Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture
MY HAPPY PLACE

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holly

Today one of my most treasured and beloved friends let me in on a little secret and told me that I have joined a new rank and I must say I am truly delighted! I always felt a little outside of my favorite group: everything that is identified with and comprises of the word “WOMAN.” But yesterday I was officially initiated and inducted into the “SISTERHOOD.”

How do I know? 

Well, I looked at my Quicken and calculated how much money went to my tailor for the purpose of alterations in just the last four months. 

My tailor is from Italy and she has known me for 14 years. In that period of time, she has primarily shortened my hems and consistently made things “smaller” for me. I am not complaining.

I described to my friend, with a lot of levity, that in the last four months I had to have my clothing taken in and yesterday, taken back out. So she told me that I have now been officially initiated into the Sisterhood! And I am grateful. Truly.

Of course this comes at a great cost to me, but I never knew what the experience was like to stand in the mirror and need two more inches of room. Four months ago, I needed two inches less so that I could look presentable as I was still working towards regaining my strength and weight from my “life event.” So busting at the seams was a great sign. And being told that I had joined the ranks of everyone else who has walked this path, was an even greater one. 

*

But something else happened at the tailor.

I was asked to bear witness.

Her name was Holly.

I never found out what her mother’s name was, probably because she was spitting bullets left and right and I decided not to ask. I suppose she remained an archetype to me.

Her name was Holly and she was beautiful.

“Stand up straighter.” 
“No. Not like that.” 
“That looks stupid.”
“Don’t put your hands there.”
“Don’t smile like that.”
“Don’t stand near the telephone.” 
“Why would you do that?”
“Why don’t you ever think?”
“Suck in your gut!”

Now THAT was over the line as far as I was concerned and that was the moment when I intervened.

“She doesn’t need to suck anything in. She’s beautiful.” I said.

“Why do you have to be so short?” her mother persisted.

“Well, maybe if they didn’t design dresses for women who are 5’10, it would be a bit easier.” I said.

“Stop putting your hands there. You look stupid.”

I couldn’t take it. I really couldn’t. It was terribly troubling to me to experience this beautiful woman being verbally and psychologically abused in front of me by her mother.

I offered Holly a position to place her hands in for photographs. She felt more at ease as a result.

Her mother was ruthless about every move she made and so I decided to spend the entire time countering every comment Holly’s mother made and making Holly smile. Silently, I was sending both of them love, Holly and her misguided mother. 

I made a decision about what to do with my energy. Instead of continuing to feel angry towards Holly’s mother, I turned the anger into a prayer:

Dear misguided mother, “May you someday see the beauty of your own daughter. May you stop the madness of criticizing her and attempting to make her feel small so that you can feel superior. May you let go of the need to be right. May you see the light in her that beams so bright. May it no longer frighten you. May you stop cutting her down and clipping her wings. May you stop and allow her to be free so that you can be free of your own criticism. May you be free. May you feel Holly’s love. May you feel and express the love in your own heart. May you forgive yourself for not seeing what has been standing before you. May you know that you are forgiven.”

My tailor then nodded to me so I knew I could try on my pants for her. So while Holly was in her dressing room, I was sure to yell “Holly, I’m going to do some of my own sucking in now as well!”

After we assessed I needed the two full inches, I changed back into my clothes. I had a good laugh at myself because I could have just left the pants in my closet and saved myself this trouble. 

But there is a reason for everything. 

I never would have been initiated. And I never would have met Holly.

I wished everyone a good day. And a good holiday. 

It sure feels like it’s time to bust out the Holly. Don’t you think?


Merry Merry to all and to all a good flight.  


11.19.14

Jill Bacharach

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Whisperer

I have been thinking about the in-between stage when you are crossing a threshold. It is a potent and painful and transformative time. A time, I believe, when we need to use the whole of ourselves. When we must harness our power, get quiet. Sit in the pain and the mystery, and if we are lucky, lean into the practices we have learned to cultivate.

The image which strikes me is from the film The Horse Whisperer. The scene when Pilgrim, the traumatized horse hears Annie’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) cell phone ring and then bolts out of the water he is being trained and calmed in, and runs as fast and as far away as he can. Tom, (Robert Redford) goes after him but from a very far distance, sits and waits. And waits and waits. He waits for him all day. Until he gains the slightest semblance of the horse’s trust. He sits and waits in the deepest stillness and quiet.  Waiting and watching and showing him that he is simply there. Asking for nothing. But simply offering his devotion.  

For me, this scene is one of the most stunning and exquisite acts of love.  

I am here. I am right here. I see you. I know you hurt. And I am listening. Waiting.  Waiting until you are ready. Waiting without judgment. Waiting with love. Waiting until you are ready to trust me. For as long as it takes.

This is the only way it can work in relationship. The person who needs the least amount of intimacy, no matter the reason, sets the tone. 

I have been the horse. And I have also been the whisperer.

To be the whisperer means to show up without ego. To show up with an intention to see the other as whole and capable. To let go of the stories of the past and see the other as bigger than the stories which have been hoisted upon them. This is what it means to love.

I experienced this with a three year old boy. A child whom I loved deeply. A child who found it challenging to trust the world. As a result, he had a very difficult time attaching himself to anyone. By the time the boy was four, he would cling to my leg and cry when I was about to leave and say goodbye. Because I saw him. I saw past his story and began to heal something without asking anything of him.  

Maybe what happened was I loved him the way I always wanted to be loved and I promised (without saying so) that I would wait until he was ready to approach.  

Imagine what it would feel like to have someone wait for you in love precisely the way you wish. Imagine what it would feel like to have a person sit and hold you in love without judgment. Hold you. And surrender to your approach.  

Imagine.


That boy (now an adult) was my nephew.

None of this was of his choosing and for a brief time, I became the horse, but also had to become the whisperer again. This time, a whisperer for my own healing and for his, so that there would be no more clinging for either of us and so that he could keep bursting out of his hard shell.

It is all in the approach.


Some horses are destined to become whisperers.



11.3.14

Jill Bacharach



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