Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Last night a dear friend passed away. Those of us who were able to see him during his last weeks feel relief that he is no longer in pain, but the hole in our hearts is huge. He was a larger than life person, a seeker after spiritual experience, a lover of people, a traveler. He had just returned from a trip to SE Asia a few weeks before, feeling ill.

I learned a great deal from him about sitting with approaching death when his love, also a dear friend of mine, suffered and died of cancer almost five years ago. We bonded in that room, sitting quietly, holding the silence for her, allowing her to let go. She did. Now he did, also held by a loving wife, a devoted daughter and friends who will carry on his spirit and his love of people suffering from deadly addictions. He was helping people until his last breath, giving, loving, sending hugs, receiving love.

In our last talk in person, he said that he had an important message – “There is nothing to fear.” Nothing, not in death, not in sickness, not in continuing to live. No fear. What a gift. I saw him all day today in thousands of yellow fall leaves, falling gracefully to earth, without fear.

So, we lit a candle, sounded our bell and read the Five Remembrances when we heard that he had gone:

“I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill-health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.”

Jay Bott stands on firm ground. May we all do so.

Photo by atmtx

Pat’s performance in our home yesterday was amazing, so moving. We invited just a few people each evening for a four-day series of live recordings for his next CD – Alive Again! It is such a privilege to live with a great musician and performer! To have friends and family come to our home to participate in making a live CD! It has been good for me to just let go of all my projects for a few days and be part of the support team for Pat’s recording and special anniversary, to go along for the ride, helping, cleaning, preparing food, listening, anticipating needs, ringing a temple bell at the right time, appreciating the moment. It felt relaxing.

We support each other in our artistic endeavors and are blessed with many friends who also support us, listen to our latest sentence or the beginning of a new piece of music. His producer is a dear friend and an amazing musician who also practices meditation and Qi Gong with us in the mornings. He seems to be a favorite of our granddaughter. He must be special because he didn’t get as many “tickets” for “talking too much” or “embarrassing me” as I did. We had fun while accomplishing important work.

All artists need support. All humans need support. Gigantic trees need support. Giving it is even more wonderful than receiving it.

How are you being supported and supporting others today?

Emotional roller-coaster this past week – up with a wonderful mindfulness retreat, down with a panel and deep family memories stirred, up with beauty of fall colors, down with seeing a dying friend but filled with love at the same time, then inspiration from feedback on my book, then the email and deep old feelings of being misunderstood, judged unfair by someone I care about…feelings that lingered….talking to wise women who helped….shift back to serenity….now focus on Pat’s exciting live performances. Ah, so much change in the internal scenery….not just about “tasks, doing, jobs” but how emotion colors our lives, our actions, our perceptions of the moment. Clouds coming, going, teaching. Colors shifting in our world. What would life be without feeling? As long as feelings don’t rule our every thought, word and deed. It was a revelation to me to learn that every emotion doesn’t require an action. Being angry doesn’t mean I have to yell at someone. Being sad doesn’t mean that I need to spread sadness like fog over everyone around me. I can stop, look deeply, learn more about myself, breathe. Find balance. Delight in fall colors at the same time I am disappointed or sad.

I am trying to sit with powerful emotions these days, to feel the energy beneath the surface cause of the feeling, to feel the little girl in me who wants to be liked and respected, feeling misunderstood, afraid of rejection. She is the person I need to understand deeply in order to reveal her in my book. But I also need to understand her to live my life today with freedom, peace and generosity. One of the wise women asked “What is it that you need that you are not getting?” This helped me sit again with the feelings and learn the lessons they had to teach me. I embraced my little girl, held her, comforted her, allowed my adult arms to vibrate with healing energy. I could let go now of the emotion, let it drift off the horizon and be ready for my next cloud teacher.

Feelings come, feelings go. My mind is a clear blue sky. My mind is a clear blue sky.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of leading a Diversity Workshop at a local high school. This workshop was one of the great passions of my teaching life for 20 years in two public school systems. It is so powerful, energizing and hopeful!

It pumped me up, reconnected me to teens, took all of us to a deeper level of sharing, especially in Caucuses, Hidden Identities and Speak-outs. There were so many examples in this group of suffering from alcoholism, conflicts with parents, suicide and cancer, in addition to prejudice and stereotyping. Leading the workshop requires a great deal of skill and training to help young people open up so much pain and to look at solutions.

The workshop is even more powerful when led by teenagers. They learn to listen deeply, to help other students connect to friends who are sharing similar forms of suffering and solutions. Sharing cuts pain in half, bringing it out into the open in a setting where confidentiality and respect are the rules. The DW makes it possible for young people to hear that there is someone else suffering from depression, an alcoholic parent, death or stereotyping in the same way, to help bring them out of isolation. Also to hear that another student cherishes her Jewish faith or Latin food or loves to create art, creating connection and hope. Revealing some of the pain and joy with teachers and counselors who can also follow up with individuals and find inspiration in becoming workshop leaders themselves – such a joy for me! It works! It’s still about the most powerful model I’ve found for taking a group of teenagers to a very deep level of sharing in one amazing three hour session. The possibilities for other classes and activities flowing from it depend on the commitment and enthusiasm of a few teachers and students. I am so happy to help younger teachers carry on my tradition of the Diversity Workshop and Peace Studies classes!

Watering seeds of Hope, peace and joy feels so GOOD!!!!!!

Photo by LT

I am leading a workshop on November 6 about relaxing and relieving stress during the holidays, celebrating in ways that feel right for us, letting go of old paradigms from family dysfunction. The producer wanted to put my picture and name as the “lead” for the workshop poster. It still feels weird. Although I am writing this blog for the whole world to see (although mostly friends and the porn folks are the ones finding it), I am shy about promoting myself! The part of me that suffered from negative press during my trial, the part that wants to enjoy my quiet and private life screams “NO” at self-promotion. The budding Buddha in me that knows all things pass, that there is no “separate self” to promote. It is important to keep the focus on the message, the people I am serving, the work, the writing, the workshops, not on my SELF.

I love giving workshops and retreats. I want my book to sell, to be successful, to reach people who need inspiration to solve today’s problems. So, this promotion and “shipping” stuff seems to be part of it all. Life is short. I have a little candle to shine with all the other candles in the dark night. So, my granddaughter and I spent the morning Saturday posting the flyers on telephone poles, in store windows and on bulletin boards in our wonderful neighborhood. We had fun!

So, do come. We’ll have fun there too, reducing stress, relaxing, laughing at our silly selves, enjoying the fact that we are so interconnected in our feelings and contradictions. For more info see 10% off for the next FIVE DAYS!!!!

Do you have issues with “self-promotion”????????? Share!

After helping to lead an amazing women’s meditation retreat this weekend, I turned my attention to my homework assignment for class at the Writer’s Center last night. I had the opportunity to submit a draft proposal of my book (for publishers) and sample chapters for my teacher and classmates to read and critique. Picking up where the last blog left off – at the choice for a new beginning for the book – I explored possibilities. Which story would grab the reader, whether a busy publisher or agent, or a person in the bookstore flipping through the first page of my book?

Instead of using the chapter “Journey to Loretto” as my beginning (in which I travel by train from Kansas City to Louisville, Kentucky, then by bus to the Loretto Motherhouse at age 17 to join the convent), I decided to jump ahead to the incident that stimulated my first batch of hate mail. The chapter begins with a phone call from a leader of the Black Liberators in St. Louis in 1968 asking me to find a way to free him from police headquarters before the cops killed him. I had to organize a protest of 50 nuns and the press to get the attention of the police chief. You’ll find out what happens when you read the book.

A gripping beginning. But it shortens the action of the whole story to just 17 months of my life! Is that enough? It is the most “action-packed” and public part of the story, covered in the press in Missouri, Washington, DC and eventually throughout the country and other parts of the world. But it might leave out some of you who are reading this blog!

Will I be able to weave in the “backstory” that explains “How a regular nun, high school teacher, committed to her vows and to religious life, became a revolutionary?” I will need to establish the “ordinariness” of my life, the progression of the radical changes in my thinking, awareness and behavior and also the changes that were happening in our society in the late sixties. I had established these changes in the original first five chapters of my book, so I also included some excerpts from those chapters for class critique.

Again, a waiting period until our next (delayed) class in two weeks!
What do I do while waiting? More WRITING, revising, cutting!

What are you doing this week? Any writing? Revising? Cutting of anything?