Saturday, March 30, 2013

Meeting Tara Brach - The "Sacred Pause"

I should not be surprised by the synchronicity that abounds in my life. In the opening pages of Priscilla Warner's book, "Learning to Breathe:My Yearlong Quest To Bring Calm To My Life", she mentions Tara Brach. I googled her about a year ago and began following her on Facebook and on her blog. I was astounded to learn that she has experienced debilitating illness in her life as she wrote in her blog "Letting Life Live Through Us," and most recently, "Happy For No Reason."

Tom recently joined the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. He told me that Tara Brach was coming to speak but it was sold out. The next day he forwarded me an email that we could have audio only seats to hear her talk. I jumped right on it and registered us for the talk.

We arrived early (no surprise there for you who know me well) and were blessed to find a parking space in the lot behind the Center. As soon as I walked through the gate,

I felt tears streaming down my face. There was a beautiful sacred energy present in the garden. I felt the mysticism of the time between winter and Spring. There was a 45 minute sitting meditation before Tara's talk.

I am going to make you all laugh now. I, along with everyone else, was deep in meditation when my phone went off. I could have sworn that I had turned it off before meditation began but sometimes it doesn't 'take'. I jumped and said, "oh my God." I quickly turned it off and noticed that it was near the end of our meditation time but still.... I started to laugh thinking that here I am, my first time at the Center and they are going to toss me out. Tom started laughing because I was laughing but with deep breathing we returned to our meditative states.

After meditation we checked in for the talk. It was quite an experience to not have the visual of the speaker. It actually helped me to be more present in the moment focusing on what Tara was saying rather than having any visual distractions. She began by talking about resting in the fullness of who we are and intentionally opening our hearts to create an atmosphere of kindness and compassion for ourselves. She talked a lot about the trance of unworthiness and how we use deficiency as a filter for our relationships to ourselves and others. Fear gets in the way of giving ourselves wholeheartedly.

She then began our first of several short guided seated meditations with this poem:

by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Tara talked with us about freedom and how, when we react, we are not free. Quoting Victor Frankl she said,

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

So in our next meditation we were to focus on a situation in our personal relationships in which we experienced irritation. She prepared us for the meditation by saying how our sickness is a homesickness - a longing to return to our Divine selves; the part of ourselves that is mystery and vastness. "When we come into form," she said, "we experience a separateness perception." She begged the question, "How do we forget the wildness of God that is in each one of us?"

As we went through the next two meditations, Tara focused on the sacred pause guiding us to tending and befriending. It was so easy for me to take notes and integrate what she was saying because I'd been reading her blog for over a year now. What a blessing to hear her speak the words so that they could really settle into my cells and my soul. She held a sacred space with her Divine, tender, compassionate Being.

Tara talked about the two wings of homecoming which she wrote about in her blog, "Unfolding Wings of Acceptance." What is happening and can I let it be....

All that I have been working on these past several months seemed to come together for me. I experienced a deep healing in my heart while feeling a flood of compassion and loving kindness flow through me. Tears streamed down my face during our meditation and I felt an incredible softening of my Being when once I experienced so much aversion to all that had happened to me. It's hard to believe that you can surrender to horrific circumstances but as Tara clarified last night -- You are not saying yes to the content of what happened - you are saying yes that it did happen. "The gift of recognizing and allowing are the wings of awakening," she tenderly and loving said to us. "Get that sense of the oceanness of your being and include the waves."

I had no idea that I would get to meet Tara after the talk but she was doing a book signing for True Refuge.

I introduced myself to her and told her how I came to learn about her work through Priscilla Warner. My voice broke as I said to her, "I had paralytic polio as a child. Six years ago I was in a wheelchair and your blog has been an incredible support to me on my healing journey." We locked eyes and her eyes filled with tears. She has the most incredible deep blue eyes and when I looked into them, I saw God and I felt God within myself. We were the mirror for each other's souls knowing each other without needing to say a word. It was indeed a sacred moment. I experienced the mystery and the vastness that she talked about earlier that evening.

She said using her hands for expression "But you look so amazing." I commented, "I have been so blessed with healing. In her talk she mentioned what a wondrous time this is... "We are coming up on the 100th monkey -- the critical mass of people becoming engaged in mindfulness practices." I am so blessed and grateful that I had the opportunity to share those sacred moments of mindfulness in the presence of the community at CIMC and with Tara Brach.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ring Toss

On March 2nd, 1977, Tom and I met on a blind date. My friend Mary Fitzpatrick was dating his friend Marty and they said we had to meet each other. He came to my apartment at 75 Gardner Street in Allston. I had just adopted my kitten Jacques from the Animal Rescue League. They quickly bonded. As for us it was, love at first sight. We decided to get married a year and two days later on March 4, 1978, which for you not quick in math was 35 years ago.

As I have mentioned in my blog, Tom and I are both trauma survivors. When we first met, he was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Harvard Square paying his way through college. I worked as an administrative assistant at Boston University. We pooled resources so he could finish his bachelors degree and I went on to get a masters in social work. The saying of we didn't have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of certainly applied to us.

Our marriage was stressed from the get go as I experienced a lot of health issues requiring several surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations. But we persevered. And then we got pregnant - with twins - and I was on bed rest for eight weeks and our savings were depleted before we even delivered. But we persevered. Tom's father suffered a massive stroke and off we went to Spain a few weeks after I had just returned to work. Fortunately the chief of social work was supportive of my taking leave time but I had to earn back 40 hours of leave time before I could take another vacation. Oh and did I mention the day before I was to begin work, our car was stolen with two car seats in it. But - yup you guessed it - we persevered. We weathered so many storms together including the mighty Blizzard of '78 in which the ship we were supposed to have our wedding reception on sunk; we continued to grow stronger as individuals and in our relationship. And then there was the crisis of the diagnosis of post polio syndrome and me having to leave my full time job at the VA. We certainly have persevered. Talk about resilience!

As we approached and passed our 35th wedding anniversary mark, we hit turbulent waters. Tom was under an inordinate amount of stress at work. I was dealing with the suicide of my nephew two years earlier. Many couples renew their wedding vows at a milestone anniversary. As was true for our entire relationship, we did things in our own rather untraditional way. I knew that I was contributing to the stress in our relationship but couldn't seem to find a way out of the patterns and then in the middle of the night -- ps why is it that these aha moments come in the middle of the night -- it came to me. I had taken off my 18K gold wedding band to give my finger and me some space and figure out what needed to happen in order to release ourselves from this pattern. After all Tom is 61 years old and I turn 60 this year. It's time to reap the rewards of all of our hard work these past 36 years together.

The wedding band I wore on my finger all those years was handed down begrudgingly given to me. It belonged to my mother's father's mother "Grandma Annie." There was a family myth that when I got married, I could have the ring only Grandma Annie's daughter, "Aunt Laura" did not want me to have it - don't ask - it's all a part of the dysfunction. I fought for the ring and on my wedding day, Laura looked at it and said "you know I didn't want you to have this." So there was quite a lot of karma attached to that ring. I bought into the myth of having a wedding band handed down through the generations. A little delusion goes a long way...

I told Tom that I needed a new wedding band. It was a symbolic way to renew our relationship and for me to let go of my own stuff I was carrying in relationship to the women in my family and to the woman within me. And being the incredibly loving person he is, he was totally on board with it. I wanted to sell the 18K gold wedding band and get a lot of money for it - smile please. He talked about The Lord of the Rings and said we needed to toss it into the water somewhere.

There were many wonderful characters we met along the journey of our wedding ring quest. At a jewelry store at the Watertown Mall, the owner looked at the ring, tossed it on the jeweler's scale and said he'd give us $25 for it as a trade in. I said "what? It's 18K gold". He looked at it again and said $40. I had seen a white gold wedding band with hearts around it in his case but it was over $700. I was not about to squander my money nor was I about to give him our business but he taught us a very important lesson. In essence he was saying, this ring is worthless unless it has some sentimental value for you. We left the store.

In another jewelry store, the appraiser wasn't available but one of the jeweler's said it would be a shame to sell the ring. It's so beautiful and clearly has a lot of value as an antique. Did we want to make an appointment with the appraiser? "No thank you," we said.

Onto Bloomingdale's -- what kind of ring did I want? I loved the ring with the hearts around it. I didn't want anything with gemstones. Oh and did I mention that our apartment had been broken into in Allston and the person took my engagement ring, the pants to Tom's wedding suit, our TV and all of the jewelry I had from my family including my dad's pinky ring, a diamond heart necklace from my mother and a pearl ring from Laura.

There was a lovely sales woman at Bloomies and I began to get an idea of what kind of ring I wanted and did not want. I put on one ring that reminded me of a ring my mother had worn. I could feel the visceral reaction in my belly. I tried on one ring that sparked the image of what I did want. The rings at Bloomies were exorbitantly priced but at least now I knew... I wanted a rope ring - sterling silver.

We walked by Tiffany's and I told my Tom - "let's go in here." Say what? "You are going to find a ring we can afford at Tiffany's?" Although Tom said that I could spend whatever I wanted on the ring.

The security guard opened the door to Tiffany's

and we were greeted by a lovely young woman asking if she could help us. "Yes please. I'd like a sterling silver rope ring." "Oh I'll show you what we have." As soon as I saw it in the case - I knew...

"How much is it," we asked. "150.00," she answered. Perfect. She helped me to size it and then gave us the beautiful Tiffany's box and pouch to keep.

It was around 3:30 in the afternoon. I needed a nap after our adventures in wedding ring shopping swapping but I knew we had to take care of this business. I knew I had to throw out something that had strong memories attached to it and then to rewrite the story. Lord of the Rings here we come...

It was cold outside but we went to Castle Island.

We found the perfect spot for the ring toss...I didn't want to stand on the beach and toss it out to sea. We knew we needed to toss it from higher ground. As we were walking to the fence, my ankle twisted in a divot in the ground. I felt my nephew's presence as I was quickly lifted out of the divot and my ankle wasn't injured at all! And as we stood there looking out over the ocean, I could feel my nephew's presence and love. He died off the shore of Rhode Island almost two years ago to the day. It was time for me to let go of all that bound me to the pain and pathology of my family; to release myself to be free to fully engage in my marriage and be present in the present. Now I don't have a strong throwing arm by any stretch of the imagination. It was low tide. As I tossed the ring it flew end over end over end almost in slow motion and made it way beyond low tide and into the depths of the water. I wept and as we walked back to the car I knew that I took another step in freedom.

Whenever I begin to engage in old patterns with Tom, I look down at my new wedding band and know I have another choice - another way to respond with compassion and love rather than derision or a sense of being victimized. I'd say it's nothing short of a miracle that we have stayed together, grown together and created an amazing life together -- Nothing is guaranteed. Every day is a precious gift and we work to continue to renew that love and commitment as we grow into our golden sterling silver years.

The Art of Letting Go from Elements of Healing now available on Amazon

Allowing myself to see things as they really are
sheds light on all that went before
opening the door to healing.

Detachment and observation the keys to the prison door
courage to feel all the pain
tears lavage my broken heart.

Cauldron of emotions reaches a boiling point but never overflows
surfacing from the pain with deep breaths of new life
the joy far deeper and greater than the pain.

Easy to cling to the pain and suffer
immobilized by the profundity of it all
therein lies the art of letting go.

From my heart to yours
With total love and deepest gratitude,


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring {Blog} Break - Mother Tree

After yesterday's wonderful and inspiring blog post about Chronic Pain - When Pain Leaves The Body and with my daughter coming home for her Spring Break, I decided it's a good time to take a Spring {Blog} Break. I am going to be finishing the final edit for Songs of Freedom:Poems From a Healing Odyssey Volume II:Seasons of the Soul (Volume I:Elements of Healing is now available on Amazon) and enjoying the anticipation of Spring time in New England with my beautiful daughter.

I leave you with this stunning video shared by Erica Mather in her newsletter:

Mother Tree

Plants don’t exist in isolation—they create networks and communities. This video unveils the communication that happened between trees via their root systems, and how they collaborate to help one another grow.

May we all support and love one another to help each of us grow to be the beautiful flowers of compassion, light and love that is ready to blossom within each one of us.

The Gift of Yoga from "Songs of Freedom:Poems From a Healing Odyssey Volume II:Seasons of the Soul

The gift of yoga I give to myself
owning my practice
owning my life
petal by petal this beautiful lotus flower
emerges from the murky waters of the past
slowly opens
reclaiming the treasure feared lost forever
found on my yoga mat
the space taken by eminent domain
spinal mobility flexibility
anger and paralysis melt away
open heart
Radiant one
One Love

From my heart to yours
With total love and deepest gratitude,