WEEKLY STRETCH 8-3-17 ~ On August

Ah, August. I have a conflicting relationship with this month.

As I mentioned, August is my birthday month. My awkward relationship with August began in childhood, specifically once I started school. You see, August comes before September, and September means SCHOOL! And there is my birthday, smack dab in the middle of August, two weeks before the beginning of SCHOOL!

Most kids dream of their birthdays. Am I right? And like most kids, I dreamt about mine, in living color. Cake, ribbons, wrapped surprises, games, all kinds of fun. And yet, the specter of SCHOOL was always breathing down my neck in the form of some hideous monster who would show up to ruin it and scare the bejeezes out of me and everyone else. I’d wake up in tears and disappointment. In my waking life I’d think, “Oh boy, my birthday is coming!”, feel a quick sense of excitement and delight at the prospect only to have those feelings diminished the second I would compute the timing and what would inevitably come right after. It didn’t help that some of my birthday gifts might include school-oriented things like fall clothing, a bookbag, or a new pencil case. Such a mixed bag for a kid to manage.

As an adult, I developed what one might call “unrealistic expectations” around my birthday. I think on some level I had hoped that adulthood would negate the conflicting emotions since school was no longer an issue. The end of August was only the end of Summer (bad enough actually, but not as bad as SCHOOL), and I love the fall season so it was not so bad. Subconsciously (maybe not so “sub”) I expected the day to be extra special somehow. And sometimes it was. But most times it was average or less. I often felt let down and sad. It just never measured up to what I had hoped it would be. My birthday continued to be a mixed bag emotionally.

I love being a student and eventually – you guessed it – went back to SCHOOL!! And guess what – that old anxiety returned and I would measure the month of August (and my birthday) against the impending beginning of my school year and eventually my child’s. No matter what I did, I couldn’t separate my birthday from what would arrive shortly thereafter.

As I’ve grown older and more mature I’ve worked at my relationship with August. I am a proud Leo woman, and I’ve educated myself about what that means. I have made peace with the placement of my birthday on the calendar and celebrate the radiance, color, and light that August brings. I pay close attention to the beauty of it and get myself to the beach as often as I can to enjoy the warmer ocean waters and the golden sunlight that is unique to the month. School is a constant in my life. I am always taking classes, teaching something, supporting my family who are teachers and/or students, and I’ve come to embrace the onset of the school year. I see it as a beginning rather than an ending – or at least that is my intention.

I’ve also taken the time to look up the definition of the word august. Here is what I found: respected and impressive. Synonyms: distinguished, respected, eminent, venerable, hallowed, illustrious, prestigious, renowned, celebrated, honored, acclaimed, esteemed, exalted; great, important, lofty, noble; imposing, impressive, awe-inspiring, stately, grand, dignified.

OK, maybe not dignified, but I’ll take the rest and add in some of my favorite Leo traits: kind, sunny, passionate, creative, generous and loyal. We’ll just leave it there.

My birthday became an even more poignant day on August 16, 2012. My father died on that day. He fell into a coma and was in grave condition on August 13. I think I knew then that he would die on my birthday. There is something about that fact that was comforting then, and continues to be. It seems to have some sort of cosmic significance, though for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure it out. I only know that on that day I feel great reverence and peace, along with genuine sadness at the loss of my beloved father and hero.

The day my father died my daughter made me promise that I wouldn’t spend my birthdays grieving. I don’t, but I find that the day has taken on a different energy. I no longer have lofty expectations and anxiety around it. It’s now a day for me to reflect. I think of my Dad and that day five years ago. I also think about how grateful I am to be here on the planet and celebrate life. I enjoy time with my family, but it’s not a requirement. I’m also fine with passing the day alone, doing something I love. This year I plan to take myself to the beach.

My Grandpa Louie used to tell me, “Never be too happy or too sad”. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that when I heard it as a young child. But, his words stayed with me and as an adult I finally get it. My birthday is a great metaphor for that advice. It’s a wonderful day of celebration and gratitude – for the magic of birth and the gift of my life. Happy. Juxtaposed with all that happiness and joy is the opposite – my childhood dread of school, the sadness at the end of summer, and the inevitability of loss and death. Sad.

So, with Grandpa Louie’s advice in mind, my birthday is “never too happy or too sad”. I’m OK with the mixed bag. It means I get to have it all. I like that.

STRETCH: Take time to think about where you may have “unrealistic expectations”. Can you imagine removing them? Can you imagine how much more at peace you will be when you do?

WEEKLY STRETCH 6-19-17 ~ SACRED REUNION

Once again, my weekly post was written from an airplane. I am blessed to be traveling more than ever and love using my time in the air to write. Below is my most recent musing from high in the sky. Sorry it’s late this time.

This post comes from 30, 000 feet, flying north from Orlando after an experience that defies description. It’s 1:15 a.m. My flight was originally scheduled to depart at 6:20 p.m. Mother Nature had other plans and storms over the Midwest wreaked havoc on the airlines. So, 7 hours later, bleary-eyed and wanting to be home in the arms of my Beloved, I fly.

I find myself at a loss for words to speak of this time and the series of events that brought it about. One thing I know for certain – Divine Providence brought me to Florida, to be with my friend Anni, her husband Randy, and their two furry kids – to begin a friendship in this life that is lifetimes long and lifetimes deep. Somehow, at precisely the right time and in precisely the right place, we recognized each other and knew we were meant to continue an ongoing connection we brought with us from beyond our present life’s knowing. What we experienced together in these four days is something only we two can know or understand, try as we might to verbalize it to those we know and love. We are both blessed with life partners who totally “get it”; who understand and recognize the intimate connection that happened when this recognition occurred, and they supported us taking the time to reconnect and celebrate our “reunion”. We talked and talked, we created beauty, we learned, we shared, we nurtured, we commiserated and collaborated – it was and is glorious. And it was so much more. These extraordinary days are only the beginning of a loving creative collaboration of two hearts and two minds together again in this lifetime.

I don’t really know what else I can say about it that would make any sense. In fact, as we attempted to summarize our time together, we got lost in words and eventually had to laugh at how ludicrous is was to even try. What does make sense is that I don’t need to say any more. It is enough to have had the experience and to know how much has changed as a result. I’ve stepped across a threshold into a higher expression of myself and there will be no turning back. I am grateful for this rare and wonderful gift of discovery and mystery and for the reunion I’ve had with my friend. I thank you, Anni, for seeing me and for allowing me to see you. And I thank you and Randy for receiving me with arms wide open.

There will be more about this heavenly collaboration, and another collaboration between the two of us and another Goddess sister from Florida, Cristiane. Another star-blessed connection. Stay tuned.

STRETCH: The Universe brings us unique and precious encouters, some with people who have been with us in loving connection for lifetimes. Take a look around you and tune into the people in whose presence you feel ease, comfort, and a deep sense of cosmic connection. Give thanks for them, the many lifetimes you have shared, and those yet to come.

IN PRAISE OF SISTERHOOD – WEEKLY STRETCH 1-19-17

Kwan Yin is an East Asian bodhisattva * associated with compassion as venerated by Mahayana Buddhists. She is commonly known as the “Goddess of Mercy” in English.

A string of dreary days here in the Northeast has offered me some time to reflect and ruminate and the topic that rises to the top is the value of “sisterhood”- in my life and in the lives of some of the people I know. I am blessed to be a member of many different groups focused on different aspects of my lifestyle. Most of the people in these groups are women of various ages and backgrounds. Personally, I thrive in diversity and I’m fortunate to have that in abundance. I work from home almost exclusively now and, while I don’t mind being alone and rather enjoy the solitude, it can and does sometimes get lonely on gloomy, gray days like the ones we have in the Winter. These groups, predominantly via private social media, become my social life and my way of connecting with others of like mind.

One unique little “family” comes to mind. We are seven people – 6 women and one extraordinary man (my husband) – and we are truly a family. We are connected through cyberspace heart to heart and we share our lives, our challenges, our thoughts, our dreams, our fears, our joys and our triumphs. We care about each other and keep each other in heart and mind. While there is physical distance between us, in cyberspace we are only a keystroke away. Technology is truly a gift when used in good ways.

Another group is in support of those of us involved in a “30-Day Challenge”. This challenge is about making drastic changes in diet and lifestyle and we support each other in every way. Many of the women have shared intimate and deeply personal aspects of their lives, some have reported deaths of loved ones, some have children in the hospital, most have simply needed support and a great many have been extremely kind and generous with theirs. We are there for each other for the sole purpose of knowing we are not alone as we all navigate this new way of being. When one falls she has virtual hands ready to pull her back up. It’s amazing to witness and be part of this valiant group of women.

In real-time I am surrounded by some of the most magnificent women imaginable. My family, close friends, fellow ministers are truly women of great substance. Recently I have found myself in deep discussions with most of them, surrounding a variety of issues, and I’ve been struck again and again how deeply the Goddess vibration runs. Women have a very special connection that goes beyond the surface; beyond skin and bone; beyond cosmetics and clothing and who shops where; beyond economics and who has the bigger house or the most successful job. This connection is at the soul level. This is the connection we all share; the essence of The Goddess in each one of us and our innate ability to be deeply compassionate and protective. The women in my life are vibrating with the magnificent light of Kwan Yin, the Goddess of compassion and healing; they radiate kindness and concern and a desire to help and understand. They come from the place of The Divine Mother – the One who loves and supports unconditionally. They are daughters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts. They love deeply. And they are strong. Boy, are they strong, and fiercely loyal. Are they flawed? Of course, they are. Everyone is flawed in one way or another. But at the core, where it really counts, I see nothing but the light of The Divine Feminine shining through them and spilling forth into everything they encounter. They are the light of compassion and healing.

These are my sisters. These women reflect to me my own intrinsic divinity and help me see that I too am the essence of The Mother, and now the Crone* in the sacred company of the Wise Ones who hold that essential space for the younger ones who will eventually occupy the throne of wisdom where we now reside. I am humbled by every one of these women and abundantly grateful to all the communities where I am blessed to encounter them every day.

STRETCH: Look at yourself in the mirror. Look long and hard into your own eyes. Notice the fire that burns deep within, beyond your face and your body, beyond your skin and hair. Look into your eyes. Linger there. The eyes are the window to the soul; a soul that burns with the fierce fire of The Mother. You are that. When you can, look into the eyes of the women you encounter in your day and silently bow to the Goddess that is alive within them. These are your sisters.

*Bodhisattva – Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is the embodiment of great compassion. He has vowed to free all sentient beings from suffering. In China, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is represented in female form and is known as Kuan Yin. Probably because of Kuan Yin’s great compassion, a quality which is traditionally considered feminine. Anyone can be like Kuan Yin. You may say that you don’t have a thousand eyes or a thousand arms or that you lack skilful means, but it is your compassion that can transform you into a Kuan Yin. With your eyes and hands, you can help others. With your compassion, you can bring peace and tranquility to this world. (from www.buddhanet.net)

*Crone – In her positive aspect she is often depicted as a Grandmother, a wise woman, or a midwife. The word Crone is derived from the old word for crown, suggesting the wisdom that emanates from the head like a halo. Her own child baring days are past; she is the wisdom keeper, seer and healer and midwife, whose knowledge is sought out to guide others during life’s hardships and transitions. (from www.goddess-guide.com)

WEEKLY STRETCH 6-10-16

R&R JACKSON BROWNE

What a gorgeous day! We here in the northeast have been patiently (well…maybe not patiently) waiting for Spring days…and finally we are in the pocket so to speak. Ahhhh…delicious cool sunshine greeted Sophie and me on our walk this morning. It’s early June. Hooray.

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting in on a rehearsal of a show my husband Bob is appearing in with The Reock and Roll Revue, a fabulous band that does theatre shows highlighting an historic album in rock and roll history and duplicating that album in total. These shows are the brainchild of an extremely talented man I’ve known and loved for many years, Tom Reock. Each of these shows is masterfully performed by amazing musicians and includes a wonderful historical narrative that informs the audience of what went on behind the scenes in these artists lives at the time. All in all every one of these performances over the years has been a “happening” for sold out audiences. This year I’m thrilled that my husband, my brother Hal, and my niece Lindsay will all be performing along with Tom and the rest of the Reock and Roll Revue. The album they will be performing is Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty”.

Sitting in the rehearsal studio with a crew of master musicians was a great honor and thrill for me. I happen to love this album so the music itself was enough. But being witness to the collaborative process and respect these musicians have for each other and the natural unfolding of creativity was, to put it mildly, “really cool”. My husband says I have a musician’s ear and a musician’s heart. I love when he says that because one of the great frustrations of my life is that I don’t play an instrument and at this point in my life, after a few tries with guitar, I just don’t have the patience for the learning curve. So I’ve resigned myself to live from my musician’s heart and listen deeply with my musician’s ear. Last night I was doing just that. I felt surrounded by creative energy. The room was vibrating with it and I let myself be saturated by it all. I can’t imagine anything more enlivening that sitting in a room filled with music created by some of the best players I know, many of whom are part of my family. By the way, this morning I woke up early and got back to work on my most recent painting with renewed vigor and energy. Thanks guys!!! I’m coming to every practice!!!

Today’s stretch was inspired by last night’s experience:

STRETCH: Take time to honor the gift of creativity. Make something. Draw, paint, decorate, cook, look, listen, dance, color, do anything that taps into your innate ability to create. It can include creating space, creating relationship, or even creating time in your day for self-care or fun. Breathe into that place within yourself where creativity resides. And celebrate this amazing gift.

ON MOTHER’S DAY AND WEEKLY STRETCH 5-6-16

motherhood
Painted by Franne Demetrician from an unnamed work.

Author Elizabeth Stone writes: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I would have to agree. I am blessed to be the mother of a wonderful young woman. She’s all grown up and has a family of her own. And no matter how old we both get, she’s my baby, my little girl, my child and my heart. I think every mother identifies with Elizabeth Stone’s quote.

On this Mother’s Day, not only do I want to be mindful of my own beloved mother who I miss every day, I want to acknowledge the women who have brought “mother energy” into the lives of so many. The teachers, nurses, caregivers, friends, sisters, aunts and grandmothers. I acknowledge the women in my own life whose nurturing has allowed me to feel held and loved and who are there for me to share in my triumphs and cares.

Motherhood is such an honor, and such a heavy responsibility. We are called to be the “carriers” of both the tiny being inside us, if we are fortunate enough to be able to carry a baby within; and the growing person for whom we are the carriers of “care and feeding” of their unique crawling and then walking being. Balancing the pressures of everyday life make mothering a unique challenge in that our children and family are often competing with many other responsibilities for our attention and energy. Many women feel “mommy guilt” as they try to juggle it all. Many of us fail to acknowledge ourselves for the balancing act we perform every day, attending to everyone’s needs and demands at home and at work, often leaving our own needs unattended.

STRETCH: Mothers…make yourself first! Take time to give yourself a break, any sort of break, be it a massage, a nap, a manicure or pedicure, a 15-minute walk, a quiet cup of coffee or tea, anything that allows you to stop, breathe, and attend to your own needs. Notice all that you do for others and acknowledge yourself, honor yourself, celebrate yourself. Appreciate yourself in any way that you can. Nurture yourself the way you nurture others. You deserve it!!!

Happy Mother’s Day!!