grim, almost violent. This is SUCH a huge change…when I look back at my year of healing from The Most Unbelievably Awful Relationship, the energy I had back then was allowing. nurturing. forgiving. calm. serene.

So the Inner Health Coach has to step up now and coach herself…and because I want to help my clients, I’m doing this publicly.

First of all, let’s talk about Obesity. It dismays me to see an actress like Jennifer Lawrence called “Obese.” There are comments by people who say she’s “fatter,” or the supporters who seem to think they’re being very generous, saying “she’s just a little soft and feminine, that’s all.” When I look at her, I see a person who is in a very healthy place and shape for her own body. Different bodies are going to have different versions of “healthy,” and it can be a heck of a lot of work to maintain the fighting-fit, very trim version that Ms. Lawrence has, that is still somehow considered “obese” in Hollyweird.

So what concerns me is this: when I have a client who is struggling with weight gain, or wants to make a big change and is carrying around a lot of excess; when that client is needing to start small (thus building sustainable change by creating good habits!), how do they continue if they are bombarded with this crap about a very fit person being “obese”?

One of the reasons people need health coaches is that what can happen in the beginning (and sometimes creeps back in from time to time, though it gets easier to work through it) is hopelessness and giving up. Our mind “gremlins” (the harmful “voices” or self-talk) want us to stay where we are. There is a big part of us that resists change, even if that change is a huge improvement to our lives. So the self-sabotage begins.

A person may get up to go for their 15-minute walk, and say to themselves, “I just feel so tired. The weight isn’t coming off. This is useless.” …and BAM, they sit on the couch, grab the chips, and push down the feelings of hopelessness with food. They give up.

This cycle takes time to break – a little change, and sticking with it every day until it becomes a habit. That creates the positive momentum. The cycle is a powerful gravitational force, and The ONLY way to beat it is with self-talk, with affirmations.

Because before we feed our bodies, we need to feed our minds.

Every time I pick up on a flaw and say “THAT is going to go,” I am keeping myself stuck in a place of victimhood and health-lessness. I feel the energy drain, and I feel the dragging sadness set in. Without the energy, how can I prepare healthy meals? How can I exercise?

So the shift that needs to happen is this. First, a big shift in self-talk.

Notice the harmful thought, “My belly is too soft.” “I am fat.” and tell yourself, “You know what, that thought isn’t helping me.”
Then feed your body and mind a good thought to counteract it. “I am strong.” “I feel good after that workout.” Don’t use negating words or try to do something like “I am not fat,” because the focus in that statement is still on the harmful word “fat,” and you’ll just get into a pointless argument with your gremlin. Use positive language that builds. Focus on the things that feel deeply true; the things you feel grateful for.

Gratitude is a HUGE antidote to toxic self-talk poison. “I am grateful to you, body, for getting through that workout. I am grateful you are strong.”

or even start very small: “I am grateful to be able to walk.” I had a therapist tell me once to start really REALLY small…to go for a walk and start with my feet. “thanks, feet, for carrying me.”

Seriously- how much do we take for granted? Our feet…The ability to breathe…

Then it’s time to begin again, to revise the vision.

If I look too far ahead and create goals like “I need to lose 20 lbs and be thinner,” I will look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I’ll just feel overwhelmed.

So what I do is shift the thinking. The goal is now “Today, I will drink more water, do my best in boxing class, and make some healthy meals.” I will plan the meals- miso soup, kale stir fry, isagenix shake… I have a few standbys I have learned how to make quickly, so I never get into that I-don’t-know-what-to-eat,-I-guess-I’ll-just-grab-processed-food rut.

THEN, (and here’s the huge thing that this entire article is about)
I learn once again to love myself as I am, in this moment, right NOW.

That’s the thing that concerns me about all this Hollyweird stuff people are reading. If we are comparing ourselves to someone else and reading criticisms given to that person and taking those criticisms, multiplying them by whatever our differences might be and then applying them to our own bodies,
how can we love ourselves as we are?

Hilda

this is Hilda, the first illustrated “plus-size” pinup. She’s by Baron von Lind.

Sustainable, long-term change begins with acceptance right NOW.

I have experienced this firsthand, and know it to be so so so deeply true. If I could only tell ONE thing to everyone in this world who feels they want to work their way to a more healthy body, mind, and spirit, I would say just this one thing –
First, love yourself as you are right now.

Because what happens then is that the Grim, battling, self-hating, rigid, angry determination to CHANGE goes away.

What comes in its place is peace, allowing, the feeling that you CAN, patience, and steady perseverance.

What comes in when you take deep breaths and love yourself as you are right NOW, is that the body feels safe, no longer chastised, and it’s more ready to listen.

It’s more able to release the unwanted weight when it is being treated with kindness.

This is the foundation for lasting, sustainable, non-painful, joyful change.

It takes a lot of work to love ourselves as we are right NOW and to silence the self-hating thoughts; if those thoughts have become deeply ingrained habits, carving new thought pathways will be like trying to get the deer to walk along a different track so your grass can grow back…it might feel impossible.

Just breathe deeply, and take it slow. Take it with a sense of humor and self-love. Approach it with a sense of adventure. This can actually be fun!
Think some good and loving thoughts; wake up in the morning and think of three things you are grateful for, create an affirmation for the morning or the whole day, and watch as the self-hating thoughts dwindle and eventually grow silent.

And then, do what needs to be done to feel good TODAY. learn to massage kale, and make a stir fry. Tell yourself when you prepare it and when you eat it, that you are feeding yourself nutrients because you are worth it!

Will I continue to act? I do not know. But I do know that whatever work I do, I want to have a solid foundation of self-confidence and I want to celebrate my life! Let’s do this!

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Hilda lighting the way…

(Zen and) The Art of Farginnen

I have only an hour until my next class, but I want to set something down to return to later -

just a brief sketch.

The Art of Farginnen.

Ich Fargin…

When someone else is shining, do we envy that person and want their light,

or do we rejoice for them, hold them up, get our ego out of the way and let our heart expand?

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The latter is what it is to fargin. 

Just came from a class on farginnnen taught by my rabbi David Zaslow (who will have a book on it coming out sometime in the future), based on the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (זצייל) and I am inspired. I never had a word for something I have tried to practice for years now. It can be difficult, but as I taught myself to celebrate when a friend landed a great role or published a book, I found that I felt so much better. Life felt more beautiful. Truly celebrating friends’ successes in areas of my own passions led to a more expanded life, heart, and mind. It also, oddly enough, created more flow in my own life – it was almost as if getting rid of the contracted places of envy got rid of energy blocks, and as my focus became more positive, more beautiful things were able to take root and grow in my heart and life.

I fully believe this is a practice we can cultivate, just like we are tending a garden in our souls.

It was (and is still) a practice that grows by doing. Once in a while when i feel the twinge of envy, I still have to consciously reach into my heart and ask it to be more generous. I have to make an effort – but it’s less frequent now that I have to work at this so hard…
Or when I feel that envy twinge, I look at it as information, telling me that I want that in my life too, and I tell myself it’s a sign post and a gift — time to take that as an example of what to build in my own life! Then I celebrate for my friend… in the consciousness that abundance is real; that there is enough for everyone.

I think the lack of ability to fargin, or a “nicht farginnen” consciousness – (someone who lives in envy of others’ achievements, eating themselves up with jealousy or regret, or trying to take the spotlight or attention…etc…) is born of a poverty mentality.  If someone is wounded in a way that makes them feel there won’t be enough to go around, they must cling desperately to what they have, there isn’t the flow of energy that allows giving and receiving, this is a ripe breeding ground for Nicht Farginnen.

Ich fargin … I feel at this moment that it is a pure form of love. I am so happy to have a name for this now, and a book of guidelines for building a practice of nourishing my own heart’s ability to fargin.

The things it’s harder to fargin about…? That’s just a sign it’s an area we need to nourish in our own lives. If I envy someone’s book being published, I’d better turn it around – celebrate, and convert the envy into rocket fuel to get me working on my own book.

There will always be enough. There are enough acting roles, and the right one for me will find me. There are enough readers for every different kind of book. There are enough venues for every voice that needs to be lifted in song. There are enough ways to see and be seen. There is always enough love for everyone; there are enough clients for every coach — we are all different, and the ones who resonate with us will find us…

Ich fargin. I aspire to this – to lift up those around me whenever I can. to celebrate them.
To live with a generosity of spirit and heart, and not live in the contracted place (which is so painful anyway…who would want to live there???) of envy and starved poverty mentality .

This is incoherent; I have dashed it out very quickly – If you have thoughts on this subject, please add comments — Ich fargin! I will be grateful.

Also – a question for discussion: What is the response when we know that someone else is nicht farginnen us? When their behavior speaks of envy and/or judgment?
I believe continuing the process of trying to forgive is necessary; letting go; seeing with compassionate eyes. Because otherwise, we might fall into the trap of contraction which is so contagious, isn’t it…

in memory

let death teach us how to live -
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Today is a deep reminder to me – we never know how long we have, so when I look into someone’s eyes, when I talk to them,
I want to be there fully. It’s a practice so easy to forget when we are so busy…
nothing- nothing at all – can be more important than connecting truly with the heart.

 

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I’m glad I was there. I am grateful I heard you. Thank you for sharing you.

You both were such bright lights in your own unique ways. Oddly, though so different, you shared a childlike quality of playfulness & sweetness – so this day is a very heavy one indeed.  A little light left the world when you died.

how fortunate we were to be here to know you, even a little bit.

It is beautiful that you both touched so many people’s hearts, and left them a little (or a lot) changed for the better. If only we all could do something that glorious with our time here. Both of you did. You gave joy.
Selfishly, i go to a place of: i do not want to lose anyone else. make it stop.
this is too much. I do not want to say goodbye.

rabbiz

So let this be a teacher to me – and to all of us still here- that love is the most important – what could matter more than knowing we will also leave behind us a legacy of sweet loving kindness?

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Anger: Four Steps to Release and Heal

Anger. What is it, why does it happen, and what is the healthiest way to deal with it?

These questions have been coming up as I have carried anger for the past three days. That doesn’t feel good in my body or heart, so I decided to really examine what was happening.

I came up with these key things: four ways to diffuse and heal the anger.

 

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1) Name it.

What am I REALLY feeling? Anger is a secondary emotion – there will be something underneath it.  So go through, list the things you feel out loud. “I feel angry because ________.”  Keep going until you run out of reasons. Then, dig deeper.
“I feel minimized because _________.”
“I feel used because _________.”
“I feel threatened because _________.”
“I feel betrayed because _________”
“I feel afraid because _______”  whatever comes up, name it.  For each one, list reasons until you run out of things to say. Let yourself cry if you need to. purge it.

When you have done this, sit silently with your heart and give yourself love. Give yourself approval. Remind yourself that you are safe. No one can harm you or detract from you without your permission.

 

2) Reach Out.

Connect with other people who remind you how loved and how incredible you are – not necessarily with words, but simply with the way they are happy to be around you.

When we interact with others, the way we relate to them is a reflection of ourselves. We are creatures who project — and that’s why if we find ourselves continually saying negative things about others, if certain words/phrases keep repeating/patterns keep repeating with every relationship, it’s time to examine ourselves. For example, if people say their ex is “crazy,” (they’re likely to say that about all of them), it’s time to take a hard look at their own issues. Or If we are continually suspicious of others, it’s time to do some counseling to heal whatever it is in us that is living in a lack / fear of loss mentality.

So : go interact with the people you have good things to say about. The people you love. The people who make your heart smile. The people who know, love, and bring out the best you.

3) Take Personal Responsibility.

After a time, if the anger cycles and re-cycles, it’s time to examine what it’s trying to tell you. Anger is a signal. I was told once by an incredibly brilliant person that “Anger is a sign that we need more self-care.”
It can also be a signal that our boundaries have been crossed in some way. It can be a signal that we aren’t being true to ourselves.

In my case, I betrayed myself in a huge way. I kept silent. I fell into old people-pleasing behavior and did not speak what I wanted or what I didn’t want; I didn’t speak what I was feeling — I did something that was NOT o.k. with me in that moment.
It was a very horrible, difficult experience, and the rage aftermath was nearly crippling.   Apparently I have healed so much that my subconscious is telling me in no uncertain terms, it is NOT ok with self-betrayal anymore.

This anger is mine, I own it, it belongs to me.  When you say that, you stop putting it on others. You stop saying “He did ….x,y,z” and listing the actions and circumstances that triggered you into reaction, that were a catalyst for the anger response. We can waste years of life if we continually justify our anger with someone else’s actions — because the focus will always be on something we cannot control. We will be in reaction, telling the harmful actions and choices over like rosary beads, re-opening the wound and reacting again as though it just happened. The stress hormones will flood the body anew. I can feel them come up even now, if I play over in my head the circumstances that led to my anger.  This is not healthy for the body or soul,  and it keeps us stuck. Stuck in old circumstances that no longer exist (the past does not exist except in our own head, since everyone’s experience of a moment is different!) stuck in reaction, basically — it keeps us a victim.

So. Owning the anger is an empowering thing.  I KNOW people can do absolutely horrible things, and depending on the degree of the harm, there may need to be years of processing anger. This is a healing step.  But once the healing has occurred and enough time has passed, there is a time to own it all, take responsibility for our emotions, and know that we can make choices.  We can’t choose what others do. Sometimes we are truly helpless and someone else’s behavior is deeply violating. What we can choose is how we heal, how we walk forward, how we honor ourselves – how we talk to ourselves from that moment on. We don’t have to take any responsibility for what someone else chooses to do – if they treat us badly, we don’t have to choose to say “They treated me badly because something in me is not worthy of respect,” or “I invited that,” or any other variation of taking blame for someone else’s shitty behavior. No…what we can instead choose is “I love myself/I am incredible/ if they can’t see it, their problem,” and so on. This is owning our anger, owning our response, and knowing that we deserve better and can walk away faster next time.

I uncovered that the person I was truly angry with was myself. I was livid with myself for staying silent, for freezing and complying, falling into a very long-ago established abused-victim behavior. I was furious with myself for being afraid to speak up. Underneath that, I was deadly afraid. If I had betrayed myself again, when would it stop? When would I finally learn my own worth, stop caring so much what others think, and SPEAK UP when something wasn’t ok with me, or when a boundary had been crossed?

This was a harmless, innocent situation, (albeit thoughtless and rude-) and yet the old harms came up due to a chance dynamic.  What, I wondered, would teach me to believe in myself and know that I was valuable and speak UP?

The answer is : the anger. The anger is teaching me. The anger is there TO teach me. I just had to stop ratcheting around the room like a burning ping-pong ball, and create stillness. I had to stop running from the anger, I had to stop reaching out to try to communicate with the person I had been angry with, I had to look within and tell it, “Ok, anger, I am listening.”

Every human being is going to experience anger. If we could stop putting shame and fear around it and start listening to what it’s trying to tell us, we might all be healthier with it.  Anger in itself is not a bad thing. It’s natural and it’s vital to our survival. What is important is how we use it – if we can create some stillness and listen to it, if our subconscious feels heard and honored, it won’t try so VERY hard to get our attention.

 

 

4) Self Care.

Now it’s time to remind ourselves that we are loved — and that we are accepted and whole just as we are, anger and all. When something happens that triggers anger, there is a great vulnerability afterward, and the self-esteem will take a big dip.
We  need to feel some solidarity and safety, and the awesome thing is, we don’t need anyone else to give that. We always have that available, because we can give it to ourselves!
A good start to rebuilding self-esteem and feelings of security & being loved is to do some self-care practices.  Cook a healthy, delicious meal, or take yourself out on a date! Take a bubble bath, or do some self-massage with oils or scents that soothe you. Take a walk in beautiful surroundings. Write a gratitude list, and really ask your heart to feel the goodness of these things in your life. Exercise – do something that isn’t a punishing chore, but fun and playful! Something you enjoy. Write yourself notes about why you are awesome. Write affirmations (short and sweet!) and say them to yourself while meditating, or while taking a walk.

Do the things that empower you, do the things that make you feel most YOU.

If we feel empowered and safe, we will experience less anger. If we feel loved, we will experience less anger. The constant work is to give these things to ourselves.

I wish everyone healing in this continual process… I know I feel a lot better :)

Holy Sh*t. The Biggest Challenge Of Your Life. (You May Need Goggles For This One)

I think maybe our minds are wired for hypervigilance- after all, it’s not the relaxed and “it’s all good” happy-thinking ones who survived in the jungles and forests. Maybe it’s encoded in our DNA to worry, to focus on the problems or small hints of possibly-approaching-trouble and develop those hints into stories of What Might Be. So it takes a lot of work to train the mind away from this stuff -and it’s easy, in times of illness, weariness, hunger or stress, for the mind to slip back into those old worn pathways. The “What Ifs” —

I made the worries and upsets large in my mind, and forgot my sense of humor. I left it behind somewhere lost in a pile of emails, to-dos, cold remedies and grim watching of the numbers on the scale-

I forgot the simple joy of being alive in this beautiful world;

I forgot to celebrate my strong body, and instead I began to watch it suspiciously for signs of weight gain…

I forgot, even, the joy of boxing; I made it a task, a thing I had to do. On the days I would miss, I would get on the scale four or five times in order to “make sure” my weight hadn’t gone up.  I made myself a Project. To Be Completed. To Be Perfected.

I forgot why I was in nutrition school… I forgot why I was in a Maggid program…I forgot the heart, the reason that drove me to seek to learn these healing arts, and they became a To Do List, a Must-Do, Have-To-Do List that had drained away my joy completely.

I forgot that people cared about me – and I forgot to look at those people and see how incredibly dear they all are.

I forgot to look with fresh eyes and see how incredibly full and rich my life is.

I mean…not too long ago, I thought everything would be perfect “If only I could lose that weight.” I was so happy with my amazing, kick-ass life, but not happy with my weight, which had gone about 20lbs beyond my body’s normal “set point” during a difficult relationship. The relationship ended (whew!); I lost the weight.

Soon, I got used to my old “skinny clothes” being a bit baggy, and the gratitude feelings shifted – I started to nitpick every flaw, wish my muscles would be larger, more defined, wish I could box faster, stronger, longer — it became “If only I could lose MORE weight…”

Then, I woke up, and realized that if I didn’t change my thinking, this would continue indefinitely.  I would never be satisfied. I’d never reach a moment where everything was perfect.  As soon as I realized that, I noticed most of the people around me carrying on a similar theme.

The What-Ifs and If-Onlys and But-I-Don’t-Haves were the bulk of conversations.  They seem to be huge occupiers of many of our time, thoughts, and energy.

Say I gave a present to someone and they didn’t appreciate it. Worse, what if they saw it, shrugged, and then started talking about all the things they DON’T have. I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t really want to give that person a present again — or if I did, I’d be prepared for the reaction and wouldn’t, maybe, put as much loving energy into the finding, choosing, and joyful giving of the present as I had before.

I think that’s how it is when we forget gratitude for what we have. When we instead focus on what we lack…why would the universe want to give us more of the juicy good stuff, if we can’t appreciate what we have been given?  And anyway, where is the fun in complaining? yecccchhhh.

I dunno about you, but I don’t want to be a  party pooper in my own LIFE.  It’s like showing up to a birthday party the Universe is holding in my honor, and having atrocious manners the whole time, or sitting and moping about a Past Life and reading its old letters, listening to its old droopy love songs, and generally missing the entire party by behaving like a wet sock! ew!
I don’t want to live with lack-goggles on any more. They’re so dreary. It took me a little while but my sense of humor is back, and I found a pair of hope-infused gratitude goggles and they’re back firmly in place.

 

Image

Here’s all it took :  laughter (someone called when I was in the midst of a Very Grim Day with a to-do list a mile long, and made me laugh…)
Somehow that particular moment, that laughter and lighthearted exchange shook the Grim Goggles off my face, and I saw the sun on the trees across the street. I saw the loveliness of the world on my way to complete my errands, and I even saw how blessed I was to be on such an errand – voting!! – for which privilege women in the past had fought a really tough battle.

Then I entered into a conscious effort to change my thinking with these tools: Medition. Writing. Self-care. The practice of awareness- of truly being right here right now, one breath at a time, and seeing my world with new, fresh, conscious eyes.

I might be half asleep,  and my mind is spinning off on Floyd Mayweather the boxing champ, and his tactics in the ring. I’ll be going over boxing moves in my mind, and thinking how to be better, faster, stronger — and that’s when I’ll realize my mind is monkeying away. I’ll breathe deeply into my belly. I’ll notice and name the beauty around me. I’ll say to myself “Be here now. I am here, breathing the crisp air that’s coming through the window. The sun is shining in a patch on the ceiling, I’m looking at the green, sunlit leaves of a tree.”  I’ll name the things I experience.  I’ll drop back again into the present.

That’s the practice  of waking up. That’s the practice of becoming present — it’s what meditation teaches us. It’s like a heavy bag workout for the mind…and I think it’s going to be a constant practice for me.

You think Floyd Mayweather is a champ? You think boxing is tough? This is gonna be the biggest challenge yet,
being here for your own life!  Actually being in it. Think you can do that? 
I ask myself,
and then I grin.  I always did love a challenge.  (It also cracks me up that my inner voice sounds, sometimes, a lot like Rocky’s trainer.)

So. Are you ready for this challenge, Dear Reader?

All we have to do is begin to be aware of what we’re grateful for, and it’s like our eyes are opened and we can actually see more clearly the people in our lives we are so blessed to have, the moments of peace, the beauty.  (and of course, the cats.)

From there, once I “woke up,”  I saw what I had been doing to myself.  I had utterly forgotten to enjoy being alive. I had gotten so caught up in trying to achieve and trying to reach a specific goal, I had forgotten to be grateful for living, and enjoy it.

And here’s a thought: what if I never achieved this “important goal”?  What if THIS is my great life’s work, just the every day living that happens in between trying to achieve things?  Wouldn’t it be better to do my best to be present, right here now, if this in-between-on-the-way-to-a-goal-place is my life? And I’ll take that one step further — what if the struggles, the small frustrations, the striving itself is the Big Work I am here to do?

What if.

It pays to be present in the small things, rather that get through them as quickly as possible so that the real business of living might finally, finally begin –

the real business of living is now. and now. and now!  And with all its imperfections, with the feeling of being left out sometimes, and the feeling of sometimes not communicating clearly with our partner, and the feeling of tiredness and wishing we could just catch UP for once…

This business of living is a really lovely, fun thing.  I’ve got my Gratitude Goggles on now, and I can see it so clearly.

Do find yourself a pair – they’re all the latest rage in Paris, I hear…  :o)

Imagesyllabus (this is stolen from some cool teacher on tumblr, by way of a cool teacher on Facebook. O, modern times, you do leave me breathless. I shall have to loosen my stays.)