Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I have been thinking a lot about one of the beliefs which I hold which is a source of great pain in my life.  The belief is “people leave.”  It is an unfortunate and crushing truth which can break your heart, even traumatize you depending on the circumstance, your personal constitution, and the frequency of occurrence. 
I have experienced countless losses.  I do not wish to lay them out here.  What I do wish is to heal the underlying belief that I hold: “people leave.”
When I was two years old, my father left my mother.  When I was 8, my step-father left.  And it went on like that for a VERY long time.  
I’ve experienced the death of a boyfriend, the death of best friends, the death of my father, the death of MANY family members and having worked in hospice, many many deaths.  The deaths of love relationships I thought would last forever... And eight years ago, loss like I had never imagined possible.
I looked deep within myself to see where this may have begun.  This leaving.  And I realized, yes, my father left when I was two.  But that was between my parents.  They never loved each other.  They were forced into a marriage not of their choosing.  And my mother was a lesbian.  So how could my father have possibly ever have been satisfied in the marriage?  
I looked further.  My father remarried.  My step-mother was a seductress.  She had been a model in Germany.  But she was also an alcoholic and a drug-addict and would scream in fits only assuaged by pulling me in as a witness to her shooting up heroin when I was only four years of age.  And then soon after, she would threaten to kill herself.  My father would say nothing.
When my father’s visitation day would come and my mother insisted that I had to go and I protested, my mother never understood why.  But when she kicked me out the door because she wouldn’t listen and I subsequently ran away, and my father couldn’t catch me, there was CLEARLY a reason I refused to go on those visits.  There was A VERY GOOD reason.  
By the time I was twelve, I had one of the worst visits with my father and his wife ever, and when I finally pulled away from her grip and ran out of their apartment, I yelled and screamed at my father relentlessly and insisted that I would never ever agree to see her again on any visits with him any longer.  Those were my terms.  I was only twelve.  But those were my terms and I insisted on them.  We fought about it constantly, but I never caved.  Months went by when he wouldn’t agree to see me without her, but I didn’t care.  I was trying to save my soul.  It was a source of contention for years, but those were my terms.
When my father was dying, she remained cruel towards me.  But I was no longer the child.  I was 26.  And I was there to help my father transition his way into the next world.   When my father passed away.  I began reaching out to her.  She was in agony.  And I recognized the crippled person she had been all along and all I felt was compassion for her.  No resentment.  No anger.  Just sadness for the pain she had been in to have to hurt me in all the ways she had.  I kept reaching out to her.  And I became her lifeline.  Until she killed herself.  Three months after my father’s death.  
I share all of this now to acknowledge my own part.  I abandoned her when I was twelve years-old.  For many years.  Yes, there were occasions when we HAD to come together for an hour, five or six years later, here or there, but not because I agreed.  It was a funeral or some sort of emergency.  
I abandoned her when I was twelve and that set my life on a trajectory which I would never have imagined.
I can see it now.  And what I need to heal is the belief that “people leave.”  
I have looked into the depths of my most honest self, and other than that moment, I have only walked away two other times... but with skill and grace and consciousness and the help of therapists in two primary relationships (but the walking away was not abandonment or leaving).  So I honor myself around those situations.  I don’t beat myself up around them.  It was the right thing to do in both situations.   
Subsequently, I have experienced loss after loss after loss in ways which have chipped away at my spirit and it stems from the core belief that “people leave.”  
Death is one thing.  Painful and tragic and traumatic at times.  But death affords you the gift of it being REAL and final.  You get to have closure and find a way to move on.  
But when people you love leave and are still walking the earth, the question remains, how do you find closure?  
I don’t have the answer.  The only thing I know how to do is to allow what is true love in my heart to pour out.  Love them when it comes.  Bless them when it comes.  Pray for their well-being.  Miss them when that is the truth.  Always always be in the truth.  
And if that twelve year-old girl created this, forgive her.  She was only trying to save her own life.
Maybe there are no promises.
Maybe we’re just supposed to be grateful for every conversation.  Every smile.
I had a friend once who used to end each phone call with “talk to you tomorrow!” and I would hang up with my shoulders to my ears, cringing and hearing my inner dialogue shouting, “god willing!”  
I don’t want to cringe anymore.  I want to shout from the rooftops from love.  From a place of knowing.  The way I grounded my father when he was dying and I was saying goodbye to him.  From that place.
To come from that place.  
It’s raw.  But it’s truthful.
If we could only come to each other from that place.  Well, I would.  We needn’t be dying to be that honest.
My truth is that I hurt inside and I’m ready to release my dead.  
Whatever it takes.
Forgive myself.  Surrender in ways I still don’t know how.
But I’m ready to find out.
And bless the mystery.
Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


“When the world loves you but nobody knows you, you die of loneliness.”  Marilyn Monroe
I’ve been thinking about this statement a great deal as of late.  It certainly doesn’t all apply to me.  There’s no way that I would suggest that the world loves me.  (In fact, the idea makes me laugh and I hear George Costanza saying, “Where do you get the EGO!”)  Because although I am of the world, I am barely known to the world.  And that is okay with me.  It is also of my own making and my own choosing.  But I relate to the rest of Marilyn’s statement far often in more ways than I wish to admit.  But I know I must.  
If I am lonely it is of my own making.
If people don’t know me, that too, has been the result of my own choosing.  
I have worked very hard to build relationships.  One by one.  
And one by one, I have watched them many of them disappear.  Whether it was through death or through abandonment or separation of another kind.  
What I know to be true is that even after ongoing years of psychoanalysis and intensive work with someone who claimed to be a grief recovery specialist, I have not fully healed from the most tragic of losses I have experienced.  And as a result, I have not allowed the fullness of abundant support in my life.  
Recently, very recently, I have been experiencing a significant crisis and the feedback I have been hearing by people who do know me and love me (ergo, from afar) has been “you are held.”
But how can I be held if I never allow myself to be held.  If I don’t know what it means to embrace the experience of being held?
It all begins with me.  And what and how I think.  No question about it.  So even though I have been working with truly the most exquisite psychoanalyst, (and believe me, I know, because I have the where-with-all to gauge this with incisive clarity and skill), until I am ready to lay the burdens down which I have been carrying and truly change my deepest beliefs I have held, I will not heal.
What I recognize now, is that as a result of very early trauma, I never built a “system of support” around me because I never believed it could exist.  And if I didn’t believe it, it wasn’t going to come.  “Field of Dreams” right?  
Last May, I went to a briss.  And as I stood and bore witness to a new child being blessed into the world, I cried through the entire experience (on the inside) because there were two armies of families huddled together watching over him, loving him and ushering him into the world in blessing, in humility, in tenderness and in the deepest expression of support I had seen manifested as LOVE.
I am certain that this is the reason we are on the planet.  To love each other.  To connect with each other.  
I wasn’t offered this modeling from either parent.  My father left when I was two and my mother was absent (and went away for a few months) after he left as a result of falling into a very deep depression.  Yet, I know the desire to connect and feel longing like nobody’s business. 
I learned the love and connection from my grandmother.  Bless her.  Of course there were complications.  She too, suffered from depression and I worried about her and tried to save her from herself many many times.  But still, I knew connection as a child innately albeit, caregiving and worry.  Which is why I often refer to myself as a Jewish grandmother.  Right, Des?  But with my grandmother, it was contractual.  It came only from love.  It took no effort on my part.  With my mother, on the other hand, it was loaded because I ended up having to “mother” her when instinctively, that wasn’t something which came naturally from my heart.  It was a heavy burden.  To mother someone who was never “there” when all I wanted was the space and freedom to be left alone to be a kid.  Loaded.
Flash forward to now.  Age 43.  An orphaned adult.  I know my father did the best he could with his circumstances.  In terms of my mother, I send compassion to her for all of the ways she deliberately set about hurting me.  And I work to forgive her every day.  In my brain, I know it’s not between us.  I came from her.  And in my heart, I love her.  
So how do you heal that part of yourself that has been tossed aside from your tribe?
The only answers I have ever been able to come up with and without any outside help are as follows:
Keep loving.
Keep forgiving yourself.
Keep trying to open your heart.
Ask for help.
And as my teacher Christina says, “keep going.”
I honor all your hearts.

Jill Bacharach

Sunday, January 8, 2012

For Pants Sake!

My teacher Desiree asked me what else I might consider doing during this time of my recovery.  The question came at time when I was feeling particularly tender and vulnerable.  And I didn’t really want to think too hard about how to dig inside and what other parts of myself I could pull out.  
But I push.  I want to be pushed (emotionally).  I want to be pushed even when I don’t want to be pushed.  And so I know this question was a true act of love.  
One of the things I do is I push back when I feel pushed.  Initially.  I may not demonstrate the “push back,” but I will certainly feel the urge.  It’s my first response.     Some people bang their heads against the wall, before they attempt to climb over it, right?  (I’m hearing my friend say, “God Jill, sometimes I wonder how your mind works.”)
For some years I decorated yoga pants.  At first, I did a few for myself and then after continual compliments, I began to make them as gifts.  There were a few teachers I offered to make them for who weren’t too receptive and my “pushy Jew” nature had to just back off and understand that they simply wouldn’t wear them and that was just the way it was.  Nothing personal.  Just personal preference.  
Many people asked me to sell the pants but I always refused.  And on a few occasions, when a few folks requested that I make pants for them, I asked that they provided me with the pant and some t-shirts which I could cut up in order to get the process started rather than continually destroying my own personal wardrobe.
I refused to sell the pants because many of the gifts I created were created out of clothing which I purchased or owned and in all of the ways I truly know myself, I would never charge what I actually spent (and please do me a favor- DON’T ASK)!  I know I should use my words wisely (because I am committed to that on a personal level), but I am grounded in reality, and neither would anyone pay for the price that went into the garments.  Not everyone who likes them is aware of the couture lines which I cut to shreds and reconfigured just to make hip new designs.  
as I have always pushed back against the idea of selling my pants, I actually stopped making them entirely because the suggestion kept coming (and I pushed back against that but GOOD and shut down) and I was running out of great looking clothing to cut up.  
When Des asked me the “existential” question, I didn’t want to answer it and I recalled the sewing and the agonizing process I go through (because I take it very seriously) and how my pup always finds a way to lay right down on the pants I’m making whenever I am setting up a design... and I realized that my main reason for “pushing back” was that I simply don’t have the money to spend buying new clothes to cut up.  
So I put out a call for help.  And so far, the response has been favorable.  People want to help me.  I feel very humbled by this.  Because first of all, I know I need the help, second, it is not my “habit” to ask for it, and third, to see that the desire is there to help me truly moves me especially now when I am needing to tend to much healing.
Still, I must admit, I am noticing that I am “pushing back” against this help a bit and I am concerned.  I find my mind saying that I may still have to go out and buy new couture anyway because I have a very particular vision.  And in creating, in case anyone is interested in the process, I also have a vision that comes through when all of the chaos is before me.  It’s like a crazy puzzle that leaps out to find me... and truth be told, it’s hard work. 
My teacher, Christina says “the seat of the teacher is held by the group.  We take turns.”    It is here, in this moment, that I am beginning to feel this truth.  And I couldn’t possibly have come to it without stepping into the invitation, stepping into something which is inherently, not my nature.  To have an outpouring of people who may or may not send me one or two t-shirts which may or may not be of inspiration.  
It feels “safe” for me to receive this help from near and far by way of the internet.  Through letters and emails.  I can keep my heart in a safe place.  But what I know is that this is still a very big step for me.  A big step for a yogin who has been saying “go away a little closer” for 43 years.  
Held by the group.  Held by the group.
I am in a threshold right now of in between places.  And I could use a little holding.  But so far, I think all I can handle is the virtual hold even though I truly need the real kind.  
It is a fundamental belief which lives inside of me that “love is behavior.”  I live inside this belief and I execute it as my life path.  
What I wish to say here, is “thank you.”  
Thank you for holding me.  
Thank you for the love.  Thank you to my Ambassadors of love.  
And, big sigh, thank you for the “push.”
To continuing on the path of “taking turns,” Godspeed.

Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gratitude to My Teachers

My teacher, Christina, wrote a blog on New Year's eve which brought me to my knees.  Truly.  Her own spiritual teacher, Lee Lozowick once said, "we can know how our sadhana is going by observing where we turn when we are in crisis.”  This gets right to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it?  
Where do I go?
I go inside.  Deep deep inside.  I’ve been talking about this a lot as of late here and I’ve been talking about how it is not only my pattern, not only my default, but it’s a pattern I know I need to change.  
Step by step, one might suggest.  
Yes, yes, I know.
I practiced yoga for the first time a few days ago and I am certain that is why I haven’t written yet.  Because I went right IN.
I haven’t wanted to speak about it.  But I know I must.  
In order for me to break the pattern of the ways in which I go way inside, I MUST!
Practicing the asana wasn’t actually that difficult for me.  I wasn’t doing my teacher’s TOUGH AS NAILS, SOFT AS GHEE advanced intensive, so let’s put it in a context.  But I am also recovering from two back to back hip surgeries, (three all together), and after the last hip surgery, I was unable to walk for a full month, and this was my first attempt at practicing asana.  
My perspective while I was dealing with pain in my body prior to each surgery when I began to feel into my injuries, was that the poses will always be there.  My construct and deeply-rooted ideology is that although they are beautiful and terribly fun to do, they truly are simply poses and they do not define all that yoga is for me.  Alas, the title of this blog.  
I do not profess to be a masterful yogin by any means.  Anyone who knows me, knows how much I enjoyed practicing asana when I did, how fully alive and buoyant and irrepressible the spirit I embodied came to life on my mat.  All true.  I was thinking about this today.  How movement in the body for some spirits is just darn good for those spirits.  It is just the RIGHT alignment.  And yes, it has been challenging to not be able to use my body, no question about it.  But my body has been asking for something else during this period of convalescence and my main task has been to listen carefully and compassionately to its needs.
So back to practicing asana.
I had a sense about two weeks ago that I might be feeling ready to practice.  That my body might be calling for it and it might be time to begin helping myself along in my healing process by trying to move my femur bones back into the acetabulum.  So far, it’s been a challenge to straighten my legs fully and suddenly, I felt the urge to try my first adho mukha svanasana in nearly six months.  
There is much to say about all of this, but where I can begin is that in knowing where I truly stood with myself, (no wavering, no self-doubt on this point), that the poses would always be there, indeed, they were.  
There are many poses which I am not going to explore for a long time, just as I am not going to launch myself into many extreme sports or even walk into a store that is blasting their loudest and most popular stereo equipment.  None of these things would be good for my particular constitution.  
What I discovered was that not only were most of the poses still there (and yes, I need to work on some strength and stability and balance), for me, practicing went beyond the poses.  Much further.  And what I discovered was that I have tremendous healing to do inside my heart.  
My body still has a long way to go.  That process will take the time it is going to take and  I am okay with that.  The fact that I can walk is a blessing and I am learning how to do so more and more without pain, which is an even greater blessing.
Christina spoke in her blog about the concept of threshold as part of the transformational process.  I love the word “threshold.”  And I found myself continually using it as I sent my blessings for the new year upon ushering in 2012.  But what I find extremely potent is that in reading Christina’s blog, I realize why I have been silent.  I have named where I have been in my psyche by saying that my heart is hurting and has much mending to do.  But as great teachers do, my teacher helped me see it clearer.  
I am a yogin.  And I haven’t been able to use my body.  The teachings of yoga ask for us to learn non-attachment from the body.  And yet, in truth, as we grow to love the asana practice, it can become our identity.  I have been practicing this practice of non-attachment with perseverance, and with heartfelt diligence.  Where it left me, however, was slightly lost in terms of my understanding of who I have known myself to be and where I could or would step in next.  So much for being in the present moment.  But let me just say “Svaha” to that for now.
Christina spoke about the transformational process and used the butterfly metaphor.  The “threshold” time being the in-between stage (it’s no longer a caterpiller but it’s not a butterfly yet).  This is where I am.  This is why I feel sadness.  I’m not afraid of what my asana practice will look like as I have written here.  I am rooted deeply in knowing well, that the poses will always be there to be explored whether my body is equipped to explore them or not.  And after three surgeries and the landscapes I have traversed, I hold a deep truth for myself and that is that I just want to be out of pain in my body and in my heart.
Still, it’s so much more than this.  
My body has been through tremendous challenges.  I’m deeply grateful to be walking now.  I am.  Deeply.  Opening doors for myself.  All of it.  And now the work must really begin deep inside the caverns of my heart.  I have much to tend to there.  It is a heart that has a tremendous amount of catching up to do.  That my default pattern is to go IN and IN while in crisis, while going through deep change, while sitting in this threshold, I am now convinced, is what is anchoring me in grief.  
For healing to truly occur in my body and in my heart, I know I must allow the light to pour in.  My cocoon has to break open.  
Part of what I know I need to do is stop my pattern of working this “pose” alone.  It’s great I can open doors for myself now.  But it’s time to consider allowing others to cross the threshold of my own “front door.”  
I can say they are just poses, but one of the pieces I haven’t acknowledged is that I haven’t been part of a community, whether they are people who are known to me or not, whether they are people who love me or not, for nearly six months.  And just to be in a room filled with other yogins holds a power of shared intention, of bearing witness, which has not been in my landscape, but has been known, in an incorruptible way, inside my heart and spirit for a long time.  
I haven’t taught a class for six months and have not had the opportunity to share experience with colleagues.  Another part of my landscape which simply had to be left behind.
So this threshold is a potent one.  And within it, for this yogin to transform, it is time to ask for help from my teachers.  Slowly.  To be held in this place of what is rising up as it is now.  Because, as my beloved Desiree pointed out, I have to get to know the brand new configuration I’ve been given around my first and second chakras.  
It makes a lot of sense to me that I am having deep feelings.  That I have withdrawn and been apart from the world.  These are issues of survival, trust, safety (first chakra) and  pleasure and pain, emotional identity and boundaries (second chakra).
Another way to frame it is that I am burning through some karma.  I am sitting in this threshold.  Burning.  
So I will sit here for as long as I need to.  But I will ask for some help.  As I began this blog, I said that I was going to dedicate my healing to “tikkun olam”  (the healing of the world or another translation, of others).  This is my practice.  A metta practice, a practice of lovingkindness.  And as I sit in this threshold, I will continue.  Because I know what I believe in.  I know who my teachers are.  I know the love I feel in my heart.  These are powerful things to know, to anchor myself in, if nothing else.  These are the places from where I find strength, no matter how much healing my heart needs.  And these are the things that matter to me.  For me, it’s not about whether or not I can still balance or be strong or tender in a pose, but whether or not I can get to a place of balance, strength and tenderness in my heart.
It’s what I wish for everyone.
Sweet blessings.