Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture
MY HAPPY PLACE

Friday, October 17, 2014

Whispers

When I was a young girl, around four years of age, I played the role of a staunch devil’s advocate every opportunity I had. I seriously preferred to argue the case for another human being than to agree with my mother when she would call a person an idiot for cutting her off while driving. I always dreamt up a reason for it. Perhaps the driver was on his way to the hospital because his wife was about to deliver their firstborn child. Or worse, she was struck by a car and was in critical condition and traffic laws no longer applied to him. And my reasons came quick.

I’m sure she tired of hearing of them.

The thing is, we never know what another person is carrying.

A few days ago, my friend’s world fell apart through a diagnosis she was given. This is not a unique story. 

My dearest friend did not know how she could be of use to her. And then she became very clear. Love. When our world falls apart, we really just need to feel safe and to feel loved. In the simplest of ways. Short visits. Warm soups. Allowing space for fear.

*

I have a friend who played this role in my life sans the circumstances.

She could lift me up with a single sound. And tear down my walls with a single look. She is a teacher, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, student, and now grandmother.

I saw her recently and I was both immediately lifted, and immediately opened. It is a beautiful state to be in. But I immediately felt like a cub out in the woods for the first time. Vulnerable. A little bit in shock. Unaccustomed to how the world works but aware of how it does. (So I didn’t choose to sleep.)

*

I have been trying to figure out how I could be of use. What I want to contribute. The list has always been long, but the list which shuts it down, longer. That is the list I am trying to work on. To silence the voices that have been silencing me for years. 

Many of the the things I wish to contribute are wonderful things. Areas of buoyancy and verve. 

One whisper has always been to help others through their grief. In this moment as our friend  was told that she "may be rapidly losing her battle with life" (and mind you, doctors neglect the fact that their assessment and what is true may be huge realities apart from one another)- while my dear friend is unravelling noneleless, I see that this may not be such a good idea for me. I am steady and strong and I know what to do. But I am absorbing the shock and horror of my friend’s distress to a degree that I must work through because it is disturbing my sleep, I cannot move my neck well and my “good” shoulder is freezing up. This is all part of the Fifth Chakra, the center of my voice. Center of vibration. Center of purification and of truth. We vibrate with the impact of whatever is happening to us. The function of this Chakra is to achieve harmony. And to sort out what our soul longs to hear. I think that as much as I have believed that I wanted to usher others through their grief, I see that when all is said and done, the pain of the loss is just too much for me (perhaps because as much as I like to think I have, I still have not sufficiently released my own).

There is a fierce part of my nature which like Voltaire “May not agree with what you say, but -will defend to the death your right to say it.” That is the pushy New Yorker in me. But there is also a very sensitive side who WILL defend to the death and that part of me still needs a bit more care and attention.

Right now all I know is that I am meant to listen. Listen as lovingly and as carefully as I can to give my best attention. 

Maybe that is what we are meant to do every day. Maybe that is our greatest task in life. Because I really believe, and always have, that loving is listening. Fully listening. Listening to each other. Listening to the whispers. Listen to our bodies. Listening to the innermost quiet. So that we can listen to our deepest conversation. Our spirit. And ultimately find our way home. 

Whether we are embodied or not.

May we each find our way back to this most precious whisper.

My deepest prayers to all who are transitioning and all who are struggling to let them go.



9.17.14


Jill Bacharach

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Soft Is the New Strong

“My words are the garment of what I shall never be. Like the tucked sleeve of a one-armed boy.”
W.S. Merwin


This is the ongoing negotiation of my life. My aim: to try to get it right. To find the “right” words. But I don’t know if I will ever ever feel finished. I may always feel like I am a work in progress.

*

Sometimes I feel like I am just beginning even when I am so exhausted I don’t know where to begin. 

Today I felt years of trauma rise up while practicing asana. I was carefully attuning to my body and my breath. What I noticed continually was that I found it difficult to relax the back of my neck which is not at all surprising to me since I have a titanium plate inside.

My breathing would get heavier when relaxing was harder for me and I used breathing as my guide to help me.

Something happened later.

We were asked to do Urdhva dhanurasana with our hands on blocks and the instructions were very slow, careful and precise. In my earlier studies of yoga, I learned that the focal point of this particular pose resided in the pelvis. That seemed very intuitive to me.

After pressing onto the top of my head and then pushing up into the pose, I moved my forearms closer to the wall and then carefully came down the same way I came up. 

For my second attempt, I did a supported version with blocks, resting my spine on one block and my head on another and I closed my eyes. Then I repeated the first version for my third backbend.

After the third, I began to weep.

What was held in my pelvis felt like blockage in my neck and subsequently, I began to experience enormous pain.

The tears just began to pour.

Four surgeries. So much trauma held inside my body from three hip surgeries, a cervical spinal fusion, and a shoulder manipulation all under anesthesia, all in the span of three years. 

The lumbar spine and the cervical spine have the same curve.

The second chakra and the fifth were going ballistic. No. They were crying out for compassion love, tenderness and care.

The Second Chakra, located in the pelvis and associated with the color orange, has to do with one’s own place in the world, the architecture of your soul. How you see your karma. Your emotional identity. Pleasure and pain, desire. How you experience boundaries, attachments, bonding patterns, nurturance, shadows, and sexuality.

I am holding a lot of emotion in this Chakra after three surgeries and ongoing pain.

But the place I felt erupting was in my neck, the Fifth Chakra, the Throat Chakra, associated with the color blue, the Chakra of Purification and Sound.

The tears just began to fall and inside I could literally hear myself wailing for the historic trauma that still lay dormant inside my body which is screaming to come out.

Sound purifies. Speaking your truth purifies a situation, it purifies karma. But by not being able to speak or unpack your truth, we lead ourselves to a state of dis-ease.

The function of the Fifth Chakra is to achieve harmony.

*

So. Maybe the backbend was meant to help me come back to myself. I know during this new stage of re-discovering asana, that I do a lot of sitting out. That my body says “no” to many poses which are on offer because they are just no longer appropriate for this new configuration in my pelvis, in my neck and in my shoulders. And accepting this new configuration is precisely what there is to do. 

Sometimes, our bodies simply open us up to places which have been locked inside because we have been trying to survive them for so long. Sometimes, pain is just pain. But the connection between the Second, emotional identity and the Fifth, giving it voice, is just too great, that I would imagine others have this experience in various forms as well.

Just two days ago, Oprah tweeted, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” I know that to be true. But I have been trying very hard to unlearn this one. To not have this be my only choice or have it continually be my default mode. 

I think when your body signals you in such a way that your emotions cry out, it is a huge moment to take pause to see what is screaming to be heard. 

For me, it was a maelstrom of blockages backing up and saying “Enough strong.”
“It’s okay to grieve what you have lost, but it is time to stop gripping so hard. It is time.” 
“Maybe you need to trust that being strong is not the only choice you have anymore. It’s time to surrender and see what comes.” 

So, this is one of the ways pain is a gift and a teacher. And love… ever-present. Because love is the tender key which helps me find my strength and my softness. 

Love to all.


9.20.14


Jill Bacharach

Friday, August 15, 2014

"God Bless the Broken Road"

Today I was driving along a road which I drive often. Sometimes I drive it on a daily basis. I heard myself sigh. I pulled over and I put a song on to lift my spirits. Before doing so, I thought of the lyric by Rascal Flatts, 

“This much I know is true. 
That God blessed the broken road 
That led me straight to you.”

This is a road which has been riddled with anxiety for me because I have to drive it often and because it takes me right into something which haunts me. Yet, as I pass that very place of haunting, I always bless it and I am always surprised by the level of peace I feel when I offer my blessings.

I have sat for days, hours and years and prayed for compassion. For the pain in my heart to ease. For a softening to come towards loved ones who have chosen to sever ties with me. This is an arduous task and sometimes, it is a truly Olympic feat. But it is worth it.

However, it is on this road, the very road which comes with its haunts, that this coveted sense of peace washes through me. I am always on my way home (there is something to be said for that, maybe a surrender of sorts) and it is as if my heart just cracks open and love pours out to all of the places which need it. It is in these moments that I get a glimpse of what compassion really feels like. It is stunning to sit with that feeling. I swear it must be what it feels like to know God. Because nothing hurts and everything feels beautiful and buoyant. 

“This much I know is true. 
God bless the broken road 
That led me straight to you.”

I wonder what it is? No. I am not going to question it. There is something very “full circle” about this experience that I have and when it happens, I am grateful.

Today, I pulled over to play “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Idina sang it at Radio City and I pray that she will record it one day as her rendition was utter genius. My mind imagined a beautiful IN MEMORIAM tribute to Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lauren Bacall, Elaine Stritch, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, James Garner, Shirley Temple Black, Maximillan Schell, Bob Hoskins, James Rebhorn, I don’t know the full list, but there were many young ones this year. 

When I hear “I’ll Be Seeing You,” it does two things: it calls me to task on my core sense of FAITH and it also rips me to pieces. I come in contact with those broken roads which I am still trying hard to bless but in actuality are still broken pieces slowly coming together but falling apart each time I hit that same bump. Simply put, it is just a work in progress. 

Maybe this is what faith is.

Believing your beloveds will land safely when they are “off” and believing you will reunite on the other side of whatever is on the other side of this life (when they “go”). 

Blessing the broken the roads.
Hitting the bumps and trying again and again.
Making it to the other side with a new awareness.
Keeping at it. 
Driving the road which haunts you and driving home with the slightest glimpse of compassion. 

“This much I know is true. 
God bless the broken road 
That led me straight to you.”


Jill Bacharach


8.15.14

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One Prayer At a Time

Some of the greatest challenges which call us to task are letting go, not being in control and finding peace with someone (or several someones) who has (or have) perceivably done you harm.

Today I was speaking with a friend who is having difficulty with all three of these things, but most especially the latter. I asked for her to pray for them and send them metta, or well-wishes. 

I told her to get quiet and find a very safe space inside of herself, bring someone whom she feels very loved by with her into that space and then say the following mantra to these people:

May you be well.
May you be peaceful.
May you be safe.
May you be at ease.

*

Immediately, there was resistance from her.

I understood.

It is difficult work.

To come face to face with your nemesis and send lovingkindness to him or her is a great challenge.

Now imagine if the nemesis is yourself.

The part you want to shut out or not face. The part you are most afraid of. 

What would it be like to sit with her and send metta to her? To stare into that part of yourself that is deeply wounded and try to sit with her and embrace her. 

May you be well.
May you be peaceful.
May you be safe.
May you be at ease.

What would it be like to not deny her or hide her? But to sit with her and talk to her?

I think that our nemeses are simply extended parts of ourselves which we are deeply frightened by and just need to be sat with.

*

We are all shaken by the suicide of Robin Williams. Probably because he was such a beacon of light and his darkness was not very visible to us. His addiction was known to us, but he was so highly functional and he kept his depression out of sight. 

From the time I was very young, probably after the age of two, there was a woman in my life, who became my step-mother who was drug-addicted on many levels as well as clinically depressed. She abused many forms of drugs and threatened to kill herself as far back as I can remember. Probably from the time, language became known to me. I do not know how many times she tried to kill herself unsuccessfully, but eventually, she did commit suicide three months after my father’s passing. 

During those three months, I recall speaking to her continually, knowing she was in agony and knowing how tenuously she was holding on. I didn’t have a metta practice then, but I must have been practicing some form of it in order to maintain a connection to her which broke the barrier of my own pain and enabled me to hold hers with care and kindness.

After she ended her life, I knew I could not fault myself. That it was a trajectory set in motion long ago and I had tried very hard to help her cope to stay here as best as I could.

One of the first things that happens after suicide, no matter how broken the relationship is, is the experience of survivor guilt. All of the things you could have done or said even as you know none of them could have helped. But it plays on inside of you nonstop and for a very long time.

My step-mother never really wanted to live. 

My father wanted “out” when things were becoming unbearable. He spoke to me about that. He bought the book FINAL EXIT (which I think eventually was banned). He wanted his pain to stop. He felt very tortured in his body and wanted a reprieve. But he was far too proud a man and far too afraid of not reconciling where he was being delivered to, to take that kind of action. So he eventually spoke to me about the afterlife since I was pushy and eager to bring it up early on into his illness and he knew I would be safe and ready to discuss the subject. But he had to get through the first three stages of grief: denial, anger and bargaining, before we could engage such a discussion. It was when he arrived at the fourth stage and became depressed that he was able to reach for me and ask for the help needed to get to the acceptance phase (the fifth stage).

But unfortunately, that is not how it always goes. That is one of the reasons, he and I are good with each other. Why I feel so much acceptance even as he did not look human upon his death. Because we had some of the hardest conversations needed between each other and because he was able to be utterly terrified in my presence before his death.

It was the same with my step-mother. She cried out in mercy before she took her life and in that, I felt and feel only mercy for her. What happened when I was young was deeply painful but somehow washed away as she cried out in such profound prayer. What else is there, really? To bear witness to a soul’s journey in that way, no matter how flawed. 

*

I pray that their last moments were held peacefully and not in fear.

Just as I pray for that with Robin. And pray for that with every soul’s journey. 

Because isn’t that what we each want? Peace.

To experience our last breath peacefully?

*

No matter what we each believe, I think most people aim to feel peaceful inside. 

And so… I am going to continue with my metta. No matter what. I'm going to continue to sit with whatever appears before me and embrace her fully. Because essentially, I believe we change the outside only by changing the inside. 


One prayer at a time.


Jill Bacharach

8.12.14

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Do Not Go Gentle"


The only things which probably last forever are love and death.
Love never dies. Love which is pure and asks nothing. Love which is borne from love. Which lifts you up and connects you to god and to the essential part of yourself which came here for its specific sojourn. Be it, to help another person pass through, or to give birth, or to love another or to know what it like to be loved.
And death. Though it is forever, it does not negate the existence of relationship which we may have lost or may be in the process of trying to recover.
*
Savasana, corpse pose, is the final resting pose we do at the end of our yoga practice. Many people look forward to this final pose of rest after a long practice. I have always found it to be my greatest challenge.
I had a wonderful friend who, for a time, took me under her wing, and who used to hold my hand during Savasana, knowing it was so difficult for me. I think of this now as a true act of kindness and love. As a sort of spiritual family. She knew the agitation and fear which crept up inside of me and she was able to hold a space for me there while our eyes were closed and the rooms were quiet. It moves me deeply because our friendship faced a sort of "break-up" and yet, she was my spiritual family and she falls into the category of love, for me, which never dies. I still hold her in my metta every day, even as our lives have grown so far apart and I hold these memories so close as there are not a lot of people who begin to know such tender places inside of you and let you know they are there for you in your most vulnerable of places. Perhaps that is what keeps love so alive inside of us.
Getting back to Savasana. It is a very vulnerable state. You are on your back, totally exposed, heart, throat, eyes, (even your genitals are facing up), palms open, and you are asked to rest. In all my years of yoga, I have had maybe three Savasanas which have been restful.
*

I was born three and a half weeks early as a premature baby. I wanted out!
Each time I have had surgery, and if you read this blog, you know there have been many, I have come barreling out of anesthesia and come back to consciousness as fast as possible and astonished everyone in recovery with my fluidity of language and memory. I just don't want to be in that state of "otherness."
It reminds me of the Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I think that is how I am with Savasana. Fighting it at every bend. As if an entire room of yogins would be peacefully resting and I would be the last yogin standing no matter what.
And it's not just Savasana.

Savasana asks for us to be totally vulnerable and surrendered. Being on your back... Trusting.
I remember being in a workshop with another dear friend years ago and she was trying to do an adjustment on me. She kept speaking the words "Let go. Let go." Soon, I was reduced to a puddle of tears. I simply didn't know how to do that.
I had been managing so much physical and emotional pain in my life for so long, hearing those words dismantled me. I didn't know how I could possibly let go.
Savasana is an invitation to let it go at the end and lie down and die to it all. No matter what is happening inside. It is an invitation to trust that all will be restored.
But I have carried inside of me a vigilant determination that I cannot go gentle into the good night. That I must rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I don't know if this is something which will ever change about me even as I know how to usher students through a very gentle and nurturing and SAFE Savasana.
I still imagine my hand being held, which for me, was always a metaphor for my heart feeling deeply held through a process which was one I wanted to to rage against.
My friend taught me what really mattered. And that was and is love. Which will always remain.
The poses will always come and go. Learning Savasana, for me, will take the time it will take as I rage against it. But I know that I have learned to pay attention to what matters the most... and that will always be to surrender to love.
And for this instruction, I will always be grateful.

7.13.14

Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You Learn To Live Without

You learn to live without.

Ah yes.

How I have learned.

I learned at a young age. But most recently, I spent ten years absent from the ties that bound me most in this world and there was not a day that went by where I was not without struggle.

You learn to live without.

What did I learn:

I learned to be alone in my grief. 
I learned that I could quickly recognize it another.
I learned that I don’t know how to stop loving.
I learned that everything and every day reminds me of what was lost.
I learned that most people leave you.
I learned that I barely take deep breaths and when I do, everyone around me hears them.
I learned that my first tendency is not to lean on people.
I learned that I muscle through my pain when I am really near collapse.
I learned that I can be alone on every single holiday, and my birthday.
I learned that I can endure surgeries without the touchstone of my biology.
I learned that I can forgive people who have betrayed me.
I learned that I have the potential to be just like the people who have left me in an ocean of silence.
I learned what it means not to be afraid of myself.
I learned that I know profound gratitude.
I learned that the truth matters to me more than anything. Hearing it. Saying it.
I learned that I want to feel joy again.
I learned that I love myself and I lost myself.
I learned that I know who I am.

You learn to live without.

*

Being a great thespian, I had the tremendous fortune of seeing Idina perform many times and it was always an enriching and exciting and truly spectacular experience which I could barely put into words. I have shared her music with people who have never heard certain songs and they have watched me focused and flooded with tears. Her voice, for me, is simply great medicine. But it couldn’t possibly be, if it weren’t fed by something rich, and raw and authentic.

I always wanted to meet her, but with the 43 billion others who feel precisely the same way, well, “you [just] learn to live without.”

I thought about waiting at the stage door many-a-time, but it just never felt right to me to be in the wild vortex of energy. I’ve always felt protective of her, like I wanted to “cloak” her from the “grabbers” and “screamers” knowing how much she had just given of herself. It just never felt right to ask more of her. Not to me.

*

A few days ago, I stepped out of a building in New York and I was talking with a friend when I saw a woman sauntering slowly up the street in my direction. I stopped speaking mid-sentence and focused solely on the figure coming towards me, knowing instantly that it was her.

I simply opened my arms and began speaking to her.

I recognized something in her which I know lives inside of me. And of course, I wanted to spend the rest of the day with her. Well, maybe more than just the day.

When I saw “Elaine Stritch At Liberty” she spoke about the few times in her life which somehow changed her so deeply, she can source them at any moment.

This is now one of those times for me. I wasn’t certain why, at first. But I see now, that it opened something in me which I have been living without for a long time. 

Anyone who meets Idina will undoubtedly report that she is funny, and kind and generous, smart, insightful, powerful, authentic, and her talent is in a category unto itself!!! 

*

After seeing her perform at Radio City Music Hall last night, which was unstoppable brilliance, I began thinking more about If/Then and how candidly she spoke about her personal transitions. I was struck by the fact that she has a beautiful theatre family, whom she referred to as such. And I started to think that healing and resilience really happens in a force field of love. 

I learned to live without that with few exceptions for a long time. And I think that was one of the reasons meeting her went so deeply inside of my cells. Recognition, whether you go without it, or whether you are offering it, can be so deeply healing.

Yes, I adore her. And her music, and her spirit and her talent. But I am talking about an experience. And I am interested in integrating the experience so that I stop the experience of learning to live without.

In John Guare’s play, “Six Degree’s of Separation,” during one of my favorite scenes, Ouisa says the following:

“But it was an experience. I will not turn him into an anecdote. How do we fit what happened to us into life without turning it into an anecdote with no teeth and a punch line you’ll mouth over and over for years to come.- How do we keep the experience?”

*

I think I am beginning to see that the way to do this may be through the integration of learning to live without while allowing some good peeps around you through the process.

Thank you, Idina. Just thank you.


6.17.14

Jill Bacharach

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Like Them"

I sat with my beloved friend today. She is a force of tenderness who, with one look, can help me feel like I could literally take on the world and also melt into a million pieces. I feel so deeply loved by her in a way that it disorients me. She has been the most influential person in my life. And I cannot utter her name without an ocean of hope and deep abiding love welling up inside me.

Today she didn’t understand something which I need to understand more than anyone. I sit now, feeling guilty for asking her to bear witness to my pain. She’s seen enough of it. Truly. 

I sat with her and much of what I did was cry. I cried and cried and cried and cried.

I was catching her up on the very painful narrative of what I had set about to heal in my life this last year, which turned out to hurt me almost unbearably. 

Like many, I have had a history of being abandoned in my family of origin. The pattern is very real and very deep. And I have always been so very cautious to not be someone who would abandon another. 

Yet, the last few days, I made a decision which was causing me to feel like I had abandoned someone I have loved and the reaction was activating something inside of me which was terribly painful, and I would even go so far as to say, “harrowing.”

It was my worst fear.

“I am just like them.”

So the pain of that was what was playing over and over and over inside of me today while I was with my cherished friend. Oy, I am really carrying this!

As I sit now, in my home with my beloved dog, who is so deeply settled next to me after a nice walk, with ice in my glass, listening to his breath, which always lifts my heart and changes my posture, I am realizing something else.

“I am just like them.”

“I do abandon people.”

Every single time I have felt “that” pain, and I know the pain I mean, I have been abandoning myself for the sake of not wanting “to be just like them.” What a laugh! When you run from fear, it comes running after you and it is always faster!

So big deal!

I am not going to fall to pieces. 

I am just going to stop it. 

Because as I wrote here long ago, (and I knew I was onto something when I wrote it): 

The only way to heal a life is to not repeat a pattern.

So what. I am like them. But I also have awareness and agency over my choices. 

I have boundaries. And I exercise them. And I am proud of that. And I am no longer going to spend unnecessary minutes or hours or weeks or months or years explaining what I need and therefore, abandoning myself, and losing myself, to the point where there is no self left to love.

I forgive my family for abandoning me. 

I forgive myself for not being able to stick with my last relationship. 

I need to keep forgiving myself for all of the times I have abandoned myself. There have been many. 

But it stops now. And if I mess up, I start over and it stops again.

My friend calls me an orphan. I know I am not alone in that. 

Right now feels pretty great, actually. Because I am looking at myself as clearly as I can with so much love and I am no longer afraid of the very thing which I believed would completely dismantle me.

So… I guess I can take on the world now. 

Where should I start? 


6.5.14


Jill Bacharach