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