Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Day In the Life

This Christmas was like any other day in my life.  Much of the world was gathered together with their families or friends and spending time in shared company.  I was not.  I was with my own company.  I have become very accustomed to being in my own company and when I seek it as a preference, I have often found that my preference is misunderstood as rejection.  

It isn’t.  

When it becomes my preference, it is because there is something I need to overcome and I have been alone for so long that at this point, I only know how to overcome challenges in my own company so that I may enter the company of others with my full presence.

I have experienced many days which can pass sequentially, where I can go without uttering a single syllable to another human being.  At most, it could be saying “Hello” or “Thank you.” to a clerk at a store.  

I was not always this person.  But I slowly became this person as the result of losing the people I believed mattered the most to me.  As a result, it called into question how I “do” relationships.  Or if in fact, I could.  

Looking back, I see how many relationships I have lost.  Those which I have sabotaged, those which have harmed me and those which I have had the wisdom and heart and fierce loyalty to sustain.  The last category consists of very few.  

I have worked at every relationship, every friendship with the commitment of an Olympiad.  And there have been those that I have continually wanted to avoid engaging.    Avoidance or aversion have taught me a lot about myself.  The feeling of not wanting to “head in” has at once informed me of something I have healed and don’t wish to repeat.  It has shown me something about a fresh wound and how painful it is to throw hot spicy cajun sauce on itself when open and exposed.

I know enough now, at mid-life, to know that the most intelligent way to approach any relationship is to do so with no expectations and to accept the other as s/he is.  But here’s the problem: if you haven’t worked a particular issue out, the “as is” is a particular problem for you because you are still trying to work it out (ergo, that is why it still shows up in this or that person in this or that form of this or that relationship).  Oh dear lord, it’s exhausting!  

So what I am working with currently is something I was taught early on when I was first both learning and dissatisfied with yoga, and therefore, began the process of actively seeking more.  

It really is the heart of spiritual practice: to find a way to turn it all over.  To turn fear into astonishment and then into joy.  To turn anger into courage and then into love.  To turn sadness into compassion and then into peace.  

Every day.  Every day I’m not dead in the ground this is my practice.  To wash whatever suffering I am in through with love.  To turn it over and transform it into something else because it deserves to become something else.  It has been what it is long enough.  

And what I recognize now is that those we most want to hear us may never have the ears to hear us.  This “us” in this “us” form.  They may never have the courage to maintain a seat of hearing.  Because as Byron Katie says, “Defense is the first act of war.”  And it is so much easier to defend than to listen, to soften.  To surrender.  

I believe it is an act of courage to apologize.

As this year comes to a close, I wish to make things right in so many ways.  But I know that I cannot talk to a wall.  So what I realize more than anything is that the greatest call to action is to forgive myself in order to find my way home and also in order to call myself forward.  

Maybe we are truly at our best, our most powerful, our most beautiful and our most tender when we cross the threshold of pain and choose to leave it behind us.  Forgiving ourselves and those who have hurt us, harmed us, betrayed us, so that we can take a step into the fullness of a heart which beats fully in all of its love and aliveness and is no longer hemorrhaging from its past.

This is an act of courage, will, and self-love.  May we each step into this commitment one step at a time.

Pade pade.


Jill Bacharach

Friday, December 20, 2013

"I'm Still Here!"

The two biggest hurdles in life, as far as I'm concerned, are acceptance and forgiveness.  These are not just words.  Not just concepts to toss around and bless as we enter and leave a room, but they can be mammoth libraries filled with loss and grief and our deepest hurts and wounds which we aim to heal and then unfortunately, once we find our footing and our courage, we are often knocked down and hurt all over and must start again and again and again and again.

It is the inverse and quite the same principle (all at once) in Buddhism of how you get to be reborn in each moment and return to your "original goodness."

I cannot stop watching the HBO Documentary "Six By Sondheim."  Anyone who knows me well, knows my love of the theatre.  And in this documentary, Stephen Sondheim is a skillful architect of the theatre and of song.  Not only is Stephen so honest, but he is deeply passionate about the foundation of how he became who he is and he even (and with great ease and delight, mind you) distinguishes between a poet and a lyricist with deep and incisive precision.  Of course, I have watched it many times because I love revisiting exquisite moments in NY Theatre history with Glynis Johns and the incomparable Elaine Stritch (believe me, I can go on with the list...).  But what keeps bringing me back to this documentary is something else.  What brings me back is Stephen's depth of pain and his ability to be so honest about it without apology, but with pure, utterly hopeful vulnerability.  His story is heartbreaking and cleansing all at once.  And you can see him straddling between the two places.  Wow, what a teacher he is!

I am straddling.

Many of us are.

I keep thinking about many things I have heard and learned.

Bonnie Raitt "I can't make you love me if you won't."
Ram Dass "Suffering is the resistance to what is."
Acceptance is the FINAL stage of grief (according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross), therefore, not easy to come by.  Preceded by denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
Oscar Hammerstein "By your pupils, you are taught."

I have found that everyone has something to teach me.  Every heartbreak has something to teach me.  We tend to keep repeating any given "it" until it is truly learned.  Sometimes, the learning isn't so difficult.  But the sustainability of the learning is what seems to get us.

Byron Katie challenges us to go beyond acceptance but to actually LOVE what is.  I think that is a very advanced stage.  In fact, I think that takes true mastery.  First, we certainly have to have a taste so that we know what we are dealing with (an appetizer or a main course).  Be with it, so to speak, in order to get a glimpse of what we are entering into.  In Buddhist terms, that would be figuring out, by investigation, understanding how we arrived in the particular place we are in and figuring out what the component parts of it are.  But, in Buddhist practice, acceptance comes very early in the practice because the concept is that until you accept, you cannot move on.

Well, hallelujah to that!  I think that is why acceptance is so difficult for so many of us.  It really means giving up how we wished, hoped, and wanted things to be and recognizing how they actually are.  Really.  Now.  In real life.  In real time.  The disparity between those two realities can be so far apart that they can actually devastate us.

But what if we didn't allow that?  What if we just looked at the reality and said "Yes! That is what I am dealing with and now that I know, I can move on!"  What if we tried that starting with one of anyone of our 21 difficult realities?  What if?

What if we even went so far as to have a good laugh at ourselves with it?

For instance, what if I said: "I LOVE that you continually lie to me!" "And I thank you for showing me this again and again!"  Wheew.  That's one big battle off the table.  Well, isn't it?  Because giving all of your energy to a desire you want/hope will/may change but never does, or never may is a huge energy drain in your life if in fact, it is in direct opposition to a trait which is of great value to you and your own well-being.

We can substitute all kinds of things: addiction, love, power dynamics... but often the hardest of all, is loss, illness, and betrayal.

How can we LOVE "what is" then?

We just try.  It doesn't always happen and it doesn't necessarily stick.  So we just keep at it.  That is why I always say it is a practice, and forgiveness, a lifestyle.  We have to live into it every day.  Keep walking towards it tenderly with a soft and open heart, every day.  Sometimes, every moment.  Because when we fail at it miserably, we can keep trying again and again.  We just keep going back and in that moment, it is a new moment of being reborn into our original goodness.  No judgment.  Just starting again.  Trying again.  To be with what is.  Accept what is.  Eventually loving what is.  And forgiving what is.

I'm going to go through my list today and I am going to start by having a good laugh at the list.  Instead of seeing it as daunting.  I'm going to try a new approach.

I'm tired of thinking of it as hard.  And I'm tired of thinking of it as arduous "work."  It simply is what there is to do so that I can be more free.  And so that I can be happier.

Sondheim came up with some of his most brilliant works just by listening.  Listening with his full heart.  Listening to friends.  Just listening.  And that is truly the deepest practice from which love and compassion germinate.

So here's to you, Stevie... I'm so grateful "[You're} Still Here!" Thank you for serving up such full meals to us all these years and not just hors d'oeuvres!  You always said the audience preferred the main course!

Well, I'm still here.  And I'm ready to start again.

Jill Bacharach

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Liz Gilbert

Last weekend, Liz Gilbert, world renowned for having written Eat, Pray, Love wrote a wonderful question of the day on her Facebook page which read as follows: “What's the emotional difference between writing a confessional memoir and writing a work of pure fiction?  Liz said that there is a great self-consciousness to writing a memoir: You must be extremely careful about what you say not only about yourself, but also about other people.

She went on to express that with a novel, the writer is lulled into this sense of safety and expansion and utter liberty (thinking, "This has absolutely nothing to do with me, so I can go in any direction I please!") and thus might very well accidentally reveal A LOT about herself.

As a writer, or artist, I believe that you simply cannot live without standing in these questions and addressing them in a deeply COMMITTED way.  (Tipping my hat to Liz)

I have thought about these questions for years.  And I have always known that those around me have found it very difficult (challenging, at times), to stand beside me, knowing that I have a very strong need to express myself in a fiercely honest way.  

I reside on the side of memoir.  I have often been told to write a novel, but even if I were to do so, I know it would be painfully obvious which characters were whom even with the freedom a novel would afford me.

In writing my blog, I have taken three blogs down almost immediately after posting them.  I showed the blogs to the those I had written about in order to ask their permission to post and each time I was given the permission, I posted. 

The first time, nearly destroyed a friendship.  The second, nearly destroyed a relationship which had already been nearly destroyed.  The other time, along with the advice of good counsel, I felt it was wise to take the blog down and begin it again when I was truly ready to write what needed to come through.  

There was another occasion when I wrote a blog which I showed to the person I had written about and when “no” was the answer, I never posted it.  That post was entitled, “Private Lives.”  It was a very important piece of writing to me and out of deep respect, it remained, concealed.  Which inherently, is not my nature.

None of the aforementioned posts are part of my eBook.  I watched myself make that choice very deliberately even as it caused me to silence my own self.

My intent in posting my blogs is NEVER to cause harm to anyone.  My intent is always to cross a threshold and get to the other side of something I may be struggling with and hopefully find a new way to listen, learn, engage, behave, and perhaps start again.  

Sometimes my hope is to find a way to begin a dialogue.  To reach another person.  

My nature is to reveal.  To unveil truths which may be very difficult to speak, and perhaps even more difficult to hear, but without any intent to harm.  Purely for the sake of healing and growing.  

But we each do this at different paces which is probably why my blog does not have a ton of readers, and perhaps why my eBook is not selling.  

To know me is the opposite of escapism.  My dearest friend told me once that I scare people because I am so honest and subsequently, raise the bar when I engage with them.  She said that most people just want to run the other way.  That may be so, but I don’t know how to do that, nor would I want to.  

I know that I came here to clear out the muck and to heal no matter how deep an injury lay dormant inside.  I know that I came here to do that.  And part of the only way I know how to do that is to tell, write and speak the truth and to keep opening towards pain, not away, so that forgiveness is real and palpable.  And so that I can discover that what lies beneath what was once dormant, is more love, not pain.


A writer friend recently told me that he heard (on a sitcom) that we shouldn’t be writing about what we know, but that we should be writing about what we are afraid people may find out.

I agree with that.

Whether through memoir or novel.  To me, it is all the same.  To have the courage to stand in your sovereignty and claim it all as a part of who you are.  Once you can do that, the rest is easy.  Without shame or fear of becoming that which you deplore or that which has harmed you.  Because we all have it within us to be everything.  

To be warriors.  To be dragons.  

Rilke said it beautifully:  “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

And I would add, 

Our truth, our trust and our forgiveness.

Thank you, Liz.  Godspeed, everyone.  (And check out The Signature Of All Things by the incomparable Elizabeth Gilbert- already selected one of the 10 best books of 2013!)


Jill Bacharach

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Two Sisters

I sat at a table... and across from me I saw a family.  They were beautiful.  So beautiful.

Two sisters.

One had a toddler who was just about 11 months old and the other was about 7 months pregnant.  Their male counterparts were seated across from them.

I commented to them how beautiful it was to see such a loving, growing family.

And then...

Moments later, tears fell from my eyes.  Rushed and fell.  Rushed and fell.  Unstoppably so.

I sat quietly.  Very quietly, feeling years of yearning.  Years of grief and torrents of love.

It was in this quiet that I needed nothing.  Asked for nothing.  But also felt everything. Broken and whole.  Tender and loving.  Strong and loyal.  Raw and exposed.








After my final tear fell, the mother sister, holding her son in her arms, walked up to me and said, "Please don't be sad.  Everything is all right."

I said to her, "Your family has opened my heart."

She touched my cheek with the most tender look of love in her eyes, providing for me, a moment of feeling so much empathy and deep seeing.  And then I said goodbye to each of the other family members and watched them take leave.


That is what happens sometimes.  Some of us open each other.  To new and unexpected places.  They were a beautiful, intact and burgeoning family and that touched a place inside of me that longed to be in conversation "with" its counterpart.

In this moment, at this time.  I long to be in conversation with everything.  The good, the bad, the challenging.  All of it.

Dr. Douglas Brooks spoke about when his beloved teacher was about to leave his body.
Appa asked, "What do you think will happen to the conversation?"
Douglas responded by saying, "I think the conversation will go silent."
Appa then said, "Then you will have to go to the silence."

Go to the silence.


I go to the silence often.

I learned long ago, that it was the most powerful way to continue the conversation Douglas speaks about.  His is a very specific and sacred one.  Mine are as well.  Each and every time.

I feel grateful that I am able to hold it all.  The beauty and the pain.  It's kind of like keeping room for Elijah at the table.  Making space for my shadow and my light to come to life at all times so that nothing is ever hidden.  So that everything always has an opportunity to move through and run its course.  So that full actualization is the aim... Love, and kindness, the GPS.

Whether I sit or stand, I will always stand in truth.  With a sister who gazes at me with love.  With someone who is displeased with me and needs me to hear it.  For as long as it takes.  No matter what.

No matter what.

Because nothing can shake me from my values.

And I have a reliable GPS in my back pocket.

Just love.


Jill Bacharach

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Now? This Now.

We all have ways of heading for safety.  Some, healthy, some not so healthy.
But I have found throughout my life, that because people do not change (or even want to) at the same rate, those of us who are spiritual seekers are often left feeling criticized or alienated.

It’s all about the mirror.  Growth doesn’t always beget growth.  So if I grow, the mirror I hold up may be that someone else hasn’t and they may not want to see that reflection.  But instead of viewing it clearly, a reaction can come at me which is hard and critical.

This is why we need our practices.  This is why we need to find people we can trust who can genuinely hear us, see us, and be with us no matter how ugly we feel, no matter how beautiful we feel.

There are many people who have honed the skill of being nurturers.  But it is our job to make ourselves feel safe no matter how deep or rough the waters.


When I began this blog, just about a week before, Desirée Rumbaugh had asked me what I was going to do if I couldn’t practice asana.

I knew that I was heading into unknown territory.  Just days before bones being broken and reconstructed, and nearly half a year of not being able to walk, I did something which Ian Casey Douglas had asked if any woman could do.  He wanted to know if a woman could do the following sequence:  Sirsanana II, Kukkutasana, press up into Adho Mukha Vkrsasana in Padmasana and hold.  I had tried it once or twice to understand his inquiry and once I was in kukkutasana I fully understood the challenge.  

While I was with Desirée, and while I was facing the biggest life change which was about to approach, the deepest task of letting go of who I was, she spoke about “laghima,” or “lightness” and on that morning, I looked over at a woman who was so light in her skin and thought about Ian’s query.  I decided to try the sequence.

I moved from one pose to the next with complete ease and pressed up into the handstand without any trace of effort.  And then I just stayed there and reveled for a while.  Knowing.  Just knowing that would be it.  At that point, I did not know I had two more surgeries ahead of me (nor three which were recommended).  At that point, I did not know I would end up with a titanium plate in my neck.  Could I try the sequence again?  Sure.  Would it be wise?  No.  Not at all.

There are some moments in life when we are asked to give up everything we know.  And it is a tall order.  One day I was with Desirée, practicing joyously and diligently, and just a few days later, my bones were being broken and repaired so that I could begin to heal something that had been broken long ago due to a very violent accident.  

Today, I feel I am experiencing a very similar moment.  Perhaps I am not alone.

I have been looking for a job for about a year.  I am forty-five years old and I have let go of so much of my identity many times now.

What I have begun to see is that others look at me and they often see someone who is sad or unhappy.  I reject that reflection.  

What I know about myself is something truly magnificent and something which can only be learned through experience:  I know how to navigate my own emotional terrain with great skill.  I don’t need anyone to rescue me from my pain.  I only need to walk through it.  Because that is what I know how to do: carefully, skillfully, and without abandoning myself.

When my father left his body, nearly 20 years ago, I used to rub my solar plexus during the days and weeks after his passing, continually.  And in every situation I was presented with, whether it was too loud or people were being insensitive, I chose to leave the environment in order to care well for my heart, whether it was for a few minutes or for the rest of the evening.

It’s amazing to me that I have to remind myself of this.  But I must.  Because the only person who can allow us to feel safe is us.  We enter a space creating that for ourselves and we leave it nurturing it the same way (or we leave it unskillfully, at times).  

I will NEVER forget those days I was with Desiree.  Who would I be on the other side?  I knew I would be forever changed.  And still, that is the case.  To let go of everything you know yourself to be is a very tall order.  Others expect you to still be the same person.  

Ram Dass explains that surrender is letting go of the resistance to what is.  

We all have our comfortable socks.  But shedding an old skin and stepping out of it, no matter if we know where we are going or not, to me, if far more compelling and inspiring than stepping into my old socks.  

Maybe I just know how to “be with” the crappiness of not knowing.  For who am I to say I have the answers?  Did Nietzche have the answers?  Kierkergaard?  I was lucky enough to survive every single thing I have survived. From a near fatal accident at the age of six, which left me unconscious for many days, to 4 major surgeries in a period of 2 years, and 2 minor ones in the same amount of time.  From being a top athlete to losing 20 pounds of muscle... from love to loss.  Over and over and over and over.  Just like so many of us.  I do not have the answers.  

Except to say that our greatest task is to “be with” what is.  Not let others tell us who we are.  But to listen.  To listen so deeply that we know ourselves.  To rub our solar plexus and leave a room if we must no matter the consequence.  

To know how to find our feet so that we can re-enter, steady and safe even if we are no longer the same person who once entered long ago.  But ready to enter because we are ready.  Knowing who we are in this NOW moment.  Fully aware that we can give from here.


Blessings upon entering your now.


Jill Bacharach 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Learning Something New

Three years ago, at this exact time of the year, I was deep into a training with my teacher Christina Sell when I vividly recall doing a pose which she referenced back to the 80s aerobics craze.

What it evoked inside of me was the ways in which so many of us were brainwashed into thinking “no pain no gain” and how so many of us were running ourselves ragged to workout!

We were on our first side, (so unbelievably reminiscent) on the opposite forearm, our legs and hips stacked one above the other and Christina asked us to lift the top leg.  Now, the incorrect way to do this would be to lift the leg by using the leg muscles.  What she was asking us to feel was the engagement of the gluteus minimus.  One of the muscles which engages the hip area (I know, so sorry, Teach).  

I had been about six months out of my first of 3 hip surgeries and I knew I was doing the  lift correctly, because my hips were far from pleased.  

Now, 4 major surgeries later, and two minor ones.  I have been off of my mat (hence the name of my blog) for about 16 months because my body has not called for any asana and it has required so much healing (which has required very deep listening).  

At this threshold crossing, remembering this potent time of the year, and what it asks of me and of others, my dear and cherished friend asked me to practice with her.  It seemed an auspicious offering.  

With so much of my teacher’s technical expertise in my back pocket through years of study,  and so much time of deep attunement to my body’s wisdom, I knew I would be able to trust myself no matter what.

The teacher who taught the class we attended is someone who is very beloved to me and someone whom I watched become an extraordinary teacher with a very tender heart and with whom I knew both my body and heart would feel safe with due to her level of mastery and her whole-hearted kind spirit.

What I found was that I had no expectation of what would come.  And subsequently (aside from my personal reality speaking up and saying, “Wow, this is tiring!”),   everything was all there.  I didn’t push anything.  But without wanting something, and without waiting for it, if it is inside of you, it is simply inside of you.  (Please do not misunderstand.  I am in no way discounting the importance of practice.  I could surely use some practice!)

Now, I know that every muscle in my body will be sore in two days.  I do know that.  But it was a really good lesson for me when I look back to the insane ways I behaved in the 80s.  “Burn burn burn!  Can’t miss a day” mentality.  

I don’t know when I will begin practicing asana again.  And I saw how horrible my hamstrings felt in my first uttanasana to how delicious they felt several uttanasanas in.  Which was amazing!  Reminding me again of what Christina has so often spoken about. I apologize for how I may be reckless with the eloquence of her words.  But she has explained how for a flexible person, many poses just come so easily for them.  But for a person who is stiff, they are often working much harder on the same yoga poses.  No moral judgment intended, just an observable truth.


Getting back to myself, I think what happened holds very powerful meaning for me.  If I were to want or wait for or desire something, I can see that it may just take the deepest act of listening.  

My body knew what to do because it had learned it all before.


I learned something else today.  


I haven’t missed practicing asana.  My body has been informing me of what it has needed all along.  Recovering from surgeries has been very challenging.  And losing massive amounts of weight and not feeling physically strong has taken a large toll on me in more ways than I wish to share.

But I learned in a very visceral way that because I was ready, and because my body knew what to do, my body began to settle my heart in a way I have been calling for, for a very long time.  

We have all heard (and even studied in most texts) that the yoga is the doorway.  Well, after so much injury.  So many surgeries.  So much heartbreak.  So many ways of finding my way back to myself....

I actually experienced something, though taxing, and challenging, which settled my heart, during what for me, is a time of year, which brings me to my knees before god in great despair, calling for a way to piece myself back together.  

I no longer think that is the approach.  I see that when something is already inside of you, it never leaves you, even if it has been surgically removed, replaced, altered, etc.

With deep and profound gratitude, I thank all of my teachers for bringing me to this moment.


Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Nuance of "Now"

“Love isn’t just those words we said, it’s something that we do.”

I have been expecting and praying for a healing to come in a very precise and particular way.  But I have come to realize that I have been hurting myself in doing so and that it is not advisable to go about it your life like that.  Life is terribly unpredictable and we all know that we can control very little of what happens in our lives.  The only thing we have control over is how we choose to respond to what happens.  And that often takes enormous skill and courage and humility and deep digging in.

I have wished and wanted and needed to heal something so deeply painful inside of me for much of my life.  And there is just no way to wash it over with one brushstroke.  

But I realized that there is deep power in listening and watching the subtlety of behavior.

It may not be the exact behavior I have been seeking for a decade which has truly felt like forty years (and I have lived forty-five years now, so I have some idea of what forty years feels like), but healing simply doesn’t come that way.  

Healing comes in the power of surrendering to the nuances of now.  Not in feeling overpowered by the past.  

A tiny little kindness comes and something starts to heal.  It may not be an correction of the past, but it may be a correction of now.  

No longer bound to my idea of how I must find my way to healing, I am finally beginning to see that.  I feel that.  I am overwhelmed by it.  

The past has hurt me so much but what if you are blind to who is standing before you speaking the words, “I’m here.”  “I’m listening.”  

What if that is enough?  What if that is all there is?  All there will ever be?  What if that is the doing and the undoing.  What if that is the healing?

I wouldn’t want to miss it.  

I’m here.
I’m listening.
Right now.


May we all get out of the way enough to try to do the same.

Jill Bacharach

Monday, July 22, 2013


Yesterday I visited the Brooklyn Museum and had the time of my life.  On exhibit was a show of John Singer Sargent’s Watercolors.  It was magic!  I felt joy erupting inside of me in ways that had been at rest for a long time.  A fellow spectator was upset that a bulb had blown out making a particular painting just slightly more challenging to view in its full and utter brilliance.

At one point I felt like I was going to begin weeping.  I could barely contain my feelings.  The paintings were so alive in me and so familiar and I wasn’t sure why.  I was deeply uncertain of the precise reason behind their familiarity to me.  Was it because I had seen these paintings before or because I had seen these sites and/or fallen so deeply in love with both?  I was overcome.


I had lived in Florence 25 years ago.  How remarkable is that?  It was there that I had grown many aspects of my own self simply by being and living there.  Not knowing the language but being immersed in it.  Not knowing the city, but needing to find my way around it.  Not knowing anything about traveling in a foreign country, but finding Italy so magnificent.  

It was there that I fell in love with my solitude.  

It was there that I fell in love Churches.  With Cathedrals .  With art.  With things I didn’t understand.  With sites which are now tattooed in my memory.  Places I know I could probably walk directly to and find again without a map.  

So as I stood in front of a painting either I had seen before, or a city or site I had visited and found so breathtaking, a woman next to me said, “You should go to Florence.”

I had thousands of thoughts all at once from funny to tragic to angry to sardonic.  I thought about the people who really had money like the Rockerfellers and the families for whom it was a sport to ask, “Where will you be ‘summering?’”  And how her comment would translate in an Edith Wharton novel as “One must always find a way to visit Florence in one’s youth!”  

I thought “Are you paying for the trip?”  I thought “How lucky am I that I LIVED on Via di Ginori and could take myself back there anytime I want?”  I thought “Florence lives inside of me.”  I thought “I am going to be buried there (unless I have my Will changed).”  I thought “What an ignorant thing to say.”  I thought “Bless you for saying that.”  My thoughts went on and on and on and on.  

I said nothing to this woman even though I spoke to many many onlookers.  Those of you who know me, probably find the latter part of that statement extremely hard to believe!  (Especially Madge!)  Many of us were overcome by the beauty of the work.  Just absolutely overcome.  So much so, it was as if we needed to lay down underneath a parasol.  

Again, why was this work so familiar to me?  Had I been with his paintings at the Uffizi (I don’t think so)?  It seemed that the Boston Museum owns most of them.  Or had the places I loved been living so deeply inside of me that seeing them come alive brought a part of me back which, all these years was only a beautiful but distant memory?

I just don’t know.

But nevertheless, how beautifully and wonderfully evocative to uncover this memory chest.  

That time in Florence was the loneliest and happiest time of my youth.  I grew myself and was so happy even as the rain poured down on my face for the first three weeks of my time there.  I was happy.  

The souls of some of the most remarkable people were alive in the cracks between the cobblestone streets and in the silences in the gigantic Duomo you could hardly see all the way up inside of.  I walked the same streets that Michelangelo walked and I felt his worn feet beneath my own.  Hundreds and hundreds of years of history crept into my heart as I found my way through my youth there.  And I am so grateful to be reminded of how much it is still alive in me.  

Thank you, John Singer Sargent, for bringing that life back to me.


Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More is More

I was reading an article today about an actor who is leaving a show which I love and who will now be replaced by another actor in the play.  This is protocol in the world of theatre. But I had many feelings about it.  Deep ones.  I paused.

Somewhere around 1954 or 1955, Shirley MacLaine, who was the understudy in "The Pajama Game" thought she would never ever get to go on for the unstoppable lead, Carol Haney.  And the very night she was running late to the theater because of a late subway train (the same night she had planned on giving her notice), she was asked to go on (due to Carol badly hurting herself), having never rehearsed the part, never been fitted for a costume, a series of nevers which turned quickly into a life-changing beginning of her career because of who was in the audience that infamous night.  And just like that, she was offered her first film role and the rest was history.  The story is more compelling and more breathtaking than this, but I am trying to be concise.

I am not thinking of this "replacement" like Shirley's good fortune, although perhaps I should.  I should be blessing this man his good fortune.  I am aware that I feel personal loss.  Like when our teacher is out and we are struck with loss and surprise and have to quickly work ourselves out.  Like when a friendship fails and you see that old friend just happily moving on with her life.  Or dare I say it, Divorce.  And then re-marriage.

Being replaced.

From one announcement in Variety to re-marriage.  What a synapse!

But when I saw how quickly that synapse fired because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my beloved cast-member.  I realized the most important thing of all.

No one is replaceable.

Not a dog.  Not a cast-member.  And most certainly not a loved one.

People may behave in ways which make it look as though you have been replaced.  But to use one of Oprah's sayings, here's what I know for sure:

Love lives inside of us.  As do the people we love.

One way of relating may be to address how much a person reminds you of another.  But no two people are the same.  Everyone leaves an imprint and even if it is a choice to sever ties, that person cannot be replaced.  It is not possible.  In fact, it is delusional.

Love is a unique and powerfully intimate force between people which cannot be mimicked.  It can be nurtured and honored and remembered in the most beautiful of ways, even if you are alone in that memory.  But a spirit does not die nor can it be killed. It is a choice to allow it close or near.

So when the understudy brings the house to its feet, we can applaud and celebrate without fear that Ms. Haney is on her way out.

There is room for us all.

It reminds me of what Geeta Iyengar said: "Somebody asked me a while back how I felt being under the shadow of my father and I said instantly, 'I am not under his shadow but under the light.'"

I am glad I caught myself today when I found myself feeling sad that the actor I love was being replaced and then thought of divorce, re-marriage, etc.  The whole process happened at lightning speed.  I thought of Shirley.  I thought of how the new actor's life could change.  I didn't think neurotically as to why my actor was leaving ("What if he has the Big C?"), in fact, I thought abundantly about an opportunity he must have been offered.  And then I looked into it, and sure enough, yes!  He flew to the South of France yesterday for what will be a period of 5 months to do a film with a very famous director. Mazal Tov!

There is room for us all.

And hopefully, within that room, we can lift each other up by seeing and standing in our own and each other's light whether together or apart.

I'm going to lift the shades so that I can let some more light into this room and make room for more.


Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Trust.  The most common platitude is to say trust is something which must be earned.  

Of course.  It is like laying your heart in a person's hands.  You don’t do that with just anyone.  

I have made many mistakes trusting my heart with people who have subsequently, betrayed me.  Not just once.  But many many many times.  I don't hate myself for it.  I feel sad for every misstep.  I feel compassion for the place in my heart that went directly there, directly back there and found myself hurt again.  I cannot promise myself it won't happen again.  No one is a guarantee.  We all make mistakes and even the best of us have our worst moments.  

When we first enter relationship with another, we do not know what our will is going to be with that person.  What does god have in store for us?  What will the alchemy be?  How will the karma run its course?  The only thing we can know and be responsible for is what gets triggered within ourselves and learn how to navigate those waters.  And hopefully, figure out how to successfully not hurt the person standing before us.  

The irony of being of a yogin is that you see and experience all kinds of people cross your path, literally and figuratively cross your truest, deepest, intimate and most personal path.  And if committed to the path, you are asked to work very hard to tolerate intolerance, accept those who judge and criticize, have compassion for those who do not have compassion, make space for those who are insensitive and blatantly selfish.  And it goes on and on like this.  The work is endless.  So when I find myself white- knuckling the dental chair, and my dentist has to remind me to breathe, I get to have a good laugh at myself and herein lies one of many ironies. 

It was demonstrated beautifully (and comically) on the "Helsinki" episode of VEEP when Amy asked the VP "Are you Okay, Ma'am?"  And her response was, "Ah, No. Would it be so hard for people not to be assholes?"

The work is endless.


It can be an act of FAITH.  To lay your heart in another’s hands.  "I ask you to hold my heart with care."

But it is also an act of compassion.  And ultimately, after much learning, it can be held in a balanced way as an act of WISDOM.  Not the vigilant response of “I will never trust you again based on all of the ways you have hurt me in the past and have now informed how I should NOT trust you,” but a slow evolution of having learned from the past and re-learning how to trust based on healing, if healing can occur or if you are blessed to have experienced a healing.  

I could spend a lot of time on this last piece, but that is for another day.  Because healing takes the time that it takes.  For today, I wish to be hopeful and believe that if two people come to one another with full and utter honesty, then I believe that without any veil of hiding, trust can be rebuilt.

I have hope.

Trust is also a test of character.

Stepping into unfamiliar or what may feel like emotionally unsafe terrain, and navigating yourself in such a way that you know how to take your seat, so much so that it can be unwavering no matter what is thrown at you.  

No matter.  

No matter how grossly inaccurate a description may come at you with no need to argue or defend or clarify because you know yourself and can stand there without feeling even remotely knocked over, is what I know about trusting oneself.

Once that is there, the ugliest reflections can be tossed your way, and there is simply no reactivity.  You simply know it is coming from another place.  You can look at the reflection and recognize, even take ownership of the shadows which you inhabit or inhabit you.  But you know a larger truth.  That you aren’t in those words.  Words coming from a stuck place which reside inside of another.  Who you know yourself to be is inviolate.  

Again, back to the yogin: accepting and making room to love and know that some people need to lash out, that some people need to judge before they can settle.  Some people simply may never be comfortable with the whole of you no matter how much all you do is unpretentiously, unwaveringly and straightforwardly try to love them the best way you know how.  

Some of us are so eager to want to change another person in order to fit them into our lives (because that would just be more comfortable).  But what we really need to do is to hear each other.  And listening takes tremendous courage.  It often means cleaning up past hurts.  In my opinion, we tend to not trust each other based on the past experiences which have informed us of who the other is and how we think that person may behave again.  

Hurt leaves scars.  Healing takes real intention and repeated showing up to allow those scars to fade.

So in my opinion, without the help of a skilled coach or a professional, it is a true act of faith and wisdom, a testimony to love, compassion and hope, a test of character, and a true sign if you can achieve it, of sheer and utter surrender, of laying your heart wide open to risk again.  

To trust is a risk.  To risk is to risk failure.  But to close yourself off to what is in your heart is one of the greatest risks of all.


Jill Bacharach