Monday, November 30, 2009

Yoga is consuming quite a bit of my life these days. I have embarked on another yoga teacher training program, very much in an effort to allow yoga to consume quite a bit of my life. It seems that Yoga as a path blends quite nicely with how I think about life, love, and my clients. So many people who do not spend their time and energy delving into the world of yoga think of it as an exercise of twisting your body into lots of fun and unobtainable postures. When indeed, it is truly so much more than that. The postures are important, and a useful tool, but in no way are they an end in themselves. The literal translation of the Sanskrit word, “Yoga” is union. It refers to the union of our small self with Ultimate Reality, the Oneness of all things. In practicing yoga, I am offering myself an opportunity to align myself well, not only in good bodily alignment, but also in my Life and in the practice of Love. Yoga understands that there is no real separation between our self and the rest of the Universe. If we can live and breathe this in our lives, I am quite certain that there would be fewer conflicts in the world, both on a personal level, and on a global level. I offer here a paragraph from a correspondence I recently sent to a yogi friend.

Choosing a yogic path means challenging some of our most primal fears.
I hope it means that we take a look at some of the masks that we put on, and dare to
question them.
I hope it means that we fight for Love, and don’t get caught in the confused place of our desires.
I hope it means that when we say Namaste*, we try to live Namaste.
I hope it means that we do our very best to Love ourselves with honesty and integrity, so that we can then be the Love that we want to be for more than just ourselves. Because we understand that there is really no separation between ourselves and anyone else.
When we reject someone, we reject our self. When we reject our self, we reject Love. It is a painful place from which to be conducting Life.

*Namaste: The light within me sees and honors the light within you. ie: From my humble self, I can see and honor you. Despite our differences, we are essentially the same.

I share this because of the universality of the struggle I see people having in love and relationships. We so easily reject in a confused effort to protect ourselves from whatever it is that we are afraid of. Yet, in our rejections we separate ourselves from the world and create isolation, loneliness, misunderstandings, and quite a few other problems for ourselves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Toast to Passion!

It has been a summer of weddings, kids gatherings, and even a moment or two to find some vacation time. As fall is now a couple of days into it’s season, and we are still getting some beautiful sunny days with temperatures hitting the 70’s, I am reminded that though the season may still feel like summers end, time has a way of marching on, and no doubt falling leaves will beckon their raking before long.

I always feel it when I go many weeks, and yes even months between my postings on this page. This time I knew that as summer was winding down, I would have much to reflect upon to bring this page back to life. First, it has been many many years since I have been to a wedding, and this summer, all of a sudden I had three to go to. And, at two of these festive occasions, my daughter attended the bride. Next to a birth or a death, witnessing the wedding of someone in the generation below you is a pretty serious reminder that those numbers that keep adding up from the date of your birth do mean something. Last year it was 50. This year it is 50 plus 3 weddings. Oh, that’s what happens when mom turns the half-century marker!

While socializing with a friend of my niece-turn-bride during her wedding weekend, it came up in conversation that I am a marriage and family therapist, at which point this young woman wanted to know if I had offered my niece and her groom any advice. From that conversation I decided that it would be a nice opportunity for this aunt to offer some sweet loving light hearted advice with a toast at the party.

So here is my toast to Passion, which I now offer to all who wish for the same hope that newlyweds have on their first night of wedded bliss:

The gist of it is this- Don't be afraid of your passion. You come together because of passion, and inevitably there will be conflict. The things that make you different are what draw you passionately together, and those very same things inevitably will also create conflict in your relationship. Don't be afraid of the conflict. When you get through it, it will help you to understand each other better, and bring you closer together. Don’t believe the myth about never going to bed angry. Anger happens. In general, however, it is never really about the "other" who triggers it, but comes about when all of our old “stuff” triggers or scares us. When you do go to bed angry, and find yourself twisting and turning, muttering to yourself, pointing a symbolic finger of anger at your partner, just remember, that this is a very good time to become self-reflective, and an opportunity to develop a better understanding of your own triggers and fears. There will be conflict in your relationship, and nights that you go to bed angry. Just make sure that you recognize these events as part of your passion. Celebrate your differences. Passionately. Know that it is passion that brought you together; it will get you through to the other side of your conflicts, and it will keep you together over the long haul.

A toast to many many years of tenderness, love, and just the right amount of Passion to seal the bond!!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Rumi on Love

All selections from: Shambhala Pocket Classics
"The Pocket Rumi"
Edited by Kabir Helminski; copyright 2001


A New Rule

It is the rule with drunkards to fall upon each other,
to quarrel, become violent, and make a scene.
The lover is even worse than a drunkard.
I will tell you what love is: to enter a mine of gold.
And what is that gold?

The lover is a king above all kings,
unafraid of death,
not at all interested in a golden crown.
The dervish has a pearl concealed
under his patched cloak.
Why should he go begging door to door?

Last night that moon came along,
drunk dropping clothes in the street.
“Get up,” I told my heart,
“Give the soul a glass of wine.
The moment has come
to join the nightingale in the garden,
to taste sugar with the soul-parrot.”

I have fallen with my heart shattered—
where else but on your path, and I
broke your bowl, drunk, my idol, so drunk
don’t let me be harmed, take my hand.

A new rule, a new law has been born:
break all the glasses and draw near to the glassblower.

The War Inside

Rest your cheek, for a moment,
on this drunken cheek.
Let me forget the war and cruelty inside myself.
I hold these silver coins in my hand;
give me your wine of golden light.
You have opened the seven doors of heaven;
now lay your hand generously on my tightened heart.
All I have to offer is this illusion, my self.
Give it a nickname at least that is real.
Only you can restore what you have broken;
help my broken head.
I’m not asking for some sweet pistachio candy,
but your everlasting love.
Fifty times I’ve said,
“Heart, stop hunting and step into this net.”

Search the Darkness

Sit with your friends; don’t go back to sleep.
Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.

Surge like an ocean,
don’t scatter yourself like a storm.

Life’s waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don’t run from it.

Night travelers are full of light, and you are, too;
don’t leave this companionship.

Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
don’t slip into the dirt like quicksilver.

The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full.

Be Love’s Willing Slave

Come and be Love’s willing slave,
for Love’s slavery will save you.
Forsake the slavery of this world
and take up Love’s sweet service.
The free, the world enslaves,
but to slaves Love grants freedom.
I crave release from this world
like a bird from it’s egg;
free me from this shell that clings.
As from the grave, grant me new life.
O Love, O quail in the free fields of spring,
wildly sing songs of joy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coming Home

Spring of ’09 has felt like a season of “Coming Home”.

After a winter of preparing for my third move in as many years, March and April were consumed with moving, and bringing final closure to my and my childrens' lives in a house that had become too big for us, and in the end, more of a burden than a home. Along with the excitement of the move, April also is the month when kid number last (four) made her college choice. Also in this transitory month, New York State finally figured out that they needed to issue me a license in Marriage and Family Therapy, and did!

In May, my older two kids came home to their new home away from home for Memorial Day weekend. While home, my daughter attended one of her high school classmates in her wedding, making for a weekend of lots of reminiscing and noticing the passage of time. Then, the last weekend of May I participated in a small “retreat” of sorts with some of my MFT “family” from Syracuse University. After all the craziness of preparations for and then moving during the winter and early spring, the events of May felt warm, comfortable, and were a welcome shift from the tedium of trying to get myself re-organized in my new space. It really did feel like it was my time for “coming home”. Home to my new space where the kids and I could be home together. Home with my professional family, who I don’t get to see that often. Home with myself as I move forward.

And now it is June. Youngest had her senior ball, and is preparing for her high school graduation, and then college. I had a birthday, complete with lots of old fashioned phone calls from family and closest friends contacting me with their well wishes. And, I have gifted myself on this birthday by re-furnishing, and re-creating my bedroom space. It seemed to be the appropriate offering at this important juncture. Many pieces of my life that have been a source of struggle and heaviness now seem to be falling into place.

It would be easy to decide that all those heavy struggles that have worked their way to happy resolution, and with such synchronicity, should now create for me the life that I have been waiting for. However, I know all too well that there are many more sources of struggle and heaviness yet to find me. Despite turning the page in my calendar, I am quite certain that I have many more years of sorting out the “stuff” of my life, and weaving my way through confusing paths, before I can rest easy in the bliss of pure enlightened wisdom! And, that is a good thing. I may not have quite attained bliss, yet there is a juiciness that life offers as I have found myself swimming through the mud, and then finding a place to emerge. Hopefully the next pond will have thinner mud, and will not be quite so wide!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Therapy?

There’s nothing quite like a family members capacity to challenge your basic belief system to the core. In a recent Sunday phone conversation with a very dear family member, our chatter about family edged into an emotional realm regarding our kids. Sensing that I was getting into uncomfortable territory for him, I offered one of my favorite truisms: No one, absolutely no one, gets through childhood unscathed. We both laughed, a knowing laugh. I took the thought to the next logical step and offered that, after all that confused childhood hurting, most adults then proceed to spend the rest of their lives sorting out the hurts and looking for some manner of healing. In his classically expected response to me, his reply was: ‘Or maybe you just move forward and get on with your life’, followed by a statement about how he and I are probably never going to come to an understanding on this one. I did not proceed to spend phone time trying to enlighten him. But I did find myself stirred up by the exchange, enough so that I decided to dash an email off to him a little later, offering a very concise couple of sentences about why healing those childhood hurts is not optional, but a responsibility. Knowing full well that my condensed thinking about, “why therapy” will likely either be lost on him, disregarded, or both, I decided it might be worthwhile to offer it more broadly here:

“Having a level of self-awareness (which very much includes understanding and courageously taking the time and effort to heal the woundedness of our childhood) is a basic human responsibility as a citizen of the world. It is the refusal to take a look at our own imperfections, faults, and yes, even hurts, that creates the kinds of unskillful behaviours that lead to domestic violence, and on a larger scale, wars between nations and peoples.

This is both my personal and professional experience.”

Well, maybe I tried to pack too much into a couple of sentences. In essence, if we cannot love ourselves well enough to understand and do our own healing, all too often it becomes too easy to shift into a super-rational mode that excuses hurtful and punishing behaviours towards others (to say nothing of the consequent hurt and punishment we will also offer ourselves). It might not always escalate to the point of physical violence, but all too often does include some level of abusive behaviour.

This is not to say that every living being needs to participate in talk therapy at some point in their adult life. Though, that is likely not far from the truth. What I believe it does mean is, that everyone has healing to sort through. And, whatever mode might be employed for figuring out, understanding, and forgiving whatever it was that created all of those hurts, that healing is essential for living a conscious life with a capacity for clear thinking. The more conscious a life we each can create for ourselves, the more likely we are to have content, satisfying, loving relationships. The more likely we are also to avoid harmful and unskillful behaviours with the people around us, whether those people be our most intimate partners and family members, co-workers, friends, or someone who merely happens to be somehow randomly placed in our path.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


As war rages in and on Gaza, I find myself both desperately reading about what is happening, and at the same time so disturbed by the news and the images, that I can not bear to read or watch.

The husband of one of my Palestinian cousins that lives in the Middle East died last Saturday; of liver cancer. Yes, even Palestinians die of things other than war inflicted wounds. My image of this man, comes from a very tender recollection of an occasion when I had a chance to share a meal with him and with the family in Amman. His contribution to that meal was his own home made special dessert that is very traditional in Nablus, the city in the West Bank where his family is from. He rolled up his sleeves, dug in and produced a wonderful dessert for all of us to share.

Rula is just about exactly my age, and like me she also has 4 children. Our eldest children were born the same year, and our youngest were born within days of each other. Rula traveled by herself with her very young children when she was pregnant with her fourth child, so she could deliver him here, in the US. At the time, her brother was living in Texas. On her way back to Amman from Dallas, she stopped in Syracuse. She and her 4 children, ages less than 2 months to about 8 years stayed with me and my 4 children, same ages, for a very brief, but very sweet visit. That was the fall of 1991. I have not spent that much time with my Palestinian family, but that visit with Rula and her children was very special. She is an intelligent, loving mother, who wants all the same things for herself, and her family that the rest of us do, no matter where we are born or where we live. I did not know her husband well, but I do know and feel connected with Rula. And, what I know about them is, that theirs was one of those rare relationships of lasting love, enduring and growing over the years of their marriage. I did not hear how long Sami had been sick for, but I am quite certain the juxtaposition of his last breath occurring during the current carnage that is happening in Gaza is more than mere coincidence. The event of his death touched me in a way that almost felt disproportionate for my relationship with him. Yet, I understand it offers me the opportunity to shed the tears that so desperately need to be shed, and that are sometimes hard to find for the bloodshed that we see pictures of, but keep our distance from. Every time a member of my more distant Palestinian family dies, it is another reminder of the ongoing, never ending bloodshed in the name of ignorance, hatred, and cowardice. Another Palestinian who was not able to see a vision of peace or hope before the end of their life. Another marker in the timeline of useless ongoing bloodshed and war. Grief deeply felt for one. I cannot imagine the magnitude of the grief of so many. The human heart weeps, is helpless, knows not what to do, and answers its grief so unskillfully. Will we ever learn??


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Love Death and the purpose of Life

I found this on the web site of my friend and yoga teacher extraordinaire, Tom Gillette. He has many interesting and inspiring information bytes tucked away to find in various places on his web page.... It is worth the look, and definitely worth the effort to make it to his class if you are anywhere near Providence, RI!! Donna

Love, Death and the purpose of Life

When you love, give it everything you've got

And when you have reached your limit - give it more.

And forget the pain of it,

because as you face your death

it is only the love you have given

and received that will count.

And all the rest -

the accomplishments, the struggles, the fights - will be forgotten in your reflections.

If you have loved well

then it will have been worth it.

The joy of it will last through the end;

but if you have not, death will always come too soon.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross