FIFTY YEARS AND COUNTING

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King held his own truth and the truth of our founding fathers to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.

Fifty years ago much of this country was still frantically resisting civil rights for black Americans.

Fifty years ago 250,000 people, black and white, marched on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Fifty years ago men, women, and children were being sent to jail for peacefully demonstrating their desire to be equal and free,

Fifty years ago JFK was against the March on Washington. He was afraid of violence. He feared what might happen.

Fifty years ago, the people marched anyway.

Fifty years ago, Mahalia Jackson reminded Dr. King to tell us he had a dream.

Fifty years ago there was a Moment in Time when the curtain parted and we heard the speech that inspired our nation and moved us toward the light.

Fifty years ago the world turned. And it will never turn back!

* * *

Freedom is our natural calling. Here’s an imagery exercise to integrate the desire for freedom, and the will to break from bondage into your daily life:

Freedom

Close your eyes and breathe out one long exhalation through your mouth

See yourself enslaved (in whatever form this takes ─ it could be to a person,  place, thing, mood, feeling or whatever you might experience or see). How does it feel? How do you look? Where are you? Who are you with?Breathe out one time and do whatever needs to be done to release yourself from bondage and set yourself free. Remember this is imagination, there are no limits. Then open your eyes and return

*President Kennedy’s assassination just three months after the march, raised fears that the civil rights movement would stall, but the next year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. In 1968, assassins would claim the lives of both Dr. King and Robert Kennedy.

 

Dream Girl: This Is It

At thirteen I dreamed of being a star. At twenty-one, I was teaching fourth grade in the South Bronx, shielding my head from the chair being thrown at me by one of my lesser fans. At that moment I knew for certain I had hit bottom without a glimmer of fame or stardom in sight.

Instead of becoming a glamorous actress I had become a terrified teacher. When this proved more dangerous and less rewarding than I had hoped, I decided to get married. So much for the gauzy Technicolor dreams I’d grown up on.

But there were plenty of less grandiose dreams to come, dreams that seemed to pan out, but often with a downside that left me wondering. Like the glass coffee table I had to have. The one that would make my life complete. It fulfilled its promise for a month or two, then became invisible. Another object to dust. A danger zone for my year old son who tumbled off the sofa one morning as I vacuumed, and despite the padded cover I had made to prevent infant injuries, hit his head on one of its perfectly beveled edges.

His bright red blood was everywhere. It sent me screaming through the hallway, banging at my neighbors’ doors until someone opened up and called the pediatrician while I stood with a towel wrapped around his head, praying that he would survive. He did. And I am grateful. But the fact that this object of my desire had so betrayed me (the table not the child) set the tone for other disappointments – dreams come true that often managed to show a less savory side once my guard was down or their time was up. Who knows which?

The glass table was emblematic. A pink cashmere sweater, an oversized house on a hill, a prized position at a famous medical center, a well published book, all hypnotized me into believing that the “Magical Thingdom,”* held the key to my happiness. It did me in again and again. But I was far too focused on “the way life should be” to notice.

At my lowest, while I was working a job, cold calling merchants in White Plains to get them to advertise in the weekly paper, I looked to another bit of magic called Est * ― a consciousness raising event (forerunner of The Landmark Forum and whatever it has currently morphed into) that blasted my reality to bits. I still recall the moment when after two weekends of mass hysteric group brain-washing, with people vomiting, crying and pulling their hair out over the pain of their past, the cute trainer guy in the blue crew-neck sweater who repeatedly promised us we’d “get it,” shared the secret to the mystery of life:

“This is it!” he said as I waited to hear the 11th commandment that would transform my world.

Impossible! How could “This” be “it” when I thought “That” was “it?” This so called “it” proposed that the way things are right here, right now is all there is and was the opposite of my own “IT,” which focused on dreams of the future (aka more, better and different).

I hated his “it” so I went home, crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head, and stayed there for thirty-six hours. For the next several years I hid out inside my head. Then I moved to Vermont where I stacked wood, shoveled snow, and learned to love my new life but not the black flies. There was no aha moment. Just a slow infusion of the universal antidote to fantasy living: Truth and presence.

Okay, I “get it.” Living the life of my dreams begins with living the life that’s happening now. Happy or sad, difficult or easy, the way it “should” be, turns out to be the way it already is. Especially in times of painful circumstances, this stance is a challenge. But there’s gold in them there hills, and it’s worthwhile for us to mine it.

What a fine cause for celebration. What a a peculiar and remarkable relief.

Try this exercise to experiment with “This is it.”

Practical Magic*

With your eyes open, exhale through your mouth one time and look around you. See something you usually see (a photo, a lamp, your cat, your child), then zoom in on it and find something beautiful, new, or interesting about it that you haven’t noticed before. See what happens and notice how you feel.

*This exercise is adapted from the “What Is It,” technique created by Dr. Lydia Craigmyle whose work has inspired and centered me in my life.

*In Latin est. means “it is.”

* The Magical Thingdom is an expression coined by Dr. Gerald Epstein

The Relentless Temptation of Unbidden Advice

The first time I heard the expression “unbidden advice,” was when my teacher and friend, Gerald Epstein, spoke about its detriments and dangers and advised me to bypass this habitual tick of “otherly” concern since most “others” out there would prefer to steer clear of these pearls of  wisdom unless they ask for them. Thus, no need to stick your (or my) nose into someone else’s business. Both they and their business can carry on without us just fine.

At this moment I realized how dispiriting the advice game could be, and how directly this new found information spoke to me. For I, along with many, was one who took pleasure and purpose in “sharing” my opinions about what the other should do, yet was not so good at accepting these gems of wisdom, when they came my own way uninvited.

Quite simply. If I want to hear what you think I should do, be, get or whatever, I will ask. Otherwise it’s off limits. A burden. A torture. A form of harassment that I am supposed to acknowledge, appreciate, and thank you for when I just want to tell you to Stop, and leave me alone.

After six weeks of constant pain from a fall off the deck of my vacation house, I finally see glimmers of improvement. A couple of steps forward, a half step back. Climbing the ladder of healing, walking the road to recovery, has now become part of my daily reality as well as a dream, a belief, and an image. It’s slow going, but at least it’s going, and I am grateful — except for the overload of unbidden advice that lies in wait at every turn.

Recently, one of my neighbors came by for a visit, and lo! Not once did she suggest, advise or ask what I was doing to heal myself. There was no ”When are you starting PT? Have you thought about chiropractic? You should get an MRI. What about seeing a physiatrist, an acupuncturist, a faith healer?

Instead, we talked about life, relationships, the magnificent cupcakes she brought me, and the weather. She didn’t even chide me when I said I was responsible for my fall. Remarkable, since most people insist that I not be so hard on poor me. What they don’t get, and I am too weary to explain, justify or defend, is that I am not blaming or denigrating. I am reminding myself that “paying attention’” is the key to illumination and to living peacefully in this world. And though some other form of misfortune might have befallen me instead, this particular event would not have happened,  had I chosen to be here Now!

Okay. There is rough, even terrible, stuff we cannot avoid, but most things arise somewhere in the domain of our own consciousness or lack thereof. Perhaps not 100%, but close. So why not fess up, and take control of what we can. Yes, things happen. But a lot of them happen from the inside out and that’s the stuff we can get in touch with and master. Why pass that up, by, or over; it’s way too precious and enlightening to ignore. I don’t mean to pose this as advice. I’m done with that I hope. Just as an observation. What you do with it is yours to decide.

The following imagery exercise is an instant Rx for remaining calm even when unbidden advice, or any other annoying event comes your way.

Starry Skies*

Close your eyes and exhale one long breath through your mouth.

See and sense your entire being becoming like the surface of calm water reflecting the starry skies above.

When you have fully sensed this, know that you are calm and clear. Then breathe out and open your eyes.

 * Use when needed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Worry?

I admit it, I worry. Not only about this generation but the next. The one that hasn’t been born yet.

I worry that it will be born with tiny teeny muscular thumbs that can manage even the smallest devices at lightning speed, addicted to scrolling for hours, yet incapable of having a real conversation for more than a minute without looking down to check out an email or text — focused only on micro-technology that promises to make life easier and more convenient, yet somehow  manages to always fall short, leaving them to wonder what base still needs to be covered to get it “right,” or to find out what it was  they did yet again, to get it wrong.

I worry that they will fail to notice real life is passing them by ─ on  the way to the office, while having dinner with friends, or when they look at the sunset ─ as the technology trance weaves its spell via the irresistible need to record the moment by marking it like an animal marks its own via tweeting, texting, and sexting, or taking a picture or video, instead of just watching, enjoying, and being present and grateful for whatever it is that’s going on.

I worry because they don’t. Yet, I follow the advice of Rebbe Nachman* and continue to hope that those I worry about, who are already here, will look up for a second or two and give themselves a chance to live a more natural, creative, and aware life so they can bestow upon those who come after them, the possibility of knowing that what they believe to be perfectly normal is, in truth, on its way to becoming irrevocably insane

The Technology god is a jealous god. If we want to live a sound and lucid life in this world, we must master it.  Or else it will do as it is already well on its way to doing, and steamroll our souls by mastering us.

For those who care to restore normalcy and to create a balance between the new and the old, the creative, the spiritual, and the technological, use the following imagery exercise and see what happens:

Breaking the Trance

Intention: To wake up and to break free of anything that keeps you prisoner in your own life, and prevents you from exploring the vast unlimited, unknown of your True Self.

Close your eyes and exhale through your mouth one time.

See yourself in a trance, under the control of a suggestion, an idea, a belief, an ideal, a person, or a piece of technology.

Breathe out one time and find somewhere within you, amid the chatter and clutter, the one clear place of consciousness where you can see beyond it all to a space of clarity and peace.

From within this space, see that you have the power to wake yourself from your trance. Take whatever action is necessary and do this now (you might snap your imaginal fingers, clap your imaginal hands, or whistle a special imaginal note).

Once you’re awake, see yourself aware, energized, free from the trance, and completely yourself. How do you look and feel? What happens? What do you do?

Then breathe out and open your eyes.

* * *

*Advice from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: Never despair. Never! It’s forbidden to give up hope.”