Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Michal

I lived in Israel and I know what it means to live with an Israeli heart.
I have a friend.  And she is Israeli.
She is a survivor.  She would stand until the Towers could no longer stand.  Israelis do not leave their wounded behind.  
This community has been terribly hurt by the actions of one man who has stood at its helm.  
My friend has agreed to step in and take a role I know very little about.
I am afraid for her.
She is already being criticized by people who have never heard of her.   People who do not know her.   And these folks who have never heard of her and do not know her are defaming her character.  They are taking a sharpie and making a caricature of her beautiful portrait.
But I know her heart.
I know her parents.  I know her husband.  I know her children.  I know her dogs.  I even met her mother-in-law.  
She is my chavera.
And I would stand in front of a bus for my friend.
Because I love her.
We have a history that is thicker than blood.
And even though I don’t agree with what she has chosen right now.  Even though I don’t wish to know about the man she is helping, I honor my friend because she is one of the best people I know.  
She is one of the best people I know!
And Israelis don’t leave their wounded behind.  
So please please, I implore you all.  I ask you to watch your tongues.  Your anger is misdirected.  You are angry at the man and his actions.  His unconscionable, unspeakable actions.  
But please.  Please.  I implore you, to separate the man who has not taken ownership - 
from the woman who is stepping in- to attempt to salvage the wreckage. 
Please do not direct your anger at a person you don’t even know.  Give her a chance.  Give her a moment.  Allow her some time to find her footing.  
If you come at this with aggression, how are you going to receive what you want or need?
If you disagree with anything she does or says, please go to her directly.  I implore you to do so.  
Please stop this escalation.
It isn’t yoga.
Please get quiet.
Please go inside.
Honor the Gates of speech.
Honor each other.
Ask questions.
Own your anger and direct it to its proper place.
I stand... in front of a line of buses.  And I beg you all.
I beg you to stop this escalation.  I beg you to stop this defamation of character.  
Go inside.  Find yourselves again.  And come from there.
My friend will show up like nobody’s business.
Please.  Let’s honor each other first, not tear each other down.  After all, yoga is about finding and discovering more.  Let’s remember how.

Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Call To Arms

I have been off my mat for six months.  From that point of view, I was not experiencing my kula directly, nor was I relational with any of my teachers in real time or in the flesh.
I am hearing cries from students now as to where their teachers are going.  And it is here and now that I wish to put out a call to arms for love and compassion.  
Many of our teachers are hurting right now.  If you have looked to them as your leaders, then allow them some room to breathe and find their way.  For them, this is an unprecedented event in their history and just as you are seeking answers from them, they are also trying to land inside of themselves.  And they have landed in unchartered waters.  
Honor them.  
My teacher says that the role of teacher is a shared, collective experience.  Ask yourself what yoga you are practicing right now.  If you are seeking leadership, can you also find it within yourself to lead?  If you have a need, can you also find it within yourself to set that need aside temporarily and show up for those who have been holding you for the duration of your practice?
Can you honor your teacher in an honest way?  Can you honor your teacher’s boundaries?  And not demand answers which may not be yours to possess?
Amy Ippoliti provided all of us with answers to questions many of us may have been asking, the sharing of which was ultimately illuminating and affirming to so many.  But for the thousands upon thousands of students out there, you must recognize that Amy needed to voice what was being strangled within her so that she could be in her own integrity, so that she could ask for accountability which was imperative, and so that she could begin her process of healing and no doubt, begin to flourish.  I applaud her wholeheartedly.  
I ask that many of you recognize that your teachers need their time to figure out who they are in terms of their own individual voices.  They may not be bloggers.  They may not wish to say why or what or they simply may need time to process the enormity of what is being felt within themselves even if what they are feeling is their own greatness or their truest alignment.  These are the people you have called your teachers.  And by that very nomenclature, they have nurtured you and helped you to grow.  Hopefully, they have kept you from getting injured, maybe even helped you during a period of injury, whether it was a visible one or not.  
A greatly pronounced and unmistakable injury has occurred here and I would like to ask for a few things:
I wish to ask that people act consciously and find a way to treat each other with kindness.
I ask that we take a moment and practice metta each day for our teachers.  
I ask that we do not gossip.
I ask that we develop some perspective.  
*** *** ***
I will take a moment here to be specific.  I heard someone lamenting that her life was ruined because her teachers were all leaving the method.  The reality is, yes, teachers are surrendering their associations, but they are still teaching, and they are still showing up with deep commitment, each and every day.  
Our teachers are facing big issues which have to do with deeper life-path considerations and they are not running around saying that their lives are ruined because they have the good sense to not give that much power away.  
I ask that we not lose our heads here.
One of the primary tenants of yoga is steadiness.  Let us practice it.  And let us offer it to each other.
*** *** ***
When I began my yoga practice, I never imagined that I would have to endure three hip surgeries and let go of my practice entirely.  I have learned more things than I could possibly name here but what is relevant now is this:
Everything changes.
And grief takes the time it takes to heal.
In my experience, I have grieved alone.
What I wish for the community is many things.  I hope that each individual will tend to her or his individual heart with exquisite love and attention and I hope that s/he will lean into a colleague or a friend, or if so lucky, the collective community for support.
And as far as change goes... 
From where I sit now, I can say with confidence it grows us, it humbles us, it informs us
in ways which stretch us and afford us the opportunity to become more.  
Perhaps these sound like just words, but these words are borne from the pain of having had to grow into them.  
And although I may have chosen differently, I can say them now as prayer.
These words are my offering.
May each of us grow into our greatest selves even in the face of adversity.
May we each heal.
May we each keep growing.
Finding strength.
Offering space for each other to find our way home in our own time with love, honoring and compassion.
To each of you in transition or in fierce determination, wherever you are, as our teachers, I offer my heart to you in silent prayer.
Jill Bacharach

Monday, February 13, 2012

Waking Up To New

I had my first full yoga practice a few nights ago.  I flew all the way to the heartland for it.  When my teacher asked me if I enjoyed myself, I said, “Ahhh, hello?  Didn’t you hear me laughing continually all night?”  I thanked her for being the other one laughing in the room.  Because this Yiddish Yogi from New York stood out enough as it was.  And so my boisterous laugh was pleased to have some great company!
My beloved asked me how it felt for me to be back on my mat after 6 months.  I sat a moment and I then I answered.  
“I felt unattached.”
But that is not all that I felt.  It is true.  I was unattached in a very big way.  This once-described “yoga jock” was not at all attached to how her poses looked.  But what I also noticed was that I was WIDE AWAKE.  I was engaged and I was interested.  Compelled.  Asking questions.  The spark of inspiration which led me to this practice was alive and engaging again.
I also laughed at myself a good deal.
For instance, when we did our first Adho Mukha Svanasana, I found myself laughing at myself.  It wasn’t a question of “am I doing this right?”  It was more a feeling of “who am I?”
I thought back to when Meryl Streep was in Ireland playing the role of the eldest sister in the film “Dancing at Lughnasa.”  Meryl, esteemed for a plethora of reasons, one of them being her ability to perfect dialects, was working with a dialect coach on this film.  Her coach was correcting her over and over again.  Historically, Meryl had the ability to read a script once and not need to look at it again.  She would recall the lines from that one read and that was that.  On this particular occasion, all of her preparation for her character work went flying out the window due to her work with the dialect coach’s corrections.  She claimed that she could not only NOT remember her lines, but she didn’t know who she was (her character), nor what her intention was, what her character wanted, and the list went on (all of the necessary preparatory character work which makes what we see on screen feel authentic).  All of the things which had become innate to her as an actor (and which she is so masterful at) flew out the window due to the nuanced coaching of that particular dialect and the specific way in which that dialect coach was working with her.  She claimed it as a mini “character” identity crisis at the time. 
Unlike Meryl, I did not feel at all critiqued, or triggered in the way she was, but as I was in Adho Mukha Svanasana, I began to feel completely stripped of my own identity and found myself feeling many of the same feelings.  Who am I?  What do I want?  What is my intention?  What do I need?  What is my body doing?  What is it saying?  Whose legs are these?  It wasn’t actually existential.  It was just new.  New hips, new sensations, new legs, and yes (!!!) periodic “full on” iliotibial band muscle spasms from doing too much from all of this “newness.”  It was quite funny to me, actually.  
But the “new” was much deeper for me than the asana.  Three days of asana.  And I took really good care of myself.  I resided in a deep listening to my body for which I am exceedingly grateful.  But something else happened for me during these days.  
When I went to say goodbye and thank the guest teacher for her skillful attention towards me and for all of her help, she said, “You know Jill, you should know I didn’t give you any more attention than anyone else.”  
I have to say this was challenging for me to hear.
A great teacher will point out something which needs to be known.  And this is what she did.  I am grateful for this.  Truly grateful.  
And... and... and...
What stirs inside of me is something deeper.  
When you come from a place of deprivation and then something is given to you, the very thing you have been deprived of, the newness of it, the holding of it, the stepping into it is big.  It feels big.  Perhaps bigger than what is actually being offered.  Which would explain the incongruity between the offering and my response to the offering.  
And something bigger happened for me, inside of me in response to my teacher.  For her it may have been quite simple.  And for me, it was big.  One of the reasons I feel I can be in healthy relation to her is because her boundaries are exquisitely clean and clear.  And for this reason, I feel a deep level of trust within myself and with her.  
The kindnesses shown, the generosities offered to me were beautiful and heading in, I honestly wondered if I would be able to handle them.  What I mean by “handle” is I wondered if I would find these things (the kindness and generosity, lovely things we should all have the opportunity to experience in life in healthy ways) overwhelming to receive.  I even wondered if I would fall apart a little.  Perhaps that sounds dramatic, (I am, after all, working on my character trait of being a “Paralyzed Sensitive!”) but on the heels of two back to back surgeries, not having community around me by way of support, and knowing that I was invited to come on this sojourn (because this was going to be deeply supportive to me, the very thing I was lacking), I did wonder if this “newness” would knock me off my center.  
Everything offered to me was offered effortlessly.  Yet, offered knowingly and with incisive precision and clarity.  I am grateful to have been under the custodianship of and partnership with these exquisite and fine qualities which I respect deeply.
What I recognize is that I felt loved.  Held in love.  Even without words.  This is what I felt.  And as I sat, feeling that, the truth is, it was an embrace which was deeply powerful to me.  Healing to my nervous system.  Something that I have, in all honesty, only looked at from the point of view of being on the outside of, for so long, that being in it felt so new that I need to give myself a moment to catch up.
Breathe.  Catch up.  Give thanks.  Offer compassion to the places in me which haven’t known where to sit but want only to sit.  Which haven’t know how to heal but want only to heal.  Which have now begun to re-pattern in a new way of siting still in hope and gratitude “simply” (and folks, this wasn’t simple for me at all) because I have been held quietly in love.  
It bears repeating.
for this new.
For this waking up.
I sit.
In this quiet.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Seeking Truth

Telling your truth comes with big consequences.  Yet, as far as I can tell, it has been one of the most effective ways of clearing the path to healing the fractures of my heart.  
I was recently offered that when it comes to approaching moments of difficulty with others, that a balance of grace and wisdom is exceedingly helpful skill to cultivate.  Otherwise, we either don’t get anything accomplished in the telling of our truth, or we can leave dead bodies in our wake and subsequently, hurt another’s heart.
When I first began this blog, I recognized that the personal would become the public.  And yet, it is not my job nor would I be in service of my own spiritual path if I were to be adjusting or constricting myself according to the public persona.  What I know is that I need to stay in my own life and speak from my own experience and if I choose, share pieces of a soul that only wants to grow into what it is learning.
I am a yogin.  I am a yoga teacher and I am a yoga practitioner.  One month ago, one of my teachers told me to move away from yoga.  Just as I was embracing the idea of stepping back into what it would be like to begin practicing asana again after my last two surgeries.  The suggestion not only puzzled me, it was deeply dismantling to me and most certainly to my ego.  After all, at that point, I had already spent five months not practicing any asana because my body was instructing me every step of the way that it could only move 9 millimeters in one direction and 10 millimeters in another.  I am exaggerating.  But if you knew the full scope, I am exaggerating only about 7 millimeters.  What I am actually doing, thank god, is laughing at the truth of it.  Ahhhh, the truth of it!
So!  What was amazing to me was I had spent five months dissolving my identity with my physical acumen, and once I had the innate feeling that I was ready to investigate that identity, which I “believed” to be a core part of my beingness, someone whom I love and trusted said, “Move away from yoga for a while.  Like maybe a year.”  It was a suggestion.  It wasn’t dogma.  
We discussed it.  I began to understand the suggestion.  
The reason I am using this example is this: when someone offers you the truth of their heart, we don’t often like it.  It can upset us terribly.  It can knock us on our knees.  It can even hurt.  Now, I am all for the gates of speech.  Let me make it clear here that there was nothing said to me in this example that hurt my feelings.  But if it had, I know well enough that it would have been my job to investigate what was operating within me, what was getting triggered in me that “hurt” which was in the way of the listening?  Because the way I see it is that we can sit in hurt rather than look at the underlying issue which is the issue most needing our attention.  Clear, thoughtful and deep skillful attention.
Another piece is that when you know yourself well, you can listen with skill and with love and then discern whether or not something lines up for you or not.  For instance, I recently attended a workshop and when confronted with our character traits, the folks helping me out nailed me with great mastery by naming me a "Paralyzed Sensitive."  However, had they said something along the lines like “Jill, you are a criminal mastermind who steals ideas from people and then pawns them off as your own.”  First, there would have been no “charge” at all in hearing it because no part of that is true, and second, I wouldn’t have been the least bit upset, because I could look into the eye of the truth inside of myself and stand with clarity knowing how far that is from my own inner landscape.  
Instead, what happened by offering me a reflection of myself which was so accurate, I felt the cells in my body running around saying “HOLY CRAAAAAAAAAP,  IS THAT THE TRUTH!”  I saw and traced the pattern back a good 35 years, I felt love and compassion for myself and I felt gratitude for being told this TRUTH about myself because I WANT to look into that eye and more importantly, I want to HEAL IT!
That’s the point.  For me, anyway.  I speak the truth because I want to heal.  And because I know it will heal me.  
Well, no.  There’s more.  I also speak the truth because I was continually lied to as a child.  From every direction.  By my parents and by two sets of step-parents.  And the list goes on.  But what I knew, innately, was that I was being lied to and my mother continually tried to cover my mouth each time I objected to every single lie which I would not tolerate.  Because what was happening in that child, was that she wanted what she knew and what she saw to be the congruent.  And when the adults in your childhood continually reveal an incongruity between the two, it’s like living inside a funhouse mirror.  Not just looking at one.  
Presto!  Welcome to some 5th Chakra issues, eh?  Yes.  Which is why becoming friends with grace and wisdom in service of truth-telling is a damn great idea.  My teacher had those qualities in balance.  Deepak Chopra has them in balance, in my humble opinion.  Maya Angelou sure does.  
So when I began writing this blog, the same teacher who had suggested (only a month ago) that I move away from yoga, also suggested that I consider writing on a larger scale.  I scoffed.  The scoff was an old pattern.  But what came forth with clarity was that no matter what I write, if on a larger scale, people will object.  People will be upset.  It’s a given.  Even when it is never your intention.  It simply is a given.  
And here’s the other given as far as I’m concerned: it is my job to do my work to be as clear as I can be.  To clean up my life.  To clean up my relationships.  To do that continually.  On a daily basis.  To keep everything current.  So that love and forgiveness are a constant.  Because those are the things I seek and those are the things which require the most muscle groups, the most compassion, the most attention and skill, the most trust in myself, and the most truth telling.
Mother Theresa knew her mission.  Do your best anyway.  Forgive anyway.  Let me do her justice.  She deserves it.  This is what she said:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. 
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. 
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” 
I think this gets to the essence of what I wish to offer.  She offered it so beautifully.  I aspire, every day to remember that the journey is my soul’s journey.  And what I know to be true is that I have the power to change the trajectory of that journey at any moment I choose.
I am going to choose wisely.  And skillfully.  And compassionately.  
May you each do the same.
With love.
Jill Bacharach

Monday, February 6, 2012

It All Matters!

Some years ago, I had a friend who was adamant that she would NEVER enter into a relationship with anyone who wasn’t in therapy. 
I recall thinking that she was a bit EXTREME in her thinking.  We actually had a big fight about it.  There was no talking to her on this point.  For her, it was simply a “deal-breaker.”  I wasn’t trying to win the argument.  I, after-all, was and remain a huge advocate of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.  But at the time, I didn’t understand why she was excluding perhaps 90% of the world from dating her.  Funny to me, to think of it those terms.  Some years later, when I entered into a relationship with someone who had never been in therapy (and asked the question “have you ever been in therapy?” when we began dating), I began to understand.  Nearly 18 years later, I  understand even more.
I am someone who works very hard to walk through the hard and prickly stuff.  
This past weekend, I was engaged in a process of working on myself with a new methodology, one which I had not attempted before.  When, on the first day, the question was posed if anyone wanted to share how they felt about being there, I raised my hand immediately.  I stood up and said, “I am ripe and ready to get to work and begin the process of healing the pain which has been holding me back in my life.”  
What I realize is that what I want most, what I have always wanted, has been to be having honest conversations.  Not to find out a month later that “you” didn’t really mean what you said or that you are upset with me for what I said way back when.  Because if that is the case, then who is showing up in real time, right now?  Then who are we spending our time with?
If we aren’t speaking honestly with each other, then what is the point in relating to each other?
Let’s take a simple and direct statement I recently made to a very close friend.  I said the following: “I have already told you what I need and you aren’t listening.”  For me, this was the truth.  Not just my truth, the truth.  And if my friend doesn’t want to hear the truth from me, what does she want?  Does she want for me to lie to her?  If so, I am simply not going to do that.  
In all fairness, I think the only thing I could have done better would have been to say, “I have already told you what I need (which I had) and I feel like you aren’t hearing me.”  I could have said that.  I could have been softer.  Okay.  I see that now.  I still would have been in my truth and the truth and my friend may not have had such a hard time hearing what I said.  I can see that.  
I can see that now.  Harder for me to see in the moment because by that point, I had stated what I needed three times and if someone were to tell me I wasn’t listening, I would hear that so bloody fast and becauase I want be proud of myself, I would figure out how to change my behavior even faster.  Because it would matter to me.  Why?  Because in my core value system, I truly believe that loving is listening.
And if my friend were telling me that I wasn’t listening to her, then, not only would I want to investigate what was operating within me that was making that happen, but I would also want to catch myself.  Look at the behavior and see when I had stopped doing so, so that I could understand what drove me to not listen.  That’s how I roll.  Because it matters.
To me, it all matters.  
If it is called a conversation, then it must be a dialogue, not a monologue.  And if it is a dialogue, then I want my dialogues to be truthful ones.  900% of the time.  Otherwise, I’d rather put the TV on.  Otherwise, I’d rather go mute.  And I’m good at that.  In fact, I did that today at physical therapy.  I went mute.  I told my PT that I needed to not talk.  And I love him.  So he knew I was being honest and he knew it was the truth of what I needed so that I could stay in the game of helping myself.
I used to be hyper-vigilant about reading and picking up on the metta communication of nearly anyone and everyone when spoken to, because trust was such a big issue for me.  So I always felt like what came out of a person’s mouth had a subtext that was ten times the storyline of what was actually said.  But now I just ask when or if something smells icy or sarcastic or unkind to me.  I just ask directly.  Because I trust myself to say if I am uncomfortable or need clarification and I want to know the answer.  I don’t want to spend time doing other people’s work.  It’s not mine to do.  And it’s arrogant of me to think I should be doing it in the first place.
So moving on, maybe some things are not easy to hear.  Maybe we can say them more gracefully and forgive each other when we fumble.  
But if we have any chance at evolving ourselves, the only way we can do it, is through walking the path, one step at a time, in naked and with the right sized shoes.  In the god’s honest truth.  
Let’s walk proudly in our own shoes.
God bless.
Pade pade.