Speaking my truth and trying to let go….

It is surprising to me that it has been nearly a year since I have written anything here.  So much has happened.  Now we are planning a relocation, selling real estate to make so we can be less encumbered, giving away things we no longer us, etc.  So many details.  I have also been thinking about the emotional things I have to clean up as part of the overall process of downsizing.  It’s like I’m downsizing emotionally too at this point in my life.

One of the big things that I have struggled to let go of occurred between people I used to consider friends.  I have sat with this quite a bit lately trying to figure out why this thing has been harder for me to let go than other things.  By comparison, I had a therapist for the last five years with whom I had a significant trust relationship.  He was not in truth or integrity about something and this impacted me, several of my friends, and a greater community.  But I have no anger, no sense of betrayal, so resentment…. Instead, while I ended that therapeutic relationship, I have only compassion for him and those of us who were effected.  It was enormously hard for a while but I moved through it with relative speed.

So I have compared this experience to another trying to figure out what the difference has been, what had made me able to truly let go of one but not the other.  After much contemplation, I have concluded that it was because in the situation with this therapist, I spoke my truth – to him, to other people in the community, to my friends, and anyone else involved in this event and community.  And the process of speaking my truth enabled me to let go.  With this other situation I have never done that.  I can’t directly speak to these people and history has taught me that they are not open to an honest conversation that would lead to resolution.  And recently they relocated to Israel which makes a meeting very unlikely.

By way of history, my husband and I used to be friends with Michael Gutman (“Michael) and Yahel Gutman (“Yahel”)- or at least we thought we were friends.  We took them to our house in VT, we had holiday and other meals together, we went to the same synagogue, our children played together.  All the things that friends do together.

At one point Michael and Yahel approached us to invest in an urgent care center – New England Urgent Care – at this point just an idea.  We talked about providing seed money along with a few people other people.  This would be in addition to a small business loan and perhaps other things although I do not recall specifically.  Then one day Michael came to our house and told me that if he did not have a check for $100,000 from us that day that he would lose the small business loan.  We trusted him.  And on a handshake I wrote that check without the paperwork being done yet.

Michael went through a few attorneys who were not competent, in my opinion, and there were significant delays in getting the paperwork done.  There was much to negotiate.  During all this time I was in massive struggle in my life.  I had severe depression and was extremely suicidal often.  I was being treated by a psychiatrist who had me on about 11 different medications which significantly altered my ability to cognitively and emotionally function in life at the time.  Michael was one of the doctors (both at the urgent care center and St. Francis) who treated me, sometimes directly and sometimes tangentially, when I was suicidal and/or had done something to hurt myself.  Because of this role he played he knew what medications I was taking and my mental status.  It was during this time that he hired a different attorney and the documents were finally done.  Documents that were signed while I was in this massive distress and my husband was trying to hold things together at home while I could not.  

These documents provide that he is entitled to earn $150,000 per facility as medical director.  As of this writing, there are four locations for New England Urgent Care of which I am aware so this would be $600,000 per year.  Yahel is or has been highly paid as some kind of clinical director.  An awful lot of money for a small business.  My husband is an attorney in CT and I used to practice law in Ohio – so we are educated people.  However, we were individuals, a couple, and a family in distress.  The timing is quite coincidental.  Did Michael take advantage of my mental health condition at the time?  I don’t know.  I may never know.  It is impossible to know someone’s inner intentions.  I’m sure he would deny anything of the kind.  I believe though that he had so much knowledge of my mental heal crisis and medications as one of the doctors treating me that consciously or unconsciously it was a factor.  I am at least suspicious that he relied on this information and our general trust of them as friends to get agreements done that contain provisions that in a better mental state I would not have agreed to.  And his actions post signing of the documents has created an even greater sense of mistrust of Michael and Yahel.

I think my mental health history is part of why I have been reluctant to deal with this issue.  Why I have not been willing to talk about it, address this business with Michael and Yahel.  I did not trust Michael to observe privacy laws.  I have personally known him to violate HIPPA.  For example, when I was co-president of the synagogue a young woman made vague claims against the rabbi of misconduct.  As co-president of the synagogue at the time, I am aware of what investigative measures were taken and the conversations with the Board of Directors.  During the investigation, Michael told me that this woman was a patient at the urgent care center and that she had mental health issues.  Information which I did not ask for, was not entitled to, and to which I’m certain this woman did not consent to have provided to me.  And that is only one example.  I know that Yahel was often working to get Michael in compliance with privacy laws.  He would start to tell us something about someone and she would stop him in conversation.  I don’t have any information about how compliant he is several years later.  But because I have witnessed non-compliance with privacy laws by him, I do not have any faith that he would protect my privacy as a patient.  And to be clear, I do not consent to his divulging any of my medical information to which he was privy and if such disclosure were to occur I would seek all legal remedies available to me.  While I have been quite recovered mentally and emotionally for some time – having fired the psychiatrist that was so overmedicating me, taken myself off all of the medications, and getting proper and effective therapy over the last several years.  I am no longer willing to live in this mental health oppression that says don’t talk about it, people with think poorly of you type of thing.  I just don’t care much what people think.  I’m doing well, better than I ever have done and without the absurd amounts of medications.  So I won’t be silent over it.  The specifics of my struggle are private and should remain so unless I choose to tell my story.  

In any event, the documents were signed.  During the time before and after the signing, my husband did a significant amount of the real estate legal work for the urgent care centers the details of which I do not know, but it was talked about openly among Michael, Yahel, my husband and myself that he was doing this work.  And it was a lot of work.  Which made Michael’s statements that he built the urgent care centers all on his own even more offensive.  If it was true that Michael was going to lose the small business loan unless we gave him an immediate check for $100,000 and my husband provided so much real estate legal work, then he did not build the centers on his own.  I take nothing away from Michael or Yahel in the hard work they put in to build up the centers.  But neither am I willing to say he or they did it themselves; it just isn’t true.  After a time, my husband wanted a return on the investment.  And so did I.  Our logic was that it was not right for Michale and Yahel to pull out so much money as salary and then claim that no dividends were going to be declared because there were no profits.  They began paying us a few thousand a month for a time.  It was our understanding that they wanted to do this and call it legal fees because they did not want dividends and then have to pay any other investor.  I was not involved in the actual conversations so I don’t know for sure what the reasoning was.  Part of these conversations occurred with Brian Lichtenstein, who was the bookkeeper for Michael.  We had had several meetings with him and Michale and Yahel at Brian’s office.  

It was then that the relationship fell apart.  Michael stated to my husband he was upset that Brian was brought into the conversation.  My husband was surprised because it was Michael that set up meetings with Brian to discuss financials in the past.  It was this that was stated by Michael and the reason that we were not friends anymore.  It offended him.  Of course our perception of the hubris and greed demonstrated by the Gutmans was also offensive.  The bottom line, we were hurt in addition to the business issues described here.  We thought we were friends.  We could not understand why it could not be resolved.  Greed was the only answer we could speculate would cause such a rift.  It was never all that clear to us and all we could do was speculate as to their motivations.  But is sure did bring home that one should never mix money and friendship.  And we did that despite our training otherwise, despite society statements that these things will always go wrong.  We did it out of misplaced trust.

After this we had one meeting where they offered to buy us out.  For a figure we did not find acceptable.  During the meeting, Michael kept insisting the value was set at the number of locations currently open.  But that denies the very concept of seed money.  Also, we found his position suspect when it seemed that they were breaking ground on another location – a fact which we found out later that he did not disclose.  But that was a small issue really.  What was really telling was that during this meeting Michael made what I perceived to be an implicit threat to bring up private medical information of which he was aware.  So it was an ugly meeting.  I have not spoken to them since.

Michael and Yahel have relocated to Israel.  Michael is still listed as the medical director of the urgent care.  How the law can provide that electronic supervision of PAs when the medical director is living in another country is sufficient is perplexing.  But not an issue I am addressing here.

So, will this help me let it go?  Speaking the truth and shedding the mental health oppression and being willing to acknowledge my previous mental health issues is certainly important.  One should not have a mental health issue used as a threat, explicit or implicit, in any business dealing.  It is not part of the business agreements.

But I don’t have any expectation of return of the money invested.  I have no reason to believe that Michael and Yahel are going to sell the urgent care centers.  I can’t imagine why they would if he can draw the medical director salary while living in another county.  And at this point, it is not even about the money.  It did not really make a difference in our lifestyle.  I can’t imagine even speaking to them again especially now that they live in Israel.  The one attempt my husband made to attempt to open up a conversation of reconciliation received no response.

On the other hand, just the energetic shedding of the silence that stems from fear is releasing.  Speaking my truth is important.  It is healthy.  And I am no longer afraid to stand in my truth against anyone.  It is fighting for myself rather than against anyone else.  And unless and until something resolves with the Gutmans, this is my truth.

Finally, to be clear, nothing herein is a statement about the urgent care centers themselves or the quality of services they provide.  I have not been there in a number of years and have no knowledge positive or negative about the quality of services or how business is conducted there.  Comment on the quality or integrity of services there is not within the purview of this writing.

Just truth.  Freedom.  Letting go by speaking, or in this case writing, the truth of my experience, my perceptions.  The facts are what they are.  Determining meaning in them is a mind exercise.  I’m less and less interested in the why of things and more and more interested in letting go of what I cannot change.  I’m interested in still believing in the general goodness of people and not letting the low vibration behavior of anyone affecting my belief that people are good for the most part.  Suspicion from one thing should not bleed into affairs with other people.  Because people are good.  There are people who can be trusted.  

So, what will come of this?  Probably nothing in terms of the business or the lost friendship.  I doubt they will ever read it.  Definitely something in terms of letting it go in the most absolute way mentally and emotionally.  Putting this in the slightly public forum of this blog gets me to a place of really being unafriad to speak my truth.  Really stepping into freedom from the mental health oppression that among other things made me afraid to talk about how it used to be for me.  Which in reality clearly only made me more vulnerable to people’s agendas. I like my newish freedom.

NO – A Practice Not An Event

I was about 30 years old when I first took in fully how much I do not like to be told “no” – not even by myself.  I was just entering the practice of law but in a job where I reported only to the owner of the company for which I then worked.  I was married to my first husband who worked nights and I barely saw anymore and I did whatever I pleased.  I can still clearly remember sitting one day and realizing that I had set up so much of my life so that no one could tell me “no” about anything.  I was quite pleased with myself at the time and for some time after even as my life shifted and I quit working to get remarried and adopt my kids – it was still set up so that I did what I wanted.  I just did not work outside the home and I had responsibilities to the kids but in my mind all my responsibilities were choices and no one was telling me what to do.  Just wow.  The ego driven mind.  Because I celebrated this.

The more my resistance to NO increased the more unhappy I became actually.  I just did not realize this was a huge part of the problem.  I’m not sure where my resistance to NO came from.  Maybe being on my own so young, maybe childhood trauma, maybe just a huge ego and mind problem, and maybe it doesn’t matter because it just was and often is although today I work on NO.

Looking back I can see how out of control I was.  My outsides were doing ok at the time.  I was not working other than taking care of the kids but that was full time because there were two of them and they were sick and I was quite busy keeping them alive and helping them grow.  But I had issues.  Eating disorder.  Alcoholism (present even though there were long periods where I did not drink at all).  Smoking.  Overeating.  Inertia and not taking care of myself.  Suicidal quite often.  And much if not all of the problem was me and my incredible resistance to NO.  I don’t want to oversimplify too much because life and karma are more complicated than that.  But in terms of my incredible unhappiness with me and life, the greatest part has been I think my resistance to NO.

Over the last several years in doing my personal work and healing I have had to bump up against this NO thing a lot.  A therapist called what he was doing reparenting and a lot of that was in saying NO to me about things I wanted or thought I wanted so that I could learn how to say NO to myself.  Its like a 2 year old child was running my life.  Even as I write this I can feel how true that statement is and how much this inner child likes to be in charge.  A child with too much power.  This therapist would often say things like do you really want a two year old running your life?  On the outside I would say that I did not but could feel the 2 year old inside getting very happy about being in charge.

I would internally lament about my lack of discipline – and sometimes complain out loud about this.  But the minute even I tried to make a plan, a rule, a schedule to do things differently or improve myself somehow I would immediately revolt and then my mind would make up reasons for why I did not have to do whatever this plan was and I could stay in my old behaviors and let that 2 year old be in charge.  A friend told me once that my issues with authority were so bad that if I were dictator of the world I would stage a coup.  And its true.  Thankfully less true than it was but still too true too often.

Mistrust and suspicion are the back story to my resistance to NO.  I did not trust other people and under that really I did not trust myself.  And my mind would gather evidence all the time about why others could not be trusted and it would tell me I could rely only upon myself.  The trap was that I clearly did not trust myself either.  So in this reparenting therapy, work on mistrust and suspicion have been vital.  Its a work in progress today.  Its a practice and I feel like I’m only on the beginning stages of this practice even though it has been several years of work now.

I read or heard somewhere that saying NO to yourself is a practice.  Like a muscle that gets stronger every time you use it and the next NO you say to yourself becomes a little easier.  So I started doing this practice a while ago.  First with very small things and sometimes the NO was really me waiting even just a minute or two before giving in and doing whatever the thing was that I wanted to do but knew was not good for me.  The giving in to my mind and its desires.

Wow, its hard.  Saying NO to myself is really hard.  Every time I do this I get to watch the gunas in action when I can actually sit back and just witness what happens in my mind and emotions.  First the idea of what I want to do (eat the cookie, have a drink, cigarette, whatever the unhealthy thing is/was).  Then the NO.  Then my mind practically screaming with anger, frustration, the desire to DO something.  Rajas.  Then the NO again.  Then the feeling of desperation and giving up, an internal collapse.  Tamas.  Then the NO to whatever the thing was again and the NO to doing something and the NO to the desperation and the giving up.  Then sometimes, more often now than in the beginning, a little bit of balance would come in.  Sattva.  Maybe a minute or two of peace.  Then it would start all over either with the same thing or some other thing my mind wanted to DO.  My mind loves to DO just as much as it hates NO.

So what am I learning with this practice?  NO gets easier and the more I let things be and say NO to my mind the more peace I have.  Sure.  Its true.  I have been learning how incredible my ego is and that this NO practice is teaching me to trust myself and others some.  All good things.  But I think the biggest thing I am learning right now is that this is all a practice.  My mind wants very much for it to be an event.  It wants everything to be an event.  But it is practice.  All day every day.  Even when I have yet again let my mind spin out of control and have not been focusing on NO.  Its still practice.  Noticing it, not judging it, pulling it back and saying NO yet again.  NO has become a big part of my spiritual practice.  The kriya I work with.  Change is hard.  I can hate it and still work on it.  Another lesson.  I don’t have to like saying NO.  I don’t have to like the practice of it.  I do have to keep practicing though.  Its the only way that I grow and get any peace.  And I only have this tiny shred of peace to work with right now.  Its a new practice.  I hate it.  I love it.  I tolerate it.  I have become willing to do it.  Even if that means one tiny little thing for one moment at a time.  This war with my mind.  This fight.  This resistance.  This NO.  This practice.  This opportunity to have peace.

All I Had To Do Was Ask

In February of this year I had significant cervical spine surgery that was debilitating for a time.  They removed a section of c4,5,6&7 and affixed a rod on each side screwed in from c3 to t1.  I was in a hard collar and feared being isolated at home.  But at the encouragement of my therapist, I reached out to my yoga community and they came through.  They set up a schedule to visit me and take me out so that I would not be alone at home all the time.  It was a unique opportunity to connect with people – there was nothing else to do anyway as I was not really allowed to do much.  I think the time was good for me and for them.

Two weeks post surgery, my daughter’s birth mother with whom she had been reconnected with during the past summer, dropped her like a bomb.  I had to break the news to her that this woman wanted nothing to do with her even though she had claimed love and affection and a desire to know her for months.  The pain was indescribable for me and for my daughter.  And I felt helpless to help her much of the time as I was still in a hard collar recovering from surgery.  And still my yoga friends came as scheduled even though the minute they asked me how I was I would start crying like a baby.  They still came.

In the meantime, I was missing a huge section of my 300 yoga teacher training and worrying about how to get that done, get functional, start driving again, get my daughter and myself through this most painful time.  I went back to teacher training and proceeded to make up all the contact hours I needed doing private yoga clinics and other work while finishing the rest of the program.  Thankfully those with whom I did my training were deeply compassionate and allowed me to do this independent work so that I could finish.

But I was attached to some things.  I wanted desperately to finish training and I pushed too hard on my body to do it when it was not yet healed.  And the day I finished training and got my certificate I was hospitalized with acute respiratory failure with hypoxia.  And upset about it tremendously even though I did not feel or breathe well.  You see, I was also attached to going to see my guru Amma and I knew if I did not get out of the hospital I could not go.  I missed the first night of seeing her but I talked the doctors into discharging and drove straight out to MA to see her.  But I was still pretty sick and had to take oxygen with me to nebulize breathing treatments.  I took three brand new tanks with me to ensure I had enough to be there safely.  I got there and had such a moment of relief.  Finally, it was all coming together.  But not so.  I checked into my room and went to do a breathing treatment before going down to the main hall to see Amma and there was no air in the oxygen tank.  I switched tanks.  No air still.  There was no air in any of the brand new tanks that I brought with me.  I knew this meant that I had to leave, to go home.  I knew this meant that I was pushing too hard for things that were not for me at that moment.  Knowing this did not even begin to stem the tide of upset, anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment – all of which were followed by tidal waves of self hatred.  As I was leaving the hotel I handed my key back to the hotel clerk and let him know to release the room if someone needed it and why I could not stay.  I did not ask him for a refund, it did not occur to me.  But he looked at me with such compassion and said he was sorry I was having such a hard time and that he hoped it got better.  And he waived the fee for my room.  It was a bright light of compassion when I felt like I was in a place that was really hard and dark.

After this time, I sent out an email to my yoga/enlightenment intensive friends spilling everything that was going on for me, my mind stories about everything that was going on, and my feelings about it.  I asked for help.  I asked for support.  And I got it.  Emails, texts, phone calls, visits.  It was beautiful and it helped ease things for me.

Then one friend from Maine suggested putting together a weekend in Maine where we could all gather.  I was looking at it as support for everyone but it turns out it was mostly for me.  These dear people gathered together – a six hour drive – to spend time together.  We had sacred space.  We did dyads.  We did art therapy projects.  We hiked.  I spent some time doing personal work with a couple people who are strong enough to be with my darkness and compassionate enough to be willing to witness my darkness, my struggle.  We meditated.  Saturday night they literally held me in a circle of love, everyone putting hands on me, as we listened to beautiful music and they listened to me discharge my struggle.

It was the greatest act of love I have ever experienced.

I don’t know how to fully process what happened.  Their incredible kindness, compassion, and love.  All of them in different ways.  I felt humble and not worthy.  Worthy and grateful.  Sad.  Overwhelmed.  Overjoyed.  I felt so very much.

And all I had to do was ask.

My mind is still blown away and my heart still full.  I carry that weekend with me all the time now.  When a song comes on.  When a hawk flies by.  When I see beautiful mountains.  When I think of my friends.  How incredible is this gift of community?  I don’t have words.  The gifts of my yoga and EI community.  The gifts of the friendships I have made.

The lesson.  Ask and you shall receive if you are open.  I stand ready to be there when they ask.  I also stand ready to ask again if needed.  Its an invitation to them, to the universe.  An invitation to be loved the way everyone needs and deserves to be loved.

Humility lives in asking for help.  In saying I can’t do this by myself.  A friend told me that humility would be a big part of my process.  And it is.  All the time.  I just look at humility as a gift rather than a weakness these days.  I don’t get humble enough often enough.  Maybe that was the point in the debilitating surgery, my daughter’s heartbreak, the sickness.  I had no control and had to be willing to ask for help.  Humility.  Love.  Kindness.  Compassion.  Community.

Thank you my dear dear friends.

Relentless Love

Lately I have had conversations and meditations on unconditional love.  Mostly from other parents who say that they love their children unconditionally.  It is not that I doubt their love or their statements about it.  I just prefer to think about it differently.

When I talk to a teacher and friend who also has an adopted child, we say things like “there is a reason they ended up wth us” or we talk of the special needs that adopted children often have in overcoming abandonment issues that someone not adopted with secure attachments does not have.  And I believe it to be true that my adopted kids are with me for a reason.  Not because my love is more unconditional that that of a natural birth parent.  But maybe because it is more relentless, driven by the longing that was never fulfilled in having my own natural children and all the hoops I had to jump through to have this beautiful family I call my own today.  And the extra work involved in walking my kids through some significant abandonment issues and self judgment that comes with having been left by someone.

I saw a quote by Jody Landers on mother’s day “A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”

Honestly when we adopted the kids I had no idea what I was getting into.  I simply wanted kids like I had never wanted anything before in my life.  The longing was relentless.  I did not come from a childhood filled with love and support.  I did not even know what those things meant in daily life.  So when we brought them home, I loved them and took care of them.  It was a full time job as sick as they were.  But I did not know about relentless love yet.  I knew about a love that made me feel like my heart would burst open and I can remember thinking I would do anything for them because I loved them so much.  It would be several years after we adopted the kids that I began to learn about a love that is relentless.  And I did not learn it from my children or through them although I practice it on them all the time now.

Relentless love came to me through my therapist more eastern than western trained.  He told me once that he prayed for something really hard to do and I walked into the yoga studio where he taught and then became one of his clients.  I did not trust anyone, was deeply suspicious, often suicidal, hurting in unbelievable ways, desperate for someone that would love me but sure that no one would – sure that there would be something about me that would drive this person away.  And over the years of therapy, he sat with me during my anger and bitterness.  What a gift to have someone sit with you while you are bitter and just let that be.  He fought with me.  He set limits.  He did unreasonable things like come to my house to work with me and help me get through things.  He listened as I perseverated over issues.  He fought with me some more.  He connected with me.  He would hold me while I sobbed, releasing grief I had held onto for years.  He would spend all night on the phone with me to make sure I was ok.  For weeks at a time.  He would encourage me to say all the mean horrible thoughts that occurred to me and the judgments I had towards myself – have me say them to him as me to remove the “I” statements and discharge it out not in.  I learned in that process that I really could say anything.  And I said really horrible things.  I let go of shameful secrets that I had held onto for a lifetime.  The shame of not being good enough and the things I did to get attention to see if anyone cared.  And I built trust.  I connected.  It has been a really complicated therapeutic relationship.  Most therapists would not physically fight with a client and wrestle the way we did.  And through it all he kept me safe.  Safe in the fighting, safe in a space to discharge all the trauma and self hate, safe in a knowing that no matter what I said or did he would be there, safe in limits that increased over time.  And wow do I struggle with limits.  If I refused to do any more work, he would insist and threaten to come over with his kids if I did not cooperate and do my work.  He has relentlessly pursued my liberation.  It has been like nothing I have ever known before.  I truly have never met such a person as him before and his incredible willingness to do whatever it takes and be fully present.

It was through those experiences that I began to practice relentless love with my kids.  I do things with them and say things to them that I know most parents would not.  I trigger their issues on purpose to make them work on their stuff.  Especially my daughter who is still going through issues related to rejection by her birth mother.  So I trigger her issues and then hold her while she cries.  She has been able to direct her self hate towards me rather than herself.  For example, instead of saying “I don’t feel like I’m good enough and that is why my birth mother does not want me” she follows a protocol that would have her say to me “You are not good enough.  You are not worthy of love.”  Directing it out not in.  Because I am not confused here.  I know my girl loves me and I love her.  It is about her discharging enough so that she can work through what she needs to fulfill her dharma, her life purpose.  It is about saying no, setting limits for her.  It is about teaching her that she has a choice about a great many things but not about doing her work on herself.  It is about telling her that I know she still doesn’t trust me and that I will know she really does trust me when she says in anger that she hates me.  Until then she is still working from a place of fear that I too will abandon her.  It is about holding her night after night even though she is a teenager now just because she struggles with being alone and this terrible grief.  It is about listening to her talk about how special it is to come from someone’s belly and be born to them and her not understanding why her birth mother doesn’t feel the same way.  And doing that with only the intention of holding space for her even though it triggers my own issues of worthiness around infertility.  It is a willingness to have a conversation with her that is so authentic and true.  That adopting them did not fill the hole in my heart, the longing, to have children born to me, to have that experience.  And to let her know that I understand that likewise, she has me as a mom and loves me but that this does not fill the hole the longing in her heart for a birth mother she does not really know and who was so unkind.  It is about opening up consciousness enough to be able to intuitively know what needs to be done and to do it without worry about what that will look like.

All of this shows up differently with my son.  His challenges to make his world work are different.  He has more difficulty understanding things.  Educational delays.  Emotional delays.  His work is often in maintaining his self esteem even though he reads at a forth grade level and does math at a first grade level going into high school.  It is making a fancy award for him for all his hard work so that he got an award right along with his sister because the school system here does not recognize the work of the kids in the special ed program.  It is about not letting him direct anything inward.  He used to get frustrated and hit himself in the head.  So then it was about not only making him stop hurting himself, but also changing the message.  So he would have to repeat several times “I’m sorry body.  I won’t do that again.  I will treat you with loving kindness.”  And persisting even though he resisted at first.  And keep on doing it with him until he no longer ever went to hit himself and he no longer said things about himself that were unkind – like that he is stupid, or that he can’t learn, or that no one likes him.  At times it has been taking him to NYC for healing even though he did not want to go just because it seems to help so much with his behaviors and turrets type symptoms where traditional western medicine can’t help.  A knowing and accepting that he does not respond to traditional therapy but one session of energy work can get him to open up and talk about how he loves his sister but he is jealous because she is in the main classroom at school whereas he spends most of his time in the special ed room.  His work is in recognizing these feelings, these limits, the effects these have on his view of himself.

So for me it is not whether love is conditioned on something.  I set structure, limits, boundaries with my kids.  And myself now.  The love can be unconditional, can still exist, even among boundaries and limits.  The love is a separate thing from what behaviors are acceptable.

I don’t know the next steps on the path.  For me.  For them.  I constantly have to work on surrender.  My guru Amma says that staying in the present moment and surrender are the same thing.  Its letting go of the story of the past and not projecting into the future but rather staying right here right now doing the next right thing.  So I don’t know the path for any of us – even when my mind says I do know or at least have a pretty good idea.

That love is relentless and that this is different from unconditional is clear to me but challenging to express.  I think it easiest to say that it is part of my dharma to help the kids pursue their dharma, their liberation.  We each came here to do something that only we can do.  So my work is different from theirs.  But like this therapist who taught me how love can be relentless, I am relentless with my kids and myself too really.  Its about going to that next level wherever possible and knowing when its time to take a rest from reaching for that next level.  Making a rule and letting it bend or break if the circumstances warrant.  Being clear that the one steadfast rule is that we must do our work, we must fulfill our dharma.  I chose these kids by adopting them although I think our souls agreed to this arrangement lifetimes ago.  It is a knowing that no matter what the behavior is, we are all doing the absolute best that we can given our internal and external circumstances.  So a making space for behavior while setting limits around it.  But still seeing that divinity in the other person.  Or in myself.

This is a work in progress, an opening statement about it all.  I know I am doing my best and I know that I often fall short of the ideas I have about how good I should be at this for myself and for them.  But someone told me once that the greatest gift we can give our kids is to let them see us doing our work on ourselves.  I don’t know what it all means.  I do know that I’m working on it.  One moment at a time.


Monkey Mind

When I first started going to yoga classes I would hear teachers talk about the “monkey mind”.  (I immediately thought to myself that my mind is more like a two year old running with scissors and playing with matches.)  About how the mind jumps from one thing to another telling us stories and we believe them as if they are the whole truth about who we are.  I was completely destroyed when a yoga teacher said “don’t believe everything your mind tells you – it is not true most of the time”.  I lived so much in my mind from such a young age, and my mind is what got me through so many things I thought, that it was incomprehensible to me that my mind would tell me things that are not true.  And this began a journey for me that changed my life.

For the vast majority of my life I ran from any feelings.  I had little to no tolerance for fear, anger, worry, resentment, terror, sadness, grief – and yet I had a lot of them.  When I was a teenager into my early twenties I ran with alcohol, drugs, random sex with strangers, bulimia, suicide attempts.  Anything and everything that would block out feelings.  Then my life shifted and I gave up the alcohol and drugs and went back to school.  And I substituted constant work for mood and mind altering substances.  I worked full time and then went to college and law school full time.  And when I graduated I worked Sunday through Friday 14 to 16 hours a day and never took a holiday or vacation.  I worked Christmas, New Years, 4th of July.  It didn’t matter.  I just needed to work to the point of exhaustion to not feel anything.  I still threw up everything I ate and slept with a loaded gun under my pillow for a long while just in case I could not take it anymore.

Then life changed again and I moved to another state to get married and have kids and gave up my career as an attorney.  That is when things got really hard.  And I’m not talking about the infertility and the adoption process.  I’m talking about all the time I had with my mind with nothing really to occupy it.  I still threw up everything I ate and struggled with suicidal ideation.  More so in fact because I had so much more time with my mind.  This continued until I found yoga, and a therapist trained in more Eastern practices.  Then the real work began.

I did not even realize that I was avoiding feelings.  It is only in looking back that I know this.  At the time I was too busy surviving.  In November of 2015 when I went to my second enlightenment intensive that I was able to tap into all those heavy and hard emotions and I sobbed for hours.  I was not sure what was more sad.  That I had not cried until then since August of 1993 or the fact that I was actually aware of this.  But finally I was able to start to release.  An opening of the floodgates.

Because I was now able and willing to feel things, I was more able to notice that there was what was actually happening and that I was telling myself things about what was happening.  What happened and the story.  So if a friend had to cancel plans I could notice that but also notice the story that I told myself about this that would usually go something like “I knew she didn’t really like me, no one does.  I don’t belong here on this earth.  I don’t know how to do this life thing.”  And it was immediate.  And so very quickly after would follow the despair, loneliness, etc.  And I genuinely believed that these things were true about me and that this was the totality of my life and who I was.

Slowly, however, just by starting with noticing what I was feeling (with lots of help and support from an amazing therapist) I was able to sit with my feelings.  I was able to get just enough space to notice the story and actually hold it up for examination to see if it was something that I really believed.  I would get constant help with this asking others that I trusted for perspective and feedback.  By no means do I do this perfectly or all the time.  I still get led around by my mind a lot.  But the more I practice noticing what is actually happening and separately noticing what my mind did with the experience, the better I got at staying present.  And even when I was being led around by my mind, it did not take me as long to get back.

I had the first dramatic joyous result of this practice when my kids had their b’nai mitzvah.  I had planned out that day practically since we brought them home as babies from Arkansas.  But fast forward 13 years and a great deal of emotional and spiritual work on myself with a mindfulness embodied practice, I was able to stay present for an entire day experiencing a joy and pride I had never experienced before.  Notwithstanding the fact that my husband and I were trying out a separation that summer and there were many challenges in our family, I enjoyed every single minute.  I did not try to document the day with photos.  I did not worry about how it was going to go, how the kids would do, whether they would have a good experience.  I watched them and got to see their immense self pride, their joy in having everyone they loved celebrate with them.  I got to see my friends who were there to support and celebrate with me.  From the family dinner the night before, to the morning service and the party that Saturday night.  And because I stayed present for every minute, at the end of the night when things broke up I had no regret, no wishing it could go on, no worry that I missed something.  It was, for me, the culmination of several years of hard work on myself.

My gura Amma says something like we have to declare war on our minds.  Hold them up for examination.  And that is what I try to do every day.  I try to stay present in the moment.  I try to notice whether my mind is telling me a story (and it almost always is).  I try to not believe everything my mind says.  I allow myself to have feelings and when I start to judge myself for how I think or feel, I notice that too.  And try to have compassion for all those places.

Through sharing my struggle with my mind and my feelings, I give myself permission to be human like everyone else.  I step more firmly into who I really am every time I use these practices.  And I have come to realize that everyone has this struggle.  I used to think that it was just me or that I was somehow worse than everyone else.  But I know now that we all struggle with our minds to varying degrees.  That we all come from the same source however we each visualize that and the isolation slowly dissolves.  It is still work every day but the benefit of this war on my mind stuns me.  Lifelong loneliness, grief, isolation, anger, frustration eases.  And I walk with my permanent self, with who I really am, with increasing grace, ease, and compassion.

And for this I am truly grateful.

Seeing Amma

I am preparing to see Amma next month in MA.  It will be the third time that I have gone and the experience has been mind blowing, traumatic, dramatic, lonely, and yet filled with love and compassion the likes of which I have never experienced.

Amma is considered by many to be a fully enlightened being, a saint.  She does and sponsors great humanitarian efforts throughout the world.  She is said to have hugged over 34 million people.

I went for the first time three years ago to get a hug.  I approached the whole thing with an attitude of suspending disbelief.  I was still in the process of deep emotional work, and still am most of the time.  I was suspicious and reluctant to believe.  I went for two days.  I got a few hugs.  I got a mantra which meant I accepted her as my guru even though I was not sure.  And I cried.  I cried through every hug and so much of the time in between.  I started to think I had been through a war.  I had, it was in my mind.  Amma says we must declare war on our minds to achieve peace.  And I did.  And I slowly learned the mantra and so much more and came to use them regularly.

Last year I was more up on my game.  I had done more spiritual work and was prepared for the emotional tidal wave being there and getting a hug would bring.  I was more prepared.  This time I got in the question line.  She only takes a few.  And while the others in the question line passed through quickly, she had me sit there for four hours before answering my question.  A woman who works closely with her came to me and said “she is doing work on you, that is why you have to sit there.”  I had figured as much and I was grateful and a little resentful – “I’m not so bad off that I need four hours of work” right to “thank God she is helping me.”  Then I got more hugs and volunteered at various tasks.  It was more fulfilling than the first time.  And I upped my game on the spiritual work.

Brene Brown says in one of her books that once you get into the arena you can’t ever go back to the place you were before you got into the arena – no matter how much you might long to from time to time.  I think of this often.  But I don’t really want to go back to that place.  It was lonely and miserable and I did not even know what it meant to be present or in-body.  I do now.  And the work FEELS miserable at times but my life is by now means miserable.  Perspective has shifted.  I have shifted.  I am not done with the work yet.  But I am oh so much closer.  I have a teacher that says everything we want is guaranteed – the only thing not guaranteed is when – this lifetime or some other.  But then thinking in terms of time leaves us identified with time as if there is a difference between 5 minutes and 500 lifetimes.  A hard concept for my mind.

So this year I plan to go.  And I am making these plans with much more peace.  I know that I will know many people there and that the vibration of these people gathered together is high, so much higher than my vibration alone.  I know that I will cry when I get a hug and that this is ok, even exactly as it is supposed to be.  I know that I still have work to go although I have made great progress.  I know that I wish everyone could experience what it is to be held in Mother’s arms and feel loved.

To all those parts before today, today, and after.  Ahimsa.  Compassion.  From there all else flows.

Why Does Everything Have To Be So Hard?

Over the last several weeks I have been asking myself this question a lot.  But it is the wrong question.

By way of background, in the last few months I have had major cervical spine injury confined to my house for six weeks in a hard collar and am now less confined but still in a soft collar with lots of limitations.  Most limitations come now from my body – the muscles they cut through in my back and neck, and just my neck altogether, plus the atrophy that occurred by going from pretty active to complete inactivity.  Healing is slower than I would like, a lot slower.  During this time my daughter was rejected by her birth mother she was reconnected with this past summer.  She is suffering and it is hard for her and for me.  And as I am trying to get healing and restore my body and get back in balance roadblocks to doing the things that I think I need to do for healing keep coming up.  So I get frustrated.  There is constant conflict between my husband and I and I am not sure that we can work through our differences and I’m not in shape enough to put much effort into it now.  So the marriage is hard.  And I ask the universe why do things have to be so hard?

The thing is that things are hard because of my mind.  Certainly things are challenging and emotional issues.  I have a teacher who tells me open up to things being hard and once you fully open to things being hard then they won’t be.  Not necessarily because they things I find hard will change but because I will change – my thoughts about them, my feelings, and opening to the universe allows change.  I get that.  And I still find that hard at times although it is getting easier.

My guru has a teaching that says surrender and staying in the present moment are the same thing.  I always had trouble with the idea of surrender and the how to surrender in the midst of trying to function and do the next right thing.  Attaching surrender to just staying in the moment I could understand.

Hard is a concept of the mind just like easy is.  When I can actually stay in the present moment while I might feel challenged I don’t feel like things are overwhelmingly hard such that I want to pick a fight with the universe.  Really hard exists for me when I am attached to things being a certain way.  Like healing from major surgery should not take this long.  Like wanting my children to always be happy, healthy, etc. when I know they too have come into this lifetime to do certain work and I can’t interfere with that.  My daughter came here, at least in part, to work through what it means to be abandoned.  Hard is an expectation that her struggle would not bring up my own abandonment issues because “I worked through that already”.

Hard and easy therefore come back to attachment and non-attachment.  They come up when I have an expectation that things are supposed to be different than they actually are.  When I think things are not, from a universe perspective, perfect exactly they way they are.  Letting go of expectations about outcomes is not easy for me.  Its really hard to sit with ok, full healing from surgery is going to take the time it takes and just be ok with that.  Because I get into my mind and I want to plan things, to manage things.  I know there is incredible arrogance on my part to assume that things should be different – i.e., that my daughter should not have to suffer so much with being abandoned when she has had two loving parents.  But nothing but her working through it is going to change it because its not about me.  Even a neck surgery I didn’t plan isn’t really about me.  What is about me?  How I choose to sit in each present moment and my ability to do that.

So after I had a big fit this past week about things being so hard I decided that I needed to change what I’m doing.  I need more meditation and less doing.  More being and less thinking.  Space between my thoughts.  I find consistency with this hard alone at home.  It is where I struggle the most in my practices.

Then I was reminded that I have to ask for help.  Over and over again perhaps.  Help from others, help from God, help from my higher self….  however, one looks at such things.  I’m getting better at that.  Slowly.

And gratitude.  Yes, I had a major surgery that changed many things in life or at least put many things I wanted on hold.  (check the wants and don’t wants…. note to self).  But my spinal cord is no longer endangered which means I can hug my children, walk, and feed myself.  Things I admit to being attached to.  So gratitude.  I go back to teaching yoga tonight.  A thing I love and have missed.  My daughter is essentially ok, she just has work to do, like we all do.  More gratitude.  My son who struggles in other ways is ok and he self esteem is in tact.  More gratitude.

Final note to self, its my thoughts that make things hard or easy and how attached I am to things being the way I think they should be.  So when I get space in between my thoughts through practices, my sadhana, things are easier.  When I am able to get to a place where I am not attached, or at least less attached, to things being a certain way then things are easier.  At the end of the day, breathe, meditate, and scrape your tongue and everything is ok exactly as it is right this moment.