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Dec 10 2011
Aug 22 2011
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”-(Unknown)
Last week Tom and I went to the Summer Concert in the Park on the Santa Barbara waterfront and danced to the music of a Beatles tribute band. We moved our bodies in happy abandon in a sweet and sweaty crush of baby boomers and people of all ages. I was high on nostalgia, and at the same time, high on the present moment.
I felt that old thrill of excitement that was ignited all those years ago in the teenage me listening to my first Beatles songs, a thrill that shot through me like electricity, like a defibrillator jumpstarting my heart and my life. “Shake it up baby now, twist and shout!” It all came back. I loved the Beatles and that exciting time in my life, a time of rebirth into a new version of myself, a vibrant new burst of aliveness. I’m feeling that same bright-eyed aliveness now…a gift from cancer.
As I boogied to the Beatles music, my past and present weaved together. Back then it was the 60’s…and now I’m IN my 60’s! I flashed back in time…remembering The Travelons, the Beatles tribute band that was famous in the 1960’s on the east coast, who I loved to dance to and was a bit of a groupie. I dated the drummer a few times, but was so shy I barely spoke – I needed to drink a beer or two to help me loosen up. “It’s a good thing I’m pretty,” I thought back then. On the ride to the Concert in the Park with Tom I caught a glimpse of myself in the car mirror, seeing the fine (and not so fine) lines sprinkled on my face, and thought, “It’s a good thing Tom loves me for who I am, not how I look!” It’s an even better thing that I finally feel beautiful INSIDE. That is a monumental life accomplishment for me! And I no longer need to drink a beer in order to feel uninhibited — I feel so much more comfortable in my skin now…wrinkled though it is.
Dancing to the beat of the Beatles songs, I felt like the teenage me of yesteryear. Yet in present time, there was Tom, holding me close, looking at me with happy, loving eyes, and I felt treasured…something the teenage me never felt. I did a mind-meld through time with my teenage self and told her, “Look who we end up with, this wonderful man! Look at where we live, this beautiful paradise on earth! Look at the wonderful friends we have, dancing with us!” Thinking about the whole of my life, I tell her, “What a journey you have ahead of you!”
I kept looking at Tom, his beautiful blue eyes, his luminous smile, his sweet soul, and I felt blown away that I ended up with such a fabulous man. My history with cancer adds poignancy to my happy moments with him. The uncertainty of it is always in the back of our minds. As we dance to a slow Beatles song, he presses his forehead against mine, looks into my eyes and says sweetly, “Don’t go.” “Okay, I’ll stay” I say, smiling. But I can’t help wondering if I’ll be around for next summer’s concerts in the park. I think about Beatles John and George, gone now. We just don’t know what the future will bring. As John Lennon said, “We are all living on borrowed time.”
Though I don’t know what the future holds, I can allow myself to be fully held in this moment, in Tom’s arms, in a feeling of celebration, savoring it all. Celebrating how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in this life. Celebrating the present moment…that I have arrived here at last! It has been a long journey to the Now, but I am Here Now a lot of the time…another gift of cancer.
At the dance, we talk to a friend who has a bum shoulder and other health issues requiring medical assistance. It is testing his fear of aging. But he tells us that he’s decided to have fun with it. When he goes to the doctor, he messes with them, playfully asking for “More needles please!” Instead of dreading it, he’s celebrating and playing with it all. Ill health can make us feel like a failure; yet, to feel joy in the midst of our challenges is a great success. As Emerson said, “To have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation — this is to have succeeded.”
I’m here, facing my worst fears, feeling my feelings fully, AND playing and laughing with enthusiasm, singing along to old Beatle tunes with exultation! I may be here for many more years to come. Or not. I know that there’s much I want to see and do — I have fully arrived at this earth party and I want to laugh and learn and play more! I’m reassured by Richard Bach’s quote: “Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” I’m alive, so it isn’t!
In the Ram Dass book, STILL HERE – Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying, despite a stroke that has incapacitated him in many ways, he sees how perfect it all is. It has helped him to even more fully BE HERE NOW, valuing this life, and knowing more deeply that he is not just a body, he is an eternal soul. That awareness helps make these earthly woes not so devastating. And, knowing that we will die makes life more precious. Because of that, I am not only still here, I am more HERE than I have ever been before! The 1960’s were great, but I can honestly say that this life just keeps getting better and better!
I’ll leave you with this celebratory song I wrote with Nicola Gordon (sung to the tune, The Ants Going Marching One by One):
There’s nothing I have to do today – Hurrah, Hurrah!
There’s nothing I have to do or say – Hurrah, Hurrah!
Just be in the NOW all the way
That’s all I have to do today.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Sing and dance and play!
Jan 03 2011
“Mirrors, mirrors all around, reflections of myself abound.
What most needs to be loved is found in what I judge in you.”
That is from a poem I wrote about projection a few years ago. Along the same lines, there’s a saying that goes, “If you spot it, you got it.” It means that what we see and judge in others is in us in some way. I would amend that to say, “If you spot it and you have a charge on it, then you got it.” We can spot things in others, but if it doesn’t have a sticking place in us and we’re at peace with it, then we don’t ‘got it’. But if we spot it and fought it (judge and resist it), to be sure, we got it!
Having cancer and not knowing how much longer I have (do any of us really?), I am compelled to do what I came here to do – face my shadows, free myself of judgments, heal and become whole. There’s no time to waste. Though I’m still feeling good and free of symptoms from my original tumor, I recently discovered a hard, pea-sized bump under my skin that could be a giant pimple OR a life-threatening tumor (which would mean the cancer is spreading). I don’t know if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, a tumor out of a pimple, but either way, it is a burr under my saddle (yes, it is located in THAT region once again) reminding me that it’s clean-up time, it’s time to make peace with the many me’s that life is reflecting back to me.
Adding to this auspicious time, a friend sent me a reminder that something pretty potent is happening soon – the 21st of December is Winter Solstice AND a lunar eclipse, the first time these two events have coincided in hundreds of years. She wrote that this is “A powerful time to be introspective, thinking, meditating, imagining, giving ourselves full permission to dream, to fantasize about what we would want for ourselves if we could have anything at all, anything we’ve ever hoped for, before our time on this earth is complete.”
What I dream about is being free of judgments and having love and compassion in my heart for all the people in my life…but alas, saint I ain’t (as Tom’s father used to say). Just when I think I got all my wacky, quacky ducks in a row and feel like I’m doing pretty darn good spiritually, the universe sends me people who push my buttons and I am confronted with my judgments. Some of you might be currently experiencing this if you’re visiting family during this holiday season because, as Ram Dass once said, “If you think you are enlightened, go visit your family.”
Throughout the years I have drawn into my life charming, angry, defensive men. I’ve had judgments about these men and felt victimized by them. It was quite a surprise when I finally realized that little ol’ innocent me was also charming, angry and defensive. That was a shocker! These men were the perfect mirror for my disowned anger. Over the years I have been learning to love and integrate those parts of myself, finding that once anger is owned it transmutes into empowerment – the highest octave of anger is strength and power and setting healthy boundaries, without judgment. (This shift in me allowed the wondrous Tom to come into my life – he is the least angry man I have ever known).
I believe that empowerment begins with ownership. I recently saw actress Jenny McCarthy being interviewed on The View and she talked about her relationship with actor Jim Carrey (they recently separated after five years together). She talked about how she made a list of all the things that bothered her about him, and said when she read it she substituted ‘he’ with ‘I’. It helped her to see all the ways that SHE did what she was accusing him of doing. (She explained that this was based on Byron Katie’s work, the part where you take your thoughts and judgments and turn them around).
At this holy time of the year, I know that it’s all about wholeness – the words holy, whole, and health share the same root. My challenge and great desire is to be inclusive, all embracing and at one with everything in my life. The universe is currently obligingly gifting me with an opportunity to do this – lately I have been ‘spotting’ angry, defensive men and the women who love them. I witness myself clucking my tongue, judging them, wondering what THEY are doing in my life…and then I am reminded, “Mirrors mirrors all around, reflections of myself abound, what most wants to be loved is found in what I judge in you.” This is coming round again to be loved and healed and wholed.
Big breath of acceptance…yes, it is time to ‘reflect’, to face and embrace what life is mirroring back to me, and to imagine, to dream and envision what it would be like to be free of these judgments, to be whole, to be filled with love and compassion for myself and others. This is the Christmas mirror-cle I am hoping for this year. I’m singing, “Wholly wholly wholly, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed many me’s (and you’s).”
I hope you are having a ‘wholly’ holiday season, loving the many hues of the many you’s that life is reflecting back to you. I’m wishing for you and for me a Christmas mirror-cle of peace, love and oneness.
Nov 19 2009
My husband Tom and I just spent last weekend in a workshop with Al Huang, a world-renowned philosopher and Tai Chi master who has toured with Sammy Davis Jr. and hung with the Dalai Lama. We have attended his yearly workshop in Santa Barbara for nine years. He is a ‘chi’leader extraordinaire, encouraging and exciting us to come alive and open to our Big ME, Big CHI, Big WOW selves. He teaches Tai Chi in a way that invites, ignites, and unites the realms of Heaven, Earth, and Human, helping us to boldly embody our vast life force, and inspiring the question, “Just how big and how vibrantly alive can we let ourselves be?”
He talked about his friend, Ram Dass, who wrote the book Be Here Now — a very important book for me that helped jump-start my stalled life force in my early twenties. Al told us he was going to talk with Ram Dass the next day. I thought, I’d love to give Al the book I wrote called Be Here Meow – Enlightening Lessons Learned from my Feline Friends. It contains some of the juicy philosophy and humor that Al was sharing with us and I thought he might get a kick out of it. Maybe he’d even tell Ram Dass about it — how cool would that be! Dare I do that? The ‘little me’ was quaking in my Crocks…who do I think I am? But Al had done his job well, and during the last break of the weekend workshop, filled with the Big Chi of the Big Me, I walked up to him and gave him my book. He laughed at the title, and shared with me his appreciation for the cats in his life, and thanked me for the book. As I walked away my energy field fluffed out like an excited feline and you could almost hear me purring!
“Who do you think you are?” is a common question of the ‘little me’, the pygmy. I am aware of times I have pulled my energy in, minimizing myself, virtually disappearing myself. People have actually bumped into me as if I weren’t there! I have super powers of invisibility! What do I get out of that? I get to be safe, to fly below the radar, to be a fly on the wall. But it creates a backlash — the fly becomes a hornet as my repressed aliveness shouts, “Hey, I’m here!” Like Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) in Midnight Cowboy, when he pounded on the hood of the car that almost ran him down, saying, “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!” It’s that feeling of being disrespected, disappeared, discounted, just generally dissed. My great dis-covery over the years has been that I was doing that to myself — I was dissing myself, I was belittling myself.
An even greater discovery is that I am so much more than the ‘little me’. We all are so much more. Our life force is vast. That vast self wants to be here, to be seen, to express through us. Even little Dennis the Menace has an inkling of his Big Self. In a cartoon, Dennis is sitting in a corner, being punished, and with a scowl on his face he proclaims, “I’m Dennis! THAT’s who I am. THAT’s what I shoulda said!”
The real question is, “Who do you KNOW you are?” That knowing, that remembrance of my Big Soul Self is the most important thing in my life. Since my recent experience with cancer, it has become even more important. Every day I invite and unite with my vast energy field by doing daily practices. In the morning I dance, moving up and down, backward and forward, side to side, inward and outward, embracing, balancing and flowing with All That Is. Every afternoon I go for a walk and feel and affirm, “My feet kiss the Earth with every step” and likewise “The Earth kisses my feet with every step.” As I walk, I imagine the top of my head opening like a funnel, receiving love and guidance from above — I am taking my vast energy field for a walk, I am walking my God. Every night while lying in bed I visualize pink light filling my heart, radiating throughout my body, and I fall asleep held in warm, soft love light.
A few years ago there was a man on the Oprah show talking about a plane crash he survived. He said that as the plane was careening towards a violent crash he looked back at the people on the plane and saw a big bright light around some people, and lesser degrees of light around others. He was profoundly struck by that, and in that moment he vowed that if he lived, he would live his life fully, shining the full brightness of his life force.
Our life force energy has a dimmer switch, and we are in control of that switch. Just how big, how bright, how alive can we let ourselves be? It is our choice — brighter or dimmer, pygmy or Big Me. The great challenge is to become more and more comfortable with embodying our vast spirit, our vibrant aliveness, our magnificent soul.
How about you — do you feel like a pygmy or a Big Me? Where is your dimmer switch turned to? I invite us all to dare to turn up our light, to let our Big Soul Self shine through us, to be here fully, be here NOW, and be here WOW!