Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture
MY HAPPY PLACE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Do Not Go Gentle"


The only things which probably last forever are love and death.
Love never dies. Love which is pure and asks nothing. Love which is borne from love. Which lifts you up and connects you to god and to the essential part of yourself which came here for its specific sojourn. Be it, to help another person pass through, or to give birth, or to love another or to know what it like to be loved.
And death. Though it is forever, it does not negate the existence of relationship which we may have lost or may be in the process of trying to recover.
*
Savasana, corpse pose, is the final resting pose we do at the end of our yoga practice. Many people look forward to this final pose of rest after a long practice. I have always found it to be my greatest challenge.
I had a wonderful friend who, for a time, took me under her wing, and who used to hold my hand during Savasana, knowing it was so difficult for me. I think of this now as a true act of kindness and love. As a sort of spiritual family. She knew the agitation and fear which crept up inside of me and she was able to hold a space for me there while our eyes were closed and the rooms were quiet. It moves me deeply because our friendship faced a sort of "break-up" and yet, she was my spiritual family and she falls into the category of love, for me, which never dies. I still hold her in my metta every day, even as our lives have grown so far apart and I hold these memories so close as there are not a lot of people who begin to know such tender places inside of you and let you know they are there for you in your most vulnerable of places. Perhaps that is what keeps love so alive inside of us.
Getting back to Savasana. It is a very vulnerable state. You are on your back, totally exposed, heart, throat, eyes, (even your genitals are facing up), palms open, and you are asked to rest. In all my years of yoga, I have had maybe three Savasanas which have been restful.
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I was born three and a half weeks early as a premature baby. I wanted out!
Each time I have had surgery, and if you read this blog, you know there have been many, I have come barreling out of anesthesia and come back to consciousness as fast as possible and astonished everyone in recovery with my fluidity of language and memory. I just don't want to be in that state of "otherness."
It reminds me of the Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I think that is how I am with Savasana. Fighting it at every bend. As if an entire room of yogins would be peacefully resting and I would be the last yogin standing no matter what.
And it's not just Savasana.

Savasana asks for us to be totally vulnerable and surrendered. Being on your back... Trusting.
I remember being in a workshop with another dear friend years ago and she was trying to do an adjustment on me. She kept speaking the words "Let go. Let go." Soon, I was reduced to a puddle of tears. I simply didn't know how to do that.
I had been managing so much physical and emotional pain in my life for so long, hearing those words dismantled me. I didn't know how I could possibly let go.
Savasana is an invitation to let it go at the end and lie down and die to it all. No matter what is happening inside. It is an invitation to trust that all will be restored.
But I have carried inside of me a vigilant determination that I cannot go gentle into the good night. That I must rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I don't know if this is something which will ever change about me even as I know how to usher students through a very gentle and nurturing and SAFE Savasana.
I still imagine my hand being held, which for me, was always a metaphor for my heart feeling deeply held through a process which was one I wanted to to rage against.
My friend taught me what really mattered. And that was and is love. Which will always remain.
The poses will always come and go. Learning Savasana, for me, will take the time it will take as I rage against it. But I know that I have learned to pay attention to what matters the most... and that will always be to surrender to love.
And for this instruction, I will always be grateful.

7.13.14

Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You Learn To Live Without

You learn to live without.

Ah yes.

How I have learned.

I learned at a young age. But most recently, I spent ten years absent from the ties that bound me most in this world and there was not a day that went by where I was not without struggle.

You learn to live without.

What did I learn:

I learned to be alone in my grief. 
I learned that I could quickly recognize it another.
I learned that I don’t know how to stop loving.
I learned that everything and every day reminds me of what was lost.
I learned that most people leave you.
I learned that I barely take deep breaths and when I do, everyone around me hears them.
I learned that my first tendency is not to lean on people.
I learned that I muscle through my pain when I am really near collapse.
I learned that I can be alone on every single holiday, and my birthday.
I learned that I can endure surgeries without the touchstone of my biology.
I learned that I can forgive people who have betrayed me.
I learned that I have the potential to be just like the people who have left me in an ocean of silence.
I learned what it means not to be afraid of myself.
I learned that I know profound gratitude.
I learned that the truth matters to me more than anything. Hearing it. Saying it.
I learned that I want to feel joy again.
I learned that I love myself and I lost myself.
I learned that I know who I am.

You learn to live without.

*

Being a great thespian, I had the tremendous fortune of seeing Idina perform many times and it was always an enriching and exciting and truly spectacular experience which I could barely put into words. I have shared her music with people who have never heard certain songs and they have watched me focused and flooded with tears. Her voice, for me, is simply great medicine. But it couldn’t possibly be, if it weren’t fed by something rich, and raw and authentic.

I always wanted to meet her, but with the 43 billion others who feel precisely the same way, well, “you [just] learn to live without.”

I thought about waiting at the stage door many-a-time, but it just never felt right to me to be in the wild vortex of energy. I’ve always felt protective of her, like I wanted to “cloak” her from the “grabbers” and “screamers” knowing how much she had just given of herself. It just never felt right to ask more of her. Not to me.

*

A few days ago, I stepped out of a building in New York and I was talking with a friend when I saw a woman sauntering slowly up the street in my direction. I stopped speaking mid-sentence and focused solely on the figure coming towards me, knowing instantly that it was her.

I simply opened my arms and began speaking to her.

I recognized something in her which I know lives inside of me. And of course, I wanted to spend the rest of the day with her. Well, maybe more than just the day.

When I saw “Elaine Stritch At Liberty” she spoke about the few times in her life which somehow changed her so deeply, she can source them at any moment.

This is now one of those times for me. I wasn’t certain why, at first. But I see now, that it opened something in me which I have been living without for a long time. 

Anyone who meets Idina will undoubtedly report that she is funny, and kind and generous, smart, insightful, powerful, authentic, and her talent is in a category unto itself!!! 

*

After seeing her perform at Radio City Music Hall last night, which was unstoppable brilliance, I began thinking more about If/Then and how candidly she spoke about her personal transitions. I was struck by the fact that she has a beautiful theatre family, whom she referred to as such. And I started to think that healing and resilience really happens in a force field of love. 

I learned to live without that with few exceptions for a long time. And I think that was one of the reasons meeting her went so deeply inside of my cells. Recognition, whether you go without it, or whether you are offering it, can be so deeply healing.

Yes, I adore her. And her music, and her spirit and her talent. But I am talking about an experience. And I am interested in integrating the experience so that I stop the experience of learning to live without.

In John Guare’s play, “Six Degree’s of Separation,” during one of my favorite scenes, Ouisa says the following:

“But it was an experience. I will not turn him into an anecdote. How do we fit what happened to us into life without turning it into an anecdote with no teeth and a punch line you’ll mouth over and over for years to come.- How do we keep the experience?”

*

I think I am beginning to see that the way to do this may be through the integration of learning to live without while allowing some good peeps around you through the process.

Thank you, Idina. Just thank you.


6.17.14

Jill Bacharach

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Like Them"

I sat with my beloved friend today. She is a force of tenderness who, with one look, can help me feel like I could literally take on the world and also melt into a million pieces. I feel so deeply loved by her in a way that it disorients me. She has been the most influential person in my life. And I cannot utter her name without an ocean of hope and deep abiding love welling up inside me.

Today she didn’t understand something which I need to understand more than anyone. I sit now, feeling guilty for asking her to bear witness to my pain. She’s seen enough of it. Truly. 

I sat with her and much of what I did was cry. I cried and cried and cried and cried.

I was catching her up on the very painful narrative of what I had set about to heal in my life this last year, which turned out to hurt me almost unbearably. 

Like many, I have had a history of being abandoned in my family of origin. The pattern is very real and very deep. And I have always been so very cautious to not be someone who would abandon another. 

Yet, the last few days, I made a decision which was causing me to feel like I had abandoned someone I have loved and the reaction was activating something inside of me which was terribly painful, and I would even go so far as to say, “harrowing.”

It was my worst fear.

“I am just like them.”

So the pain of that was what was playing over and over and over inside of me today while I was with my cherished friend. Oy, I am really carrying this!

As I sit now, in my home with my beloved dog, who is so deeply settled next to me after a nice walk, with ice in my glass, listening to his breath, which always lifts my heart and changes my posture, I am realizing something else.

“I am just like them.”

“I do abandon people.”

Every single time I have felt “that” pain, and I know the pain I mean, I have been abandoning myself for the sake of not wanting “to be just like them.” What a laugh! When you run from fear, it comes running after you and it is always faster!

So big deal!

I am not going to fall to pieces. 

I am just going to stop it. 

Because as I wrote here long ago, (and I knew I was onto something when I wrote it): 

The only way to heal a life is to not repeat a pattern.

So what. I am like them. But I also have awareness and agency over my choices. 

I have boundaries. And I exercise them. And I am proud of that. And I am no longer going to spend unnecessary minutes or hours or weeks or months or years explaining what I need and therefore, abandoning myself, and losing myself, to the point where there is no self left to love.

I forgive my family for abandoning me. 

I forgive myself for not being able to stick with my last relationship. 

I need to keep forgiving myself for all of the times I have abandoned myself. There have been many. 

But it stops now. And if I mess up, I start over and it stops again.

My friend calls me an orphan. I know I am not alone in that. 

Right now feels pretty great, actually. Because I am looking at myself as clearly as I can with so much love and I am no longer afraid of the very thing which I believed would completely dismantle me.

So… I guess I can take on the world now. 

Where should I start? 


6.5.14


Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Discipline

When your life is colored by loss, it can become defined by loss. It is not all that different than shadows. You must keep an eye on this. It’s your job.

Being happy may not come naturally even though it is a birthright. 

For some of us, being happy is a practice and a discipline.

That’s how it is for me.

We know that loss is cumulative and when we get hit by new experiences of loss, the previous and most impactful, and of course, most traumatic ones can begin to creep in like a sinking ship.

*

I have to coach myself constantly and move in a different direction even as the ship is ready to take me down. I have to.

My body gets heavy, as one would when she is drowning, and I have to awaken myself back to life. Back to now. Back to the life which is waiting and wanting to be lived.

*

I used to be told that I was so eager. I love that word, “eager.” But the truth is, I think of myself now more as quiet and as humble. I don’t see myself as the horse who can’t wait to be released from the starter gate. But I used to be that way. No question about it. 

Repeated events, let me be more specific: BETRAYAL and DEATH, beat the thrill of that anticipation out of me.  

You heal and heal and you heal and you love the people who love you, which is probably the most profound healing. And still there are always moments when you find yourself shattered in a million pieces.

But because it has become known to you, the putting yourself back together becomes easier and swifter. 

Dr. Maya Angelou said, “No one can make it alone.” I thought I was destined to. But I have a few dear souls who show me all of the time that I must stop thinking this way even as determined as I am to do so. Because even though I don’t tell them this, every time I think this way, I start to drown. And then, luckily, I awaken to the questions again and discipline or not, I recognize that there is a birthright which I am determined to discover, uncover and keep allowing to live inside of me. Because I know it is the best part of myself, the best part of who I am. The best part of who I will keep becoming. 

With love, discipline and prayer.




6.3.14

Jill Bacharach

Monday, May 19, 2014

Whole

“Do you miss each other when you are apart?” I asked my beloved friend.

“No,” she said, “I will see him tomorrow night!” 

I closed my eyes with a deep sense of knowing. And I was giggling inside. 

And wouldn’t you know it, the man across the table from us (who lives in Pennsylvania) was sustaining an eight year relationship with a woman who lives in Korea. 

At that point, I was really beginning to giggle inside my head like you couldn’t even imagine. By that I mean, an entire Joan Rivers act was emerging which was, if I must say, UTTERLY genius! 

“So that’s how you keep from KILLING EACH OTHER?”

“So that’s what happens when you’re with someone who says ‘I need space!’ You end up on separate continents instead of separate beds!”

I went on and on and I was completely cracking myself up.

I started creating a whole stand-up act which was really funny and I actually imagined myself going on tour. But then I thought, “I wonder how the audience would feel if I cried on stage?” Haaah haaah! I really thought that because I really felt that!

*

Truthfully, I deeply admire people who are able to sustain a relationship.

When two people want two really different things which are total deal breakers… oy vey.

What my friend said really cracked me up because I can relate. And Korea? Maybe that is extreme, but maybe that is the secret for some folks! After William Holden passed on, Stephanie Powers’ next relationship was with a man who lived on another continent! So? 

What’s going on inside of me is that I am trying to heal so much darn grief. From there, I do not want to “need” or play out any of the hurt I feel in a relationship. NO. JUST NOOOOOOO! I just won’t do that.

*

I recently worked with a coach who informed me that studies are showing that people who are with community, live longer and healthier lives. Yet, Susan Cain, who has done comprehensive research on introverts, states, “Solitude matters. And for some people it is the air they breathe.” Susan also says that 1/3 to 1/2 of the population are introverts and “When it comes to creativity and to leadership, we NEED introverts doing what they do best.” 

Our culture is very biased and not designed to support introverts. And there is a very big difference between being lonely and being introverted.

I can grieve and I can also not feel alone. I can be deeply needing to work out my grieving process as I need to, independent of others, which actually feels intrusive and smothering to me. And then when I am ready, I can ask for contact and connection.  

Most people find this terribly puzzling. 
But as Oriah Mountain Dreamer teaches (in "The Invitation") (a question for others) 
“I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.” 

ISN’T THAT THE QUESTION? REALLY?

It’s not one I feel self-righteous about, but it is certainly one I try to live by. Wholeheartedly. Daily. And then if I haven’t. I try again. And again. 

Because years ago, before my beloved friend was getting married, I remember when she was a teeny bit afraid. And she said “I come to you whole, and you come to me whole, and from that place, we meet each other and say 'Nice to meet you!'”

YES!

Thank you.

What about you?

Korea?

Or right here?

With no need to miss each other. 

Whole.


5.18.14


Jill Bacharach

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Birthday Blessing


I had the privilege of meeting a woman today who was a deeply skillful listener. I almost wanted to ask her if she was a mother because there was a quality about her which was deeply attuned -the way a mother would get down at her child’s level to understand what was really happening when wise enough to know it was far from what was being presented on the surface.

Our dialogue was easy, because I always appreciate dropping in. But I also felt emotion because she was tending to me deeply.

I have been doing the same tending for a while in my own life and as I sit now, hours later, realizing all that my day included (one person being abrupt and hanging up the phone on me with no desire for a sweet or kind farewell, a great deal of attentive and consistent output with another individual, some of which included intense circumstances which led to all kinds of places of concern and worry and even needless suffering), this simple and kind presence which I experienced today is suddenly coming at me in waves of emotion because as much as I go about my life alone and muscle through, it is indeed, something which first dismantles me but actually, settles my nervous system.

I know how to nurture myself when I am in it alone. But nurturing myself through receiving nurturance can bring me to a place of deep grief. Yes, grief.

I crave, want and dare I admit it, need the nurturance. But I have become so entrained with, so accustomed to the grief that it has become my default mode. And changing your default mode is an act of will. It can be uncomfortable even if the experience feels wonderful. 

My closest friends for many years in my early twenties were hard-edged, tough, controlling, willful and uncompromising people. They were not nurturers. For a long time that was very safe for me. As I began to grow, I began to love nurturers, many of them. But the problem I created was that they seemed to be the busiest people in the world. So they were nurturers but they were unavailable nurturers. The unavailability was something that repeatedly caused me to feel a lot of loss and I recognized that I was recapitulating a pattern of trying to heal a deep wound, but also re-wounding it by the chasing of those who were never around. Ultimately, I began to surrender to deeply intimate connections and then experience profound loss because loss was something which I was struggling with so profoundly in my life. But there were still about three nurturers whom I had cultivated relationships with and maintained relationships with for years, and then decades, proving to myself something big. But one thing which was true and constant (and something I recognized about myself) was the pain I would feel around my worries about each of them (some warranted, some unnecessary). 

These relationships have been deep practices for me. I have learned how to hold a steady seat. Be steady support. Be deeply vulnerable. And always always hold the highest regard for understanding that I have it in me to love even when I have lost so much love.

Tomorrow I will sit with a family which is filled with so much love. One of the things I taught myself along the way is that even as I may have lived without relationships, even as I may have endured a lot of loss, I have the capacity to sit in their presence and heal. Their love doesn’t just belong to them. By witnessing it, I have seen that it becomes a part of me. By stepping in and listening, I open myself to a larger heart which keeps growing and growing and doesn’t go to grief as its default but now goes to love as its default. I bear witness and I participate. I don’t feel separate. The love shared between them becomes a part of my own heart because it is so big. And because I love my nurturer, my own nurturer expands exponentially and I grow by being included at their table. 

Admittedly, there was a time or two when I fell short. But I was learning how to sit at that table and receive something which was very unfamiliar to me, or at the very least, hidden from my existence for a long time.

This family has burgeoned in me deep seeds of growth and love and I am inspired to sit with them, even to hug and kiss the ones who are a little less affectionate and call them forth. Teach them what they have taught me. 

I am so grateful that my default mode did not become my fate, but as an act of will I knew had it within me to change. 

I am so grateful that every day, when we are awake and receptive, we can receive gifts from people which remind us of what we need, who we are, and where we want to continue to go.

I surrender to receiving all of the love which will continue to nurture my heart. And I will continue to point my arrow in the direction of nurturing the hearts of those who live deeply inside my own.

To nurturing. And the cultivation of nurturance in each of our lives. 



4.5.14

Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smoke Signals


Learning how to grow up is something many of us spend most of our adult lives attempting to do.

As I approach my 46th turn around the sun, I look back at my young 22 year-old self and I see in her, a young woman who stood strong and steady. Open to learning EVERYTHING. And yet, her resilience was unparalleled.

I recall listening to my grandfather's breath as he lay dying day after day and knowing, deeply, that his breath had something to teach me. And I listened hard to those laborious whispers. We were in those moments of quiet together and I remained steady because that was what there was to do.

Before he slipped into his coma, he would look at me with deep searching eyes. He had been the most powerful force in my life and he had been so in the lives of each us bound by him, in our family. When I looked back into his eyes, I held his gaze, every time. Because that was what there was to do. When he slipped away, I was the one who told my grandmother that she had lost her beloved. It was one of the hardest moments of truth-telling because she was not ready, even though it was an obvious inevitability as he lay dying. I had to hold her back as the EMT team took him away. So young to be the person I almost wish I were today, but when called upon, we find it. Because that is what there is to do.

As I stood in front of hundreds of people and gave his eulogy, I stood  in the love I had always claimed and there was no second-thinking about who stood before me nor what I was needing to do. I stood for my love. I stood for my grandfather. I stood for a man whose spirit had come through each of us and could never be diminished, not even by death. I stood for the ferocity of my loyalty towards him and I stood for the loss all of us were facing.

Not long after, I had a very different kind of experience, ushering my own father through his dying experience. But that was an entirely separate situation...

What occurs to me now is how much I was holding then. My own father was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. My family was ripped apart by the loss of its anchor. And I stood strong and steady for my grandmother who needed an anchor more than anything.

This is my contemplation.

What do we do when we lose our way? When we lose our anchor? I think we very naturally send out smoke signals to let others know that we need them. When my father was dying, he sent me smoke signals. He needed something from me which only I was able to offer. And after fighting and insisting on all the healing we did during his illness, I am so grateful I was able to offer him what he needed so that he could die with less fear, knowing he was loved by his daughter and knowing, wholeheartedly, that we were at peace with each other.


*

Smoke signals.

One of my dearest friends is someone whom I have seen grow more than anyone I have ever known. And anyone who gets to know me, knows that my favorite thing is transformation and striving for growth. She is a very "healthy adult" and it is one of the things I love about her amongst nine million stunning qualities. She always says something like, "everyone is an adult and everyone can take care of themselves." (She may not be the recipient of too many smoke signals! Haah haah! Actually, that is not the truth at all.)

So here is the thing: when you are the recipient of many smoke signals, it isn't always easy to find the balance of caring well for yourself, "healthy loving," and keeping a healthy bandwidth whilst keeping your heart open and not feeling like you are going to go down with a sinking ship when your particular constitution is to be deeply compassionate. That's me. Some have named me a lamed vovnik, which has been both my gift and my peril. I feel absolutely everything and then it becomes part of my cellular make-up (sometimes to the point of picking up on physical symptoms) and therein, lies the peril. But, going back to being 21, 22 years of age, I would awake in the middle of the night, seeing my grandfather scream in pain and then I would call the next day to "check out" what I had seen in my dream and he was always suffering the very thing I would call about. This sensitivity has only "worsened" as I have aged to the point where suddenly I cannot walk or I have a very distinct pain which is connected to someone who is ill. And what I need to do is cloak myself a bit so that I can manifest "healthy adult" living a little better if this is what I have been given.

I, too, know what it is like to lose an anchor. Or what I perceived as a foundation. And having wrestled with that experience for many many years, it led me to get deeply injured physically (because I felt broken inside), emotionally (because that foundation had not been rebuilt) and I too, reached out for other shores.

It was only recently (very recently) that I learned something which has taken me my whole life to learn. That even when we think we need for things to be different so desperately, and we think that if they are different, that is what will anchor and sustain us, the only way to heal is to let go of that need. To find a way out of that need entirely and be free of it. That need is actually the sinking ship and the only anchor which will save us is the sheer act of cutting the rope which ties the anchor to the ship.

I'm not saying it is easy. It took everything I had in me to release. Every ounce of strength and courage being on the high seas all alone wanting to scream for a life raft and send out smoke signal after smoke signal... but I knew, somewhere deep inside of me, it was the only way I would find my way back home.


*

So, Pop, I think your granddaughter is growing up.




3.26.14

Jill Bacharach