Smoke Screen

Last week, a train stopped dead, 800 feet outside the L’enfant Plaza Metro station in DC. As passengers dealt with the darkness and the conductor’s conflicting narratives, smoke began filling the cars. They were told to get down low. To stay where they were. Not to open the doors, or to get out of the train. Some panicked. Some lost consciousness. Some prayed and tried to comfort each other. Some closed their eyes and remained calm. Eighty-four wound up at area hospitals. One woman died. And two people chose not to obey orders.

Just Following Orders

I’ve always been, unnerved by machines that stop, get stuck, go dark. Whether they be elevators, cars, trains, whatever. I’ve been tested and have failed miserably several times. I don’t quite panic, but I don’t stay calm. Yet there’s one thing I know for certain: my fear of being locked in and my terror of not being able to breathe, trump my fear of the dark and the unknown. As for following orders, I stopped doing that by the time was six.

Had I been unfortunate enough to be on this train,  I would have stuck with the former navy guy who labeled it “a situation,” then opened the doors, and offered to lead people out. Yes, there was the third rail to worry about, but if you’ve ever found yourself unable to breathe you get the picture. There were several who followed this man, as he walked away from the smoke toward the light. But by the time he got to the grating that led to the street there was only one person behind him. The others had all turned back.  

Become Your Own Authority

The voices of authority are easily enamored of themselves. They love to give orders. They tell you what to do and how to do it. As Rudy Giuliani walked the streets of New York after 9/11, taking up his role as “Leader” of the city’s millions of terrified pehple, he neglected to disclose that he’d approved the decision to put the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center. It must have slipped his mind.

Dan Baumbach, a software engineer from Merrick, was stunned to find that building officials in One World Trade Center were telling workers not to evacuate, even after the first jet struck. “You can try it, but it’s at your own risk,” he quoted one official as warning a hundred people on the 75th floor. Many went with his advice; Baumbach continued his descent and survived.

“The reason we got out,” Brumbach said,  ”was because we didn’t listen.

Imagine yourself on a smoke filled train, or in a high rise that has just been hit by a jet. Imagine how you’d feel. Imagine what you would do. How about choosing to Become your own authority.To listen to your first voice. For me, that’s the voice that says: What are you waiting for? Take your chances. Do it! Go. Get out! 

Yes. It’s that simple. There are no guarantees. No one knows any better than you do what may happen.So don’t analyze your choices. Just make them and move on.

Here’s an image to empower you to do this:  

Choose You Can’t Lose

 This is best done by having someone read it to you. Make your choices quickly. And go from the gut.

Close your eyes, breathe out and Choose:


Left or Right.

Day or Night.

Dark or Light.

Fast or Slow.

High or Low.

Yes or No.

Stay or Go.





Tell Me A Story

A good and wise friend recently sent me a piece about the power and presence of stories  in our lives. It reminded me how much  I love them and live by them. How I speak to the characters about their choices, their victories, their foibles. How I chastise and adore them. How I cry at their disappointments, learn from their experiences, am changed and heartened by them. These stories are more than entertainment. They are among my closest companions. They act as advisors. They influence my discussions and behavior with friends and family. They enrich my daily life and my dreams. What I would do without them, I don’t want to know.

 Where do they come from − How do they arrive?

They come in many forms: by word of mouth, in the  morning paper, in books, film, from the Internet, from stage, screen, TV, and as I walk down the street. Some arrive with more value and clout than others.  Even if I don’t consciously remember them, they carve out a place in the cells of my body, that make them a part of me.

Before I could read, I listened to the radio on Saturday mornings and fell in love with Nila Mack’s “Let’s Pretend,” with its fairies, witches, wizards, mystery, and magic, ” The fairies cast spells that, for me, were real. And then there was Lamont Cranston, “The Shadow,” who was scary, yet good, invincible and invisible. Jack Armstrong ate his Wheaties. I ate mine too. “Grand Central Station,”was more exciting than the real thing, and so it went.

Miracle on Broadway

In 1959, a few days after it’s Broadway opening, I saw “The Miracle Worker” starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Patti was twelve when she played the part of the seven year old, Helen Keller, locked away from the world and herself, unable to hear, see or speak. I had seen Patti in the hallways of  8 West 86th Street, where I lived. She was friends with our super’s daughter. A nice girl. Polite. Pretty. Quiet. I was unprepared for the hurricane force I saw onstage.

I always loved Anne Bancroft who played Annie Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, mentor, and friend. Who didn’t?  She made you a better person just by watching her. And, oh, what a story!  By the time the cast took their curtain calls I was crying so hard, I sat there, head down, embarrassed by my emotion, stunned and changed by what I had witnessed. Bodies and objects flying. Emotions going crazy. Nothing held back. And then, the Miracle, when Helen first speaks. Elizabeth Taylor was there that night. No one paid much attention. She was the side show. This story, not her’s, was the main event.

True Story

The play conveys the pain and wonder of life, of family, of love, disappointment, courage and fear, of victory and  defeat, of resilience, and despite impossible odds, of coming out of the darkness and into the light. It was a story that moved heaven and earth. Helen was real. Her trials were true. Annie Sullivan was an incredible force. a mountain for Helen to climb, and climb her she did. What more could one ask?

Stop for a moment if you will, and remember a  story of your own. One that affected and moved you —and perhaps even changed you, and (or) your life. Remember what you learned and what you felt, no matter what that lesson or feeling may have been.

And as hard as it may be to acknowledge, consider that we’re the co-creators of these stories. .And that although we can’t rewrite the past we can author new stories, direct them in a different way, and see them in a  new light.

Beyond all else, be true to these stories and to yourself. Especially if you’re a celebrity. Poor Brian Williams seems to have missed the boat on that one.

Here’s an image to experiment with. Use it and see what happens:

Story Time

Close your eyes and see your life as an open book. Look at the cover, feel the pages. Flip through these pages. Read the words. See the pictures, and allow them to remind you of what you need to know. Live and sense how this story defines you. If it’s a story you cherish, see it as a golden thread that links you to your true self, and give thanks. If not, take this moment to rewrite it, knowing you can’t change the past, but you can change your beliefs and feelings about it. Then open your eyes, and return, as you remember it in a new and healing way.

Truth Or Die

 “Each time we don’t say what we wanna say, we’re dying.”― Yoko Ono

The Beatles never liked Yoko much. She went her own way and John followed. She spoke her truth, not caring if the group.agreed. Mostly, they didn’t.

Speaking one’s truth isn’t easy. Being nice, accepted, respected, well thought of, and safe, gets in the way.  Many avoid saying what they believe, think, even know: it’s too risky, too dicey, too great a leap.

Playing for High Stakes

They have good reason. It gets us into the down and dirty.  We saw it play out this week, when, in the name of religion, of God, of twisted beliefs and sacred tradition, people were murdered for being willing to speak out..

My platform is small, and my risk barely measurable, but these brave souls  put themselves out there and lost their lives doing it, knowing full well it might happen, yet refusing to fold.

In the past I was more tolerant. Sure, build a mosque a few blocks from the smoldering World Trade Center. Come speak in my temple. Who does it hurt? Not now. Done that, been there.Look what it got us?

Feeling Dissed and Excluded

Yes, they feel dissed, excluded, . At one time or another, who doesn’t? I recall when I  graduated high school, going with my friend Cathy Powers, a beautiful Wasp princess, to seek a summer job at Metropolitan Life. They hired her and turned me down. So what. It happens. I’ve had people convert my last name from Greenfield to Winfield or Grenville, so many times I’ve given up correcting them.

I killed Who?

When I was eight, the children from the Sacred Heart School, across the street, wouldn’t allow me or my friends to walk on what they labeled their side. They pushed us into the gutter and told us we had killed Jesus. I was amazed. How could I have done that? I wasn’t even born yet, and my parents were refined, peace loving people who hardly ever spanked me. Besides, he was one of us, way before they claimed him as their own.

Je Suis Charlie

Time to wise up. People’s tolerance has hit bottom. We all have our troubles. Blaming others gets boring. it gets on my nerves..

Yoko left the popularity thing behind and lived out her blueprint (i.e. the meaning and purpose of her life). That place of dreams and visions where possibility remains unlimited, mysterious, open, and luminous.

This comes easier for some than others. The more uncomfortable it makes you feel, the more you need to do it. No reason why it works this way. It just does.

Yoko’s 81 now, but she still has her moxie. She didn’t care who liked her then.. And she cares even less today. She’s one of a kind. To her own self she’s true.

May it be so for all of us in this New Year of 2015. Not easy, but deeply worthwhile. And sorely needed. Meanwhile “Je suis Charlie!” How about we keep it going? How about we never stop!


Hate Takes A Holiday

The Washington Post  ran a piece yesterday informing us that the president’s popularity soared to a respectable 48%, this week, rebounding from the longest time underwater of any recent two time president.

Gallup’s editor-in-chief, quickly attributed the upswing to the overall holiday mentality. The reasons were as follows:

Increased support among Hispanic voters, pleased with Obama’s executive order on immigration.

Happiness concerning normalization of relations with Cuba.

The improved state of the economy.

And, of course, our innate American generosity during the holiday season — a “Christmas bump” so to speak, reflecting our exceptional charitable nature.

Joy to the world! There has been a sudden White-out, regarding the Black man in the White House. Thus, hate takes a holiday. Hooray for us. Let’s see how long it lasts. My optimistic heart says to the end of his term, at least. My logical mind says till next week if that.

Here’s an imagery exercise for opening our hearts during this season of light, peace and hope, no matter how brief it may be.

Lake in the Cloud

Close your eyes and breathe out through your mouth. See yourself climbing up high to a lake in the Cloud above you. Imagine reaching inside your chest, taking out your heart and cleansing it of all impurities in these cool, crystal clear waters. See these impurities swirling away and disappearing. Then take your heart and hold it up to the sun, seeing and feeling it infused with golden light.

Breathe out and carefully replace it in your chest and feel the change in its nature. From withholding to forgiving. From hate to kindness. From resentment to love. Then breathe out and open your eyes, knowing you have repaired yourself, and have helped to repair the world.