Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Who Am I?

When I had my second and third hip surgeries, even when I was unable to walk, I still had complete use and facility of my hands.  
When I began my yoga practice, I found that I was more interested and adept with my hands than with my feet.  More at home with them.  I remember a teacher once telling a group I was spending the weekend with (during a break), “Don’t mind Jill, she’s just more comfortable on her hands than on her feet.”  When she said that, I realized that I was decompressing upside down, finding my breath, going waaaay inside so that I could find my way to be present with my present company.  
When I was a child and I was under great stress, I would run out of the house and I climb trees.  I used more of my hands than my feet in that endeavor.  At the schoolyard, I would hang upside down on the monkey bars, just to find my breath and tune out the world.  
So when I started yoga and saw the opportunity to learn how to go upside down, I took to it immediately.  At first, it was all wrong.  Everything was effortful, until it wasn’t any longer.  And soon I was just hanging upside down again.  Just breathing.
Right now, I find myself in a very potent, alarming and humbling moment.  My hands are  ready and waiting.  But my arm is in distress due to a significant neck injury.  
I am so grateful for all that I have been able to do with my body.  I am grateful for all of the places my body has taken me and for all of the freedom it has afforded me when it has.  
I may need to have another surgery in order to feel more freedom.  But there are simply no guarantees.  
The problem is what I have become attached to.
I have been told for years how strong I am.  And yet, during this last year all that I have felt, is simply and utterly, worn to the bone.
I am accustomed to soothing myself by standing on my hands.  To hold the possibility that this may no longer be a prudent choice, is big.  Courageous.  
I know it is just a pose (ultimately ruling out more poses).  But it has also become part of my identity and in this moment, although it will transform into something else, letting it go, in the way it used to LIVE so naturally inside of me, actually feels like being asked to cut off my arm.
Ram Dass said “suffering is the resistance to what is.”  
And so surrender is what is called for here.  
Who am I if I am not my body?
Who am I if I am not in this pain?
Who am I when everything I know falls away?
What remains?
Sometimes the most courageous answer you can give is “I don’t know.”
And so here it is:
I don’t know.
I don’t know who I am becoming.
Let the journey begin anew.
I bless what has been given here.  I bless what lies ahead.  I step into each step with the truth of the deepest listening I possess.  
And I celebrate the beauty of the Olympic spirit.  May this indomitable spirit become part of each of us.
The deepest evolution is finding blessing in all of it.  May we each continue evolving.
Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sticking Your Neck Out

Everything changes.  It’s one of the fewest certainties we know for sure.  
The nurse ushered me into the pre-surgical area to change and asked me if I was nervous.  After three hip surgeries, I realized I was.  Even though they had broken bone in order to do repairs on my hips, this time, we were addressing my neck.  And I was becoming more and more aware that I was becoming less and less able to find a way to feel relaxed about this part of the “home” inside of my body.
As a yoga teacher, I know how to instruct students how to soften and lengthen the back of their necks.  But I realized I no longer knew how to accomplish these same actions for myself.
I was becoming accustomed to making it a habit of protecting myself due to injury.  
I didn’t like how this could potentially bleed into my psychology.
Everything in the body takes on a posture.  The practice of yoga begins with the postures.  I have let go of most of them.  But the neck is what bridges our heads and our hearts.  It is what helps determines the stance we take at any given moment.  
Afraid.  Compassionate.  Defensive.  Kind.  Protective.  Loving.  Panicked.  Tender.  Fierce.  Steadfast.  Stoic.  Apprehensive.  Intimidating.  Gracious.  Inviting.  
I sort of feel the way my grandmother looked to me when I had to identify her body.  The way her body looked to me.  So UNLIKE her.  So stiff.  That is how I feel inside myself now.  
I lived in California for 11 years when I was in my early twenties.  We visited each other frequently.  I remember during one of the times she visited me, we spoke at length about death.  Yoga was not even on my radar then, but I was most definitely a yogin in every way.  I remember asking my grandmother if she had pain in her body every day.  She didn’t even hesitate.  She said no.  I was shocked.  I am shocked thinking back on this now because I had no obvious injuries then, but I was a body constantly, continually in pain.  It was as if I was at war with the vessel I had been given.  And when she said that, and she had at least 50 years on me, I was amazed that nearly 80 years into her existence, she could so easily claim that she had “no pain.”  
I had absolutely no idea what that was like.
She told me that her greatest wish around her death was to die peacefully in her sleep.  
That did not come to pass.
Her death was an extremely traumatic one.  It was extreme and dramatic and violent and by no means, peaceful.  
It was traumatic.  Most definitely, in the ways it lived and continues to live inside of my own body.  At first, because I had to process the trauma almost entirely on my own.  And there is no guidebook for how to move through this stuff.  
But the oddest things can also be the sweetest.
Before my grandmother died, she was about to leave for Florida two days later.  Somehow, I ended up with her suitcase.  It was in the back seat of my car for about a year before I could bring myself to open it.  When I finally did, I simply laughed and cried and cried and laughed.  It had only two articles of clothing in it, but was mostly filled with dozens and dozens of SWEET’N LOW packets, Oatmeal, a hammer and a wrench, countless pairs of socks I had bought for her, sneakers I bought for her, an egg slicer, a jar of pepper, and a few curlers for her hair.  
I kept that suitcase in my car for 5 years.
I write this now and the back of my neck is getting softer.  Why?  Because those were the things she took with her.  Dozens of SWEET’N LOW packets.  And when I opened the suitcase, it made me laugh.
Yesterday, when my friend was taking me to the hospital, she told me she was feeling anxious.  And I immediately thought of my grandmother.  I thought of what she used to say to a friend of mine when she was still alive and my friend was anxious.  It wasn’t that she was insensitive to anxiety, it was that she had lived through the Great Depression, that she had been continually managing her own depression, survived the loss of both of her parents, one of whom was mentally ill, survived the loss of her beloved husband and her beloved sister who was her dearest friend and confidante.  Survived things many of us would not even begin to comprehend.  
I remembered what she said to my friend when my friend would begin her spins of “what ifs...” What if this happens... what if that happens... and ultimately, what if so and so dies... ?
My grandmother used to fire back... “And what if the sun comes out?”
My grandmother was not a funny woman, objectively.  But to me, she was HILARIOUS.  Absolutely hilarious.  Her sheer and utter honesty which landed so sweetly in my tummy would make me roll over with heart-stopping, sweaty uproarious laughter.  
But maybe that was because I simply loved her.  Loved her simply and completely.  The “just to know you’re in the world makes my world entirely better, kind of love.”  
And now, just to know you lived, makes my world entirely better.
Just to have loved you makes my world entirely better.
Yesterday, when I left for the hospital.  After I took all of my jewelry off.  I put one piece of jewelry back on.  The diamond my grandmother had given me.  It was my great grandmother’s earring.  And then it became my grandmother’s engagement ring.  And when I was 20 years-old, she gave it to me as a gift.  About ten years later, I had it reset into a ring.  I wore it to the hospital.  
Just to have your love makes my world entirely better.
Healing happens.  Even if fear or pain holds you back.  Healing is always possible.  This neck will reveal what is next, no matter what lies ahead.  
And breath by breath, I can choose whatever stance I wish to take.
In hope, in humor and in blessing.
Jill Bacharach

Monday, July 9, 2012

Letting Go

I believe that I have been in a spiritual crisis and that life is presenting me with many many challenges to help me clear up as much of my karma as possible.  
It is hard work.  
Sometimes pain has turned into more pain along the way.  
I am trying everything I can to seek out less invasive options before choosing to have another surgery which was advised to me by two surgeons (which I actually do trust), and the other day, while getting an acupuncture treatment, even though I am experiencing far too much pain in my body, all of the needles went in without a hitch.  
All but one.  I asked what that particular point signified.
“Letting go of pain.”  my practitioner whispered.
It is not at all ironic that that is my most painful place.  My hardest place.  My deepest place of holding.  It may even my deepest place of wounding.  
Recently my beloved teacher Desiree, held me in so much safety and love and was offering me actual moments of relief.  She asked for me to let go.  When she asked me how it felt, I searched inside and replied, “Unfamiliar.”  She said that this was an answer she hadn’t heard before.  
Letting go means you must surrender.  Of course.  Letting go when you are gripping in pain is not an easy thing to do.  Letting go of emotional pain which lives inside of your body also gets stored up as a holding which no one can release FOR YOU.  It is an act of will which must come from an act of tenderness.  Not force.
It is a choice.  And sometimes that choice of letting go of that particular pain... is so painful because it is the ONLY remnant OF HOLDING we “think” we have left of love. Even if that love has harmed us.  Even if that love was our very own Armageddon.
So how do we do it?
I don’t know exactly, but I know that, for me, it has to be counter to everything I have tried before.
I know I must keep going to the “unfamiliar” places.
I must keep speaking to god.  Because going to this person and that person and this workshop and that workshop has not brought me to the place I need to release from.
Sitting with my soul and speaking from there... crying from there.  Asking from there.  Has brought me to some of my most powerful and deepest places of truth and has also been my most difficult task.  But it was also without gripping.
I am not frightened of what hurts inside of me.  But somehow, the hurt still lives inside of me.
And so... I am working on this.  Crisis either wakes you up or takes you out.  
I have much work ahead of me.  This is truly my deepest letting go and I am trying with everything I have.  From every strong place.  From every soft place.  From every place of mercy, from every place inside of me that has met the real meaning of that word.
It is going to take the time it will take.
But as my teacher Christina advises, I am determined to “keep going.”

Jill Bacharach

Thursday, July 5, 2012


She looked into my eyes and shook her head as she whispered my name.  To some, it would have felt insulting.  But for me, it brought me directly in touch with my own sense of wholeness.  It was the simplest gesture.  It is something someone does who knows you intimately.  A response given to the way you get inside of them in those moments when they are alone and they find themselves giggling over the the thing(s) they love about you.  
She just shook her head and whispered my name.  And then she said, “you have so much energy!”  
It was as if looking at me was both completely exhausting and inspiring to her.  
It was quite a stunning moment given the week I had.  I had to go for another MRI, another surgery had been suggested to me by two different surgeons, I lost a job I really wanted, and most significantly, I was experiencing deep heartbreak.  Quite honestly, psychically, I could barely get out of bed.  
For my true “buoyancy” to shine through was a stunning reflection back to me of my essential nature.  And it was a great teaching.
I don’t know if I can speak to what I have learned from the challenges I have endured.  But I do know that I have both wanted to give up and yet, I never do.  That I never settle.
That “not settling” gets me both into trouble with my relationships and yet it also keeps me going.
I know that I have had to deal with a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain and both have worn me out.  And I am awfully tired of living with both.  
I’m tired.  
I’m tired of the pain.  But I am bigger than my physical body (even though it is already on the “diminutive” side as many have described) and I am bigger and greater and even more buoyant than my emotional body, both of which have nearly taken me out.  
About a week ago I was engaged in a very painful conversation and what was reflected back to me was that I was basically coming on too strong.  I took a moment to sit.  And I realized what was happening and I named it immediately.  I WAS going at the conversation very strongly.  I was quite relentless, actually.  And I realized this was so because I didn’t feel heard.  AT ALL.  And subsequently, the “trigger” of not feeling heard caused me to INSIST upon being heard and with no reflection back, no signal, no sign at all, I simply would not give up.  As I said... this quality gets me into trouble in my relationships, and luckily, when left to my own devices, it also keeps me going... 
I think back to who I was in my late twenties and I was someone who was not buoyant.  I longed to be that.  But just around my 27th birthday, my father died after a 5 1/2 year unforgiving battle with cancer.  
I never remember my father being happy.  And I had very few memories of being happy with him because he left when I was two and the bitterness I was brainwashed with within my household about him was not at all in service to seeing him in “his light.”  My father was born in Germany and he witnessed his father being taken by the SS officers and sent off to Dachau.  He witnessed his mother being beaten and raped by these same men.  He was brutally beaten every day by the Hitler youth until he and my grandmother were able to escape Germany.  These things lived inside of him in a way which could not be spoken by him as hard and as tenderly as I tried to pull them out.
After the marriage to my mother ended, he married a German woman who was deeply troubled and continually threatening to kill herself.
I never remember my father being happy.
When I was 21 and learned of his illness I insisted that he work with me to heal the deeply-seated areas of fracture between us.  And I pushed and even forced his hand to work with me and although I was living in San Francisco at the time, every trip back east was worth the time and work.  I showed up for all of it.  And although he didn’t want to do the work at first, he became inspired by my determination and learned how to show his love to and for me in a way that he had never demonstrated before.
All of this to say that at the tender age of 27, after he left this earth, I began to think that my loyalty to him was rooted in my unhappiness because “unhappy” had always been who I had known my father to be.  And in the silence after his death, I was still trying to know him.  So that is what I became.
I stayed there for a number of years until I had an epiphany that not only was that not my true nature, not only was I destined for more, but that his legacy was not his unhappiness, part of his legacy began with the hope which had begun with the profound shift in the healing of our relationship which had (in the past) been deeply and profoundly damaged.  
Part of the pain I sat in, and kept “indulging” was that I felt continually sad and ripped off that I only had those last 5.5 years with him, the first 2.5 in which I had to fight with him just to get through to him and wake him up.  And the other part of the reason for the sadness was that I only had a handful of Wednesday evenings throughout my childhood, most of which he’d cancel at the last minute because “something had come up” (meaning my step-mother was having a terrible fit of some sort).
I think back now and only have mercy for my father.  Mercy for how angry I was that he was never there.  But as an adult, I recognize how hard his life was.  And as an adult all I feel is gratitude for how deeply we healed our relationship no matter how hard it was, and no matter how much work it took.  No.  In fact, GIVEN HOW MUCH WORK IT TOOK!
I was angry.  He was dying.  I INSISTED we get to work because the clock was ticking, which ALWAYS IS!!!  
Then I sat in unhappiness.  And then I realized, that was not loyalty.  That was who my father was.  I didn’t have to be like him to continue to love him.
And so!
I have faced much deeper hardships since.  And what I have found and what has continually and astoundingly been reflected back to me is that my lights are still ON.  In all sincerity, there are days when I feel as though I don’t know if I can take one more hit to my heart.  One more injury.  One more loss.  
But the truth is, I feel like when I describe myself as a “Pushy Jew from New York,” I realize that there are layers to this description.  One of the deepest parts of it is this: I truly know myself like Katie Morosky Gardner (and for those of you who are not film buffs, that would be Barbra Streisand in “The Way We Were”).  
Hubbell: Because you push too hard, every damn minute. There's no time to ever relax and enjoy living. Everything is too serious to be so serious.
Katie: If I push too hard it's because I want things to be better, I want us to be better, I want you to be better. Sure I make waves you have I mean you have to. And I'll keep making them till you’re everything you should be and will be. You'll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much as I do or to love you as much. 
I have always seen myself in this way.  THIS PUSHY way.  I push myself this way and I push those I love in this way.  I pushed my father LIKE BLOODY HELL.  And subsequently, once he was on board- to do the work with me, it was the deepest gift and healing I have ever experienced.
People either love me or run from me as a result.  I have seen it happen.  I had a friend who told me that she truly believes that I scare people.  But I don’t consider myself scary.  Pushy, yes.  And yet, also deeply deeply humble.  So when I am told I am coming on too strong... I sit.  I get quiet.  I sort out what is happening.  I figure out what is amiss in the dynamic that may be causing me to get fiery.  And then... I shift.
I have no interest in pushing my ways onto people.  Unless you begin to tell me who you insist that I am and I know I am not that.  I will not push my way(s) onto you.  But I certainly will not allow myself to be told who I am.  
All I can offer is my sincerity.  All I can do is show up and express who I am and if I am lucky, have the opportunity to give an offering.  If it is not wanted, then I have learned, truly learned, I must stop trying to offer the same thing in the same way to the same people.  
And what I know I must do, no matter what, is to keep my heart open.
And keep my buoyancy alive.  If it is there inside of us, it can be kept alive.  

Go find your buoyancy!
Jill Bacharach