WEEKLY STRETCH 7-29-16

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I’ve made a commitment the last two weeks to stay as far away from the political circus as I can and so far I’ve been pretty successful in spite of the constant onslaught of media both news and social, that insists on playing the proceedings out over and over again, with a constant spin in every direction possible. I’m not ignoring the history-making moment of our first female Presidential nominee, though in the present climate it feels anticlimactic. And so I take a moment to acknowledge how far we’ve come and how pleased I am that this moment has, at long last, arrived. I can’t help thinking of my mother and what she would think about seeing a woman President. In fact, there are many women who come to mind whose reaction to this historic moment would be of interest to me.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending three days in the Pocono mountains on retreat with a powerful group of women (and one incredibly wonderful man – my husband). It was an amazing experience to be in a space of sisterhood with these women and to support a very dear friend of ours who created and delivered this magical weekend for all of us. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for the experience of connection I felt – with all of nature, with the earth and the sky, with the rocks and trees, with the animals and the birds, and with the souls gathered. We made new friendships, reconnected with friends we love who live far away, and filled our cups to overflowing.

In contrast, today my husband and I will officiate a funeral service for someone we have cared about for many years. She was my father’s companion for quite some time and my family and I have been grateful to her. Her presence in his life made his loss of my mother to Alzheimer’s Disease easier for him to bear and the last years of my Dad’s life were so much happier and richer for her being there. They were great together and we know that she loved him dearly. We are sad today, but joyous that she is reunited with her ancestors and with my mom and dad who I knew were happy to receive her. So I say thank you and send love to Trudy. We will always hold her in our hearts.
And as we say goodbye and release from our lives one being, we welcome another, our new grand-niece, Olivia, born just hours after Trudy passed. A poignant example of the continuum of the life cycle and how birth and death exist within it.

All of this gives rise to our stretch this week.

STRETCH: Our lives are filled with variety. Variety of experiences, variety of people, variety of feelings, variety of thought. It is evidence that we are alive and moving through time and space on the earth plane. Take some time this week to notice variety…ups and downs…in and outs…highs and lows…warm and cold…that your life offers you. Give thanks for it and dedicate yourself to fully living in each moment. If you feel so moved write your musings down in a journal or notebook as the week progresses and reflect back on your writing at the end of the week. You will be amazed at how much you can hold in the course of one week of living. ~FD

WEEKLY STRETCH 7-21-16

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Last weekend was the culmination of months of rehearsal and hard work and the ultimate experience of collaboration. I reported in an earlier posting that my husband Bob was invited to participate in Reock and Roll Revue’s performance of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” album. The show was last weekend and all I can say is that it was amazing, wonderful, and I was so very honored to be surrounded by an abundance of talented and lovely people. Attending the rehearsals and providing food for the band made me feel a part of things which I absolutely loved. And at the final rehearsal I was asked to serve on the videography team which really gave me the opportunity to be part of the show in a very active way. I was thrilled to be in the collaborative flow of bringing this show to its fruition, attending to one of the video cameras that recorded the concert and would ultimately become part of the DVD that will be produced later. It was exciting and made me feel like I was part of something truly special. I made some new friends along the way and was able to connect more deeply with old friends as well. All in all the collaboration was the most meaningful part of the entire experience and something I’ve been missing since leaving my last job.

This weekend I have the privilege to once again be involved in collaboration with our friend Tracy Farquhar as she hosts a three day retreat at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. Bob and I will be helping to facilitate this event which will be attended by 20 people who are interested in connecting deeply with their truth and their intrinsic power. We are deeply honored to be involved in supporting them and our friend Tracy as she leads them through her wonderful program. And once again I am enjoying the collaborative effort the three of us have been putting forth to create the space for this gathering and to facilitate an event that will enrich the lives of those attending. It’s is the collaboration that has jazzed me the most…working with others to create something meaningful that has been the juice for me. In both of these efforts, the concert and the retreat, my ego has taken a seat in the corner and I have worked with others in an equal effort to create something bigger than myself.

My grandson and his mom and dad have been in Cooperstown, NY enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Logan’s little league team. They’ve been playing in tournaments with other little leaguers from all over the country. I’ve watched my grandson play baseball with many of the same teammates and coaches since he was a little guy and how his exposure to teamwork has affected his self-esteem, his compassion, and his understanding of responsibility and collaboration. At 13 he is a great kid who truly knows the meaning of teamwork and support for others. It’s been a great gift to witness this aspect of his growth and the way his parents have provided this opportunity for him to learn some valuable and vital life lessons.

STRETCH: Think about the meaning of teamwork in your life and see where you might already be or where you can be part of a team effort. See where you might be able to offer yourself in an effort to help carry the weight of a project or an effort that needs “hands”.

WEEKLY STRETCH 7-15-16 HOW CAN WE HELP?

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In a conversation yesterday with a learned friend we spoke about how we can be instrumental in bringing light to a world that seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into darkness. We spoke of some of the atrocities that have been committed in our time and how difficult it is to be confronted with the question “Why?” in the face of these horrific images and events. One thing we agreed on is that we were both firm in our faith that all is not what it seems to be and we are continuing to hold a vision for something emerging from all of this turmoil that is so much better.

The last few weeks we have been bombarded with violent events, death, destruction, anger, hatred, and people acting out of a misguided sense of duty fed by fear and resentment of “the other”. It appears the shadow side of humanity is taking over the organism, especially after yesterday’s reports from Nice, France where yet again there has been an attack resulting in unthinkable loss. Personally, my heart continues to ache as I respond to the cries of those who are suffering so deeply. So many people are grieving in this moment…we have all lost so much. It feels overwhelming and the urge to shut down is palpable. These attacks have become weekly events. We barely integrate one into our awareness when there is another. Our nervous system’s natural inclination when overloaded is to shut down completely, in hopes of “rebooting”. And we are overloaded.

Shutting down, however, is not the choice I will make, although I will turn off the TV and walk away from my computer from time to time for “mini-reboots”. I need to do that to protect my energy so that I can stand firmly in my faith. And when I say “faith” I am not implying religious faith, but more a strong sense of trust in something much greater than myself, than anyone I know, and much greater than what is at work in what we see unfolding before us. My faith is rooted in my belief in the intrinsic goodness and Love that pervades the Universe and that, in the end, is what holds us all, even the “bad guys”. My faith is intact albeit shaky at times, especially when the next news story breaks about something awful happening somewhere in the world that seems to illustrate the antithesis of goodness and love. Admittedly, staying firm in my faith is work. It would be much easier to be swept away by fear, anger, frustration, and the need to blame…these are the first emotions that arise. And they are also the ones that underscore how we can be of help…and to help is to be aware of the reaction we are having, to notice that reaction, to honor our feelings of pain and compassion for the suffering, and then to rise above those reactions to a higher place of holding space for something better. Again, not an easy task, but in my view an absolutely necessity if we want to see a change in this climate of hatred and intolerance. Simply put, SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT! I’ve decided to be one of those “someones”. Because the change has to begin somewhere and I truly believe each one of us has influence on that change by the way we respond to the unfolding events. This is not to say that I will not feel my fear, my anger, my rage at the agonizing pain these horrific acts leave in their wake. It means that I will not allow them to steal my faith from me, nor will I allow them to thwart my resolve to envision what I know in my heart is possible – resolution, respect, redemption, understanding.

The way I see it, my job is to hold fast to my faith and to do the work of saying “Yes” every day to being a carrier of that faith. In the face of so much that is not in my immediate control, I feel energized by the fact that doing this job successfully is entirely in my control. It is a calling that I am empowered to answer.

STRETCH: When you feel the weight of the events of the day remember that you have the choice to say “Yes” to something better. Call it faith, belief, peace of mind, whatever language suits you – but know that you have a choice to opt for a vision of something better for your life and the lives of all.

WEEKLY STRETCH 7-8-16

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Decisions…decisions…decisions. It seems like making decisions is a theme lately. I’ve been engaged in weighing pros and cons around a host of issues, some big life-changing issues, some smaller less dramatic issues, some right in between. I’m a Leo (proud of it too!!) but lately I feel more like a Libra with scales tipping back and forth attempting a correct “weigh-in” that will take me to the best place possible. Of course without a guarantee of some kind (good luck with that) sometimes it’s more like rolling the dice.

Once upon a time many years ago I was facing a critical decision that would change the course of my life and the lives of those I love most in the world. I had been putting extreme pressure on myself to make one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. And that pressure had me paralyzed. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The more I tried to find the “right” choice, the more I felt stuck in the mud. Inertia had set in and it made me feel completely powerless.

I was blessed to have a guru in my life at the time. He was my venerable teacher and guide and one of the most influential people in my life. His wisdom has followed me and informs my path to this day. During this very turbulent time in my young life he offered some of the greatest guidance I’ve encountered. He said, “Can you just decide not to decide?” I remember being stunned by the question and just sat there in my chair, taking in the very simple wisdom of his suggestion. And it was in that moment that I realized that not deciding WAS a decision and I had the power to make that choice. And once I realized that I COULD make that decision I began to feel my own power returning.

The outcome of that moment had a dramatic impact on the rest of my life and I’ve dipped into that well of wisdom many times since, both for myself and in counseling others. A very simple suggestion that made all the difference to a young woman facing an uncertain future with the weight of the world on her shoulders. And now, all these years later, in the face of a list of decision “opportunities” I dip into the well once again, taking back the power that is mine and whenever and wherever I can, deciding not to decide…just for a little while. The years behind me have given me the discernment to recognize when I have the latitude to “decide not to decide” and I’m happy to share that it helps…a lot.

STRETCH: When faced with a difficult decision or choice, check in with yourself and ask if you have the latitude to “decide not to decide”. And if the answer is yes, put whatever the issue is down and allow yourself to rest. Give yourself the space you need to put it down, whatever “it” is. It’s a choice that you have the power to make.

WEEKLY STRETCH 7-2-16

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Photo by Franne Demetrician

We have arrived at one of those wonderful American holiday weekends…Fourth of July. What fun…our favorite summer holiday with BBQ’s, fun at the beach, boating, swimming, time with friends and family. What a great tradition this is. As with so many of our holidays, we often forget why we are celebrating.

For many years our family tradition was to pack up a feast and roll ourselves out to a huge field near Jadwin Gym on the Princeton University campus. There, along with a few thousand other people, we would spread our blankets and unload a feast to share with each other and our neighboring partiers. We would listen to The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra all evening and when the sky was dark the orchestra would begin playing Tchaikovsky’s majestic 1812 Overture. I have goosebumps thinking about the stirring moment…the moment in the piece when the strike of the timpani drums and crashing cymbals depict the booming sound of canons firing. It was then, in that dramatic moment, that our fireworks display would begin. Some performances even used actual canons firing at that exact moment. That moment still brings me to tears and Major Goosebumps!

Our history is rife with canon fire and on the Fourth of July we use fireworks to remind us of that sound and to celebrate our declaration of freedom. I’ve loved fireworks since I was a little girl and frankly when I see them I’m still thrilled by it. I clap and screech with delight, covering my ears to protect them from the noise, yet focused on the sky so I won’t miss one magical second of the exploding light and color.

This year, when freedom from oppression of any kind seems to be the order of the day, I will again listen to Tchaikovsky’s iconic symphony and remember why we celebrate the way we do…with canons firing and fireworks exploding in the sky…they way they have during the many wars and struggles our country has endured in order to insure our freedom. And at the end, when the chimes are ringing the sound of freedom, I will remember all of those who have made it possible for me to spend a warm summer night with family and friends affirming that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the birthright of every human being.

STRETCH: Celebrate and remember! Let freedom ring!