What I Learned From My Poor Broken Nose

“In your face” took on an entirely new meaning for me while on vacation a couple weeks ago. One minute I was cycling along a quiet Adirondack road. The next, SMACK! I was face down on the pavement making hurt animal noises.

“I broke my nose,” I wailed to my husband, who rounded the bend too late to witness my flight over the handlebars but plenty soon enough to see the blood pouring down.

We quickly concluded I was more or less intact. No loss of consciousness. Mind was clear. Bleeding controllable. So we climbed back on our bikes and slowly tootled on back to the camp. (Adirondack word for cottage.)

The phone triage nurse kindly provided by our health insurance company reassured me after lengthy questioning that an ER visit wasn’t necessary, and advised on home care and what to watch for regarding head trauma. Yes, I was wearing a helmet.

So our low-key, relax-and-relax-some-more-then-take-a-nap vacation got dialed back a little. I rested, entertaining myself and my long-suffering husband with detective work as new bruises emerged, trying to figure out from the shape and location of the marks what hit what when.

I’m home now and my ENT doc assures me that, yes, the nose is broken and no, it doesn’t need repair. Yay! But still,  I’m feeling just a tad bit fragile. Friends who’ve taken such spills tell me this is to be expected. And this isn’t my first rodeo (so to speak) so even as my body’s still going, Whaaaa?????, my mind knows they’re correct.

And I expect a full recovery, including a return to cycling as soon as I can put weigh on my hands and arms (I hit so hard my triceps are STILL sore.)

Morals of the story:

Mindfulness isn’t just for calming yourself. It’s also about being present where you are so you don’t hit the pothole, panic and brake too hard too soon.

 While panic is not useful, it can’t, by definition, be prevented in the moment. Advance treatment, through prayer and meditation, rest, good nutrition and smart therapy, is advised. I’m on the case, but being on the case doesn’t mean that shit doesn’t happen.

Shit happens. My dentist broke his leg skiing. Broke his arm taking out the garbage. A friend nearly broke her back tumbling down a full set of stairs in her house. My son, when he was three, broke his collar bone falling out of bed, a mattress on the floor. And that’s just the ordinary stuff. For now at least, let’s not even go toward the evils folks do.

Fun involves risk. Sometimes even requires risk. I will not give up cycling. I will, however, always wear long sleeves and long pants from now on. My elbow was scraped open though the sweatshirt.  Let us not imagine the hamburger elbow that could have resulted had I ventured out with more skin showing. My knees, covered by my favorite stretchy jeans, were also battered but the skin was unbroken.

Don’t go global. My first reaction, after the shock, was, “Great. There goes a great vacation.” But within moments I talked myself right out of that crap—I was sill in my beloved Adirondacks, and still with my beloved husband. And I was still alive!

Neglect self-care at your own risk. I considered going sight-seeing the next day. I felt bad I’d ruined a day trip we’d sort of been planning. But, you know what? Healing takes what it takes. That has to be honored. Still, two weeks later, at home now, I need to be aware that  recovery takes time, including extra naps and more time for soul reading and contemplation.

And thank God for the helmet. Amen

In fact, thank God for it all. Appreciation is a great state of consciousness. Life is precious. There are certainly better ways to be reminded than landing smack-down on your face in the road, but there it is.

All’s well that ends well. Happy cycling! Let’s have some fun, shall we?

You can read more like this (not including the broken nose!) in my other blogs here and in my new book, The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.  Not just a diet book, it’s about finding your way home to your very own special soul. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blown Away

My gazebo is upside down in my marigold patch.

DSC00143

Or it was until yesterday.

This is a story of a small disappointment and a sweet gift.

Big storm came along Tuesday night and with the sound of a freight train upended my dear backyard morning meditation/picnic breakfast meditation spot that my son Ed gave for Mother’s Day five years ago and has put up for me every year since.

Did I mention I love this spot? Here it is, before.

Perfect spot for that morning-time centering.

Perfect spot for that morning-time centering.

 When the power went out, I shone my flashlight out back, and there she was. Upside down. Bent and broken

In the grand scheme of sadnesses, this one was very, very small. I knew that even as the wind wailed and I remembered how hurricane Sandy hit my area so hard back when.

But still. It was a mess.

Then, yesterday, my husband and I got our first chance to inspect the damage. And this darling fellow stepped up to resurrect my special place. Took it apart, assessed what parts we needed to order, and asserted confidently that it could be fixed and he’d do it.

Now, we live in an old house where there are always way more things to fix than time to fix them. The last thing he needed was another repair job. But, there it was.

A whole lotta love, right? I didn’t use to know how to receive love. Consequence, don’t you know, of a bumpy childhood. Like lots of folks.

But I’m learning to let in the sweetness. And revel in it.

Meanwhile, I going ahead with the picnic breakfasts/meditation, just me and the no-see-ums and the mosquitoes.

And my certain sense that it’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good.

 

 

What Are You Running From?

We all do it. Resist change, avoid facing tough facts and feeling even tougher feelings. Resistance to me means being closed to what’s being said, closed to what’s being suggested, closed to facing the pain that needs to be healed, because it is so very painful.

Of course we are wounded. Of course we need to protect ourselves. Some wounds are from the everyday disappointments of life on the planet. Some are so deep and awful that we may not speak of them for years, if ever, though they thread, unacknowledged and unhealed, through our daily lives.

We are all wounded. And we are all fine.

Perhaps something in you protests, saying, “But I was really really hurt, abused, damaged. It was real and true, by God!”

Of course it was. Of course.

But beware of overprotecting yourself now from what happened then. What you absolutely needed to do then to survive probably no longer serves. It may in fact be creating new wounds. Shutting down, refusing genuine help, refusing to face facts about yourself and your life, that only stifles you. Many of us perform our shut-downs with addictions—food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, TV, computer time, relationships. You don’t have to be addicted to something  to shut down, though. You can simply clench yourself up and refuse to feel.

When we do these things, we are looking for rescue and relief in all the wrong places. At best, we’ll be endlessly stuck looping through our old stories where the themes are the same and only the characters change. You pick a fight with your mate to try to win the way you never could with your overbearing father. You glom onto a new friend, doctor or colleague in hopes she’ll give you the care you needed from your mother but never received.  At worst, we’ll be in a living death.

Self-protection is important. Of course we have to take very, very good care of ourselves. Eat healthy foods mindfully. Gently move and stretch our bodies.  Form healthy relationships where reciprocity rules. Get plenty of rest. Keep our thoughts on a positive plane. Play. Solitude.

And we never need take on more emotional, psychological or spiritual work than we feel able.

But brain science tells us that the human organism thrives on novelty, challenge and spontaneity. Most of all it thrives on thriving. On growth. We never stop. We never arrive. Flow is where it’s at. As someone once said, change is the only form of permanence nature can achieve.

And growth flourishes when we are willing, on any given day, to relax the clenched body, heart and mind, to hear what we need to hear, say what we need to say, face what we need to face, feel what we need to feel. To stop defending our right to be wounded and start dealing with the facts as raw material for change.

I know this because I have experienced it. It takes courage. It does. But it is so worth it. Deep healing happens, even as we discover wounds we didn’t even know were there, they were buried so deep. More amazingly, it creates miracles. Psychic shifts so deep, so profound, that they bring riches once unimaginable.

What we are given to feel when we drop the fight-back, hide-out escapism, is information. When we do this feeling work in the company of supportive, helpful others, perhaps including trained professionals, our lives open up and we flourish.

Not everyone is willing or able to do such deep work. But many of us are called to it.  We don’t have to push. Timing and pacing are important. We don’t have to go it alone. We have each other, our anam caras, soul friends. And we have a higher power—whatever you call it—an inner source, that wants us all to be happy, safe, nourished, sheltered and fully alive, right here and right now,  who will give is strength and grace when asked.

Resistance? It too can be faced, felt and healed. In the end, is simply an opportunity to grow. If we dare.

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You can read more thoughts like these in my new book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive. You can also sign up to receive the Joyblog as a newsletter.

 

 

The Belly Button Principle

Life’s a lot of work, right? This is where the Belly Button Principle comes in, because life is a toggle between inner labor and outer efforts. Innie and Outie, for short.

I need to build my inner resources with solitude and self-care. Time for contemplation and stillness. Prayer and meditation. Listening to beautiful music. Time in nature. Lovely spiritual reading like my current favorite, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John  O’Donohue.  Long walks. Qigong. Reiki. Sometimes, a deep, mindful talk with an anam cara (soul friend).

That’s when, where and how I connect to The Great Mystery. That’s the Innie.DSC00139

But I don’t live only in the inner world. No one can. Even religious contemplatives come out of contemplation to do life-sustaining chores.

I also need to move through daily life. That’s the Outie. Doing my professional work sharing messages of healing and hope and helping others do the same. Filling up the car’s gas tank. Preparing beautiful meals for myself and my beloved family. Leading peer-support meetings and fulfilling responsibilities to my religious fellowship. Showing up when people need me.

For me to thrive, these two areas, the Innie and the Outie, have to be in balance. Too much Innie, and I miss the chance to receive inspiration and love from other people and the opportunity to be of service. Too much Outie, and I lose my way, get crabby and mess up, sometimes letting myself, and others, down.

So, on an ideal day,  I make sure that I’ve got the Innie work in place before I embark on the Outie work. I also take the Outie stuff into Innie Land. They feed and support each other. When they are in balance, I’m in balance. And my world is a better place! That’s the Belly Button Principle.

Now, how about you? How do you keep your Innie and your Outie in balance?

To comment, read more Joyblogs, or sign up to receive the Joyblog by email, go to http://www.gayedelman.com. And yes, please do share! XOX!!!

Have you seen my new book, The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive? Says a recent reader: “I was expecting another diet book. Instead I received a wealth of life inspiration!” 

 

My Amazing New Teacher

She’s bold.. She’s shy. She’s quirky. And she’s been hiding in plain sight.

For the last several years I’ve been a bit at sea in my spiritual journey.

Yes, I was blessed with peer support groups where people use kumbaya language generously and uncynically. Yes, I was blessed with friends who will share their soul journey and hear about mine with respect and kindness.

And it was good.

But still I craved that certain someone. A teacher, a pal, a coach, a counselor, a guru a little (or a lot) farther along the in the journey, to help me on my way.

I’ve noticed in my reading over the years in different faith traditions that there are a lot of common themes. One of them is, do not go this journey alone. My own intuition informs and supports that wisdom. You hear about so many people who go off the rails listening to some call that turns out not to have been in anyone’s best interest. This, I think, is how cults get formed. In the extreme, it can define psychosis.

My friend Karen used to tell the story of how when she was first trying to access the higher power she wanted for a better, healthier life, she meditated for hours every day. And one day in during the mediation, she saw the entire next day. A sort of movie of everything. When the next day actually unfolded exactly as she had seen in her meditation, it freaked her out. She joined Unity and there met a kindly couple who became her spiritual mentors.

For about a decade, I had a spiritual director, someone whose role it was to talk to about what I was thinking, feeling and doing to feed and fuel my soul, achieve richer fuller health, and be of some use on the planet. Our relationship was nurturing and helpful, but ran its course.

But I’m still on the path. What to do? I asked and asked the universe to send me my next teacher.

And a few days ago, during my morning meditation, she finally arrived: She is me! I was so busy consuming self-help books and courses and ideas that I hadn’t allowed myself any time to assimilate them.

For years, I’ve heard that we each have everything inside that we need. The answers are there and all.  I sort of knew  what people were talking about, but I just couldn’t settle down and listen.

Time to do that, my new teacher said!

Let’s be clear about one thing, though. The me we are talking about here is not my ego or my willfulness—what some might call the lower self.

No. We’re talking about the higher self. The part of me that’s totally plugged into the greater whole. What some might call God. What Elizabeth Gilbert calls the God that lives in me, as me.

That’s the me who’s my new teacher.

Who am I to say "no" to royalty???

Who am I to say “no” to royalty???

So this teacher? She’s given me my first assignment: Slow down and listen. Just listen. Don’t run away from anything. Don’t push toward anything. Just listen. Amazing! Thanks, Teach!

 

 

Joyblog: What Makes You Say Yes?

Trick question! In an ideal world, nothing but a gun to my head (God forbid! So far, this has

never happened, Amen.) can make me say yes.

In this ideal world, my yeses are all choices thoughtfully  arrived at and mindfully delivered.spikey one

But this, you may have noticed, is the real world.

And in this real world, I say yes to a lot of things. Yes to watching TV when I really need to get to bed. Yes to the phone when it rings when I really, really don’t want to talk to anyone right now. Yes to a person or organization’s request or demand that may or may not be best for all concerned. But do I stop and think before yesing?

I do not.

And I would like to. Because too many mindless yesses mean fewer true yesses. Yes to a helping someone who doesn’t truly require my help or has other resources, that robs another area where I might serve more fully. Yes when I really want to say no means snapping resentfully at someone and then, sigh, having to make amends. Again. Yes when I’m tired and need to go to bed means I wake up blue and slow.

Are we sensing a theme here?

I’ve decided I need more yesses to myself, fewer to others, and those more carefully processed. This self I’m thinking of, it’s not the small self, the one that wants greasy grilled cheese when crispy baked tofu is on the menu or wants to lie down and be a doormat just so someone will smile.

Nope. This yes is to my higher self, the one who’s connected to and part of the eternal power, the great source, the infinite energy, the father/mother creator.

I know people who says yes because they don’t know how to say no. I am that person still, more often than I’d like. I lose myself sometimes to the wrong yesses. I’m not unusual. This is addict behavior and I’m a recovering food addict.

When we say yes to people because we  feel beholden, obliged, like no one will like us if we don’t accede to someone’s demands, we move away from our higher self. When we say yes to substances and behaviors not in our best interest, we pollute our bodies and minds, and lose effectiveness, sometimes totally.

From there comes extreme loneliness, not to mention inability to function at peak powers in real life. Worst case, early death of mind, spirit and body.

Saying yes when you need to say no is dangerous. So how about we all just slow down a little, think longer and feel more what our higher self says?

Prayer and meditation help here.

Saying yes it a higher, deeper, greater power, well, that’s a yes that cannot hurt and can only help. When we do this, we are fueled and operating from clarity, safety and strength. That’s something we can say yes to, can’t we? Yes? Sure! Yes!

More guidelines for when, where and how to say yes–and no–in my book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive. 

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

I love to learn, but I hate being told what to do. I don’t like being stuck, but I am violetsDSC00122determined to do it my way. I love people who are smart and wise, who love me and have a lot to offer, but I sometimes brush aside their suggestions without considering them fairly.

Are we sensing a theme here?

That I’m strong-willed is a given. Stubborn? You bet! I’m so stubborn, I regard the word a compliment! Because I know that the other side of stubbornness is tenacity. I’ve managed to accomplish a fair amount inside myself, in my relationships and in the world by sticking to my ideals and principles come hell or high water and mashing forward.

I’m not saying I’m a total blockhead. I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way; there’s a limit to how many times you can butt your head before you go a different way!) a thing or two about flexibility, ambiguity, the limitations of right vs. wrong thinking, and how talking to a stubborn person can feel to someone else. I have learned to soften my gaze, push less, breathe more, listen better, have a tiny bit more patience.

But too often there is a two-year-old inside me jumping up and down yelling, “You’re not the boss of me!”

And I’m starting to really, really feel, right down to my bones, how this is not always helpful. Right now, as I build my practice as author, editor and coach, I am blessed with a many kind, gifted mentors, teachers and guides. And there is still something in me that really wants to push back when they offer suggestions. I’m not talking about outlandish ideas. These folks may give me feedback that doesn’t fit; that’s going to happen. Take it or leave it is real. But they’re offering  thoughts that are always intended for my benefit, often quite excellent, sometimes brilliant.

I do listen. I even follow through a lot.

But I sure wish this toddler would settle down. And here’s what I’m seeing: She does settle down when I fully respect that this is her life, honor that she doesn’t have to do it alone and get really serious about the fact that outside help isn’t enough.

Older, wiser Gay has to take Toddler Gay to that private, personal well for a long, cool drink, then a great big hug. It’s not enough just to listen to outsiders. I have to show up every single day, with diligence (dare I say stubbornness) and listen to my own personal insider teacher, guide and mentor. When I am more open to me, I am more open to you.

When I do go to the well, Toddler Gay can relax, run and play. And Grown Up Gay can move into her day with dignity, power and grace.

 

There are more helpful  insights from my bumpy journey in my new book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.  

 

Fun with Friends!

A couple of Sundays ago I had a ton of fun speaking to the friendly folks the Unitariangay at lectern 4-14-2 Universalist meetinghouse near me in Lincroft, New Jersey. The title of the talk was “Your Food, Your Spirit: Clearing Worldly Obstacles to Soul Growth,” based on my new book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.

I’m so grateful to my friend Jo Grazide  (who took all these photos) for introducing me with such kindness and generosity.  And to all the folks who showed up, listened eagerly, laughed at all the right places and asked really good questions at the end.gay edelman talk at uucmc 4-14-8

What was really satisfying was seeing how well my experience recovering from food addiction translates into larger things like slowing down, listening to one another and our higher power, and generally being a kind, more caring person.

Because when it gets right down to it, whether I’m using food, drugs, alcohol, TV, gambling, etc., to avoid being present in my life, I’m not having my life. I’m not present to myself or the people I love and serve. As the sub title of The Hungry Ghost says, our goal is not just weight loss or cessation of hurtful distractions, but complete freedom! Now there’s a universal purpose for you!

gay edelman talk at uucmc 4-14-6

gay edelman talk at uucmc 4-14-7

Take the Forgiveness Challenge

sunriseForgiveness is foundational. Resentments fester, breed and cause no end of trouble inside me, in relationships, communities, the world. When we ruminate on wrongs done us (real, or perceived through the lense of past hurts), we are not fully present in our lives. When we are not fully present in our lives, we do not have our lives. We are not fully operational.

Not having my life makes me the walking dead.

And that is no way to live.

Forgiveness is an incredible act of courage, says  Reverend Mpho Tuto, author with her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of the new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. 

Three words, “I am sorry.” Very difficult, she says eloquently in this Huffington Post video interview.  

Absolutely necessary. Vital. Primal. Liberating.

Healing. That’s what it’s about.

I remember the following thoughts, particularly when I’m feeling balky, pissed and vengeful. I’m going feel these things. I’m human. But I can choose a better way.

  • Forgiving isn’t forgetting. It’s remembering and letting go. I become strong at the broken places when I forgive.
  • Serious self-care is required as part of self-forgiveness. I cannot draw water from an empty well. Quiet time. Healthy food. Gentle activity. Creativity and self-expression. Nature. Massage. Loving connection with others and my higher power. Play.
  • Using a mantra or inner chant prevents my wild mind from poking at old wounds. Try: I forgive myself for hurting myself. I forgive others for hurting me. I forgive myself for hurting others.
  • Staying away from blaming others keeps me safe from future resentments.
  • Lowering expectations also prevents resentments. An expectation is a planned resentment.
  • Slowing down keeps me less stressed. When I’m less stressed, I’m kinder, more centered, more forgiving.
  • I only have to do this for this day. This moment.

And to really live what I believe, I’m joining the Tutus in their Global Forgiveness Challenge. I have no idea what I’ll be asked to do, but I have confidence that the gentleman who guided South Africa to start its healing can help the rest of us. Sign up at http://forgivenesschallenge.com/  See you there!

 

 

 

 

Some Thoughts on Desire

Is desire bad? Some religious and spiritual teachings seem to say it’s how individuals and communities get themselves into trouble.

But even some religious leaders have said we need desire. Desire is part of who we are as humans. It is part of our motivation to do the good that we do, as well as the bad.

As a deeply, wildly, intensely passionate person, I think about this a lot. And the way I see it, things boil down this way:

Extreme, mindless desire can derail a life, a family, a community, a nation, a hemisphere, a world. Extreme, mindless, unmitigated desire creates a Bernie Madoff, a mortgage crisis, a Holocaust.

These are the low desires. The venal, me-first-everybody-out-of-my-way-I’m-coming-through desires. You see it not just in global issues but in the rude, careless, dismissive ways people treat one another on the road, in stores, at work, even at home.

Low desire can manifest, too, in self-destructive urges like addiction. The addict who cares more about her next binge or score or hit than anyone or anything, she’s succumbing to low desire.  Cravings, those gut-punching, mind-bending thoughts that you have to have it (whatever it is) right now or you’ll die are extreme, physical manifestations of this low desire.

But there is also high desire. It is characterized by the passion to help others, live with integrity, do the right thing, share privilege, use no more resources than you need, and work for the greater good. It is also, not only in my experience and observation, but in the science of developmental psychology, characterized by the born-in passion to connect with a source of power and guidance bigger, grander and more mysterious that a solo individual.

We all have both kinds of desires in us. We all have seeds of war and seeds of peace. Which will we water?

When we feel into and channel our higher desires, starting with the yearning to listen to and heed the inner guidance, lovely things happen. Following my higher yearning helped me to be a good enough mom, though I had a lot of early mis-training to overcoming. It has helped me write words of healing and hope over the years, including my recent book The Hungry Ghost, about how I healed from binge-eating and how others can too.

And it helps me now, as I ask the Universe to show me, just for today, what can I do to increase the peace? How can I help myself and then others transform irritation, pain and trauma for the greater good?

These, I hope you’ll agree, are desires to be fed and shared. When we pool our desires good things happen. Babies are born and nurtured. Crops are sowed, reaped and brought to market. Broken families reunite. Illness and injury heal. Friends discuss misunderstandings and clear the air. Enemies make eye contact, shake hands and lay down their arms.

High desires, well nurtured and mindfully directed, enable us to walk through this day, doing as little harm as humanly possible and, maybe, doing a little good.