Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013- My Greatest Teacher

Just after Christmas, as I was cleaning my room and desk, I found a sealed envelope in which I had written my prayers for the year. When I opened it, I was astounded:

Though I had all but forgotten this written prayer,  it had been answered. Maybe not in exactly the way I expected, but answered nonetheless.
I was able to do the work of my soul. Though my book has not (yet) sold, in the wake of Newtown, I worked for gun reform all year. I never saw that coming, and yet it was the most important work I could do - and had to do.

My family was blessed with good health, Stitch is still with us, and we have peace and resolution.

And this, the answered prayer I didn't think was possible : my grandson Ayumu and daughter-in-law Aya came home from Japan. They moved back in with us. Ayumu enrolled in preschool and learned to speak English and ride a bike and fly on his scooter alongside Evan. My daughter-in-law excelled in school and got her green card. This was beyond a dream come true.

At the same time, this year my career fell apart. I now had two little kids to take care of, and as they adjusted to this new living situation, there was a lot of love/hate. Lots of slammed doors and yelling and making up. My days were filled with time-outs and potty-training and driving to and from two schools. Between them and my activist work, I had no time to write, or do much of anything else, but at least I had work coming up. And then all the work I had booked for the summer began to cancel...boom, boom, boom like dominoes falling, until everything was gone. And with Aya and Ayumu returning home, we had two more mouths to feed. I started hustling, sending out hundreds of resumes, sending my new book out hoping to sell it- and nothing. I was crushed. Scared. Broke.  Though Troy was working 6 to 7 days a week, our bills had doubled and soon we were upside down financially. Our ship was sinking.

There were many fearful days I thought we wouldn't make it. I worried we would lose everything. We had to cut loose a few things just to stay afloat; mine and Troy's super-expensive health insurance and our home phone line were a few of the casualties of summer. I feared our house would be next. But what happened was that those times drove me to my knees, which was exactly where I needed to be.

I immersed myself in prayer and meditation. I prayed for courage and wisdom. I prayed for balance. I prayed to find my way out of fear and back to faith. My prayers (or thoughts, whatever works for your belief system) were once again answered. Stepping out of fear restored me, and though we still didn't have the money we needed to right our ship, I felt peace, and chose to believe that it would all work out.

When I focused on the lack and the problems, it only grew larger, looming over me every waking moment, keeping me up at night. But when I put my focus on gratitude, when I put my energy into faith, I slept. I felt happier. I breathed easier. And though the bills were piling up, I stayed present in the moment. I reminded myself: The lights were on. We had food in the cupboards, coffee brewing in the morning. In the present moment, we were okay.

So here we are at the end of the year. Thanks to Troy's hard work, our bills are getting paid down. We are stable. And in a few days, our family's new healthcare plan kicks in. Obamacare is saving us $700 a month- this is a life changer!

Winter came, miraculously, with an unexpected free trip with the kids to Vegas and Disneyworld (thanks Wilson Phillips), and then a free trip to Jamaica for my 50th birthday. Free! These were events I could not have possibly imagined six months ago. The year ended with my daughter getting her Masters degree in psychology, and a new job possibility for me.

Do I believe in the power of prayer? Hell, yeah.

I also believe deeply in the power of our thoughts, our intentions, and our words.

2013 was both my savior and my greatest adversary. But I know that every adversary is a great teacher.

Here is what 2013 taught me:

Everything eventually works out, somehow.
I am always okay.
Life regenerates after loss.
Fear and worry is a HUGE waste of time.
Asking for what I want from life, and believing I deserve it, is essential.
Daily gratitude is as important as oxygen.
Love heals everything. Period.

And the biggest lesson of all: No matter what each year may bring, there is always a gift. Always. 

In that spirit, I greatly anticipate 2014, and vow to embrace every moment. I will stay rooted in gratitude and love, be clear with my intentions and my words, and keep exercising that faith muscle.

I am grateful for the beautiful circle of people (all of you) that surround my life, and the love that holds me up. I hope to do the same for you.

Here's to a beautiful 2014. Let's embrace it- all of it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Had a Crazy-Beautiful Dream....

circle around the moon
The other night I had a beautiful dream -- one of those crazy-beautiful dreams that you never want to wake up from.

I saw many people walking over a green grassy hill, coming toward me. Just a few at first, and then there were hundreds. They were all colors, all faiths. They gathered together and began to speak of peace. They were going to change the world, and end violence, and stand up for children. There were warriors and patriots and parents, some whose children were taken from them, but these parents had faith. They knew their children were angels in heaven, and for a moment I swore I could see their wings shimmering above us. 

Faith leaders began to appear one by one. Muslim, Christian, Jewish…wearing colorful robes and yarmulkes and taqiyah prayer hats.
They were both women and men and this made me smile. They laughed and talked and embraced each other like great friends. They spoke to us and said that together we would usher in peace and end the culture of violence, and we believed them. 

Then, because dreams are crazy and can take any turn they want, there was a superhero, and beautiful TV star standing in the crowd, holding a candle and radiating joy, and then my childhood idols Jackson Browne and Rosemary Butler were suddenly there singing, and all of us sat like children on the grass, listening to their songs of hope. 

And through it all I could hear bells ringing. Twenty six bells, ringing and ringing and echoing across the country, and that’s when I realized that there weren’t just hundreds of us, there were thousands and maybe millions all over America, ringing the bells and lifting our voices together in hope - and then a choir began to sing, "Go tell it on the mountain that healing is everywhere."

At the end of my dream, a beautiful woman wearing a yarmulke stood before us and spoke of a new world that we would co-create – all of us together. We looked up and we believed her. She told us all to come close and we did. She told us all to hold hands, and we did. And then we began to sing together. Hundreds of people of all races. Reverends, Rabbis, Muslims, Buddhists, Jackson Browne, the superhero and the beautiful TV star, all holding hands and singing together a song we had never heard before and yet somehow we knew the words, as though we’d always known, “I will be a sanctuary... I will be a sanctuary…”

And the best part of this dream was that when I woke up Sunday morning, after blinking my eyes a few times, I realized…it wasn’t a dream.

It actually happened.

That night there was a beautiful circle around the moon, and I knew the peace we spoke of would become truth. I drifted into sleep again, knowing I would have many more crazy-beautiful dreams.

* On 12/14/13, the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I worked with my allies in gun violence prevention to produce the REMEMBER. RECOMMIT event at the Federal Building in Los Angeles. There were over 70 similar events all over the country.

Shakeel Syed (Muslim Shura Council) Rev Sandie Richards, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, and Rev Louis Chase.
The Reverend and the Rabbi

The beautiful TV star: Marcia Cross and her husband, marching with us for peace.
The Superhero: ready to spring to action to protect children.
Standing between my childhood idols Jackson Browne and Rosemary Butler

the hundreds who appeared over the hill

LaWanda Hawkins of Justice for Murdered Children imagines a future where her group has no more members.
The amazing, generous, social activist Jackson Browne

the ones who will usher in change

Pastor Ruett Foster and his wife, whose seven-year old son Evan is an angel now, asked us to make this world better.
All faiths, bowing their heads together.

Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Reverend Ed Bacon, and Rabbi Sharon Brous  (and Rev John Cager of 2nd AME) part of our beautiful closing program, helped us to envision a better world, and told us it is our duty to be responsible for one another.
*** Thank you to Erin Doyle Debi Champ  and Mark Noad for above photos

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You'll Find What You're Looking For

This morning, while meditating at the end of my yoga class, these words came to me, "You'll find what you're looking for." And at first I didn't get it, because I wasn't actively "looking" for anything right at that moment, except peace. But as I ruminated on it, I realized these words are true. I have always found what I'm looking for.

When I approach my day looking for beauty, I find it everywhere. Likewise, when I walk into the world expecting trouble, rude people, traffic...I generally find it.

 This rule applies to all of us.

If you look for grace and kindness, you will find it
If you look for conflict and trouble, you will find it.

If you look for goodness in a person, you will find it.
If you look for a reason to be disappointed, you will find it.

If you believe that work is hard and grueling, you will find that it is.
If you believe that work is a blessing and a godsend, you will find that it is.

If you believe the world has shortchanged you, you will find that it has.
If you believe that the world is abundant and plentiful, you will find that it is.

When we fight and engage in conflict with others, it's because that's what we were looking for.
When we find ourselves surrounded by love, that's what we were looking for.

So as I was driving home, these thoughts were swirling about in my head : Why don't we stop looking for reasons to defend ourselves, and start looking for beauty in the world?
Why not look for goodness in others?
For reasons to be grateful?
For peace?

And this song came on the radio:
It's Christmastime; there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime
But say a prayer to pray for the other ones
At Christmastime

And at that moment in front of me was a car with the world's best bumper sticker:

"God Bless The Whole World. No Exceptions."

I'm always looking for meaning, even in the smallest moments.
In that moment, I found what I was looking for.


A free, all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica for my 50th birthday?
Don't mind if I do.

Thank you Universe!




Sunday, December 1, 2013

Faith Vs Common Sense

 "Faith is believing in something even when common sense tells you not to." 
- Maureen O'Hara,  Miracle on 34th Street

This Summer, in the midst of financial crisis that overwhelmed us, I knew we wouldn't  be doing anything for my "landmark" birthday in December. Common sense told me that that though I had set an intention for my family to travel this year,  there was no possible way. On top of that, three work trips I had booked for summer were cancelled. It just seemed to be the way my luck was going.

But then I decided to step out of my rut and change my perspective.

For the past several months I have prayed, meditated or journaled every day, and made a conscious choice to:
* keep my focus on what I want, instead of what I don't have.
* Feel gratitude for all the beauty in my life, instead of worrying about the things that were going wrong.
* Stay centered in who I am rather than letting negativity and rejection get the best of me.

Through daily meditation, I became a more patient mom. A happier, less overwhelmed wife. The brick walls that I kept hitting all year began to erode, and doors began to open.   In October, I was able to take the kids along on Troy's Wilson Phillips gigs in Vegas and Disneyworld, FLA.  We had two incredible family vacations full of happy memories. For free. 

Today is the final day of my most recent 21-Day Meditation Experiment. I'm centered. Positive. Hopeful. Oh,  and Troy and I are leaving for JAMAICA.  For FREE. And I'll wake up there on my birthday.

I won't say it's an outright miracle, but my life has definitely shifted since I changed my energy.

Here's how it happened. Recently we got a phone call from close friends of ours. Through their work, they were gifted an all inclusive, all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica, but they didn't want to go (I know, I couldn't believe it either). They knew we loved Jamaica, so they gave the trip to us. And it just happens to be the week of my birthday.

My common sense did not see that coming. 

There really is something to the energy we create in our lives. Positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative. Meditation keeps me living in the positive, even when negative is whirling around me.

Whether or not there is any magic to it, I have seen logically that life just works better when I'm focused on the positive. So I will keep meditating, and keep my gratitude journal full. I will trust that things will work out, even when I can't see it in my own limited mind.

I will have faith, even when common sense tells me not to.

"I believe...I believe..."
Natalie Wood, Miracle on 34th Street