Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smoke Signals

Learning how to grow up is something many of us spend most of our adult lives attempting to do.

As I approach my 46th turn around the sun, I look back at my young 22 year-old self and I see in her, a young woman who stood strong and steady. Open to learning EVERYTHING. And yet, her resilience was unparalleled.

I recall listening to my grandfather's breath as he lay dying day after day and knowing, deeply, that his breath had something to teach me. And I listened hard to those laborious whispers. We were in those moments of quiet together and I remained steady because that was what there was to do.

Before he slipped into his coma, he would look at me with deep searching eyes. He had been the most powerful force in my life and he had been so in the lives of each us bound by him, in our family. When I looked back into his eyes, I held his gaze, every time. Because that was what there was to do. When he slipped away, I was the one who told my grandmother that she had lost her beloved. It was one of the hardest moments of truth-telling because she was not ready, even though it was an obvious inevitability as he lay dying. I had to hold her back as the EMT team took him away. So young to be the person I almost wish I were today, but when called upon, we find it. Because that is what there is to do.

As I stood in front of hundreds of people and gave his eulogy, I stood  in the love I had always claimed and there was no second-thinking about who stood before me nor what I was needing to do. I stood for my love. I stood for my grandfather. I stood for a man whose spirit had come through each of us and could never be diminished, not even by death. I stood for the ferocity of my loyalty towards him and I stood for the loss all of us were facing.

Not long after, I had a very different kind of experience, ushering my own father through his dying experience. But that was an entirely separate situation...

What occurs to me now is how much I was holding then. My own father was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. My family was ripped apart by the loss of its anchor. And I stood strong and steady for my grandmother who needed an anchor more than anything.

This is my contemplation.

What do we do when we lose our way? When we lose our anchor? I think we very naturally send out smoke signals to let others know that we need them. When my father was dying, he sent me smoke signals. He needed something from me which only I was able to offer. And after fighting and insisting on all the healing we did during his illness, I am so grateful I was able to offer him what he needed so that he could die with less fear, knowing he was loved by his daughter and knowing, wholeheartedly, that we were at peace with each other.


Smoke signals.

One of my dearest friends is someone whom I have seen grow more than anyone I have ever known. And anyone who gets to know me, knows that my favorite thing is transformation and striving for growth. She is a very "healthy adult" and it is one of the things I love about her amongst nine million stunning qualities. She always says something like, "everyone is an adult and everyone can take care of themselves." (She may not be the recipient of too many smoke signals! Haah haah! Actually, that is not the truth at all.)

So here is the thing: when you are the recipient of many smoke signals, it isn't always easy to find the balance of caring well for yourself, "healthy loving," and keeping a healthy bandwidth whilst keeping your heart open and not feeling like you are going to go down with a sinking ship when your particular constitution is to be deeply compassionate. That's me. Some have named me a lamed vovnik, which has been both my gift and my peril. I feel absolutely everything and then it becomes part of my cellular make-up (sometimes to the point of picking up on physical symptoms) and therein, lies the peril. But, going back to being 21, 22 years of age, I would awake in the middle of the night, seeing my grandfather scream in pain and then I would call the next day to "check out" what I had seen in my dream and he was always suffering the very thing I would call about. This sensitivity has only "worsened" as I have aged to the point where suddenly I cannot walk or I have a very distinct pain which is connected to someone who is ill. And what I need to do is cloak myself a bit so that I can manifest "healthy adult" living a little better if this is what I have been given.

I, too, know what it is like to lose an anchor. Or what I perceived as a foundation. And having wrestled with that experience for many many years, it led me to get deeply injured physically (because I felt broken inside), emotionally (because that foundation had not been rebuilt) and I too, reached out for other shores.

It was only recently (very recently) that I learned something which has taken me my whole life to learn. That even when we think we need for things to be different so desperately, and we think that if they are different, that is what will anchor and sustain us, the only way to heal is to let go of that need. To find a way out of that need entirely and be free of it. That need is actually the sinking ship and the only anchor which will save us is the sheer act of cutting the rope which ties the anchor to the ship.

I'm not saying it is easy. It took everything I had in me to release. Every ounce of strength and courage being on the high seas all alone wanting to scream for a life raft and send out smoke signal after smoke signal... but I knew, somewhere deep inside of me, it was the only way I would find my way back home.


So, Pop, I think your granddaughter is growing up.


Jill Bacharach

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Recently, I posted a status on Facebook which read “some people become heroes in your heart through how they live inside their own.”

There is a woman who has been a hero of mine throughout my entire life, which in two months will calculate to forty-six years. 

She is a mother of three and a wife of over fifty years. And she has been a fiercely loyal friend to me no matter when, no matter what. 

She is a great humanitarian and is probably the busiest woman I have ever known. I imagine her to be busier than the Secretary of State. Her position is one of great importance. She sits in meetings with Ambassadors from all over the world. She awakens early in the morning and she goes to bed late at night. She is always on a flight somewhere across the globe. Almost always away from her husband on their wedding anniversary. But always home to host the Jewish holidays. Always answers my phone calls or answers them quickly. And she has taught me countless things about myself and about my capacity to love.


When I was 20 years old I went to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She invited me to her 50th birthday dinner. The President of Hadassah Hospital was in attendance amongst other honorary guests. When she arrived, she sat next to me. I asked her if she had had a good day. What she said was the most remarkable thing and it is one of the reasons why I have always loved her.

“Yes, because Yoam said he wants to live.” 

She had spent her entire birthday (her 50th birthday) with a 21 year- old man who was burned from head to toe as a result of being in the Israeli army. And the young man was wrestling with issues with life and death because he didn’t want to live that way. After spending that time together, he had decided he would choose to go on. 

For me, it was such an act of trust and generosity and love. And the woman I had always known. The woman who is a hero in my heart. 

She lives deeply inside of me in this way. In ways I could not possibly share with anyone because they are too personal. 

But she has taught me to trust others even when they let have let me down. She has taught me that I can sustain relationships. She has taught me that I can stand up for myself in courage and in strength with love and dignity and that I won’t be betrayed.

She has been my anchor. Always. Every year. 
Every year. 
Every day. 
No matter where. 
No matter when. 

She has told me many secrets which I will never share. 

She is my family.

My chaverah. 
My teacher. 
My light.

I thank her every day. Bless her every day. I thank god every day. For this blessing which will be with me for all time.

Marlene. She is my blessing.


Jill Bacharach

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Choosing Wisely

Almost two years ago, I recall my teacher, Christina Sell speaking about the practice of yoga before a long weekend of asana. I remember her saying that the practice of yoga didn’t make her a better person. What a RADICAL thing to say! Most of us have the impression that we will become better people through becoming yogins. Through practice. Through getting on our mats. Through applying the teachings of yoga and living the yoga off of our mats in our daily lives. 

Today I practiced asana with her, via her website ( after not practicing much asana for a very long time. After practicing, I noticed something happen. I heard the voice of anger arise inside of me. It was immediate and it was true. 

Several days earlier, I had been meditating and I heard a different voice arise. I listened hard. It wasn’t a pretty voice. I kept listening. And for many days, I worked with it to hear what it needed to express. I kept doing the practice. Listening. Not pushing it away. Honoring a voice that was, indeed mine. It was hard. It was necessary. I am sticking with it. As yogins, we do our practices from beginning to end. We make the decision not to bail when it is uncomfortable. We make the decision to learn from the uncomfortable. 

I was reminded of what Elizabeth Gilbert came to in Eat, Pray, Love.  That essentially if “we are brave enough to set about on a truth seeking journey- and if we accept everyone we meet along the way as a teacher,- then the truth will not be withheld from us.” Her words in her book are so poetic, they are actually healing. My reason for raising it is that I believe this to be so. And in so believing, I believe this truth is the closest thing we get in life to knowing god. I believe that when we get in touch with our most essential nature we become a part of god and god, a part of us.

That, I believe, is what yoga and meditation offer us. A peeling away of the barriers we build up which guard us from the truth. Our practices bring us back towards our most essential nature, whether we wish to face it or not. 


This morning, for instance, I decided to go back to sleep after I had awakened. I had a very lucid dream. In that dream, I was screaming at the top of my lungs at someone I have felt deeply betrayed by. My words were not harmful. They were just loud. And the anger was ancient. I was carrying anger for my elders. I was carrying anger for my beloveds. I was carrying anger for my friends. The anger was expressed in a blast. I, the yogin, was not beyond it. The dream afforded me an opportunity life cannot. 

I had to breathe through what I had just seen so vividly when I awakened because it was not pretty. The yoga un-peels the layers and gets to the core. Sometimes the taste is bitter, but bitter medicine is potent, powerful and clarifying. We will never feel “pretty” on the outside unless we fully acknowledge the bitter tastes which live inside of us and honor them whenever they arise. 

We are always more than the sum of our parts, but we must claim all of our parts in order to be whole.

Yoga doesn’t do this for us, but slowly, by moving our bodies, we change the alchemy of our bodies and then we actually begin to change the thoughts in our minds if we stick with it. The truths are there. But they are not all of who we are. They are just component pieces. By letting them be heard, touched, voiced, they slowly begin to settle and we can actually learn how to love and forgive them because they are part of us. Beautiful. Bitter. And bold. 

Yoga doesn’t make us better people. It helps us become integrated and whole. But only if we choose it.

Choose wisely.


Jill Bacharach