Monthly Archives: January 2010

The BEST Medicine

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” ~Anne Lamott

I thought about going to services this morning; I even looked up which minister was speaking at the church I’ve been thinking about checking out.

Instead I ended up neck deep in a bubble bath, candles flickering, soft music playing, laughing SO hard that the bath water threatened to jump the tub and swamp the entire bathroom.

I LOVE to laugh, and there are a couple of authors I can always depend on to make me cackle out loud… Anne Lamott, Janet Evanovich, Terry Pratchett all come immediately to mind. I have laughed till I’ve cried on beaches, in airports, and on the EL at rush hour.

One of my all time favorite memories ever happened when my family was on summer vacation. We were staying in a house on a lake and everyone but my dad was awake and down on the beach.

Suddenly, we heard this wild howling coming from the house. We all leapt up and went running, the noise getting louder as we got closer. We burst through the door and thundered up the stairs to throw open the door to my parent’s room. And there was my dad…

He was sitting in the middle of the bed, literally shrieking with laughter. His face was bright red, the tears were streaming down his face; he was holding his chest as if he might laugh himself to pieces if he didn’t. It was absolutely infectious. Before I knew it, we were all rolling around on the bed giggling like mad.

Finally, we settled enough that he could share with us what he was reading. It was Stephen King’s The Body (which eventually became the movie Stand By Me). There’s a passage in there where one of the boys tells his friends a story that ends with an entire town throwing up on each other… pretty typical 12 year old boy stuff.

OH, but the way King tells it… we all ended up in hysterics all over again.

“Slowly, a sound started to build in Lardass’ stomach. A strange and scary sound, like a log truck coming at you at a hundred miles-an-hour. Suddenly, Lardass opened his mouth, and before Bill Travis knew it… he was covered with five pies worth of used blueberries. The women in the audience screamed. B ossman Bob Cormier took one look at Bill Travis and barfed on Principal Wiggins, who barfed on the lumberjack that was sitting next to him… But when the smell hit the crowd, that’s when Lardass’ plan really started to work. Girlfriends barfed on boyfriends. Kids barfed on their parents. A fat lady barfed in her purse. The Donnelley twins barfed on each other, and the Women’s Auxiliary barfed all over the Benevolent Order of Antelopes. And Lardass just sat back and enjoyed what he’d created-a complete and total barf-o-rama!”

And when it was over, I had the most wonderful, joyously wrung out feeling… I felt completely connected and bonded to these other beings in the bed, not only through family but by what we had just shared, with a sense that all was right with the world and always would be…

Not very different really than when I climbed out of the tub this morning.

Just because I didn’t leave the house this morning doesn’t mean I didn’t go to church…

“Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.” ~ Karl Barth


“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.” ~ Barbara De Angelis

From the time I was 16 years old, I felt like I had a directional signal in my head leading me ever forward toward my goal of being a professional actor. It made choices very easy; things either brought me closer or they took me away. And if it gave me blinders to other possibilities, it was a small price to pay for having such clarity.

Until 10 years ago when the signal went off.

It was like the Wizard of Oz in reverse. My entire world went from Technicolor to gray. The landscape had no definition, nothing stood out; every choice was equal.

I didn’t know how to operate without purpose.

The depression followed… and that I really didn’t know how to deal with.

Fortunately, my therapist Mary did; she told me this story:

Years after World War II ended, a woman who had survived the concentration camps was being interviewed. The reporter asked her how, when so many had perished, she had managed to survive. The woman said that there had been another woman in her barracks, a woman who was frail and sickly and much worse off than the others. Every day, our survivor would eat only a portion of her bread ration, saving the other piece for her ill bunkmate.

“I knew that if I didn’t survive, my friend would soon die without the extra bread,” she stated simply.

Mary finished, and we sat quietly. After a moment, she looked at me and asked, “So…. What’s your piece of bread?”

And I knew.

I knew that, despite the fact that I no longer felt pulled to succeed in the theatre, I was still excited by the idea of being part of transformative experiences. At the root of my desire to be an actor was a call to participate and facilitate Ah-Ha moments in people’s life…

It was enough.

I never did recover that same sense of surety, but I had learned that it was a false security anyway. I became comfortable with not knowing what the rest of my life was going to look like. I practiced looking a month, a week, or a day out in front of myself rather than years.

Today, I am fortunate enough to work to help others find their way out of the gray, but I am always open to the possibility that the modalities may shift or be added to. What will never change is my desire to help people to find their own power and purpose…

What’s your piece of bread?
“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

~ Edward Everett Hale

Ignorance is Bliss?

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” ~ Ingrid Bergman

I just got back from seeing Avatar, James Cameron’s record and technologically groundbreaking film…

And I loved it, every single moment!

This is a movie for the spiritual community.  It speaks to the rights and wisdom of indigenous peoples, the power of the natural world, spiritual warriorship, the web of life that connects us all, and our ability to tap into that energetic field to both heal and grow.  It is both powerful and reverent.

One of the most important messages for me – and I promise I’m not giving anything away – is the necessity of approaching the world with beginner’s mind.

Part of the problem with being an “expert” is that often times our knowledge gets in the way of our hearing anything new; our preconceived notions blind us to seeing things as they actually are.  And worse, our attachment to being learned and skillful keeps us from being available to being taught.

I once sat for the better part of an hour watching my one year old godson remove and replace the top of a pen.  There was wonder, discovery, determination, and mastery of motor control all rolled into one.  I’m a pro with pen caps, but I never saw the process so clearly or found it as wonderous and beautiful as I did through Dash’s eyes.

A beginner’s mind – fresh, unguarded, with no ego to get in the way – is open to all the possibilities life has to offer. It can make connections and see around corners.  It thinks outside the box because it doesn’t know enough to know it’s in a box; a beginner’s mind can accomplish the impossible simply by not knowing it’s impossible.

And, really, it’s waaaaay more fun to be amazed and awed than to feel like it’s all old hat!

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.” ~ Barbara Sher

Tell Me… Can You Hear Me?

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.” ~ Margaret J. Wheatley

Sometimes there aren’t any answers… no solutions or quick fixes to be had. Sometimes we just have to put our heads down and place one foot in front of the other, holding as our talisman the faint glimmering of that distant light at the end of the tunnel.

Most of us don’t like to complain; we know that we’re lucky in comparison to others. We’ve been taught that if we don’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all…

How amazing is it, in these times, when someone is willing to walk beside us, holding space, and gifting us with their listening?

Listening is an underrated skill; and one that isn’t widely taught. More often than not, instead of staying fully present, we are rushing on ahead, considering what we will say in reply. Even if we are paying attention, we are perceiving through our own filter. Language is frequently inadequate in communicating feeling and meaning; words have multiple interpretations… so what we’re hearing may not in fact be what’s being said.

“To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean,”
says Mark Nepo, “In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”

Active Listening is an exercise in which the speaker tells their story in manageable segments, pausing to allow the listener an opportunity to reflect back what it is that they heard. Before moving forward, the speaker must agree that the listener’s interpretation is correct.

In my own experience, knowing that I am going to be asked what I heard, keeps me singularly focused on what is being said. It also takes away the burden of having to try and “fix” the issue, or even to offer comfort or inspiration. My job is to simply be a mirror.

What is even more amazing is how deeply moving this practice can be for the speaker… to tell your truth and be fully heard AND understood is such a rarity, that people often find themselves in tears. “With the gift of listening,” reminds Catherine de Hueck Doherty, “comes the gift of healing.”

It costs us so little to listen… a little bit of time, focus, and energy. But the return on our investment is better communication, greater understanding, and deeper intimacy… who doesn’t want that?

“Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” ~ Sue Patton Thoele

All Work and No Play?

“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” ~ Thomas Stephen Szasz

A couple of weeks ago, as HHP’s Movie of the Month, we watched Conversations with God, the 2006 movie based on the best-selling books written (or channeled) by Neal Donald Walsh.

For the record, I don’t recommend the movie for those who haven’t read the books.  Those in our audience who were coming to the story with no background, found the movie both saccharine and aggrandizing of the author.  And personally, from an artistic perspective, while I appreciated being reminded of Walsh’s message, I just didn’t think the movie was so hot…

However, it did inspire me to go back and read Book I again.

I first read Conversations with God almost ten years ago.  While I had read lots of books about alternative spirituality, this was the first book that brought me, a self-proclaimed atheist at the time, face to face with the concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful God that made me think “Yes!  Now THAT’S a God I can get behind!”

Like every other book I’ve ever re read, there were things that jumped out at me this time that had no impact the first time ‘round.  Like this passage:

“… God gave you free choice, to do with life as you will. … This is the grand illusion in which you have engaged: that God cares one way or another what you do. … Do you care what your children do when you send them out to play?  Is it a matter of consequence to you whether they play tag, or hide & seek, or pretend?  No, it is not, because you know they are perfectly safe. …

Of course, you will always hope that they do not hurt themselves.  And if they do, you will be right there to help them, heal them, allow them to feel safe again, to be happy again, to go and play another day.”

OOH, one of my favorite words, “Choice”!

What I love most about this description is the comparison of this plane of existence to a playground.  If we take this at face value, then everything we do here is… essentially… a very elaborate game of… House.

Did you play House as a kid?

I did, endlessly.

Today, I’m the President of the United States; yesterday, I was Princesss Leia; tomorrow, we’re going to be pirates – and I’m the captain!  Whatever the circumstances, whoever I chose to be, I climbed into their skin and their life and played it to the hilt.  And, if anything came up that I didn’t like (like when my mother’s best friend pointed out that being President and a single mother would be an awful lot of work) I changed the rules to suit my needs.

SO… if we’re living on the Universal Playground, and we get to pick and choose at will what games and what people we’ll play, and we have the option to change the rules as we go, and tomorrow, if we decide we don’t like who we are today, we can choose to be someone different, without repercussions from any angry parent…


Why don’t we choose what we want to be today, and be that with all our being?  Isn’t this what the experts tell us is the key to manifesting our perfect lives?  Choose what we want and then act as if it already is… in other words, play House with our desires!

We have the option to approach our lives playfully, joyfully, fearlessly, to welcome the exploration of our Selves, to embrace or reject experiences without doubting our inherent worthiness, to co-create our most fulfilling existence…

Why would we choose otherwise?

Now…. who wants to PLAY??!! 🙂

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” ~ Golda Meir