Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Thursday, June 21, 2012


When I was turning twenty-seven, I had to get on a plane, travel all day long and make a very deliberate journey to say goodbye to my father by myself.  He had asked for me to come alone.  He had asked my sister to come with her husband first, and then he wanted me to come after.  I spent four days with him (after his 5 1/2 year long battle with cancer), saying goodbye.  
He no longer looked human at that point.  He was completely jaundiced and he was so frail that I had to be very careful with how I touched him, for fear of breaking his bones.  But he was still there, inside the vessel he was inhabiting.  He was alive.  And we spent a lot of time speaking about death.  
He was very frightened by it.  He wasn’t peaceful.  But for some reason, I was.  Looking back, I can see the gift in that.  I see that I was able to usher him forth with kindness and dignity and with courage by being a source of steady love for him.  
My father was a very erudite man.  He was both an academic and an elitist.  
He asked me what was going to happen to him after he died.  He asked me this question with a great deal of trepidation.
I remember telling him that I believed we were beings made up of energy and that energy never dies.  And therefore, it just transforms and becomes something else.  And then I told him that the take-away was that since we are energy and energy never dies, we always get to be with each other.  
I remember my father smiling.  
It was the last time I ever saw him smile.  
What is important now is that I need to remember this.  
We always get to be with each other.  We are always with each other.  
We are never alone.
I often feel deeply, profoundly alone.  And I am sure this is a big part of my self NOT believing what I told my father all those years ago, but rather, giving into the belief that people leave and our spirits die with them when they go.  I know, intellectually, this is not the truth, but when heartbroken or grief-stricken, it can certainly feel this way.  And then when either or both of these things become cumulative, even moreso.
When I was six years-old, I saw a Christmas special on television about an orphaned girl named Roseanne.  And when she began to sing her song with the lyrics “I’m all alone in the world,” I began to cry and I was literally inconsolable.
There was something that became activated in me that was already unhealed at that young age and my mother could not pacify or assure me in any way out of the pain I felt.  It had already become a tsunami.
I worried deeply for little Roseanne.  Who would help her?  Who would take care of her?  How would she ever be okay?  I didn’t have the language then, but the song was a very painful mirror for me.
I recently had lunch with my favorite friends from the years I spent when I lived in California.  They told me about a mutual friend who was having surgery the following day.  It was a very serious condition requiring eight hours of surgery and no guaranteed outcome.  I immediately launched into worry.  I asked the questions I asked at age six.  
“Who does he have to support him?” I asked.
My friend said, “He has us.”
“But you two live in California!” I shouted.
Then the tears came.  I realized what I had just said.  I pulled my friend close to me and hugged her.  
“I’m so sorry.  I- You’re right.  I just don’t come from that perspective.  You’re right.  He DOES HAVE YOU.  It’s so important to acknowledge that.”
My friend paused.  “Both things are true, Jill.”  
Big Sigh.
I think what is important for me to recognize is that I come from a place of scarcity.  I have experienced so many losses in my life and I often don’t think I have enough support in my life in practical terms.
But in spiritual terms, I have EVERYTHING I need.  I know that.  In spiritual terms, the universe has quite possibly, even removed people from my life, as painful as that has been, in service of my healing.  
If I could get on board with the idea that the universe is actually conspiring to help me, then maybe, I would find myself actually healed rather than in need of healing. 
Three months ago, I ran into a colleague who said she had been following my progress, post surgeries, and reading my posts, occasionally my blogs, and she wondered if I actually believed the things I wrote.  I am always in the process of writing what I am in the process of coming to realize.  Sometimes it is humbling.  Sometimes, it aches in a place I am awakening to for the very first time.  Sometimes, it is a sweet remembrance.  Sometimes, it is a healing.
Today, it is a reminder.  I was strong and young and I helped my father when he needed it the most because I was steady and somehow, the universe held me there... then.  Now it is reminding me.  I don’t think it matters how long it took me to remember.  I think what matters is that I do.  
My father escaped Germany when he was nine.  His father was sent to Dachau.  In Hebrew, the word “ZAKHAR” (זכר) means “REMEMBER.”  I state it in this context because it is held as a word largely in reference to the six million lost during the Holocaust.  I state it again, because it is time for me to REMEMBER.
None of us are alone.
Let us each remember.
It is our birthright.

Jill Bacharach

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Knowing My Triggers

When I was twenty-three years- old and attending graduate school, as I have mentioned before, I had a professor who said, “No one’s pain is any more important than another’s.”
At that ripe and tender age, having survived my share of trauma and pain, I was shocked, awed, slightly indignant, but mostly awakened.  I remember immediately thinking, “What if she is right?”  Everything changed the moment I tried that thinking on.
Twenty-one years have passed and that statement lives inside of me on a daily basis.  Admittedly, I find myself faltering and failing in my judgments of others from time to time.  What comes to mind immediately is pulling myself out of a very critical crisis in January and attending a workshop.  I was sincerely astonished that I had managed to get myself there and I recall that there was a woman complaining, from a place of sheer agony, that her family simply wanted to spend “too much time with her.”  I sat, trying to find compassion for her pain, trying so hard, as I wanted to shake her and tell her to set some boundaries and recognize what she actually had and what some of us will never have again.
But it isn’t my place nor my desire to preach and everyone arrives where they arrive when it is time for them to arrive in the very place they arrive.
And I have my own healing to do.
I have often been told that maybe what I can offer is to help others who are dealing with loss and grief.
But I am learning many things and I recognize that I still have much healing to do.
One thing I recognize which is a great strength is that I do not get triggered by needing to “fix” people.  That has been a really beautiful thing for me to honor and recognize.
But what I have learned which has been an uncomfortable place to sit in, is that I am not YET in a fully empowered place within myself, in order to sit with people in their grief.
I feel too much.
Perhaps this is why when I did my coaching course, I was named a “Paralyzed Sensitive.”  
Last week I was called to assist a Yoga Training.  It was a challenging experience on many levels.  Mostly on my body which I realize is still healing (and all of the bending and breaking down of the room, lifting and carrying of props, was more than I realized it would be on my body which is still healing).  This was no small realization.  
But the bigger thing I realized was this:  There was a couple present who had lost a child.  Two weeks earlier, I had seen the Jon Robin Baitz play of similar “content,” which absolutely SLAYED me!  
I am still working to heal my own heart, daily.
Do I understand loss?  Yes.  
Can I sit with someone who is grieving?  Yes.
Do I try to fix them?  No.
When I sat in the theater, I was compelled.  I was riveted.  And then I jumped straight into being in sheer AGONY for the grief which was erupting before me.  Why?  Probably because MINE IS NOT HEALED.
While I was assisting the Yoga Training, I held a steady seat.  I knew there was nothing to be done for the mother who was grieving except to hold as much space and permission for whatever was needed.
And truth be told, I really felt pain.  Not because it is my default mode any longer.  That is a choice I am healing successfully and no longer unconsciously or consciously choosing.  But because the mirror of unhealed grief is such an astoundingly real mirror to me and I recognize that I am triggered by looking into this mirror.
I was asked recently about my healing process.  I entered a place of my history which triggered a great deal of pain for me (being in Synagogue and hearing Jewish prayers being sung), but this time there was community around me.  My friend asked me, “But wasn’t it healing for you?”
I recognized a few things.
For me, it is beyond challenging for me to grieve in public.  And we cannot control such circumstances unless we stay at home all of the time.  God bless Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Coretta Scott King... the list is endless (!!!).
The other thing I recognize is that healing is painful even if it is, in fact, healing!
And so... it is time to heal these triggers.  Pour more compassion into these places which remain open and not yet “repaired.”  Because I believe in the process of healing.  I know it is possible.  
My body needs more time.  I must respect it.  Listen.  Follow its lead.
And as for the pain in my heart.  Yes, I must listen and honor it.  But I wish to keep OPENING TO MORE.  Because what I know more than anything is that my essence is not the pain.  It is buoyant and irrepressible JOY.
Sensitive.  Yes.
Paralyzed.  No.
Irrepressibly joyful.
I just need to get the other stuff out of the way in order to find my way back to what has always been there all along.  


I believe in healing.

I know.

I know I am.

I am.

I am healing.

Humble blessings.

Jill Bacharach

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What's Running the Show?

When I was 23 years old, I began to have memories of abuse.  Born and raised in NY, at that moment in time, I was living in San Francisco.  My father was dealing with a terminal battle with cancer and I came back to NY to be with him.  The fracture of what I was facing around the abuse and with whom it involved was a deep strain.  

I recall asking my mother if I could borrow her hundreds of slide reels and go through them to see if they would evoke answers for me about my spirit so that I could bring that spirit back to me.  I noticed there was not a single photograph of my step-father.  He was not my abuser.  But having lived in the house with me from the age of 4 until a week before my 9th birthday, he certainly hand borne witness to my spirit.  

As I took slides I thought would help me the most to be printed into photographs, I walked about 3 miles to the store.  On my way, I saw my friend, Susan.  Since my move to San Francisco, I had been writing to for years.  She was battling breast cancer.  And in my mind, she was the "dream" mother (she was my friend, but I truly believed her to be an exquisite and loving, nurturing mother).  It meant everything to me to see her.  That story is one which took me years to heal because I was told that she carried one particular letter I had written her with her every day and that her family buried her with it.  I wrote my own eulogy to her in the form of an exquisite poem and I sent it to her family (a husband and three daughters).  I called many times.  And when I finally received a person on the phone, the response was, "please stop calling us."  

The karmas I have had to hold have been large ones. 

The love I feel for Susan and she for me is a strong thread.  The compassion for the family, enormous. The hope for understanding their needs, challenging.  But what I have learned through my own losses, it is not for me to judge what others need.  My love for her and the beauty I saw in her was perhaps TOO MUCH BEAUTY and too much seeing while they were in a state of grief and to speak to me may have caused a collapse in them during a time when they simply could not bear the pain they were already in.  I don't know.  But I lost a beloved and treasured friend.  And to learn that she not only carried one of my letters every day but that her family buried her with it, left a wound that I did not know how to close.  

And seeing her looking beautiful and healthy as I was just on my way to the photo store... attempting to journey into a place of healing, not only was the last time we saw each other, but a great gift to me to see her looking so beautiful and for us to offer that love to each other, even more so.  We shared a powerful karma.  The one I shared with her family?  Not simple.

So I drop the slides off... I place my order... 

And then flash forward... I go and pick up my photos... 

As I step out... (Remember: I am now, 22 years old.)  I see a man walking towards me.  I say to him, "Excuse me, are you Andy Levine?"  He looked at me puzzled.  I answered immediately.  "I'm Jill Bacharach."  His face changed immediately into overwhelming love and he said, "Oh my god!"  He opened his arms and he held me."  This was my step father.  He had not seen me since I was eight years old, a week before turning nine.  

We spoke for an hour.  

My instinct has always been that I have very fast karma.  When I am in search of something big, it is presented rather quickly (sometimes alarmingly so) if I am awake to it.

I asked him if he still drank his scotch (which was a big problem in my home- at least for me)... I asked him if he was still married to the wife he married after my mother.  I asked him a lot of things.  But the main thing I asked him was this: "when you knew me, was I happy or was there a heightened awareness in me that showed you I was sad."  Without hesitation, he said "you were a very sad child."  

I sighed.  I thanked him.  I hugged him.  We exchanged numbers.  I felt a healing.

Within an hour I was at my mother's home.  I shared nothing about Susan.  I told her I saw Andy.  She was immediately defensive.  I shared only this last part.  Her response to me was "well I don't see that AT ALL."  My response was, "I don't think you wanted to."


Yesterday, I walked past the site of the most heightened trauma of my life.

I felt a pain arise in me that nearly knocked me to the ground.  I needed to be somewhere and as I walked through the tough streets of NYC, tears poured down my face.  

Healing happens... it does.  Does it take time?  Of course.  Does trauma get stored in our bodies?  Of course.  Can we heal entirely by ourselves?  I have tried that for years... and my answer to that is it is so damn hard and it is not the best way to do it... because working sooooooo hard at something which needs tenderness and love is oppositional and begins to fry the nervous system.

Surrender is a practice.  But efforting at it so much is not real surrender.

Surrender happens in moments.  Just like when you feel peace.  Do we feel peace all of the time? Maybe the Dalai Lama does.  But I am not an enlightened being.  So as for me, NO.  I don't.  

I guess my point is, I didn't expect to be hit with the site of the trauma.  Am I okay?  Yes.  Do I feel remnants of pain?  Yes.  Am I awake to what else is in there?  Yes.

But here's the thing.  Is any of it running the show?


Why?  Because I have practices and skill-sets to work with and lean into.

And for these things, I can come back to my self, but more importantly, get BEYOND myself.

May we each find whatever "sweet-spot" brings us to a place of ease.
Of strength.  Of comfort.  Kindness.  And openness to love each other well.

Keep practicing.  That's what I will be doing.


Jill Bacharach

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Looking Forward and Back

When I read Joan Didionʼs The Year of Magical Thinking, there were many lines which stood out for me. Lines which I still chew on and even live inside my cells. The one I wish to address right now is this: “The way I got sideswiped was by going back.”
I found that to be very true for me. True because I was attached to wanting specific answers which there was no way I was ever going to get. The reason for this had a lot to do with my approach and a lot to do with whom I approached. I was going back to old relationships with people who had shut the door, people who had caused serious damage to my heart. And even though I had asked to open up each conversation with full accountability of my own parts, I kept going back to people who simply were not willing to go to difficult places with me.
I have a strong need to heal. I am fiercely committed to that process. But as one of my teachers pointed out to me, “Jill, you cannot heal while you are being raped.”
What I am coming to realize is that I gave my power away to every relationship in which the other person left with no explanation. The “no explanation” part not only hurt me, chipped away at my soul, triggered first chakra wounding, but I gave all of my power away to it in believing in some sort of justice system. Meaning, that I believed I was owed an explanation. And that I believed an explanation would help me to move on. This is where I was continually getting sideswiped and where I was hemorrhaging into my past.
I gave my power over to the pain of being left over and over. Because I didnʼt know any other way. That wound was an open one and it stayed open and I stayed wounded.
The question “WHY DID YOU LEAVE?” Simply kept me in pain and kept me powerless.
And every time the long list of people I asked to have that difficult conversation with me slammed the phone down or slammed the door, as brave as an act of approaching it was, the slam caused more damage to me and gave me another opportunity to choose to remain powerless.
I have asked myself- can I handle a shift in power? And what that means to me is to truly SURRENDER.
Flash forward. I approached Jessica Boylston-Fagonde who has created a method called Brand Thyself ( which is an exploratory process of getting to the heart of yoga teacher's offerings.  Jessica and I have known each other for several years and as the years had passed and we had each been growing and evolving, I wanted to know more about her work.
As we began our work together, Jessica asked me many questions. And she DID ask me to go into my past. But one of the things she did was she asked me to call upon my old students and ask them to share with me what distinguished me from other teachers which caused them to keep coming back to my classes.
The responses I have been receiving have opened me deeply. They are reflections of aspects of myself which I offered with my full self in a way that was fully seen.
And what I recognize here is that in this exercise (one of at least 10, the rest of which I have to do on my own), given the fact that I have been out of commission due to my recent back to back surgeries, is although I have had to “go back,” I was in no way sideswiped. Everything about this exercise opened me up. Humbled me, opened me, lifted me up and brought me back to the essence of who I know myself to be.
Part of that is because the question was directed about my very essence, but part of the credit goes to Jess because of knowing which questions to ask.
The entire session was just like this.
If there was pain, she didnʼt ask for the “story” of the pain, but she was clear about not denying it. She would ask for pointed words or essential phrases to understand the landscape of the area of pain. This gave her an entry point to offer that once that pain was healed, once I am able to get to an empowered side of that experience, that I will be able to use that experience in countless ways to be of service to help others.
When she asked me what I am most passionate about as a teacher to speak about?
I welled up with tears and without hesitation, said, “Transformation. When I see it happening in front of me. When I see it happening slowly over time. Or when I learn of a story of deeply inspiring transformation and I cannot stop myself from sharing it.”
Without a momentʼs hesitation, she responded by saying, “Look at your own stories of transformation. Write them down. You must.”
This was how she handled every question with me. Because her viewpoint is so clear. “When you wake up, I wake up.”
There is so much to say here. I barely even know how to say it. But I have known Jessica for a long time. And we spent our most concentrated time together (during a two week training), we were both facing a crisis. She turned hers into something deeply powerful, just as I name here. I have been trying to heal mine by continually using my mind to understand it. And I recall Caroline Myss saying once, “You canʼt rely on the mind itself for you to do the healing that you need when the mind itself needs healing.” Ironic, eh?
Iʼve written about this often. Step by step, for me it requires surrender. Complete and utter surrender.
This looking back which Jessica asked of me was a way into myself which is helping me look forward. Which helps me use all parts of myself, helps me truly integrate the whole person, whether she is fully healed or not. But whole. Integrated. Here right now. Grateful.
Conscious. Listening. Ready to write a new biography. 
With love.

Jill Bacharach