Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Prayer for Boston

Me and my sister, Pam, (left) at a 5K Race in Culver City, CA

When I was 13, I had a big crush on the tall, Latin, gym teacher who lead the track team.  I can see him now in his tight short, shorts, long tan legs, and dark blue windbreaker with a whistle around his neck.  So what was a love sick 13 year old girl to do?  I joined the track team.  Surprisingly, a love affair began.  But it was not with the luscious dream of Mr. Mendez; it was with running.  Something happened when I began to build mileage with the help of Mr. Mendez.  "Push!" he told me during practices.  "You're a long distant runner, Stephanie.  You have what it takes."  That beautiful man planting the seed of what I could achieve changed my life.  I would go on to longer and longer runs, and I eventually ran several marathons and proudly qualified to run the prized Boston Marathon.       

Like running, meditation is a way to slow down our minds and to exist in a space of quiet, but it is not for everyone.  Many friends have told me that sitting still for 20 minutes twice a day does not appeal to them.  Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist Thick Nhat Hanh said, “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”  We can do just that in myriad ways.  For me it happens in the second mile of a run when my heartbeat is in sync with my breathing, and the rhythm of my feet striking the paved streets puts me in union with everything around me.  The chatter in mind quiets, and I breath easily with a smile in my heart.

Thich Nhat Hanh also said, “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.”  In the wake of the tragedy in Boston, it is necessary for us to put our attention on the families who are affected by the tragic acts of two brothers.  Our prayers, love and all the light we can send is the right course of action in this time of suffering.  But perhaps, just perhaps a few of us can find it in our hearts to pray for the two brothers who may not have had the seeds planted to go 26.2 miles and beyond, and whose pain spilled over in a horrifying way.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Learning to Love Our Shadow

My father, mother, sister, Pam (left), and me

 For when I can love all of me, I will love all of you. --Debbie Ford, Author, The Light Side of the Dark Chasers

When I was as young as five years old, I remember meditating although I didn't know it at the time.  When things were scary in my house, when I heard my mother's muffled screams--Daddy's slaps to Mommy's face--I would slip into a space that protected me.  I even had my own mantra, "me is, me is, me is, me...."  Those words put me in a sacred space.  The violence outside the four walls of my bedroom faded, and a loving, warm, and gentle presence formed all around me.  I knew it was God, Spirit, All There Is, or whatever name is given to an entity that I, in my finite state, cannot define.  

I also knew that my father was not entirely a bad person.  He did horrendous things, yes, but I could forgive him.  When I pushed my little sister, bossed her around, or sassed my mother, that part of me was not the whole of me, either.  I could be angry, stubborn, even mean.  That dark side or shadow side of myself scared me, and I had a hard time understanding how the "bad" me could co-exist with the loving, caring me.  As an adult, I grew to disdain the "bad" parts of myself.  I punished myself for being bad by stuffing food into my body and purging, or abstaining from food altogether to punish my overeating.  I numbed myself with empty relationships with men.  The layers of self-hate just grew and grew and grew.  How could I forgive my father and not forgive myself? 

That quiet warm and loving space I went to at five years old was always there for me.  I returned to that space after the failure of my marriage.  Seeking forgiveness and understanding in that space, I reasoned: "If I am worthy enough to sit in this divine space, how can I be unworthy of forgiveness?"  The answer was clear.  The love I felt in that space is the love I could have for myself.  The parts of me that I defined as "bad" were just the hurt parts of me that needed healing, love and compassion.  "Me is, me is, me is... helped me to realign, regroup, forgive, and love myself in the midst of failing.  I now know I can love all of me--the bossy me, the caring me, and even the sassy girl who sometimes pushed her little sister.