Conversation With A Medium

Okay. How do I say this? Let me count the ways. Should it be 1. As a something shared with me by a friend or a client,  2. As a program I saw on TV,  3. As a story I read in a book, 4. As an experience encountered in a dream? Or how about none of these, how about the truth? That at 10:15 a.m.Tuesday morning, without prejudice, or preconception ─ with only the slightest notion of what to expect or how to handle what I might hear or learn, I spoke by phone with someone I had never seen and had only a slight knowledge of, but whose credentials as a medium were both respectable and respected, and who asked me the following questions, which blew away the veil between this world and the next with these few simple words.

“Can you tell me who Esther is?”
“Do you know anyone named Betty?”
“Who is Sol or Samuel?”
“Who is Howard or Harold?”

Esther was my mother-in-law. I called her Queen Esther. She was Eastern European royalty with a Yiddish accent. Betty was my mom. There are no words to do her justice; she was far too good for this world. Sam was my father; he taught me resilience and generosity by living it each day of his life. And Harold was my beloved friend. He helped me to repair my life and restore my soul. His love for me was a miraculous surprise, a saving grace.

The medium speaks not in hushed tones, nor in anyone else’s voice but her own, which is calm, normal and bright. She sees my father in uniform. She sees a  horizontal sepia toned photo of him with other soldiers. (once she mentions it I remember. It was at least a foot long, perhaps more. I kept it rolled up in a box until it fell apart and disappeared). He keeps shaking his head to tell me not to feel guilty. He says he knew I was busy with my family and my life. That I couldn’t always be there for him.

She knows I took care of Harold while he was ill, but she also knows I wasn’t with him when he died, that I got a call to tell me he was gone. He wants to thank me for how I cared for him during his illness.That I helped him to have a “king’s exit.” That I was not there when he passed because he wanted it that way. Harold had been an actor for many years. “A King’s exit,” was something he would say.I can hear him saying it.

She knows my mom’s name; my mother-in -law’s name; my dad’s name.That my dad had been in the service and there was this photo of him in uniform. That I had taken care of Harold while he was ill.  How could she know all this? It’s “impossible”.

She says my sister is doing great. That the pain of her passing has “evaporated.” That during her greatest suffering her higher self departed her physical body leaving only raw ego behind ─ as though an alchemical process had taken place. How comforting to hear this. Yet, why would I believe a word this person says? Anyone can say a loved one is doing great. It’s what we want to hear. It’s what mediums tell us, a lucrative gimme.

Before we spoke I told her nothing about myself, except that my sister had passed. I began to let a small piece of something slip out when we started our conversation and she quickly shut me down, told me not to say more about anyone or anything so her reading would not be tainted, her mediumship could remain uncompromised.

Things came up  that I didn’t expect, not that I “expected” any of it.

Perhaps this is foreign territory for you (as in some ways it is for me). But she had me at:”Can you tell me who Esther is?” And she sealed the deal with ”Do you know anyone named Betty?”

This may or may not hold meaning for you or give you some comfort. My logical mind feels squeezed, bent out of shape. But despite this assault on my left brain intellect, what I experience  blows away any remnants of doubt that I have in the eternal, and affirms my belief that this is not all there is by any means. How could it be?

Just because we can’t wrap our minds around this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In fact, the opposite is true. There’s just too much impossible knowing here to think this was anything but a connection with the other side. What’s in it for us to think otherwise?

But now I want more. I wonder what are they doing? Where are they? Are they here beside me, or are they somewhere out there in the cosmos? How do they spend the day, the night? Do they watch us? Are they alone or together? Do they miss their physical bodies? Do they work on reversing bad karma? Do they fall in or out of love?  Or is their energy invested in repairing themselves and the world?

There’s much to think about. Even more to experience. But I can wait. Really. I can wait.

Here is an exercise for those with someone whose passing was fraught with anguish and pain.

The Undoing

Take a piece of paper and write down all the horrific things that went on during this person’s passing. Crush the paper. Burn it. Get rid of it in any way you choose: Bury the ashes, throw them in the river, to the wind, down a toilet. And know that the pain and darkness is gone.

 

 

Anger Banishment: Beyond the Anger Management Myth

Do you ever get angry? Or are you one of the lucky few who bypass anger, take the high road, and sail through difficulties, unpleasant situations, disappointments and black clouds of annoyance with a calm reserve that most of us have yet to get a handle on.

Until I was fifty, I thought I was one of you. I was wrong. I discovered this when I began seeing a man whose angry antics woke me up to the rage that had been simmering inside me for years. The relationship was short lived, but served its purpose. I began to express on the outside what had been going on, on the inside. How fortunate!  For it’s the anger that goes unnoticed, unexpressed, and unattended that’s not only dangerous but can be lethal as well.

We’ hear a lot about Anger Management. But, I’ve never understood what it means, any more than I understand how to “manage” a  river, an avalanche, an earthquake, a flood, or tornado. The issue is not how we  manage our anger, but how we flow with, express and channel it so that it doesn’t sweep us away, leaving behind devastation, guilt, and regret.

In Woody Allen’s  film,Manhattan,” his character is asked what makes him angry.

“I can’t express anger. That’s my problem” he says . . . “I just grow tumors instead.”

This comment is less funny than true. Held resentment and anger get internalized and the body responds by creating tumors (or something equally toxic and debilitating), which once diagnosed and removed, disappear, at least for awhile, without us bothering to ask: What does this mean? What can I do, change, become, so I can resolve these feelings of darkness and move on with my life?

Anger has many faces. The simple outburst that lasts a few seconds; the sarcastic cut; the ream; the rage, and the roar are a few. And though all do damage and call for our attention and concern, the  most dangerous is the slow simmer of resentment ─ the kind of anger that eats away at your insides while stealing your peace of mind and darkening your light.

Several years ago I was in a class with a woman who claimed she was immune to anger. From her demeanor and the bitter stories she told about her life it was easy not to believe her. Her husband, who was also in the class, said that all winter she had punished herself for choosing an inadequate heating system for her office. Instead of replacing it, she sat in the cold for hours each day to atone for her error. Her behavior wreaked havoc with her already compromised health and the peace of the family. Yet she chose to ignore her malignant rage and the resentment that fueled it, both of which remained invisible and unresolved.

We are, each of us in our way, exquisite reflections of our anger, as our anger is of us. But  we are fortunate to have the gift of awareness and the power of choice so that at any moment we can flip the mirror and change the image of anger to one of love and forgiveness. Thus we find the seed of the sacred in the profane, and get the chance to repair ourselves, each other, and the world at large. Or we can choose, as did this woman, to ignore the light and dwell in the darkness. It’s always our responsibility. It’s always up to us.

Should you want to make the shift up and away from anger, here is a Hawaiian healing process called “Ho Oponopono,” that you might experiment with.

Ho  ’Oponopono

The premise of Ho ‘Oponopono is that we are responsible for everything. That, in essence, everything  is our creation. So what happens outside us, happens inside us as well. Thus, that mean-spirited, lazy, feckless person you’re angry with is YOU! Blake was right, the world actually is contained in that grain of sand. When you use Ho ‘Oponopono  you bypass mental gyrations via a humble mantra where all you need say is:

“I’m sorry,” and “I love you,” over and over again.

That’s it. That’s all.

Practice Ho ‘Oponopono even before you get angry. Practice it to heal others as well as yourself. Its effects can be miraculous. Use it for the next 21 days. If you feel so inclined, get back to me and let me know what happens.

Become your own authority: AKA Who’s the Boss?

 How would if feel to know who you are from the beginning? To have faith in yourself and  never ask for assurance from outside sources — to light your own torch and follow your own lead to wherever it is you are going. Can you imagine how that would be or is it too much of a stretch?

In 1962, a 20 year old girl was introduced on national TV for the first time. She stood in back of the curtain, just behind her famous host, and furiously hissed her name into his ear: Streisand! Streisand, like sand on the beach,” she said. During rehearsals, Ed Sullivan, repeatedly called her Streisland instead of Streisand, and Barbra, was not going to let that happen, even if it meant going off script, which, of course, she did.

Sullivan was not the kind of guy you sassed. He took himself seriously. He held grudges. He was famous, while Barbra was not. He had her life in his hands and she knew it. She didn’t flinch. Sullivan laughed and gave her his blessing. She took his beneficence and ran with it all the way to a bunch of Grammys, Golden Globes, Oscars, Emmys, and, a Tony *

Your name states your case; it gives you access to standing up, speaking out, and saying “Yes” to who and what you are. That night, Barbra from Brooklyn made it clear that she knew how to claim ownership of herself and her life. And she did it by speaking her truth and refusing to allow someone else, despite his  fame and power, to tell her what that truth might be.

I was 25 when Barbra made her debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. I recall watching her that night in pure amazement. As much because we looked so alike as for the brilliance and power of her performance When two years later I took my dad to see “Funny Girl” there was a couple sitting behind us who at the end of the show said “Your sister was great.” It gave me a thrill to pretend for even a moment that I had some of those same genes that had created not just that gigantic talent, but that persona that said “Here I am. This is it. I am Me. Don’t even think about raining on my parade you jerk!

What it comes to in the end, as in the beginning, is that to live authentically, to be happy and to make a contribution, you’ve got no choice but to “Become Your Own Authority.” There’s no way around or past it. It never fails to catch up with you in the long run, and it usually happens a lot sooner than that.

When kids say: “You’re not the boss of me,” beyond being fresh mouthed, they’re balking at being told how to live their lives. By tapping into this alchemical catalyst of self rule you turn lead into gold as it frees you from the expectations of others about how you and your life should be. The bottom line is simple: the events, the drama, the success and failure that happens along the way is window dressing that comes and goes, while the author, director and main role–player in your life, the one who is ultimately responsible, and is always there, is always you.

A client recovering from a complex fracture reminded me of this when after much emotional suffering she concluded that the expert she was so desperately seeking, the one who could give her the best advice, was no one else but herself. That it was time to stop asking others what to do and to get back out into the world and move on with her life right here, right now!

We all  have the power to place the course of our lives in the hands of another, but it’s a power that can’t be delegated with impunity. For though it seems to serve us well at the moment, the passing sense of relief it provides is sure to boomerang in the end.

Becoming your own authority is a spiritual practice that involves detachment from what other people think of you, which is none of your business to begin with, and depends, instead, on what you think of yourself. It’s how you carve out your path to salvation. You don’t need to be a star of the big or small screen or a master of the universe to claim this power. All you need do is say “Yes” to it. To experiment with it and see what happens, as you celebrate yourself, your life, and the sacred gift of who you are and what you are here to contribute and be. A significant task, but one I believe we all have it in us to do.

Should you be interested in taking this leap, the following imagery exercise may be useful to you in your effort:

*The Castle

Intention: To address and overcome  be ambivalence and self doubt. To become your own authority. Remember, this is imagination so anything is possible!

Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See yourself in front of a castle.There are seventy guards to overcome. To enter the castle, you must overcome these guards, alone.

So do this now, using the unlimited power of your imagination to create a way. Once this is accomplished, go inside to the dungeon and see who is there. Listen to what the person has to say. After you have heard this, set the prisoner free, then breathe out, open your eyes and return.

*This exercise was created by Mme. Colette Aboulker-Muscat

 *The awards Ms. Streisand has won thus far include: 10 Grammys, 2 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 4 Emmys, a Special Tony, an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement award and a Peabody for her special, “My Name is Barbra.” She continues to record and occasionally performs live to sold out audiences throughout the world.

 

“A human being is only interesting if he’s in contact with himself. I learned you have to trust yourself, be what you are, and do what you ought to do the way you should do it.” 

                                                                — Barbra Streisand

 

 

What Next? Embracing the Challenge of Change, Or Not

It goes on at every second — but we don’t notice it till, wham, there it is. That old devil Change invades our lives like a stealth bomber bypassing our best defenses. Getting past the guards at the gate without even a nod.

A client recently told me about a big change happening at work. She wonders “What’s Next?”  What’s next is our mechanical mind’s habitual reflex. It’s where we go when the demon of doubt attacks. But there’s a part of us, call it your soul or your spirit, that already knows. Just be still. Listen. Pay attention. And you’ll see.

When I was a kid there was a retail phenomenon called Woolworth’s, the first store that  went global. In the U.S. we called it the Five and Ten. In Great Britain they called it Woolies. They had everything at rock bottom prices. We bought small bottles of perfume, five at a time, a quarter a piece. Little chotchkas, that lasted a week. Notebooks, pencils, underwear, scarves, socks, miniature candies, and junk  jewelry. Sounds like today’s dollar stores but it was better, finer, more fun. By the 1980’s it was gone. What we’re left with is the Woolworth Building, a deification of the the founder, by the founder and for the founder paid for with his personal cash.

There was a movie theater in the Bronx called The Paradise. Huge. Amazing. A vaulted  blue ceiling filled with stars, extravagant murals, statues of gargoyles and cherubs, and a balcony that went on and up forever. It was a monument to Bronxites’ aspirations of grandeur. It was the scene of my first date. The first place I got “that feeling.” By the next time I went out with the guy “that feeling” was gone. The Paradise was gone soon after. Now they use it for salsa concerts, for proms, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

I’ve  moved ten times since then, trekking from the Bronx to Manhattan, to Westchester, to Vermont, and back. People, places, relationships, jobs, over and out. Now it may be time to do it again. Am I still up to it? How do I decide, choose, stay centered and come to terms with the flow of my life?

The Tao says: “Wait till your mud settles  and the water is clear.” No need to figure things out. Thinking about the future muddies the meaning and goes against the magic. The answers really do come when we stop seeking them. I need to remind myself of this all the time.

I’m a New Yorker. I never planned to move to Vermont. Ten years ago I was driving down Route 100, coming home from a” learn to ski trip.” I saw the pale winter sun reflected on the reservoir, the naked branches of the trees, the sheets of ice on the water, cracking, ready to melt: suddenly I knew. I moved four months later and stayed nine years.

The spirit and body speak. Our job is to listen. Only then comes the doing. In the space between, spend time with yourself. You alone can be excellent and peaceful company. Just try it and see.

Both you and I and my client,whose world seemed to change overnight, can choose to embrace each new chapter, or not. When it first appears it may feel uncomfortable, even scary, yet how wonderful that it presents itself at all. There are always blank pages. Let them be. The story is already written. It’s just that it’s written in invisible ink.

The following imagery exercise can help you create serenity, peace and calm in the midst of turmoil and change. Use it whenever you want or need.

Beneath the Sea*

Close your eyes and breathe out one time.

See yourself in tumultuous waters. Go now under the water to the bottom where all is still. Sit here at the bottom, and breathe in the light that comes through from above. As you do this, feel yourself becoming calm and still. Rise now to the surface where the water has become smooth and clear and allow it to carry you to a peaceful shore. Then breathe out, open your eyes and return.

*From Dr. Gerald Epstein

 

The Woman Who Hated Her breast

I once met a woman who hated her breast. It had a lump in it that turned out to be cancer. But she hated it long before the lump had appeared. She said that she hated it since  she was fifteen and decided it was too small, smaller in fact than her other breast, not the shape she preferred, and lacking in every way she could think of. For her,it had not one redeeming quality. “And look,” she said, “I was right — Just see what its gone and done to me.”

I spoke with her about reversing her beliefs. About letting go of her hatred of her breast, and of whatever else she felt that way toward in her life. She said it was useless. The cancer had gone too far, was too aggressive. The doctors had told her there was no hope. She had 6 months at best.

“But the doctors don’t know everything — they might be wrong. You could change the conversation, author a new story, right now, right here, at this moment.” She shook her head. “Too late. Can’t do it,” she said.

“Then how about making peace with it, I asked. “Can’t do that either,” she said. “I’m too scared. Too afraid. And I can’t forgive it for what it did to me.”

“So what do you want?”

“I want this not to have happened,” she said.

I once met a woman who hated her sister. I asked if she could forgive her sister for the many slights she said she had suffered at her hand. “I can’t,” she said.

What if forgiving her meant you could heal?*

“No. She doesn’t deserve it.”  Her “No” was unequivocal.

I once met a woman who was deeply depressed and said that she wanted to heal. She said she was willing to let go, to forgive, to make peace inside and out. As she got ready to leave my office I suggested that she not plump up the pillows on the sofa, that she forgo making sure everything looked perfect. She persisted in plumping and fixing as if I’d said nothing at all.

I gave it another try: “What if by leaving them be you could heal yourself and be happy again?”

“I need to think about it,” she said

And so it goes.

Our bodies are our fundamental truth. They speak to us in barely disguised, cellular messages and the choice of whether to listen is up to us. The mind-body conversation is concrete and direct.  It continues at every moment. Even when we refuse to consciously engage, we’re in it. But most of us have no idea it’s even happening, and pay it little to no attention.

We can choose to attune ourselves to a higher, more conscious way of being or not. If we say yes to this choice, it demands letting go, forgiving, and loving ourselves and others just as we are. Yet no matter how far–reaching the rewards, people often find it too hard, too unfamiliar, too much to deal with. And our flamboyant disregard only raises the stakes higher, and not in our favor.

But, for those willing to heal into life and love in this world (or the next), here’s an exercise from 12 Step Imagery to help you take the leap.

Spirit of  the Volcano 

Intention: To enter the presence of the present. To recreate and transform yourself and your life

Close your eyes and breathe out  one time through your mouth. Go inside to the core of the volcano, to the place of darkness and light. Know and live how this is the beginning and the end. Find here the inexhaustible force that creates and destroys.

Throw your fear and doubt into the fire and know how endless change is unfolding. Release all your yesterdays and all your tomorrows and be in the presence of the present.

Breathe out one time. Then open your eyes and return.

 

 

* To  Heal
1. To become whole and sound; to return to health.
2. To set right; repair.
3. To restore to spiritual wholeness.
4. Heal also means holy