Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Monday, September 28, 2015

One Hundred Years of Love

I believe our souls hold contracts with each other’s souls. Some of these contracts prove to be unbreakable. 
My most sacred contract was with my maternal grandmother. Our love for one another was unmistakable and we simply would have done anything to create a better life for each other.
Our contract probably began before we each arrived here. But to my conscious knowledge, I always felt the commitment to be fierce. When I was 5 years old, I saw her collapse in front of me from anaphylaxis when we were alone in her home and I was not willing to watch her die. When I was 6, she felt the same when I spent a week unconscious in a hospital room, and with my mother on another continent, she  watched over me night and day; she was my guardian, my heartbeat, she was utterly unwilling to leave my side. 
Our connection went on like this throughout her life including the traumatic details surrounding her death and all that followed.
My grandmother would have been 100 years young today, had she not passed from a severe trauma 12 years ago, this same week: October 1, 2003. 
She was the woman in my life who taught me about the power of love and through her I learned that love never dies. 
She was opinionated and judgmental. She was curious about life and the questions it raised- from the DOW to deep spiritual questions which enabled us to sit in conversation and contemplation about her own death and how it would impact her heart and my own, and my urgent request for her to find ways to contact me from the other side. 
With 60 years between us, there was simply no distance that separated us. She spoke to me of her loneliness and alienation, experiences which we all share, but feelings I knew I could not take away. 
I learned this lesson as a child: it was in that quiet look she had, her vulnerable eyes which spoke powerful narratives and taught me about the stories of her life.
I was the one who told her that her beloved had passed and I was the one who held her when he was removed from their home. I held her in her grief for the duration of her life, which grew to bewilder and confuse her. And she would continue to teach me about that quiet gaze.
This is why I sit now.
When my grandmother died, it was a traumatic event. What was asked of me caused further trauma which initially took at least a year for me to recover from. The sight, the smell, the entire forensic scope. But it took me far longer, more than a decade, to recover from the loss which was thrust upon me with the same ferocity as the accident.
It took time. Time given. Time lost. Time broken. Time forgiven. Time to rebuild. It  took the time it took. It took time.
The reality is nothing in life is ever ours. And nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. The only thing you can count on is who you know yourself to be. And surely that is going to shift and change with varying circumstances, especially traumatic ones. But I believe our core values tend to THRIVE and flourish even in the worst of circumstances.
What I know and have always known is that I came from my grandmother. I came from her and I honor and love all of her nuanced holiness and complexity just as she would want me to honor and love my own. 
I honor our ability to understand what was unspoken between us but was always deeply conveyed.
I honor all that she taught me about the beauty and power of love.
This is the power women possess and pass onto one another.

She taught me the ways love can break you. 
And how it can force you to rise from the depths.
Again and Again.

She taught me about the helplessness of love.
And also the anchor of it.

She taught me the sustainability of love.

She taught me about a love that is so quiet, you have to develop a new way of listening.

She taught me how to navigate my own edges of pain.
And grace.
She led me to learn how to wait for myself
no matter what.

She fought with me.
She fought with me.
She fought.
She fought
So I would know 
I could and 
Would always come out on the other side
And strong
And capable
Of knowing 
I would always be there to hold myself up 
and With love.

In honor of my grandmother and in honor of our collective call to act, in honor of the places in my grandmother and the places in me that push and push for things to be better and for others to rise to their strongest and their best, here is my personal call: 
I’m not buying that anyone and I mean ANYONE, a lover, a friend, a family member, or even a foe, can get in the way of this kind of love, or this kind of power. Not ever. 
In honor of my most sacred of all relationships, the turn of a century and on this Yarzeit, I honor you, I honor me, I honor all women and I say in honor of my grandmother, I’m not buying anything that does not line up with love, strength, empowerment, truth, integrity, dignity, accountability, kindness, engagement, and generosity of pure heart. 

To my grandmother, I thank you for always inspiring my heart to open. And I thank you for teaching me how to love more and from more. 

That is a power women possess and one we must honor and celebrate fully.

Today, I honor 100 years of love.

Jill Bacharach

Please join our call to action on October 1, 2015 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Japa Mala

It is said that when a mala breaks that you have burnt off some of your karma by your practice. It is looked upon as something to be celebrated.

I understood this and practiced this quite diligently every time my malas broke and I released them with love and surrender and sometimes sorrow, when they broke. However, this time, when my mala broke, I wanted to repair it.

I purchased it in celebration of rejoining with my teacher and repairing (over the course of time) with another with whom I had treated unfairly, a profound breach I had caused and which I had always wished to repair. The entire experience was one of gratitude and honoring. Honoring of movement forward and honoring of my body’s movement back, which was the deepest honoring.

I held this mala reverently.

And as I stood a few mornings later, making my coffee, it completely broke apart. I just wasn’t ready to release it. So I asked for a “repair” which felt like the most honoring way to stay on track with my decision to honor myself fully.

I was told it would take some time. And I was okay with that.

Of all the days on the calendar for it to arrive, it arrived today. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Indeed, it took time. But what a blessing.

I don’t know how long it will stay with me, but what I know now is that this journey has already been an informative and sacred one.

I don’t know where it’s been without me, or before me… but somehow, it holds a truth for me around how much of me has journeyed on.

A few weeks ago, I had a moment when I felt the reflection of myself in every person I saw. And I mean every single person. It was sheer and utter humility. And through that lens my heart felt deeply rich.  

In Japanese culture, items are placed in both hands when presented to another person as an offering. This used to make me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know how “to be with” this experience. I felt I was being made to feel inherently superior. But I now see it as an expression of humility. I realize now that it didn’t make me feel superior, it made me feel vulnerable. And subsequently, even more humble.

With today be a very sacred time of the year, I wish to offer my gratitude for the return of this beautiful mala. 

As 5776 begins, as I have said before, may we all be guided by deep listening and alignment to the source that replenishes the well of love, truth, hope, kindness, forgiveness, sustenance, generosity, and faith. And may we always seek that which we wish to repair. And may we also learn to release what needs to be released when it is time. 

In reverence and gratitude, may we keep growing in love.


Jill Bacharach

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Quiet: A Revolution

I’ve always needed a lot of quiet in my life. One of my favorite things as a child was finding my own quiet in a world that always seemed so loud to me. I searched the sky. I climbed trees. I made a special place in my room and I always saw a place when I closed my eyes, beyond the horizon that brought me home to myself.

I’ve spent the last several months requiring more quiet than I ever had in my life and from where I sit now, I see that I found myself my deep sense of “happy” and began replenishing my essential well-being. That is what quiet does.

For a long time, I was negotiating this need for my own quiet in my relationships. The reason for this is because we all need and require different levels of intimacy. The “key” is in listening to each other’s needs and in respecting our differing needs. When you love someone, it’s critical to not take it personally if that person requires less intimacy than you do.

The problem becomes this: If you push up against this principle (and I believe pushing up against it is foundationally one’s own unhealed wound), then what ends up happening is you draw people towards you over and over who simply push for more intimacy from you than YOU desire because you have not reconciled a wound and integrated it as a part of who you are (because it has not been healed). You have not owned it as a part of your own humanity. I know because this was my experience.

I let go of a relationship that I fought hard for. By hard I mean fought with every ounce of love and tenderness and hope and resilience I could find. The only thing left to do was to surrender.

To surrender to all that I was losing. To all that I had to relinquish, even though everything in me wanted to and needed to continue to FIGHT TO SUSTAIN the relationship. To surrender to a BIG TRUTH: that I come from a family that I am not a part of and even BIGGER than that, in spite of their limitations, that I never stopped loving them and most likely never will.

Here comes the most GROUND “SHAKING” TRUTH, which humbles me to my very core. As a child, I never would have believed it, but in this crystal clear moment, I have been shaken and rocked by a truth I cannot ignore (whether it is ever told to me or not). HERE IT IS: Even though people walk away from you, it does not mean they do not feel love in their hearts for you, which is not meaningful to them. Sometimes, the relationships are too confrontational or too painful for some souls to sustain.

Those who know and love me may kick and scream with self-righteous indignation. But I know I love my family. I know I demand fierce honesty that is frightening for many. I know my heart is soft. I know I need a lot of quiet and this is a boundary which is inviolate. I know forgiveness in my core. I know how to sit in pain, physical and emotional, and I know how to keep going. I know what it means to rise and fill my heart with love.

Quiet has been my revelation my whole life. Lately, since my inner renovations, I have required more of it than ever. But it has been revolutionary. Sacred. Godly.

And it has allowed my joy to rise up in me in the deepest and most sustained way.

Quiet. Sustained. Ground shaking. Joy rising. Love.

Blessings on the eve of this memorial to all. May we all hold in our hearts the love we choose to abide in and remember.


Jill Bacharach

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What Would Your Greeting Card Say?

I was shopping for a greeting card recently, and the "aim" was to buy the "most neutral card that exists." I must have spent more time on this endeavor than I have spent choosing my surgeons for complex surgical procedures. 

It was an unbelievable challenge. This could be the result of the greeting card business and it's very own aim, but other than purchasing "blank cards," there really are no "neutral" cards for holidays and special occasions.

I love the new Empathy cards which have come out. I think they are brilliant. Perhaps I need to discuss my dilemma with Emily McDowell, the innovator. Maybe she can make a card that says "Well this just sucks that I couldn't find a card that says absolutely nothing overly gushy on it, so have a (fill in the appropriate occasion) anyway!" But I digress.

I am usually pretty successful at my endeavors, but on this one, I was not.

And it activated many thoughts for me:

Am I missing the whole point here? Okay, yes, the greeting card business can, indeed, be far too gushy. But maybe the lesson here is that we could use a little more kindness. Right? In this case, where gushy was not "deemed appropriate," I was in a pickle. But maybe the greater lesson is that we could all benefit from sending one another love!


As I thought about it, that was what felt right to me even if it was out of bounds of what was "needed" for the card. Because, in truth, that is what my daily aim is anyway. Even if I don't always succeed at remaining steady or equanimous about it.

For instance, some of the family members in Charleston, SC who have now tragically lost their loved ones in the massacre were able to root themselves in a love which I flounder in and out of. One was able to say, "God loves you and so do I." To me, this is pure grace. Personally, I have had to do a lot of grief work and experience a lot of loss and anger and work my way up the mountain towards forgiveness which I catch glimpses of and then sustain for portions of peaceful time, only to have to work my way back to it again. I just don't NATURALLY embody that kind of spiritual freedom.

Another said, "We are the family that love built and we have no room for hate." This feels more accessible to me. I know this one in my bones.

So, perhaps moving from a place which is accessible and authentic, rather than forcing neutrality, would most likely be one of the answers here.

However, some situations are not clear cut. We may not always be "invited" into certain homes. Even with a greeting card. The card itself may get boomeranged.

Those homes may not have been built by love. So navigating your inner world of true expression with "the rest" (the outer world, the reality of various situations) can be the pickle.

Navigating worlds which are not yours becomes a spiritual practice and brings me back to my original aim which is to just hold others in love. Without necessarily sending "neutral" or gushy cards at all.

Intention is truly the skin we live inside of. And I want to keep making my insides as beautiful and as compassionate as possible.

How about a card that says, "You are always welcome to visit a room in my house. And my house is a house that love built."

"The House That Built Me."


Jill Bacharach

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sister Teacher

Years ago, it was an image on television or in a magazine or newspaper which made time stand still. We all have these. Images so powerful that they live inside of us as real memories.

Today, these images are on constant download through social media that it is harder to have an impact which is lasting. Some of this may be due to our diminishing attention span. It seems more and more rare to just choose to sit and "be with" what is before us before rushing off to the next thing. Multi-tasking is the new place of reverence. 

However, I still revere the place of stillness. It is my teacher.

I awakened this morning to an image of two sisters. Two sisters whom I know and have had the great privilege of seeing together. The images speak so loudly of their love in the depths of its quiet. 

I am in awe.

In awe like Michelangelo awe. 

Of course I don't know any of the complexities of the relationship. I only know what I can see. I know they are very different people who have shared interests and navigate what could be for others, challenging dynamics, with incredible grace. 


Each time I feel a little lost in my own ability to keep what I love alive inside of me, I am presented with an image of them, like an answer to a prayer. 

It is almost always quiet. Non-presentational. Intimate.

I don't think there is anyone on earth who knows you the way you know your sister. If she lets you. If the relationship is close, or even if it is strained, but there is a fierce tie of love (or commitment to loving each other), I think that the ways in which you have walked side by side with each other, and borne witness to each other's lives sort of "certifies you" as a "person of valor." Which is why, for so many of us, when we hurt our sisters, or when they hurt us, we want only to repair what has been hurt.

I have always had great difficulty believing that something was not possible. But I have learned that one person cannot do the work of two. Two people have to show up for a relationship. Period. That sometimes, being released, is part of one's karmic journey even if it doesn't feel natural to a heart which only wants to pour love into the hearts which it loves.

But when I see these two sisters, something inside of me heals a little. Their love has become a beacon for me. 

I think the love we bear witness to in the world, in all its variations, is there, not to exclude us, but to let us know, in the quietest of ways, that it is a part of us as well. 
A few years ago, as my hips were healing, I was with them during a weekend. I vividly recall a moment which moved me deeply. I knew I had wanted to grab my camera and capture the sweetness of what I was witnessing, but I knew it was far more important to allow what was swelling up inside of me, to come into its fullness. And just sit with that.

One of my mantras is "You are held in love."  

This was the moment I was held. It wasn't mine, but I didn't have to intrude upon it either in order to know of its existence or power. Or to know it could be shared as I was already feeling it.

It was the most subtle gesture from one sister to the other. But it disarmed me. 

Perhaps because it was so simple. So easy. Perhaps it even slayed my own dragons. The quiet stillness of two sisters standing together as one. No walls between them. Just tenderness and gratitude for each other.

I think we get so good in life at erecting walls which we decide others are not allowed to penetrate. When the truth is, we may actually be shaking behind them or worse, we may have even forgotten why the wall is there in the first place.  

When I see these two, beside each other, to me it looks like how two people lift each other up and grow the best in each other from a place of mutual respect.

I sit in hushed awe of them.

Not only because I recognize that my eyes do not intrude, but perhaps because they bring me closer and closer to a part of myself which is becoming whole.

In gratitude for all of the ways you teach exactly what I wish to know, I sit.


Jill Bacharach


Saturday, February 28, 2015

No More Whys

One of the most important questions I no longer ask is "why?" I just don't feel that is of great use to my life or to my heart and I believe it will send you about on a circle of unending searching for a question which has no answer. If you believe in god, or a higher power of some sort, I don't think that god or the HP is a justice-based system and when we ask "Why did this happen? She's been a good person! She didn't deserve this." We are applying a system of justice to a world that works in ways we cannot apply that system to. Our world and our lives are mysterious and they demand faith from us. I don't believe we can speak to god or our HP the way we wish to demand an answer from our mechanic.  

So... I have a lot of questions. I am puzzled myself as to what the meaning is behind the fact that I have placed myself in this moment in my life in a job where I am bearing witness to so much suffering and where I am the recipient of so many stories of suffering.

I am watching adult children caring for their adult parents. I recognize the look of pain and despair on their faces which tells me they are facing the inevitable and the stress of the overwhelm they feel around their care. I am watching elderly come in and out of moments of clarity due to dementia and Alzheimers and I myself, feel the pain of where they have departed to when they have gone because I am responsible for these souls for part of their journey now. I too, have experienced the delight of when they arrive "home" within themselves. I have found a few ways to see those moments and it's like a triumphant breakthrough leading only to the next moment of inevitable heartbreak.

I see stress and strain and anxiety in the faces of those who come to visit their loved ones, wondering if they are making the right decisions. Sandwiched between generations. Arriving each day with such exhaustion and devotion because they feel they are the only ones who will take this journey on.

One thing I am continually learning each day and as I look back on my life, is that we cannot know if our decisions are the right ones. But we can know if we are showing up in love.

The people who are teaching me the most are the ones who have this kind of devotion. They seem to have the heart of Hanuman. The man who comes every day and stays all day beside his wife. He cleans between her toes with his bare hands.

The son who comes to see his father every day, sit with him, knowing his circumstances are grim, but he shows up day after day after day after day with a smile and a desire to help even as his father is totally unresponsive.

The wife who comes every day - although her husband is angry with the world, and stays rooted and steady... every day.

Another wife whose husband is in a coma, who has put her faith in god's plan. She lost her son 2 years ago, she fell apart and she is piecing herself back together even as she is slowly losing her husband.

The aide who tells the patient everything she is going to do as she changes her and moves her in her bed, listening to her as she cries in pain, and speaks to her so compassionately and patiently, the way a mother would speak to a crying young child. It has made me cry many many times, the sheer beauty of this kindness.

The woman from housekeeping who chants every morning before she comes to work and from one look at her, you can see that she is rock steady, field, clear and pure, untainted by any of the circumstances around her.

These people are not drained by their circumstances or by their work. Their anchor is not anxiety or fear. It is love. They are my teachers.

However, I am restless. Some of these people need more help than they are getting and it is just not in my integrity to sit idly by.

There was one patient who was terribly sick who completely disarmed me and I suppose I have not been able to look back since.

Both of his arms were entirely black and blue from being poked at with needles. his leg muscles were atrophied and he could barely breathe from repeated bouts of pneumonia.

He said that he could tell me exactly how many ceiling tiles there were in his room.

That said everything to me.

Then he told me:

"The person who runs this facility needs to spend six months in this bed to know what this feels like."

I could not disagree.

"You place my tray just one inch too far away and I cannot get a drink of water. If I drop my call bell or can't reach it, I cannot get to the bathroom. And my only other option is to start yelling."

This man is absolutely correct.

Then he told me that he had had the worst night of his life the night before. That CHUNKS of blood were coming through the tube in his catheter.

At that point, I basically excused myself and ran to the nurses station. Later that day, I overheard his daughter being told that her father probably had a UTI. When I heard that I was irate inside for her father. Chunks of blood? Let's just say this: he was in the hospital by the next day.

This man changed how I go about my life.

I can sum it up best by saying this:

"When you really care, you just don't care."

Here's what I mean: the first part is obvious. What I mean by the second part is this: you just don't care what others will say or how they will respond. When asked why I am going out on a limb etc, it isn't important to share why.

Knowing that my intentions are clear and pure and integritous, and actions, of course, ethical, is what matters.

Maybe this has answered and clarified why my most beloved says I am now "deployed." Maybe.
But one of the things I know for sure is that none of this is about me. I care because I care about these people and their well-being.

Life is so messy. Our losses run so deep. But I do believe that what is essentially us is never ever lost.

In the book Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser said the following:

"I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith- faith at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light."

I am uncertain about the meaning of my deployment. I do know that it is not about me and that I am choosing to be of service. Choosing my teachers every day. Offering kindness which goes very far. But finding ways to practice seeing kindness and love within very painful experiences has become one of my my greatest practices of all.

God bless.

Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


My teacher spoke about how she responds to positive reinforcement like a golden retriever. It was a great moment of self-reflection and comic relief. I watched myself this weekend as I was receiving an experience which bubbled up inside of me in a way which began to overflow. It was hard to contain the joy. 

“Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates melancholy from happiness.” Virginia Woolf

When you grow accustomed to being without something for a long enough time, the experience of having that very thing, can topple a place inside of you which has been waiting in the wings to be dialogued with but perhaps never closed up. 

I thought I would fall to pieces upon seeing my teacher because I had missed her so much. But instead, I simply felt deeply happy. I felt my body, which had been so fatigued and so unready to work, dig into its roots and rise from its depths just to stand in its own center. And as that happened, my heart was exposed to news which saddened me deeply: the death of a friend, a recent diagnosis of another, haunting grief. The list was long, but my roots were deep and I did not grow dizzy. I was not distracted by anything. As fatigued as I felt, I was rooted. 

I have spent much of my life being very familiar with grief. I watched myself this weekend, however, moving continually toward what felt like love rather than what felt like loss even though I have been comfortable and accustomed to living without.

Coming from a history of deprivation, this really is groundbreaking and radical. But… maybe… just…


this is because the ones who truly love us really do instill in us the experience which we so naturally know is our birthright.


I realized that, I too, am like a golden retriever. But I would describe myself in this way. I am the type of Golden who is a Classic Jewish Grandmother. Those who know me well, know this to be very true about me.

Let me explain:

I am pushy without offending. 
I am just so happy to see you that I am busting inside (in other words, “kvelling”).
So much so that I will tell you I have traveled “Just to take a look at you and now that I have, I can go. No need to discuss. No need to ask you questions, but I hope you have eaten and that you will eat again before too long.”
I will look at you in a way that helps me remember because I understand the brevity of life and the joy of the moment. 
And lastly, I will of course, give you a zest of a squeeze as every good grandmother does. 


After the weekend came to a close, that same night as Viola Davis won the SAG award she said, “Thank you to all of the people who love me exactly how God made me.”


Thank you. 

With reverence and love in my heart, all I can say is “Thank you.”

Jill Bacharach