Friday, December 28, 2007


I thought it was extreme when I heard that the Sesame Street "old school" videos come with a warning that they weren't appropriate for children to watch.

Now apparently Santa is a bad role model?

And there is even a Christmas song some elementary schools are choosing for their holiday concerts called Santa Claus, Santa Claus, You are Much to Fat!

No, really... if you google it you can even buy the sheet music. You might even come across a YouTube video of some kids singing it at their school concert. Unbelievable. Here are the lyrics.

Santa Claus, Santa Claus, You are Much Too Fat!(sing to the tune of “Jingle Bells”)

I heard a reindeer hoof, then Santa dressed in red,came crashing thro’ the roof and landed on my bed. I thought it was a dream, but quickly did I wake,as soon as I heard Santa scream, “I want a piece of cake!”


Oh, Santa Claus, Santa Claus, you are much too fat; I was sleeping peacefully but not my bed is flat. Oh! Santa Claus, Santa Claus, how much do you weigh? I’m glad I’m not a reindeer that has to pull your sleigh!
He got up off the floor and said, “How do you do?” I said, “My back is sore, my head is black and blue.” “So sorry!” he replied, and then he asked my name. He offered me a ride, I said, “No, thank you just the same!”


I heard a “ho, ho, ho,” the sleigh was in the sky.but it was moving slow and wasn’t very high. It wobbled in the air, I hoped it wouldn’t fall; Said Santa, chewing cookies, “Merry Christmas, one and all!”


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Past

I thought last Christmas was tough. Mom had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer five days before. But this one was worse.

This Christmas was just plain weird without Mom. There is a part of my brain that just can't fathom Christmas sans Mom. And yet, here it is December 26th, and yesterday came and went even though Mom wasn't here.

Did I mention it was weird?

To add to the weirdness of the day, not only did I have to sort out my own grief and figure out how to redefine the meaning of Christmas minus Mom, but my Dad kept bursting into fits of full-out crying all day. He'd be on the phone talking to someone, start crying uncontrollably and without warning, and then either just hang up on them abruptly or drop the phone in my lap and fold into full body sobs. Keep in mind that prior to this past February when Mom died, I had never seen my Dad cry. Never.

I didn’t know what to do or how to handle this. What could I do? It was so horrible and sad and uncomfortable I can’t even describe it.

For the last few weeks Dad has repeatedly told me how miserable he would be on Christmas and he proved himself very right. Dad would not let even one Christmas decoration be put out, let alone a tree. He told me today that he feels like God doesn't listen to his prayers. For example? He prays every night for his time to be done on this earth so he can be with Mom again and plans to "keep pestering God" until He listens. Alrightly then.

I do my best to try and help Dad focus on his faith. I try to explain that there is still a purpose to his being here and that even though we may not understand why and how things happen, there is a reason and that we will understand someday. I let Dad know that I think Mom is now “in the know” and is watching over us. He doesn’t want to hear it. Or isn’t ready… maybe both.

I'd much rather think of the Christmases when I was a kid. Mom made them magical and created some beautiful family traditions. I want to honor Mom's memory focusing on the good and the blessings she brought to all of us.

I want to remember tromping out in the snow to pick THE perfect tree... the rush to see which of us would manage to put the first ornament on the tree. (Dad would usually cheat and hang the first one before we were even done with the lights!) I want to remember spending hours in the kitchen making the cookies we only made that time of year… especially the yummy Polish kolachky, prune filled cookies. And waking up in the wee, early morning hours to find my Christmas stocking hung over my bedpost filled with fun little presents that I would painstakingly open ever so slowly and in the dark so as to not to make a sound or wake anyone up. And this was a challenge since the loop at the top of my stocking was covered in sleigh bells! Once I was old enough to know it was Mom that snuck in and hung my stocking there, I was amazed to think she had managed all those years to hang that stocking just above my head and not wake me up with the racket those bells made!

Yeah, I'd much rather think of all the ways Mom made Christmas special and how lucky I was to have her as my Mom.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Love is a choice

Withholding love is a bit like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You may hold back your love in the name of security or safety, but these are illusions, and in time you will stand as a dwarf compared to the person you could have potenially become if you had chosen love.

Love is a choice. When we choose love, our spirit expands. When we choose not to love, our spirit shrivels.

The Seven Levels of Intimacy: the Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved, by Matthew Kelly

Friday, August 3, 2007

Love is exposing

Love is exposing ourselves in the purest and most open of ways with no expectations and given freely without any conditions. To love is to risk not being loved. As a result, people often morph the idea of love into something that is more about what they receive and makes them feel good about themselves. But love is about the other, not the self.

And yet in a complicated, doesn’t make obvious sense kind of way, loving another selflessly is the key to true happiness within one’s self.

Love - The Gift of Peace

Love is not something you do,
Love is a way of being.
And more than that.
It is simply being,
Being with another person,
however they may be.
Holding no judgments,
having no agendas,
No desire to control,
No need to prove your love,
No intrusion upon their soul.
Nothing but a total acceptance of their being,
Born of your acceptance of yours.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Perception of Safety

"And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more." Erica Jong

The Illusion of Control is all about our attempts and constant striving to re-arrange the world to fit our view of how things should be. Should is one of the most dangerous perceptions we can have. When we perceive things to be a certain way, and don't allow other possibilities or considerations, we often end up disappointed, frustrated, and in struggle.

It's like the person "stuck" in their miserable job - yearning to make the break and start their own business, but they never do. Why? Because the perception of safety is that a paycheck is guaranteed. When you were born, life didn't come with a money back guarantee.

Deep down, we all know nothing is certain. Except what exists inside us.

Our Greatness.

In reality, we see time and again that our perception for safety can keep us playing and thinking small. Ultimately, it keeps us from doing what we can do. And before we know it, that dream has died along with a big part of ourselves, in the satin lined coffin that we have decorated with our assumptions, beliefs, and insecurities.

Is your perception of safety holding you back?

Thursday, July 19, 2007


There is a big difference between what is true and what is truth. For instance, it may be true that you believe that men are smarter than women but the truth is intelligence has nothing to do with gender. When a person is wrapped up in what they decide is true for them, the truth will not be readily welcome. They will fight it tooth and nail while using the universal bandaid of the personality - denial.If anyone comes to remove the bandaid of denial, the wounds that created the conflict with the truth will be opened. It then becomes a battle between the personality and the soul as to which force will win out. The soul runs on truth. The personality runs on what is true. What is true can be an engineered version of the personality designed to keep the truth from surfacing.The classic battle within regarding what is true and what the truth is will be waged within each one of us here in earth school. It may happen in some areas in our lives and not in others. It will happen though.To examine truth, begin to look at the lies you tell yourself about your life. What are you covering with the denial bandaid? What are you believing that is hindering you or others? One way to know is to feel the energy behind the truth. There is ultimately peace there. You are the only one who can admit to yourself what the truth is. Set about this journey. You will grow exponentially for it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fat kids & the obesity epidemic

I was a fat kid. I started as cute and chubby but as my parents attempts to control my food choices increased, so did the amount of my lousy food choices… and my weight. Their focus on my size created a control issue that didn’t have to be. I went through middle and high school feeling like a fat outcast and failure. I remember once in high school my mother telling me that she didn’t think I would ever find a man to love me if I stayed fat. Around 10th grade, there was a kid in school who liked me and we started spending more time together. We would often go play tennis at a near-by school yard. My mom asked me why I wasn’t trying to lose weight now that I had a boy showing interest. The message was clear; fat girls are not worth loving.

Did you notice what I mentioned doing in that story? Playing tennis. I need to point out that during high school and college that although I was fat I was very physically healthy! I regularly rode my bike miles at a time to get where I wanted to go. And during college, my summer job was at a camp where I spent all day on the move, walking up and down hills. And yet the whole time I was hearing how unhealthy I was. Mom even told me she was worried I would die in my 20’s or 30’s because of my size.

It was not until I was a junior or senior in college that something clicked in me that started to question and reject these messages. I’m not sure what triggered it, but one day I marched down to the library (this was before the days of google!) to find a reference book that listed national organizations. I looked up ‘fat’ and found NAAFA and wrote them a letter. Next thing you know I had a big packet of literature from them that was the beginning of my understanding that yes, fat women are loved too.

It took time to convince my parents that it isn’t the number on the scale, but how one leads their life that determines their health. Mom always knew I was worth loving, she just was never sure if others would realize how great I was with the fat in the way. Eventually we managed to get to a place where we agreed to disagree and I think Mom even loved me more for standing up for myself with her about it. It also took some time to convince myself that I was worth loving romantically; sometimes this is still a work in progress.

But once I found the confidence in myself, my attitude and expectations shifted. And that has made all the difference!

It has always been socially acceptable to mock, judge and even harass fat people. As the “obesity epidemic” lingo has taken hold in our media I have seen an increase in the social acceptance of the judgment of fat people and I have wondered its effect on children.

I came across the article below today and cried when I read that obese children were found to often have the same quality of life as children with cancer.

Read that line again so it sinks in.... obese children were found to often have the same quality of life as children with cancer.

Overweight kids face widespread stigma

Although I agree that there is an increased need to help our society live healthier lives, we need to shift the focus to the food choices we make and our activity level... and not the number on the scale!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Love and Forgiveness

Lama Surya Das, Cambridge, January 27, 1997

This year we've been studying and practicing the teachings on Bodhicitta—the luminous heart of the Dharma, the awakened heart-mind—according to the Seven Points of Mind Training of Atisha. What I want to talk about tonight is a subject we don't hear much about in Buddhist circles. It is the real meaning of Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is said to have two sides: the conventional side—selfless or unselfish altruism, aspiration to relieve the suffering of all, compassion, services, and so on—and the ultimate side, which is wisdom itself, sunyata, appreciation of the infinite openness. Still, if we bring all that together, if we talk about it in English today, if we really think about what it all means, I think it is all about love. We hear the word compassion a lot these days; it's become a buzzword. But I think it is about what we used to call in English before we heard about Buddhism, love.

The Christian notion of love means unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness, openness, oneness with all, treating others as you yourself would be treated. But let's go deeper and look into what it really means to love, to learn to love. What comes up for us when we first hear the word love. Do we think of Prince Charming or Princess Charming? Do we think of our child, our parents, our pet? What? Do we think of nature, our garden, the lake we live near? What do we think of when we think of love? Our ex-wife or ex-husband? Maybe not!

When we talk about Dharma or truth or love, it all really comes down to the same thing: an appreciation of something, someone, or a certain moment in life. An appreciation of something that is perhaps beautiful or at least beautiful to us. Like the quality of our relationship. That's really what we love, isn't it? How we feel in that moment. We might say we love the other person, but if we really look into it, what are we really loving? We probably love how we feel with them.

So if we look more deeply into what this Bodhicitta, this luminous heart of the spirituality, is, I think it comes down to love. And love really is more a matter of openness, which includes things like acceptance and forgiveness. It's almost like an equanimity that appreciates things now matter how they fluctuate, rather than an attachment like "I love how I feel when I'm with you—most of the time." So what does that mean? That you don't love the person when they don't give you a good buzz. Or, "I love my work, but I can't wait until I retire." Love is not an expedient to get to retirement. Love is much deeper than that. It is where we come from, not just what we are going towards. It's like how we are when we were children. That child-like quality of wonder and appreciation that is open to everything. That's why I called it equanimity. It is appreciating everything, because everything is new. We perceive things with fresh eyes and ears. Everything is new and therefore miraculous, marvelous. We love it.

So how can we take off the veils, the obscurations that tarnish our eyes and ears and heart and mind? How can we learn to love, to be open to things as they are, which is truth according to Buddha's definition: things as they are. How can we learn to love not just our mate or ourselves or our work? How can we learn to appreciate all beings, to appreciate everything as it is? To being open to learning to love through whatever experience we have? That would be a spiritual life, a way of awakening; not just a religious thing, but a way of awakening, to learn from everything that happens. That would be to love life and to love the world. I think that is the luminous heart of the Dharma, beyond Buddhism, beyond Dharma, beyond heart and mind or body or even soul.

When we talk about love we are talking about something that is very soulful, not very abstract. Not just, "Ah, emptiness! The infinite!" Do we love ourselves well enough to give us space to be? We are all involved in all kinds of self-improvement programs. Is that love for ourselves or not? Are we doing the best by ourselves as we are trying to change for the better? Or is that just one more symptom of self-hate, of low self-esteem, or non-self-acceptance? If we don't love ourselves, how can we love others and love our life?

When we enter into the heart of the Dharma, I think it comes down to some sort of love, to speak English. It is something we can really explore and actualize, to bring out from within. Not just find love, seek love. But practice loving, be open to love. Receive love. We hear about radiating love and loving-kindness. But what about receiving it? Are we open to receiving it? How open are each of us to receiving it? We all like the idea of it, but when it comes, doesn't it make us a little nervous? Isn't it a little scary? "What does this mean? Does she really love me? Does he love me for my good looks? What does she want? Can I love equally well in return?" So many neurotic thoughts.We all have these same thoughts. We are all just junior Woody Allens. As Woody likes to say, "I am two with everything."

Even when we practice loving-kindness meditation, I feel like sometimes we are focusing on loving, fixing, solving something, but not on appreciating everything, on opening, on forgiveness. We don't hear much about forgiveness in Buddhist circles, do we? Has anybody heard any Buddhist teacher talking about forgiveness? How is that possible? And yet, it is a fact.

Forgiveness is a big part of acceptance. Can we accept, can we forgive? Not just forgiving others, but can we forgive ourselves? Aren't we all carrying around some neurosis, some guilt, some inadequacy, some feeling of failure from something in our life? I think that from the point of view of Bodhicitta, we should think about working on forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves. And notice what that brings up. Last time I said this I was in Jerusalem. You can imagine what an earful I got, about the people that we shouldn't forgive. But think about that. Who is hurting whom by carrying this unforgivingness around all the time? How much does it cost oneself? Rabbi Kushner said that if after two days you still haven't forgiven something, now it has become your problem. You are paying everyday. If you can't let go of it in two days, you should really take care. And he was talking about the most grievous things, not just about that someone cutting you off in traffic or something.

So I would like you to think about forgiveness. Forgiveness of others and forgiveness of yourself. Even of those who wronged us, abused us, victimized us. But we are still carrying all that. Let's see if we can loosen some of that burden. It doesn't mean to exonerate the others. Actually, it is their karma, whatever they did. But after two days it becomes our karma if we are still carrying it, if we haven't let it go. Then we are victimizing ourselves. In a way, life is about learning to love, to love others, to love ourselves, and to love life itself; to dance with it, to play with it, to be one with it, even with those you hate and those you think are unforgiveable.

There is a way we can recognize that we abhor someone's actions, but we don't abhor the person. We judge the action, not the person. Then we can drop some of our burden, which is just weighing ourself down. The burden of anger, of bitterness, of resentment, perhaps towards our parents. But when you become a parent, it changes your perspective on parents, doesn't it, as you see what happens to your kids and what you inflict on them, no matter how hard you try to be a great parent. You realize that your own parents are just human too, poor things! It's a circle. We are all being recycled continuously.

I myself have been looking into this a lot, feeling that I have been suffering from those things. And feeling that these Bodhicitta teachings have helped me to lighten my heart about that. I think it is a very important practice when things are difficult. We talked about the practice of tonglen, of putting yourself in the other's shoes, exchanging self and others. That's a great practice for when things are difficult. To stay in there, not to reject, not to run away, not to withdraw. To be with it a little longer, to learn from it. And sense it holistically, not just the part that's pushing your buttons. What about the rest of it? There's a lot more to any person than that action that pushes your button. I want to recommend a book by Ani Pema Chodron: It's called When Things Fall Apart. She's an expert on the subject. Check it out if you like to read books.

And do consider forgiveness and equanimity and putting down that burden. And when you reflect on this in your own time, notice what comes up in your mind, in your heart, in your psyche. Who or what comes up. It might be illuminating to see what one is still harboring. What grudges, what vendetta, what prejudices we are still carrying. It doesn't mean we have to feel guilty about those things. The bogeymen go away in the light of awareness. Let's give them a good look. What stays unconscious still drives us and afflicts us.

Does anyone have any questions or anything they want to say tonight?

My Christian heritage asks me to love my neighbor, to love a total stranger, to love unconditionally, but in my life I see that love turn to hatred so quickly. It seems like such an all-consuming emotion. Now I just want to respect and accept and be compassionate in a less overwhelming way towards those I encounter.

That's a good strategy. But I don't think anything is really all-consuming. You might see what isn't consumed by those things we are so afraid of being consumed by. Anger is a great fire, it burns us, but there is still something remaining. So maybe we don't have to be so afraid of being consumed by it. Maybe we can even look at it in another way and say "May it consume us." Then only the immutable will remain. Maybe it will consume all the dross. That is more of a tantric approach, rather than avoiding it or trying to tamp it all down so you don't get so passionate about it.

But yes, love turns to hatred very quickly. They are very connected. There is also a lot of fear around love, isn't there, just as there is fear around the negative emotions like anger and hatred. Fear of getting consumed by love, giving yourself away, losing yourself, being vulnerable. There is a great book called Love Is Letting Go of Fear. It goes into how much love we are and we have and how we are afraid to express it. That we might put ourselves out too much, too nakedly, get burned and I don't know what. We don't know what, but we're afraid. So fear is a big barrier to love. Let's see what we are afraid of. We are afraid of being seen as we are, so we put up a persona, false behavior; we tell stories about ourselves and to ourselves. That comes out of fear.

If we love ourselves, we can afford to be who we are. What's the problem? We're OK. Who cares? We are old enough. Who are we kidding at this point? No more report cards. Let's not make Dharma or karma into one more report-card situation.

I read something by Dogen about dropping your body and mind and also dropping the body and mind of others.

So drop it.

It is easy for me to see the transparency of my own thoughts and energy, but it is very difficult to see the transparency of other people's thoughts and energy.

What's the difference between yours and theirs? The difference is ego-involvement. More ego-involvement on one side than the other. Once we even that out, things change. That's why the practice of putting yourself in the other's shoes evens things out. Yes Dogen said drop body and mind, but that's a pretty big statement. That's like saying die to yourself. Who can do that just by saying it. It doesn't mean to kill yourself. It means die to yourself, let go totally, lose yourself and find your true being.

Really check into your relationships, to whomever you are close to: What is really the difference between your thoughts and theirs? When you are close, aren't you really on the same team? They don't want to be sick any more than you do. And if you really love them, you don't want them to be sick, in almost exactly the same amount that you don't want you to be sick. Some people love someone so much-maybe their child-that they would rather themselves be sick than have their child sick. So there is something to learn there about love. And not just from Dogen who lived a thousand years ago.

Do you know how Dogen first had that realization? When he first dropped off body and mind? Do you remember the story? I think it was when his parents died when he was a kid. It was at the funeral. Isn't that the story? He was about nine or ten years old at his parents funeral. I don't know. I'll just tell the story. Who knows if is true.

His parents both died together or maybe it was the funeral of his last surviving parent. Dogen was a kid. And he saw the incense burning at the head of the coffin as the priests did their blessings. The incense burned down but the ash was still standing. Then the ash fell over and Dogen's body and mind dropped off. It had to do with the intense love, the loss of a parent. It comes back to something very human in a way. It had his total attention. His loss of a parent is connected to his first awakening.

So maybe some loss or letting go can cause something to shift. So it is an interesting place to be. It comes back to the tantric principle: Why avoid the passionate thing? Get in the place where that life and death cusp is, where things can shift. Where you are really consumed enough that POW! something can shift.

I'm glad you mentioned forgiveness, because it seems to me that it is one way to transition from our normal restricted, focused kind of love to a much more liberating, understanding love. I read today about this new rage in Japan: virtual pets. You can buy (for lots of money) a little computer-based 3D display of a "pet" that you wear on your wrist. And this pet needs to be fed and given water. You feed it by pushing buttons. And if the pet is not fed and given water every day, it "dies." And these things are amazingly popular in Japan; they can't keep them in the stores. I guess this shows the strong innate need we all have to love, to nurture.

Maybe we could have virtual mates or lovers! Virtual children. You get to love and nurture them, but they don't talk back or ever leave us! But can we handle real love, where things aren't so predictable? Where things can turn out bad.

You talked about focused, restricted love, sometimes called attached love. It seems that that is the tip of the iceberg of the bigger love, divine love, universal love. But its being the tip of the iceberg means that it is ice, it is true love. It is not something different. If we can push it to the point of absurdity and say love all beings, it can become very abstract. So actually we don't even feel that warm, losing yourself love ever because it is so dispersed. Like a virtual pet. All beings becomes like a virtual being. So we need to keep the human element, the tantric teaching that includes the sacred and the profane and includes our bodies and our feelings and realizes the spiritual through that. That's all love and it functions on a personal level. Like nuns who never married and never had children. They love Baby Jesus. Isn't that a pretty human kind of divine love? It's using the human tendency, which is part of the iceberg. The human feeling-including the negative feeling-is part of the iceberg. It is the tip of the divine. And it is the way in for us.

In practices like compassion and loving-kindness meditation-and this is where I think Buddhism has its genius, because it contains exercises that can actually make it happen-you start generating this feeling with the person or thing you love the most. It could be anything. It could be a pet or a dead person or an image. Then you expand it to the thing you love the next most. So it's not that hard to jump all the way from someone you love to your hated enemy next to you. But we don't start by trying to love all our enemies. It sounds good, but it's very diffuse. So we start with someone we love the most and go out from that. You broaden it. Then you start to do it with people you are indifferent to. Then to your enemies or someone who plays the role of enemy. They did something to you. They abused you maybe or insulted you. See if we can send out love and good wishes to them, honestly. That's how we expand to the whole iceberg, to the whole salty sea. It is a challenge. It is the work of life.

But let's not idealize that we are a failure until we get to the whole salty sea. That's another way of hating ourselves. It's aggressive and it's delusional. "Oh I'm not good enough. I don't really love until I love like God loves." Who loves like God loves?

I think one of the dangers in the spiritual life is totalizing things. Love all beings! Impartial love! Christ-like love! Unconditional love! Love everybody like you love your child! It is very idealistic. Maybe too idealistic. It disempowers us. It makes us feel like we are not good enough. It's putting ourselves down. It's inverted ego. Instead of putting ourselves up, we put ourselves down. It's ego. It's separateness. It's delusional.

I have a question about consort practice. I read an article recently by June Campbell, who was a translator for Kalu Rinpoche. She wrote that she had a sexual relationship with Kalu Rinpoche at the time he was ostensibly a celibate monk. And she was sworn to secrecy. She was told by attendants not to reveal the relationship. If she did, there would be dire karmic consequences. So my question is, can consort practice be sexual abuse?

If it's abusive, then it's not consort practice; it's just sex. It's not practice and it's not a consort.

Could you comment on this particular case?

What do you care about that, actually? What's your real question?

I have a lot of trouble with the kind of faith and devotion that is required for Guru Yoga. And it seems like incidents like this are not isolated.

Right. There are plenty. Too many. So why do we put people on pedestals and hand ourselves over so easily? That's our responsibility.

There are examples in the church and in the Dharma, in politics and in all kinds of positions of power. It is something we should be very aware of in our own minds, so we don't perpetrate that ourselves.

But Guru Yoga, like consort practice, is a different matter. Devotion is a very powerful way of going beyond yourself. If you are a devoted type, it can be useful. If you have an authentic relationship with a guru, it can be liberating. But not everybody is in a practice path that uses devotion or gurus. There's the do-it-yourself path. There are plenty of other ways if you don't think you're into devotion and the guru path.

Authentic Buddhism comes from one place and one place only: From the experience of enlightenment. That's the touchstone. Buddhism comes from Buddha's enlightenment under the tree. Our Dharma practice comes out of our relation to the actual lived experience of something. We participate in that. That's authentic Buddhism.

The Vajrayana has its approach, the Theravada has its approach, and other schools have their approaches. It is important to find something that is compelling for you, that is authentic spiritual life. And we should keep our eyes peeled. Not disempower ourselves and give ourselves away too soon.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Photos from my Mom's garden

The flowers are such a bright, beautiful contrast to the real mood of the garden this year. Mom always found such enjoyment in the flowers and no matter how busy she was with other things; she made time to tend the garden. She even put in a gold fish pond a few years ago. Now there is no one to care for any of it. Well, Dad could...but not really. He has a tough enough time seeing the flowers, blossoming in defiance of the grief around them.

(Click on photos to see how gorgeous they really are)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Whenever people aren't living their dreams, it's because of emotions they're not yet willing to feel.

Excerpt from...

InfoTrac OneFile (R) O, The Oprah Magazine , 09/01/2004

When's your ship coming in? There's only one way to find out what's keeping you from getting what you really want.
Cushnir, Raphael
COPYRIGHT 2004 © Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved

IT'S NEW YEAR'S EVE, 1988. I'M TRAVELING alone off the coast of Belize. After spending the day snorkeling, I've come down with a terrible infection. Racked with chills, barely coherent, I stumble across town to rouse the lone nurse from her holiday dinner. Grudgingly, she gives me some antibiotics, and I take to bed.

That night was perhaps the most important of my life. Twisted up in the sheets, raging with fever, I thought I was going to die. In those supposed last moments, I considered my life with deathbed candor. Having failed to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter after almost a decade of trying, I'd privately become convinced that my lack of success was well deserved. I believed that, deep inside, there was something wrong with me--a fatal flaw, an indefinable shortcoming.
Whenever that belief had arisen before, I'd fought it with all the resistance I could summon. Now, instead, I dove straight into wave after wave of enveloping hopelessness. It was excruciating, but there was also great relief in giving up the struggle. Maybe it was the semidelirium that finally melted my defenses--I'll never know. But when dawn broke and I was still breathing, the darkness inside me was lighter, too.

In the months that followed, I enjoyed my first hot streak with the studios. Within a couple of years, I had written, produced, and directed an award-winning film. It wasn't newfound discipline that had led to my turnaround. Nor was it a burst of creativity or a stroke of luck. What changed everything was my willingness to feel how hopeless I'd been. When I was finally ready to reclaim the part of me that was so hurting and broken-down, healing began. Out of that healing came ease, a new and natural sense of flow. And from that flow, in short order, came the realization of my dream.

ONE DECADE AND SOME major transitions later, I began teaching workshops and counseling clients about how to live more joyfully. I quickly found that most people have a vision for themselves that they are not pursuing, or are approaching halfheartedly, or are chasing with all their might yet somehow falling short. The goal can be modest or grand. It might involve breaking free of a destructive habit, finding a healthy relationship, or leaping into a new career. But in almost every case, there's a similarity to my own story: Whenever people aren't living their dreams, it's because of emotions they're not yet willing to feel. Once they're willing, the dream comes true--in one form or another.

(Full article available at: & for more information about Raphael Cushnir, go to )

Monday, May 28, 2007

Etiquette schmetiquette!

I spent this afternoon finally writing all the thank you notes for the donations, etc., related to Mom’s funeral. (She died from cancer on February 24 after only having been diagnosed two months and two days earlier.) Dad could hardly take that I was doing the thank you cards, let alone be willing or able to help. It sucked. Whose dumb idea was it anyway that the grieving family should send out thank you cards? It would make a lot more sense to me if etiquette took the logic of: Donations, flowers, etc sent as an expression of sympathy to a funeral should be sent with no expectation of an acknowledgment out of respect for the grieving family.

I asked the funeral director about it back in February when he was giving us the thank you cards to use and the list of who sent flowers. He just looked sufficiently sympathetic and shrugged his shoulders. At least according to him we didn’t have to send out thank you to everyone who sent a card, just folks who made some extra expression of sympathy.

The toughest part was when I got to the bottom of the basket and got to all the get well cards that Mom had organized in it when she first got sick. She turned 63 on January 6 so she also had a few birthday cards mixed in there. I held back the crying until I came across those. But that was too much. It just reminded me of how much she never had a chance to feel better.

I miss her so much.


I went to a barbeque at my brother’s house Sunday afternoon. I thought it was going to be a family thing but it turned out to be mostly co-workers of my brother and his wife. Interesting that I had just spent time reading up on personality types as a result of coming across the quiz I mentioned below, because it turned out to come into play today. I mentioned being an ‘E’ for extrovert but I am really just slightly so. I know how to socialize and definitely in a work environment am willing and able to be charming and conversational. It also helps that the conversation is usually relevant to work in some way. But put me in a setting like today where I don't know anyone and after a little while I have to retreat to sanity somewhere. So, after spending as close to an “appropriate” amount of time as I could take, I escaped into the house for a bit. No sooner did I do that, than my 13 year old nephew plopped down on the sofa across from me looking just as weary. He is a great kid and although I have no idea what his personality type is I can guess it would be an ‘I’ something. We were just starting a nice chat when from outside his dad (my brother) bellowed in through an open window that he should stop hiding and being anti-social. My nephew yelled back that he had just come inside and we continued our conversation. A little while later my sister-in-law popped into the kitchen for something and said essentially the same thing to him. I asked why them why they were harping on him about being anti-social and was told that part of it was because a girl he liked was at the bbq and they didn’t want him hiding from her. The other part was that they thought he spent too much time alone and would rather he be interacting with everyone. Even if he wasn’t already an introvert, did I mention he is a 13 year old boy?

His dad is a big time extrovert and was a major flirt since he first noticed girls, so I can understand why he doesn’t understand. I've thought of sending him some of the info on personality types and see if I can get him to read it. It probably would help him understand his son a bit better.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Personality Types

Excerpted from Please Understand Me II Copyright © 1998 by David Keirsey

If I do not want what you want, please try not to tell me that my want is wrong.
Or if I believe other than you, at least pause before you correct my view.
Or if my emotion is less than yours, or more, given the same circumstances, try not to ask me to feel more strongly or weakly.
Or yet if I act, or fail to act, in the manner of your design for action, let me be.
I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me. That will come only when you are willing to give up changing me into a copy of you.
I may be your spouse, your parent, your offspring, your friend, or your colleague. If you will allow me any of my own wants, or emotions, or beliefs, or actions, then you open yourself, so that some day these ways of mine might not seem so wrong, and might finally appear to you as right -- for me. To put up with me is the first step to understanding me. Not that you embrace my ways as right for you, but that you are no longer irritated or disappointed with me for my seeming waywardness. And in understanding me you might come to prize my differences from you, and, far from seeking to change me, preserve and even nurture those differences.

The root of most, if not all, arguments and misunderstandings are conflicting priorities. Often those priorities are rooted in your personality type. Of course we can’t lump all people neatly into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) 16 personality types, but they do offer insight into how others think and approach the world. Learning this, keeping it in mind and recognizing the value of all the personality and temperament types has helped me immensely in both my professional and personal life. At work it has helped me to understand the incredibly annoying co-worker. It has also helped me understand my brothers better. It has made the most positive impact on my romantic relationship though. For fun I took the cheesy online quiz: The Best Personality Type for You Test and got the following results:

What's my type?

INTJ The Mastermind

You scored 25 I versus E, 40 N versus S, 100 F versus T, and 80 J versus P!

Your ideal romantic partner is known as the Mastermind. As a romantic partner, this type can be both fascinating yet demanding. They are not apt to express their emotions, leaving their partners wondering where they are with them. They strongly dislike repeating themselves or listening to the disorganized process of sorting through emotional conflicts. They see their own commitments as self-evident and don't see the need to repeat something already expressed. They have the most difficulty in admitting their vulnerabilities. They feel the most appreciated when their partners admire the quality of their innovations and when they listen respectfully to their ideas and advice. They need plenty of quiet to explore their interests to the depth that gives them satisfaction.The group summary:
rationals (NT)The type summary: INTJ

Interesting to note that my honey is an INTJ.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I must admit to being a bit of reality show junkie, particularly the ones with people pursuing their life passions. (Think Project Runway or Top Chef on Bravo.) But “So You Think You Can Dance” is a show that makes me smile like no other. It speaks to the dancer I feel like on the inside and taps into the essence of the line “dance like no one is watching.”

This is just the start of this year’s season, so the first few episodes are all snippets of auditions across America. At first glance I’m tempted to scoff at the pathetic souls who put themselves on the stage and in front of the cameras who clearly can not dance.

At second glance I realize that there are some truly delusion people who probably have a difficult time in life as a result of how extreme their perception of self is from those around them.

And then I take a third glance and I wonder… are they all pathetic and clueless as to their dancing ability or do they “get” dancing more than most?

What is dance anyway? Is it a physical representation of internal joy and emotion or a controlled set of rules regarding timed and choreographed steps?

Of course in the context of the show it is about people who manage to do both but in the context of life I’d say that it is the expression that matters and not so much the rules. So go dig out a favorite CD, crank up the sound and dance like no one is watching.

My favorite flower

Purple lilacs… The smell of springtime and childhood. The color of intuition. Complex simplicity.

My neighbor has a whole row of lilac bushes along the fence in my backyard. The last few years he has trimmed them to the point where they didn’t flower much. But this year they are in full bloom and smell heavenly.

Every so often a gorgeous lilac kissed breeze blows in the window, soothing my soul.

Sprig of Lilac

Their heads grown weary under the weight of Time-

These few horus on the hither side of silence-
The lilac sprigs bend on the bough to perish.

Though each for its own sake is beautiful;
In each is the greater, the remembered beauty.
Each is exemplar of its ancestors.

Within the flower of the present, uneasy in the wind,
Are the forms of those of the years behind the door.
Their faint aroma touches the edge of the mind.

And the living and the past give to one another.
There is no door between them. They pass freely
Out of themselves; becoming one another.

I see the lilac sprigs bending and withering.
Each year like Adonis they pass through the dumb-show of death,
Waxing and waning on the tree in the brain of a man.

- Hyam Plutzik