7 REASONS GRATITUDE IS A HORRIBLE WORD

It can’t sound

like anything but the lamest of platitudes

when exiting someone else’s mouth

(even when true).

One cannot will someone else’s gratitude.

It requires me to focus upon ants, daisies, and sunsets

instead of searching the skies for Clarence Odbody from It’s a Wonderful Life.

It does not beckon, appear like a beacon,

or saunter in on the arm of a muse.

Like exercise, and about as fun,

it requires practice and is never done.

Because a modicum of discontent is the fuel on which the artist feeds,

I must walk the razor’s edge between annoyance and despondency

to meet my needs and achieve productivity.

It is wickedly deceptive in its simplicity

and, quite frankly, that annoys me.

Because it always comes down to me,

and what I’m able and willing to see,

which can vary infinitely,

and I say this with just a scintilla of irony

HOW TO MAKE PEACE PORTABLE

beachblogDo you ever wonder why you can be so peaceful on vacation but can’t keep that feeling when you get home? Is there a way to take your vacation ” to go?”

 

Once immersed in the warm ocean water of Florida and sinking my feet in the brilliant white sand, decades of Epic Fail meditation training suddenly kicked in. My mind slowed down and blanked until all I was aware of was my immediate place in the cosmos: spinning on this planet, swimming in jade water and walking on a tiny silken thread of beach.

Is there something I can drag from this experience to my daily quest for and practice of peace? There are 3 elements of every successful vacation that are, in fact portable that we can click and drag with us when we are ” back on the chain gang”.

1) Distance

airplaneDoesn’t the view at right make one’s concerns not only seem small, but ridiculous? The problems are still there: what happened?

We focused on something beautiful, instead of something scary or vexing. We also focused on something happening right now, something right in front of our eyes; not a phantom or something we created in the future with our minds.

… And what else happens after a great vacation? We can’t wait to get home. Why is this? Because we remember what we treasure most, and with renewed focus, we return home with new zeal. We can do this without a plane ticket because distance isn’t a physical destination.

2) We step into our proper role. Our thoughts and emotions are like the storms portrayed in these pictures. If we watch them objectively, they simply peter out on their own.

While on vacation, I was able to view these magnificent storms from the proper perspective: that of spectator.

There was nothing about this storm to threaten anything I have or am: it was simply a wonderful and transient piece of performance art, to be watched and enjoyed. This storm brought every person on the island to his or her balcony at the same exact time to revel in what was going on. It wasn’t menacing, It was spectacular!

In a matter of minutes, it was gone.

This is how our crises are most of the time. If we drill right down to it, 8 times out of 10, what we are driving ourselves mad about is something our thoughts have created: there is danger to our precious concept of ourselves: our wealth, our power, our beauty, our youth, our creativity, our freedom: all of which are mental constructs!

Who we are has nothing to do with these things. Life is not the sum total of our challenges, neither are we. Life is an adventure and a teacher, not a sentence to be endured.

We cling to these fears because we think they are part of who we are, but they are just a storm of the mind and the heart.

3) Limited Time Only! Who on earth would waste a perfectly wonderful vacation obsessing for even one minute about what could be going on at home? These storms and life itself only last briefly. Why contaminate one transient event with another?

In his book, the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer uses the example of someone who has always dreamed of hearing a certain piece performed by a certain orchestra live. Then it happens. Transcendental peace occurs in a few notes. The point is made to illustrate that peace isn’t a miraculous set of circumstances all coming into alignment like the planets every eon.

We can do this any time; the key is the same transcendence that occurs on vacation or when hearing this favorite piece played: we become fully engaged in experiencing what is actually happening— life itself, and all that is good in it and, sometimes without our knowing it, peace creeps in.

 

If we do this, then peace becomes portable… until the next time we need to press the reset button. It’s a practice, like reading the Bible or meditating, not a transitory event. Thank God!

It’s 100 percent optional whether and how often we decide to reset and begin again.

 

 

 

YOUR WINTER IS OVER!

bunnyinlot

I spent the better part of Easter Weekend digging in the dirt with my kids. It was glorious! We made the spring pilgrimage to Home Depot and Lowes and bought a cart full of vibrant blooms. One child graduated college in December, and the other is a sophomore in nursing school, so it had probably been a decade since we enjoyed this family pastime. Long enough for the soil to go completely fallow, for all of our ” curb appeal” shrubs and potted plants to have gone to the Great Nursery In the Sky. We had all been so busy with our lives; we didn’t notice how dead things were. So we raked, hoed, dug and brought in healthy soil. It came back to us, as if no time had passed. We were really working our bodies hard— quite joyfully we discovered, together. It was, in its way, a very holy celebration. We were ridding ourselves of all remnants of winter, and death, and planting the seeds of spring and summer. The very act of planting the seeds and blooms was an expression of faith in the future. mountainlaurels

 

We are all seed planters in some way, aren’t we?

In an interview with Meet The Press, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “God is The God of Spring, renewal, birth, and growth– not winter and death.” While so much is complicated, that is a theological concept easy for me to focus upon.

So often, we don’t know what our next step should be. There is so much that is difficult, trying and confusing. But, we can help keep it simple.

All we can do is the next task that seems to present itself to our attention, having faith that it is, indeed, where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing.

Dig, plant, water, and grow. It’s your time to bloom! Winter is over!

 

I FOUND JESUS AT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER

Clean your finger before you point out my spots.

Benjamin Franklin

headshot1

I’m bearing witness to how I can trick myself out of miracles by imposing rules or limits on my Higher Power to appear “appropriate “or holy, not being flippant or disrespectful.  If I have free will, doesn’t God? Won’t he show up where and when it suits him best?

I spent years in an Old Testament box awaiting punishment, because I put God in a box, and refused to believe he was big or limber enough to find me outside of that box. I wanted everything about my faith and my relationship to God to be intellectual and complicated. If it is important, it should be complicated and difficult, right?

If there is one thing on which those of us who believe in a Higher Power can agree it is this: whatever we choose to call this divine being, it is omnipotent, infinite, omniscient, and omnipresent. For grammatical simplicity, I choose to use the pronoun, “he”.

His holy presence is everywhere and cannot be labeled or limited in any way. A host of amazing things follow from this:

Miracles are possible anywhere, anytime.

Sanctuary is too, because it isn’t a building. It is the presence of grace.

Spiritual community can happen anywhere, because true community is about joy and the freedom from fear and shame.

I used to think that thinking was the highest function of humanity. Now I know that loving is our supreme function, because it can transform both those who receive it and those who give it.

Through love, my faith has become about freedom, not labels and limits. Through the eyes of freedom, life becomes a simple adventure: I ask for help, blessings, and even miracles, and then just let them fall on me like summer rain. They happen when and how God wants them too. They don’t and can’t look the way I forecast them in my head, because my imagination is too small.

IMG_0381

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;

they all gather together, they come to you…

Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult,

because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you.

Isaiah 60:4-8

So, why wouldn’t I be able to find my God at the Jewish Community Center, regardless of whether or not I am Jewish? There is such warm and loving acceptance of individual beauty there, such a beautiful spiritual atmosphere that is spacious and has room for me; I am immediately receptive to divine guidance, love and presence.

I swim laps outside, and, more often than not this winter, I have literally been swimming through clouds. Tell me, that isn’t 3 steps from Heaven! The warm water carries me and I don’t have to struggle or fight or try. It’s literally a communion between nature, spirit and body. That sounds like sanctuary and spiritual community to me.

Don’t I believe that God loves me enough to reveal himself to me in a way that I can see and understand? You bet I do! I’m not going to cheat myself out of another miracle.

This blog was partially excerpted from my book, Undamned, My Escape from the Old Testament, which just happens to be 61% off March 7-10th. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_ss_i_0_6?ie=UTF8&k=undamned&sprefix=Undamn

Happy Spring:)

 

 

 

7 WAYS TO TAKE FLIGHT IN YOUR OWN LIFE

flyingbirds

 

 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…

Lift up your eyes all around, and see

and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult.

Isaiah 60

 

Image supplied with permission by David Eyestone

 

Thank God my friends don’t treat me like I treat myself!

My friends somehow see the me I don’t see.

Why do so many of us find it so difficult to have compassion for ourselves?

Where do we get the idea that driving ourselves relentlessly towards perfection and flogging ourselves for our failings is the best way to go?

I had to finally break wide open to finally let up on myself and discover that gentleness works. The above quotation is the beginning of the cure for this spiritual malady because it stands in stark contrast to the lie at the root of it all: I AM NOT ENOUGH.

Here are some tools to take the weight off your wings:

 

1) Let yourself take off and soar and realize that the belief that it is wrong to do so, is lie #2. If a loving God created you, then hobbling yourself is denigrating something that God made and loves. Quit judging yourself. It isn’t your job. Fire your inner critic and run him or her out of town.

2) If it is true that nothing can separate us from our loving creator, it must also be true that there is no mistake I can make that will separate me from Him or the flight plan he has set out for me, and if that is true, then a host of wonderful things follow:

  1. a) There is no such thing as too late. There is no such thing as too old. There is no such thing as technologically obsolete. There is no such thing as too young or inexperienced. These things do not apply to your Plan. You can be what God wants you to be, because you already are. He doesn’t make mistakes.
  2. b) God loves me unconditionally and he made me. If that is true, then he has compassion on me. If that is true, then I am deserving of compassion and gentleness from everyone including myself. This concept was so alien to me; I had to teach myself how to do it, with the following exercise. This may seem ridiculous, but this daily practice has transformed me by teaching me compassion and love for myself: I face myself in the mirror every day, look myself directly in the eyes and say, Baby girl, God loves you and so do I. I see you. I hear you, and I will never let you down again.

In other words, I treat myself as a loving Higher Power would. If I was created by something divine, I have a purpose, and am worthy of love and affection and joy right now- not when I finally have mastered Everything.

3) Dare to suck and forge ahead. Redefine success as daily progress, not perfection. I haven’t seen Shakespeare’s first poem, but I bet it probably sucked. Those on their deathbeds regret the things they never dared to say or do, not the things not performed perfectly.

Remember the 10, 000 hour rule. I read a book recently that pointed out that behind each and every singular, supposedly unique success story like Bill Gates or Steve jobs was a common trait: each of these geniuses and stellar successes had spent 10,000 hours practicing and honing their craft before they reached critical mass. None was truly an overnight success story.

So keep going, keep practicing, keep singing, playing, writing or programming. It is impossible to fail as long as you are still learning, growing and trying.

Embrace joy instead of perfectionism. The two are almost mutually exclusive. Leave perfection for living saints, dead martyrs and maybe Martha Stewart. Psychotherapy is expensive and treating yourself like a machine will eventually require a major tune up.

4) Ask God instead of beating yourself up. Even if you don’t believe, ask God to change you, instead of using willpower to try and change yourself. In any event, it takes the fear out of your head, and puts it someplace where you can forget it, pause, and shift your attention to what is great in the present moment.

5) Want to be popular and well loved? The kindest thing you can do for your fellow man is be gentle with yourself. If we are rigid and unforgiving of ourselves, imagine how we might judge others. In any case, the constant ” I am an undeserving worm ” recitations are a pain to be around and, as the philosopher, Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you.

6) The past is just a story we tell ourselves (from the movie, Her) The fact that you weren’t perfect in the past doesn’t mean that you aren’t exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Regret is premature. We don’t know how everything is going to work out. Miracles are the things that happen outside of your carefully prepared plan. Take a forensic look back on your life, looking for God’s breadcrumbs. How many “ mistakes’ and detours turned out to be blessed course-corrections?

7) If God never wastes a hurt, as I was told when I was in a great deal of pain, then maybe C.S. Lewis was right. Pain is the megaphone of God. Might as well ask, what is the gift or the lesson in this situation?

I will never be old enough to stop making mistakes, and if I look back with objectivity, those ” mistakes ” were the catalysts to growth, and a necessary change in direction. Labeling myself unkindly is libeling myself, because it isn’t true. Clipping my own wings, hurts me, doesn’t help anyone else and doesn’t glorify my Creator.

 

 

5 EASY WAYS TO BE YOUNGER INSTANTLY

IMG_0261

 

Tina Turner of aging: It’s’ just a number. Bring it on!

 

1) Don’t associate with people who insist on knowing your age. It is an artificial limit and there is no need to even acknowledge it in any way. It may be their limitation, but it isn’t yours. You can do anything at any time, period.

 

2) Realize that the reason you feel insulted when people say, you look great for your age is because it is an insult. Shake it or them off.  It is someone putting his or her own limitations on you, even if unintentionally. Beauty is ageless, timeless and radiates outward from the soul. Don’t let anyone else diminish it. You are beautiful without qualification.

3) Limit your mirror time. The amount of time we spend looking in the mirror is inversely proportional to contentment and confidence. The brain is programmed to find what it is searching for. If we search our mirrors for flaws we will find them, no matter our age.

4) Exercise for 30 minutes. It makes you feel powerful, capable and strong and radiant.  Of course, if you feel flush with endorphins, you will look fantastic. Exercise also rushes oxygenated blood to the connective tissue that supports your skin, and keeps it from sagging.

5) If you can’t view every image you see in magazines, videos or the Internet as a highly produced and edited work of art, stay away or limit your time consuming them. Almost no picture we see isn’t filtered, photo-shopped or edited. That isn’t a standard: it’s a fantasy. Be in your own beautiful skin here and now, own it, and maybe strut just a little! You were created to be a blessing and that is beautiful.

 

5 PRICELESS GIFTS I HOPE YOU ALREADY HAVE FOR CHRISTMAS & HANUKKAH

path_love_friendship

 

 

(BOOK EXCERPT)

“ I overheard a conversation recently which was life- changing for me.

The man whom I was pretending not to overhear was giving a definition of integrity that I had never heard: it simply means undiminished. This is the first gift I wish for you for Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year: that you go through this season and this life with passion and dignity undiminished. Love undiminished. Faith undiminished. Influence and ability to help others undiminished. Joy and lust for life undiminished. Beauty and purpose undiminished.

 

Audacity

I hope you are already audacious enough to realize you are ageless and timeless and to love wildly and unconditionally, especially yourself. I wish you the audacity that provides you the certainty that you were created intentionally for a reason and that your life and your individual experiences will ultimately matter to others, and that makes them not only valuable, but also sacred. May you always have the audacity to question those who judge and question you. May you be audacious enough to ask for answered prayers and even miracles and to expect those answers and miracles to arrive.

 

The Simplicity necessary to actively look for, perceive and receive those answered prayers and miracles with clear sight. May you never second- guess, analyze, or explain a blessing or miracle away, just because it didn’t arrive in the predicted packaging.

 

I wish you Freedom to find and lose and find your authentic self yet again within the safety of a group that provides you the sanctuary to do so without the hindrances of:

Deadlines

Shame

Dogma

Labels or

Limitations”

 

May you have happy, joyous and peace-filled holidays and beyond.

God bless us, every one:)

 

Undamned, My Escape From the Old Testament 

 

SHOPPING MALLS. ENTRY HALL TO HELL?

Devil_cartoon_charactor

I found this little rhyme I did many years ago:

 

Hell’s Entry Hall

must be a shopping mall.

Vendors try to take from me

my most precious commodities!–

money and time,

while I wander

like a listless lab rat fed too much soda

in an IQ measuring labyrinth ,

the piped -in Christmas music-like sounds of singing slot machines of Vegas quickening my pulse,

urging me to hurry, hurry “ save 50%”

of nothing I would want to buy.

Is there an exit, not blocked with perfume-spraying trolls?

Kudos to those with mall- mastery.

It is above my pay grade, and brings only misery.

If I wake up after death, strolling in a mall,

it means God had no faith in my choices at all.

~~~~~~

I don’t feel this way because I’m virtuous, but because I am completely tasteless.

Right now, I am wearing super low- rise jeans that were in style two years ago. Because of weight loss, they fall in the wrong place and look like the SNL sketch about the repairman unknowingly displaying his butt crack. All that is missing is the tool belt. I don’t care.

I still have sweaters from my college days, which were an official eon ago. I once had an employee tell me I looked like a homeless person, and take me shopping, because to be seen with me embarrassed her. I don’t care.

I will probably always be a little out of date, or as I prefer to call it “ classic”, because the time I don’t spend looking for ways to spend money is time I can spend, writing, creating or making music or spending time with those who do.

Someone said that wealth is discretionary time. To me this is true .It is also freedom. It’s freedom to do what I love to do, measured in minutes hours or days. It’s not how much I can buy or even how much I can buy on sale. I save money in other ways: I tend not to spend it at all. Christmas is the exception and the Wild Card. It is fun shopping for other people, but I’m not going to take out another mortgage on my house on the 50 percent chance the gift I buy is what they really, really want.

For me, biology creates destiny: I am a woman born without the shopping gene. My mom and grandmother were born without it too. Childhood shopping trips usually resulted in tears all around.

Hey, Mall Mastery is an adventure and a challenge. I prefer walking a different type of tightrope– the life of the artist– gathering my creations, going through the painful process of self- editing, assimilating them in some semblance of order or perfect disorder, and standing there naked, daring someone to react. That means, if I do get paid, it is rarely and not much.

The less I buy, the more time I have to engage in this process, and the less pressure I have to put on myself to be a product instead of producing one. I still do, but not as much. So, if you see me on occasion wearing my clothes backwards, kindly tell me:)

 

5 SHOCKING THINGS I LEARNED AT MY BOOK SIGNING

5 SHOCKING THINGS I LEARNED AT MY BOOK SIGNING

awesomepicofme

1)   In a word, gratitude. Please don’t tune out like I usually do when I hear this word. I don’t like to talk about it because the concept often seems trite and has been done to death. But, gratitude is important because it is the gate through which all blessings and miracles enter. It’s the gateway, because, in order to receive a blessing or miracle, I have to perceive and recognize it. For me, that can’t happen, when I’m living in my intellect. Gratitude only resides in the heart.

 

2)   I learned that I am the luckiest person alive, and 90 percent of the time I am unaware of it. I learned that I have the best friends and family in the world, and that more often than not, the miracles and blessings I’m looking and praying for, are embodied in these people.

 

 

3) I don’t recognize it most of the time, because my intellect is the biggest deterrent to faith and gratitude, and often my worst enemy. Any effort to control, any attempt resist what is actually happening in favor of what I want to happen, is futile and may erect a fence through which the blessing, the miracle, or the divine connection is blocked.

 

4) Success has nothing to do with book sales. Success for me as an artist has evolved to be about who receives my message and carries it on.  The people meant to get it will get it.

~                                      ~

I wrote a book called, Undamned, about a year ago, because I felt called to write it. Commercialism never entered my frame of reference. The result was a book that is hard to classify or “ market” because it is a combination of slam poetry, Spiritual Detox program, and memoir, using my own life as a parable.

For a long time, I couldn’t get a book signing to save my life. Being an ambitious goal-driven sort with a human heart, it was hard for me to process or accept this, until one day, it wasn’t.

That day, I was again unchained. I joyfully started work on my second book, re- acquainting myself with the creative process that gives my life purpose and joy and connects me to my ultimate Source.

Within 72 hours, I received notice that I was to be part of a multi- author signing at my own personal Mecca, Book People. This was the dream I didn’t dare dream for myself.

PB160013

Every artist’s nightmare of having an event where no one comes did not happen. I learned that I have the best friends and family anyone could hope for, who showed up in the almost freezing rain, many from some distance, for me.

Blessing—check. Miracle—check.

It couldn’t have been any better. It was fun, stimulating and the other authors are all amazing people I’d like to get to know better, which brings me to lesson # 5:

5) Blessings happen when they happen. Miracles happen every day. But, I have to let them fall, like rain. God has no set office hours. Someone up there consistently has bigger dreams for me than I even dare ponder, and that someone has a wicked sense of humor and timing.

 

 

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HEAVEN AND EARTH CONVERGE?

cloudsonwater

 

The picture at left was the view from my balcony this weekend. The heavens appear to be literally touching the water, but it’s simply the vivid reflection of the clouds off the ridiculously clear water. Me being me, I immediately began wondering, do heaven and earth collide, and what would it look like if they did? I’m always reaching and looking towards Heaven and squinting really hard to see if I can get even a faint glimpse.

I think I now have a surprising answer. Yes, all the time, and it doesn’t look like what one would think.

I don’t know why I have to travel hundreds of miles away from my life to figure out things in my life, but apparently I do.

Because of my biblical training, steeped in Saints and martyrs, burning bushes and of course, Jesus’s example, I actually had it wrong. I thought a bridge between heaven and earth was huge, rare, probably involved the heavens literally opening and God saying something like, “ Hey, you! I’m right here!”

I now know differently. Heaven and earth collide all the time. All that is necessary is a small bridge between the two. I like to call it a Bridge to Marvel. Something that takes us, if even just for a moment, out of our worries, our fears, and ourselves and seems to direct us to focus towards a Benevolent Father long enough to notice he is there.

There was no cell service in the canyon, so I had 3 days where I was forced to pull my head out of my own purse long enough to see these amazing Bridges to Marvel happening with regularity. The first day without Twitter I was somewhat twitchy, but that sustained period of focus produced a multitude of these beautiful little bridges.

The first was the most annoying monarch butterfly in creation. Every time I got away to myself even for just 30 seconds to sit in the sun and reflect on something a speaker had said, she would show up. Not one for subtlety, it took about 10 times for me to figure it out. She would circle me and then go straight for my face, startling me. Every time. As if to say, “ Hey! I’m right here!”

My second bridge was a public one and everyone in the room at the time, knew it. God appearing in a grand flourish. The last night of the conference, there was a campfire where everyone gathered for friendship, and conversation. There were some great professional musicians there, who blessed us with their gifts. But, these musicians encouraged non- professionals to jump in. They used their considerable gifts to bolster and support people trying to escape their comfort zone. The last song of the night, a non- musician stepped up and started singing an old hymn. The guitarists joined in. Something happened. All of us, every last one of us, were pulled into the song and each other and everyone sang, harmonized, drummed and strummed. We all looked at each other like 6 year olds surveying their Halloween bounty. We could not believe it was happening, but it was. It was magnificent. It was reaching up to God and finding him.

My final bridge to marvel was in the person of my roommate. She was the closest thing to the embodiment of an angel as I’ve ever seen. Of course, she did not look like what I thought she would. She was in her late 70s, walked with great difficulty and was too tired to do the late night campfires. She had the most radiantly happy countenance. One day, she got up to sing a song about her son. In a clear, soft voice she sang of how she knew she would meet him again, for he had died of a brain tumor years ago. She sang it with that same radiant countenance. The next morning, she casually mentioned that the reason she could not join me in many of the conference activities was that she had been diagnosed with cancer for the third time. She supposed that the stress of being at her son’s hospital bedside for months on end and finally watching him die had been the culprit. Then she said, “ I’ve learned that we have to give praise anyway.” Boy, she taught me a thing or two that I still ponder and will for some time. She was a bridge to heaven. “Hey You! I’m right here, looking at you!”

So, for me it appears to be a matter of focus. If I can focus my awareness on seeing these Bridges to Marvel, they are everywhere, and if I can see a bridge, perhaps sometimes, I can be one. The hug I talked myself out of giving, the time I shrunk away from singing, speaking, dancing or loving, might have been someone’s bridge. Sometimes I am so stupid. I know that God works through people, but I try to pre- select whom he will work through. I don’t know much, but I do know that God isn’t looking for perfect people to be his reps. If that were the case, he wouldn’t have much human help would he?