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Care for the Caregivers — The Renewing Power of Love

I recently spent a powerful afternoon with a team of powerful women — staff members and team leaders of the new LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program. They had just “graduated” their first class members, which was the launch of a whole new and ever-so-important program to support cancer survivors in their ongoing body/mind/spirit healing. As a cancer survivor myself, and having worked with many, many clients (and friends and family members) as they navigated their cancer healing journeys, I have come to learn how essential it is to have support during the oft-neglected re-entry phase. So often, those dealing with the cancer experience receive overwhelming support during the initial phases of diagnosis shock and treatment, but once declared “done” or “in remission,” these same folks are often left feeling as if the party’s over and everyone’s gone home… and the “hosts” are left standing alone and exhausted in the midst of a messy aftermath, which is now theirs alone to deal with. To complicate things further, the person standing there most often has a very shaky sense of who they even are anymore! You don’t go through a life-threatening illness without coming out a changed person. This is a huge aspect of the healing journey that I feel often goes unnoticed, and therefore, for the most part, remains largely unsupported. So hooray for programs like the nationwide LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program! Having support to get your physical body back in shape is extremely helpful. But more than that, having a chance to come together with others who’ve just been through a similar experience is invaluable. In the course of...

On BURNOUT, BALANCE and the BLESSING of COMPASSION

Between Christmas and New Year’s, my husband and I worked many long, hard hours catching up on months of business bookkeeping that had piled up during busy months of travel and performances. Then we spent two and half days in silence, followed by two more days unplugged on a couple’s retreat here at our own lovely Healing Sanctuary. Cozy fires, hot tub soaks, time to talk and connect and look at the Bigger Picture (including both our individual and combined goals and intentions) — all wonderfully renewing. We even did a 10-day cleanse fast. By Monday, January 4, we emerged, ready to greet the new year! I told myself, “That was great! Now I’m recharged and ready to go, ready to tackle the many piles and projects with a renewed sense of ease and enthusiasm.” Trouble was, there was a much deeper, much louder inner voice screaming, “I’m not ready yet! I need a real break!” Two days later, I got my break — both bones, in my left wrist — when I fell on the ice on our front steps. COCOONING (SORT OF) That was January 6. Nine days later, I had non-anesthetized surgery and joined the ever-growing ranks of bionic humans, fortified by strategically placed titanium plates and screws. (See previous blog post for that story.) Now, approximately eight weeks post-surgery, I am just barely beginning to feel like I’m emerging from a very necessary sort of “cocooning” phase in which I’ve been immersed. By all outer appearances, it may not seem like I’ve been in a very insular cocoon. During that time, I’ve shown up at a variety of...

A Taste of My Own Medicine

The second week of January, I slipped on the ice outside my home. I broke my wrist during my fall, requiring surgery. Every step of a journey teaches you something, and this experience was no different. Using the techniques I employ when working with others, I gained a fresh appreciation for just how powerful these natural healing approaches are, and how ANY situation can be reframed to become a very positive experience. So, I present to you… my Left Wrist Surgery Saga (originally composed by dictation – one-handed typing is really slow!). 8:40 a.m. Wednesday — my initial appointment with orthopedic surgeon Heather Campion at Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine She confirms I do indeed need surgery. My wrist is 30 degrees off the angle it’s supposed to be. After much rearranging, I finally get surgery scheduled, and my next day and a half is consumed with all sorts of loose ends. (Isn’t it amazing, what it takes for most of us to just take a few days off?!). Finally, ducks in a row, I did a brief crystal singing bowls meditation and toning session, setting intentions and preparing myself for the deep, restful sleep that followed, despite moderate discomfort in my arm. Just before sleep, I also chose a “Rainbow Warriors” card (created by Trinity Harris and Mara Berendt) for the next day. I drew Number 17: Grace. 12:15 p.m. Friday –- Surgery Day! Grace. That was indeed the theme of the day. My check-in time was 12:15 p.m. I got there in plenty of time, did all the usual vitals stuff, changed into the rather...

The Grandness of Being – Part Two

Speaking of definitions… (as I was in Part One of this blog post) One of the reasons I enjoy acting is that it affords an opportunity to step outside our normal self-definitions, wipe the slate clean, as it were, and create our character description from scratch.  (Or, in the case of a scripted play, from the playwright’s notes!) But on the stage of Real Life, what a process, to look at our own character descriptions and realize that we really are the author of our self-defining “rules to live by!”  We constantly tell ourselves who we are, what we can and can’t do, what our history (or in acting terms, our “back-story”) is. All true, on one level.  All total illusion, on another. As the Bard (Wm Shakespeare) infamously put it, “All the world’s a stage…”   Indeed. And we are merely players. So why not choose roles, and self-definitions that bring us a sense of joy, fulfillment and expansiveness of Being?  For perhaps those outdated character descriptions we’ve been allowing to determine our lives – all those “this is just the way I am”  or “just who I am” thoughts and behaviors – are not etched in stone, but rather penned with erasable ink. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of what self-definitions are conducive to our highest good, and which are not.  I’ll bet any of us, if we were to reflect for but a moment, could come up with at least one or two things we repeatedly tell ourselves about ourselves that are ridiculously outdated and needlessly limiting.   (Care to reflect on that for a moment? I’ll wait…!) In...

The Grandness of Being – Part One

I was in the foyer of our local credit union one day a number of years ago, when a woman stopped me to say she’d enjoyed my performances in several shows over the years.  She then said, “But I haven’t seen you onstage in awhile – how come?”   I replied that I also work in the healing arts and that that work had been keeping me very busy, etc.  She put her hand on my arm, looked directly into my eyes and said, “Theater is healing, too.  Get back on the boards. We need you.” We seldom know how deeply our words may have touched someone.  Hers certainly did me.  So, lovely woman, whoever and wherever you are, my heartfelt thanks. For much of my adult life up to that point, I had struggled to come to terms with the considerable amount of time and energy I’d been putting into the performing arts realms. Performing – especially acting – sometimes seemed…..self-indulgent, a less than altruistic use of time and energy.   A little family-of-origin background is called for here: I deeply love and respect my late father. He was an incredible man, and a very loving, giving father.  And, as a research engineer, he considered the human intellect the end-all and be-all. Thus, he derived great satisfaction – and a sense of safety – from measuring everything against the gold standard of Rational Thought. As absolute as Descartes’ “I think therefore I am,” in our family the edict by which the worth and validity of everything (and everyone) was judged was “It is rational or it is not.” Thus, actors were judged, consistently if not overtly, to be at best narcissistic,...

The Language of the Heart

I’ve been in a very active cycle of life, as is evidenced by my lack of written communication – I’ve been too busy doing it to write about it! It’s been a wonderful time of Self ex-pression – bringing into being, in the outer world, things that deeply matter to me – both in the healing arts and the performing arts realms. And, most delightedly, experiencing the overlap and interconnectedness of the two! In the past year or two, I’ve had many wonderful opportunities for artistic expression, growth, and just plain fun in the theatrical world. Most recently, I assistant-directed and played a role in Julio Cho’s The Language Archive. One of its central themes is that, despite our facility with languages, ultimately we can only express what is truly in our heart.  The character I played, Alta, is from a fictitious country whose language, Elloway, is described as the language of the heart. She and her husband, Resten, explain that when they are angry with each other, they argue in English, because their language is too sacred for this kind of angry talk. Later, Alta explains that if you say something in Elloway, you can never take it back. But say something in English, and everyone knows you don’t really mean it. Say it in English, and you can always take it back. (The laughter that these lines elicited every night is a sure indicator that it struck a note of truth in most audience members!) Certainly is food for thought! Each character in this well-crafted play is very well written, and has a great deal of wisdom to share....

On Marriage…and the Google God of Translation!

As I think any married couple would agree, marriage is a Life’s Work. It is a constantly growing and changing spiritual art-form. Your beloved serves as a perfect mirror for you And, like any mirror, sometimes the reflection of yourself that you see is a lot more fun to look at than others! And yet, if we gaze with loving intention, and a desire to see the Truth about ourselves and our partner, this “marriage mirror” provides an unparalleled opportunity for spiritual growth and unfoldment. In the process, though, it’s not always easy. So the ability to maintain a sense of perspective, and a sense of humor, becomes essential! And speaking of a sense of humor, I believe that the Divine Spirit has quite a sense of humor. A perfect example of this occurred recently as I was working on the ceremony for a young couple, Christina and Lazzaro, who are very dear to me. I was to officiate their wedding in a few days, and Christina had sent me the words – in Spanish – of the beautiful prayer that she and Lazzaro were to speak in the bi-lingual ceremony. Given that my understanding of Spanish is minimal, I did what we all do these days if we need to know something: I Googled it. Well, the Google God of Translation definitely has a sense of humor, because the last line of their beautiful prayer was translated thusly: “Help us to see and learn about laundry divine, that exists at all…. and keep alive this truth today and forever.” I laughed. A lot. And I thought, “How perfect –...

Of Time, Tweets and Souls Flying Free

With all the Facebook, Tweets and Twits stuff going on, I sometimes feel like it’s all too much. Just give me a real live human being with whom to converse while sitting in the shade of the redwood tree in my own front yard. No computers, no cell phones, nothing that needs rebooting or recharging! (Except me!) Especially this week, I feel deep appreciation for the simple things in life….and for life itself. ***************** Earlier this week, I spent nearly 72 hours with a dear woman named Jean, a former client. I had the honor of playing the role of spiritual midwife as she transitioned from her body. She’d been valiantly dealing with cancer for several years, and at age 74, it was now time to let go, and move on. After many long hours, during which her body and soul prepared themselves for this transition, I was gifted to be at her side at the moment of release. I was able to witness the look of indescribable joy and awe that shone through her barely opened eyelids in the instant before she left her body. She’d been unconscious for the better part of three days, so for her to return to awareness just enough to reveal that beauty to me – and to her daughter, Sherrie, who was on her other side – was an unspeakably precious gift. I don’t know precisely what Jean experienced in that moment, but I do know she wanted us to know it was beautiful beyond imagining. A single tear rolled down her parched cheek, and then she was gone. Sherrie and I sat wide-eyed, feeling an indescribable awe and Lightness of Being, as we both cried and laughed and hugged across...

What Might You Be Missing?

This thought-provoking story made its way into my email inbox for the sixth or seventh time the other day. I re-read it, and it really struck a chord (‘scuse the pun!) with me, during this particularly busy time. In fact, I wanted to learn a little more about the background of the story, so I googled it. The time I’d alotted for a quick blog entry turned into a fascinating hour and a half of reading, writing and reflecting. (Actually rather apros pos, considering the story’s content!) I’d highly encourage you to check out the original Washington Post article….fascintating stuff. I offer the condensed story here, as a teaser: *** Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. He played six classical pieces for about forty-five minutes. During that time, over a thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. At 3 minutes, after sixty-three people had already passed obliviously by, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on. At 4 minutes: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in his open case without stopping, as she walked past. At 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and continued on his way. At 10 minutes: A three-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as he stood there looking at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception,...

Remembering Who You Really Are

Does anyone else feel like things are really “heating up”? And while, yes, the days are indeed getting sunnier and warmer here in the Pacific Northwest, I’m of course speaking more in a metaphorical sense. This is really quite a time we’re living through. I’m finding it necessary to spend more time alone, just to be with the immense amount of energy that’s brewing these days. Days like today, digging in the garden, experiencing the beauty of Nature, and the grounding of Mother Earth, are, for me, hugely important to maintain balance and centeredness in the midst of some pretty crazy stuff. Individually and collectively, it seems that whatever has been unresolved is now presenting itself, one way or another, for healing. In my personal experience, the entire gamut of the emotional spectrum is getting more intense, as the Divine Presence orchestrates the deep healing work I continue to invite. When “clear me, heal me, use me” becomes a daily prayer/mantra, it gets to be quite a ride sometimes! (Know what I mean? I’ll bet many of you do!) Yet, as I say in several of my more recent CDs, in order to experience true healing, we must “become large enough to embrace it all.” We must have the courage to go to those darkest, scariest, loneliest places; we must also have the courage to recognize, “own, and act from the tremendous power of Love that is the true essence of who we are. Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  -Marianne Williamson So why is opening to Love,...