Blown Away

My gazebo is upside down in my marigold patch.

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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!” 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Feed Your Hunger! My New Book!

Hungry-PrintI’m so excited to announce the publication of my self-help book based on my recovery from food addiction, which includes a 100-pound weight loss. I’ve boiled the experience down into digestible (!) bits for everyone to use.

When I started my journey of recovery, I had no idea  it would take me on a deeply spiritual path and give me the joy of working with others who struggle with binge-eating and being hijacked again and again by sweet, fatty, salty, wheaty, over-processed foods.

Available from Amazon. bitly.com/1gg7mId See what you think, and stay connected for upcoming workshops, groups and talks.

 

Fire that God!

Who is the God of your misunderstanding? That’s the question for today. But first: Let’s not get stuck on the God word, okay? I mean the higher power you turn to, whether Howard—as in, “…Howard be thy name,” as Ann Lamott suggests, or Harvey, as my friend Marlyn assserts, or My Adoring All as another friend says. Just anyone who’s not our own little ego and will.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend I’ll call Joanne and she told me how she’d moved off the cruel and punishing God of her upbringing (that included a teacher nun who swung a big hard text book into side of Joanne’s head so hard that it broke her ear drum). She told the story of how she moved from trying to work with a God who thought she deserved that treatment, who would think her sinful and evil at 7 years old, into the powerful, loving God she knows today, the one who helps, guides and heals her in all areas of her life.

It was at a retreat, she said. The leader asked everyone to think of all the higher powers they’d had in their lives—parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, dentists, older siblings and the like. Together, they made a list.

Next, the group made a list of the negative qualities of those higher powers. I wasn’t at the retreat, so I did my own list: hypercritical; negative; controlling; intrusive; relentless; cruel; unsympathetic; wildly impatient; opaque; uncommunicative; explosive; violent.

Those were the qualities my poor little psyche learned to attribute to all higher powers, including the one who created me, who is supposed to guide my life and heal my wounds. No wonder I have been on constant conflict with this HP!

Then, the retreat leader, says Joanne, held up his hand in a stop-traffic gesture and said, “Fire that God of your misunderstanding!”

And, he suggested, create a new, loving one of your choosing. Mine has these attributes: always available; unconditionally loving; totally kind; totally strong; not one little bit cruel; totally patient; pure love; excellent, kind teacher; always respectful; wiser than I know; beautiful beyond measure.

Well, I sure can work with that.

How about you? What are the qualities you require in a higher power? (Go ahead! Make a list! Do it right here and now if you want!)

Will you dare to claim them? Let’s do it together, shall we?

7 Ways to Love Yourself Up

Hug myself? Chant “I love you, Gay” over and over, out loud? Ewwww!

That was my first reaction many years ago when I was told I needed to love myself.

Now I’m understanding that whatever I do and whoever I am starts with self-care. Not the icky, self-centered, it’s-all-about-me stuff. Rather, the kind that says, as Max Ehrmann does in Desiderata, “I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the starts, and I have a right to be here.” The kind that says I am to be maintained, if not like a princess, then like a worthy human with a lot of normal human needs.

So here’s my list of whats to love yourself, particularly in this season of high expectation and excess.

1. Eat healthy. Some of us can splurge on food and drink and reel ourselves in the next day and some of us can’t (I can’t). Know who you are and live that truth. If a bite of a means a flat-out binge, don’t pick up that first cookie. Hurts when you do that? Don’t do that. Easy to say, harder to do. But totally worthwhile, to be a little uncomfortable for a few seconds instead of miserable for hours or days.

2. Move the bod. Stretch. Walk. Go to the gym. Stop thinking of exercise as torture, which I did for many years. I may not like the movement, but I adore the de-stressing, stamina-building, health-sustaining results of getting out of my head and into the rest of me.

3. Keep order. Clutter around me creates clutter in my mind. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I just know that a certain amount of clarity in my home helps me feel calm. (Just so you know, I am really, really bad at this. I just do the best I can.)

4. Pamper the bod. Get a haircut. Use nice lotions liberally. Brush your hair because it feels good, not because you’re rushing out the door and don’t want to scare people. Get a massage. Seriously. A massage isn’t a luxury. It’s smart health care. A great investment in your sanity, productivity and joy.

5. Talk nicely to yourself. Replace the mean, what-did-you-do-now inner monologue with sweet words you’d say to a tiny tot wailing cuz she just skinned her knee. As in, “Yes, it’s sad that you burned dinner. But it’s okay. You’re not in trouble. You are loving and lovable just the same.”

6. Connect to others. Healthy people. Supportive people. Non-toxic people. Call, write, text. Ask how they are. Tell them how you are. Say what you need. Get no for an answer, ask someone else. Help others, but only as your inner guide instructs.

7. Take quiet time every day. Prayer and meditation are the foundation for how a calm mind and soothed spirit. They also empower me to be my best self.

 

Don’t Ask Why. Ask How

It’s a miracle to me that my father-in-law, Irving (Ed) Edelman, whom I never met, could paint such a lovely picture. How’d he do that?

I was angry again, at God. I don’t understand suffering. I really don’t. The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh shocked me recently by saying he’s grateful for life’s pain because it creates compassion.

I do know that a broken heart is an open heart. And an open heart is a caring heart. And a caring heart creates connection and all kinds of growth and healing, seen and unseen.

And I do understand that railing at God about suffering isn’t particularly useful, though it does seem to be common, if you take a look at spiritual memoirs, and/or, bring up the topic with friends.

I do not believe God gives us suffering to teach us. That is just too mean. I do believe suffering comes when people use their free will to move away from God’s grace. I do know that God helps us learn from whatever happens to us, whether from other people’s mistakes and evils, or the mysterious vagaries of weather, chance, happenstance, and freaky inexplicable stuff like hurricanes, car accidents and cancer.

My friend Lori says her preferred method of compassion creation is unconditional love. This I could deal with.

Do you suppose that if we increased the unconditional love in our lives and in the world, there’s be less suffering?

Well, there you go.

A new friend this week, hearing me fuss about the pain and suffering thing—which includes pissiness about how this happily ever after thing wasn’t quite working out the way I expected—made this suggestion: Don’t ask God why. Ask how.

Okay, okay. I surrender. (Again.) I give up. (Again.) As it says in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. Any time I am disturbed is because I am finding something unacceptable, and I can find no peace until I accept things as they are.

My assignment, and I’m choosing to accept it: I’m looking for the hows. How to increase the peace. How miracles are being made all around me. How I’m better off tapping into the sources of love than focusing on what’s not feeling so good or doesn’t make sense. Most of all, how to receive and express the love that exists in me and in you, always solid as a rock, light as air, bright as a candle flame, fluid and flowing like water.

Amen.