Holiday Home — The Way We Were

I would love to go home for the holiday— back to 168th street and Nelson Avenue in the Bronx. To the Noonan Plaza, an amazing art deco building with gardens, a pond, swans, a waterfall, a cedar bridge spanning its narrows and a lighthouse to guide the swans and the rest of us safely home. I kid you not. This was where I lived my first 16 years. Clearly, I have not gotten over it — but home isn’t there anymore.

Holidays then were magic. And we celebrated all of them. When we celebrated Passover, we celebrated Easter. When we celebrated Hanukkah, we celebrated Christmas. I never thought to question it. For us it was normal.

For Passover we held a Seder in the foyer of our apartment where we opened our ebony side table to seat eight people. Crowded but cozy. My dad made the best matzo brie. Better than French toast. Enough sugar on it to cause a diabetic coma. I’ve tried for the past 50 years to replicate it with no success.

On Easter Sunday I wore a new coat, and a hat that looked like a bonnet, pale gray with blue braided trim. We decorated Easter eggs. We snacked on solid chocolate bunnies, wrapped in glowing golden foil. We ate enough jelly beans to keep the dentist busy for months.

When I was seven, a week before Christmas we snuck a small tree past my grandmother and into my room where it stood bedecked with colored lights and tinsel, We exchanged gifts, we did it all, and it all seemed all right.

My aunt, the Christian Scientist, who coached me in speech, manners, shopping, (both wholesale and retail) and taught me to never use the word “hate,” wrapped Christmas gifts with jewel tone metallic paper in which we could see our reflections. What went on inside those boxes was equally fabulous but who cared.

You may think this was confusing. It wasn’t. It expanded my world. It gave me a sense that we were part of a spiritual/cultural continuum that allowed me to dream inclusively, and to play the game of life with very few limits. It gave me a feeling of warmth and love, of sharing, and spirit that held my life together when it seemed like it was falling apart.

When kids at the Sacred Heart School across the street, told me I had killed Jesus, I knew they were wrong. They had to be. I was here on Nelson Avenue since the day I was born. So were my parents — we would never have done such a thing.

The way we were then no longer seems odd or unusual. Families and neighborhoods are mixed .We think and live globally. A friend’s son made his bar mitzvah in Israel last week. His mother is Christian, his father Jewish. They too celebrate beyond their borders and boundaries.

It’s all connected and it’s all okay. I knew that for sure when I first discovered the Last Supper was a Seder. It blew my mind. It’s time that people get that into their consciousness. The rest is a piece of cake. Or matzo. Your choice. Or mine.

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The Perilous Path of the Virtual Life

A 13 year old with a blog (a blogette, a blogetteer?) was recently on The Late Show with David Letterman. She has already become a multi-million dollar fashion-phenom and shows no signs of slowing down. For her this is normal. At 13 she has reached the heights.

Okay. Children grow up fast now. They were 9 last week. This week they are 32. And 32 is “old.” I look at them and think What happened? When do they do their homework? Eat. Sleep. Play− And live what we used to call real life?

Kids barely into their teens are wizards of commerce. People in their 20′s are ruling ‘the world of the future, and the future is Now! Writing blogs, running websites, making what they claim to be millions, and spouting slickly packaged spiritual wisdom that makes my head spin

When I look at all this hyped up expertise I wonder what’s the the lineage, the core, the foundation? A friend of mine who has the whole package (the website, the success, the lineage) says “There is none.” He may well be right.

This virtual world has spawned the phenomenon of “virtual experts” along with “virtual spirituality.” And I question whether people are interested in knowing the difference between what’s real and true and what’s not.

It took me decades to begin to know what I know, and way more important, to know what I don’t know.  But knowledge has become “know-how.” Wisdom has become Wizardry. And the Wizards are busy taking over the planet. Okay, I get it. The world has changed. But what happens when it’s for the worse? When wisdom and spirit get replaced by greed (aka Virtual Magic). And folks wake up one morning to find they, and the world around them, are lacking humility, humanity, wonder, and space to just be.

These twirling dervishes think they’ve discovered a short-cut. That we can narrow our focus and surf the surface — what lies beneath, beyond, or within doesn’t matter. That we can dive in and act as if we know what we’re doing and we are who and what we propose to be, and if we believe it there’s a pretty good chance that others will believe it too!

And the virtual music can keep on playing. And we can all keep dancing the virtual dance. And no one, or at least only a few, will ever emerge from the trance long enough to notice or know the difference.

But what people don’t know is that the short-cut is merely a “false-cut.” That no matter how many millions the uber-kids make or how many thousands follow them on Twitter or Facebook or Linked- in, we are here to Spiritualize our everyday life. Not just to materialize it. And that there can be no real joy in sacrificing one for the other, no matter what the virtual gods tell us is possible.

Keep Moving – Don’t Get Stuck In The Dark

Sometimes it feels too hard. Too scary. Too uncertain. Too, too.

Life plays hard ball. What looks good can disappoint. The dream turns out to be imperfect. The book doesn’t get published.  You get passed over for the job. The relationship goes south. The light at the end of the tunnel disappears and you’re stuck in the dark.

Breathe out. Stop thinking. This has happened before. It will happen again, yet we manage to get through it. What’s the choice?

Let go of the way it’s supposed to be. Forgo the “ideal. It keeps you enslaved and it soils your mind with insidious discontent.

Forget the wanting. It’s endless. Like a black hole that sucks out your soul. Practice Gratitude instead. It’s the antidote to fear, disappointment and attachment. It heals wounds. It let’s in the light.

Do you think I give it too much credit? Then forget what I tell you. The only way to know is to experiment and see for yourself.

Keep moving. One foot in front of the other. And say thank you. Even for the stuff you’ve lost. Or the stuff you don’t have yet. It costs you nothing – and it attracts the miraculous.

Soon – perhaps sooner than you imagine – you’ll look up and see where you are, and you’ll be amazed at how far you have come.

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The following imagery facilitates the practice of gratitude. Imagination bypasses the logical mind. It creates a pathway to healing that in daily life remains stubbornly invisible.

The Grateful Heart

 Intention: To live and become gratitude.

Close your eyes, breathe out, and see yourself climbing up to the Lake of Gratitude in the clouds above you.

Once you get there, reach inside your chest, remove your heart, and hold it lovingly in your hands.

See any damage it may have sustained. Then submerge it in the cool waters of this pristine lake and cleanse it of all that keeps it from being grateful.

Dry it in the sunlight, remove it from the lake, and replace it in your chest.

Sense and feel it vibrating to the presence of gratitude in the universe.

Now send this vibration back out into the world. See what happens. how do you feel? And open your eyes.

In Praise of The Non- Serious Life

A friend recently made a generous comment about my writing. I enjoyed the complement. But this concerns me. I try to stay away from taking my writing, or anything else, too seriously. I get far too enamored of each precious word and start to I.D. myself as “the Writer” − a razor’s edge of ego that I want to avoid

Wendy Mogel, who wrote “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” says that your child is not your masterpiece (listen up parents).  The same for my blogs, my coaching practice, and my life. Writing gives me a way to say stuff I enjoy saying. Muttering to myself gets boring, plus I look like I’m crazy, but who cares about that.

Writing a blog is like being a life-coach; it’s fun. Being a therapist, or doctor, or healer, is serious, like being a novelist. You’ve heard of the pain that novelists go through. I wrote a novel once. It nearly got published. And it nearly killed me when it didn’t. I had fallen in love with it. I had become attached. A dangerous and unwise thing to do.

People who get into therapy (I was one of them and it saved my life) want to be repaired, made whole, made “better.” It’s a worthy though weighty task for both for therapist and therapee.  It’s not supposed to be fun and it usually isn’t.

But being a coach is action and solution oriented. You don’t need to understand why. You don’t need to analyze. You get to explore, to learn, and to do something.  And if that something doesn’t work you can do something else. The same with blogging. You get in, you get out. You don’t make a big deal of it. It’s experiential, not mental. You learn by living.

A very wise woman, Colette Aboulker-Muscat, a teacher of spirit and imagination, said we take life too seriously. She was (she’d be happy to tell you) right, as always. I would add that not only do we err in how we “take life.” We err in how we “take ourselves.”

In The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, there’s a chapter called Rule #6. It keeps me sane and able to function in a world beset by issues so serious I can’t wrap my mind around them. It precludes hubris. It reminds me where I stand in the scheme of things. It goes like this:

Rule #6: “Don’t take yourself so g__ damn seriously.”

That’s it. That’s all. That’s enough! Someday, in this life or the next, I may climb the ladder to a place where I can look at the horrible, awful stuff that goes on and let it be, not judge whether it’s good or bad, serious or non-serious. I’m not there yet.

An hour ago I published this blog and lost it. Gone. Kaput. Vanished into the blogosphere. I searched three times then stopped. I chose to see this as a spiritual event, instant karma, an angel laughing, telling me it’s not that important — to remember Rule #6. So I sat down and wrote it again. Worse things happen. Much worse.  If it doesn’t kill me it makes me stronger, blah, blah, and blah. But I still want it back. Maybe I’ll go and search some more.

My Dear Dr Dinosaur and the “Biology of Belief”

 Last week my doctor told me he’s leaving his practice. He’s fed up with the system. He’s a physician who asks what’s going on in your life. To whom a symptom tells a story. Who smiles rarely, takes things too seriously, and speaks with a compassionate wisdom that goes way beyond the standard practice of medicine. He’s a thing of the past. That’s why we call him the Dinosaur.

Several years ago, after five other doctors diagnosed me with emphysema, we spoke on the phone. When I told him what was going on he said it didn’t sound right. We agreed that I needed to see him. He met with me, looked at my x-rays, and uttered the magic words, “You don’t have emphysema!” My life changed in an instant. From fear to hope, with a heartening vision of good stuff to come.

The power of suggestion is both a terrible and wonderful thing. The seed beliefs planted by authority figures create live or die messages that wield a power so strong it can literally kill you or save your life.

Your beliefs create your biology writes Dr. Bruce Lipton in his book, “The Biology of Belief.” Your DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages that stem from your feelings and thoughts. The influence of these signals on your physiology has been named the science of “Epigenetics.”

My own experience had me gasping for breath until I was told I had an inflammation, not a death sentence.  Then whoosh! The doors of the universe sprang open, and suddenly I could breathe.

When I was writing a book about asthma I spoke with several people who had “DID” (Dissociative Identity Disorder, aka Multiple Personality). Though they had symptoms of asthma in one identity, they didn’t have them in another. The same went for being myopic, diabetic, allergic, hypertensive, etc. When they went from one personality to another, their symptoms did not go with them.

For thousands of years mystics have said “With our beliefs we create the world.” So what might happen if I chose to believe both the science of epigenetics and the mystics’ ancient wisdom?  What if I bypassed my logical mind (which when scared or nervous or anxious dwells in  the whirlpool of doubt), cut to the chase, and said Yes to life every time I get the chance?

I may miss my dear dinosaur doc once he’s moved to his condo in Florida, but with healing just a belief away, and the power of the mind being extraordinary and infinite, I can dump the emotional baggage and the beliefs that bind me to it — And I can finally be home free. What a heartening thing to think about. And better yet, to actually believe and achieve!